Hello ARG members my name is Paul “Empty Jar” Cooper. Empty Jar is a deck I piloted to earn me to 2 tops this year. The first top was at YCS Charlotte in March 2011, where I placed 3rd. The second top was at Nationals (NAWCQ) in June 2011, where I made it to the top cut. In addition to these tops, I also have 3 regional wins, numerous regional tops, and a 9th place finish at Shonen Jump St. Louis (when they only cut to top eight) under my belt. My Yu-gi-oh career can be summarized by me just wanting to stand out and be different. People tend to forget the names of the individuals who top an event; what they remember are the decks played and the winner. Otherwise the only instances when one might remember the specific individuals who top are when they are your friends, someone tops with a new or creative deck, or an individual consistently tops (no offense to any YCS top cut finishers). My next goal in Yu-gi-oh is to join the top ranked players, as well as the top tier deck playing side, to see what creativity I can come up with next. Enough about me let’s get down to business.
As you read above, my initial goal in Yu-gi-oh was to establish a name for myself because of my creativity with the game. This article is a guide on how to create the next best deck that does well at premier events, but that you can also call your own.
First I would like to give you a few examples of when this technique was effective, and what inspired me to build the Empty Jar deck. There have been plenty of “odd” decks that have swept Shonen Jumps and YCSs, such as Angel Flores with his antimeta deck and Jeff Jones with his quick draw dandy deck, however these are not examples of the technique I will be referring to. Angel Flores’s deck went against the meta and Jeff Jones’s deck was simply light-years ahead of the meta. The cases I refer to when I discuss creating the next best deck are that of myself, Erin Diaz, Hansel Aguero, Courtney Waller, and ARG’s own Frazier Smith. Erin Diaz piloted an FTK deck that was formed around dark magician of chaos, dimensional fusion, shadow priest of ohm, and spell economics. You would activate shadow priest’s effect to send DMOC to the grave to burn for 800. DMOC’s effect removes itself from play. You activate spell economics then D fusion to return DMOC to the field and loop the combo until your opponent’s life points reach 0. This strategy allowed Erin Diaz to place 2nd at Shonen Jump Columbus in 2008. Fast forward to 2010, Frazier Smith and friends piloted their gravekeeper deck whose main strength came from royal tribute. You would deplete your opponent’s hands of all monsters, control their graveyard, and pop every card they control. In the great words of Frazier Smith, “Royal tribute is like crush card virus on crack.” This strategy enabled Frazier Smith to win YCS Atlanta with his friends taking 2nd and 3rd place with the same deck. Fast forward some more to 2011 when I piloted my Empty Jar deck. The main goal was to have your opponent run out of cards in their deck, therefore losing the game. By reusing morphing jar’s effect, your opponent draws through all their cards until they cannot draw anymore. This strategy allowed me to place 3rd at YCS Charlotte. The same year Hansel Aguero piloted his tech genus deck which abused the fact that back row destruction was banned (heavy storm and MST at 2). You control the field with floaters while surprising your opponent with horn of the phantom beast. This strategy enabled Hansel Aguero to win the North American World Championship Qualifier (Nationals). Later that same year Courtney Waller piloted his Chaos deck which was formed around the fact that “effect veiler wasn’t being main decked anymore and maxx c doesn’t hurt the deck,” which was a huge part of the meta at that time. You would control the field with big boss monsters while recycling your monsters. This allowed Courtney Waller to win YCS Kansas City.
In order to create original decks like the ones mentioned above, you would follow the 5 steps listed and described below. The creator of each of those decks would probably tell you they followed the same steps.
Step 1: Start from the Beginning
There are two ways to approach this step. The first is to literally go back to the drawing board, which I personally recommend, and reread all the 4500+ Yu-gi-oh cards. By doing this you familiarize yourself with every card as well as possible combos the game has to offer. You also are able to find general ideas or skeletons to build on and work with. The second way to approach this step is to be a veteran player that has been around since the beginning. This gives you the knowledge necessary to see how the game has evolved over time. It probably means you already know what every card does and every strategy that has already been created. This matters because it gives you a point of reference and a feel for what directions have been proven successful in the past.
Step 2: Find the loophole in your meta
It is possible to create a deck that first and foremost defends against the current Meta, yet also consistently performs the main functions and purpose of the deck. Each deck previously mentioned did just this. Erin Diaz’s FTK deck was fast enough that it didn’t need any defense, nor did it need to attack because the deck won on the first turn. Frazier Smith and his friends’ gravekeeper deck depleted the opponent’s only chance to make a defense by popping cards, hand disruption, and graveyard control. My Empty Jar deck had plenty of ways to establish the defense and wait for the combo pieces, while knowing the opponent had no outs and could do nothing to consistently stop the combo. These examples show how each deck had an alternate win condition, meaning they did not play by the standard draw, attack, pass and whoever’s deck was better and more consistent won. These decks took advantage of the vulnerability and weaknesses of each deck during their respective format and meta. For example there is a blue football team and a red football team. Let’s say the blue football team thought that all they could do is pass the ball to score, meanwhile the red football team figured out that not only could they pass the ball, but they could also run the ball to score. Because the blue team isn’t prepared for the opponent to run the ball, they are vulnerable to getting repeatedly scored upon. They are playing the same game but the red team has found a weakness on which to capitalize and win the game in a more creative way. Just like this analogy, the decks mentioned above put the opponent of their respective format at a huge disadvantage.
Step 3: Access your meta / find the ideal format
When creating the next best deck you have to evaluate everything, not just the best decks of the format. You must assess each new card that gets released, every playable deck, and cards people side in. New card releases such as packs, tcg exclusives, and structure decks play a huge role in determining which direction your deck is headed. This is important because some new deck ideas are better and more playable in certain formats than in others. For example, Frazier Smith and friends’ gravekeeper deck was at its best from September 2010 through March 2011. This was due to a several factors. The deck gained its competitive edge when the Starstrike Blast set was released because of Gravekeeper’s Recruiter. The deck’s other advantage was that there was no real spell/trap destruction that could stop the deck in its tracks. The last advantage was the surprise factor. Your opponent not knowing what to do against your new strategy can single handedly win you matches. Every playable deck considers every deck that has been played competitively in past premier events. At big events you should anticipate playing against many different types of decks during the swiss rounds of a 10 or 11 round events. Cards people choose to side play the biggest role in creating the next best deck. Side decks alone can stop the next best deck/strategy in its tracks. For example, I put my own spin on the Empty Jar strategy, by having my side deck consist mainly of cards to counter other peoples’ side deck. Without the knowledge of what cards other people were siding and the effectiveness such cards had against my deck, I would have never made it as far as I did.
Step 4: Play Test
This step is by far the most important step of all. Although you may have completed steps 1-3 successfully, if you do not test the deck properly then your hard work will be wasted. Better players of the game will recommend that you play test as much as possible. As you build your deck, there is a limit to how many situations you can anticipate playing against. Play testing allows you to encounter scenarios you may not have predicted. Being put in somewhat unexpected circumstances, you are given the opportunity to evaluate your deck further, which in turn helps you to make the necessary adjustments to your deck in order to defend against these newly discovered situations.
Step 5: Know when to use the deck
There are formats that allow certain decks to succeed, however if you were to play that same deck during another format it might do horribly. The next best deck typically takes time to create. This means you may miss out on the opportunity to debut the deck, simply because of new card releases, format changes, or new top decks that arise and interfere with your deck’s consistency. For example, the Empty Jar deck I piloted happened to be most effective during the format in which it debuted, which was between the March and September 2011 ban lists. Most decks during that time could not keep up with the deck’s speed nor did they have enough outs to stop the combo. In the current format (September 2011-March 2012), there are numerous new top competitive decks being played which cause too many consistency problems for the same Empty Jar strategy to be successful. Agents has herald of orange light; dark worlds has every one of their dark world monster disastrous discarded effect; and dino rabbit can spam solemn judgments and divine wraths in monster form. Waiting for the ideal time to unleash your perfect strategy can be the difference in whether you win, top or flop.
Happy Holidays to all and thank you for reading! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to add me as a friend on Facebook (Paul Empty Jar Cooper). Come play-test with me on DuelingNetwork (Paul EmptyJar Cooper), and/or visit me at my locals. Also stay tuned to my Facebook for an upcoming link to my Youtube channel that I will be debuting in early 2012. Until next time – play hard or go home!
“Not Everyone Can Be a Master.”
Kansas City, Missouri