Observations & Musings about the state of Yu-Gi-Oh: Past, Present and Future

Hello everyone! My name is Kelvin. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and I have been playing this game on and off for several years.

You know when I first started playing this game, there was only one really powerful deck in the game. In those early days, everyone played the classic beatdown deck. I fondly remember searching for hours on end in my card shop’s bargain bins for those elusive level four 1800 attack monsters. Everyone would be trying to be the first one to summon their 1800 attack monsters and then tribute that monster for Summoned Skull on their next turn. Of course, who can forget that infamous tutor card, Witch of the Black Forest, which allowed you to search for that Summoned Skull several times during a duel. I continued on my Yu-Gi-Oh adventures during those early years until the fateful day that my card store started selling the Invasion of Chaos booster pack. As we all know, that pack dramatically changed the Yu-Gi-Oh landscape almost overnight. Suddenly, a deck stocked full of level 4, 1800 attack monsters and their ilk could no longer stand with equal footing to the power of the Chaos monsters. I realized that the game had taken an irreversible step in the wrong direction and so I decided to retire.

Flashing forward several years to August 2010, I finally decided that the time was right to give this game another try. In the intervening years, I had closely followed the world of Yu-Gi-Oh as some of my friends still played competitively and casually. I heard horror stories about the repeated massive upheavals of the game brought on by decks that focused on the Chaos monsters, Yata-Garasu, Dark Armed Dragon (not to mention the numerous FTK and OTK decks that emerged throughout that time). It genuinely seemed like that by summer 2010, the worst of the storm had passed and the game was ready to proceed into the future on a positive note. However, I never expected the booster pack that was released that very month I came back to have such a profound effect on the game once again. Much like Invasion of Chaos, Phantom Darkness and Light of Destruction, the Duelist Revolution booster proved that the game had once again evolved into something different than what it was before. The chase cards released in this set proved to be vital core components in every single top tier deck (and even mid tier ones too). This led to a sharp price spike and demand for those said chase cards. In fact, many say that Duelist Revolution might be one of the best selling booster packs ever released in the game (along with Invasion of Chaos and Phantom Darkness).

In all honesty, despite the spike in secondary market prices for many of Duelist Revolution’s best cards, I feel the September 2010 format was the best format I have played since returning to the game. Some will argue that a format with only a few top tier decks is good because it promotes more complex play and strategy amongst those decks. However, I will say that the variety of high tier and top tier decks present during that format certainly made it an exciting challenge and a new experience for me to play against (as I had previously played in fairly homogeneous formats during the early days of the game). Running Blackwings, I found myself playing the game at a whole new level than I was used to. There were suddenly so many new ways of summoning monsters and these monsters had a variety of powerful effects. For a while, I was in awe of my fellow players when they showed me their decks and the different strategies they employed. I would never have dreamt of such tactics (such as Gladiator Beast decks tagging out and X-Sabers employing mass swarming) when I played in 2002.

So then the September 2010 format passed on through and gave way to the March 2011 format. However, these six months would be drastically different than the previous six. Gone was the variety of decks I had enjoyed playing against: Blackwings, X-Sabers, Machina Gadgets, and Frog Monarchs just to name a few. In its place was a metagame defined by many decks that lacked any real creativity or imagination to play. Gravekeepers, being one of the most popular decks since October 2010, was easily the best example of this. That deck had very few win conditions and relied on the strength of its backrow to pull out victories. Another example of the lack of creativity during this format was in the Six Samurai deck. The deck had one of the easiest and most powerful first turn set-ups in recent history. During that format, the deck could easily summon multiple Shi Ens within the space of a couple of turns early in the game and then rely on their negation effect to ride to victory. While I will admit that there were a few very interesting decks to pop up during this format (Tech Genus, Fableds, Agents), they became popular much later in the six month period and were still overshadowed by the Six Samurais and the Gravekeepers.

And alas, we come to the September 2011 format. I had hoped that September would bring a format that returned to the relative normalcy that was September 2010. But yet again, it was not to be. Cards that should have stayed banned were set free (Black Luster Soldier) and cards that should have remained free were exiled to the forbidden list (Royal Oppression). Konami continued its reign of terror by not putting an end to the immortal Plant engine, which has now withstood multiple attempts to curb its power. Some players who oppose my views might argue that the Plant engine isn't bad for the game and that Royal Oppression is. However, the way the current format has occurred leads me to believe otherwise. As we see this format come to a close in the next two months, I doubt much will change. Special summon heavy decks will continue to persist and those who can't stop their initial plays will most likely lose the duel.

Now as we look forward into the future, there emerge several new archetypes which show exciting promise for a metagame with decks that are powerful and complex to play. The new Dragon structure deck, Inzektor archetype, Ninja archetype and Wind-Up archetype all will bring something different to the game of Yu-Gi-Oh. While some of these new cards are sure to be more successful and popular than others, it appears that we might once again be rewarded for creative play and complex thinking. Despite my misgivings about the current state of the game, I still have hope that the year of 2012 will prove to be a fruitful one for players at all levels of competition.

This has been my view on this game that we all love to play. I want to thank Alter Reality Games for allowing me to write an article for their contest and their site. Happy Holidays everyone!

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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