Hello duelists and welcome back! The most successful strategies in this game have proven to be ones that establish a semi-soft lock, in which you play your cards and then make it so that your opponent cannot play their cards. While there is a rewarding feeling that comes with attrition wars and an exchange of cards with your opponent, it has been proven time and time again that the semi-soft lock is superior in terms of achieving results. The first reminisces of this appeared in Tele-DAD with Royal Oppression and reemerged in Dragon Rulers with Vanity’s Emptiness. Since that time, this strategy has been the focal point of competitive Yu-Gi-Oh, up through today with the infamous, Djinn, Releaser of Rituals.
While Djinn currently takes center stage of this strategy, due to its ability to be searched and inherent synergy with the biggest deck, other smaller strategies employ these same tactics to increase their overall win percentage as well. These manifest themselves in the form of things like Mistake, Anti-Spell Fragrance, Skill Drain, the recently printed, Lose A Turn, and the powerhouse Vanity’s Emptiness. The existence and presence of these cards in today’s game creates deckbuilding and technical play paradoxes for the format. In this two part article series, we’re going to talk about and identify the paradoxes that are created by the mass use of these cards. The most likely person to be successful at the next event is the person who is able to find a way around these paradoxes and that starts by identifying the underlying causes of them. First up, we’ll do that today with respect to Djinn, Releaser of Rituals. Next week I’ll be back with the paradoxes of playing these alternative floodgates in lower tier decks. Let’s get started!
There is a contradiction between the types of cards that can be used to out their Djinn. Let’s start by taking a look at the outs to an already established Djinn lock. Things like Book of Eclipse and Raigeki aren’t typically good against Nekroz mirrors whenever they don’t have the Djinn lock. Since players try to get rid of their field, Raigeki will just sit dead in hand if they don’t use Djinn. Similarly, Book of Eclipse will have a subpar application if the opponent does not use the Djinn lock in the mirror. These cards will almost certainly outright win you the game if they do.
Alternatively, the Djinn lock can be countered by cards like Effect Veiler, Maxx “C,” and Shared Ride, but they can only be used to stop the lock when they are drawn prior to it being established. These cards have worthwhile applications that give you an advantage in the mirror in scenarios other than the opponent attempting to Djinn lock.
The first paradox is that you must pick whether you want outs that are good when drawn after the fact, but are very limited in scope and do not have many applications outside of the lock, or whether you want outs that have a wider scope of scenarios that they will provide an advantage, but must be drawn prior to the lock being established.
All of these cards are subpar when you have established your own Djinn lock. You do not need Raigeki to clear the field that Djinn prevents them from establishing or Book of Eclipse to out the Djinn that your Djinn prevented them from establishing. You also don’t want Shared Ride to stop them from searching if your Djinn is preventing them from doing anything with the cards that they have searched anyway.
An incredibly innovative solution to this problem of only ever wanting cards that stop your opponent’s Djinn lock was the application of Reinforcement of the Army. This allowed players to include a card like D.D. Warrior Lady, Bull Blader, Exiled Force, and Armageddon Knight (to send Farfa). If you were to play three copies of Reinforcement of the Army and a single Warrior out to the Djinn lock, you now have four potential outs to draw when they Djinn lock, but only one subpar card (the actual Warrior out) that you risk drawing if they don’t go Djinn lock. The remaining three cards (the Reinforcements) serve to advance your gamestate when they do not go Djinn lock or you have your own Djinn lock.
This is significantly more optimal; a one of when you don’t want it, but a four of when you do. This isn’t without its own set of contradictions, as our card pool is limited and each of the warrior outs in the game can be outted by a searchable Nekroz card. Armageddon and Exiled are outted by searching or drawing Trishula (and Gungnir for Exiled) and D.D. Warrior Lady and Bull Blader are outted by searching or drawing Valkyrus.
This creates a paradox for setting up your own Djinn lock. The optimal Nekroz monster to search to protect your lock is dependent upon what your opponent is doing. If you search Valkyrus and they summon Armageddon, you are in trouble. If you search Trishula and they summon D.D. Warrior Lady, you are again in trouble. If you even go Djinn lock and they drew Book of Eclipse or Raigeki, you’re in trouble regardless of which you search.
How do you overcome this? You can take into account the likelihood of each possible out. Examine meta trends and determine what percentage of Nekroz decks you think will play an out that can be stopped by Trishula and what percentage of Nekroz decks you think will play an out that can be stopped by Valkyrus. If you can determine how likely it is that the opponent will have a given out, you can optimize your card choices and determine whether or not you should go Djinn lock.
You could attempt to protect your Djinn out an alternative way. For example, at YCS Chicago I made Top 8 by utilizing Solemn Scolding to protect my Djinn locks. This is not without its drawbacks as well, as Scolding and other cards that protect Djinn such as Forbidden Lance are all useless in outing an opposing Djinn lock.
Alternatively, and perhaps the best and most vague strategy, is to avoid the paradoxes altogether. You can optimize your card choice to avoid the paradox altogether. The basic idea would be that instead of choosing between versatile, but preemptive only outs to Djinn and narrow, but outs to established Djinn locks, you play a deck that does not rely on special summons.
I mean this more metaphorically than literally, as decks that don’t special summon are almost strictly worse than those that do. It wouldn’t be worth it to gain the advantage of not caring about Djinn if you are making your deck strictly worse overall.
The basic concept behind the metaphor holds true, as the best way to overcome a paradox is to not get involved in it. Whoever can find the best way to avoid the paradox will certainly have an amazing chance at taking down the 150th YCS next weekend and the WCQ, earning a coveted seat at this year’s World Championship! Until next time, play hard or go home!