Paradoxes of this Format

dark armed dragonHello 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!


Raigeki-LCJW-EN-ScR-1EThere 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.


reinforcement of the armyAn 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.


forbidden lanceYou 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!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Latest posts by Patrick Hoban (see all)



  • Cardtheorist

    Having run tons of lock-based strategies for most of my competitive play years, I can attest to the truth of your article. In fact, I used those strategies in a tournament last Saturday with great results.Here are a few things:
    -running cards that need to be used preemptively must be ran at higher numbers than ones the ones after the fact. This worsens the midgame.
    -As you said, cards that can out while having other uses are better. This improves all states of the game than otherwise. In the ROTA strategy, it does require more skill, but as many people use different strategies, using the same one over and over means that, statistically speaking, you’re bound to make the wrong call at some point.
    -To the person who said Prohibition, it is one of those preventive cards that must be drawn early. comparing to Djinn +the number of searchers Djinn has + the number of outs to Prohibition (like mst, etc. which players often side in g2) vs the number of Prohibitions one can run (3) as well as how players can play around Prohibition due to Nekroz being able to search for many different resources depending upon the situation, it isn’t a good card against Nekroz. It can be a good card against decks that specifically run trouble cards rather than a whole deck strategy, but again, a single mst would ruin the plan, as well as other problems that are beyond the scope of this post.

    -Again, I agree that avoiding the paradox altogether is the optimal solution. Although you meant non SS metaphorically, I actually made one like that which I currently run, although it took several years to build and I’m still optimizing it. Seeing as most decks rely heavily on SS’ing, and at the speed of which they use them, I wondered what strategy would allow me the best win percentage using that strategy. Decks that do not rely upon SS’ing generally have the problem of lowered consistency. They don’t have the heavy search power, and therefore their ratios are more sensitive to changes in a deck, and their strategies are also more sensitive to opening hands. Because of this, the hypothetical deck must favor consistency over power.
    -Another reason why this deck must favor consistency over power is because nonSS decks (outside solitaire types like Exodia and such) will almost certainly run some kind of floodgate control. The downside of floodgate control is that it is one less card that one can use for the win condition. If floodgates nullify more cards than what it relies upon, then its worth running. This is gross simplification, and their are factors that make it difficult to quantify. For example, Mistake. It stops searches, but that quite literally slows the deck rather than shutting it down. It basically means that one must win before the opponent can draw the necessary cards. This is an example of a preemptive floodgate, of sorts, when looked at like that. Rather, it would be better to see what the ends (SS) rather than the means (searches, spells, etc.- although sometimes they can be the same) are to know what it is that must be shut down. Some antimeta decks run floodgates, but a problem is that they overlap, reducing overall utility. It would be better to reduce overlap and improve consistency.
    -The above points are the reasons why I didn’t like the Vanity and Majesty floodgate deck. They didn’t have consistency, their different floodgates overlapped, they couldn’t bring out the floodgates fast enough, etc. The idea in itself is a good one, however.
    -I eventually decided I wanted to get an anti SS lock consistently.This was because I thought, and still do, that it is one of the most powerful locks in the current metagame, and has been for a long time. There are many locks and floodgates, like Decree, Majesty, and so on. But in a 36 card deck (3 upstart +Dualities) running a 3 of isn’t enough to get a 1st turn lock. Therefore, I would have to run searchers or alternatives. There aren’t many standalone cards that can do this, if at all, other than perhaps emptiness. The problem with the Fiends is that to get a 1st turn lock, they need the card itself, as well as tribute fodder (or something that lets them get out, like Mausoleum of the Emperor+Terraforming), that is, a combination of cards. Which is fine. But there aren’t enough to get them out 1st turn consistently and reliably. That is to say, 2400 attack isn’t the best. Even if it were to get out, that in itself isn’t a strong lock. There are plenty of mained outs to that. People run Lance, but that doesn’t come consistently in addition to the two other cards required. There are ways around that to improve consistency further, but it would be suboptimal anyways, as a much more reliable lock can come out.
    -Fossil Dyna and Jowgen by themselves can come out first turn, as they can be ran at a 6 of. Emptiness can also be used, along with the recent Lose 1 Turn. But the obvious problem is their low stats. Therefore, a way to overcome that must be used. Red Screen, Wall of Revealing Light, etc. can be used to protect those monsters. In addition, those cards and substitutes are abundant enough to also get 1st turn. Although they can also be mst’d, it isn’t a problem if one runs enough to have two of them at all times. At that point, a reliable 1st turn lock has been established. However, the opponent may still out it using BoE, Raigeki, or with other decks, Fiendish or some such thing. Letting the rest of the deck be run with protection measures and consistency cards (triple upstart, triple reckless, triple PoD, as well as a host of other draw cards) should allow one to get what they need to maintain the lock. Even then, substitues to substitutes can also be run, such as veiler, that in itself is not floodgate, but allows protection under the notion that the floodgate has been overcome. Were it to be outed, the sheer number of floodgates allows on to reestablish the lock next turn. As an analogy, if floodgates are bricks of a wall, then the other cards are the mortar. As you’ve said, the game is about locks and outs right now. Countering an out means that, generally, the opponent will have to dig through the deck to get the next one.
    -However, how to get all those components fast enough? As I’ve said, getting the 1st turn lock is easy, and it is improbable that the opponent will have a 1st turn out (although, having more counters to their outs mained is easy to do, and therefore having a 1st turn out to their outs is not difficult) Well, under the strategy of shutting down attacks and special summons first turn and running a large number of outs to the opponent’s outs, one can also run other cards that can be beneficial under the same conditions. Some of the most powerful cards have heavy downsides. This can be mitigated. Pot of Greed was banned due to being an instant +1 with no downsides. Worm Linx is a +2 every single turn; however, its low stats and slow setup nature prevented it from being run in most decks. However, under the right conditions, it is an extremely powerful card. There are other cards as well, although Linx is the most powerful under those conditions.
    -There has been a glaring omission so far. If one runs all those cards to prevent the opponent from doing anything, then how is the deck supposed to win? There are a few cards in the game that, under those conditions, can essentially win the game by themselves. Guardian Sphinx can bounce all the opponent’s monsters. Mass non targeting, non destructive removal. It can be run at just 2, and the rest of the deck can be purely defensive. Running 38 cards as part of the engine and just 2 to win allows the rest of the deck to run consistently. (including upstart and such.) There are other alternatives to the condensed win condition idea, but that one may be the best. As it is, I’ve had success in regional tournaments and online (the only ones I’ve been to thus far) but unfortunately, I missed the top cut due to losing on time while having huge board advantage, as the deck relies of cards that cost life points. I look at LP as a resource that can be used. Therefore, if it goes to time, I am at a disadvantage.

    • Jeorg Talbert


      • Cardtheorist

        Buy yosen, I think their value will go up. As it is, they can run tons of floodgates. Hoban mentioned in another article that, looking at patterns, antimeta strategies crop up some time after the big ones have been established, as people figure out how to deal with them. The way I see it, yosen can floodgate then go for the kill.

        • Jeorg Talbert

          Yosenjus are good. I dig it. it might be very wise to buy a bunch while they are cheap.

          • Cardtheorist

            Yeah, it seems to me that hoban is going to run yosen, as there are indications of that. I also think his next article will give more af that as well. I might buy a few…hmm.

  • Tim NoneYa

    It’s called Lose 1 Turn in the TCG.

  • DinoBeast

    Or you could solve the paradox altogether by, you know, persuading your opponent to side out their Djinn. I heard that works pretty well too.

    • Jeorg Talbert