Reflecting on the New Era

joe giolandoThis is the first article that I have had posted since the North American World Championship Qualifier. I wrote another one, which might be posted sometime down the road, but this one is likely the first to appear on the Alter Reality Game page. Anyway, with Nationals in our rear view mirror, it seems like the perfect time to look back on reflect on what we have experienced these last handful of months. If anyone recalls the article I wrote discussing the New Era in Yu-Gi-Oh, you would know I had some fairly adamant opinions about the way in which the game was going to progress our the course of the summer. I have decided to take the time to look back and reflect on some of the assumptions I made, right or wrong.

The first major assumption that was made pertained to the volume of previously premier cards which would falter in terms of playability. In retrospect cards like [ccProd]Solemn Warning[/ccProd] and Judgment found homes in the stun oriented versions of Prophecy, and for good reason, but I feel as though it was a fairly accurate assumption. [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] fluctuated as playable as the format progressed, though the stun variation of Prophecy made it an inclusion more often than not in Dragon Rulers. [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] held a similar role to [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd], and was only deemed useful when it became apparent that the triple [ccProd]Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer[/ccProd] version of Prophecy was the most ideal. Other cards like [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd], [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd], [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd], [ccProd]Monster Reborn[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd] were virtually non-existent throughout the entire format. Evilswarms and Constellars played their part as budget options for players who did not want to invest in Prophecy or Dragon Ruler (though the stun version of Prophecy even made price less of an issue), and they certainly existed. I opened up Nationals playing against three out of four Evilswarm decks (to which I utterly dominated the five games where my opponent did not open Eradicator/Ophion turn one), so there was certainly a presence in the format. But who are we kidding. Were those old school decks even playing in the same stratosphere as Prophecy and Dragon Ruler? Absolutely not.  Even the previously dominate decks such as Fire Fist and Mermails had no chance competing against the two monsters of the format. Dragon Ruler and Prophecy had access to too many cards at too many intervals of the game. How could any other deck compete?

dna surgeryThe format was also defined by those singleton card techs I discussed. I may not have had enough experience at the time of the previous article to confidently say what I believed would become popular, but as the format progressed we were introduced to [ccProd]DNA Surgery[/ccProd], [ccProd]Phoenix Wing Wind Blast[/ccProd], [ccProd]Last Day of Witch[/ccProd], [ccProd]Electric Virus[/ccProd], [ccProd]Puppet Plant[/ccProd], Psi-Blocker and even the mighty Horus the Black Flame Dragon. Pinpointing when these types of cards were at their highest level of competency was an important skill to have, and was a defining factor in Patrick Hoban's victory in Chicago.

The real final take away from this summer was the dynamic of the Dragon Ruler mirror match. There is a fundamental reason why names such as Boyajian, Silverman and Hoban are flying out to Las Vegas to compete at Worlds. The learning curve in the Dragon Ruler mirror match was so high, with reliance on hand traps such as [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Swift Scarecrow[/ccProd], that it required a tremendous amount of preparation and knowledge of the format. As the results from Chicago showed dedication in the manner of Patrick Hoban could translate into success in a format where cards like [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Super Rejuvenation[/ccProd] were legal. The Worlds team is a testament to the success of meaningful testing, and that is likely the greatest thing we can take away from this format.

But that leaves the fundamental question that is used to analyze all formats in Yu-Gi-Oh history - was it a good format? How does it compare to the likes of Goat Control or Tele-DAD? The biggest problem I have comparing this format to any of the previous is how different Yu-Gi-Oh was these past couple of months. I have spoken to some of the best players in this game and I feel like there was a consensus about something regarding this format. It just was not Yu-Gi-Oh. This format was a closer resemblance to Magic the Gathering than anything else I have experienced. Access to the volume of cards for each player is something that has never happened before. Even in the days when Destiny Hero - Disk Commander were legal decks could not generate the amount of sheer card advantage we just experienced. It really boils down to the style in Yu-Gi-Oh you prefer. I am going to be the first to admit, I was reluctant to master Dragon Ruler because on the surface, the deck does not fit the type of playstyle I feel most comfortable playing. Access to a huge array of monster summons, where your defense is in the monsters you are able to use offensively, is not something I have ever enjoyed. I like to think I prefer traditional styles of Yu-Gi-Oh, where it is a resource game based on interactions of monster removal and pinpointing when to take advantage of tempo swings. My biggest issue with the previous format is the way in which the traditional aspects of Yu-Gi-Oh were undermined in favor of explosive card advantage engines. You use to have to work for an advantageous card interaction. Tributing a floater for a Monarch was enough to garner a fist pump back in the day. Now you just activate [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] and have enough cards for the rest of the duel. That is not something which I particularly enjoyed.

spellbook of judgmentSpeaking of [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd], I also feel like the format became saturated with the same repetitive play by Prophecies. At least playing against Dragon Rulers you could expect some innovative ways of winning, I sort of liked the problem solving aspect of that deck. I remember the first time I tested the deck I had a situation where if I was able to summon all four Dragon Rulers I could Big Eye the [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd] my opponent summoned off [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] and then use Mecha Phantom Beast to make tokens and eventually go into [ccProd]Ancient Sacred Wyvern[/ccProd]. It happened to be enough for game because my opponent had used a couple of [ccProd]Upstart Goblin[/ccProd]. That was an enjoyable experience I suppose, but my golly how many times can you sit down and play against Prophecy? The deck performs the exact same play sequence again, and again, and again. That is not something you should see from a healthy format. The more moments when a player needs to make a vital decision, the more likely they are to make a mistake or otherwise show their play skill. Formats with such little levels of decision making are never good for Yu-Gi-Oh. That is why we look back and love Goat Control or even Dragon Ruler mirror matches. The existence of Prophecy was one of the largest gripes I had with these past few months. It was fun and flashy at first, but I do not think I am the only one to roll their eyes at the repetitive nature of the deck.

So without this being my semi-annual banlist article, I thought I would just reflect over the past few months and discuss some of the predictions I made before Dragon Rulers hit the scene. Acknowledge that there was a tremendous amount of good to take away from this Yu-Gi-Oh experience, such as qualified players doing well and performing at the highest level, but also dwell on how distant traditional Yu-Gi-Oh seems from where we are today. What do you guys hope we see some September 1st?

Joe Giorlando

Latest posts by Joe Giorlando (see all)



  • Tyu1218

    The only flaw to Yugioh is simple. If you do not have a top tier deck, you are behind the ball and it makes it THAT much harder to be competitive. It’s really sad because many people cannot afford these top tier decks and rely on “budget” decks which naturally aren’t as good. Yes skill does come into play however, like Joe and others have said…these top decks have more outs and more consistency, you get what you pay for. Lower ability duelists are getting credited for being skilled duelists due to high end decks, while some super good duelists are in the shadows due to lack of financial funds. Yugioh needs to balance out formats and not create these broken decks/cards.

  • Nick Habeeb

    Worst format of all time by a mile. It pretty much makes the infamous march 2012 format look like a joke. There is pretty much no deck in yugioh at the moment that can consistently beat these tier 0 monstrositys and even if there was there’s probably about a billion answers for that deck anyway. Dragons and Prophecy pretty much let good and bad players steamroll over any deck that gets in their way and how is that fair? These decks are the true pinnacle of autopilot and honestly the only ppl who that they do take skill is idiots who blindly follow popular opinion or ppl who don’t want the stupid price they payed to go to waste. I really hope these decks become unplayable real soon. I’m tired of not being allowed to play this game because my wallet can’t support the best deck or the deck makes pretty much everything ineffective

    • welcometointernet

      whats your opinion on tele-dad?

    • frank

      This format was only terrible for the people who couldn’t afford these decks (which is a shame in it’s own rite). On the other hand, this was a great format for competitive play. The two main decks (especially dragon rulers) were very skill intensive. The dragon mirror match in particular (the most common match-up if you played the deck) was one of the best competitive mirror matches in years. For a competitive player, a (more) skill driven format such as this one was tremendous, as it allowed practice and dedication carry a player further in a tournament than usual, as luck was less of a factor.

  • Bryant Greaves

    I like that you were honest in talking about what you really didn’t like about the top two decks. I figured since this format was skillful, you’d have nothing but good to say about it.

  • Catrix

    On the subject of comparing this format to MTG. Taken from a discussion I was having with a couple friends.

    “The thing is you do, magic is often more about virtual card advantage and
    maintaining a board state where as in yugioh it seems to be straight
    actual cards in hand and on board. Something like wrath of god is huge as its a catch up for control decks so they can buy the time they need. In ygo dark hole is meh as any good deck can
    literally just laugh at it as they just reamass everything they had on
    board the previous turn.”

    Mind you I’m somewhat new to yugioh but have made a number of strong pushes towards being a competitive level player and I’ve been playing magic for a good number of years.

  • bloedzuiger

    Great article, Joe. The only thing it really needed was a hard-hitting Aristotle quote. That would have been a great closer or even just a way of setting the tone for the rest of the article.

  • Massimo Pascale

    Joe, I must respectfully disagree to the extent to which you said prophecy lacked the decision making of a player. Sure prophecy begins with the same plays over and over again, but that is simply due to the sheer consistency of a deck forged by a skilled deck builder. Prophecy, in many ways, teaches players to conserve the few defenses they have. Similar to tele-dad, a deck many times only protected by solemns, players must carefully choose when to use certain trap cards in order to take advantage of the situation. You mention in your article your love of capitalizing on tempo swings. What card better represents a tempo swing then that of phoenix wing wind blast, a cornerstone in prophecy as the format comes to a close. Knowing when to set your opponent back a turn and then capitalize on your nuts and bolts is truly what defines the tempo of yugioh as a whole. I do believe that the actual access to the majority of its deck through searching is quite broke, that much I agree with you. But I guarantee you that prophecy takes as much skill as dragon rulers, and its playing style is constantly innovated, even more than that of dragons (the move to a kycoo based deck). Prophecy’s skill may dwell more prominently in that of deck building, but in no way can it be sound to state that the playing itself holds less skill than a deck like dragon ruler or tele-dad. Consider that it may simply be the average player that makes it appear otherwise.

    • Justin Kelly

      i have to disagree with you both, there is no skill in playing a deck that runs itself. when everyone is playing the same deck builds it shows that they have no skill and like to copy others just because they win a lot.

      • Gravekeeper Peasent

        And I disagree with YOU good sir! I am by no means a skilled player so I can say with certainty that when I copy a deck I always get creamed by better players. It’s about your playstyle’s compatibility with certain decks, or how often you practice. Not the decklist (although it helps to play one of the top 2 decks right now I suppose). If you want competitive originality, then Yu-Gi-Oh is not the best place to find it, go to a sneek peak event and have fun.

    • Nick Habeeb

      Ur deck is autopilot just because u payed upwards of $800 for shiny cardboard does not make ur deck skillful.

      • frank

        Even though dragons take much more skill (as there are more variables), prophecy certainly does require a decent amount of skill. Just because a deck has a few autopilot plays does not mean that the deck doesn’t require any thinking. The bad/mediocre hands are what require skill to win with.

        Also, while it is a shame that most competitive decks are so expensive, the price of a deck does not directly correlate to the amount of skill (or lack there of) required to play it. For example, even though Tele-DAD was one of the most expensive decks ever, it is almost universally recognized as one of the most skill intensive mirror matches ever.

  • BenRM

    I agree, Joe. Prophecy was an abortion. Not only broken, but thoughtless.

  • Dominique Roberts

    Joe, do you not believe that the majority of player error this past format came not when the player needed to make decisions on how to handle the current field, but rather when they were thumbing through their own pile of 40+ cards resolving the effects of cards like Secrets/Judgment or any Dragon Ruler? That’s the concept that got me to the Top 16 and played a large part in my extensive playtesting leading up to the NAWCQ. The majority of misplays I witnessed during my Spellbook matches/Mirror matches came at the players discretion, not as a result of what board I had established. When an opponent felt as if they were in a dominating position, they seemingly forgot to think about what they were doing and made such a small oversight, it cost them the game/match. That, in my opinion, was the nature of the format. Thinking ahead, but not being ahead of yourself. Having a great hand, but not showing it by playing like a madman, or not making your opponent believe you’re actually having to think to play Judgment, Secrets, Master or Discarding 4 and Tributing 2 into Rejuv. It made all the difference.

    • Joseph Giorlando

      Oh totally. One round at nationals my Prophecy opponent drew substaniially better than I did and went into auto-play soon after he realized he could just chain Judgments together. He soon realized that he had lost access to Spellbook of Fate and Eternity due to his mistakes and only had Tower to get them back, to which of course I just held my own and waited it out. He eventually lost a game he had no business of dropping. I would see those type of things all the time.

      • Dominique Roberts

        Is this going to be what separates the great from the good, and the good from the mediocre in the coming stages of the game? The ability to not only outplay your opponent, but to not outplay yourself? With the way the game is progressing, each deck’s access to its key components become more and more simplistic; but the differences in those components are worlds apart(I.E. Searching a baby/adult/tuner or Wisdom/Fate). Not every search and play this format was a result of what you could do now, but rather, what you needed to be capable of doing in the turns yet to come. Should this be a concept that people aspiring to become better players, and even good players, themselves, explore more intensely? I’m just looking for insight here.