I’m going to cut the fancy introduction and cut to the chase this week. It is about time we all sit down and have a little chat; a little chat about the game of Yu-Gi-Oh and the vision we should all have of this game. There have been several alarming issues I want to address that echoed throughout the comment section of my last two articles, and this week I am going to specifically point out fallacies in the arguments, while addressing underlying issues I have with the game. I’ve written a lot of articles since this opportunity presented itself, some of which I took a lot of pride in writing and thus were quite proud of – such as the ones regarding Rescue Rabbit and the Grind Game or Mind Tricks. But this week is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most important article I have ever written and likely will ever write.
The gloves are off this week. You want something real about this game, something to trigger the change in your mind that will catapult you to the level you want to reach, here we go.
Let’s go back in time. A time before Alter Reality Games, a time before Rescue Rabbit, and a time before you knew who I was. I’m thinking February 12th, 2011. This early February Saturday was the morning of YCS Dallas 2011, a tournament that for me began a transformation in how I thought about the game of the Yu-Gi-Oh. Before that tournament I yearned for nothing more than to reach the Top 32 of an event. I had been to double-digit events and to be completely honest, I had fallen so short of my goal it seemed like an impossible dream. I had gone to a majority of the 2010 events, and I’m not sure I can say with confidence that I was playing past round 6 in any of them. But something was different that February morning, my mindset and image of the game was different.
Fastforward to now, and I am still in shock at the YCS success I have had. Topping one YCS seemed so impossible to me at one point, and now I am on the cusp of double-digits. I am not trying to shove my credentials down your throat, but you know what, I am going to be completely honest with you on this one. In February of 2010, I hinged on the words of those who achieved that level of success; I endlessly sought what allowed them to accomplish their goals. The problem was I had to seek that out myself, failure after failure; I had to find out for myself what was holding me back as a player, and why I was continuously failing at events. And once it finally dawned on me, once I learned my own fallacies, it clicked. And not only did it click; it clicked so well I became reinvigorated as a player with a passion I never had. Today I am writing this article as the player with numerous events tops, but not as a symbol of arrogance, because I once hinged on the words of those in this position, wanting to know what separated their thinking from mine.
You are going to laugh as how basic of a principle it is. How simple it seems on the surface. But the underlying ramifications of this conclusion extend further than you will ever imagine. I went from not topping nearly 15 YCS/SJC to topping 9/12 the moment this clicked in my head.
Not everything is perfect.
That is it. Four little words, none too long or daunting – but powerful nonetheless. These four little words mean so much more in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh than you think. It was with these four little words that I completely revamped my outlook on the game, my attitude at events, and my demeanor in the game. Not everything is perfect.
Before I understood this, I was forever going to be destined to failure because I was restricting my ability to progress and grow as a player. I cannot tell you how much I have learned about the game in past 18 months, more so than I learned in the previous eight years combined. But it would have been impossible if I didn’t realize those four words. But what do those four words mean?
Only a few years ago I would sit down at every tournament I played in with one thing in the back of my mind. Please let me draw ideal, simple hands. Nothing more, nothing less. My mind was so restricted in its thinking, that I viewed the game in the eyes of someone who only saw the most ideal set of circumstances. For example, back in the days of Monarchs I drew my opening six and wished I could see Dekoichi the Battlechanted Locomotive, Sakuretsu Armor and Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch. Or conversely if I was going second, I wished to see Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch and Soul Exchange. No more, no less – simply the most ideal set of circumstances. Every format that progressed past that, I approached it the same. Please draw Reinforcement of the Army and Destiny Draw, or Infernity Inferno and Infernity Launcher. It was so restricting of a quality that I essentially wasted a near decade of my Yu-Gi-Oh career stuck in a skill bubble, sucking all the potential knowledge I could absorb away.
When I went to events during these years, I went already conceding the fact that I would not top. It wasn’t because I was ill-equipped with a deck – I’ve always had access to the top tier decks. It was because I saw no way that I could go the entire tournament without drawing imperfect hands. You simply cannot draw Destiny Draw and Elemental Hero Stratos every game or every round. It is statistically impossible to have such an ideal tournament. So why even try? I assumed there was no hope in topping, unless some stroke of luck came my way and I was able to draw perfectly every round of swiss.
But we live in an imperfect word, a word where not everything is perfect. The moment it clicked in my mind was a revelation I hope you all can share after reading this article. Concede the fact now, that at the next YCS you attend, you will not draw well every game. And even if you do draw relatively well, there is no blueprint, accepted set of plays that will win you the game. I always thought you had to accomplish the same line of play every single game to win. You had to flip a floater and tribute it for a Monarch. There was no other viable way of winning. But the fact of the matter is, so much of the game is in your hands that you win when you draw subpar hands. As a matter of a fact, if you are so caught up in the negative potential of your hands – you will live in the same skill bubble I was stuck in for so long. And trust me; it isn’t a fun place to stay a month – let alone a whole Yu-Gi-Oh career.
Why do I bring this up now? I’ll tell you why, because the comments I saw the last couple weeks not only confirm this skill bubble existence over a portion of the Yu-Gi-Oh community, it seems to restricting the progress of a serious majority of it.
What I want you to know about what I posted as my wishlist is that, it wasn’t about some longlasting agenda I have against all the decks out there. It also was far from a troll list designed to exterminate each and every one of the top decks. Not even remotely. It was a banlist designed to encourage growth and development of the player base, and reward extensive deckbuilding skills. Have you ever heard the phrase: Don’t judge a book by its cover? Chances are that not a single person who posted in the last two weeks actually sat down and built a deck under my wishlist. Because if you have, you would have seen the format was a lot more wide open than anything you’ve ever played in. Now I’ve actually been playing with fellow ARG writers Patrick Hoban, Alistar Albans and Paul Clarke. And next to cube drafting, I have had so much fun. And not only it was a breath of fresh air, it was because innovative deckbuilding was rewarded and few games were overly one-sided. It reminded me of the SJC Edison format, you know the one where Jeff Jones took QuickDraw to the top. A single tournament people wish we could replay over and over because of how open the format was. A slew of viable decks, but nothing was over powered in comparison to the rest.
My wishlist was an honest attempt to allow all players to break out of the chains that are restricting their mindset about this game. The current path the game is on may seem exciting to some, but it is only going to stunt any possible growth that may be had. I’ve had players literally scoop because they did not open Rescue Rabbit against me. Not even try to win. Didn’t open Rabbit? I concede. We cannot rely on opening the Wind-Up loop or Rescue Rabbit as players. Not everything is perfect. And if Konami continues to put out products and banlists that suggest otherwise, the playerwise will not progress the way they are capable of.
So I am going to highlight a few of the comments posted last week and explain the relationship between their argument and the concept I just spoke about. I am also going to explain a few errors made by readers last week when analyzing how a format should be constructed.
“The hatred towards LightSworn makes NO sense to me. Three judgment dragon and two lumina don’t affect the format AT ALL.”
“Joe Giorlando, if you are playing this game and understand the format correctly i have no need to argue against your ‘reasons’ to wreck half a dozen of tier 2 decks. That’s not the way banlist is performed and neither is healthy for the game. You know already that Judgement Dragon is a balanced card, or will be taking 78 spots on one WQC top 32. Really I don’t need 7000 clicks on my keyboard to say that you are stupid.”
This line of thinking is a major fault of not only part of the Yu-Gi-Oh community, but Konami in general. Just because a deck isn’t doing well today doesn’t necessarily mean its components do not deserve some type of restrictions on the banlist. If Konami successfully restricts the power of Tier 1 decks with their given banlist, then decks that were overshadowed by the power creep of those decks will become more viable. So in relation to Lightsworns, while the deck has not had success under the current banlist – a successful restriction on power of the other decks will enable Lightsworns to become playable in the future. The problem here isn’t that I want to destroy every archtype in the existence of the game, the problem with Lightsworn is it exemplifies the exact set of logic I found myself lost in for so long. So much of the Lightsworn archtype is dependent on a variation of milling, a concept that inherently restricts a player’s ability to properly analyze the game as a whole. A Lightsworn player hopes to mill copies of Wulf or Necro Gardna – simple request right? The problem is that such a deck rewards those players who are able to do so in a disproportional amount to those that do not. Creating a situation where, when you attend an event with Lightsworn, you almost have to concede to wishful thinking. This type of wishful thinking is exactly what will restrict your ability as a player. Lightsworns are a damaging archtype to the game, not only because so much variance occurs with the milling, but it stunts the growth of players in the game. And you will never excel to the level you wish if you have to resort to a deck like this to do well.
“Absolutely ridiculous banlist, thankfully it won’t even be close to this. This list actually both offends and insults me as a player, i’m offended that you are paid actual money to write this garbage.”
You see the person that wrote this never responded to me in the comment section. I was quite disappointed because I was curious what about the list offended him. This exact statement is the response I would have had to the banlist I posted, say five years ago. Suddenly there would be no overly ideal set of draw patterns, I’d be forced to realize what took me so long to find out.
“I only support formats where the best players are the only winners if you guys actually sit down and contribute significantly to the development of us weaker ones, and even then, this game is a lot less fun if I have to automatically lose to someone just because I’m paired up with them. Also, grind games are extremely boring. I don’t like sitting down to play a game and having it last 20-30 minutes, even if it does mean that I’m nearly guaranteed to win against someone who isn’t better than me. Finally, I really wonder how a format with 70,000 staples didn’t have games where topdecking a single broken card didn’t skew the outcome of games way more often.”
I guess this is more of an opinionated statement than anything. People honestly do distain the grind game, Goat Format or things of the like. But man, I cannot tell you how vindicating it is to sit down and set up a play for three or four turns and be able to pull it off. About a month ago my opponent had five set spell or trap cards, an Airknight Parshath and an Exarion Universe. I had a Gravekeeper’s Spy face-up, a Book of Moon, Delinquent Duo, Torrential Tribute and Heavy Storm set. In one turn I flipped the Duo, Booked my Spy, flipped it, chained Torrential, got another Spy, flipped Heavy Storm and tributed for Airknight Parshath. You don’t know how amazing that feeling was unless you let yourself learn!
“So…you basically decided you wanted to screw over every deck you don’t like? Then decided to hit every card that did something you don’t like? Oh look, a monster that can get screwed over (along with the whole deck it’s in) by just one card. Let’s hit it! Oh look, a card that has so much luck in it that you have to actually KNOW how to build a deck for it to work. Let’s hit it!”
Except where he didn’t hit the actual problem card in the deck.
If you really want to make DWs hurt, then you ban Dragged Down to the Grave and semi Grapha. But honestly, I don’t really care much about how this list is set up, because as I stated before, this isn’t about slowing down the meta, this is about bringing back goat control in some form, except he’s smart enough not to make this obvious by not bringing back the most obvious components this ban list, but rather the components that go around it. I mean sure, his arguments may work for individual things, but in some cases he downplays the negative of bringing back such cards like Scapegoats and TIV, which would be devastating in this format.
Slower formats are not necessarily better formats, preventative banning is always terrible (unless you can prove the card will be broken), and a ban list should not be styled as your own personal wish list to force the game to only be about they gameplay style that you like (in this case, draw-go control, akin to goat control)
These guys may be good at playing the game, but they sure don’t know what is good FOR the game.”
I picked this comment to address this idea that there was some conspiracy theory behind my banlist to bring back Goat Control. Is that a joke or something? Goat Control is so far gone in this game's history that it would be impossible to recreate it. “Goat Control” was a deck that utilized Scapegoats in conjunction with Metamorphosis to generate incremental card advantage. The format contained a bunch of overpowered cards such as Ring of Destruction, Snatch Steal, Black Luster Solider and so on, but was viewed as one of the best in the history of the game because the way games played out, there was the ability to outplay someone at one junction of the game. Bringing back cards like Tribe-Infecting Virus, is in no-way shape or form bringing the game back to Goat Control. Perhaps if I unbanned you know, arguably the best monster from the format Thousand-Eyes Restrict with Tsukyomi and Metamorphosis – okay perhaps. But all I really did was bring Scapegoats back to three… How is that remotely devastating for a format? Scapegoat is the perfect example of the type of card that will help players break out of the molds that have been restricting them for so long. Scapegoat is a relatively difficult card to play correctly, and one that punishes poor players immensely. The perfect choice to bring back to three, and force players to progress their skills as a player.
The second thing I wanted to address in this comment was the idea of preventative bannings. This type of logic sure worked out well the last six months… right? No preventative measures taken against Wind-Ups, Inzektors or Dino-Rabbit and look what happens. Some of the best players in the games history like Ryan Spicer and Chris Bowling are cashing their skills in and taking a hike to play Magic the Gathering. I’ve played more Magic Online since Nationals than Yu-Gi-Oh. Not the business model Konami should have.
“The idea that formats based around mirrors is good for the game because it takes skill is preposterous. I really hate yugioh players like this. Rather than seek improvement on your meta prediction, deck building, and understanding of matchups you would rather win games without any thinking above that which you used to play the one deck.
Both of these lists are shit, but this list is better by virtue of not damning everything to another mirror match meta.”
Oh this statement could not be further from the truth. Before I wrote weekly for Alter Reality Games, I actually entered one of their contests with an article just on this point. The original text can be found here: http://articles.alterealitygames.com/?p=5030
But I am still going to give you an excerpt of what I wrote.
“We are going to look at the Chaos Return and TeleDAD formats in an effort to understand the benefits of a single deck metagame. TeleDAD began in its premature form at Shonen Jump Baltimore 2008 in the weeks following the September 2008 banlist. While the banlist maneuvered around a few cards from the previous format the glaring absence of hate towards the powerhouse Gladiator Beasts left the dueling community in shock. While TeleDAD was unable to capture the title at Shonen Jump Baltimore the subsequent Shonen Jumps were utterly dominated by the sheer volume of TeleDAD and dynamics of the deck. In turn it became of no surprise for a player to battle through a ten round Shonen Jump and face upwards of nine or even ten mirror matches. This formats unique characteristic allowed players to begin main decking tech choices in preparation for the mirror match in hopes of improving the quality of their game ones. By the end of the TeleDAD format players begin modifying their decks to either utilize a pair of Royal Oppressions or counter the Oppression DAD decks. This evolution rewarded players who were ahead of the dueling community and unlocked the power of Royal Oppression in a deck whose own focus was on a flurry of special summons. The TeleDAD format was able to redefine the game and favored players who were able to master the intricacies of the mirror match and properly predict the metagame. Thus, it became common occurrence for well-known or pro players to take a majority of the top slots at premiere events solidifying TeleDAD as one of the most one-sided, but skill intensive formats.”
Not that the banlist I constructed two weeks ago, or the prediction list last week pushed for there to only be one top deck, but if that were to occur – deckbuilding would be the most important thing. Sure, if 1000 players register the same 70 cards at an YCS – chances are the best players will rise above. But the few players that register 70 cards that can defeat the mirror match and still remain competitive across the board – those are the ones that will find greatness.
“This list is 100x BETTER than your so called “perfect list” last week. This list helps players try the new archtypes and who the heck cares if the new stuff is broken? I honestly don’t see broken archtypes as a problem they make the game more exciting and allow everyone to win which is how it should be. Pro players need to give it up; the new school kids are here and we aren’t leaving!”
You might not be leaving, and you will certainly be using those broken cards to defeat better players. You almost seem to be admitting that you are going to rely on broken cards like Wind-Up Hunter or Rescue Rabbit to win in the near future. Imagine if you could win when you drew those broken cards, and also when things don’t go in your favor? Or better, get to a point where you don’t need to rely on broken cards at all, you just learn to win regardless of that. Now that is exciting.
“People keep predicting a Rabbit restriction but with tin coming out just prior to the list and no Rabbit reprint yet I don’t know. But I would love to see it semi’d haha.
Also Joe, as much as people can understand why you would be upset by the response to the last list, the way you are writing now comes off very immature and is going to hurt your reputation. Personally I have a view of you as a bit of a whiner now. Your support among the Yu-Gi-Oh!/ARG fan base is hingeing on this next article, I wouldn’t even publish it lol.
By the way, stop being so sore about getting sacked by power cards, the so called “pros” you’re referring too are just as likely to draw into Heavy/Reborn as the “weaker players”. You shouldn’t be so arrogant as to assume everyone except you needs to sack and can do so whenever they want to to win.”
There were a few comments about how I am conceited, arrogant or as this one suggests, whiny. Honestly, I put myself and my opinions out here every week expecting there to be people that disagree with me. We suppose to disagree with one another. We all have different ideas on what the game should be like, and all I have done is exercise my right to share it. If you disagree with it, go ahead and disagree with it. It is perfectly fine with me. If you come up to me at an event and ask for philosophical help, not only will I help you, I will try and cater to whatever needs you seem to be having. It wasn’t too long ago that I was yearning for what it would take to break the barriers that I artificially set for myself. And all I am trying to do is express to you, with as much passion as I can put into this, what it took for me to break beyond the barriers and achieve a level of success I never imagined possible. Sure, it might not work for everyone. But I wish I came to these conclusions early. And if that means I come off as arrogant or conceited to some. So be it. I’ve had complete strangers come up to me and thank me for an article I’ve written, letting me know how they are improving their game because of it. And all the hate I can get from writing each week is worth it if I am able to connect with someone out there.