The Diversity Argument

Hey everyone, after moving back to college and then some computer issues last week I’m back again with another article. This week I’m going to be discussing how diversity affects the game.

I’m sure most people aren’t going to want to hear this, but too much diversity is bad for creating a skill intensive meta. Before you all jump down my throat for presenting what I am sure is a very unpopular opinion, allow me to explain my side of the story.

Let me start off by asking you guys a question. Which formats do you guys consider to be the best in the game’s history? I guess your answer to this would depend heavily on your definition of best. For a large part of you, your definition of “best” will have something to do with the amount of enjoyment you receive while playing a format. This is not what I mean when I talk about the best formats in the game. What I mean when I say “best” is which formats do you think gave the greatest chance to the better player? If Billy Brake sat down with a random kid from your locals, both using the strongest deck of the format, should their games be 50 50? I certainly do not think so. Even in the worst formats, the more experienced player would probably have over a 50% chance of beating a significantly less experienced player. If the format were bad, what if you only had a 70% or 75% chance of beating a less skilled player? Sure, you’re winning a majority of your games, but how does that mean you’ll do at a YCS? Even if it were a small tournament and only 10 rounds, you’d likely end up with an unfortunate x-3 record. Your chances only get worse as the tournament gets bigger. You might luck out an top a YCS or even two in a single format if you truly are that good, but if there are six or seven YCSes in that given format why were you only able to top 1 or 2 despite you being a good player? Back to the whole “best format” thing, my definition is something like “Formats were the best players will/have done consistently well at multiple events.”   Well, let’s take a look back and see which formats players were extremely consistent in. Did you know Cesar Gonzalez topped 6 Jumps during Tele-DAD format? Or that Adam Corn topped 12 SJCs in a row? We all know that Billy managed to win 2 YCSes back-to-back, but did you know Ryan Hayakawa did the same thing before him?

So what was it about these formats? Why can someone win two thousand person tournaments in a row? Well, let’s look at the formats to answer these questions. Adam’s 12 tops in a row came during GB format and into Tele-DAD format. This included one win. Cesar was also extremely consistent during Tele-DAD format. Billy won back-to-back during the September 2011 Plant format. Ryan Hayakawa also won back-to-back in Goat format. What do all these formats have in common? The lack of diversity in terms of deck types. For the most part, they are all one deck formats. Sure, you might face the occasional Lightsworn in Tele-DAD, but more than likely you’d destroy him and that would be your only deck that wasn’t a Tele-DAD mirror that day. The end result would be about 13 or 14 of the top 16 spots going to Tele-DAD.

Despite the fact that you may not like formats where only one deck could be played if you hoped to top, you have to concede the fact that historically those are the formats where the best players shine. Let’s look take a look at some of the factors that make these formats the “best.”

Side Decking:

Plain and simple, it is impossible to effectively side against every deck if there are a lot of decks in the meta. The reverse side to this argument is that this is an additional skill required, that one needs to know which cards will effectively work against the most matchups. This is true in 3-5 deck formats. If a format had 10 top decks, however, this would not be true. When you get too many decks being played at one time, it doesn’t make it harder to side, it actually just makes it impossible. You only have 15 cards in your side deck. If there are 10 decks that you need to be siding for, but only have 15 cards to do it you’re going to be spreading yourself too thin. You’re not going to be covering all your bases. There will certainly be some overlap when siding like for instance I would side Snowman Eater against both Rabbit and Heroes, however that is only two decks. It is unlikely that if there are 10 that Snowman is going to be extremely effective against that many of them. For this reason, you’re going to run out of space in your side deck. That means that you’re not going to be able to side for every match up. What this ends up being is an additional luck factor. Did I play against the matchups that I was actually able to side deck for? Nice, I had good luck today? Did I get hit with some matchups that I wasn’t able to side for? Sucks, I’m probably not topping. Was it my fault for not siding for those matchups? No, I sided for other matchups that were just as commonly played decks. I just didn’t get paired up with those and instead got paired up with these. In a 1-3 deck format you know what you’re going to play against. It’s unlikely that you’re going to be hit with too many surprises. This is when the reverse side of the argument really comes into play. Here is where having a versatile side deck is going to mean more. It doesn’t really apply when there are too many decks to side against all of them.

Main Deck Options:

Thunder King Rai-Oh. What are your thoughts on the card? Ever since its release, it’s been a pretty solid card. Often times it was maindecked in multiples. It’s fairly good against Rabbit and its great against Dragons. Those were two of the biggest decks this past format, yet seemingly no one mained it. Why was this? It was because decks like Inzektors and Dark Worlds exist to ensure that we cannot main a card like this.  If there are too many decks in a format, your main deck options are very constricted. You’re forced to play the same 38 cards leaving 2 open to interpretation. You can’t add cards like Thunder King to your main deck hoping to give yourself an edge without fear of being paired up with Inzektors where the card is just horrible.

Innovation:

The reverse of the above is true in one deck formats. Believe it or not, innovation is significantly more important in one deck formats than in ten deck formats. When one deck formats occur, you are able to look at the meta and find those tech cards that will give you an edge over the competition. If you try to do that in a 10 deck format you’ll end up paired against Inzektors with a Thunder King in your hand game 1. Let’s look at some past examples to help further demonstrate my point.

Goat Control: Goat Control was an extremely slow format. There were tons of powerful cards like Graceful Charity, Pot of Greed, and Delinquent Duo that by today’s standards would be considered overpowered. In Goat format they were not overpowered because even if your opponent got a +1, the games were naturally long. You had plenty of time to recover from the negative as the games would often last at least 20 turns each. The innovators of the format decided to take advantage of this by adding copies of Wave-Motion Cannon to their standard Goat decks. These could end the game in half the time of a normal game and at the very worst they would be trading it as a 1 for 1 with a Dust Tornado. This is one of the first examples of incredible innovation in one deck formats.

Tele-DAD: Let’s fast forward to 2008 and Tele-Dad format. A general rule of thumb is that if you went off first without winning, you lost. If you tried to summon Stardust, they’d summon Goyo. If you dropped Dark Armed, they’d drop the one they’d been holding. Jae Kim saw this and created a way for him to safely go off first. He incorporated copies of Royal Oppression into his Tele-DAD deck. This way he could summon his Stardust and when the opponent tried to fight back with a Goyo, he could shut them out with Oppression. Prior to Oppression’s banning, it was very common to find it in just about any deck that could throw big monsters out onto the field; however, at the time this was quite an innovative idea that became very mainstream over the next 2 years.

Plants: Finally let’s look at when Billy managed to take back-to-back titles in Toronto and then Columbus. In between the two tournaments he knew that lots of people would copy his deck which would make Plants the most played deck. This meant that if he wanted to repeat his success in Columbus, he would have to find a way to consistently beat the mirror match. He did just that by adding a full 3 copies of Maxx “C” to his deck instead of the previous standard of 1 to 2. This gave him the edge he needed and he won again in Columbus.

I cannot tell you how often people question why I am against a diverse metagame. You may not agree with my definition of “best,” but I hope that after reading this all of you can concede that despite the level of enjoyment you get from these formats, they are in fact the most skill intensive formats. With Toronto less than 3 weeks away the banlist being revealed any day, I could not be more excited. Until next week everyone, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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