Joe Giorlando: The New Era in Yu-Gi-Oh

joe giolandoMay I be the first to welcome you to the new age of Yu-Gi-Oh. An era where some of the previously most powerful cards in the games history are now rendered virtually unplayable. A time where the maximum hand size rules are torn to shreds. And perhaps the only time in Yu-Gi-Oh where card advantage really doesn't matter. Today I am going to be talking about some of the ramifications of the recent releases, and making note of now dramatic of a change they have created in the Yu-Gi-Oh card game. This may not be easy reading for those of you out there who enjoy some of the more traditional time periods in Yu-Gi-Oh, the days where trap cards mattered and [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] was playable.

I have seen here or there this discussion about how good the Dragon Ruler cycle truly are, questioning if they are just another overhyped archtype that will fail to meet expectations. A completely legitimate questioning, seeing as how the Yu-Gi-Oh community once compared the release of the Dark World structure deck to a Tyrion Lannister wedding - only to put a whopping zero in the Top 32 of YCS Columbus 2011. But let me state profoundly - Dragon Rulers are unquestionably not only going to live up to the hype - they have changed Yu-Gi-Oh until further notice.

Rescue RabbitThe Card Advantage Dilemma

Do you remember games of Yu-Gi-Oh where you would see the opponent start counting how many cards each player had? Oh good I am up a +2 here. Card advantage was a reasonable way to gauge how well a player was doing, and the likelihood of that player winning the game. Even with the release of some more recent card designs, such as [ccProd]Rescue Rabbit[/ccProd] and Mermail/Atlanteons, card advantage was still able to play a significant role on the course of the game. Obviously more cards means more options, more ways to deal with problems - this is Yu-Gi-Oh, and card games, 101. It is why [ccProd]Pot of Greed[/ccProd] is fundamentally never going to be unbanned. It offers at any stage of the game, for zero cost, instant carefree card advantage. Thoughtless. But now there is not only one archtype with a card dramatically better than [ccProd]Pot of Greed[/ccProd]... there are two.

[ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Super Rejuvenation[/ccProd] are so far and away more potent than [ccProd]Pot of Greed[/ccProd] it is alarming, and because they exist - it virtually negates a decade of fundamental Yu-Gi-Oh theory. A single activation of these cards nets a player anywhere from four to six and possibly more  draws or specific tutors. It gives these decks such an overwhelming of surplus in cards that they not only have myriad options at their disposal, they have countless cards to seemingly waste. And in the case of Dragon Rulers, not only is the deck pulling lightyears ahead in card advantage, the mechanics of the Dragon Rulers themselves reward the player if they reach the graveyard, where they exist as instant level 7 special summons - essentially acting as a second hand. So not only is an activation of [ccProd]Super Rejuvenation[/ccProd] drawing a player two or four cards, in turn loading them back up with a full grip, a Rejuvenation means they flooded the field with level 7 Dragons they have subsequently turned into 2600 [ccProd]Snatch Steal[/ccProd]s or indestructible generic removal; on top of it all, they have established a second hand where they can simply maintain another fleet of level 7 Dragons. This is no exaggeration -  having 15 cards at your disposal - at all times.

spellbook of judgment[ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] follows the same idea as [ccProd]Super Rejuvenation[/ccProd]. Luckily Priestess cannot be Special Summoned by some ability from the graveyard (I know Spellbook of Life exists, I mean in the same manner as the Dragon Rulers), but the Spellbook player has the ability to simply search additional copies of [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd]. If anyone has followed Magic the Gathering over the course of the last year, there is this card called Sphinx's Revelation which allows a player to draw X amount of cards (and gain X amount of life) equivalent to the amount of mana they are willing to pay. In the vacuum the card is powerful, but the hidden gem is the ability to simply begin chaining copies of itself into additional copies since digging six or seven cards down translates into another copy. A turn where [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] was activated just means that on the following turn, the Spellbook player will simply be able to reload because they either searched a [ccProd]Spellbook of Secrets[/ccProd] in the previous end phase, or had the [ccProd]Justice of Prophecy[/ccProd] tutor [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] itself. We are talking about a deck having nearly ten cards at their disposal. And the real beauty is being able to use your first collection of Spells to net card advantage in the process. Searching [ccProd]Spellbook of Fate[/ccProd] will allow you to pick off whatever problem the opponent is presenting, while increasing your Judgment Spell count in the second turn after the first resolution. Cards a plenty with these decks, cards a plenty.

Bottomless Trap HoleSo we all know Dragon Rulers and Prophecy are playing on an unmatched level right now. But what else does that means? Well to put it lightly, I am confident in saying the following cards are virtually unplayable in the main deck right now:

[ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd] [ccProd]Solemn Judgment[/ccProd] [ccProd]Solemn Warning[/ccProd] [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd] [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd] [ccProd]Starlight Road[/ccProd] [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd]

I could go on. [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] is pretty close to making that list as well. This is the new era of Yu-Gi-Oh.

Super RejuvenationThe problem with these cards is that they try and play Yu-Gi-Oh from an older era. Think about the feeling you got when you had to activate a [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd] when you were down by six in card advantage against a Monarch player. You are simplifying the gamestate for the control deck. You are winning the game for them. Everything a Dragon Ruler or Prophecy player summons can be considered a floater. They are all free. They were searched with [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd], drawn with [ccProd]Super Rejuvenation[/ccProd], added to the hand after an additional search through [ccProd]Gold Sarcophagus[/ccProd], or they were just in the graveyard from a previous existence on the field as a floater. Dekoichi is turning in his grave right time. He ruled as the king of floaters a handful of years ago. Now floaters gain card advantage upon summoning, existing in the hand, being discarded and finding their way to the graveyard. Impressive.

You just cannot sit idly and think setting [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] or even the beloved [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] is actually going to do anything. What are you going to Torrential? A few Dragon Rulers? High Priestess with [ccProd]Spellbook of Wisdom[/ccProd] backup? How about Bottomless? Big Eye that was summoned with two floaters? Seems like a losing game plan if I ever heard one.

Those cards are old Yu-Gi-Oh, when [ccProd]Brotherhood of Fire Fist - Bear[/ccProd] was deemed a reasonable card advantage engine. How many cards do you draw or search? One, if you're lucky? Back in the binder please.

heavy stormThe Storm Effect and Trying to Find a Counter

Well, if there is one thing to take away is that [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] is virtually unplayable in the main deck. The unquestionable, no comparison, best two decks are Spellbooks and Dragon Rulers. Guess what traps they play. Maybe [ccProd]Breakthrough Skill[/ccProd]? Maybe.

The same is true for [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd]. For cards that where once found in virtually every deck, getting relegated to the side deck must be difficult to handle. You will obviously find the people mistakenly trying to main deck [ccProd]Imperial Iron Wall[/ccProd] or hope to open [ccProd]Rescue Rabbit[/ccProd]/Macro every game to have a chance, but the Dragon Rulers happen to have utility effects to counteract most hate anyway. They obviously have a built in out to any singleton problem card in Blaster, making it so that trying to counter the deck with "fair" cards like [ccProd]Imperial Iron Wall[/ccProd]  is a liability. Even if you dodge a few Dragon decks over the course of a tournament, one of them is eventually just going to draw Blaster and end your tournament experience early.

So the solution is Fossil Dyna, Kycoo or Jowgen right? Right? Oh more cards Blaster handles, and even some cards that [ccProd]Book of Moon[/ccProd] and Eclipse handle. And Dragon Rulers just drew four additional cards last turn, who are we kidding - they found a copy of Book to counter your monster.

People are going to play Evilswarms with [ccProd]Safe Zone[/ccProd], [ccProd]Imperial Iron Wall[/ccProd] or whatever other counter they might find - and they might do well here or there. But those decks are like trying to compete with Tele-DAD with a version of Gladiator Beasts. Do you remember when people played Gladiator Beasts specifically designed to try and counter Tele-DAD. Did one ever do well? Even once?

TeleDAD just destroyed those decks because [ccProd]Destiny Draw[/ccProd], [ccProd]Allure of Darkness[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Reinforcement of the Army[/ccProd] let you dig through your entire deck until you put together a winning combination of cards against anti-Tele-DAD decks. Instead of [ccProd]Destiny Draw[/ccProd] and Allure we have graduated to [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Super Rejuvenation[/ccProd]. Just let them really dig for the perfect answers now.

EffectVeiler-ORCS-EN-SR-LEWhere Games Are Won

One of the amazing things about the new era in Yu-Gi-Oh is how difficult it is to actually OTK with Dragon Rulers and Prophecy. There are certainly combinations and ways to do it, but they are not as common as what we previously saw with Mermails. They generate avalanches of cards that decks playing in the stone ages cannot keep up with, but strictly dealing 8000 damage out of nowhere is not alarmingly consistent. So what happens when two Dragon Ruler decks play each other?

The game is methodical and tedious. The intricate mirror match allows both players to generate their massive arsenal of cards, but then enter a stage of hand trap wars and proper use of utility creatures. Successful resolutions of [ccProd]Crimson Blader[/ccProd] are game altering and can steal wins away from one player or another. And the fact that these decks play the full array of [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd]s, and often times Maxx "C" makes the mirror match even more challenging. With the both players having access to a full grip of cards in their hand, fields full of floater XYZs and graveyards stock full of additional Dragons summons, there is a lot of area for players to make mistakes you to capitalize on.

For example, a lot of people see Big Eye as one of the major problems of the format. And I totally see why they would say that, unstopped Big Eyes are almost impossible to combat. [ccProd]Snatch Steal[/ccProd] every turn is well, [ccProd]Snatch Steal[/ccProd] every turn. But just because you took a minor tempo swing with a Big Eye play, doesn't mean the opponent cannot simply drop their own and suddenly take your Big Eye and the monster you took with it. Not only that, Big Eye can get run over by [ccProd]Crimson Blader[/ccProd]. There is a considerable amount of risk in summoning Big Eye without multiple copies of [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd] in your hand. Now if you want to start next leveling people and baiting them into countering your seemingly sloppy Big Eye play because you can regain control once they expended resources with an even more dominating sequence of plays - that is where games are one. Imagine the slow rolled double [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd] after an opponent thought they snaked you into a sloppy Big Eye play. Oh Yu-Gi-Oh at its finest.

The mirror match requires an immense amount of playtesting. You have to play around multiple hand traps, not open yourself up to [ccProd]Book of Moon[/ccProd]/Eclipse + [ccProd]Crimson Blader[/ccProd], understand exactly what the opponent can summon from the graveyard, and on top of all of that manage how you plan on actually dealing 8000 damage before all that can happen.

Welcome to the new era.

Joe Giorlando

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