Hello to the loyal readers of Alter Reality Games articles or perhaps you misclicked while scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed and ended up here. Regardless of how you got here welcome, my name is Joe Giorlando and I’ve decided to take this time to sit down and have a little chat regarding the current state of affairs in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh in comparison to formats in the past. Before I divulge into the actual content of this article I feel it is appropriate to more formerly introduce myself. You can commonly find me on Duelist Groundz under the username Captain Sure or on YouTube as YGO Trader101. Beyond that you may also recognize my name from the Top 32 at YCS Dallas where I was that other person not named Billy Brake running Mizuho and Shinai or the Top 16 at YCS Orlando where I received a round 9 feature match.
As history has shown progresses in time have had immeasurable impacts on the impressions of the past and outlook of the future. In the sense of Trading Card Games, and Yu-Gi-Oh in specific, the events of previous formats and metagames have had lasting impacts on the mentality of the dueling community and the game as a whole. It is with these experiences that our current game state is assessed, criticized and looked upon in the grand scheme of Yu-Gi-Oh history. It is clear that the days of exchanging Fissure for Summoned Skull and playing around Man-Eater Bug have surpassed and instead calculating the most optimal route to abuse T.G. Hyper Librarian has become the norm. But the advances from early Yu-Gi-Oh to our current affairs offers us a myriad of material to dissect and draw conclusions from when assessing our current metagame.
Those who have experienced the bulk of the last decade are able to recall Yu-Gi-Oh in segments based upon the dominance of a specific archtype or meta-warping card. The eras known as Dark Strike Format, Goat Control, TeleDAD, Perfect Circle, Chaos Return and Spicer Monarch are properly named based upon the performance of certain decks, or in the case of Dark Strike Fighter certain cards. These formats (with the exception of Dark Strike) all share one glaring attribute; the fact that a single dominant deck was securing the majority of top slots. For example, TeleDAD has been widely recognized as the most dominant deck in the history of the game because it commonly took up 15/16 top slots at premiere events. In today’s game it is virtually impossible to expect a single deck to take up even half of the top slots at a given event. The underlying question left to answer is if this has had a beneficial or detrimental impact on the game as a whole.
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.
The Chaos Return format on the other hand went through a similar series of growth, but the end result was eerily similar to TeleDAD. The use of Chaos Sorcerer in conjunction with Return from the Different Dimension was not fully refined throughout the first parts of the format, but Shane Scurry’s victory at Shonen Jump Baltimore 2006 propelled Chaos Return onto the map signifying a change in how the format would progress. Similar to adopting Royal Oppression in combination with the standard TeleDAD elements, witty Chaos players understood that the reliance on Return from the Different Dimension left players vulnerable to Royal Decree. The successful meta call of Kyle Duncan allowed him to add Creature Swap, Shining Angel, Mystic Tomato and Royal Decree to the standard Chaos builds and ride the deck to victory at Shonen Jump Philadelphia 2006. The final evolution of the Chaos Return decks came at Shonen Jump Arlington 2006 where Jake McNeely continued the Royal Decree craze but added Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer and Banisher of the Radiance to counter the rise of recruiters such as Shining Angel and Mystic Tomato. From start to finish the Chaos Return format was an ever changing battle of wits between players trying to enter each event with the most well-tuned version of Chaos and the end result was again the majority success of well-known or pro players.
It is seemingly clear that the metagames with dominant decktypes have rewarded the best players, but what exactly about these formats harnesses this element?
Quite frankly it removes the concept of running the gauntlet and facing a different deck every round. Formats such as those we have experienced ever since TeleDAD have been saturated with an endless list of playable decks. This in turn creates a ripple effect throughout the game and makes it virtually impossible to properly prepare for every match-up at a given event. The fifteen card side deck constrains players into selecting the most versatile card pool, but leaves them vulnerable to several rogue decks and the possibility of never touching certain cards. It also rewards players who are able to face their better matchups throughout an event. For example, at this past weekends WCQ I decided to play Gravekeeper’s in preparation for a slew of Plant matchups. To my surprise I played more Blackwing and Gladiator Beast decks than Plants and in turn was knocked out well before I planned. But on the other hand I know of players who faced seven grueling Plant mirror matches throughout their event – something my deck was obviously more geared towards facing.
The end result of such a varied metagame is the difficulty for well-known or pro players to take up the majority of top places like in previous formats. The skill involved in properly assessing the metagame and preparing for an event with a pair of Royal Oppressions to counter Dark Armed Dragon has deteriorated because such changes in the current metagame may enhance your Plant matchup but make your T.G., Samurai, Gravekeeper, Machina, Scrap, Empty Jar, Gladiator Beast, Lightsworn, Blackwing, Hero Beat, X-Saber, Infernity, Dragunity, Stun, Frog Monarch, Water Synchro, Agents and Herald matchups worse.
In conclusion, while I believe it is clear that previous formats may have rewarded better players I do not think it is time to jump ship and move on to another card game. Such varied metagames do have certain benefits and the attendance numbers from the TeleDAD or Chaos Return format in comparison to today suggests that the player mass enjoys the ability to take the home brew and have an outside chance of doing well.