Disclaimer: I'm sharing this under the assumption you know all about Goat Format, but if you're new to the game (and by "new" I mean that you only started playing within the last decade) then you may not know that Goat Format was the April 2005 TCG Format, and it was called as such because Goat Control decks dominated every major event throughout the format. For a more detailed look into the format, you can read Michael Bonacini's "Intro to Goat Control," Patrick Hoban's "A History of Competitive Play: April-Oct 2005," and these Goat Format interviews.
There are a lot of us who look back at Goat Format with fond memories, but this post is for everyone else because I'm not going to tap into any of the nostalgia surrounding the format. I know Goat Format wasn't perfect and I don't want to convince anyone otherwise. Instead I hope to convince the players of today to consider the possibility of playing a different YGO than the one that currently exists – a simpler, time-tested game with a strong backing and room for improvement – and Goat Format just seems like the most logical starting point.
Before I start, I think it's important to point out that there are, broadly speaking, three different types of players in the game: competitive, casual, and those in-between. Players of each type have different reasons for playing and while I think Goat Format has something to offer everyone, it'd probably be best if I spoke to each group separately.
Goat Format for Casual Players
Casual players tend to think of YGO as a hobby and nothing more. They play every once in a while, mostly on weekends and nights they don't have homework. They rarely, if ever, pick YGO over girlfriends, family, etc. Sometimes they hold onto decks long passed their prime just because they like them. They're also the last group to max out the rarities of their deck.
Reason #1: Goat Format is cheap
Billy Brake recently won YCS Dallas with a 60-card Shabyss deck. For most of us, one of the biggest setbacks to emulating his success with a similar deck, even at a local or regional level, would be the cost: his main deck alone can't be bought for less than $474.99, never mind having to buy his side or extra deck. Compare that to my $19.09 main deck from SJC Boston. Unless you're somehow getting 25x the amount of fun from the Shabyss deck, a simple fun-to-dollar ratio should point you towards playing Goat Format.
Reason #2: Goat Format has a simple card pool
As a casual player, even at the local level, sometimes it really sucks to play against competitive players. They always have a better, prettier deck, and you can tell they invest a lot of time and energy into knowing everything there is to know about YGO. Worse, they're often more fluent in card interactions and strange rulings that you would otherwise never know or care about. They're well-versed in card effects, what misses timing and what doesn't, what can be destroyed and what can't, etc. and it can be really frustrating when you're not on the same page as your opponent. Fortunately, Goat Format has almost none of that. Card effects are straight-forward and work just as you expect them to. There aren't any OTK combos to learn like there were with Wind-Ups or Inzektors either. With Goat Format, everything is refreshingly simple.
Goat Format for the In-Between Players
In-betweeners tend to lean one way or the other when it comes to their commitment to the game, but that tendency will change whenever it's convenient for them. They may play on Dueling Network regularly but they won't really read new cards. They rely on other people to tell them what's good. Sometimes they buy new cards, but price is always a concern. A lot of in-betweeners want to be better, to have a championship title and recognition in the community, but they tend to only give it their all when a big event comes to their area. They don't usually travel to major events but YGO is still something they keep coming back to.
Reason #1: Competitive Goat Format tournaments exist and it's easy to get started
Goat Format decks from 2005 differ greatly from Goat Format decks in 2014, and that's because there's now a decade of experience behind our card choices. This goes to show there's room for the Goat Format metagame to shift and grow. For example, more people today than ever before are experimenting with decks like Monarchs, Flip Flop, Beastdown, and Zombies. The right card ratios, much like the popular decks of today, can still change from event to event. That said, Goat Format offers a way to play competitive YGO in a way that doesn't require to you read new cards, pour over new sets, or overthink potential strategies. You can put it down, step away, and pick up right where you left off. Moreover, the entire Goat Format card pool was made up of just 15 booster sets while the present format is made up of 50, making it much easier to find needles in the haystack.
Reason #2: Goat Format is a never-ending learning experience
Your success in present YGO is almost entirely dependent on your deck type and individual card choices. Nowadays you're more like a pilot than a player and it's hard to get better if you only lose because of brick hands and opponents going off before you. Fortunately, while card choices still matter a lot, losses in Goat Format are generally attributable to specific misplays, which makes it easier to both identify and correct your mistakes. Additionally, the impetus to make proper reads is much stronger in Goat Format so it's easier to develop that talent there. Moreover, making quality reads is one of those skills that'll definitely carry over and improve your skills in present YGO.
Competitive players think of YGO as serious business. I know this because I used to be a competitive player. I used to sit in class and scribble down deck ideas in my notebook. Playtesting used to be a part of my daily routine. Every week I used to pour over foreign decklists from Shriek and eTCG in the hopes of finding inspiration, although this fact is only impressive if you remember this was a time before Cordero and Google Translate. Point is, I understand what it takes to be a competitive player and how rewarding it can be to find success on the competitive circuit, so I know how hard it'll be to convince you guys to pick up Goat Format when you can just as well direct your energies towards winning the next major event. Still, I think Goat Format has something for you.
Reason #1: Goat Format rewards good players and punishes bad ones
I learned a long time ago that everyone has a reason for making the plays they make and my job as a competitive player was to first understand those reasons and then dictate them to my opponent through my play. In other words, you always want your opponent to think they're making the best possible play even when they actually aren't, and you can only do that if you first understand how they think. In Goat Format, it's not a simple matter of whether to activate Shaddoll Fusion. Here, you're more of a player than a pilot so you can decide whether to set or summon an Exarion Universe, bait a Nobleman of Crossout or not, and afterwards resolve Magician of Faith or not. Ultimately, in Goat Format, your in-game decisions have real consequences and that allows good players who hate losing to walk away with remarkably high win/loss ratios.
Once more, let me be clear and say Goat Format wasn't perfect. For example, it sucks that Delinquent Duo can only be answered by Sinister Serpent because decks that otherwise wouldn't warrant its use are disenfranchised whether they run it or not. Also, the card pool is kind of small so there aren't many decks to choose from. Nevertheless Goat Format is the most well-known retro format so it's the easiest for players to learn about if they ever want to play something other than the current Advanced Format. That's what makes it the most logical starting point f0r a custom-made competitive circuit.
"Okay, what exactly are you suggesting?"
I'd like to introduce the idea of an additional competitive circuit to complement Advanced Format play with a cheaper barrier to entry (hello, reprints!), less influenced by archetypes, focused on the fundamentals, and set up to change over time to include newer cards. For example, I think cards like Card Trooper (limited to 1) and Number 39: Utopia could be fine, interesting additions to a custom-made format based on Goat Format, and it would be exciting to explore their usefulness in major tournaments with real prizes.
"That sounds amazing. How would it work though? How can I help?"
Well, none of this could happen right away. Unfortunately, it's just not possible to get the YGO community to rally behind anything. That's okay, though, because this is definitely something that can be built up over time, and here's how:
- Players show an interest in playing something other than the present Advanced Format, and default to playing Goat Format online.
- Those players encourage their friends to play Goat Format, both online and in real life.
- All those players encourage their local shop owners to host small Goat Format tournaments.
- Jim from AlterRealityGames takes notice of this and decides to host Goat Format side events at each ARGCS event.
- The Goat Format side events gain notoriety as superstars start winning and promoting them.
- The community pushes for a change in the format.
- An alternative circuit is born.
"Is that it?"
Remember, starting with Goat Format is easier than starting anew. You can't ask a bunch of people to study a brand new card pool and expect them to say yes. They might though, if you make it as simple as looking over the old Metagame. Better still, if you're ARG, you could get this thing off the ground by selling pre-made Goat Format Top 8 lists at your events.
That's another thing though. It's very dangerous to have one company in control of both the card pool and card supplies. Now, while I think ARG has every incentive to repurpose all the old, cheap stuff they have sitting in their warehouse, I would also think it was super shady if they quietly stocked up on all the Gadgets before making them legal in this alternative circuit. That's why it would be critically important for the players alone to determine the legality of cards. I don't know how it would work exactly, but I imagine a website could be set up where folks voted to legalize some number of new cards every month, or ban cards as they deemed necessary. Either way, that seems like something for us to sort out later on.
In the meantime, if this seems like something you'd want to be a part of then just go out and buy a Goat Control deck – it's really cheap and takes only 10 minutes to do online. Worst case, you spend a couple bucks on some cards you like looking at. Best case, you change the game. Seems to me like you have very little to lose and everything to gain.
P.S. If you're in the NY/NJ area, be sure to check out the Goat Format tournament at ToyWiz in Nanuet, NY on October 25!