A Brief Examination of the First Turn

It has always been very apparent to me––although more so in recent times, from observing certain conversations held on various social networking websites and internet forums––just how little is understood about the vast amount of set-up a Traditional Format strategy is capable of achieving on the first turn of a duel. As an example: within the confines of those noted discussions, names such as Cookie Cutter Chaos, Goat Control and of other decks from the remote antiquity of the game are thrown around with almost endless frequency, and done so in a way that displays the critic’s belief of the mentioned strategy residing within the Top Tier of this mode of competition. This is, for the most part, a very worrisome trend––or, at the least, it is so to me––for it brings to light the reality that the knowledge base with specific regards to practical presentation, as opposed to merely theoretical notations, of in-game possibilities is severely lacking, and of a large enough degree to be detrimental to the knowledge base as a whole. Oh! worrying indeed!

Now, I must confess––and, in truth, I should never attempt to hide the fact––that for me to feign myself innocent of this troubling phenomenon would be an indiscretion of the highest degree. Nay; my own almost blinkered discourse on the subject of deck architecture has forced out, with only a very small exception, any and all other focus from my work heretofore, including this clearly required topic. While I should like to point out that in no way whatsoever do I place any blame upon my shoulders for this (since, after all, deck architecture is, and will undoubtedly continue to be, my speciality, and thus the primary centre of my attention), I also feel my theorist’s obligation––and, for that matter, desire––to accomplish my part, through the composition of this essay, to rectify the current state of affairs. Of course, however, we must also consider that doing so will not only aid in filling this stated proverbial fissure in the modern literature as pertaining to the Traditional Format, but that a second, interweaving reason also presents itself––namely, that such a dialogue would, in addition, provide an invaluable resource on the decision making process when considering the most often very complicated, very mind-intensive plays that are possible from only a six card opening hand.

With the objective of achieving both of these immeasurably important facets with as much success as possible, I shall be utilizing, as an example, a first turn series of manoeuvres that arose during the testing phase for the deck affectionately entitled, in its original analysis, “Painful Choice.dek”. In fact a combo-oriented build of Destiny Hero Chaos centred on aggression and a swift victory, the strategy, and especially its following play sequence, each showcase perfectly the immense levels of speed and power attainable in the modern Traditional Format. Through this, moreover, the amount of assessment and judgment that such dynamics require in order to accomplish the desired triumphant record will be, as abovementioned, revealed in fine clarity.

Before I begin, however, I wish to include, if it would not be so bothersome, a disclaimer of sorts. One could argue––and argue quite convincingly, to be sure––that the first turn I am about to expound upon involves far too much going correctly to facilitate the astonishing final set-up, and that, therefore, it should not qualify for my intended purpose. My counter to this would be as follows: while I will concede that it does indeed contain many seemingly fortunate draws at seemingly desperate times, the fact that, firstly––the end result arose from such a lacklustre opening hand, and that, secondly––there is a large amount of variation in the possible plays to arrive thither, makes this set of manoeuvres more than appropriate for accomplishing the latter of the two proposed goals; and that, furthermore, the final field, which I have already cited to be ‘astonishing’, quite clearly meets the necessary criteria for the former. It is, by these notions, a faultless model.

Having said that, we now commence with, as was stated prior, the following rather dreadful opening hand: Wulf, Lightsworn Beast, Painful Choice, Foolish Burial, Card Destruction, Dimension Fusion, and Raigeki. For ease of comprehension, I shall present the sequences in plain, straightforward notes, italicised to further differentiate such passages from standard text, with my reasoning detailed subsequent to each individual paragraph. It should also be cited that any and all possible counters from an opponent, such as Monster-based negation from the hand should the pilot be playing first, or Trap- or Monster-based upon the field if playing second, have also been omitted with the aim of avoiding needless complication during the discourse.
Without further ado, the first move appears thus:

Activate Painful Choice, selecting Plaguespreader Zombie, Destiny HERO––Malicious, Destiny HERO––Disk Commander and two Wulf, Lightsworn Beast; opponent adds Destiny HERO––Disk Commander to hand.

With the plays presented by such a starting set of options severely limited, there exists in this instance the distinct need to utilize Painful Choice to its fullest extent. The last two copies of Wulf, Lightsworn Beast were rather understandable inclusions for the card’s effect, in part due to the fact that they could provide free field presence should nothing else come of the turn (which was, taking everything into consideration, a distinct possibility at this early point), and in another part due to the reduction of potential dead draws upon activating Card Destruction. Plaguespreader Zombie and Destiny HERO––Malicious were both chosen with much the same rationale. Thence, however, a far more interesting decision is found in the shape of Destiny HERO––Disk Commander: on first glance, it would be wise to select instead Dark Magician of Chaos, for the ability it lends, in the event of drawing a revival card, to retrieve a powerful Spell from the Graveyard, while also forming a strong source of offence, would be a highly desirable option should the turn not proceed further than such a play; conversely, the likelihood of being given both an advantageous Spell Card to retrieve (the only option present thus far being Raigeki) as well as a revival card was for too low, making this a questionable choice at best. The distinct risk of an opponent drawing into their copy of Monster Reborn only reinforces this judgment. Destiny HERO––Disk Commander, ergo, was the safer option.

Now, as for the opponent choosing the Disk Commander as per the effect of Painful Choice, it is, in my experience, the most likely scenario. An opponent who observes Destiny HERO––Disk Commander being placed into the Graveyard will instantly fear the revival, and the subsequent drawing of more cards that this allows, though either Premature Burial or Monster Reborn, and will seek to circumvent the problem altogether even though other choices may create infrastructure on their own.

Remove Destiny HERO––Malicious from Graveyard, Special Summoning second copy from deck; Set Dimension Fusion; activate Card Destruction, drawing Premature Burial, Dark Magician of Chaos, and two Necro Gardna; activate Premature Burial, Special Summoning Destiny HERO––Disk Commander, drawing Hand Destruction and Allure of Darkness; activate Allure of Darkness, drawing Snatch Steal and Cyber Jar, removing Dark Magician of Chaos.

Owing to the severely hindered ability to make any satisfactory plays––thus creating a situation in which every card drawn would be vastly more important than under normal circumstances––the decision was made to Special Summon the second copy of Destiny HERO––Malicious right from the start, even with the already noted distinct possibility of the turn failing to achieve anything immensely spectacular. While it could be used, at any rate, with the Plaguespreader Zombie should nothing else come about, I will stress that the goal of this move was, above everything else, to clear any and all prospective useless cards from the remainder of the deck in order to generate, from then on, the most ideal draws possible from the dismal set of selections afforded. Such a statement refers specifically to those from Card Destruction, but also, of course, any other draw cards found thence.
Ending the turn with two copies of Wulf, Lightsworn Beast, a Level Eight Synchro Monster––most likely to be Stardust Dragon for protection against Dark Hole and Raigeki––and naught else would be merely an invitation to whatever the opponent might wish to do. For the purpose of safety, one should always play according to the assumption that the person across the table opened with superior options, and thus it was evident that Card Destruction should be activated as an attempt to ameliorate the game position. Prior to this, however, the decision was made to keep Dimension Fusion, Setting it to the Spell and Trap Zone. I will admit that doing so might appear somewhat counterintuitive upon first glance, especially so given the conclusive statement from the previous paragraph, but the verdict was not made lightly: while it does cut one further draw from the effect of Card Destruction (and one must remember that the Traditional Format is the subject of discussion here, a format in which a single card can entirely alter the gamestate), it also offers, from the positive point of view, a possible manoeuvre should everything from that point go sour––namely, through the use and reuse of Destiny HERO––Malicious and Plaguespreader Zombie in order to established a slightly more developed field.

As it stands, one of the four cards drawn from Card Destruction was Premature Burial, which should quite clearly have be activated next to Special Summon Destiny HERO––Disk Commander in order to draw a further two cards, both of which were, rather fortunately, additional draw cards. The set of options appeared within that moment to be vastly improving with each new and subsequent draw, and the decision to first activate Allure of Darkness over Hand Destruction was then made; the intention here was to discover any other cards that could be put to good use, but in truth it ultimately mattered not in which arrangement these Spells were activated: Dark Magician of Chaos, the most logical choice given my access to Dimension Fusion, was always to be Removed from Play to complete the former’s effect, and, as can be seen at the beginning of the next grouping of plays, the two copies of Necro Gardna were always to be discarded for the latter. I merely believe it superior to have a full disclosure of options before committing to any premeditated (and possibly premature) course of action.

Activate Hand Destruction, discarding two Necro Gardna, drawing One for One and Destiny HERO––Dasher; activate One for One, discarding Cyber Jar to Special Summon Glow-up Bulb; Tune Glow-up Bulb and first Wulf, Lightsworn Beast to Synchro Summon T.G. Hyper Librarian; Special Summon Plaguespreader Zombie, placing any card from hand on top of deck, Tuning with second Wulf, Lightsworn Beast to Synchro Summon Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, redrawing topped card with T.G. Hyper Librarian.

Following on from Allure of Darkness, it was decided that the two copies of Necro Gardna––being inarguably the clear choice, due in part and in whole to their Graveyard-centric effect––should then be discarded to Hand Destruction, facilitating the drawing of yet another two cards. And lo! of note from those was One for One, most definitely a welcome discovery; the number of further plays that might have been possible, where before were limited, were instead nigh endless, having access then, through the Special Summon effect of the Spell Card, to the Glow-up Bulb from the deck, and also, resultant from the Painful Choice previously, to a live Plaguespreader Zombie currently sitting in wait within the Graveyard. This being the case, the primary focus of whole and undivided attention was then directed to the options and order of possible Synchro Summons. While the contents of the Extra Deck were most definitely a significant factor during this essential deliberation, the hand count and the remaining contents of the deck were of far more importance. The opportunity to Summon a Level Six Synchro Monster, along with also having access to both Destiny HERO––Disk Commander and Premature Burial, indicates the ability to perform a draw loop utilizing Brionac, Dragon of the Ice barrier. However, the combo should not be undertaken lightly: card presence and potential follow-up plays can be decreased dramatically in a short space of time, and so it requires either a substantial hand size to begin with, or many possible live draws from the deck further into the turn. The careful attention to the latter of these two factors hitherto allowed the combo to be entered into, and the above route was taken.

I should, methinks, make one or two notes before I move on. The first is the use of Cyber Jar: while Destiny HERO––Dasher may perhaps have been the better choice to discard for the activation of One for One, the fact that both copies of Destiny Draw were still present and accounted for within the deck made this a poor decision to my mind; quite simply, I would much rather draw into a live Destiny Draw than dead one, and here, where there exists the option, I should much rather retain the Dasher. Additionally, every prime target for the Dasher’s effect––that is, Dark Magician of Chaos and the three copies of Wulf, Lightsworn Beast––already being employed in some other way cemented this assessment. The second is the order of Synchro Summons: while there is no question that the two desired Summons could very well have been performed in the reverse order, doing so would not have allowed the effect of T.G. Hyper Librarian (to reiterate, brought to the field first) to activate upon the succeeding Summon of Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier. This would have placed one extra card––another obstacle––another road block, if you will––between a faultless first turn and a merely mediocre one, not to mention the further and completely superfluous thought process to decide which card from the hand could safely be sacrificed for the cost of Plaguespreader Zombie.

Discard Snatch Steal for Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, bouncing Premature Burial to hand; Special Summon Glow-up Bulb, sending Graceful Charity from top of deck to Graveyard; Tune with Destiny HERO––Disk Commander to Synchro Summon Formula Synchron, drawing Elemental HERO Stratos and Morphing Jar with own effect and T.G. Hyper Librarian.

With the ability to essentially draw the entire deck––Life Points permitting––now set in place, and the contents of said deck rendering it ineffectual once the turn and final field was completed, the Snatch Steal was discarded, in place of other potential choices, for the cost of Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier. Inquiry then transferred to the best way in which to return Destiny HERO––Disk Commander to the Graveyard, whence it could be further revived by way of the reclaimed copy of Premature Burial. Although there is no doubt that card presence should always be an essential factor in the decision making process, I will reiterate that it is even more so within this combo; the prospect of bouncing the Disk Commander to the hand, subsequently discarding itself for a third activation of Brionac, did indeed exist, but the hand, at this moment, consisting of solely a Destiny HERO––Dasher (which, might I add, continues to retain its live status with two copies of Destiny Draw still to be acquired) eliminates such an idea. Consequently, the verdict was finally made to instead activate the effect of Glow-up Bulb. Doing so then, while preventing the use its hugely important once only Special Summon further into the game, allowed for the resultant Summon of Formula Synchron, the supplementation of the hand allowed through this card’s own draw effect and that of T.G. Hyper Librarian, and the following offensive procedure.

Activate Premature Burial, Special Summoning Destiny HERO––Disk Commander, drawing Pot of Greed and Ring of Destruction; activate Pot of Greed, drawing Imperial Order and Monster Reborn; discard Morphing Jar for Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, bouncing Premature Burial to hand; Tune Formula Synchron, Destiny HERO––Malicious and Destiny HERO––Disk Commander to Synchro Summon Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, drawing Black Luster Soldier––Envoy of the Beginning with T.G. Hyper Librarian (resolving Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier’s effect).

Upon the Special Summon of Destiny HERO––Disk Commander for the second time, a clear follow-up presented itself in the shape of the activation of the drawn Pot of Greed. This play requires little justification, if any, although I will reiterate an earlier point: to my mind it is paramount to know and see, whenever achievable, precisely what cards one is playing with, rather than attempting to prepare with the unidentified.

From there, we are come to the far more problematic decision of discarding Morphing Jar to activate the effect of Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier. The hand contained, at this precise moment, both the Morphing Jar and a copy of Elemental HERO Stratos, either of which could easily be brought to the field for the single allotted Normal Summoned, such having not yet been utilized. However, there was, quite simply, no indication for this: firstly, not was there any need of further drawing potential with the described draw loop in place, nor was there any indication to discard the hand for a fresh set of options next turn––hence Morphing Jar was unneeded, and thus discarded; secondly, not was there the need nor even the ability to search for a Destiny HERO, all four being currently in employment––hence Elemental HERO Stratos was unneeded, although in this case was retained for its possible future value in relation to Synchro Summoning or attacking.

And speaking of Synchro Summons, a rather large one was performed as the next action––that is, the bringing into play of Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier. This, as indeed everything, could be debated: a Level Eight Synchro Monster of useful effect could very well have been substituted for the Level Nine, omitting Destiny HERO––Disk Commander from the equation, and doing so could very well have been a respectable play, but I am afraid that such a decision would have failed to take into account the remainder of the possible manoeuvres the game position could render. Furthermore, not including the Disk Commander in the Synchro Summon would have also presented yet another dilemma as to the best way in which to initiate additional Special Summons of the Monster, and the subsequent uses of its effect required to sustain the turn. As before, there was the opportunity, most definitely plausible though not necessarily significant, but the opportunity nonetheless to spend another card in order to discard the Disk Commander for Brionac, but the contents of the hand must again be taken into consideration: here, the only unessential cards were Elemental HERO Stratos and Destiny HERO––Dasher, yet, as has been noted numerous times hitherto, potential plays still abounded through their withholding. Nay––nay; Synchro Summoning for the Level Nine Trishula was, without even observing the Monster’s immensely powerful effect, the correct move.

Activate Premature Burial, Special Summoning Destiny HERO––Disk Commander, drawing second Hand Destruction and Destiny Draw; activate Destiny Draw, discarding Destiny HERO––Dasher, drawing Dark Armed Dragon and second Destiny Draw; discard Dark Armed Dragon and Hand Destruction for Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, bouncing Premature Burial and Destiny HERO––Disk Commander to hand; discard Destiny HERO––Disk Commander for Destiny Draw, drawing third Hand Destruction and Crush Card Virus.

Here, following the Special Summon of Destiny HERO––Disk Commander once again (bringing the total uses of its effect to once, twice, thrice), the result of the careful deliberation and separation of necessary and unnecessary card expenditure can be seen to the fullest extent––namely, with the discovery of one of the two remaining copies of Destiny Draw, and the easily understandable decision was then made to finally discard the Destiny HERO––Dasher. Having achieved that, and drawing yet another two cards, a proverbial wall, in terms of subsequent plays, presented itself: it would have been plausible to complete the turn then and there by activating Dimension Fusion in order to Special Summon Dark Magician of Chaos alongside either Destiny HERO––Malicious or Plaguespreader Zombie, Setting the Trap Cards and opening the gamestate for the opponent; one might also simply Set the three Trap Cards and conclude the turn directly, preserving Dimension Fusion and other power cards for the next turn; as a third option, Premature Burial could be added back to the hand once again, followed then by a Synchro Summon with a revived Formula Synchron prior to, as in all cases before, the Setting of all Trap Cards and passing over. Each of these choices, however, overlooks even more prospective plays: with Life Points sitting at a relatively comfortable five-thousand-six-hundred, both Dimension Fusion and Premature Burial were live even if activated in unison, and, given the potential further infrastructure that might be fashioned from such a combination, the sequence outlined above was ultimately taken.

I will give, of course, the required annotation on the choice of discards for the effect of Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier: Elemental HERO Stratos being, as stated previously, retained for the possibility of plays, was deemed to be needed for such once again, and the wholly useless copy of Dark Armed Dragon (there being a superfluity of DARK Attribute Monsters within the Graveyard, and no way of reducing such) was instead discarded, along with the also dead copy of Hand Destruction, to create the further drawing of two cards through the Destiny HERO––Disk Commander and second Destiny Draw. It is small decisions alike to this that holds immense importance, for thus––thus, and only thus––was the appalling opening hand able to be transported to the following superlative conclusion.

Activate Premature Burial, Special Summoning Formula Synchron; discard Hand Destruction for Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, bouncing Premature Burial to hand; Tune Formula Synchron and Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier to Synchro Summon Stardust Dragon, drawing Harpie’s Feather Duster with T.G. Hyper Librarian; activate Dimension Fusion, Special Summoning Dark Magician of Chaos and Plaguespreader Zombie, retrieving Raigeki with Dark Magician of Chaos’ effect; Set Crush Card Virus, Ring of Destruction and Imperial Order; end turn.

When one is hampered by the compulsory game mechanic of being incapable of attacking on the very first turn of the duel, there exists within the Traditional Format the crucial ability with a deck such as this––that is, to clarify, a battle-oriented strategy––to lock the opponent into a state of comparative inability during their turn, forcing them into subjection in order that one may not only survive until the following turn, but also attack then unimpeded. For the purpose of the above closing set of plays, it was assumed that the deck would take the opening turn, thus the manoeuvres were directed towards this idea. (Upon a second-turn start, one could simply activate Harpie’s Feather Duster and the retrieved Raigeki, clearing the opponent’s field and subsequently ending the game through direct attacks.)

Now, I could very well continue my lengthy discourse upon this route, going on to describe in great detail, as has been done thus far, the reasoning behind each and every decision made during this final play sequence, yet I feel certain that such would become ultimately redundant in the face of a carefully rendered portrayal of the final set-up; I am confident that every element––every essential feature––every tiny nuance––every miniscule decision––every seemingly irrelevant facet, in short, of the herein illustrated turn not quite apparent at the time of observation will become clear once a picture of the end product is painted within the reader’s mind. I shall, therefore, terminate the essay in this way, dictating in simple, straightforward annotation the fruits of such an extensive, arduous journey through this first turn, allowing the proverbial voice of the result to speak for itself.

Front row: Dark Magician of Chaos, Stardust Dragon, Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, T.G. Hyper Librarian, Plaguespreader Zombie.

Back row: Crush Card Virus, Ring of Destruction, Imperial Order.

Graveyard (notable cards): Plaguespreader Zombie (once Tributed), two Necro Gardna, multiple LIGHT and DARK Attribute Monsters.

Hand: Elemental Hero Stratos, Black Luster Soldier––Envoy of the Beginning, Premature Burial, Monster Reborn, Harpie’s Feather Duster, Raigeki.

Deck: two (notably Chaos Emperor Dragon––Envoy of the End).

Life Points: two-thousand-eight-hundred.