Hello again to all my faithful readers (and any new readers out there)! I'm back this week with a different kind of Kaijudo article, in which I'll not only be discussing this awesome game, but the awesome game it was born from: Duel Masters. I usually have a general plan going into an article such as how I want to lay it out when I begin typing, but I've decided to go pretty "stream of consciousness" with this one. I hope you all are able to hold on as I try to type a myriad of comparisons covering numerous aspects of these games as they enter my head. I for one find this subject very interesting, and hopefully you all do too!
Duel Masters in a Nutshell
Duel Masters, or DM, is something I try to avoid comparisons to in most, if not all, of my other articles. The reason is simple; though drawing comparisons to Kaijudo's predecessor can be beneficial to those who have actually played DM, those comparisons are often lost entirely on the group of players who never touched Duel Masters. Though I love the returning DM players, being one myself, I hope the audience of players who haven't played DM is much larger, as it needs that audience to be successful. When someone in the TCG community is asked about DM, a lot of the time all they'll know it as is "that game that died six years ago." This is unfortunate, and it's why Kaijudo's launch is something to be celebrated.
Duel Masters, for those who don't know, has the exact same gameplay as Kaijudo. Seriously - look at a Duel Masters card! You'll be able to find all the familiar markings you've grown accustomed to in Kaijudo. You may even find some familiar art. The only two differences the games share in basic gameplay so far are the fact that you could run up to four copies of any card in Duel Masters, and in DM, in order to play a card of any civilization, you had to not only have a card of that civilization in your mana zone, but also tap it to pay that card's cost. This means it was much easier to get "mana-screwed" back in those days. Personally, I've been loving these changes (though I had my doubts about the second one), and they have become just a few of the things that make Kaijudo an easy to learn yet skill-intensive game.
Kaijudo has Learned...
Well, more accurately, I guess WotC has learned. Though DM was discontinued in many countries, it is still going strong in Japan, and with WotC at the helm, they've experienced many years of interesting new mechanics and card design. The team at WotC can use all of their findings to create a game more skill-intensive and balanced than DM ever could have been - and DM was actually very balanced until a few months before it's discontinuation. Not only does the "3 copy limit" reward good deck-builders and allow more room for creativity, the actual design of the cards has drastically improved. I'll give a few comparisons, since I've been avoiding them in all my other articles!
Duel Masters: Hypersquid Walter. Level 3, 1000 power. Water. Whenever this creature attacks, you may draw a card.
Kaijudo: Aqua Seneschal. Level 3, 2000 power. Water. Whenever this creature attacks, you may draw a card.
Duel Masters: Aqua Hulcus. Level 3, 2000 power. Water. When you put this creature into the battle zone, you may draw a card.
Kaijudo: Hydro Spy. Level 4, 1000 power. Water. When you put this creature into the battle zone, you may draw a card.
It doesn't take a master analyst to notice the first two cards and the second two cards have some blatant similarities. In fact, in the first two cards I listed, the only difference is the power, with Seneschal having 1000 more power than Hypersquid. This simple change helped transform Hypersquid Walter, a card which saw almost no play ever in DM, to Aqua Seneschal, a card which has been defining the game, something I've mentioned in previous articles. Part of this is due to the change in the second pair of cards I listed.
Aqua Hulcus was the Aqua Seneschal of DM, except much better. Can you believe that? I read an article in the earlier days of DM that predicted Hulcus would be used forever, and that was indeed the case. For 99.9% of decks that ran Water, which was already a huge portion, Hulcus was a necessity at 3-4 copies. Its power was a huge factor contributing to this, as after Hulcus generated the guaranteed +1 in card advantage, it could do real damage on the field, being able to at least tie with most things rush and aggro could play early on. Hydro Spy suffered a more than noticeable decrease from the powerhouse that was Aqua Hulcus, and it barely sees play in most control decks, usually only getting a couple spots in those that run Emperor Neuron and in decks like mono-Water. Its decrease in power and increase in level were two very smart moves by WotC.
These changes weren't the only ones, just one of the more obvious examples to those who played both games. We've also seen changes like Terror Pit and Root Trap from Kaijudo being the exact same as cards from DM, but being one level higher. These changes have all served to balance out the game and make it so a variety of decks can compete. As long as this game is around, I'm sure we'll always be able to spot cards that are, at their core, changed versions of Duel Masters cards, designed in such a way that Kaijudo can avoid many of the problems that DM's metagame encountered.
Speaking of the metagame, it's progressing a lot faster than the DM metagame did. We have a ton of more competitive options than were available to DM players by their second set, partially because RIS was so large. We got the evolution mechanic in the second set, just like DM did, though it's already looking like the next set will be much more interesting than DM's third set was, which only offered a handful of playable cards. The set design, just like the card design, hasn't let me down in the least.
Where Duel Masters was Right
I've already gone over how DM had great gameplay. After all, it was the same as Kaijudo! However, there are a certain few things that WotC did completely correctly with DM that I have yet to see with Kaijudo. I hope I'm not overstepping my bounds here, as I love how Wizards of the Coast has handled the trading card game (as well as the show, etc.), but I do think there are things that were tried in Duel Masters that could be so much more successful than they ever were if they were implemented into Kaijudo, considering the effort that has been made to create such a stable and fun game.
When I was eleven years old, I played in my first Duel Masters Invitational. I remember it vividly because I went with fellow Kaijudo player EarthP0w3R, someone I'm incredibly close friends with to this day. It was my first ever "major" tournament experience, even though it wasn't all that large at all compared to YGO regionals of today's era, and it was amazing. It's the reason I became hooked on the game at such a young age, and why I continued to travel with friends from my local to other Invitationals out of state, and Tournament of the 5 Civilizations, which were another type of "larger" event that were held at shops across the country to celebrate each new set's release. I generated some very good results even at that young age, and doing well at those events had become the reason I really played. I doubt I would have even gotten into YGO had I not had such great times playing in competitive tournaments for DM.
I remember checking the Wizards site the day of the first DM Continental Championship in 2005. It was my first time being excited about the results of an actual large event, and I was interested to see what, and who won. I watched for names I recognized from websites such as Pojo, and when Tom Capor won with a control deck not too different from the kind of decks I'm building for Kaijudo seven years later, I looked upon him with respect and it became my goal to one day reach something close to that level of influence in the community. Of course, that was before another year of Invitationals and Tot5Cs, and when I was actually able to play at Continentals the following year, it was at a time when DM was unfortunately winding down in the United States. This happened as a result of decisions made by WotC which I honestly have no knowledge about, so I won't discuss them. All I knew is that at the time, I lost the ability to play my favorite trading card game competitively, but gained a group of friends and a hobby which I'd have for the foreseeable future.
Kaijudo has no such events at the moment. That's not to say I was expecting Invitationals or Regionals by now, but many players were expecting at least an announcement or a plan for them. The Duel Masters equivalent to these events didn't generate the highest turnouts, but many of the problems leading to those numbers have been entirely fixed already - the Kaijudo show is leaps and bounds better than the Duel Masters show was in my opinion (and the first DVD can be found in stores now!), the gameplay everyone loved has been kept in tact with a freshness in the card pool to attract old DM players, and so far, we have what I consider to be about as balanced as a trading card game can be while still being fun with an element of luck. Now, more than ever, we have a game that can support organized play on the level that Duel Masters was given. Somewhere, there are eleven year olds out there who could witness events like those and be inspired again. They could become interested and hooked on this game like I'm sure each of my readers is, and they could become fans who would support this community through playing and contributing for years, like I have tried to do.
This is the truth of the community, and the truth of the possible magnificent future of the game. Duel Masters had its flaws, yet people loved playing it. People really love playing Kaijudo, and with an outlet like the events I mentioned, it could become one of the real powerhouses in the trading card game community. I look forward to the day when I can ask someone about Duel Masters and instead of hearing, "Oh, isn't that the game that died six years ago?" I can hear, "Oh, that's the game that became Kaijudo! Awesome!"
I enjoy Kaijudo more than I've ever enjoyed playing a trading card game, and yes, I'm including Duel Masters. I've grown attached to the community, even though I haven't been able to meet a lot of you in real life up to this point, and I'm proud to be someone who can hopefully attract more interest in the game. I've spoken to people at WotC and conveyed nothing but positive remarks about the game and the directions they're taking it. I simply see higher-level organized play as an opportunity for massive growth, not only for the competitive players, but also for the casual players who can enjoy those types of one-of-a-kind experiences, and for the company itself, which would be getting a huge influx of players with a newfound respect for this game - and this game deserves respect, as it's truly a blast. At the end of the day, that's why we play trading card games! If you have similar sentiments, I encourage you to let WotC know about them, as they have people very active in the Kaijudo community whose purpose really is to hear our thoughts and do what's best for the game and its players. The comments down below would be an excellent means to do this!
In the meantime, I hope you've enjoyed the article. I enjoyed writing it, as it brought back a lot of great memories and a hope for more great memories to be made in the future. Next week, I shall return with something closer to what I've been doing in the past - that is, trying to offer some knowledge of Kaijudo that a few players might hopefully learn from! Thanks for reading, guys.