Reflecting on the New Era

joe giolandoThis is the first article that I have had posted since the North American World Championship Qualifier. I wrote another one, which might be posted sometime down the road, but this one is likely the first to appear on the Alter Reality Game page. Anyway, with Nationals in our rear view mirror, it seems like the perfect time to look back on reflect on what we have experienced these last handful of months. If anyone recalls the article I wrote discussing the New Era in Yu-Gi-Oh, you would know I had some fairly adamant opinions about the way in which the game was going to progress our the course of the summer. I have decided to take the time to look back and reflect on some of the assumptions I made, right or wrong.

The first major assumption that was made pertained to the volume of previously premier cards which would falter in terms of playability. In retrospect cards like [ccProd]Solemn Warning[/ccProd] and Judgment found homes in the stun oriented versions of Prophecy, and for good reason, but I feel as though it was a fairly accurate assumption. [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] fluctuated as playable as the format progressed, though the stun variation of Prophecy made it an inclusion more often than not in Dragon Rulers. [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] held a similar role to [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd], and was only deemed useful when it became apparent that the triple [ccProd]Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer[/ccProd] version of Prophecy was the most ideal. Other cards like [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd], [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd], [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd], [ccProd]Monster Reborn[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd] were virtually non-existent throughout the entire format. Evilswarms and Constellars played their part as budget options for players who did not want to invest in Prophecy or Dragon Ruler (though the stun version of Prophecy even made price less of an issue), and they certainly existed. I opened up Nationals playing against three out of four Evilswarm decks (to which I utterly dominated the five games where my opponent did not open Eradicator/Ophion turn one), so there was certainly a presence in the format. But who are we kidding. Were those old school decks even playing in the same stratosphere as Prophecy and Dragon Ruler? Absolutely not.  Even the previously dominate decks such as Fire Fist and Mermails had no chance competing against the two monsters of the format. Dragon Ruler and Prophecy had access to too many cards at too many intervals of the game. How could any other deck compete?

dna surgeryThe format was also defined by those singleton card techs I discussed. I may not have had enough experience at the time of the previous article to confidently say what I believed would become popular, but as the format progressed we were introduced to [ccProd]DNA Surgery[/ccProd], [ccProd]Phoenix Wing Wind Blast[/ccProd], [ccProd]Last Day of Witch[/ccProd], [ccProd]Electric Virus[/ccProd], [ccProd]Puppet Plant[/ccProd], Psi-Blocker and even the mighty Horus the Black Flame Dragon. Pinpointing when these types of cards were at their highest level of competency was an important skill to have, and was a defining factor in Patrick Hoban's victory in Chicago.

The real final take away from this summer was the dynamic of the Dragon Ruler mirror match. There is a fundamental reason why names such as Boyajian, Silverman and Hoban are flying out to Las Vegas to compete at Worlds. The learning curve in the Dragon Ruler mirror match was so high, with reliance on hand traps such as [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Swift Scarecrow[/ccProd], that it required a tremendous amount of preparation and knowledge of the format. As the results from Chicago showed dedication in the manner of Patrick Hoban could translate into success in a format where cards like [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Super Rejuvenation[/ccProd] were legal. The Worlds team is a testament to the success of meaningful testing, and that is likely the greatest thing we can take away from this format.

But that leaves the fundamental question that is used to analyze all formats in Yu-Gi-Oh history - was it a good format? How does it compare to the likes of Goat Control or Tele-DAD? The biggest problem I have comparing this format to any of the previous is how different Yu-Gi-Oh was these past couple of months. I have spoken to some of the best players in this game and I feel like there was a consensus about something regarding this format. It just was not Yu-Gi-Oh. This format was a closer resemblance to Magic the Gathering than anything else I have experienced. Access to the volume of cards for each player is something that has never happened before. Even in the days when Destiny Hero - Disk Commander were legal decks could not generate the amount of sheer card advantage we just experienced. It really boils down to the style in Yu-Gi-Oh you prefer. I am going to be the first to admit, I was reluctant to master Dragon Ruler because on the surface, the deck does not fit the type of playstyle I feel most comfortable playing. Access to a huge array of monster summons, where your defense is in the monsters you are able to use offensively, is not something I have ever enjoyed. I like to think I prefer traditional styles of Yu-Gi-Oh, where it is a resource game based on interactions of monster removal and pinpointing when to take advantage of tempo swings. My biggest issue with the previous format is the way in which the traditional aspects of Yu-Gi-Oh were undermined in favor of explosive card advantage engines. You use to have to work for an advantageous card interaction. Tributing a floater for a Monarch was enough to garner a fist pump back in the day. Now you just activate [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] and have enough cards for the rest of the duel. That is not something which I particularly enjoyed.

spellbook of judgmentSpeaking of [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd], I also feel like the format became saturated with the same repetitive play by Prophecies. At least playing against Dragon Rulers you could expect some innovative ways of winning, I sort of liked the problem solving aspect of that deck. I remember the first time I tested the deck I had a situation where if I was able to summon all four Dragon Rulers I could Big Eye the [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd] my opponent summoned off [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] and then use Mecha Phantom Beast to make tokens and eventually go into [ccProd]Ancient Sacred Wyvern[/ccProd]. It happened to be enough for game because my opponent had used a couple of [ccProd]Upstart Goblin[/ccProd]. That was an enjoyable experience I suppose, but my golly how many times can you sit down and play against Prophecy? The deck performs the exact same play sequence again, and again, and again. That is not something you should see from a healthy format. The more moments when a player needs to make a vital decision, the more likely they are to make a mistake or otherwise show their play skill. Formats with such little levels of decision making are never good for Yu-Gi-Oh. That is why we look back and love Goat Control or even Dragon Ruler mirror matches. The existence of Prophecy was one of the largest gripes I had with these past few months. It was fun and flashy at first, but I do not think I am the only one to roll their eyes at the repetitive nature of the deck.

So without this being my semi-annual banlist article, I thought I would just reflect over the past few months and discuss some of the predictions I made before Dragon Rulers hit the scene. Acknowledge that there was a tremendous amount of good to take away from this Yu-Gi-Oh experience, such as qualified players doing well and performing at the highest level, but also dwell on how distant traditional Yu-Gi-Oh seems from where we are today. What do you guys hope we see some September 1st?

Joe Giorlando

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