Rescue Rabbit and the Art of the Grind Game

Whiling scrolling through Facebook over the course of the last couple days, I have seen numerous players (some of which are amongst the best the game has ever seen) discredit Dino-Rabbit because of the need to draw Rescue Rabbit. And while I don’t think there is any denying that the games you do draw Rescue Rabbit are leaps and bounds easier than the games you do not – I think there is a misconception here. Dino-Rabbit is a little bit more than a one-trick pony and I feel like the misunderstanding is because there is a gap in knowing how to morph your play style and cater to the Rabbit-less cards you draw.

Now it takes no genius to sit here and tell you how to play the deck when you are able to resolve a Rescue Rabbit on the first turn and follow it up with Tour Guide from the Underworld… that is the easy part. But when you enter an event with this deck you will most certainly not draw those ideal hands every time. There are going to be games where you only draw normal monsters and you must be capable of winning those games as well.

Enter in the art of the grind game.

When I refer to the grind game I mean games where you open with a hand consisting of something like the following:



Mystical Space Typhoon

Dark Hole

Soul Taker

Solemn Warning

Replace Kabazauls and Sabersaurus with Rescue Rabbit and Tour Guide and suddenly this looks like quite the marvelous hand. But the odds are just the same that you will draw these two normal fellows – so how is it that you should play this hand? How are we going to grind out a victory?

Well the answer is not as black and white as you might have hoped. Opening with this hand in the dark at Nationals puts you in an awkward situation. But what is important with a hand like this is to understand how every card interacts with the others ones in your hand. You cannot turbo out Evolzar Laggia on the first turn but your hand isn’t too far off from taking over board position. When playing Dino-Rabbit it is important to map out how the future turns are going to progress because often times hands consisting of normal monsters (or even multiple Jurrac Guibas) can assume similar board states to those that contained Rescue Rabbit. The important thing to understand is how the protection in your hand is able to sculpt that. That is why I continue to play Bottomless Trap Hole and Dimensional Prison in my Rescue Rabbit decks, along with the obvious inclusions such as Solemn Warning. These trap cards not only help you protect Evolzar Laggia or Dolkka, they enable you to manage lackluster opening hands.

So here we can assume some time of logical assumption of the next couple turns. The most ideal set of circumstances is that we normal summon Sabersaurus and set Solemn Warning. We would then hope that our opponent normal summons a monster we either do not care about negating or are happy to trade a Solemn Warning for (like Tour Guide for example). From this point we would be hopeful to see our opponent simply set a backrow and pass the turn back. We would then obviously take over with Mystical Space Typhoon and Kabazauls.

But that of course is assuming everything works out perfectly – and we do not live in a perfect world. In the grind game it is quite common that the opponent simply has a collection of cards that can exploit such an opening. Add an opponent’s Mystical Space Typhoon to the mix and we suddenly have lost our Sabersaurus for no value. So then the format long question of playing around Heavy Storm or Mystical Space Typhoon comes into question. When you open a hand like this it becomes more appropriate to play the odds as opposed to playing the worst case scenario. Setting two backrows and hoping the opponent doesn’t have Heavy Storm is one of the worst feelings in the game, but regardless of that fear it is the correct play in some circumstances.

With this hand I would argue that there would be justification in setting an additional backrow with our Solemn Warning. But I am not necessarily going to set Mystical Space Typhoon.

I would actually be more inclined to set either Dark Hole or Soul Taker. Both of these cards accomplish similar things – monster destruction. And therefore are more expendable in the grand scheme of things. Mystical Space Typhoon on the other hand is far more valuable if we want to pump out an Evolzar on turn two.

If we open by normal summoning Sabersaurus and setting Solemn Warning/Soul Taker we might be in position to play the odds perfectly.

What in this situation ruins our perfect plan? Remember what that was now.

-Protecting Sabersaurus with Solemn Warning

-Clearing away the backrow with Mystical Space Typhoon

-Summoning Kabazauls and going into an Evolzar

Well Heavy Storm first and foremost is going to ruin our day. But Heavy Storm alone isn’t quite enough. The opponent would need their one Heavy Storm and a way to clear Sabersaurus off the board. In a deck like Chaos Dragons for example, they have cards such as Card Trooper and Tour Guide from the Underworld but that is only five cards. From there they could do some type of milling/Chaos monster play or use Dark Hole but those scenarios are less likely. Inzektors would be in position to punish us with one of their Tour Guides or virtually any Hornet play. The mirror match is the deck in the most optimal position to punish an opening like that. Any of their three Rescue Rabbits or Tour Guides and we are going to fall behind. Plus they can use Forbidden Lance to utilize almost any other monster in their deck.

But you see the opponent is going to need to have that perfect arrangement of cards on top of having Heavy Storm.

And honestly if they do. We at the very least have an additional draw phase and the removal of Dark Hole in hand. Not all hope is lost.

But by setting two backrows we at least somewhat protect against Mystical Space Typhoon. There are always going to be the players out there that recklessly play Typhoon the moment they see it in their opening hand but setting two gives us a 50/50 chance of protecting the all important Solemn Warning.

So if we assume our opponent does not open with Heavy Storm than what is going to punish us? Well now they are either going to need to open multiple copies of Mystical Space Typhoon or risk using it and whiffing on which of our backrows is more valuable. Then they would need to have the same type of follow up we discussed a few paragraphs ago.

The question of setting Solemn Warning or Solemn Warning and Soul Taker boils down to taking into consideration the likelihood of what is going to punish you and weighing the risks of both line of play.

When you open with a less than ideal hand you cannot fear the opponent opening perfectly. Because guess what? If they drew so well, you were more than likely going to lose with that hand anyway – regardless of if we set one or two backrows. It is our job to try and manage the game that comes to us and we do that by playing the odds.

This entire time I have gone on the assumption that summoning Sabersaurus was the correct play. And there is some argument to be made that setting Kabazauls might be the best opening. Telegraphing to the opponent on the first turn that you are playing Dino-Rabbit actually has some benefits. Starlight Road has become more and more popular as a sole inclusion in Dino-Rabbit decks and you might be able to dodge Heavy Storm by representing Starlight Road.

But the real question that needs to be asked is what setting Kabazauls is going to do to your strategy. Assuming the opponent doesn’t play Heavy Storm or Mystical Space Typhoon on the first turn you now must Solemn Warning any monster that hits the table and has more than 1500 attack. For the most part you were going to Solemn Warning most of them anyway. For example, if the opponent were to normal summon Jurrac Guiba while you had Sabersaurus you can assume they have Forbidden Lance and therefore should Solemn Warning. The main drawback is that if your opponent were to summon Kabazauls themselves you are forced to waste Solemn Warning for little value – but that might be a stretch.

Setting Kabazauls might be good enough for an opponent to respect the potential of a slow paced game and therefore set a monster back. Allowing you to save Solemn Warning and theoretically save the stronger Sabersaurus if you happen to draw another Kabazauls for the turn.

So it seems like we have boiled down our possible opening plays to summoning Sabersaurus and setting Soul Taker with Solemn Warning or setting Kabazauls with the same backrows. I really wouldn’t fault either play as I think they have both have solid reasoning.

Not everything about the grind game happens with the opening six. Dino-Rabbit has this uncanny ability to simply break an opponent’s back in the late game. Evolzar Laggia becomes increasingly more threatening the fewer resources an opponent has. Therefore playing Rescue Rabbit properly in the later stages of the game can actually be a challenging thing to do.

Often times in a match where the Dino-Rabbit player is unable to resolve a Rescue Rabbit in the first 8 or so turns the game will progress into a grind game. In order to master this part of Dino-Rabbit you need to begin thinking in one of two ways. The first of which is how quickly you can establish a clock on the opponent, and two how their resources can trade with yours.

You can win games without drawing Rescue Rabbit simply because your deck is filled with relatively powerful monsters (nine monsters with 1700 or more attack if you play Guiba and three Tour Guides) and removal. Sabersaurus suddenly becomes an incredibly intimidating monster when the opponent looks over at their life pad and sees their lifepoints sitting at 2600. From their the opponent’s perspective Sabersaurus is more than enough to kill them with two direct attacks and therefore warrants some type of attention. Understanding that is vital if you happen to draw into Rescue Rabbit in the later stages of the game. Obviously you can slam the Rabbit on the table and hope the opponent is fresh out of responses. But say you had been sitting with Sabersaurus already… wouldn’t both Rescue Rabbit and Sabersaurus have the same type of response? If the opponent has Torrential Tribute, Bottomless Trap Hole, Solemn Warning or even Solemn Judgment they are certainly in a position to activate them. A witty Dino-Rabbit player can pinpoint that weakness and find the perfect time to slam Rescue Rabbit on the table. We want to trade off resources and hammer away as much damage as possible. The lower in lifepoints the opponent becomes the more likely they are to waste valuable resources on monsters not named Rescue Rabbit and Tour Guide from the Underworld.

Another thing to take into consideration is how the opponent has been adapting to this style of play. For example, in Dino-Rabbit decks using Macro Cosmos an Inzektor opponent can often times find themselves latching on to certain monsters in fear of losing board positioning.

Take an excerpt from my Top 4 YCS Philadelphia report:

Top 32: Game Two against Inzektors

The final point was when I Monster Reborned a Sabersaurus while he had Inzektor Hopper on the board. He flipped a Bottomless Trap Hole and I then followed up with a game-clinching Rescue Rabbit.

This game had turned into a grind game where we were trading resources such as Bottomless Trap Hole and Dark Hole. It is important to know that by using Monster Reborn on Sabersaurus I was able to place a legitimate threat on the board my opponent was fearful of because he was latching on his Inzektor Hopper. Had I ran Rescue Rabbit into Bottomless Trap Hole I would still be able to Monster Reborn the Sabersaurus but that is far from game-clinching. Instead I was able to slam the Rescue Rabbit without fear of response and summon a Laggia he simply could not deal with.

The main thing you want to do in this type of game is to look at what cards are at your disposal and assume trade offs in your mind. By doing so you are able to think turns ahead when the opponent has wasted their most powerful responses to your plays. From there you are going to be able to find the moment where you can go over the top of their board state and lock the game out with a devastating Laggia or Dolkka. Even if you never draw into Rescue Rabbit the normal monsters you do draw can accomplish a similar progression in the game because after trading resources you are always two untouched Dinosaurs away from an XYZ.

The concept of a grind game is applicable to virtually every format this game has ever seen. Hero Beat actually takes up a very similar playstyle with Miracle Fusion being the card that can go over the top once the opponent has wasted all their resources. Mastering this part of Yu-Gi-Oh is not only going to improve your chances in the current format, it is a timeless lesson that will help you in the future. If you want to practice this type of thinking process I would suggest playing Dino-Rabbit mirror matches without Rescue Rabbit in them. Or you could always scour the internet for decklists from Goat Control format or Chaos Return format. Both of which favored the player who mastered the art of a grind game.

Joe Giorlando

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