Timing: Planning Backrows

joe giolandoI was almost positive I was going to write about the upcoming YCS in San Diego this weekend. But I made the decision against going almost a month ago, and I am 100% not making a last minute decision to fly out like I did for YCS Miami. I never really had the opportunity to take the time and become comfortable with the Battle Pack format, or at least enough to play in a sealed YCS. It has been awhile since I missed a YCS, but it just seems like the perfect time to take a weekend off. I do wish the best of luck to all ARG readers, writers and my friends on the circuit this up coming weekend.

So if I am not going to write about my impressions of the sealed format, I thought I would still take the time to write about something that can at least benefit people in limited formats. The topic on hand today is quite broad, and should be well understood in all formats, but perfecting the basics never hurts when tackling a limited format. Anyway, lets jump right into it shall we?

Bottomless Trap HoleHave you ever opened with a hand of a collection of trap cards such as [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd], [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd]. A lot of options huh? We could even expand our list to contain other popular trap cards such as [ccProd]Solemn Warning[/ccProd], [ccProd]Solemn Judgment[/ccProd], [ccProd]Starlight Road[/ccProd], [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd]; now we are talking about a laundry list of options. I feel like a lot of the time, we almost subconsciously decide to set card x or y and carry on with the game, allowing the pace of play to dictate what you want to set next, but I actually want to explore the idea of planning out backrows, and in doing so, pinpoint exactly what we should be looking at when we make each decision.

There are two concrete rules which need to be taken into consideration when determining our backrow game plan. The first of which, is what category the given trap falls into; and the second is, what are the popular decks in the given format.

There are a multitude of different trap cards in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh, and each of them has a specific utility depending on the situation. The first category of trap cards are the ones activated in response to a summon. In today's day and age, we would include on our list [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd], [ccProd]Solemn Warning[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd] (obviously there are others, but these are the most popular ones right now). As we all know, each of these traps are entirely dependent on the opponent committing to the field and you having the adequate response. These are the absolute worst possible cards to have in your hand when your opponent slams down a [ccProd]Thunder King Rai-Oh[/ccProd]. We have all been there, right? Your opponent drops a turn one [ccProd]Thunder King Rai-Oh[/ccProd] and you were lucky enough to get stuck with a fist full of Torrentials. I would be inclined to include [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd] in this category, but that is dependent on the situation. Facing down an already summoned copy of Abyssgaos can be remedied with a [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd], but you would much rather have Chain set as an opponent summons a [ccProd]Deep Sea Diva[/ccProd]. So [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd] can certainly fit in this category, but it also have merit in the one that follows. This aspect of this category is simple to understand, but must be taken into consideration when compared to other trap cards.

dimensional prisonThe second category of trap cards we want to talk about today are the ones you can only activate in response to an attack. Commonly found traps in this category would be [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd]. Unlike the traps listed in the previous section, these ones are actually the polar opposite against a turn one [ccProd]Thunder King Rai-Oh[/ccProd], and are quite possibly the best answers in your entire deck. Attack-response traps are unique in the sense that they are not dependent on already being set on the field to have utility, and differ dramatically when being considered by their turn one usefulness, or their after the lack utility. For example, while [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] may protect you from the original summon of a [ccProd]Deep Sea Diva[/ccProd]; [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] may be the perfect top deck when staring down at a level 5 synchro monster. As we all know, [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] is not going to do anything against the original normal summon of a Rescue Rabbit, whereas [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] would leave the field Laggia-less, so there are ups-and-downs. But what we want to take away from this section is their utility when reacting to an already established field.

The final grouping of trap cards is in a final category which holds virtually all theme and side deck specific cards. [ccProd]Abyss-Sphere[/ccProd] and various [ccProd]Axe of Despair[/ccProd] mimicking Fire Fist trap cards are too unique to include in this type of article, since they have such a unique effect. They are also more dependent on how your theme's strategy is progressing, and should be supplemented into a game plan with the other two categories.

Alright, so enough setting the stage, we all knew the difference between [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] - time to talk about a little substance.

The main question you need to constantly be asking yourself is how your use of trap cards is going to properly react to the current problem, but also leave you in a position to act in future turns. If you only have one trap card at your disposal, it is difficult to really argue the way to use it, but multiple traps? Now we have a question. When planning on the order to set trap cards, knowing the matchup you are against is vital. Fire Fist and Mermails are two completely different decks, and you need to take that into consideration.

torrential tributeSo let's consider this type of hand for a moment: [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd], [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] and the various theme cards you have in your deck. In a vacuum on the first turn, what are you setting against an unknown deck? [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd], but why? Well, remember what I said about reacting to what is happening, but also being prepared for the future? [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] is so unique because it requires your opponent to make a play into it. What happens if they summon a modest creature on the first turn, but one you decide against using Torrential on, with the hope of draining them of a second creature. Then the second turns comes around and they slam down a [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd] on your [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd]. Assuming you tried to set [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] first, you are suddenly now staring down an opponent with an already on field creature, with the ability to still normal summon. And what do you have in hand? [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd]. Sick life.

When playing against Mermails, I often times find myself holding onto [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] for as long as possible. Let's be honest here, when Mermails are about to OTK or make an aggressive push , are they ever going to do it without clearing the way with Marksman? Not so much, and as a Mermail player, they are fully aware of what types of cards will stop their aggression. You can try and live in the dream and see some unknowing opponent run three monsters into a firmly set [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd], but that does not seem likely. Perhaps if you planned your backrows more accordingly and their original push was stymied by a Fiendish Chain, you would subsequently be able to set [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] on the following turn and put them in a position where trying to finish you off would mean, running straight into your well timed trap. See what we are trying to do here?

We never want to be stuck with trap cards in the second category when an equally sufficient response can be made with traps from the first.

Now of course Yu-Gi-Oh is not quite that black and white. There are obviously situations where you are forced to play certain reads, set multiple backrows and the like, so this is not a full blown 100% template. For example, against Dino-Rabbit we are actually more inclined to just simply set both [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd], and in doing so, respond to normal monster aggressive with cards like [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd], since we are mostly afraid of [ccProd]Rescue Rabbit[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Tour Guide from the Underworld[/ccProd].

Timing is everything, and knowledge of the format will allow you to take the general rules about planning ahead and not sticking yourself with a fist full of poorly timed responses and find the perfect in between.


Joe Giorlando

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