Monday, April 28, 2014

Soul Charged

Welcome to the ARG Circuit
For the uninitiated, the ARG Circuit is Alter Reality Games attempt to boost the level of competitive Yugioh by offering events with greater prize support.  Modeled after the MTG Circuit, the goal is to attract and feature “Yugioh Pros”. These players are meant to inspire your game play and divest your cash into more cards.  Hence, we have mats, tokens, and articles by Jones, Brakes, and Hobans of the Yugi-World. 

Lest I sound curmudgeonly, I sincerely applaud their efforts.  Konami’s marketing strategy focuses on attracting kids to the game.  They are maintaining the player base by bringing in new faces.  ARG’s strategy is to maintain interest in the game for a longer period of time.  Unfortunately, these can be competing approaches; hence, the rather frosty relations between the two parties. 

ARG garners their prize support by slightly increasing the entrance fee from $20 to $25 and lowering the value of “Door Prize”.  Doolists get to choose between an ARG Tee Shirt and five packs that undoubtedly came from the surplus bin.  I pulled a $135 card from 2013.  Now everyone can look at my binder and wonder why I held onto my Spellbook of Judgment.  This poor SoJ never got to enjoy the feeling of destroying another deck. 

The tournament felt like a big regional without the scrubs and noobs.  There were 380 contendas, all vying for $5,000 in prizes.  The tournament buzz centered on Soul Charge, surely one of the most OP cards of the year.  At first, I thought this would be another Trishula or Exciton Knight, expensive cards that few people could find.  Au contraire, I pulled one in the first 5 packs I opened. This card was going to be all over the place.  Nevertheless, I stayed with my CMG.  Sometimes, you just want to go rogue. 

Geargias have been very good to me.
My first match was against Marcus Hale, a name I recognized from several YCS lists.  After confirming that he was that Marcus Hale, we delved into the Yugi rituals of dice-rolling and card playing.  I opened with Power Bond, Trap Stun, Drei, and Dragon and finished game 1 in six minutes.  I’m sure I was Marcus’ nightmare, losing to an old guy with a wonky deck who draws a stupid opening.  Fortunately, there is still more right than wrong in the Yugiverse and he came back to win games 2 and 3.  

Pride keeps me from going into great details about the rest of the day.  I finished with 10 ARG Circuit points though I’m not sure what to do with them.  I had wins against Mermails and Gears while racking up losses to Harpies, Bujins, and a Cyber Dragon deck.  The irony of this match was not lost, but my CMG deck was.  

Sensing a bit of resignation, my friends cheered me up by offering the use of their WireTaps, Soul Charges, and Exciton Knight.  From rogue to full-on meta, I put them in my Geagiakuri deck and entered a box tournament for $12.  

Here’s the list:
Armor x 3, Arsenal x 3, Accelerator x 3, MK-II x 3, Geargiano x 1, Saizan x 2, Strategist x 1, Birdman x 1, Gearframe x 1, Fortress x 1, and Redox x 1

MST x 2, Dark Hole x 1, Soul Charge x 2, Iron Call x 1, Geargiagear x 3, Fiendish Chain x 2, CED x 1, Torrential x 1, Vanity’s Emptiness x 3, Trap Stun x 3. 

My first opponent went 9 – 0 in the Swiss portion of the tournament the day before with Ghostricks. In many ways, this was another Hale-a-thon: old guy derps with a deck he barely knows.  If it’s any consolation, I have been playing the deck for quite a while.  Still, Trap Stun and OTK is a devastating way to lose. 

My second opponent played Fire and Ice Fists.  This was essentially a Fire Fist deck with the Ice and Fire hands teched in.  It’s a great idea … except against the doolist who sides in three Rivalry of Warlords.  This game was also won on the knowledge that Fire Fists have lousy back rows. 

By now, I was drawing a small crowd.  On one side was Mr Desmond Karakuri, a very personable and likeable player.  My opponent was less hospitable. In fact, he was as intimidating as he was skilled.  The first game was another Burei, Bureido, Scrap Dragon OTK.  It was quick and I only saw one or two of his cards.  Any questions about his deck were answered within 4 turns of the next game as I stared down the barrel of a Shooting Quasar Dragon.  He was using a plant build popularized by Jeff Jones.  

So it came down to one game and two cards: Soul Charge followed by Emptiness.  It left him with a couple of fluff tokens and me with two Burei.  The tokens were flipped into attack and the Bureis attacked.  It’s a play I have pulled on my son countless times.  This time it got me a Dragons of Legend box.  

Soul of the Game
In many ways, I felt like Charlie Brown winning his first ballgame.  Most of the countless tournaments that I have entered pay for the prizes of others.  I'm the gracious loser.  This time it was different.  I beat very accomplished players using a deck that I know and love. 

However, I also know that Soul Charge was a big reason for that win.  At the very least, it’s a speedy COTH.  The Karakuri build benefits greatly from the card, so much so that it might supplant the pure version.  But the card is derpy.  It allows inferior players to beat good players.  The integrity of the game demands that it get banned.  

Maybe next year, someone will enter an ARG Circuit match and get handed five packs.  And just maybe, he will find a formerly-broken-but-now-banned card that will make him shake his head and say, “why did they ever make this thing?”

Happiness is a box of cards

Monday, April 21, 2014

Who put out the fire?

Have things changed so much?

We’re all of three weeks into the new meta and it appears that a seismic shift has taken place away from Fire Fists. While my surveys do not include every regional tournament since April 1st, I have included 56 deck lists.  If this sample is at all representative of the larger trend in Yugioh, players are switching Gears in a significant way.  

The grapha below lists the % of each of the major archetypes listed byTCGPlayer for the dates of April 1 to the present.  Geargias are the most dominating archetype if you combine the Pure and Karakuri variants.  Together, they make up about 27%.  Fire Fists have all but disappeared.  If you combine them with Fire Kings, you only get 5.4% of the decks. 

Figure 1: The Frequency of Decks in the Top 32

The problem with this analysis is that there are no denominators.  If 90% of the players enter with Geargias and only 27% top, the deck can be considered a bit feeble.  A better indicator of the strength of the deck would be to divide the percentage of tops by the percentage entered. 

Unfortunately, that’s a hard number to produce.  I have come up with a “Power Index” to take its place.  For this analysis, I gave 32 points for 1st place decks, 31 for 2nd, etc.  I then used these numbers to calculate a weighted average.  If one divides this weighted average by the % of decks given in the figure 1, you get a pseudo-power index.  By this analysis, Dragon Ruler variants outperform the field.  
Now enter Soul Charge.  This single card will likely change the meta again.  Though summoning a bucketful of monsters from your graveyard helps nearly everyone, some decks do not benefit as much.  Geargias, for example, will not get a great boast.  I suspect the same is true for Mermails.  On the other hand, dragon decks tend to have loaded graveyards. There may even be room for some decks we haven’t seen in eons, like Zombies. 

I do not like the fact that the ARG tournament will allow this set to be legal.  Granted, they really do not have much of a choice.  However, it will favor players with the capital investment to buy enough packs to get this card.  Perhaps that’s capitalism.  On the other hand, I like a game that rewards your cleverness and not your wallet.  

I’m still taking my CMG deck.  It really loses to effect negation and DD Crow can make a mess of things.  Nevertheless, it’s a bit roguish and roguish is good.  This analysis has led me to take out Overworked and put in Needle Ceiling. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hobanomics: Marginal Utility in Yugioh

Patrick Hoban is better than me at Yugioh.  There is no question that he has accomplished more in this game than I ever will. Furthermore, I think he gets more contempt than he deserves.  He appears to be sincere in his enthusiastic attempts to explain the game to others.  

That said … I found his most recent ARG posting  … uhm … interesting.  Perhaps I can summarize my thoughts in the following cartoon. 
Yugioh according to Patrick Hoban
  … and you thought this was a children’s card game. 

The main problem with the article is his inability to substantiate any of his statements with numbers.  Sure, economics requires assumptions in order to reduce a vast number of variables to something that can be fit into a model.  In Yugioh the variables are all known.  It’s a card game.  However, Mr. Hoban is not relying on math; he’s using intuition.  He suspects that “three” is the magic number and then borrows economic jargon to convince the reader.  Consider the following passage: 

So how do we know that three is better than every other number? While I believe that theory is vastly more important than play testing when it comes to deck building, this is the area that play testing is most important in. This process is going to be trial and error and it’s going to be a completely separate issue to train you to be able to identify what is or isn’t working
Great players like Patrick Hoban don’t craft decks with statistics; they build decks based on experience. They know how a good deck plays because they have played both good and bad decks.  Several hands of an inferior deck will quickly turn them off just like the wrong spices will offend a master chef.  Developing a sense of good and bad decks takes time and talent.  For inexperienced players, the best place to start is a tier one net deck.  For the rest of us, keep practicing.

Though Mr. Hoban makes a mess of it, marginal utility does have meaning in Yugioh. In brief, it’s the value one gets by adding another “card” to your deck.  The concept is only robust when one considers card equivalents.  Mr. Hoban mentions this in his “Assumptions” section, but doesn’t make it particularly clear. A card equivalent is a card that is functionally the same as the card you want.  For example, ROTA is equivalent to Photon Thrasher because drawing ROTA gets you a Thrasher. If you really, really wanted Thrasher, you could play three Thrasher, ROTA, and three Photon Lizard for a total of seven equivalent cards.  “Marginal utility” answers the question, “How much value is there by adding the third Photon Lizard?”  In other words, what is the added value for having seven equivalent cards compared to six?

The following are the actual numbers for marginal utility in Yugioh.  The left hand column gives the number of card equivalents.  The marginal utility can be calculated by subtracting the chance of drawing Thrasher with seven cards from the chance of drawing him with six.  The answer is 7.2%.  Notice this curve is not an inverted “U”. There is no maximum. 
 Adding extra cards to get your Thrasher does come with a cost. Specifically, you run the risk of drawing into two card equivalents.  The second card is a dead card.  This risk also increases with the number of cards you add.  One could “maximize” the difference between Drawing-at-least-one-target-card and a Drawing-more-than-one-target card.  This number is given by the dotted black line. You can calculate it by simply subtracting the 2nd and 4th columns. If you graph this number, you will get a curve with a maximum.  The answer is not three, but somewhere between 6 and 7.  
 People who have played this game for a while will probably think of "6" as a reasonable number.  I tend to use 9 cards when getting to the key card is very important (e.g. Malefic Decks). My CMG deck uses 10 Cyber Dragon equivalents.  If you play it, you may notice that the Cybers can clog.

I will be going to the ARG tournament in Richmond. Perhaps I will be able to discuss Marginal Utility in Yugioh with the man himself.  Until then, play hard or go to school.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

CMG is here!

It’s new! It’s improved! Cyber Gears now come with Machina monsters!

Machine decks can fit pieces together like … well, machines. Consider Geargias and Karakuris or Gadgets and Machinas. These decks have a natural synergy. The Machinas also have synergy with the Cyber Gears and they fix a few problems. The first problem is dealing with dead Cyber Dragon Cores.  Searching for a “Cyber” card is great if you want to leave a 400 attack point monster on the field. Fortress allows you to pitch Core to summon itself. You give up the search but you have the ability to summon Cyber Dragon from the deck. Fortress also makes Cyber Eltanin a mini Monster Reborn.  Unless Fortress is bounced by a Spell or Trap, these are essentially plus one plays. 

Here’s the complete deck list:
Here are my thoughts on several of the cards I tested.

 Cards I like
  • Black Horn of Heaven: Black Horn was a favorite of mine in the Wind-Up days. In many ways, the current number of Rank 3 and 4 plays reminds me of that meta. The card is lousy against Bujins so maining it makes little sense.  However, having three in the side deck gives me the best chance to draw it in game 2 or 3.  
  • Debunk: I have always found this card useful.  However, the card really shines in the Bujin match-up. Fortunately, it is useful against Mermails and Fire Kings as well.
  • Trap Stun: Mind Crush is showing up in 2’s and 3’s in players’ side decks.  It’s a devastating card, particularly when used by an experienced player.  Lance does nothing in this setting. Trap Stun also enables OTKs, which is a part of this decks arsenal.
  • Rivalry of Warlords: One of the best cards of the format.  Rivalry keeps Pure Geargia from summoning anything but machines.  Great … all the more fodder for Chimeratech.  It also creates headaches for Madolches, Spirit decks, Evilswarms, and Constellars.

 Cards I don’t like
  •  Dark Bribe: The main purpose of this card is to maintain win conditions that can be disrupted by Spells or Traps.  The best example is the Malefic deck.  Unfortunately, DNA Surgery is not a win condition.  For the most part, Chimeratech Fortress Dragon lets you incrementally gain card advantage.  Dark Bribe gives that advantage away.
  •  Goldfish: Goldfish allows you to summon a 2200 attack point Abyss Dweller.  It’s a cute idea but I rarely get the time to search for it. Besides it’s a minus 1 XYZ.  With Mermails dropping in popularity I decided to use other cards.
  • Lance: Field spells continue to see a lot of play along with continuous spells like Kaiser Coliseum.  Lance does little against these types of cards.  With much reluctance, I am maining MST again. If you look over the top deck lists, you will see that I am not alone.

The plan is to take this deck to the Richmond regional. The deck is a bit busy, but this can cause problems for opponents. The unexpected can cause misplays.  I feel good about the decks chances against Bujins and Geargias.  Fire Fists and Spellbooks are probably pretty even.  Infernities and Dragon Variants will be a bit harder. There will also be the inevitable rogue Dark World deck. Still, it will be fun to play something that is a little different.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Case for Rivalry of Warlords

What’s with all the pure Geargia builds?  Have they released Auger without my notice?  Are players becoming too ashamed to OTK?   Has someone placed a curse on Karakurses? 

No, the rise of the pure Geargia deck has more to do with changes in the extra deck than changes in the main deck.  While most of us are grudgingly putting up with Exciton Knight and Silent Honor Ark, we may not realize how these cards are changing the game.  Pure Geargia builds are effective because they have ready access to Nuke and Steal.  Furthermore, the Geargias are not alone.  Chain Summoning Gadgets also topped at the Chicago YCS.  In fact, any rank four toolbox decks has received a boost from these cards. 

The dominance of rank four monsters is apparent when looking at the extra decks from YCS Chicago.  The table below ranks the extra deck monsters by their prevalence in 24 of the top decks.  348 cards from 13 archetypes were included in this analysis.  The column on the far right is the “Big Eye” index or the prevalence of the XYZ monster compared to Number 11: Big Eye.  In other words, Silent Honor Ark was nearly ten times more popular than the once super-broken Big Eye. Exciton Knight was over 6 times more popular.  The only other monster in the top 30 with a rank greater than four was Draccosack.  
I will admit that association does not prove causation.  In other words, there may be other reasons for the move to rank four decks.  However, the Geargias provide a rather interesting case study.  Little else has changed for the deck besides the presence of these monsters. I contend that the shift is the result of the introduction of Silent Steal and Nuke Roach.  

The trend towards rank four monsters may give life to Rivalry of Warlords.  The card, which restricts players to a single type, is already effective against Evilswarms, Constellars, and Madolches.  For those of you worrying about getting Scrap wrecked, the Scrap family is composed of nine different types.  Chronomalies are mostly rock type but their XYZs are mostly machines.  Mermails are the only deck that can make Silent Honor under Rivalry.  Level four fiends are even rarer.  Pure Geargia and Gadgets would sputter to a halt. 

For every deck that loses to Rivalry, there are several that would prosper.  Sylvans would have no trouble.  Fire Fists, Dark Worlds, and Bujins would likely curry advantage.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this card becomes more prominent in side decks of these archetypes.