Saturday, May 31, 2014

Can Monarch's Be Successful?

Caius, the Shadow Monarch, is one of the most aesthetically pleasing monsters in the game.  The black and purple color scheme, his iridescent globe, and formidable armor all buttress his allure of darkness.  Unfortunately, like Hanzo, he’s a good card in a rather mediocre lot.  

The Problems
The main flaw in the Monarch strategy is their summoning mechanic.  Tribute summoning is equivalent to a – 1 special summon.  When compared to  XYZ and synchro summoning, the Monarch effects are pretty weak.  To make matters worse, the other forms of summons usually come with pluses.  Consider Geargiarmor --> Accelerator (+1) --> Gear Gigant (0) --> Ancient Gear Box (+1) --> Arsenal (+2).   Caius is a + 0 at best.

Monarchs also fall victim to clumpy hands.  The graph below gives the chances of opening with at least three or four tribute summon monsters.   Most monarch players run about eight such monsters giving them an 8.2% chance of opening with at least three of them.  Not only are these cards dead, they are robbing the doolist of drawing something better.  You could run fewer level six monsters, but then there is a greater than 23.6% of not drawing any of them.  Pot of Duality helps if you don’t mind using a card that says, “My deck needs a crutch.”
The Fixes
Intrepid Monarch players have attempted to overcome these deficits.  Here is my take on those fixes.

Macro Monarchs: I mention this deck for nostalgic reasons. For those that weren’t around, this deck used Scout Plane as tribute fodder.  It’s essentially dead, but can you imagine where the Monarchs would be if there were three Macro Cosmos and three Dimensional Fissures?  If Konami wanted to support the archetype they could give us a Macro Cosmos like card that forbid you from summoning from the extra deck. 

Frognarchs: This deck avoids the - 1 summon by counting on Treeborn Frog to hop out of the graveyard during your standby phase.  You can play it with a whole pond full of frogs (e.g. Swap, Ronintoadin, Dupe, etc) or with just Treeborn and Mathematician. While arguably the best Monarch deck today, it has some significant drawbacks.  First, drawing into Treeborn is pretty dead unless you have the rest of the frogs.  Second, graveyard-hate is on the rise.  Debunk, Soul Drain, and DD Crow are all poison darts.  Still, it’s a lot of fun and the cards are pretty cheap. 

Tricknarchs: This is the Ghostrick variant that happily seems to forget that card advantage is a valued in Yugioh.  Like the frog variants, one can play with only Jackfrost or with a house full of ghosts and demons.  While the deck bleeds cards, Jack’s effect is pretty nimble because it doesn’t target.  However, the Ghostricks lose out to Debunk and Nobleman of Crossout.  The deck can be redeemed, a bit, by playing Allure of Darkness and Card Car.  Like the frogs, the tricks are generally cheap and fun to play. 

Anti-Meta Monarchs:  This deck is less about the means of summoning and more about the summoned.  I suspect the renewed interest in Monarchs has little to do with the new “Monarch” cards and more to do with Majesty’s Fiend.  This card, along with Vanity’s Fiend and Jinzo, gains advantage by creating dead hands for the opponent.  Congratulations – now both doolists can experience the frustration of having dead hands.

Garbagenarchs: This is my moniker for the Monarch deck with a little bit of everything.  Fire and Ice Hands offer a Tengu-like presence that can be used for tribute fodder.  The problem is that you have taken a very good card and made it weaker by negating its effect.  Soul Exchange stops your battle phase and most of the newer Monarch cards won’t let you play Treeborn.  March of the Monarchs is only useful in Anti-Meta Monarchs.  Return let’s you search but you need to tribute summon twice to gain any advantage.   Storm Forth is clearly the best and it should take the place of everyone’s Soul Exchange.  The only new card that intrigues me is Escalation of the Monarchs.  It does little for card advantage but it does get around cards like Nobleman of Crossout. 

The Answer
If I were a Konami King for a day, I would have them introduce Monarch’s Squire, a level one effect monster.  This card lets you tribute summon from the hand in addition to its Treeborn Frog-like graveyard resurrection.  It does not create Geargia-like advantage but it also lets you use the other Monarch cards. 
EFFECT: This card is not affected by other Fiend monsters. You can send this card from your hand to the graveyard  as 1 of the tributes for a Tribute Summon.  During your Standby Phase, if this card is in your Graveyard: You can Special Summon this card. Activate this card only if you have no cards in your Extra Deck

 Ah well … one can dream.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

One for the good guys ...

Successful people are often the targets of petty rumor and slander, particularly by those who aspire to be successful.  Yugioh is no different.  Thus, many players at the top of the game are treated with some suspicion.   It’s a card game and people have been cheating at cards since the invention of the printing press.  Accusing a winner of cheating takes them down a notch and brings them back into the realms of the wannabes.  
If anything, the sophistication and subtlety of our game facilitates such accusations.  In addition to the universal cons (e.g. marking cards), we have the “soft cheat” where advantage is gained by ignoring or reinterpreting certain card rules.  Attacking after Soul Charge, special summoning after Pot of Duality, or playing a once per turn card twice are all examples of soft cheating. Proving that such actions were taken deliberately is a question of intent and intent is impossible to prove.  Where there is no proof, there is speculation.  Speculation plus jealousy plus the internet leads to a proliferation of defamatory statements about any number of players.

But this is not one of those posts …

This post is a tribute to a player from our locals who not only won the Roanoke Regional, but did it with class and integrity.  

Alvaro began playing Yugioh a few years ago.  For about the first six weeks, he was an easy win and a good tournament draw.  After that, play was interesting.  In about four to six months, it was challenging.  I don’t think I’ve beaten him in 2014.  Fortunately, I am not the only player to experience his improvement. I’ve witnessed him go from regional washouts, to invites, to tops, and now to wins.  He is poised for a breakthrough in a YCS event.  I predict that he will, which will boost the prophetic powers of this blog.  

His success is not accidental.  Losses don’t bring harangues about card draws or luck sacking.  Instead, he carefully thinks about where his deck broke down and ways that it could be improved.  He also benefits from a distinct lack of sentimentality about cards and archetypes.  Dreaming about being the first Crystal Beast player to win a YCS is a great way to become another Crystal Beast player to never win a YCS.  Sell my Geargias?!?  Are you kidding?  Alvaro is free from such mawkishness.  This willingness to change decks has also given him a thorough understanding of the current meta.  There are few substitutes for playing a deck in real life.  Alvaro has made and benefitted from that commitment. 

While noteworthy, these are not the characteristics that have impressed me.  I know many really good players, but I know few who play absolutely above reproach. I have never seen an incident of sharking, self-serving rule interpretation, or questionable play.  He treats his opponents with respect, which makes even losing to him enjoyable.  

I’m not sure what life skills one can gain from being successful at Yugioh.  I suspect pulling out a “Nationals” mat will not impress many employers.  Still, you have to think there are places in this world that want young men with ethical strength. It’s unfortunate that most of the adult world won’t know how impressive his accomplishments are.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Yugioh Tech Choices

Ahhh … the ever changing Yugioh landscape 

Just when you thought you had it down, it shifts, morphs, and renders obsolete handfuls of your hard earned cards.  Yesterday’s brokenness gives way to today’s brokenness and we are left with little more than shards of our former greed. 

Still, we play on. The season is not quite over and there are a few of us who are still looking for this year’s regional top.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at changes in the Yugioh Tech World.

Forbidden Lance is up and Mystical Space Typhoon is down: Lance and MST seem to be on opposite sides of the same seesaw.  In the fall, MST remained on the bench while Lance saw play.  During the winter, the trend reversed.  Now it’s spring and the young maiden with the illicit weapon is ready to play again.  

Seriously, the decks from YCS Philly were fairly trap-heavy.  The addition of traptrix monsters will make these cards seem ubiquitous.  If one adds the prospects of blowing up an Artifact, the allure of MST seems a bit darker.  I would put MST back in the side deck. 

Breakthrough Skill is up and Fiendish Chain is down:  The Yugioh world remains one that is richly dependent on effect monsters.  Fiendish Chain had the additional benefit of stopping beefy beaters.  As the DRoolers retreat, this distinction is less useful. On the other hand, stopping monsters that activate in the graveyard is a big plus in the Hands era. I should point out that BTS is a hand stop only when it is activated from the field; it doesn’t do so from the grave.  This is because the text for the first effect says “monster” while the text for the second effect says “target”. 

Target 1 face-up Effect Monster your opponent controls; negate the effects of that opponent's face-up monster, until the end of this turn. During your turn, except the turn this card was sent to the Graveyard: You can banish this card from your Graveyard, then target 1 face-up Effect Monster your opponent controls; negate that target's effects until the end of this turn.

Blackship and D Prison are back: I’ve always been a fan of these cards.  Removing without destroying is a neat way around a lot of problem monsters.  Now, BoC is ready to take any face-up hand and provide a little burn.  The burn damage is not trivial in the era of charged souls.  I should point out that Soul Charge was not played in many of the Handifacts.  

A special card for that special deck:  One of the advantages of playing Gears is the easy access to machines of any type.  Alley of Justice Cycle Reader is a card that I toyed with when Agents were popular.  However, it was not nearly as devastating as it is against Artifacts. … and it’s a tuner!  So with that in mind, I’m off to regionals with my Geargikuris. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cheap Deals from the OCG

Okay – I get it.  The TCG and OCG are so far apart that tournament reports from across the Pacific are little more than cultural oddities.  You might as well base your side deck on a Kaijudo deck list than try to learn something from the OCG.  They have different ban lists, exclusives, play styles, and tax systems. Reunification of the Korean peninsula seems more likely than reconciliation of the two metas.  Besides, who needs their Cyberstein when we can top deck wins with Soul Charge?

While the relevance of the OCG meta continues to suffer, it has not waned completely.  They still play Yugioh and, contrary to popular belief, they don’t play Cyberstein.  The biggest difference between the two metas is the presence of Nebra Disk, which won’t be available to us until the fall. Thus, their most dominating deck, Chronomaly Artifiacts, is not likely to top a Western YCS.  

Nevertheless, a search through the OCG can lead to the discovery of future gems.  I picked up Fiendish Chain for pennies by watching the card get play in the OCG.  You could have had a playset of Overworked for $0.60 if you noticed the siding habits of OCG players.  As always, past performance does not predict future fortune.  Still, many of these cards are cheap or (even better) gathering dust with a bunch of common cards. 

As a reference point, I surveyed all the OCG tournaments of more than 50 players listed on Shriek as of April 1st.  70 decks were listed; the percentage of each deck is given in the graph.  Beside each deck type, there is a “Power Number”. This number roughly measures how well the deck placed.  Lower numbers suggest more first and second place finishes.  
As one would expect, Chronomaly Artifacts and Dragon Ruler variants are the most common decks. In fact, decks with either artifacts or dragons make up more than 50% of their meta.  Shadolls are also making their presence felt, which is not surprising given the flexibility of the deck.  The Mermails and Geargias are not going away though the latter relies on Machina monsters.
Coming Soon

Several of the side deck choices are predictable given that many of the Chronomalies are machines. Cyber Dragons and Chimeratechs are common and System Down is seeing more play. The pressure for the TCG to pick up on this trend is even greater since we live with charged souls.  Can you imagine what it is like to draw into Soul Charge with a pile of monsters in the banished zone? 
Light-monster hate is becoming more common as well.  Bujins, Chronomalies, Battertymen, and Artifacts are all light.  Enter the Ally of Justice monsters and Koa-ki Meiru Doom.  For those of you who loved Solemn Warning, there is Chaos Trap Hole.  Thankfully, none of these cards are more than $0.50 
OCG players also appear to be investing in life point cards.  For the most part, LP cards only see play in RKD’s*.  However, I suspect many of their duels are going into time.  As a result, Emergency Provisions, Rainbow Life, and Supremacy Berry can steal games.  One could argue these cards have even more value in our meta where Soul Charge turns life points into monsters.  

With the exception of Chimeratech Fortress Dragon, all of these cards are less than a dollar.  At the very least, it is probably worthwhile sorting through that shoe box of commons to find them.  Today's 25 cent common can be tomorrow's five dollar must-have. 

* RKD: Random Kid Deck