Monday, June 30, 2014

Gearless Gears

From all the way across the Yugiverse, the masses have spoken, “Geargiagear must be hit.” 

What, don't you like our plus-one XYZ? 

Fine … we’ve had our fun. Go play your little light monsters while the rest of us gearheads moan the passing of our little card. 

But wait! Maybe we can build it stronger, better, and with even more brazenness. Say hello to Gearless Gears

Before I reveal the list, I should make a few confessions:
  1. The true originator of this deck is DSummon at Dueling Days blog.  I’ve just modified it a bit.
  2. I’m still testing it. While I think it has some promise, it needs more work. 
  3. I kinda like fail videos. 
Gearless Gears is a monster mash deck that focuses on summing large monsters quickly.  We’ll have none of this hiding behind a large trap lineup to pick up the occasional plus-one.  With the exception of COTH, the deck plays no traps.  This strategy can take a lot of opponents by surprise.  Would you side out Wire Tap against Geargias?  Feel free to get flummoxed.   

Eliminating Geargiagear frees us from the tyranny of level three monsters.  This deck is all about Synchro monsters and Rank four XYZs.  I play one lonely Geargiano whose only job is to dig level four monsters out of the graveyard.  
The real catalyst of the deck is Tin Goldfish.  Targets are not a problem since there are 15 other level 4 monsters.  This means easy access to Abyss Dweller, which is not a bad monster in this graveyard activated game. The other tech monster is Ancient Gear Box.  He has more utility in this deck because Strategist is also a target. Hence, the tuner lineup has two Strategists.  Combining Gear Box with GearGigant helps make up for a number of neg-1 special summons. 

The quick access to Strategist means Cyber Dragon increases the availability to level eight synchros.  Colossal Fighter is useful against Sylvans and Stardust against the HAT deck.  Crimson Blader can also put in some work given the shift away from rank 4 XYZ based decks. 

COTH and Iron Call let you play monsters without giving up the battle phase. Mind Control is usually live given the number of tuners that are in the deck.   Lance helps keep Armor on the field when attacked.  The rest are subject to change.  

 Not just a fun deck …
When a doolist says they are playing a “fun deck”, they are usually trying to denigrate your inevitable victory. By fun, they mean an inconsistent deck that can pull off a derpy and often humiliating combination.  This deck is not inconsistent; it is unexpected, which can be an advantage.  For example, deck can quickly grab Cycle Reader and Quarantine cards that cause all sorts of problems for Lightsworns.  Kaiser Coliseum is a real nuisance to the spamalicious strategy.  Finally, Train Signal Red is a searchable Battle Fader, which makes tribute summoning viable.  

 Of course, the deck is trying to turn the stalwart, tank-like Armor into a speed-head.  He’s much more comfortable cranking out cards with a trap wall behind him.  However, his cousin Geargiauger has no such restrictions.  Furthermore, he’s searchable with Ancient Gear Box.  The gears will rise again! Ho

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lessons Learned from Tournament Results

National season is upon us and qualifying doolists throughout North America are scouring deck lists to get a hint of the matches they will face.  Do I need to prepare for Sylvans?  What’s the hot tech?  Most of all, is my deck good enough to take on the best?

As a connoisseur of deck lists, let me give you my take on what one can and can’t learn from studying tournament results. 
  What Deck Lists Can Teach Us

Know thy enemy.  As I have pointed out before, there is little variation between builds of the same archetype.  Konami is in the business of creating sets that work together.  In this way, they are like the Lego Company.  Sets with prefabbed instructions have pushed out the generic blocks. You can try to get creative by adding other blocks to the Death Star, but it’s going to look goofy. Yugioh archetypes are similar. 

Lest you think this is all a corporate plot against creativity, most successful decks are the result of the Yugiverse’s collective conscious. We test, play, post, rinse, and repeat.  The web makes the process efficient and rather homogeneous.  Don’t believe me? Try changing a meta deck by more than 10 cards.  You will, almost inevitably, make the deck worse.  I’ve tried it.  For the past four weeks, I have tested a variety of ideas in my Geargia deck.  They all loose. 

As a builder, uniformity is dull. As a player, uniformity means I can know what my opponent plays.  By spending time among the deck lists, you can find out the number of battle traps, on-summon traps, spells, and effect monsters played.  Take advantage of it.

Gain a little inspiration.  Though the majority of the deck lists are pretty uniform, one can find interesting tech choices scattered about.  Be honest, how many of you thought about Mystical Rephpanel until you saw it on a deck list?  Sure, we all wish we were Yugisavants with the entire catalog of 7,000 cards at our fingertips; but, there is no shame in using your fingertips to Google deck lists. 

  What Deck Lists Can't Teach Us

Find the best deck.  Unfortunately, deck lists do a poor job of telling us what the best deck is. To get some idea of the interaction between a deck’s win percentage and tournament results, I set up a poor man’s Monte Carlo simulation.  In this model, I created six archetypes: Psychopomp, Aumakua, Veles, Morrigan, Evangelion, and Margot Minions*.  The model was created so that each archetype had an assigned win percentage against the other decks.  I ran this model twice, using two different sets of percentages.  These percentages are given in the table below.  The winning deck is listed in the column on the left.  For example, Psychopomp will beat Veles 56.6% of the time in simulation 1 and 66.7% of the time in simulation 2.
Real life Monte Carlo simulations run these scenarios hundreds of times.  Each time, a variable is changed so that the modeler gets an idea of importance of that variable to the model.  But time, money, and expertise limited my little experiment to 100 players, playing five tournaments of six rounds each.  Each “tournament” was run using the Swiss format with three points going to the winner.  The model accounts for draws.  On average, 3.8% of the matches ended in a draw, which seems like a reasonably realistic number.  Each deck also had an equal number of participants**.  The table below gives the percentages of decks finishing in the top 16.  

 While the analysis is somewhat crude, I do think there are conclusions that can be drawn:

  1. Looking at a handful results can be misleading.  If you only looked at tournaments 1 and 2 in simulation 1, you may have concluded that the Veles archetype is the one to beat.  It’s not.  Even with the higher win percentages of simulation 2, there is a lot of variation between tournaments.  Bigger tournaments with more rounds may lower this variability. Still, be cautious when looking at small samples.
  2. Tournaments often have a few bad decks in the top 16.  Every once and a while, the Yugioh community gets excited about a rogue deck finishing at the top.  Believe me, there are a lot of rogue decks out there, but their tops mean little.  It’s nice to see Evangelion take a few top 16 spots, but it’s still a terrible deck. 

* These names have real meanings.  Have fun looking them up!
**This is a key assumption.  I will look at the influence of a deck's popularity in the future

Monday, June 16, 2014

Life at the Bottom

The convention among tournament Yugioh players is to drop after two or three losses.  Why stay in if the dream of topping is out of reach? You might as well trade, hang-out, and most of all avoid going X-4 or X-5.  

An X-3 or worse record will get you assigned to the bottom tables, a place with a decidedly different vibe.  While the top tables carry a cool, competitive ambiance and those on the bubble smack of desperation, the lower tables are more jocular and care-free.  Most know their day’s record is not stuff for a Pojo tournament report. Nevertheless, they play on for the love of the game and that’s not bad company.  

So for those that may have dropped out too soon, here is my guide to life at the bottom tables.

The Noob is an enthusiastic newcomer to the game.  They often have no mat, fumble with their cards, and divulge way too much information.  You know you are playing a noob when you hear them say, “I really need to get a BLS for this deck”.  Uh –huh.  They usually play recent structure decks without the competitive cards.  Chaos Dragons was a favorite though more noobs are showing up with Cyber Dragons.  Consider this an easy win, but be gentle. 

The Veteran plays the right deck at the wrong time. I’m not sure why but they seem irrevocably wed to certain archetypes. Samurais and Blackwings are the most popular.  Occasionally they’ll be flummoxed by a new card as if they stepped out of Yugioh! GX.  However, most of the time their experience will make for a challenging duel.  

The Party Boy is a rather incongruous addition to Yugioh Tournaments.  He would appear to be more comfortable in a frat house than the nerdfest of card games.  He’s loud, boisterous, and uninhibited.  If you’re facing the party boy, expect to play Lightsworns

The Troll usually opens with some back-handed way of telling you that he doesn’t really belong at these lower tables. He’s just playing a degenerate, solitaire-like deck as a joke.  Ha, ha. My most memorable troll was a fellow who showed up with a metal brief case. He looked like he was bringing a ransom payment for a drug lord. Instead he pulls out his Dragon Draw Exodia deck. Konami does its best to vanquish the trolls as evinced by their treatment of Gishki FTK, Empty Jar, and Final Countdown.  However, they’ll be back.  Fortunately, they are not too hard to beat and it feels good when you do.  

While thinking about this post, I realized that I did not fall into any of these categories.  Then it hit me – the final category

The Old Guy somehow eschews the embarrassment of the lower tables for the love of the game.  They consider playing Yugioh superior to doing yard work, repairing the home, or running errands. Their decks are usually about five cards away from being perfect meta decks. For example, they may still play one Gearframe and one Fortress in their Geargia deck … or so I’ve heard. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Chasing the Dream

How much fun can you have for $250?

  • General admission to Disney World, 3 hamburgers, and a Goofy hat
  • Dinner for you and your chums from locals at the Golden Corral
  • Sbyke P-20 Scooter Skateboard Bike Hybrid
  • The Best of Spiderman autographed by Stan Lee


  • A complete playset of Artifacts cards

Konami seems to have returned to their policy of driving up demand for their product by limiting the release of certain cards. The promised revolution that was heralded by The Dragons of Legend has been quickly quelled by Primal Origins.  Say what you want about Soul Charge, at least we all had access to it! The same does not seem to apply to the present booster pack.  

Despite the Anjelly’s propensity to induce poverty and diabetes, there are no real “chase” cards in Primal Origins.   Instead we have a collection of very good archetypal cards that need to be acquired in groups to be useful.  Konami has replaced “chase cards” with “chase sets”.  This quality makes purchase decisions difficult.  Most archetypes only spend a few months at the top to the Yugioh charts. After their moment of glory is done, the Forbidden & Limited list trims them down and dumps them into the tier-two bin.  Your one-of, pricey card is not nearly as vulnerable to obsolescence as an entire archetype.  

Chase cards, on the other hand, are valued because they are flexible and generic.  They are tech cards that can be slotted into a variety of decks. As a result, players are more willing to invest larger sums of money.  Consider my most expensive single card purchase to date.  I bought a Draccosack for $65 and subsequently have detached materials, summoned tokens, and popped cards about 40 times. In other words, I have paid $1.63 for each pop.  While this might seem exorbitant to some, I remain confident that this card’s work is not done.  I’m not sure if the same applies to a playset of Artifact Ignitions with the shadow of the Shadoll’s looming in the background.

Chase cards eventually make their way into the hands of the general public through reprints.  Many of us are willing to pass on the latest duel-crushing secret rare knowing that reprints are inevitable.  How long do you need to wait?  The table below lists some of the most popular chase cards of the past seven years.  On average, this wait was about 1.3 years. The reprint engine doesn't apply to chase sets.  I can't imagine the Artifacts will be repackaged as a tin 14 months from now. Unlike chase cards, it's now or never.    

At this point, I am not particularly bullish on the pack. Though the Artifact engine can be combined with a number of archetypes, I can’t really bring myself to shell out the money needed for the set.  Chronomaly Artifacts took the OCG by storm, but that deck has been eclipsed by several others.  Instead, I’ll be saving my money for the next chase set coming this summer …
… or maybe I’ll pick up an Exciton Knight instead.