Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Old Person's Guide to the Meta

It’s YCS Eve and all through the Carolinas doolists are checking their lists and getting them right.  Perhaps, just perhaps, there are even a few old timers trying to do the same.  Most of you can’t appreciate the challenges facing the older duelist. Let me heighten your sensitivity.

 Here is what you see:
Here is what the over 40 duelist sees:

I will attempt to fix this inequity by providing The Old Persons Guide to the Yugioh Meta. (Please note, card effects have been simplified to assist in understanding the archetype as a whole. This is not in PSCT.)

Burning Abyss
The BA effect monsters are all level three dark fiends.  They have the following effects in common:
  • Destroy the monster if you control a non-BA monster  
  • Use only 1 effect per turn  
    • Effect 1: Special summon the card from the hand if you control no magic cards  
    • Effect 2: You can effects that occur when sent to the graveyard
The following is a list of BA effect monsters. The card name in parenthesis is simply a memory aid. 

Cir (Wolfbark): Special summon a BA monster from your graveyard
Graff (Rescue Rabbit like): Special summon a BA monster from your deck
Scarm (Stratos): Add 1 level 3 DARK fiend-type monster from your deck to your hand

Cagna (Armageddon Knight for magic cards): Send 1 BA magic card from your deck to the graveyard.
Calcab (Compulsory Evac for magic cards): Return a magic card to the hand.
Farfa (???): Banish one monster until the end phase.

Alice (Effect Veiler): Negate one monster’s effects until the end of this turn.
Libic (Tin Goldfish): Special summon 1 Level 3 DARK fiend-type monster from your hand

Qlips are high level machine monsters that rely on the pendulum summoning mechanic.  They are all pendulum monsters that have the following effects in common:

Effects for monsters as spells (usually) in the pendulum zone 
  • You can only special summon “Qli” monsters
  • Qli monsters gain 300 ATK or your opponent loses 300 ATK
    • The scale 1 monsters cause ATK gains
    • The scale 9 monsters cause ATK losses

Effects for all monsters as monsters
  • Become a level 4 monster with an ATK of 1800 if summoned without tributing
  • If normal summoned/set, it is unaffected by  monsters whose level/rank is lower than this card's current level
  • Effects when tribute summoned or when tributed
    • The level 6 monsters have effects when tributed
    • The level 7 or higher monsters get effects when tribute summoned using a Qli monster

The following is the list of Qli monsters.  The first number is the level and the second is the scale.

Carrier (6, 1, Compulsory Evac): Return one monster on the field to the hand
Helix (6, 9, MST): Destroy one magic card

Disk (7, 1, Rescue Rabbit): Special Summon 2 "Qli" monsters from your deck, but destroy them during the end phase.
Cephalopod (7, 9, ???): If your opponent has more monsters in the Graveyard, gain LP equal to the difference x 300, and if you do, inflict the same amount of damage to your opponent.

Stealth (8, 1, Super Compulsory Evac): Return one card to the hand (without opponent’s response)
Shell (8, 9, Piercing BLS): It can make a second attack and inflict piercing battle damage to your opponent.

Monolith (5, 1, spell only): Draw cards equal to the number of "Qli" monsters tributed for summons this turn.
Scout (5, 9, spell only ROTA): Pay 800 LP; add 1 "Qli" card from your deck

The shaddolls are dark spellcasters that have effects when flipped and when sent to the graveyard.  You can only use one effect per turn.  Furthermore, the monster cannot target a copy of itself.

Beast (lvl 5)
FLIP:  Draw 2 cards, discard 1 card.
Graveyard: Draw 1 card.

Dragon (lvl 4)
FLIP: Return opponents card to hand.
Graveyard: Destroy 1 magic card

Falco (lvl 2)
FLIP: Special summon a graveyard Shaddoll monster in face-down defense position.
Graveyard:  Special summon this card in face-down defense position.

Hedgehog (lvl 3)
FLIP: Add 1 "Shaddoll" magic card from your deck to hand.
Graveyard: Add 1 "Shaddoll" monster from your deck to hand.

Squamata (lvl 4)
FLIP: Destroy 1 monster.
Graveyard: Send 1 "Shaddoll" card from your deck to the graveyard

Nothing looks more noob-like than picking up every card your opponent plays.  Hopefully this list will give the visually impaired, but wise doolist a little edge going into this weekend’s event.  

Editorial Note: I have had some good comments - and ones that I want to think about before answering.  My Tellar deck (like many) has had changes right up to the last minute.  I will give you my final list and a tourney report after we take on Charleston.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Going Rogue: In Defense of Scrubs

Few things seem to bring out the ire of good players like the doolist who insists on playing a rogue strategy.  The most vociferous comments come from anonymous posters. However, castigation has also emanated from some of the game’s biggest names. The longest and most articulate of these arguments is by Johnny Li, an ARG writer who posted a three part treatise that drew heavily on David Sirlin’s Playing to Win. Since this post is something of a rebuttal, I would encourage you to read it for yourself. 
Mr. Li’s attack on rogue decks is part of a much larger thesis on competitive play.  The central premise is that players lose because they handicap themselves with restrictions that go beyond the rules.  Sirlin refers to such players as “scrubs”, a term that Mr. Li recognizes as inflammatory.  Scrubs, in this sense, have a moral or aesthetic code that keeps them from playing certain cards or taking advantage of certain situations.  For example, a scrub may refuse to play Qlipharts because their mechanic is unfair.  While some may disparage the deck, playing it is certainly within the rules of Yugioh.  Other players may feel it is immoral to watch their opponent shuffle because they might reveal one of their cards.  Again, this is a game. There is no moral and immoral, only permissible and impermissible. 

The most succinct summary of Li’s writing is that only scrubs play rogue decks. Though he seems somewhat baffled by the practice, he does offer the following explanations:
  • Scrubs value originality over winning.  They would rather impress others with their creative deck list then their number of tops.
  • Scrubs value fairness over winning. Scrubs like to hide behind a moral veneer by disparaging unfair decks as sacky or helmet.
  • Scrubs don’t want to face their shortcomings by playing mirror matches. Playing a rogue deck gives them an excuse for losing. 
  • Scrubs are hipsters who think the less popular decks must be better.
  • Scrubs believe in player preference.  They feel that there is no “best” answer when it comes to defining the best deck. 
Such reasoning is not without merit. After all, it is easier to get props for creativity than it is to top a YCS.  I know.  Somewhere in the bowels of the Yugitube universe is a profile of the deck I took to Nationals.  While the feature was flattering, it was not my intention to be original.  I wanted to win. 

I would posit that there are legitimate reasons for doolists to choose rogue decks.  Despite Mr. Li’s protestations, not all of us are scrubs.

Top tier decks are expensive.  You can spend $300 and have little more than five cards from the Burning Abyss Extra Deck.  Successful players will counter that their investment is a sign of their desire to win. Nevertheless, an investment that you will not likely recoup is a major impediment.  Many players will go rogue simply because it’s all they can afford.

Price pressure has an impact on archetype choice the moment the cards are released.  Players are often forced to choose a deck early before scarcity drives the price beyond their means.  Dante was a $25 card for about one week.  By September it was in the $50 to $60 range and many doolists were locked out.  Again, one could rightly argue that good players saw value in the archetype and took advantage of the release price.  Nevertheless, Mr. Li does not consider economics in his characterization of rogue players. 

Strategic Edge
A color commentator at the World Series of Poker noted that expert players would occasional make a lower percentage play because it throws off their opponent.  Rogue decks can have the same effect.  Many players use rogue strategies because they know how difficult it is to win a straight-up mirror match against an elite player. By introducing an element of unpredictability, they hope to even the odds.  This strategy is not completely relegated to unknown scrubs. Billy Brake’s YCS success with a 60 card deck qualifies as a rogue strategy.  It is worth noting the length of time between this win and his previous YCS successes. 

Rogue players may also get a strategic edge by using a deck they know very well.  One of our locals is attended by a doolist that plays Six Samurai to the exclusion of all else.  His cards are almost worn past legal play.  Nevertheless, he plays the deck amazingly well.  His familiarity with the deck frees him up to concentrate on his opponent.  While you are trying to decide which BA monster to summon, he can pick up on your tells.  Again, I would not advocate taking Six Sams to a YCS.  However, this type of reasoning seems to escape Mr. Li.  

In Search of the Best
I have certainly met many players that fit Mr. Li’s description of a scrub.  In fact, I share some of his bewilderment when local doolists describe their latest “broken strategy”.  While I do try some unconventional builds, my deck choices are not far from the mainstream.  That said, I recognize the impossibility of knowing the best build of the best deck.  

To put Yugioh into context, consider Heads-Up Limit Texas Hold’Em, a simpler variant of the popular Poker game.  This game was recently “solved” using the language of game theory.  (The best example of a solved game is Tic-Tac-Toe, where no one over the age of 8 loses.)  The solution only took a cluster 200 2.1 GHz AMD cores and 900 core years of computing. That game had 1.47x10e13 information sets.  Yugioh has 1.67x10e106 40 card combinations.  The number of information sets is several logs higher.  This game is not getting solved anytime soon. 

On a more practical level, most statements about builds do not incorporate sound statistical reasoning.  In a previous post, I pointed out that statistical significance required sampling 384 hands. Deck lists (including my own) get changed with sample sizes that are far below this threshold.  This is not a criticism of the game so much as a statement of fact.  Given these uncertainties, players will continue to seek for an advantage by experimenting with unconventional choices.   Most will fail, but some will succeed and define the next meta.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Saving the Stars: Extra and Side Deck Choices

Long time readers of this blog may have noticed the recent scarcity of large tournament reports.   Scheduling has been one reason for this hiatus.  Unfortunately, Konami did not consult me before announcing their regional dates.  I also admit to becoming a little disenchanted with the game during the fall.  The newer archetypes power crept their way over our old friends.  All of us were forced to adapt or lose.  Sadly, age has a way of making the former hard and the latter familiar. 

My faith and fortunes have been slowly reversed by the Satellarknights, which is why so much time is dedicated to the archetype.  Though becoming YCS champion is a bit of a stretch, I have gained enough confidence to march proudly into the South Carolina and show them young ‘uns and thing or two. If all goes well, I will take the stars into the second day. 

Last week, I described a more traditional build and a faster “trap-light” build.  My current build is actually an amalgam of both.  This week, I will give my choices for the extra and side deck.      

Extra Deck: Here is the list of cards that I am currently playing
  • Diamond x 1: The card’s title sounds like a “Name Game” reject.  Nevertheless, it’s a Tellar player’s answer to two legs of the golden triangle.  Now, if they would only make one of these things for earth monsters.
  • Triverr x 2: This card is the deck’s lifeguard who says “Everyone out of the pool”.  Given the continued problems with destruction, he’s worth two slots.
  • Delteros x 1: This card’s 2500 attack has always made it an asset to the deck.  The card’s stock has risen with the Diamond revolution.
  • Castel x 2: Double Castel has become rather standard in rank four toolbox decks.  It’s not netdecking – it’s smart.
  • Diamond Dire Wolf x 1: Detaching and tributing itself is a common but rather awful move.  It’s in simply because it has some synergy with Castel. 
  • Ragnazero x 2: My current build focuses on summoning rank four XYZ’s on turn one.  The main reason for doing so is this card’s effectiveness against Qlips.
  • Gandiva x 1: The rationale for this card is similar to Ragnazero, except that it used match-ups against BA and other Tellar players.
  • Excalibur x 1: This cards 4000 attack gives Tellars a fighting chance against Qlipharts.  It’s so important that I have considered running two. 
  • Heartland Draco x 1: This card is taking the place of a second Excalibur.  It gets over Killer and allows Flying “C” to stay on the field. 
  • Abyss Dweller x 1: Shutting down graveyard effects is key against BA.  Often times you only need to do it once.
  • Exciton x 1: Using this card is like making a deal with a loan shark.  You know it will be expensive, but you’re desperate.
  • Cowboy x 1: The 800 burn can keep your opponent from activating Solemn Warning, Skill Drain, or Scout. 
Honorable Mention: Here are cards that didn’t quite make the cut.
  • Cairngorgon, Antiluminescent Knight: Every time a carrier returns one of my monsters, I wish I played this card.  It also gets over Majesty’s Fiend.  Currently, it’s in the side because it can’t get over Dante.  Nevertheless, it’s the closest to getting put back into play.
  • Daiguisto Emeral: The main reason I may add this card back is its ability to recycle XYZ monsters. A second Abyss Dweller could come in handy. However, if I have the time for such a play, I usually don’t need to. 
  • Silent Honor Ark: One day I woke up and realized I never used this card.  It was hard to believe since it has been a stable in my rank four builds since its release.  Slowly but surely, the little musketeer has defeated the .. uh … whatever it is.
  • Starliege Paladynamo: Why did I take this out?  This is a good card but other cards do slightly more.  For example, Castel is probably a better choice.   
  • Constellar Omega: The trend towards fewer traps has made this card less useful. More importantly, it loses to Dante each time.
  • Bujintei Tsukuyomi: This is a popular card among Tellar players. It's another that may be back in before the YCS.
  • Rhapsody in Beserk: Very few of the current decks are crippled by removing two cards.  The equipping effect is a nice boost but it means getting at least one other XYZ monster on board.  This has become a difficult task even for Tellars.
  • Crazy Box: This card would have to have a 4000 attack to be viable.   
  • Dark Rebellion XYZ Dragon: It’s not bad but I would rather have Excalibur. 
As I have mentioned before, side deck cards work best at three.  However, making such a side deck can be a challenge. Here’s my version of the perfect side deck.

Side Deck: Here are the cards I am currently playing:
  • De-Fusion x 3: This card gets a boost with the rise of Dark Law. 
  • Shadow Imprisoning Mirror x 3:  This continuous trap fits into the overall strategy of my build. 
  • Mask of Restrict x 3: Just when I thought I got a handle on Qlips, they got better. This card is my latest strategic attempt to slow them down.  Without tributing, the deck becomes mostly an 1800 attack point spam deck.
  • Fairy Wind x 3: This is still the most effective card against Qlipharts.
  • Flying “C” x 3:  As the meta speeds up, hand traps become more valuable.  I think this card is the most useful against the mirror match and BA.
Honorable Mentions
  • Burial from a Different Dimension: I am seriously considering putting this card in for the Hero match-up.  However, it is limited and my odds for drawing into it are too low.
  • Maxx “C”: I have tried both roachs and currently prefer the flying kind. Maxx C is not so effective if you have nothing to draw into that will stop the game.
  • Fire and Ice Hands: This is a popular choice in the OCG.  However, I found that Carrier would simply put it back in your hand. 
  • Spell Shattering: This is a good card and it gets around Night Beam. However, it won’t stop Skill Drain.
  • System Down: By the time you plus off this card, the duel is over.
  • Dark Hole: Most of the meta seems to care little about destruction.
  • Creature Swap: This card was in my side deck for most of the fall and early winter.  I dropped it for E Con when decks put out too many monsters to make the card viable.  Now all I have to do is make sure I don’t play noble knights.
  • Magnum Shield: I still like this card’s ability to add muscle to nearly all of my monsters.  One of these days, I will combine this card with Hidden Armory. 
Slightly less Honorable Mentions:
Forbidden Chalice, Forbidding Lance, Breakthrough Skill, Skill Prisoner, Stygian Dirge, Rivalry, Mind Crush, and others have all been in my side deck for at least a duel or two.  All have their place though I think you will find these to be less helpful. 

In only two more weeks, I will take six other intrepid doolists to the shores of South Carolina.  Report to follow!  

Here is the current list: 
3 Satellarknight Deneb 
3 Satellarknight Altair 
3 Satellarknight Unukalhai
1 Satellarknight Vega
1 Satellarknight Alsahm
1 Satellarknight Rigel
2 Photon Thrasher
2 Honest

3 Reinforcement of the Army
2 Mystical Space Typhoon
2 Satellar Skybridge
2 Enemy Controller
1 Snatch Steal
1 Foolish Burial
1 Raigeki

3 Stellarnova Alpha
3 Call of the Haunted
2 Oasis
2 Vanity’s Emptiness
2 Skill Prisoner