“If it’s not Morphing Jar #2, I probably don’t know what it does.”
It’s funny because it’s true.
Greetings. For those of you who clicked in the direction of Metagame.com for some fine Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG related writing from such names as Rosenberg, Hedberg, and Grabher-Meyer (berg), I cannot apologize enough. My name is Tim Willoughby, and through some combination of insane luck and already having all the appropriate email addresses, I’ve managed to successfully hop from the Vs. System side of Metagame.com over to this land, where all the cartoon characters have slightly larger eyes and the monsters have slightly larger ATK values.
Your normal service will be resumed shortly.
While I’m here, though, I thought I’d have a bit of a talk about Yu-Gi-Oh!, just so that Jason Grabher-Meyer doesn’t officially “roffle” me for running a Viking-like raid on the side of the site for which he is contributing editor.
I’ve played various TCGs at pretty high levels, including winning a little money at Vs. as well as various shiny booster packs and trophies for assorted other games. Sure, I may not know my Magical Scientists from my Magical Merchants, but there are various universal rules for TCGs, so I don’t feel too far behind the pack when it comes to building and playing good decks in Yu-Gi-Oh!.
A central idea that gets bandied around a whole lot is one of card advantage. Every player for any given game will have a deck with about the same number of cards in it, which will normally be as few as they can possibly manage (to maximize the chances of drawing your most powerful card at any given time). According to the basic rules, each player will draw the same amount of cards over the course of the game. Any time that you can deal with multiple cards of your opponents with only one of your own, you’ll find yourself some number of cards ahead. These represent your “advantage” and in many situations, this advantage will be what you use to win.
Time for a quick example.
Your opponent has been very aggressive and has played out three copies of Berserk Gorilla over the course of a few turns. Meanwhile, you’ve been biding your time and taking a little bit of a beating. You play Dark Hole, using one card to take out your opponent’s three, and as you didn’t have any monsters, the only cost to you was using the one card. Somewhere in your hand or set as a trap, you will have two more cards ready to use that will win over and above whatever your opponent does.
Seems pretty simple so far, right? Your opponent attacks your Cyber Jar, and it destroys three of your opponent’s monsters and draws each of you the same number of cards. You are “up” on card advantage.
Unfortunately, card advantage on its own does not win games. Otherwise there would probably be something in the rules of the game about scoring points for being “up on cards” on one’s opponent. While it might be fun to play Yu-Gi-Oh! like that, just as an exercise in looking for ways to improve one’s play, without smashing face with some monsters, or firing off some burn at an opponent’s head, it just wouldn’t be Yu-Gi-Oh!.
Another big thing that you need to be aware of is whatever natural limits a game puts on the way you play. In Yu-Gi-Oh!, you naturally draw one card per turn, and you can normally play a single monster with a maximum level of 4 each turn. This is the “speed limit” for the game, and any way that you can bend or break these rules with powerful cards might lead you to a position where losing out on card advantage doesn’t matter. You can simply win through having powerful cards in play before your opponent can deal with them.
Cyber Dragon, Cyber-Stein, and even Gilasaurus can be threats with a speed that is above and beyond the norm, and as such, they can be a platform by which you can build enough of an advantage to win the game. Monsters with ATK values that are significantly higher than the norm can also effectively be like these “free” guys. A level 4 monster that is as big as a level 5 monster, like Berserk Gorilla or Goblin Attack Force, can apply just as much pressure as one that should require more resources to play. It forces opponents to find an answer sooner so that they don’t simply lose the game.
Simply put, anything that you can do in any game to “break” its natural rules is probably quite a powerful step on your route to victory. In Vs. System, where one draws two cards per turn, and permanently removing an opponent’s characters on the board is pretty difficult, generating any sort of board advantage is far more powerful than most card advantage maneuvers, and it’s perfectly reasonable to expend quite a few resources to do so, even if it means card disadvantage (trading two or more of your cards for one of your opponent’s). In Yu-Gi-Oh!, the opposite might be said to be true. Removing opposing threats is often relatively straightforward, and even engineering card advantage isn’t too tough. Every new card drawn each turn can completely change the face of the game.
In today’s tournament environment, the top decks are a combination of effects that are designed to get maximum power from each card drawn. Then, these decks capitalize on those effects with monsters that are either undercosted for their size or have a useful additional ability that generates more advantage. Having big monsters as finishers means that it takes fewer turns to do damage to win, so it’s hardly surprising that Cyber Dragon has set up roost in Top 8 finishes worldwide.
All this talk is great, but how does it work in practice? I decided it might be fun to build a deck to show you. I’m a massive fan of generating card advantage, and as such, I have crafted a deck that tries to generate as much of it as possible at all times.
3 Needle Worm
3 Morphing Jar #2
1 Cyber Jar
1 Morphing Jar
2 Penguin Soldier
2 Mask of Darkness
1 Magician of Faith
2 Swarm of Locusts
2 Swarm of Scarabs
1 Swords of Revealing Light
1 Card Destruction
2 Level Limit – Area B
3 The Shallow Grave
1 Book of Moon
1 Book of Taiyou
1 Pot of Avarice
2 Gravity Bind
3 Threatening Roar
2 Negate Attack
2 Desert Sunlight
Remember all those fine words I spouted about the joys of attacking for thousands of damage with huge monsters? Ignore them. This deck is all about winning under a barrage of card advantage. All it cares about is getting enough time to allow each of its ultimately powerful card advantage plays to add up to enough to win. Its win condition is deck depletion, but it doesn’t go straight for the throat. Indeed, the majority of the cards in the deck that deplete an opponent’s deck are also there to help you out. Needle Worm is the only true concession to trying to win the game at all in many respects.
To start with, let’s keep things simple. At present, the metagame is almost exclusively about the attack step—monsters attacking, and players having traps to stop those attacks from going quite as planned. Ghandipants doesn’t ignore this at all. It simply watches what everyone else wants to do and decides that it would rather not join in. The only reason this deck will ever attack will be to deal with the otherwise irksome Mystic Swordsman LV2, and only if absolutely necessary. The rest of the time, it’ll use some combination of spells and traps to stop the attack step from happening at all if possible. This has a few advantages. The deck can stop five monsters just as easily as it can stop one. While you’re only buying time with Gravity Bind or Threatening Roar, it can certainly feel like something more when you stop an opponent’s team in its tracks for a bit. In the meantime, by not ever trying to attack, you’re probably leaving opponents with cards set on the field or cards in hand that just won’t do anything. Sakuretsu Armor is normally a fine choice in an aggressive field, but any slots filled by it against Ghandipants might as well be blank cards. That’s card advantage that you can have over most opponents before even sitting down at the table against them.
The deck never needs to establish any sort of lock with Level Limit – Area B or even the potentially nifty Mask of Darkness/Tsukuyomi/Negate Attack combo, though for some amount of time, it may do so. Ultimately, all games will come to an end. All Ghandipants is looking to do is survive long enough for opponents to run out of steam, potentially giving them a little nudge along the way.
Let’s move on to the monsters. I recently had to explain to a friend why Magical Merchant didn’t make the cut in this deck, even though he is clearly a very powerful monster to have around in most circumstances. Simply put, every single monster in the deck can either provide big card advantage or put up a brick wall against opposing attacks—except for Needle Worm. Luckily, Needle Worm brought a note from his mum pointing out that it was a win condition, so it got let off.
The real star of the deck is Morphing Jar #2, who is often more effective at depleting opponent’s decks than the worm could ever be. With so many stalling effects in the deck, Ghandipants can easily engineer situations that are fairly uncommon in Yu-Gi-Oh!, where there are lots of monsters on the field. At this point, Morphing Jar #2 does literally everything you could possibly hope for. If your opponent attacks it, the Jar will effectively end the attack step by changing all the monsters on the field into face down monsters of some description. Along the way, it will deplete each player’s deck, to some extent. If your opponent has more monsters in play than you, it’s likely that he or she will lose more cards. Regardless, “Number 2” will speed up the moment of losing to deck-out, which ultimately should work in your favor, especially with Mask of Darkness waiting to fetch back whatever gets hit on your side of the board, as well as The Shallow Grave to fetch back dead Jars. Number 2 also finds you a new set of face-down flip effect monsters. Whenever you flip Jar #2, it feels rather like drawing extra cards. Suffice to say, this is the sort of thing that wins games.
Going back to The Shallow Grave for a second, its symmetrical effect is normally not overly powerful. Your opponent gets a monster back too, and they will be able to change the position of theirs first. In Ghandipants, though, this reasoning is turned on its head. Getting back Morphing Jar #2 means that unless there is an Exiled Force or Mystic Swordsman LV2 to get back, the utility to come from The Shallow Grave is anything but even for each player. With Desert Sunlight to allow for super-fast flippery even if your opponent does have a juicy target to return, it’s possible that you’ll be able to use your Graves to make any situation seem grave for the person on the other side of the table.
Most of the other monsters in the deck are rather more straightforward. Cyber Jar is another monster that’s designed to make opponents’ lives miserable. Getting additional free face-down monsters on your side of the field is almost always more powerful than your opponent getting the same number of monsters either face up or face down, simply due to the overall power level of these control-oriented monsters over regular know-nothing beaters.
While this isn’t a deck for the player looking for a quick game, nor is it immediately decisive, Ghandipants has all of the tools to grind down even the most aggressive of foes. I’m confident that once you have experienced card advantage like this, you won’t want to go back.
Speaking of going back, there are some superhero card games in need of my urgent attention. For now, I will disappear back to my regular Friday slot on the “other” side of Metagame.com. You are more than welcome there.
Should “The Powers That Be” welcome me back to these parts again, I will talk a little about the importance of side decking, and perhaps even let you in on the secrets that Ghandipants has in store for unwary opponents who play against it in games 2 and 3.
Have fun and be lucky,