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Rethinking Duel Masters – “Originality”
Sept. 26, 2005
By JMatthew

Now, I didn’t really want to tackle another commentary right after the last. However, this subject has been screaming at me to tackle it for months and, frankly, I’ve been putting it off. The recent bashing, complaints and near outright fights is forcing me to post-pone the adventures of little Pei’Qin until a slightly later date. Stay tuned, though,  we are nowhere near done with our little Bronze-Arm friend (if you aren’t familiar with what I’m talking about be sure to check out the initial portion of the prologue for “Duel Masters: Fires of the Fallen.”) 

Browsing amongst the various Duel Masters messages boards, I’ve encountered a pretty strong consensus in relation to deck building; nearly everyone wants an “original” deck. Original? Cool! Makes more than enough sense. After all, who wants to play with yet another deck using the same old tired cards!  

Unfortunately, some people take this a little beyond just wanting to see new decks. On more than one occasion, I’ve witnessed a player posting a deck that he calls original only to be rapidly pounced upon by other players who site each and every “unoriginal” component of the deck. Why shouldn’t they be torn apart, though? They did say their deck was original, right? 

Then again, sometimes we need to take a step back and bring things into perspective. If we consider all the individual cards currently available for tournament play we come to a total of 546 cards. This sounds like a pretty big number at just over a hundred cards per a civilization. News flash! Just over 500 cards really isn’t all that many…and we have some history to prove it. 

Of course, we can’t result to Duel Masters for such historical proof. Duel Masters doesn’t have enough of a history. So where do we look? The best we can do is to take a comparative glance at Magic: the Gathering. With the numerous, well-played formats given to us by Magic, surely we can find one with just as limited of a card selection!  

Looking closely over the various formats, the most likely comparison we can come to is the format Magic: the Gathering called the “Block” format. In Magic, a Block consists of the most recent full expansion (at 306 cards) and the two sub-expansion sets following it (each at 165 cards). All three of these sets together bring a total of 636 cards available for use in the play environment. If we remove the twenty basic lands (as they really shouldn’t be counted in such a comparison) we still have a grand total of 616 cards – that’s still 70 more cards than in our current Duel Masters environment. While this count is not precisely identical to the available count in Duel Masters, I believe they are close enough for the purposes of this article.  

Historically, the Block format in Magic: the Gathering seems to have had two to three consistently winning decks at any one time. The core of these decks are normally quickly set in stone with players making small and slight adjustments here and there based upon the metagame in their own area and personal preferences. Take notice – that’s only two to three decks. Sure, every so often a “rogue” decks makes it’s way to the top, but we are referring to what decks show consistency. 

So, is it any wonder that we only seem to have a few overall winning archetypes available to build from? In fact, Duel Masters players really don’t seem to know how good they have it. Typically, those Magic decks mentioned above have a very specific formula that if you deviate from more than just a touch the deck will tend to totally fall apart. Duel Masters decks have proved much more resilient to player choice than nearly any Magic: the Gathering deck.  

I’ve seen dozens of deck list for D/W/F Control decks. Which one is the best? These decks can deviate from each other by more than twenty cards yet still remain functionally the same deck and even both presently consistently win! 

Still, more often than not, the originality of a deck is to be found in the details, not in the core presentation. There is nothing wrong with running that Cyberlord/Ill-Folk base to ensure the rest of your deck has a  chance to win. The next time you think about someone bashing someone else for their lack of originality, take a closer gander at that deck. They might just be over-looking an innovative touch of uniqueness in their zeal to oust the “net-decker.”



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