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Baneful's Column
Baneful's Take: Why Archetypes are Bad for Yu-Gi-Oh!
December 27, 2013

I think we all can remember a few of the younger kids who played. You know, that young kid wearing the Blue-Eyes White Dragon t-shirt, donning a Duel Disk and shouting out quotes from the television series. He had a deck full of different themes. Elemental Heroes, Gate Guardians, Harpies, Amazon, Fish and Spellcasters all in the same deck. And that deck was like 90 cards big before Konami rightfully imposed a 60-card restriction.

Granted, decks like his are really impractical and won't win games against decent players at all, but that kid with the multi-themed deck had a vision where he could truly pick a variety of cards he liked and duel with them. There's no deck out there that's quite like his Hero-Harpie-Fish-Amazon-Spellcaster-GateGuardian deck.

Too bad it can't win! Too bad he has to use a specific theme, and not just run it the way he wants it to, but instead within the specific confines of what the archetype demands.

" Yu-Gi-Oh! has essentially gone from 'build your own team' to 'pick a team uniform'. This unfortunate domination
of archetypes destroys the merits of choice and freedom that drew us into the game in the first place. "

An Unfortunate History

One of the greatest aspects of dueling was the idea that you could build your own deck. No other deck would be like yours. At first, we did have the freedom to tinker with our decks beyond limited guidelines, but we didn't have a very large card pool to do so. Now, we have a gigantic card pool, and while we could theoretically run a deck that does have combos and synergy, it won't succeed due to how powerful archetypes have become.  Archetypes have become like a nuclear arms race. The way that one overpowered archetype is balanced is by introducing an equally (or even more) powerful archetype. Gladiators are too powerful? Let's make Blackwings.

Early in the lifespan of Yu-Gi-Oh!, there was a problem that there weren't enough themed decks and the ones that did exist didn't have enough support. There was basically your standard cookie cutter beatdown deck (which became Chaos Goat Control at it's more unoriginal) and that's it. But at least in your cookie-cutter chaos, you had some degree of real choice on which LIGHTs and DARKs you wanted to use.

Yes, there were a handful of Exodia decks and burn decks, but they lacked meaningful support, couldn't win games consistently and their slow nature was alien to the kind of game most of us wanted to play. We wanted new themes and archetypes. We got them. They started out weak and modest, but over time there were more and more of them to the point where it got to be too much. This issue has been cooking up since 2008, but has only gotten worse over the years.

Archetypes, originally thought to be empowering, as well as conducive to freedom and expression of individuality, are now harmful to the game!

Lack of Choices

Most archetypes (like Lightsworn, Six Samurai, or Fire Kings) are based on one or two really powerful cards and the rest of the cards serve to fuel that engine. Cards are no longer self-sufficient. Being able to combine cards to make powerful combos is always a good thing, but the fact that you need card Y and card Z in order for card X to be playable, truly destroys our deck building freedom.

The game forces specific themes on you and that gives you less of your own room to make your own. For example, if I wanted to make a deck based on flipping my opponent's monsters face-down and using cards like Lightsworn Ehren or Nobleman of Crossout to capitalize on that, it would still pale in comparison to deck like Dark Worlds that could search themselves out with such speed.

A format where X beats Y, Y beats Z and Z beats X is not good. While, yes, it's not quite as monochromatic as having one deck model beat them all, it's still Rock-Paper-Scissors. It may be a balanced system to ensure more color into the game, but it doesn't make the game any more skillful. It just makes outcomes more pre-determined.

So Predictable!

Google a deck list of almost any popular archetype nowadays. I'd be willing to bet that most of the decks are around 70-80% the same. The only choices that seem to matter are little ones such as "Do I want to use Enemy Controller or Book of Moon" or "Do I want to use Mirror Force or Dimension Prison". But the set of monsters you use generally has to contain the names, if you want the support and searchability. You can't just splash monsters like D.D. Warrior Lady, Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer or Breaker the Magical Warrior any more, like you used to be able to.

Archetype decks are so predictable! When Elemental Dragons were the big thing, months ago, most of the decks were entirely the same. You just used 3 of each of the Elemental Dragons, 3 Super Rejuvinations, 3 Seven Star Swords, some staples.  You only have real choice on whether you want to use Effect Veilers or Breakthrough Skills.

Or Lightsworns. There are good Lightsworn monsters you should use (like Lyla, Ryko and Wulf) and there's bad Lightsworn monsters you shouldn't use (like Rinyan and Jenis). You then skip all the Lightsworn spell/trap support except Solar Recharge and Charge of the Light Brigade. You use 3 Judgment Dragon (maybe a Lightray too) and use it as your main win condition. Want to capitalize on Gragonith's piercing ability? Too bad. So many archetypes follow this example, unfortunately. And once you face one archetype, it feels like you faced all decks of that archetype.

3 Grapha, 3 Broww and 3 Snoww. 1 Beige. 2 Tour Guide. 2 Trance Archfiend. 3 Dark World Dealings. 3 Gates of the Darkworld. 3 Dragged Down from the Grave. Did I guess your Dark World deck correctly? Chances are I did because there is no other practical way to run them.

New Vision?

A proposed solution I have for this problem is for a new Highlander format to be created alongside Traditional and Advanced. It would get its own tailored Forbidden list, but all cards Unlimited (at 3) would be Limited (to 1). This essentially would destroy archetypes, as well as open play for much forgotten cards. Goblin Attack Force, Slate Warrior and Spear Dragon (for example) would all become viable cards overnight. And which one you want to use depends on whether you want raw attack strength, some control, or quick damage, respectively.

Cards would be sufficient on their own, but conducive to combos too. You don't need a Banish Deck to run D.D. Assailant, but it's an effective card on it's own (only weak today due to the fact that it doesn't have an archetype to search it or quickly summon it) that could be a part of a Banish theme if you want it to.


Instead of more options freeing us, they (Konami) are restricting us into an auto-pilot mode of play. Ridicule that young enthusiastic kid with the giant random mish-mash deck if you want to, but he had a vision that the metagame (over the past few years) has failed to deliver. Not only could we have had true freedom in deckbuilding, but it would also add an element of surprise and remove the match-up predictability from the game. And the unpredictability would be balanced by the fact that you couldn't Special Summon 8 monsters in a row or plow (draw and mill) through a third of your deck in one turn.

We can imagine what the game could become, but there's no denying what it is now. Yu-Gi-Oh! has essentially gone from "build your own team" to "pick a team uniform". This unfortunate domination of archetypes destroys the merits of choice and freedom that drew us into the game in the first place. This is undoubtedly a low point for such and established card game franchise.

Contact: banefulscolumn@gmail.com




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