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Jae Kim: Theory and Practice
Understanding how the Top Players Rationalize Advantage, and Deck-Building Guidelines

March 20, 2008

So I've come back, just in time for the new Forbidden list that took effect March 1st. I haven't paid attention to anything really since the Cyber-Stein format (sigh from that to this, pity me), so forgive me if I gloat or get a few things wrong.


I want to start a short list of the most broken cards ever created in Yu-Gi-Oh! monsters. You'll notice a few rich, recurring themes. Before that, I want to give a brief primer on the floater mechanic.


Brief note: You will constantly see many amateur writers, including those who provide Metagame coverage of top level matches, include ridiculous commentary such as "a 3 for 1! or a 2 for 1!" It's because they're either intentionally masking the floater effect, or blithely unaware.


Floater: A monster presently on the field that has already paid its cost in card advantage.


This term, popularized by Hugo Adame, Comic Odyssey, Team Savage, and then Matt Peddle and Team Canada on Metagame.com, is a perfect piece of Yu-Gi-Oh! vocabulary. It describes a unique mechanic that isn't really found in other games I've encountered.


We call these +1's. Monsters that have obtained their effect, or taken a monster down through battle, have suddenly gained you a card of advantage. They are said to "float" on the field. Any resources your opponent uses to remove this said floater, is a -1 for them.


The attack or star level of your floater is irrelevant. All that matters is that it has paid for its cost. Let's work through increasingly more complex examples.


1. I summon Sangan. Any effect that destroys Sangan (that isn't through battle) will give me his search. You lose your card effect, I lose Sangan, I gain the search.

Floater: Sangan


2. I play Rota for Stratos. I summon Elemental Hero Stratos. I retrieve Dasher. You play Smashing Ground. You lose Smash, I lose Stratos, I gain Dasher.

Floater: Jinzo


3. I flip summon Mystic Tomato. I tribute for Zaborg, aiming for your set monster. You play Torrential. I lose Tomato, you lose your set monster, I lose Zaborg, you lose Torrential Tribute.

Floater: None


4. I play Monster Reborn on your Disk Commander. I draw two cards. I tribute Disc Commander for Mobius. It hits your Enemy Controller and Bottomless Trap Hole. I lose Monster Reborn, and Mobius, but gain two cards. You lose Enemy Controller and Bottomless Trap Hole. This broken play is a 4 for 2.

Floater: Disk Commander into Mobius.


5. I flip Dekoichi the Battlechanted Locomotive. I Enemy Controller to take your Zaborg. I then tribute for Thestalos. You activate pulling the Rug. I lose Dekoichi, I lose Enemy Controller, I lose Thestalos. You lose Zaborg, you lose Pulling the Rug, I draw a card for Dekoichi.

Floater: Trick question, the question you need to ask yourself is "How was his Zaborg summoned, and what did it destroy?" If he tributed Frog and hit your Tomato, you're probably losing. If he tributed Reaper and hit your Frog, you're undoubtedly winning. But did his Reaper hit for card advantage? Can you get the Frog out in the next few turns? and so on. Calculating advantage is very important for any top player (or at least, it was)


Now that the Brief Floater Mechanic is Done


The point wasn't to illustrate that card advantage is everything. It's definitely not. The point was to show how to rationally calculate gains and losses of advantage, because these combinations provide the fundamentals of good deck-building. While most of my work on Metagame was deadline-forced, uninspired drivel, it still stuck to great deck-building concepts. When you see a writer espouse some ridiculous "competitive deck" that uses a monster like Enraged Battle Ox in a Cyber Dragon-infested environment, it really gets my gavel.


You need to understand mechanics of advantage to build good decks. The best players have mastered this, and can build any themed deck from scratch. I can build a near top tier deck of any near competitive theme because of an understanding of card advantage. Learn it, use it.


Obviously, as you lose cards in hand, your options become limited. For example, you might want to take a few 1800 shots from Stratos when you have an 8 card hand and monsters such as Tomato to set. But if you're topdecking and at 3200 life points, you'll probably burn your Smashing Ground immediately.


Based off this, you'll realize that certain players are just misinformed about this game. Here are a few guidelines you should follow:


1) You do not run quickplay spells such as Book of Moon and Enemy Controller to merely block attacks. They are used for their versatile ability to turn numerous scenarios into advantageous 1 for 1 trades. If you find yourself frequently bleeding card advantage through Enemy Controller, stop using it. Three examples:


a) Your opponent summons Mystic Tomato. You have Enemy Controller. He attacks, you're at 8000. THE GOOD PLAYER TAKES FIVE TOMATO HITS OVER USING ENEMY CONTROLLER. MAYBE 4 IF HE USES DIMENSION FUSION.


b) You have Sakuretsu Armor against a Sangan. You have 7000 life points. MATT PEDDLE ONCE SPITEFULLY DIED TO SEVEN DIRECT SANGAN HITS, RATHER THAN ADMIT DEFEAT.


c) You have Enemy Controller against Kuriboh in attack position. You have 200 life points. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? OBVIOUSLY USE IT :D.


2) You do not force unbalanced ridiculous trades when you are behind in either field presence or card advantage. The only times you would do so are to clear an opponent's threatening backfield or monster line.


3) Please do not build ridiculous deck concepts that have no grounding in advantage-based logic. Fun decks are fun, I've built hundreds of them. But fun and effective are not mutually exclusive concepts. If you're building a deck without a sound, strategic concept, you are failing without even starting.


Now because everyone just netdecks DaD builds anyways, I don't really need to get into specific deck-building advice. But please understand card advantage mechanics before screaming "OMG HE JUST FOUR FOR ONED ME WITH LIGHTNING VORTEX."


Jae Kim is a creative contributor to Pojo.com. You may contact him (every e-mail will be answered) at JAELOVE@gmail.com. He can also be found contributing to the Message Boards and the Card of the Day.




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