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Jae Kim

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Jae Kim: Theory and Practice
JK16: It is what it is?

May 5, 2009

            The change of guard from Upper Deck to Konami has really caused shockwaves through the Yu-Gi-Oh! Community. It turns out many of the allegations detailed in the thread created about Upper Deck's counterfeiting turned out to be true. As predicted, Upper Deck's frivolous lawsuits were mostly all thrown out and found in favor of Konami.

            It's rather shocking to me the level of scumbaggery that Upper Deck was guilty of. Counterfeiting your own product as a distributor for profit is in violation of every possible good-faith duty you owe to your partner in contract. It would be the equivalent of the distributors of a blockbuster movie bootlegging their own film and putting it out on the internet, or the U.S distributor of a book like Harry Potter (Scholastic I believe) making a counterfeit copy and passing it off as real.

            For a while there, I was in despair thinking Upper Deck's stupid actions had cost us the competitive play of the game we all love and live for (in certain sections of America, Yu-Gi-Oh! is life and death no questions asked). But then came news that SJC Anaheim was announced! And while I was not able to attend because of finals, I am eagerly anticipating a return to the game and wanted to share a few thoughts with you.


            Konami is clearly doing a better job than Upper Deck: Their decision to tap Jason Meyer for coverage was a good one; he clearly is the best cover man in the business. JGM did a solid job at the SJC providing coverage; as SJC Houston proved, the boost in credentials from doing well at a Jump and being spotlighed by JGM is a huge motivating factor to attend. I have no clue what Julia Hedberg and Kevin Tewart do for Konami now (this isn't meant to disparage them, obviously), but hiring previous employees of Upper Deck with great experience at managing Yu-Gi-Oh was clearly a great move to aid the transition as well.


            Jeff Jones's finals match clearly illustrates the difference between the top Yu-Gi-Oh player and the good, or even amateur player: Many players doubt the successes of top teams such as Overdose and Comic Odyssey. To be honest, I don't blame them at all. After the stunning cheating scandals of numerous top-flight players, consistent success is generally viewed as cheating. However, you must distinguish between players who have the skill to be a hall of famer and cheat to get an extra edge, such as Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds, and a player who probably had nothing without it, such as Eric Gagne. (My use of baseball analogies does not mean I necessarily think using steroids is cheating).

            When I asked Team Canada back in the day who the best unknown player was, they all said it was Jeff Jones. Jeff had not yet lip-locked his way onto the scene, but I could tell from viewing his creations he was a very solid player. He constructed very solid decks and talked with many of the top players. Then he was banned for an offense (that had nothing to do with cheating), and clearly lusted for the competition of Yu-Gi-Oh.

            I have performed all manner of exciting actions in my time, but very few of them match up to the rush of sitting in the top four, or top two of a Shonen Jump Championship. And Jeff Jones, clearly, took it upon his shoulders to become Champion of Anaheim. Congratulations!

            You could see in his play in the finals the gap in skill between him and his opponent. Exploitation of these kinds of edges, consistent throughout every round of the Jump, is what leads many legitimately good players such as Jeff Jone to consistent success.


            The format is really, really good: This is likely to change post-RGBT and after June when X-Saber Airbellum comes out, but the format and card pool just prior to SJC Anaheim was, in my opinion, the most balanced and best format I've ever seen.

            Jeff Jones played a deck based around Skill Drain that still used the Dark Destiny engine. However, numerous other good players also made the proper metagame call of Skill Drain. Hugo Adame and Ryan Hayakawa showed up for Comic Odyssey with a Light Skill Drain deck (I would have added Artemis if I was in Anaheim). Lance Leonhardt showed up for Team Enigma with Zombie Skill Drain. It's quite interesting to see good players all see the same weakness of the format and try to exploit it. Jeff's build was simply the best, most consistent merging of Skill Drain with a solid monster line-up.

            Other players showed up with a variety of strategies. Lightsworn, Gladiator Beasts, Blackwing, Dark Skill Drain, Light Skill Drain, Zombie Skill Drain, Stardust Assault, Counter Fairies, Volcanics, and such were all present and doing well. None of the decks really surprise me. You can tell all of the decks would have success.

            The Stardust Assault deck reminds me to mention Tomas Mijares. As most of you know, he writes for Pojo.com and is a frequent poster on the forums as well. However, I've known him for a very long time from when he was a great VS player that was absolutely terrible at Yu-Gi-Oh! 'til now. I must say he has been perhaps the most impressive duelist of the past year. He is a borderline Yu-Gi-Oh! hero for his adoption of completely original decks that manage to do well.

            Google his name, and you will see a bunch of decks that would fit my old New Grounds concept at Metagame (with actual success at SJC's!). I feel players like Tomas play the game the way it is meant to be played, and the way Team Savage used to play it. Back in the day, before the ubiquity of Jumps and the proliferation of cheating ruined it, my motto was “playing cookie cutter leads to success but creating an original build that top 8's a Jump leads to immortality.”


            It is what it is: I was interested to see a thread in the Pojo forum that intended to nominate one representative to speak to Kevin Tewart about feedback regarding the game. I admire the zeal of many players in these forums (as long as they treat others with respect) because it reminds me of the stage in my life where I lusted to make change and impose ideals upon the game as well. Throughout the past years, I've gone through a lot of different phases in regards to Yu-Gi-Oh.

            In the beginning, I was a firebrand. Many of my articles openly called out the designers of the game for failing their duties in both game design and prize support. Even when I began working for Upper Deck and Metagame, I refused to bend my belief system under my unofficial writings at Pojo, and this ruffled quite a few feathers at the company. I felt the company was too intent on censorship and a happy-go-lucky-ignore-the-stink mentality to make effective change. The split was not amicable.

            Of course that was a period of reckless hedonism in my life, as an undergraduate at college away from my mommy. Now I like to think I'm a lot more mature. I don't thrash about for change in the game because it is what it is (I hate this phrase but it applies here). If you want a more skill-based game, shoot for Chess GM or Magic: The Gathering Pro.

            The “problem” with Yu-Gi-Oh is there are too many barriers to your voice actually making a difference:


  1. The first problem is Konami of USA is not Konami of Japan, and since YGO is a Japanese product Konami of Japan has far, far more sway over any design input.
  2.  The second problem is that, under Upper Deck, it turns out none of their “lead designers” or employees had any effective power to actually change anything. Konami had no incentive to listen to them. I'm not sure if this has changed now that Konami has taken over the U.S., but I highly doubt any U.S employee of Konami can do anything other than design terrible TCG exclusives.
  3. The third problem is that Konami the corporation probably does not have the power you would normally assume a corporation to have. This is all speculation, but the nature of Konami's relationship to YGO is very unique and almost unheard of in a TCG. The original creator of YGO has far more input into the card game than most creators (this resembles George Lucas).
  4. The final problem is that the employees of Upper Deck and Konami are clueless. They have no clue about competitive play. They make no effort to hire top players to contribute to design. Worlds and Nationals champions generally get ignored. Any time someone on Konami posts on Pojo regarding a strategy decision, they reveal their ignorance of game mechanics and card power values. It's actually rather embarrassing to watch. If I was younger and more fiery, I would point out these statements right here. However, it is what it is and my being rude or calling them out on it is not going to change anything.
  5. So either learn to love the game as is, realizing you can't do anything about it, or don't.


PS: Hey employees at Konami who handle tournament prize structure. Since you can't give out money and prize supports because of Kaz and his tyrannical ways.............. why don't you think of creative ways to give out valuable prizes that cost you nothing?


Example: The top four players of Nationals will be allowed to submit the design of a card to Research and Development. While R & D may scale down power levels, the card will be designed according to the player's specifications.


Example: The winner of Worlds or Nationals gets their entire deck reprinted as a Structure Deck with their picture and a small caption written on the back of the box. Or the winner will get their deck remade with exact rarities they request (so they write out like DaD- Ultra, Solemn Judgment- Ghost, Mystical Space Typhoon- Secret, and such). Then, they can sell some of those cards on E-Bay!.


In this economy, you have to be creative about prize support that costs you nothing!



As always, e-mail me at JAELOVE@gmail.com with feedback. Thanks.





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