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Jae Kim: Theory and Practice
JK17: Pies in Yu-Gi-Oh! and More

July 23, 2009

After my experiences at Nationals playing Lightsworn (details of my trip can be found at my blog www.go-YGO.com), I’ve gotten around to thinking about a certain concept that is difficult to describe.


As we all know, this format is unprecedented due to the variety of decks at the top tier. Blackwings, Lightsworn, Synchro Cat, Dark variants, and Gladiator Beasts were all represented well in the top 64 of U.S Nationals. It would appear that this type of diversity is great for the game.


However, the wonderful diversity has created an unusual side-effect. I call this the Pie effect. Imagine a pie. Apple, strawberry, or even rhubarb if you’re feeling old and frumpy. Now cut it into five equal slices representing the five strongest archetypes in Yu-Gi-Oh! monsters. Doesn’t leave much room for anything else, right?


Basically the unique characteristics of the top five slices of the game have made it very, very difficult for any outsiders to squeeze into the picture. If you’ll remember decks like Hugo Adame’s stunning Macro Cosmos/Dimensional Fissure anti-meta in the Perfect Circle format or Matt Peddle’s Machine beatdown in a format filled with targeting effects, they point to a different time period. While anti-meta success in prior formats was attainable before, the task is almost impossible now.


WHY? Blame the Pie


The top five decks have effectively assembled together to squeeze out every original tactic possible save two cards (hint: they are continuous traps). The reasons for this are many. The most important reason is:


All of the top tier decks can end the game in one turn.


1) Blackwings can end the game in one explosive turn by simply dealing 8000 damage. The percentage of this happening after about five turns has passed is not ridiculously high, but it is still alarmingly decent.

2) Lightsworn can end the game in one explosive turn with certain set-ups. However this is very rare. But through card advantage principles, Lightsworn can effectively end the game in one series of great milling by dumping cards like Necro Gardna and drawing multiple cards with Garoth.

3) Gladiator Beasts can set up a Heraklinos/War Chariot or Solemn lock that effectively ends the game as well.

4) Synchro Cats are the most explosive deck and easily find multiple combinations to deal 8000 damage in one turn.

5) Dark decks are the least explosive of the five, but can still end the game in one turn. They often also revolve around cards like Skill Drain and Royal Oppression, so anti-meta does not work as well versus them.

I will break down each slice of pie into key strengths and weaknesses you should use to identify which deck fits your playstyle best when playing your next big Regionals or Shonen Jump.


Blackwings: The Most Adaptable, Most Popular, and Most Cost-Effective Deck

            But vulnerable to the OTK

Blackwings almost single-handedly make original decks bite the dust. There are two reasons for this:


1) Blackwings are at the top tier of decks, but have not attained complete dominance due to one factor. Blackwings are very susceptible to one turn kills. In a vacuum, the correct way to play Blackwings involves holding your Blackwing monsters while waiting to set up a Black Whirlwind (otherwise they’re just 1700 and 2000 attack normal monsters). However the looming threat of an OTK is always present.


The problem with original decks and anti-meta decks is that they don’t have the explosive powers of the top five slices of pie. In addition, Skill-Drain based decks barely dent Blackwings and Royal Oppression (while painful) is not really sustainable on the field with multiple Solemns and Icarus Attacks played by Blackwing. Which leads me to 2.


2) Blackwings are far too versatile, especially when factoring in the side, to tie down with an original or anti-meta deck. A typical Blackwing player may end up siding into two additional copies of Delta Crow and a third Icarus Attack. This puts spell/trap removal options at 6 or 7 with three copies of Solemn Judgment. Factor in the fact that BW will get more card advantage and be more explosive and it’s a long, tough road for any anti-meta or original duelist.


Lightsworn: The Most Resilient Deck

            But vulnerable to bad hands

Ironically in a split-purpose of sorts, Lightsworn is generally played by the worst players (in skill) and the very best players as well. Middle ground is usually rare. I personally chose Lightsworn for Nationals because it is the most resilient of the big five.


A properly built Lightsworn deck is nearly impossible to take out in one turn. In fact over 17 matches at Nationals and the Last Chance Qualifiers, I was never taken out in one turn in any single game.


The combination of Necro Gardna, Threatening Roar, and Aurkus the Lightsworn Druid makes Lightsworn the most resilient deck by far and the weapon of choice for those top players who find themselves unlucky (in terms of getting OTKed) quite frequently.


1) I generally feel the resilience of Lightsworn makes them the best deck of the format.


2) The weakness of Lightsworn is their susceptibility to bad hands. All of my losses at Nationals came to incredibly bad hands that are just a natural and mathematically determined result of playing such an explosive deck.


Unfortunately for you, Lightsworn are always just one Charge of the Light Brigade or Solar Recharge topdeck away from suddenly having an unbeatable power hand. And while the other decks in the big five can either establish immediate dominance or control the game easily by then, your anti-meta or original deck does not have the speed or explosiveness to do such a thing. So Lightsworn will draw more cards, extend the game state, then start dropping the heavy hitters to victory.


This concludes part one of the article. Part two will be produced within a few days!


If you like the content I have produced for Pojo.com all of these years, please take the time to visit my new strategy blog.








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