Go-YGO: The Plight of the Small Monster | The Irish Duelist

Go-YGO: The Plight of the Small Monster


Jae Kim's recently posted another article on his blog, go-ygo.com.
You can find the article here.

I want to discuss a curious Yu-Gi-Oh! card design decision today. This decision has made a certain set of cards unplayable at a premier event. Let’s start with a riddle:

What is the main drawback of playing small monsters? ................... (take your time).

If you said “low attack scores,” please e-mail me your address and I will FedEx you a scrumptious cookie.

Most players find this drawback perfectly fair. If you have a good effect, you can have a lower attack score. This means your smaller monsters will generally lose in battle frequently and require spell or trap support to remain on the field. This historic balance between strong effect and low ATK score has always been present in Yu-Gi-Oh! strategy and relatively well balanced.

A Very Puzzling Design Decision
It’s not clear whether the card designers for Yu-Gi-Oh! (who presumably work in Japan for Konami) are entirely aware of a lot of the ramifications of the cards they print. I do not mean this in an insulting manner; as many players of TCG’s and even video games (such as World of Warcraft) know, it’s very difficult to introduce new mechanics/abilities to a game and foresee every single interaction on the macro scale.

There are numerous examples of this in Yu-Gi-Oh! lore. From my time at Upper Deck/Metagame, I heard through the grapevine that the Metamorphosis into Thousand Eyes Restrict (through Scapegoat/Sinister Serpent) was never anticipated. Or that Yata-Garasu was made a Spirit because the “drawback” of a Spirit monster would weaken its powerful effect. These types of oversights are understandable when creating thousands of cards.

Go-YGO.com will always take the (perhaps optimistic) view that the designers know what they’re doing. I see too much hope in certain card design to simply write them off as incompetent. The stewards of Yu-Gi-Oh! must constantly balance fiscal concerns (selling new sets) with tournament balance (not a big priority) because tournament players are simply not the only consumers of product.

Relegating Entire Classes of Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards to Obscurity
While smaller scale blunders are fixable, I tend to be more critical of decisions that destroy entire groups of cards. Two examples are Cyber Dragon and Gale. Cyber Dragon, upon release, basically removed every sub-2100 attack non-recruiter or floater to obscurity. Playable cards such as Skilled Dark Magician, Vampire Lord, and Enraged Battle Ox were instantly erased from the game.

Gale, upon release (before the limit), also removed every sub-2700 attack non-recruiter or floater from competitive play. Having a level 3 tuner instantly erase cards like Spirit Reaper, Stardust Dragon, and Monarchs was clearly terrible by any measure of Yu-Gi-Oh! card design.

Which brings us to this modern era. The card design of Blackwing- Shura the Blue Flame and Flamvell Firedog, has completely destroyed the viability of smaller attack monsters.

While these small monsters have always had a balanced drawback, the effects of Shura and Firedog further amplify this loss of field advantage by generating further field presence and card advantage. Let’s take a look:

Pre-Shura/Firedog: Your opponent attacks a face-down monster. You lose a normal summon and card in hand. Gain an effect.

Shura/Firedog: Your opponent attacks. Same interaction but your opponent now gains another monster, deals more damage, and creates a powerful Synchro monster for free.

By simply having the gall to run a small monster, you have lost immense amounts of tempo, field presence, and card advantage.

Deeper Ramifications of Shura/Firedog
Throw in the incredibly untuned Gladiator Beast War Chariot (completely unnecessary for the theme) and you have a metagame where every small monster that does not destroy its attacker is completely unviable.

If you choose to devote elements of your deck to themed-staples or tech: from Masked Dragon to Apprentice Magician to Mystic Tomato to Shining Angel to Goblin Zombie to Magical Merchant to Elemental Hero Stratos and so on and so forth… you will lose consistently.

This entire class of monsters are very dangerous to play due to Firedog and Shura comprising two of the top tier decks in this format. You must adjust by taking a long, hard look at every monster in your deck. If it can be destroyed by Firedog for advantage, you should probably not run it.

I predict most (if not all) of the decks that place well in SJC New Jersey will only run monsters such as Gravekeeper’s Spy and Ryko that do not suffer from the Firedog/Shura syndrome. The designers have given players no other choice.