Friday, September 30, 2011

The Good Player's Toolbox: Summoning Comprehension

At one point or another, we’ve all been there before.  “Geez...I know I need to negate the summon of this, but I don’t know if I can do it,” you mutter to yourself, mulling over whether you can negate the summon with Thunder King Rai-Oh and save your Solemn Warning for later, or just be safe and play the Warning.  Great players understand how to play their cards, and are particularly aware of the intimate associations between their cards and the opponent’s.  That being said, this dilemma remains much more common than you might think, though I’ve seen many, many more players in this (significantly worse) situation: 
Player A: I activate Monster Reborn, targeting Scrap Dragon.
Player B: I negate Monster Reborn with Thunder King Rai-Oh
It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?  Thunder King reads: “...negate the Special Summon of 1 of your opponent’s monsters, and destroy it.”  It might be confusing at first, but Thunder King just doesn’t quite work this way.  Why is this?

Here’s the kicker: there’s a huge difference between the special summon of a monster through a condition and the special summon of a monster through an effect.  This is the key to understanding how cards like Thunder King, Black Horn of Heaven, and Solemn Judgment cannot negate certain special summons while cards like Solemn Warning and Royal Oppression can.  So, without further ado, let’s make this distinction clear: there’s a big difference between (1.) a monster special summoned through a built-in condition (not an effect!) and (2.) a monster special summoned through another card effect.  The first part will be fairly complex, but the latter part is much simpler and straightforward - I promise!  If you’ll stick through the explanation of the first part, you can definitely make it through the article and expand your in-game knowledge.  This will be rewarding and very well worth it, especially considering the vast number of cards that negate summons.  So, without any hesitation, let’s dive into it!
The first type of special summon is a monster that can be summoned through a built-in condition.  What does this mean?  This means that some monsters can special summon themselves when a condition is fulfilled.  For example, when you have three darks in your graveyard (condition), you can special summon Dark Armed Dragon.  When you have four or more Lightsworn monsters of different names in your graveyard (condition), you can special summon Judgment Dragon.  When your opponent controls a monster, and you control no monsters (condition), you can special summon Cyber Dragon from your hand.  Get it?  These are not effects, they are conditions.  They do not “activate”, they are fulfilled.  When the condition occurs, you are free to special summon the monster as long as the condition is present.  

This type of summon, which is dependent on a condition, is called an inherent special summon.  The above examples make this summon seem “passive” in the sense that you don’t have to “do” something to get the monster on the field - in other words, you can just wait for three darks or four or more different Lightsworns to unleash your boss monsters.  This isn’t always the case!  For this reason, it can get confusing if you see cards that look like they’re special summoned through an effect, but they’re not.  Some notorious examples (that follow a common trend of discarding from the hand to special summon them) are Dark Grepher, Machina Fortress, and Swap Frog.  They’re almost worded like effects in the sense that some seem like ignition monster effects, like Machina Fortress: “You can discard Machine-Type monster(s) whose total Levels equal 8 or more to Special Summon this card from your hand or Graveyard.”  Sounds like a monster effect, right?  Nope, not quite.  This is a condition.  Same goes for Dark Grepher or Swap Frog.  When you discard a dark or water monster (condition, which, in this case, is also a cost), you can special summon the card.  The condition of discarding is fulfilled, but no effect was activated.  
Therefore, these types of summons, known as inherent special summons, do not start a chain.  You can banish a light and dark to special summon Black Luster Soldier; it looks like an “active” effect in the sense that you have to “do” something to get it on the field, but it’s not.  It’s a condition, and therefore, an inherent special summon.  On the note of “doing” something to summon monsters that are inherent special summons, let’s look at a common game mechanic: you can send a level 2 tuner and a level 4 non-tuner from your side of the field to the graveyard (condition) to special summon Brionac.  What does this mean?  Of course, it means that synchro summons are inherent special summons!  Their condition is fulfilled when you send the correct combination of tuner and non-tuner monsters from your side of the field to the grave, allowing you to special summon the synchro monster.  The same logic holds for the new Xyz monsters - their summon condition is fulfilled when you overlay the correct levels of the correct monsters.
Whew!  Got all that?  That’s how inherent special summons work.  So just to recap, they are not special summoned through effects and therefore, do not start a chain.  Some are “passive”, where you can simply wait for conditions to be fulfilled (like Dark Armed Dragon or Judgment Dragon), while some are more “active”, where you have to make the condition work (like discarding, banishing, or sending cards to the graveyard).  It’s easy to tell all of them apart, though: they do not summon themselves by an effect that activates.  With that in mind, let’s look at something totally different: cards that can special summon through effects, rather than conditions:
1.  You banish Mezuki to special summon Goblin Zombie.  The Goblin Zombie is summoned through Mezuki’s effect, not through Goblin Zombie’s effect.  
2.  You banish Vayu and Sirocco to special summon Blackwing Armed Wing.  The Armed Wing is summoned through Vayu’s effect, not through its own condition.
3.  You take a direct attack, with no cards on your side of the field, triggering Gorz the Emissary of Darkness’ effect.  You special summon Gorz and a token through the effect of Gorz in the damage step (again, this is not a condition, this is an effect that triggers when you take damage, similar to Tragoedia!).  
4.  You activate Monster Reborn, targeting Scrap Dragon.  The Scrap Dragon is summoned through the effect of Monster Reborn, not through its own summoning condition.
5.  Your opponent activates Starlight Road, summoning Stardust Dragon through the effect of Starlight Road.  (Indeed, this is why Stardust summoned through Starlight Road can only negate one time - because it was not special summoned properly through its own synchro “condition”, and therefore, cannot special summon itself during the end phase!)
6.  You discard Dandylion as a cost to activate the effect of One for One, summoning Glow-Up Bulb from the deck.  The Bulb is summoned through the effect of One for One, not its own effect.  

Got the hang of it now?  I felt this type of summon is best explained through example, since many players find themselves performing these moves, but don’t understand how these monsters are really summoned.  Monsters summoned through card effects do not have to be summoned strictly through other monster effects - they can be summoned through spells (such as One for One or Monster Reborn) or traps (like Call of the Haunted or Limit Reverse).  They’re summoned through card effects, meaning they’re summoned through an effect (whether it be monster, spell, or trap) and not a condition!  This is the difference between an inherent special summon and a summon through a card effect.  This is the ultimate distinction I want you to make at this point, so be sure you understand this!  If you do not, it is definitely important enough to go back and review it, since you cannot understand the next section without understanding this one!
So now that we have a good grip on how these summons are accomplished (either through conditions or effects), let’s understand how to stop them.  We’ll start at the best summon negation cards, which are the ones that are the most encompassing.  Cards like Solemn Warning and the late Royal Oppression are exceptionally powerful because they say “Negate the summon of a monster or [a card effect] that special summons a monster. . . “  From this, you can see that it negates inherent special summons (first part, “Negate the summon of a monster. . . ”) and it negates summons through card effects when the effects activate (second part, “a [card effect] that special summons a monster”).  Got it?  So Warning and Oppression negate both types of summons.  

But what about stuff like Thunder King Rai-OhThunder King just has the first part of Solemn Warning: “Negate the special summon of a monster. . .”, so it can only negate inherent special summons.  Thunder King cannot negate special summons that are accomplished through card effects, like Monster Reborn, Vayu, Mezuki, and so forth, but it can negate inherent summons like Cyber Dragon, Dark Armed Dragon, Black Luster Soldier, Machina Fortress, all Xyzs, all synchros, and “contact” fusions (but not fusions via Polymerization!).  Steelswarm Roach is essentially a weaker version of Thunder King - it negates the special summon of a leveled monster.  This means it’ll only negate inherent special summons, and it can’t touch Xyz summons.  This is the weakest of all summon negators, and, despite the rarity, I’ll never understand why it’s sitting on its current price of roughly $60.  
But what about Solemn Judgment?  This card is a bit tricky, but stick with this, and you’ll get it down.  Solemn Judgment says “Negate . . . the summon of a monster and destroy it.”  So this part of Solemn Judgment reads exactly like Thunder King, and will only stop inherent special summons.  However, Solemn Judgment can also negate Monster Reborn (which is a summon through a card effect) by negating the activation of a spell card.  This part is tricky, though: note that Solemn Judgment cannot negate the summon of a monster special summoned through Monster Reborn.  Meaning once the monster targeted by Monster Reborn hits the field, Solemn cannot negate the summon, because it was special summoned through the effect of Monster Reborn.  Rather, you’ll have to negate the activation of the effect that special summons the monster - in this case, you’ll have to Solemn Judgment the Monster Reborn itself, and not the monster special summoned through Reborn.  Got it?  If not, be sure to review the difference between these two types of summons in the opening paragraphs!  For those of you that are visual learners, here’s a diagram encompassing summon negation from broadest to most restrictive:

Great players that compete successfully in premier events have a strong edge over players that don’t understand how this concept works.  They understand the mechanics of summoning, and not just memorizing a bunch of card interactions like “Oh, you can’t negate Reborn with Thunder King.”  Rather, they understand why.  This is advantageous because new and unusual cards pop up all the time, so understanding how the mechanics work is much more a time-saver than memorizing thousands of card interactions.  In addition, because great players understand this concept, it allows them to consider every aspect when being conservative with cards; they know when to save their Thunder King or expend that all-powerful Solemn Warning.  If you’ve got this down, you’re one step closer to being the best player you can be!

Dr. House

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Show Me The Way: Effect Veiler

Today, I’m going to discuss a card that’s commonly played, yet so often misplayed: Effect Veiler.  First, just like all future “Show Me The Way” articles, I’ll go into a brief discussion explaining why this card is amazing this format (and therefore, why you should be playing it!), then I’ll follow up on how to play it.  So, let’s talk about Effect Veiler!
Since Heavy Storm is back this format, most good players you’ll be playing against in premier events will play conservatively - they won’t set their backrow so hastily, nor will they set all of their backrow if they draw into multiple.  In fact, since Mystical Space Typhoon is now basking in its unlimited status, you’ll find that several players have eliminated non-chainable backrow from their decks altogether to leave their opponents with “dead” copies of Typhoon and Storm!  Therefore, the focus has shifted away from backrow and toward “hand-traps” to stop an opponent from going off. Great examples of these “hand-traps” are Effect Veiler, Maxx “C”, and D.D. Crow.

Effect Veiler is perhaps the most prominent example of the three.  Since monster spam and removal are typically achieved through other monster effects, such as XX-Saber Faultroll, The Agent of Creation - Venus, Black Rose Dragon, Scrap Dragon, and Brionac, you can see how powerful monster effects are - especially when they go off unhindered by opposing backrow!  This is extraordinarily relevant because, in case you haven’t noticed, games are typically won this format in one (or both) of these ways: massive monster swarms and destruction.  Since Effect Veiler prevents (to some extent) these scenarios from happening, you can imagine why it’s such a great card.  Therefore, it’s logical to see how handy negating these monster effects are, and just to recap, there are two reasons: traps have gone down in utility this format and more games are won through monster effects than ever before.  
However, there’s a problem: many players simply struggle to figure out when (and why) to play Effect Veiler.  There are two rules to playing Effect Veiler.  The first rule, perhaps the broadest and one most commonly utilized is:
Rule 1:  Play Effect Veiler when card advantage deems it favorable to do so.
In other words, play Veiler when the card advantage is more favorable to you than your opponent.  Let’s take the following example:
Case 1:  Your opponent special summons T.G. Striker and Warwolf, then normal summons T.G. Rush Rhino.  You can see a Trishula play coming.  He synchs into Trishula, targeting three of your cards.  You chain Effect Veiler.
Why is this favorable?  Well, let’s look at the card advantage involved from your side of the field: -3 monsters to synchro Trishula +1 Trishula - 1 Effect Veiler = -3 +1 + 1 = [+2].  Therefore, you’ve given up 1 card, while your opponent gave up 3, netting you a cool [+2].  Indeed, card advantage deems this is a great play!  

However, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to come out in the plus range [+X] to play Veiler well.  For example, if your opponent summons a card that generates massive card advantage (say, a [-3] or [-4] for you), then it’s much better to take the inherent [-1] from playing Veiler (since it goes from your hand to the grave, generating no immediate advantage) than take the massive disadvantage.  Examples of this are Black Rose Dragon or Dark Armed Dragon plays when you have several cards committed to the field.  Though these card-advantage focused examples are obvious ones, there are some situations where playing Veiler might not be so obvious.  Thankfully, this is where the second rule comes in handy!

The second (and less precise) rule to playing Veiler is:
Rule 2:  Play Veiler when your setup for the rest of the game is in immediate danger.  
Let’s say you’re playing Frog Monarchs and you have a Sangan in your hand with nothing else but tribute monsters and Effect Veiler.  You set the Sangan, hoping to score your Swap Frog and set up for the rest of the game from there.  Your opponent recognizes this as an extremely passive play and capitalizes on it.  He special summons Swap Frog by discarding Treeborn and tributing the Swap Frog for Caius, targeting the face down Sangan.  Your setup is in extreme danger here!  You won‘t be able to play any of the cards in your hand unless you get your Swap Frog, so it’s necessary to play Veiler in this case.  
Now that I’ve explained how to play Veiler, I’ll explain how not to play Veiler.  First and foremost, do not play Veiler on any little monster effect.  For example, if you know your opponent is going to use Zombie Master’s effect, discarding a monster and targeting Plaguespreader to synchro into Brionac or Orient Dragon to rid you of your Stardust, do not play Veiler on Zombie Master!  Instead, play Veiler on Brionac or Orient Dragon, since neither of these cards can power over your Stardust.  It requires foresight, but with practice, you’ll get the hang of it.
That being said, there are some things you’ll almost unconditionally Veiler.  I’ll let you in on a couple of them, but it’s up to you to figure out what the pattern is!  My two examples are:
Trishula.  If you let Trishula’s effect resolve, you’ll be out a card in your hand and on your field (and possibly a key graveyard card, like Spore or Plaguespreader).  But if you Veiler, you’ll only be out a card in your hand.  
Spirit Reaper.  If Spirit Reaper makes a direct attack and you have Veiler in hand and say, Dark Armed Dragon with exactly three darks in the grave, you should definitely Veiler.  In fact, if you have any other live card in your hand, you should Veiler the Reaper.  Why?  Because you’ll lose a card anyway to Reaper’s direct attack, so it might as well be one that isn’t critical to your strategy.  

So what’s the pattern from these examples?  Here’s the answer: it’s card advantage.  You’ll be losing cards in either case, so you might as well make the most of them.  If you’re not understanding the concept of card advantage, be sure to go back to the main page and check out the article!  If you’re suffering from Veiler misplays, you’ll need to brush up on foresight and card advantage.  Take a moment to compute the card advantage before and after effects go off to determine whether Veiler is something you’d want to play, then think about how badly an effect going off will affect your strategy and setup.  Remember, practice makes perfect! 
Dr. House

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Good Player's Toolbox: Doing Well at Premier Events

We all like to win.  That’s why we play Yu-Gi-Oh!, right?  To have fun and to snag the occasional triumph.  With YCS Toronto edging its way closer and closer this weekend, many people need some pointers on how to make the most of these kind of events - not only YCSs, but also regionals and even locals.  There a few relatively easy and logical steps you can take to shine at these premier occasions, many of which are listed here:
Everyone seems to forget about or underestimate the power of a good night’s beauty sleep.  It’s essential that you get sufficient sleep before a big tournament - it affects you more than you think.  At least 7-8 hours are necessary if you want to function at your highest level!  Why?  Because, above all else, Yu-Gi-Oh! is a thinking game.  You need to think on your feet (or chair, in this case), analyzing your opponent’s moves and reacting accordingly.  No amount of playtesting until the wee hours of the night before will get you through those grueling 9 - 11 rounds of play.  If you’re more focused on sneaking in a nap in between rounds, odds are your playing will suffer as much as you will!
Be prepared!
If you’d like to save the hassle of scratching down your decklist 10 minutes before registration closes in a frenzy to get it submitted on time, and possibly delaying the start of the tournament (those last minute arrivals secretly annoy everyone awaiting the the first round!), then prepare your decklist early!  The Konami website has an online version of the decklist sheet you can print and fill out ahead of time.  In addition to saving time, this will prevent you from making last minute deck changes that can be detrimental to your success. 

As a sad example, if your friend has an extra copy of Two-Pronged Attack and swears by his success with it while playtesting, in a panic you just might add it to your side deck (read card advantage article and weep over this travesty!).  Mistake!  Big, bad mistake!  Avoid playing cards you are inexperienced with; if you haven’t played with it before, how can you expect to know when and how to use it (and if it’s actually good)?  On a side note, you’ll need some fresh card sleeves for each day you plan to play.  Doing this will hopefully prevent opponents from falsely accusing you of marking cards in your deck.  Ultra Pros are generally a good choice because they tend to have fewer spots on them after play.  I like the black, white, or pink ones best! Sexy!
Eat a great breakfast!
Yeah.  You’ve heard it before.  Your mom has told you this since you were born and has made it applicable to everything you do: school, work, play, and everything else she could possibly think of.  It’s true, though.  The food has as much to do with your brain functioning as it does with your stomach feeling satisfied.  Glucose is the primary energy storage in your food, and this is the energy that your brain runs off of!  As previously stated, you’ll be thinking all day, so you really need to have enough fuel to last you through the event.  Breakfast can help you here - let it!  However, that trusty glucose is metabolized throughout the day, leading to a problem for your hungry brain.  This leads us to the next tip:
Snack, snack, snack!
Once that brain food you ate for breakfast gets digested and your small intestines savor the last of that nutritious goodness, you'll need to refuel.  Drugstore goodies such as Ritz Bits (personal favorite), Cheez-Its, Gardettos, Pop-Tarts, and Gatorade are all excellent choices.  However, avoid those popular Monster energy drinks.  Sure, they’ll have you wired for 30-45 minutes, talking 90-110 MPH while vigorously shuffling your hand, but what happens when it wears off?  You crash, and you crash hard (and to no surprise, so does your playing!).  You need something more substantial than sugary caffeine.  Depending on the event location, there might be food provided for a cost, but it's not guaranteed, so it’s best to bring snacks!  
Watch your stuff!
Many have had it happen to them before.  Your Trishula goes missing from your extra deck after a group of guys was “admiring” it.  Your age-old 1st edition LOB Dark Magician that your best friend gave to you years back gets bent after some kid takes it out your binder to appraise it.  Odds are, if you’re still reading this article, your cards are important to you.  So don’t let this happen!  If you have to bring a trade binder, keep it in a backpack that you wear in front (yes, like a kangaroo pouch).  Watch others as they look through your cards, and try to limit it to one person at a time so it’s easier to keep track of your things.  Also, never trade while you’re playing!  This is the easiest way to get distracted and lose track of your stuff.
Get familiar with the event!
Get there early.  Before it starts, walk around, getting to know the place in case you get lost (it happens!).  Make sure you have a ride both to and from the location.  If the tournament is in a different state, make sure to reserve a hotel at least 2-3 months ahead of time.  It would help if you can get a place that is within walking distance from the event location.  For one, YCS events are usually held in a busy city center.  After the tournament ends, you can unwind and explore the cityscape then simply walk to your hotel.  Secondly, if your ride doesn’t show or if the area is too crowded, you could just walk to the event.  Dr. House and I like to use TripAdvisor to get reviews, locations, and telephone numbers of possible hotels and restaurants in tournament areas.
If you can keep these points in mind while preparing for your next big tournament, you just might be able to surpass your expectations and reign victorious!  Just remember there is more involved in doing well than being familiar with the meta, long nights of extreme playtesting, and researching your card choices!  You’re most likely prepared enough to play well, but what good is it if you can’t make it though the day?  Don’t stress yourself more than you need to!  Relax, follow the steps, and have fun!  
Ms. K  

In the Spotlight: Zombies

You’ve definitely heard of them - they’ve been around a while.  Whether you’re a longtime veteran or a player just starting out, you’ve listened to the stories about (or experienced firsthand!) the power of Zombies.  From Japan’s “Tier 0” Zombie synchro deck with 3 Mezuki, 3 Burial from a Different Dimension, 3 Dark Armed Dragon, and 2 Card of Safe Return to our (the TCG’s) watered-down version with 3 Burial from a Different Dimension, 2 Mezuki, and 1 Plaguespreader Zombie (as well as several variants prior to this), we see that Zombies have been on and off the upper tier lists.  With the limiting of Mezuki, Brionac, and Burial from a Different Dimension, Zombies lost a considerable amount of power and consistency, disappearing off the upper tier list for quite some time.  
But they’re back again.  Enter Tour Guide from the Underworld.  This is it.  This is the card that makes the Zombie archetype playable and consistent.  The card that ties together the deck, creating first-turn Sangan setups or explosive plays characterized by a blend of synchro and Xyz monsters.  Without further ado, here’s a decklist of upper-tier Zombies of this format:
    Monsters:   23
3 Tour Guide from the Underworld
3 Goblin Zombie
3 Maxx "C"
3 Thunder King Rai-Oh
3 Spirit Reaper
2 Pyramid Turtle
1 Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning
1 Gorz the Emissary of Darkness
1 Dark Armed Dragon
1 Sangan
1 Mezuki
1 Plaguespreader Zombie
   Spells:   11
3 Book of Life
2 Mystical Space Typhoon
2 Enemy Controller
1 Mind Control
1 Book of Moon
1 Monster Reborn
1 Dark Hole
   Traps:   6
2 Dimensional Prison
2 Solemn Warning
1 Torrential Tribute
1 Trap Dustshoot
    Extra Deck:  15
2 Leviair the Sea Dragon
1 Wind-Up Zenmaines
1 Number 17: Leviathan Dragon
1 Number 39: Utopia
1 TG Hyper Librarian
1 Ally of Justice Catastor
1 Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier
1 Orient Dragon
2 Revived King Ha Des
1 Black Rose Dragon
1 Scrap Dragon
1 Stardust Dragon
1 Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!

This deck breeds consistency.  The first thing you’ll notice are the full playsets of Goblin Zombie and Maxx “C”Goblin Zombie is the heart of the deck - you’ll need to learn how to utilize the search power to play this deck effectively.  It’ll set up Synchros via Plaguespreader Zombie, blocks and presses for advantage via Spirit Reaper, Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier plays with Mezuki, and anything you can think of in the deck.  It should come to no surprise that getting a Goblin Zombie live is key, which is why two Pyramid Turtle are included.  Additionally, Pyramid Turtle allows you to keep a Zombie on the field to set up for a big Synchro or Xyz play the following turn.  

Maxx “C” is one of the best cards in the deck - one which which really shines when you’re playing competitively.  Let’s say your opponent explodes with Rescue Rabbit or Tour Guide from the Underworld.  You’ll notice the trap lineup is nothing impressive, but Maxx “C” is!  It’ll stop big plays from going off (at least, to those who understand card advantage) while allowing you to draw cards.  The more cards you draw, the more chances you have at drawing your combo pieces and power cards.  It’s searchable via Sangan (which you have “four” of, compliments of Tour Guide from the Underworld!) and serves to help keep your opponent in control.  To emphasize the awesome-ness of Maxx "C", I'll be posting a full article on it soon!
Consistency is the key, especially in tournaments of 9 - 11 rounds, such as YCS events.  You’ll be relying on your sets of Goblin Zombie, Maxx “C”, and Tour Guide to grant you access to your deck, and it’s an extremely important resource to learn how to use.  
Power Plays and Card Advantage
This is perhaps the best OTK deck I’ve played all format.  I can put 2-3 Synchro monsters and 1 Xyz monster on the field early to mid-game (assuming the game lasts that long) as well as a Leviair the Sea Dragon.  We’ll start with the basic combo of the deck:
Combo 1 - Mezuki Madness
Start the game off with an early Mezuki [+1], granting you an easy synchro or more card presence.  This is often accomplished as early as the second turn.  Set up wisely, making sure you have Plaguespreader and Goblin Zombie on the field or in the graveyard.  This would be an ideal play: set a Turtle and let your opponent attack into it (or if your opponent’s smart and doesn’t attack into facedowns, ram it into their monsters to get what you need!).  Grab a Goblin Zombie with Turtle (blocking with multiple Turtles if necessary).  Normal summon Plaguespreader, synchro Brionac, search Mezuki with Goblin Zombie.  Discard Mezuki to rid your opponent of a synchro or Xyz.  You’re all set up at this point!

Alternatively, if you open with a Turtle and Goblin, you can let Turtle get you Plaguespreader during the battle phase, then normal summon the Goblin, going into Brionac.  The same play will essentially be accomplished.  This is one of the many “removal” strategies of the deck.  Alternatively, you can synchro into Orient Dragon or Revived King if you don’t want their Sangan or TG search to go off.  Any path you choose mentioned above grants you access to a great level 6 synchro and your Mezuki/Goblin/Plague setup.  
Combo 2 - Leviair: The Zombie Recycler
Once you used up Mezuki (but not Plaguespreader!), normal summon Tour Guide.  Get another Tour Guide or Sangan and Xyz into Leviair.  Detach a material, and special that Mezuki right back!  This grants you access to your banished pile.  This is extremely powerful because it’s essentially like running a beefed-up Burial from the Different Dimension on an 1800 beater.  However, Tour Guide from the Underworld isn’t the only way you can make Leviair the Sea Dragon - you can accomplish the same thing (on a slower basis) with Spirit Reaper.  You have a full set of Spirit Reaper with three copies of Book of Life, a Mezuki, and Monster Reborn, allowing you to put two Spirit Reaper on the field and make Leviair.  Therefore, you’ve got 2 total Tour Guide plays (one for each pair), along a full set of Spirit Reaper to help you make Leviair the Sea Dragon.  Woah! That banished pile is free for you to dig into! 

Remember this: don’t use up Plaguespreader unless you absolutely have to!  Plaguespreader is your source of synchro summons, and you should never activate the in-grave effect to “stack” and special, because this will cut you off of future synchros.  Avoid this!  Only stack a Plaguespreader if you have Tour Guide from the Underworld in your hand, an unused Leviair effect, or you’re going for game and only need one synchro.  Remember this!
Of course, the deck doesn't stop there.  Tour Guide is just one card.  Let’s say you have Tour Guide and Book of Life.  Normal Tour Guide, going into Leviair, detach and do the Mezuki combo, getting your Mezuki back.  Activate Book of Life, bringing back Plaguespreader, banishing your opponent’s Glow-Up, Spore, Agents, Plaguespreader, and so forth.  Synchro Plaguespreader and Mezuki for a level 6.  Banish the Mezuki, bring something else back, like Revived King Ha Des!  
For those of you looking to flex your new card advantage skills, here’s the card advantage in that play: [+1] from Tour Guide + [-1] from inherent Xyz + [+1] from Leviair effect + [+0] from Book of Life + [-1] from synchro of Plaguespreader and Mezuki + [+1] from Mezuki.  Whew!  Thankfully, you’re well-seasoned in card advantage counting after reading our articles, but if you missed it, here’s the count: +1 - 1 + 1 + 0 - 1 + 1 = [+1].  So a Tour Guide into Leviair coupled with one graveyard revival card (either Book of Life, Reborn, and so forth) grants you a Leviair, a level 6 synchro of your choice, and a free Zombie from your graveyard special summoned to your field at a total card advantage of [+1].  Impressive!
“Combo” 3 - Doin' the Derp
Black Luster Soldier and Dark Armed Dragon - hey, who doesn't like free wins?  One's a [+3], the other's a [+1 or 2].  'Nuff said.  Thunder King for Black Luster Soldier, or Mind Control or Enemy Controller an opponent's monster and get Utopia.  There's your light, you're set to go - full derp ahead! 

A neat trick is using Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning and Tour Guide from the Underworld together.  Banish your Thunder King Rai-Oh and a Dark for Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning.  Then summon Tour Guide from the Underworld and bring the Thunder King Rai-Oh back for a game-sealing combo!
“But Why?” - Concerning Card Choices 
This Zombie deck is quite different from a lot of other builds out there.  Mostly, I get a lot of heat for only running one tuner (Plaguespreader).  This is more than sufficient to play the deck, because Plaguespreader can be recycled almost indefinitely, and is effortlessly searched out.  This is all the deck needs, and it just doesn’t make sense to clutter up deck space with unnecessary tuners when you could add more power and consistency to the deck.  One pet peeve of mine is Pain Painter.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “But it’s like Plaguespreader!”  Exactly.  It’s like Plaguespreader.  Meaning it isn’t Plaguespreader.  It can’t self-revive from the grave, which is, without a shadow of doubt, the best part of Plaguespreader Zombie.  The perfect word to describe Pain Painter is “unnecessary”.  Play better cards.  Don’t even get me started on the situational mess that's Blue-Blooded Oni.
Another thing I get some criticism on is my choice of 3 Book of LifeBook of Life is, simply put, amazing.  It revives any Zombie type monster from the graveyard, including Revivied King Ha Des for an easy level 8 synchro.  It banishes key cards that generate advantage in your opponent’s graveyard.  It takes away that Light (or Dark) for Black Luster Soldier.  It blocks future plays for your opponent (try banishing Grapha, Dandylion, Spore, or Glow-Up Bulb with Book of Life!).  The deck moves so fast, that drawing 2 (or even 3!) in your opening hand won’t hold you back - rather, it opens up more explosive plays for you while shutting down plays for your opponent.  
Given the current meta, Thunder King Rai-Oh is a great choice for this deck, because it shuts down so many opposing meta deck plays. Additionally, Thunder King Rai-Oh allows you to produce Black Luster Soldier derps, If you don’t open up with a Zombie, Thunder King Rai-Oh is simply an amazing card to put on the field during your opening turn.  It stops Rabbit plays, Tour Guides, opposing Thunder King Rai-Oh (via suicide), Duality, most floaters, and so forth.  In fact, Thunder King Rai-Oh is so deadly that I’ve included two copies of Dimensional Prison for opposing Thunder King Rai-Oh - a well protected copy of Thunder King Rai-Oh can shut this deck down!

This deck isn’t exactly for the faint of heart.  It requires an in-depth knowledge of card advantage, combo setup, combo disruption (what to use your Maxx “C” on, what to banish with Book of Life - it’s not as straightforward as it seems), and the damage step, as well as a fairly good grip on predicting plays and knowing when to push for game.  Put simply, it requires an advanced player and a good bit of practice.  
On a personal note, I've been testing this deck since the advent of Tour Guide in EXVC, playing it through the old, new, then old (again) Xyz rulings.  I've got to say, when I was playing the deck under the "Xyz-materials-on-field" ruling, it was absolutely insane.  I was so sure it was going to get smashed by the ban list come March 2012, but I'm extremely content with the ruling change!  I love this deck, and I wish it could stick around forever!
If you’ve got the heart for it, definitely pick it up.  It’s a great deck that’s extremely difficult to beat in the hands of a skilled player, but regardless of what skill level you’re at, it’ll take some practice.  Remember, be patient!  You’ll get it down eventually.  I’ve only touched the surface of all the combos that this deck is capable of in this article, and it’s up to you to discover the rest yourselves!  Don't let this intimidate you, pick it up and play!
Dr. House

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Show Me the Way: Trap Dustshoot

We've all been there before.  Your opponent has an Effect Veiler, stopping you getting that Black Luster Soldier off the field outside of Dark Hole.  He grabbed that Maxx "C" with Sangan right before you were about to swarm.  She snatches that Archlord Kristya with Pot of Duality, ready to be dropped (for game?) next turn.  These are unfortunate (and common) situations, but luckily for you, there's a nice way out!  Enter Trap Dustshoot.

Trap Dustshoot is, hands down, one of the best trap cards this format.  Most of you have had your fair share of Typhoons and Storm destroying your back row, resulting in a nice one-for-one for your opponent (assuming you both play conservatively!).  But what if I told you that you could gain advantage off of your opponent's trap hate?  Instead of being the eager-beaver, Monster-chugging card players that we are from time to time, it might be a better idea to hold off on enthusiastically flipping that Dustshoot during your opponent's standby phase.  Instead, bait it out with a Typhoon or Heavy Storm.

Now, why would you do this?  Why is this a good play?  Here's the answer: card advantage.  Once again (as we will often do in our articles!), let's look at the card advantage involved in an opponent's Typhoon hitting your Dustshoot

Card advantage for your opponent: -1 from activating and resolving Typhoon + 1 from destroying your facedown Dustshoot - 1 from the resolution of Trap Dustshoot = -1 + 1 -1 = [-1]!  In other words, if your opponent hits a face down Trap Dustshoot with Typhoon or Storm, it'll result in a [-1] in terms of card advantage for them, which means a cool, easy [+1] for you!  Neat!

Assuming the game isn't going to end this turn, and the state of the game is relatively stable for the next few moves, it'll only be to your advantage when you play this way.  This is because you've easily eliminated one of your opponent's options - and how much easier can it really get?  Your opponent does all the work!  The [+1] off Dustshoot doesn't just have to be from Typhoon or Storm - you can chain to a multitude of other cards to net you your precious plusses: Dust Tornado, Trap Stun, Scrap Dragon's effect, a Black Rose nuke, a Brionac bounce (targeting your Dustshoot for a cool [+2]!), or pretty much anything that removes spells or traps from the field.  

If you find yourself in the situation presented in the opening paragraph too often, you might want to consider adding consistency to this play.  But how?  Trap Dustshoot has rightfully earned its place on the limited section of the ban list.  Here's the answer: play Mind Crush.  You saw the Veiler/Maxx "C"/Herald of Orange Light/Kristya go to the hand with Sangan, Duality, and so forth.  You know it's there, you just need it out the way!  Mind Crush does this job easily.  

You can also apply what you just learned about the card advantage associated with the interaction of Dustshoot and Typhoon to Mind Crush.  Your opponent plays Duality, getting The Agent of Creation - Venus.  He activates Typhoon or Storm before he summons it next turn, and you chain that Mind Crush!  Two of these, along with a copy of Trap Dustshoot, will consistently help out with your opponent's cards in the hand that plague your existence (or maybe just you winning the game).

Remember, though card advantage accounts for a lot of good moves, it isn't strictly everything.  If your opponent is ready to drop that Kristya this turn and you have no other answers, you should play Dustshoot or Mind Crush.  Sure, in this case, it might be a [+0] (or break-even/one-for-one), but it's better than losing the game.  Above all else, practice makes perfect.  You'll naturally get the hang of predicting what your opponent does the more you play competitively, and you can use this to your advantage.  

So practice, practice, practice, and you'll be able to tell when it's a good time to try to plus off of Dustshoot/Mind Crush plays or when you're in danger of losing the game.  Simply put, there's no better substitute for practice!  Though this might seem obvious, you'll get the hang of playing conservatively and utilizing card advantage in games only when you actually play the game and think about these concepts while doing so!  Make a conscious effort from here on out, then being aware of the card advantage and playing conservatively is only second nature - like driving a car or riding a bike.  Don't give up, practice makes perfect!  

Dr. House

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In the Spotlight: T.G. Agents

Consistency.  Speed.  Power.  Control.  What if I told you that you could play a deck had all of these for relatively cheap?  Here’s a deck list I’ve been testing with that utilizes monsters as its source of power and control.  That’s right, almost no traps involved!  The reason why is probably fairly obvious: with the newly limited Heavy Storm and the unlimited Mystical Space Typhoon floating around, traps just don’t last long enough to play conservatively.  I found that cards such as Solemn Warning and even Solemn Judgment slowed me down and were most always Typhoon’d or Storm’d away, rendering them useless.  Here was the deck list at the start of the format:
           Monster Total: 27
3 Master Hyperion
3 The Agent of Creation - Venus
3 Mystical Shine Ball
3 The Agent of Mystery - Earth
3 Herald of Orange Light
3 T.G. Warwolf
2 T.G. Striker
2 Archlord Kristya
2 Tragoedia
1 Black Luster Soldier
1 Honest
1 Sangan
Spell Total: 12
3 Pot of Duality
3 Cards from the Sky
2 Mystical Space Typhoon
1 Heavy Storm
1 Monster Reborn
1 Dark Hole
1 Mind Control
           Trap Total: 1
1 Trap Dustshoot
From a financial standpoint, TG Agents are one of the most cost effective decks in the current meta.  Go to your local card shop and pick up three Lost Sanctuary structure decks, and be sure to make an effort to trade for a few freshly minted super rare Pot of Duality and Archlord Kristya, and, voila, you’ve got yourself the core of a tier 1 deck!  If you’re having problems trading for the Dualities or Kristyas for cheap, you can (worst-case scenario) pick some up in the Wave 1 tins.  Add some Tech Genus staples and you’ve just made it a bit more fun!  The T.G. and Agents work together to form a great combination of defense and control, all wrapped into one deck.  Read on to find out why!  
1. Consistency and Speed
Because this deck utilizes some great spell cards like Pot of Duality and Cards from the Sky, you'd be hard pressed to open up with a truly terrible hand.  Playing multiple Cards from the Sky in one turn, perhaps in combination with a Duality, can help you thin your deck down quickly to draw in to some power cards and get your win condition faster!
Another great card that helps with consistency is Earth, which gives you hand advantage in the form of a [+1] (see article on card advantage), as well as an extra card to discard for Herald of Orange Light if you need to.  Earth’s [+1] essentially mitigates the cost of Herald’s inherent [-1].  Additionally, let’s say you have an Earth and a Cards from the Sky.  If you read the article on playing conservatively, you’d know exactly what to do:  normal summon the Earth, searching Venus.  Banish the in-hand Venus to Cards and draw two.  From this play, you have a [+1] and two freshly drawn cards, rather than banishing the Earth (without normal summoning, of course) and just drawing two cards.  From this, we see the conservative, card-advantage route generates the most options.

2. Boss Monsters and Power Plays
As you can see, this deck makes excellent use of hefty boss monsters, all of which can turn the game into your favor within a single turn.  Summon Master Hyperion by banishing an Agent from your graveyard, then banish another fairy to net a [+1] in card advantage.  Summon an Archlord Kristya against any deck in the current meta, and watch as your opponent struggles to overcome it (unless, of course, they have Dark Hole or the like).  Finally, the deck takes advantage of the most powerful monster to come off the banlist in years: Black Luster Soldier.  The Soldier can drastically turn things in your favor - use it to banish that pesky Ally of Justice Catastor holding you back, or try its other effect: attacking twice with a whopping 3000 attack!  It’s especially good when utilized late game as you’ve usually got that graveyard loaded with your light monsters, as well as some darks.  Note that T.G. Warwolf is a dark monster, which is one of the reasons T.G. and Angels work together to produce a deck that's greater than the sum of its parts.  

Since you often have many cards in hand, Tragoedia is a good beater early or even mid-game.  However, a mistake many players make is that they only play Tragoedia reactively - as in reacting to opponent’s plays.  Instead, take a new twist on things and try playing it proactively.  Suppose, for example, you have 5 cards in hand, including Sangan and Tragoedia.  Normal summon the Sangan, then ram it into the Bora in the battle phase, special summoning Tragoedia in the damage step.  Sure, you lose some Life Points in the process, but you get your Sangan search (netting 4 cards in hand now), and you’ve got a bulky Tragoedia on the field with 2400 attack!  After it’s done, you’re still at 5 cards total (in hand and on the field), but you’re still in your battle phase!  Take down that Bora, and you’ve got a great beater and a Sangan search to set up for your play next turn.  Alternatively, Sangan can get you that Herald from your deck to protect you later on if needed.  Many opponents will not expect plays like this, so the element of surprise will be a big advantage on your part!  

This deck is terrific at generating monsters with high attack and defense.  Our shining star: Gachi Gachi Gantetsu.  This Xyz monster comes in the Dawn of the Xyz starter deck, and is a perfect fit in T.G. Agents.  Many great first turns come from summoning Venus, getting 2-3 Shine Balls from the deck, and stacking two of those Shine Balls for Gachi.  With this play, you net a [+2] in terms of card advantage (assuming Gachi and the 3rd Shine Ball hit the field), and a souped-up Venus with 2000 attack due to Gachi’s effect!  At this point, all monsters you summon will now have their attack increased by 400, which is a pretty big deal.  Your opponent’s only answer will be to minus himself by summoning synchros or Xyzs to attack over or get rid of your monsters.  

Remember how how Necrovalley made a huge difference for the Gravekeeper beatdown strategy?  It can turn their monsters from being just “good” to a force to be reckoned with, powering over even the strongest level 4 monsters!  Gachi has the same principle.  Venus becomes 2000, Earth pumps up to 1400, Hyperion a whopping 3100,  and Tragoedia 400 + 600 times the number of cards in  your hand.  Plus, when your opponent finally manages to get the Gachi off the field, you’re set up for Hyperion and Kristya plays!  Awesome!

The T.G. monsters aren't only used for synchos and card advantage; they're also used for Xyzs.  A Venus and Warwolf get you Leviair, which you can then use to special summon one of your level 4 or lower removed from play fairies for a cool [+1].  Also, you can get Leviathan Dragon, remove a Venus, and have a 2500 ATK beatstick (or up to 2900 with Gachi on the field!).

3. Control
Although great at aggressively putting big monsters on the field, this deck also utilizes an extremely effective control strategy.  Herald is one of the best control cards in the deck (the other being Kristya!), but it can be tricky to play.  It’s an inherent [-1], but there are certain ways you can play it to help make up for that (and, as you’ll see, this way is to play conservatively!).  Don’t lose card advantage over small stuff, because a [-1] will eliminate some of your options when you need to make a comeback.  Herald small stuff (like Effect Veiler or Honest!) late game only if you know your opponent is on his last leg and you can win the game that turn (key word here is “only”!).  
Looking over my decklist, you’ll notice I only play one trap card.  Not surprisingly, it’s a control card, because Trap Dustshoot will either eliminate key cards in your opponent’s strategy or cards that prevent you from accomplishing your strategies, such as Effect Veiler, Honest, and Maxx “C”.  See the article on how to make the most of Trap Dustshoot coming soon!
Finally, most decks in the meta right now focus on swarming the field, and, outside of Dark Hole, there are few cards commonly played that focus on monster elimination.  This is where Archlord Kristya really shines!  While testing this deck against most meta decks this format, when I’ve summoned Archlord Kristya, it was typical that my opponent simply scooped, and we proceeded into the next game.  Indeed, this shows how powerful a single card can be - summoning a 2800 beater, getting a [+1] (the fairy from the grave, typically Honest or Hyperion), all backed up by a built-in Royal Oppression!  Also, don’t forget that Kristya can be tribute summoned or Monster Reborn’d.  In fact, a great (but somewhat situational) combo with this deck is when you have Herald, Kristya, and Reborn.  Play the Herald, discarding the Kristya, and activate Reborn, special summoning Kristya.

4. Card Advantage
Note that card advantage has been mentioned in most every topic discussed thus far.  It is hard to stress how very important this is in getting advantage during any game, against any player.  Almost every card in the deck, with the exception of Herald, is an advantage generator.  Venus is a [+3] when combined with Shine Ball.  The T.G. monsters replace themselves.  Wonder Magician in the extra deck creates a [+1] that makes up for its inherent [-1] to synchro.  Earth is a [+1], Kristya is [+1], and Hyperion creates a [+1] every turn he sticks around.  This isn't even counting the battle phase advantage you'll generate with your pumped-up monsters, thanks to Gachi!
Herald is the only minus, but take this example:  your opponent uses 3 cards to synchro for Trishula.  At this point, before the effect of Trishula resolves, here’s the card advantage for your opponent: -3 synchro materials + 1 Trishula = [-2].  Trishula triggers, and you use Herald and another fairy [-2] to negate and destroy the activation of Trishula.  This bit of card advantage calculation will be a little complex, but if you can stick with it, your understanding of play-by-play advantage will be broadened.  Ready?  Here we go!  
Play-by-play advantage for your opponent: -3 synchro materials + 1 Trishula + 2 of your cards that you used up from Herald - 1 Trishula (since Trishula is destroyed by Herald’s effect) = -3 + 1 + 2 - 1 = [-1], which is a [+1] for you!  Whew!  Got it?  Your opponent used 3 monsters for Trishula, while you played smart (read: conservatively) and used 2 cards for Herald, generating a [+1] after all is said and done!  

5. Format Modifications
Of course, no deck is perfect from the start.  As the format goes on, you'll have to modify the deck to have it perform to the best of its ability.  After the meta became a little more clear following the first YCS of the format, I've made a few changes.  I took out three Herald of Orange Light and three Cards from the Sky because I felt as if they were holding me back when I wanted to explode and win the game.  I put in four defensive cards: 2 Effect Veiler and 2 Maxx "C".  I found that this did not interfere with the consistency of my Kristya and Hyperion drops (due to the reduction of three fairies).  The final two changes were a 3rd T.G. Striker (for more Armory Arm or Trishula plays) and Gorz the Emissary of Darkness.  I'm still playing around with the deck, but this is what works well so far!  Feel free to change it around and find what suits you best. Remember, you're playing for your meta, not mine!  So here's the modified deck list:

         Monster Total: 30
3 Master Hyperion
3 The Agent of Creation - Venus
3 Mystical Shine Ball
3 The Agent of Mystery - Earth
3 T.G. Warwolf
3 T.G. Striker
2 Archlord Kristya
        2 Effect Veiler
        2 Maxx "C"
2 Tragoedia
        1 Gorz the Emissary of Darkness
1 Black Luster Soldier
1 Honest
1 Sangan
Spell Total: 9
3 Pot of Duality
2 Mystical Space Typhoon
1 Heavy Storm
1 Monster Reborn
1 Dark Hole
1 Mind Control
           Trap Total: 1
1 Trap Dustshoot
Conclusively, this deck utilizes playing conservatively and card advantage to a great extent, and it is up to you to play smart and make the most of it!  With these tips and a little bit of practice, you can unlock the full potential of T.G. Agents!
Ms. K