Sunday, February 19, 2012

Re-Ionization! The March 2012 Ban List: Analysis and Preparations

Well, guys, it’s been a while, but I’m finally back!  I’ve had a busy few months, getting all my schoolwork and trying to stay on top of things.  As a result, I haven’t been posting much - and I apologize to my dear readers, but I’ll do my best to post much more frequently!  I figured I’d jump right back into it with the announcement of the ban list.  Without further ado, this has been the confirmed OCG list (which, if history proves true, will be the exact same as the TCG list):
Glow-Up Bulb
Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier
Trap Dustshoot
TG Striker
Agent of Mystery - Earth
Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner
Reborn Tengu
Emergency Teleport
Shien’s Smoke Signal
Level Limit - Area B
Torrential Tribute
Ultimate Offering
Call of the Haunted
Yeah, I know.  We all know.  It’s pretty bad.  It addresses none of the current problems that plague the format.  The Synchros that most of you have worked hard for are now, for lack of a better phrase, being phased out slowly in favor of the new Xyz mechanic.  The banning of Trishula, Bulb, and Spore is a horrendous slap in the face to those that bought Konami’s Synchro-oriented product within the past year, and I’m sure many of you feel Konami has taken advantage of your buying habits (and thus, your trust in them to shelve a secure, stable product).  In all honesty, they have.  

However, I don’t want to discourage you from playing, nor do I want to push any of you away from the game!  Rather, I’d like to offer an explanation for the complete vomit that is the list - an explanation that Konami has no intention to offer at all.  I’m sure many of you are looking for a reason why the cards you’ve worked so hard to obtain are now unplayable, and you are now forced to buy cards exclusively from the latest sets.  Although my explanation, without a doubt, will not satisfy your desire to know as much as one from Konami, I feel that our explanations would indeed be similar in many regards.  
I posed the following observation a few months ago: much unlike Konami, the makers of Magic - the Gathering, Wizards of the Coast, will explain why they banned cards upon the announcement of their “list”.  They acknowledge that they have weakened their customer base’s trust, and as a result, product sales and the size of the player base will decline.  They do something that Konami has never done before - they apologized, and asked their consumers to listen in on how these mistakes (such as Jace and Stoneforge Mystic) were made.  I’m not a fan of Magic, nor am I even remotely interested in playing, but this article really swept me off my feet.  Why hasn’t Konami done something like this? 
After a few months of thought, and upon the careful observation and analysis of the most recent ban list, I’m sure I’ve finally found the answer.  When people like you or I design ban lists, we construct them to form an ideal format - a format where several (if not many) decks have a chance at topping, and decks which were unfair previously have had a portion of their power limited.  Cards that generate mass advantage are placed on the list to make their respective decks less consistent or problem cards are banned to push players into using fairer, more balanced cards available.  Therefore, I feel confident in saying that when we design ban lists, we design them with one thing in mind - the state of the game.  
But here’s the issue - this is what we would do.  Us.  Not Konami.  We are not the makers of this game.  We do not produce product.  We do not have to make a profit to keep our employers paid and happy, we do not have to sell boxes of our newest set to keep the business going, and we do not have the responsibility of the families of all those that work for us on our shoulders.  So what does this mean?  Simply put, Konami is forced into this position by default - they are required to think like a business, and not like a player!  Unlike you and I, who construct ban lists based on fairness and the state of the game, Konami designs ban lists for profit.  And so we see the company and the player base are at odds - one is concerned with money, the other with the good of the game.  Thus, this leads to the creation of a list that does nothing to fix the problems in the game, such as opening into Evolzar Laggia and multiple backrow, Magician/Tour Guide and Shark, or just setting up for big plusses with Inzektors.  

And yet, this approach to list creation is easily rebutted.  Sure, designing a list with profit in mind will yield (perhaps substantial) short-term profits via pack and product sales, but hitting cards that players worked hard to get (especially when those cards can cost upwards of $100) will diminish the trust between the consumers and the company.  So the rebuttal is this: if Konami designed lists with the state of the game in mind, players would trust Konami with product making and continue to invest money in cards, resulting in more money over the long-term as opposed to more in the short-term.  New sets would still sell because players are interested in buying (and trying) new things - though these sets wouldn’t sell as quickly in a format which players are forced to buy recent packs, such as this upcoming one.  But the long-term relationship between the consumers and Konami would surely be strengthened, leading more players to continue buying product over the course of many formats!  
So why don’t they do this?  
I wish I knew the answer.  I really do.  Perhaps I’m missing something - perhaps they are.  Either way, I don’t think we’ll find out, given Konami’s secretive and distant relationship with its consumers.  But at least you’re more aware of how the list is created - remember, profit oriented, not game-state!  
Enough ranting.  I’m sure most of my readers would rather hear about what this format has to offer, rather that what it could have offered.  As most of you know, most changes were made to accommodate the domination of three decks: Inzektors, Wind-Ups, and Dino Rabbit.  As I said before, none of the changes on the list even remotely weaken the power of any of these - in fact, the changes serve to strengthen them!  If you want to win consistently in competitive play this format, you’ll need to be playing one of these three, or a variation of. The banning of the Plant engine and severe debilitation of Agent Angel strips away competitors.  Glimmers of hope have been given to decks such as Six Samurai (to sell Samurai Assault and Ra Yellow, perhaps?), however, these decks are insignificant to the power and speed of the former three, and are (as of now), irrelevant in the metagame.    
So how do we combat this?  What can we do about it?  First of all, you’ll need to get some cards.  Most are expensive.  Since the problems of the end of this format were not addressed, they carry over to the upcoming one.  You’ll need a set of Maxx “C” to compete with the speed and power of Wind-Ups and Dino Rabbit.  You’ll need a set of Fiendish Chain to stop Inzektors, Wind-Ups, and Rabbit from plussing and taking the game within the first few turns. You’ll need a set of Tour Guides for consistency and speed to answer big plays.  Unless you play something odd, if you don’t have these cards, you’ll need to work hard toward getting them (though keep in mind, some of these are getting reprinted in Epic Dawn, arriving in May).  I get asked about my opinion of replacements for these cards, and I’ll gladly give my answer right here and now to avoid any confusion: there are none.  It’s better to have one copy of Fiendish Chain or Maxx “C” than three copies of a mediocre replacement.  Unfortunately, this is what is typically required to do well in higher-level play.  

I hope my article doesn’t come off as too grim, because, in all honesty, Yu-Gi-Oh will always be Yu-Gi-Oh, and you can have fun if you want to!  But if you’re competitive, I hope you took something away from this in terms of predicting future lists (remember, profit, not game-state!) and obtaining cards that will be good within the next few months.  I realize this is a different take on one of our articles, and I figured I'd shake it up a bit to see how you guys take it.  I’ll be posting through the days to give you our more typical work: tips, combos, and deck lists for those that want to better themselves! 
Glad to be back,
Dr. House