8/8/2012 10:35:00 AM
Hey TCGplayers! While I've often written articles about different deck strategies and tech cards for our current metagames, today Iíd like to talk about something a little different. Something that I find incredibly important for all trading card game players: understanding, and eventually controlling the tempo of a game. What's tempo you may ask? Tempo is gaining incremental advantage more efficiently than your opponent, playing stronger cards for less cost, and increasing your own options while limiting those of your opponent. Tempo is really similar to card advantage, in that by forcing your opponent to respond to your plays, you conserve cards in order to push back even harder. You must strive to get the maximum value out of your cards at every stage of the game.
So how do you go about accomplishing that?
In Magic: The Gathering, tempo is achieved in a variety of ways, from increasing the amount of resources you can use per turn (often called ďrampingĒ), to denying your opponent their resources (thus rendering their more expensive cards useless), and the most common method: using cheap, efficient creatures that you can support with spells to ride to victory. Amongst the different playstyle archetypes of Magic (Aggro, Combo, and Control), the one that best accomplishes this tempo style of play is a hybrid of the two, Aggro/Control. Such strategies use cheap creatures to be aggressive, while playing spells to keep up the pressure and deny your opponent resources. When an Aggro/Control deck exists in the competitive Magic scene, it's often considered the best deck in the format due to how many options and lines of play it has. The key thing to remember about tempo is that you always want to be the one with the last response, and you always want to have options.
But weíre not playing Magic! So how can we achieve tempo control in Yu-Gi-Oh? The best example of a tempo or Aggro/Control deck style is Plant Synchro. Looking back to the March 2011 Advanced Format, and even the September 2011 format, Plant Synchro was the deck that always seemed to have options. It could explode with a deadly Reborn Tengu
, One for One
combo, or it could grind you out through aggressive Tengu and Tour Guide pushes. This article is going to highlight the key components of tempo play: efficiency of your monsters; getting maximum value out of your cards; and denying your opponent options while increasing your own.
Like Magic, efficiency in Yu-Gi-Oh! starts with the monsters you choose to run. Plant Synchro is one of the best examples of just how well efficient monsters can work together. Letís take a look at my teammate and fellow writer Thomas Voís Plant deck list from YCS Columbus in 2011
Taking a look at the main deck, every monster does one of two things: they either put an immediate threat on the field, or they generate value. The only exceptions are the hand traps, but I always view those more as spells or traps than real monsters. Reborn Tengu
is the king of card advantage, and even though itís Semi-Limited to two per deck now, itís still able to replace itself for free. Many of you can probably remember how annoying the task of eliminating all your opponentís Tengus was (unless you had Tengus of your own), and that's what made it so good. Tengu provided an immediate and continuous presence on the field which had to be dealt with.
The other ďTĒ monster of the deck, Tour Guide From the Underworld
, needs no introduction. A format staple since last year, Tour Guide is a free plus in card presence that helps swing the Duel in your favor. Even before Xyz monsters were legal, Tour Guide fetching her buddy Sangan
was just so good as that Sangan
search could grab a Debris Dragon
or Lonefire Blossom
, or any other power card. The fact Tour Guide can grab Sangan
helps make decks so much more consistent, which is what weíre looking for in efficient creatures.
The next set of monsters Iíd like to discuss are two that just hit the banlist: Spore
and Glow-Up Bulb
. Many (Plant) duelists cried foul at Konamiís decision to place these tuners on the Forbidden list, but it makes sense. Spore
and Glow-Up Bulb
were essentially free, on demand tuners when you needed them. Each could enable up to two Synchro summons, and both were integral to the devastating plant combos of Reborn Tengu
or Debris Dragon
, One for One
, and Dandylion
. These tuners were what gave plants a multitude of options each turn, and through the use of the Extra Deck, could have possible outs to a variety of threats. Plaguespreader Zombie
is the only reusable tuner left after Spore
, Bulb, and Fishborg Blaster
were sent packing, but the loss of a card serves to balance the variety of synchros Plaguespreader Zombie
can help churn out.
ís efficiency is often overshadowed by the fact of how it was so often abused with Spore
and Glow-Up Bulb
to create tons of advantage with Formula Synchron
. While this is definitely a great play and one of the reasons Dandylion
was so good, letís just look at Dandylion
by itself. A monster that makes twice as many tokens when it goes to the graveyard? The potential for a next turn tribute, or even just to buy some time is just so good, Iím surprised itís still not forbidden. I will take a plus one every day, even if it is only in the form of cute fluff tokens. Dandylion
was also great at setting up tribute summons on subsequent turns. Ryko milling Dandylion
into a Caius drop is still one of my favorite ďgotcha!Ē plays.
The last monster of plants Iíd like to discuss is one whose efficiency isnít a clear by reading by the card, but is just oh so good at being a threat. Thunder King Rai-Oh
rounds us out as the standard by which all other 1900 ATK beaters are measured against. T-King did everything you could ask for in the plant mirror, and was also great against the Agent decks of the time. Even now, barring Inzektors, Thunder King is still an all-around great card against a variety of decks, but why? First, 1900 ATK is big. As many duelists who have been beaten down by an army of Sabersaurus
before, ATK points are still relevant if neither player opens up particularly nutty. Second, hunder King also stops searches, which is amazing against decks like Heroes and Hieratics. Lastly, Thunder King can outright negate opposing inherent Xyz and Synchro summons. This is what made T-King so valuable in the September 2011 format Plant Synchro mirror matches; you could use T-King to slow down your opponent, or even to protect yourself once you had already chosen to make a push. He was almost always relevant at every stage of the game, but he shined early on and let you set the tempo for the duel.
Sadly, due to the Inzektor archetype, Thunder King has fallen by the wayside in terms of playability, now relegated to the occasional side deck slot. Yet T-King still works wonders against Chaos Dragons, Hieratics, and even Wind-Ups as the 1900 ATK body is sometimes just too much to handle. Watch out for Thunder King Rai-Oh
in the future though, as heís great at stopping all of the search based archetypes in Return of the Duelist
(Geargia and especially Madolche) and is great at stopping the new Gishki deck from setting up.
Straying a bit from past formats, one the current deck with a set of efficient monsters that provide a wide variety of options is Wind-Ups. Able to Shift
gears very quickly from looping an opponentís hand and flooding the board with Xyzs, to slowly grinding down your opponent with small attacks (Wind-Up Rabbit) and card advantage (Zenmaity and Factory). While the toys canít match the raw efficiency of Thunder King and Reborn Tengu
(although I doubt anything besides Tour Guide can stand up to that test against Tengu), each piece of the puzzle works together to help explode with a deadly combo or manage the game through card advantage and evasive monsters. Dino Rabbit is the other versatile deck of this format, able to main a wide variety of tech cards while still being brutally consistent.
The key that keeps Wind-Ups going in any type of matchup is Wind-Up Rabbit
. Able to nullify opposing back row such as Dimensional Prison
, Bottomless Trap Hole
, and Mirror Force
is huge, and you can even dodge an improperly timed Effect Veiler
on a Wind-Up Carrier Zenmaity
(The correct time to Veiler a Zenmaity with a Rabbit present is right when the Carrier is summoned, as there is no longer priority on the ignition effect to special summon. Donít wait for it to use its effect!). Rabbit allows for a lot of versatile plays, and is great at baiting people into a timely Gorz drop.
The other Wind-Up monsters all rely on each other in order to work properly (especially Wind-Up Magician
and Shark, and what Wind-Up player hasnít bemoaned drawing multiple Rats?), so we canít necessarily call them efficient. Rat is the best due to the plus that it can provide with a little bit of setup. Yet all these cards are geared towards allowing you to make a myriad of different Xyzs, from Number 17: Leviathan Dragon
, all the way up to Tiras, Keeper of Genesis
(and in some rare cases, Gaia Dragon, the Thunder Charger
). The strength of the Wind-Up strategy lies in always having options for yourself, while limiting those of your opponent; I'll touch more on this later.
So why did I spend all the time analyzing monsters from a deck thatís now non-existent? Thereís still a lot we can learn from it, for instance evaluating the usage of a monster for efficiency and potential value. So now we know what makes a monster efficient, but how do we get the most value out of our cards?
One of the biggest cards that people often waste is Mystical Space Typhoon
: because itís at three per deck, people tend to be a little reckless with it. The play I see most often that makes me want to bang my head against the table is just blindly Typhooning a set card without any follow-up play. When you clear away your opponentís defenses, you should follow up with some form of aggression, otherwise you arenít taking advantage of their vulnerability. Why go for the 1-for-1 trade when you could potentially gain a +1? Many of my opponents have wasted their own MST by targeting mine when I set it, allowing me to destroy one of their cards when they try to clear my back row. You should always try to make the decision that offers you more valuable plays.
Like Thomas discussed a few weeks ago
, it's really important to time the use of your power cards Ė and even stuff like Mystical Space Typhoon
Ė to get the most out of them. These cards are easy to play early, especially Torrential and Heavy Storm
, but you want to try and play them to punish overextension. Donít use a card like Torrential as a 1-for-1 unless you need an immediate answer to cards like Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning
, Dark Armed Dragon
, or Judgment Dragon
. Cards like those have a huge impact on the game as soon as theyíre played, so you often can't risk your opponent having a follow-up to get you a better Torrential play: you'll risk crumbling under the pressure the boss monster creates. You always want to try and get more than what you invested, so playing Torrential for a +1, a +2, or even a +3 is always ideal.
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Effect: This card can only be Special Summoned by removing 1 LIGHT and 1 DARK monster in your Graveyard from play. Once during each of your turns, you can select and activate 1 of the following effects:
:- Remove 1 monster on the field from play. If you activate this effect, this card cannot attack this turn.
:- If this card destroyed your opponent's monster as a result of battle, it can attack once again in a row.
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Patience is the key to properly using your power cards; you want to have the last laugh when you activate those kinds of cards. By playing patiently, you can lull your opponent into a false sense of security by letting their initial summons go through, only to break their back when it really matters.
Now if weíre talking about value, Tour Guide From the Underworld
is at the top of the food chain. There are so many ways to gain card advantage and field presence with Tour Guide, so let's start with one scenario. Summon Tour Guide to grab a Sangan
, and attack an opponentís exposed field. Your opponent can response with a back row card (normally a Dimensional Prison
to get rid of the Sangan
should you choose to swing with it), but otherwise they take an easy 2000 damage. Then youíre free to go into any Rank 3, although my personal favorite is Wind-Up Zenmaines
. Your opponent may have a Solemn Warning
set, which they could've either used on the initial Tour Guide, or they couldíve been waiting for your incoming Xyz summon. Yet by attacking first, you get extra value out of your Tour Guide in the form of damage. Feels good when your Tour Guide takes away 4000 of your opponentís Life Points AND a back row, doesnít it? Properly abusing the plus that Tour Guide offers tilts the game in your favor, and the effects are felt either very quickly, or will help grind down you opponent in the long term.
Yet the best way to gain value from a Tour Guide? Xyz Summons. The best value Rank 3 is arguably Wind-Up Zenmaines
. Able to brickwall the field with 2100 DEF, or go on the offensive with a respectable 1500 ATK, it's incredibly solid. But what makes Zenmaines so good is the ability to not only preserve itself, but destroy cards in the process. Similar to cards like Thunder King Rai-Oh
and Spirit Reaper
, Zenmaines forces your opponent to play cards they'd probably rather use on something else. Zenmaines lets you easily turn your Tour Guide into a +1 or even a plus two depending on how aggressive you are with it.
Another simple, but highly effective way of gaining value with your cards is just playing them in the proper order. So many times Iíve seen Dino Rabbit Duelists facing two, three, or four backrow cards, and still try and force their Rescue Rabbit
through when they have vanilla monsters in hand. Use your lesser threats to test the waters of your opponentís defenses, so that when you finally drop your big threat, it'll stick. This is also one of the key philosophies and reasons behind why Chaos Dragons are so powerful. They're able to tear apart opposing defenses with cards like Lyla and Ryko; then force you to answer threats like Chaos Sorcerer
and Darkflare Dragon
; only to drop game-enders like Dark Armed Dragon
, Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon
, and Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning
. The ability to do that plays a big part in limiting your opponentís options as well, by forcing them to play their defensive cards early on.
The general mindset when you hope to achieve value is simply to get the biggest bang for your buck on cards that can end the game. The way you go about that will change depending on what deck you run, so be sure to get a feel for what the true power cards are in your strategy!
Now that Iíve gone over value and how to best achieve it, itís time to look at options!
Throughout the course of a duel, your general mindset should be that you always want to have as many options as possible, while limiting your opponentís options by putting threats on the field that must be dealt with. A great example of this is Level Limit Area B versus Chaos Dragons. The Chaos Dragon player's arsenal is severely limited until they are able to clear it, buying you precious time to set up and delay the explosiveness that makes Chaos Dragons so deadly (assuming you can also be aggressive with Xyz Monsters that can get around the Level Limit!). By locking your opponent down, you force them to deal with the current threat, freeing up your other defenses to be used more effectively.
Looking again at the Plant Synchro decks of (not so) old, and the current format Wind-Up and Dino-Rabbit decks, they all share one thing in common: options. You could never count a Plant Duelist out, due to all the plays they had at their disposal each turn, many of which relied on cards in the Extra Deck. Even with just the summoning of one Debris Dragon
, there were many lines of play a Duelist could take. Grab a Maxx ďCĒ in grave to make an Iron Chain Dragon
; grab a Dandylion
for the field-clearing Black Rose Dragon
; or grab that Dandylion
, but abuse Spore
and Glow-Up Bulb
for an Armory Arm
finisher! Notice how Spore
and Bulb continue to pop up? They were the key to providing Plant Duelists with a multitude of answers to a variety of situations.
The best way to ensure you always have options is through your Extra Deck. At each Rank there are threats that your opponent must answer, as well as answers to your opponent's threats. At Rank 3 you have Leviathan Dragon to apply pressure; Zenmaines to wall off or use for extra removal; Temtempo to stop opposing Xyz Monsters; and Leviair to set up any number of plays involving banished monsters. At Rank 4 you can slow a game down with Number 39: Utopia
; lock out special summons with Steelswarm Roach
; or add further defense plus a Book of Moon
effect with Maestroke. Rank 5 and 6 are where it really gets spicy, with cards like Tiras, Keeper of Genesis
and Photon Strike Bounzer
to lock down your opponent, or just make an Adreus, Keeper of Armageddon
or Gaia Dragon and finish them off!
One of the main options that I see many Duelists overlook, is that when all other lines of play might not seem viable, just go kill your opponent! Just by taking an aggressive mindset to your gameplan, you force your opponent to respond to you when they otherwise might not have. Like I talked earlier about getting value out of cards like the vanilla Dinosaur-Types you might draw as a Dino Rabbit Duelist, use the fact that your opponent may not see the card as a threat to your advantage! A couple Kabazauls
swings, and even some pokes from monsters as small as Tour Guide and Sangan
, can add up fairly quickly. You can punish your opponent for playing conservatively and muscle through their back row cards, rather than trying to play around them.
The simplest and most effective way to limit your opponent's options and control the tempo of a Duel is to put threats on the field with particular answers. Cards such as Lightpulsar Dragon
, BLS, Zenmaines, and even Thunder King Rai-Oh
all require a certain method to counter them. BLS is a lightning rod for cards like Dark Hole
and Torrential Tribute
. Zenmaines and Thunder King bait out Dimensional Prison
and other battle tricks, and if your opponent wants to topple Lightpulsar Dragon
, they need to be able to get rid of two Dragons, not just one. By taking an aggressive line of play you force your opponent to immediately respond to your actions. Just remember that you must not overextend; only drop threats that you can afford to lose, or you may not have enough gas to close out the Duel!
Now you arenít always going to be in control of the tempo every game, so what do you do when youíre backed into a corner or just feel like you're constantly playing catch-up? Stall until you can find cards to turn the situation around. Cards like Spirit Reaper
, Wind-Up Zenmaines
, and Level Limit Ė Area B buy you time and let you see more cards. Iíve seen my teammates Thomas and Tyree come back and win from the brink of defeat by stalling for upwards of five, six, seven, even ten turns behind a trusty Spirit Reaper
. The more cards you see, the more chances you have to break the stalemate. Your opponent is also restricted because they must answer the stall in order to proceed with the game. Bide your time, and strike back when youíve built back up! I bet many of you have seen players win after fighting from the jaws of defeat, often against what seemed like an insurmountable position. Never count yourself out in a Duel until your Life Points hit zero!
Well thatís all I have this time for Building a Better Mindset! Stay on the lookout as I cover various styles of play in upcoming columnbs (Combo, Aggro, Control). Hopefully you all enjoyed this article; let me know what you think in the comments below. Enjoy the time off we have left, guys; a new Forbidden and Limited list is soon upon us!