A New Dawn Has Broken

Beau Butler

8/24/2012 1:00:00 PM

“Meta.” It's an unavoidable term in the Yu-Gi-Oh! world that you're more than likely familiar with if you've played even briefly. Everything relevant in the game, competitive and otherwise, has a relation to one or more metagames. It's a broad term and usually just means “what's commonly played in a specific area,” though it can refer to anything from the play environment at the World Championships, to your friends playing Kaiba and Yugi decks. Sometimes remembered as a time period between two Forbidden and Limited Lists; sometimes referred to as “a local metagame” to signify currently used decks; but essentially always defined by the format.

Essentially, a format is just the set of rules you're playing under. In the beginning, there was only one format. Later, a list of cards too powerful for organized tournament play was created, and those cards were Forbidden or Limited to a restricted per-deck quantity. The creation of that list was the start of a new format: Traditional. The Traditional Format exists to allow players who wish to continue using their Forbidden cards to do so, though Limited and Semi-Limited cards are the same. From that point forward, the competitive format using the Forbidden and Limited List became known as the “Advanced Format.”

In the Advanced Format there's a cycle perpetually repeating itself in an almost prophetic way. Players pioneer new strategies or modify current decks under the F&L List; the game develops to a state where top decks give way to other builds specifically engineered to defeat them; then another F&L List is released to keep things fresh and kick start the next competitive season. Because of scheduling between the release dates of each F&L List and the date of the World Championship Tournament, the dueling community finds itself this time of year in a unique place. A place where the next format is still shrouded in mystery and there are no more large-scale premier events to prepare for, so everyone in the community has the chance to take a brief reprieve from the tournament circuit and chill out. That lull is an opportunity that lets you stop fretting about tournament standings and travel accommodations, and instead start playing that Secret Village of the Spellcasters Lockdown at your locals that you thought of one night in a sudden burst of creative inspiration, or a silly Volcanic Burn deck that you thought was maybe really fun, but not very competitive.

We're somewhat in that space now; despite the list being confirmed, it still hasn't taken effect yet, and most Duelists have no reason to start committing to strategies until they see the results of YCS Toronto. For a very long time, this has been the standing status of the downtime in these format-finishing weeks, but that isn't necessarily the case any longer. We've now been given a new format to fill the void with the release of Battle Pack: Epic Dawn.

Dawn of an Era
If you're a competitive, or even relatively casual player, there's a VERY large chance that you've heard about it. Epic Dawn is a carefully designed 220 card set, built to give players a chance to buy packs and then build decks with only the cards they open, to compete on the fly in tournaments or with friends. The packs only come with five cards, compared to the standard nine or the MegaPack's eleven cards, but they also cost half the price of a regular booster, being only $2 per pack in many (if not all) locations. If anything, you're actually getting an extra card for the same price as a standard pack if you buy your Battle Packs in two's, which you likely will. Justifying a $20 purchase of ten packs is pretty easy when you consider the fact that tournament-level cards are frequently pulled from the set, many of which are worth pulling. Getting to bulk up your collection on the cheap and having an additional, alternative format to play in is a nice combo.

Competitive reception's been wild, too. In the American TCG territory, we're seeing side events at YCS tournaments specifically for Battle Pack Sealed, supported with special Star Foil cards you can't get anywhere else. The prizes go from both competition-worthy, like Grandmaster of the Six Samurai (Yes, please) and Icarus Attack, to casual favorites such as Harpie Lady' rel="/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Cyber Harpie Lady">Cyber Harpie Lady and Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon, so there's really something for everyone (Jason's Note: hate all the Star Foil promos? Well good news! eBay loves them!). Since Battle Pack: Epic Dawn is such a large set, the builds and strategies players come up with in tournaments can vary dramatically. That aside, the defining point of Battle Pack Sealed play for many, I would think, is the fact that it's a new format and perfect for this period between Forbidden and Limited Lists where the competitive season is effectively over. It's impossible to bank on an F&L List and be disappointed when the format you play in doesn't have one. Nothing's Forbidden or Limited in Battle Pack Sealed.

The cost-effective nature of the set is another reason it's just so incredibly good to get into when you're not sure what to build or play; there's no risky investments. You'll literally never say to yourself “I need to buy a playset of X for my Battle Pack deck.” For a flat rate of ten bucks for five packs, you can play casually with a twenty card deck and have a blast. Depending on your pulls, you might as well have gotten the rest of the cards in your packs for free, when you think about it. Picking up a Tour Guide From the Underworld would essentially get you your money back, and also half of your next investment's worth of funds, in terms of value. Sell or keep, it's a really great deal either way and you may be able to accumulate funds for the deck you hope to put together when the new F&L List DOES become relevant. A good time that pays off in the long run is usually the best time.

 Tour Guide From the Underworld
Tour Guide From the Underworld59147
Set Battle Pack: Epic Dawn
Number BP01-EN023
Level 3
Type Effect Monster
Monster Fiend
Attribute DARK 
A / D 1000 / 600
Rarity Rare
Card Text

When this card is Normal Summoned, you can Special Summon 1 Level 3 Fiend-Type monster from your hand or Deck. Its effects are negated, and it cannot be used as a Synchro Material Monster.

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Forbidden Memories
Another big merit to Battle Pack Sealed is the complete and utter lack of any kind of restriction as to what goes in your deck. Literally, if you pull it, you can play it. For a lot of people, that means a first-time experience with many duelist's old favorites, like Cyber Jar, Dark Magician of Chaos, Witch of the Black Forest and other game-breaking power spells no longer allowed in the Advanced Format. Raigeki, I'm looking at you.

While many would see these familiar relics of a time long ago as nostalgic, held in a place of both disdain and a bittersweet love, a lot of new competitors have no experience with anything that these cards can do. That means that there's a whole player base that can essentially see these cards as more than just reprints, but actually new influences on the play environment. With that in mind, Battle Pack tournaments become a way for players to not just revisit old cards and form new strategies, but also familiarize themselves with cards they haven't really seen before and build first-time combos that can expand thought processes regarding deck building and utility.

From there, we could actually even see a revitalization of the Traditional Format, with attention being shone down on our Forbidden List-friends. Should Traditional make a resurgence on some level, be it altered F&L List or not, that could lead to a total of three tournament formats for players to choose from, and give everyone a lot more opportunities toplay with their favorite cards. We could dust off old tournament kings like Goat Control or Yata-Lock, and it could very likely pull older players who still have many past cards back into the game, since their dated collections would hold a new relevance.

Pair three standardized formats of competition with Dragon Duels for the younger age bracket, and you could wind up with a set of formats that cover a really wide range of player demographics. If you have a Battle Pack Sealed Dragon Duel beyond that, or Traditional Format Dragon Duel... Well, I think you get what I'm saying. A bigger audience is a better audience, and a better audience is better for the game, which is what we all want. OIf history's shown us anything, bigger audiences also lead to bigger tournaments, and bigger prizes. I don't think anyone's ever said “I don't want bigger prizes.”

A Little Cloudy
Some people remain skeptical, and I don't blame them; I certainly was and even now I still sometimes have a bitter twang in the back of my head for the way Lady Luck can decide offhandedly to give you bad pulls in your card pool. In casual Battle Pack play, I think we can agree that luck is going to be a much bigger factor. Something I've noticed throughout the years I've played Yu-Gi-Oh! is that mindgames and bluffs only work against those that have a reason to believe you could be bluffing. Someone with no concept of a bluff won't READ something as a bluff, and that makes some issues of skill very skewed at lower-level play. Plus there are going to be a lot more players that haphazardly attack into two set backrows like “WHO KNOWS WHAT THESE COULD BE?! ATTACK!”, where a player who was more aware of the dangers that may lie in wait could have a cautious approach to the situation.

That said, in a tournament setting, the skill level goes back up and luck is more easily mitigated by telegraphing certain backrow cards. Risk-versus-reward plays, like setting a Raigeki or Harpie's Feather Duster to ward away big attacks in place of a Mirror Force, can be the determining factor between a huge comeback and sad defeat. Conversely, if your opponent does think that you're that type to set a bluff, it makes your live cards that much more dangerous, since there's a chance they'll attack into a Mirror Force or Prideful Roar on the chance you were trying to psych them out. It's really a two-way street in that sense.

 Obelisk the Tormentor
Obelisk the Tormentor59145
Set Battle Pack: Epic Dawn
Number BP01-EN021
Level 10
Type Effect Monster
Monster Divine-Beast
Attribute DIVINE 
A / D 4000 / 4000
Rarity Rare
Card Text

You must Tribute 3 monsters to Normal Summon this card (you cannot Set this card). The Normal Summon of this card cannot be negated. When this card is Normal Summoned, Spells, Traps, and Effect Monster effects cannot be activated. This card cannot be targeted by the effects of Spells, Traps or Effect Monsters. If this card is Special Summoned, it is sent to the Graveyard during the End Phase. You can Tribute 2 monsters to destroy all monsters your opponent controls. This card cannot declare an attack the turn this effect is activated.

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Opening better cards in the set, like Gorz the Emissary of Darkness or Obelisk the Tormentor, isn't always going to be why you win or lose, either. I've lost games where I've landed Obelisk on the field to a well played Prideful Roar, and it can be devastating. Paying some trivial amount of Life Points to pull off what's essentially a 4-for-1 card exchange can be enough to shut someone out of a game entirely. There are a lot of checks and balances, and many of the same theories used in constructed play apply in Sealed, in terms of how to approach making safe pokes, over-extending too early, and that kind of thing. Card presence is always something to keep in mind, and spending resources on invested plays that your opponent can punish with a Raigeki or something is almost MORE frightening.

Just because there's a sense of random luck when you're opening packs and building your card pool, don't be fooled into thinking Battle Pack Sealed is glorified Russian Roulette; there's a tremendous amount to be said for the in-game skill that's at play. Playing Sealed with your tournament-going friends or other high-level players can really be a fun and skill intensive activity.

Dusk ‘till Dawn
Like I've said, there are a ton of unique and pivotal things that can be said for Battle Pack: Epic Dawn and Sealed Pack competitive play, both in terms of what's healthy for players individually, the game itself, and the player base as a whole. Playing Sealed is a great way to use the downtime between Regional seasons, or playing with friends when locals aren't going on. It's a great way to relive the past again, too, or experience it for the first time! You can strengthen your adaptability as a player and increase your strategic and tactical skills... It's really ridiculous. So go on, take some time and immerse yourself in a new experience! I would recommend it to pretty much anyone.


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