Deck Drop Off At YCS Bochum

Kelly Locke

12/16/2016 11:02:00 AM

YCS Bochum concluded last week as Billy Brake claimed his fourth YCS win, and Konami's European coverage team somehow manage to capture the action of the 1,603 player, multi-nation event. A specific part of their coverage caught my eye: a breakdown of the number of entrants per deck at the beginning of the tournament, and further breakdowns of remaining players per deck as the competition continued.

On Saturday night I crunched the numbers and found that the results were far more insightful than I'd anticipated. This week I want to share those numbers with you, and discuss the implications for how we analyze Top Cuts.

The Flaws Of Top Cut Analysis
It's no secret that Top Cut analysis is a favorite topic of Yu-Gi-Oh! content creators and fans alike. We all want to boil down a tournament to simple stories and relatable takeaways like “Metalfoes were the best deck” or “Infernoids didn't top.” Big events are complicated and riddled with tiny happenings that can have a big impact on the final results, but no amount of coverage can adequately convey every decisive draw or misplay. Inevitably we end up with overly general and often inaccurate statements about metagames that exist for a single weekend at just one convention hall.

As a community we take whatever information we can get and apply it as well as we can, and our knowledge comes almost exclusively from deck lists posted to social media, as well as deck breakdowns from championship-level events. But even that information doesn't tell the whole story. We largely don't know how many players entered a given tournament with a specific deck, what their builds looked like, or how experienced those players are. All those factors make a difference in the final result, but it's something we rarely discuss.

 Silver Gadget
Silver Gadget120919
Set The Dark Side of Dimensions Movie Pack
Number MVP1-EN017
Level 4
Type Effect Monster
Monster Machine
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 1500 / 1000
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

When this card is Normal or Special Summoned: You can Special Summon 1 Level 4 Machine-Type monster from your hand. If this card is destroyed by battle or card effect: You can Special Summon 1 Level 4 "Gadget" monster from your Deck, except "Silver Gadget". You can only use 1 "Silver Gadget" effect per turn, and only once that turn.

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I'm just as guilty as anyone of stretching a tiny bit of info into an inference about the competitive environment. Unfortunately it's difficult to describe competitive play without Top Cuts. How do you talk about the ‘deck to beat' without pointing to Championship-level results? There's no easy answer to that question, so defining the format by analyzing event tops becomes a habit for virtually everyone.

That's not to say that analyzing Top Cuts is useless. Some of the information we get is absolutely worth talking about. Let's take a look at the deck counts from YCS Bochum and discuss how the results draw conventional wisdom about Top Cut analysis into question.

YCS Bochum By The Numbers
When we're talking about the number of decks topping an event it's not enough to simply state “this deck topped more, so it was the best deck.” It's also important to consider how many people entered the tournament playing it. Think about it this way: if twice as many duelists enter with one deck as opposed to another, we'd expect the first deck to appears twice as many times in the Top Cut as compared to the second. That's assuming both decks are on relatively equal footing, which is sometimes the case and sometimes not.

Here's the data on the number of entrants per deck at the start of YCS Bochum. There are a few numbers that should stand out to you: 269 Metalfoes and 260 ABCs together represented 33% of all decks in competition. There are plenty of reasons why those decks are so popular, including their past performance at previous YCS events and their accessibility to budget players. Regardless, even ABC's were played by twice as many duelists as the third most-popular deck: Paleozoics.

After Paleozoics there's a sharp drop to Mermails at 85 players, then Awesome Heroes at 73 followed closely by Blue-Eyes White Dragon at 71. Phantom Knights and Burning Abyss picked up the rear, and the rest of the decks were bucketed into an “other” category which included any decks with fewer than 53 total players. Yang Zings, Infernoids, and other strategies didn't make the cut for the graphic, but there's no question that at least a few players were running them over the weekend. That entire category included 664 players, or 41.42% of the entire tournament.

Following Round 9 there was an update to those counts. Keep in mind that the numbers don't show current placings, but we can be reasonably sure that following the end of Day 1 only players with qualifying records returned to the event. With 256 players remaining – just 16% of the starting field – the numbers of remaining decks shifted in ways that benefited some strategies while hurting others. Awesome Heroes swapped spots with Mermails, and Burning Phantom Knights tied Blue-Eyes White Dragon. ABC's lead against Paleozoics narrowed to just four decks, and Metalfoes established a slightly larger proportional lead.

Finally, we arrive at the Top 32. There's definitive information on who represents each number on this graph, and we know that each player had a roughly similar record leading up to the Top Cut. Metalfoes, ABCs, and Paleozoics were tied with six decks each. Awesome Hero trailed slightly with five, Blue-Eyes had two, and both Lightsworns and Mermails picked up the rear with one deck each. Unfortunately it's hard to track down exactly what lies in the “other” category, so I'm not sure which decks landed there.

Deck Drop Off
Decks atrophy from a tournament at different rates and quantities. YCS Bochum was no exception. Let's take a look at the total drop off between Round 1 and Round 9:

Metalfoes: 203 (75.46%)

ABCs: 215 (82.69%)

Paleozoics: 88 (68.22%)

Mermails: 75 (88.24%)

Awesome Heroes: 59 (80.82%)

Blue-Eyes: 63 (88.73%)

Burning Phantom Knights: 44 (84.62%)

Other: 600 (90.36%)

Metalfoes and ABCs entered the tournament with a huge number of players, taking up one third of the field overall. By Round 9 they'd bled over 400 players, which was a bigger loss than any other deck in the running. That was basically inevitable given their entry numbers. Meanwhile, Burning Phantom Knights only lost a tenth of those players. However, percent loss tells a different story.

 Fullmetalfoes Alkahest
Fullmetalfoes Alkahest124737
Set Invasion: Vengeance
Number INOV-EN039
Level 1
Type Fusion/Effect Monster
Monster Psychic
Attribute FIRE 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

1 "Metalfoes" monster + 1 Normal Monster
Must be Fusion Summoned and cannot be Special Summoned by other ways. Once per turn, during your opponent's turn: You can target 1 Effect Monster on the field; equip that target to this card (this is a Quick Effect). This card gains DEF equal to the combined original ATK of monsters equipped to it by this effect. You can use monsters you control equipped to this card you control as Fusion Materials for the Fusion Summon of a "Metalfoes" Fusion Monster that lists them as Materials.

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Metalfoes maintained close to 25% of their player base while nearly every other deck on the list held on to less than 20%. Palozoics had the highest retention rate at 32%, while the ‘other' category showed the biggest losses with over 90% of players dropping out by Round 9. Although ‘other' decks outnumbered Metalfoes three-to-one, they were almost tied by Round 9.

Comparatively, here's each deck's share of the total decks in the running both initially and after Round 9.

Metalfoes: 16.78% (25.78%)

ABCs: 16.22% (17.58%)

Paleozoics: 8.05% (16.02%)

Mermails: 5.3% (3.91%)

Awesome Heroes: 4.55% (5.47%)

Blue-Eyes: 4.43% (3.13%)

Burning Phantom Knights: 3.24% (3.13%)

Other: 41.42% (25%)

The top two decks started with sizeable chunks of the player base, but the initial entries were still dominated by ‘other.' By Round 9 Metalfoes and ‘other' represented a quarter of the remaining decks each. The other half included big percentages from ABC's and Paleozoics, with Paleozoics steadily gaining ground against the leaders.

Finally, the proportions in the Top 32:

Metalfoes: 18.75%

ABCs: 18.75%

Paleozoics: 18.75%

Mermails: 3.13%

Awesome Heroes: 15.63%

Blue-Eyes: 6.25%

The three most popular decks at the event ended up with equal representation in the Top 32. Awesome Heroes skyrocketed from 5.47% to 15.63% between Round 9 and the Top 32 cut. Meanwhile seven decks were represented by a single player each. Since we're not sure what ended up in the ‘other' category I omitted it from my numbers here.

Making Sense Of Deck Drop Off And Representation
So what do these numbers mean? First, it's a great case study for examining how entry numbers influence eventual representation in later rounds. The decks that are represented overwhelmingly more tend to make up a bigger percentage of the field later on. That should be obvious, but it's astonishing how often representation is correlated directly with a deck's competitiveness.

Sometimes certain decks are just more popular than others for reasons outside of competitive play. ABCs and Metalfoes aren't just affordable: they're also well-developed strategies. There's plenty of best practices, ideal builds, optimal ratios, and other information floating around for those decks.

Imagine being relatively unprepared for YCS Bochum, or any event for that matter. As the days tick down you'd have to make a quick decision about the deck you'll play. Would you choose a new strategy that's difficult to learn? A deck that you're largely unfamiliar with and only built halfway? Or do you choose a well developed, battle tested, and highly successful strategy like ABC's or Metalfoes? The answer is clearly the latter for many players.

 Toadally Awesome
Toadally Awesome124750
Set Invasion: Vengeance
Number INOV-EN052
Level 2
Type Xyz/Effect Monster
Monster Aqua
Attribute WATER 
A / D 2200 / 0
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

2 Level 2 Aqua-Type monsters
Once per turn, during the Standby Phase: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; Special Summon 1 "Frog" monster from your Deck. Once per turn, during either player's turn, when your opponent activates a Spell/Trap Card, or monster effect: You can send 1 Aqua-Type monster from your hand or face-up from your field to the Graveyard; negate the activation, and if you do, destroy that card, then you can Set it to your field. If this card is sent to the Graveyard: You can target 1 WATER monster in your Graveyard; add it to your hand.

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Deck drop off was highest among those two strategies as well as the ‘other' category. We don't know how invested players were in those groups, or in any group for that matter. Did the average Paleozoic or Awesome Heroes player spend more time testing, or consist of better players overall? Again, it's hard to know. The European coverage does attribute the success of Paleozoics to top players, but noticing that at a glance is nearly impossible unless you're at the event and have intimate knowledge of the European competitive scene.

Then there's the entire ‘other' category that saw a massive bleed between Rounds 1 and 9. If you're looking for evidence about the comparative competitiveness of different strategies then a 600 player, 90% drop off is the best takeaway here. It's at least a clue into how much better the bigger named strategies are this format. Then again, how many of these decks suffered because they're new, unrefined, or piloted by average or below-average players?

What's the takeaway from this event? You could argue that Metalfoes remain the deck to beat since it won the tournament. You could also argue that Paleozoics had the best retention, or maybe point to the number of Awesome Heroes that made the Top 32 despite only fourteen remaining in the tournament after Round 9. There are valid reasons to consider all of those statements as at least partially true.

The real value of these numbers might be in determining siding strategies. After all, the most important consideration when building a Side Deck is the actual make-up of tournament, and how likely you are to face certain match-ups. From there you can prioritize the match-ups you feel least comfortable with and side fewer cards for match-ups that are favorable to you. What these numbers help indicate is how many players are entering with certain decks and how many of them are still in the running by later rounds.

If you're mostly concerned about matches in later rounds where you're likely to play against better opponents, you may want to ignore the entry level numbers. Instead, think about the composition of decks later on. Siding for Round 1 is a lot different than Rounds 5, 6, or 7; not only will your opponents have records that indicate a certain level of skill, but they'll also be more likely to play decks with lower drop off rates.

Players rally behind decks they think will give them an edge in serious competition. What's interesting is that the perception that a deck is better than others is largely driven by the number of tops it has at Regional and YCS events. Tournament results impact participation in at the next event, with more players running decks that consistently seem to top, and effectively forcing those decks into a Top 8 by sheer entry numbers.

Although certain strategies are demonstrably better at winning games, it does seem like much of what's discussed as “the meta” is attributable to a self-fulfilling prophecy fueled by a lack of information about entry numbers. That's nobody's fault, but I think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard regardless.

Until next time then


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