Cool Tech, Deck Names And Innovation: The Deck Archive

Zach Buckley

1/17/2017 11:02:00 AM

Competition is all about innovation. You have to be smarter than your opponent. You’ve got to learn everything that they’re doing and then figure out a way to do it just marginally better than they can before they do the same to you.

That’s that imperative of innovation and that’s what drives the biggest competitive success stories the world over. But in Yu-Gi-Oh, it’s impossible to deny the role that innovation plays in setting apart the players at top tables, and the rest of the competitive pack. The difference is that sometimes – well, actually pretty often – the innovations that grant someone a YCS title or their WCQ invite are so small they’re almost impossible to notice. One card makes the difference, and some people get it, but the finer details can often escape the vast majority.

Here at TCGplayer our whole team is dedicated to elevating the conversation surrounding the competitive side of this game. It’s been one of my biggest points of pride as a member of this team for the last five years and nothing has changed since then – in fact, it’s only gotten better.

And in no place has that been more apparent than the Deck Archive. Despite the wonderful content all of the writers here generate, a compelling argument could be made that the deck archive has become the greatest resource on TCGplayer. What was once chiefly a place for duelists to upload and store the builds that they discussed in the old TCGplayer forums has transformed into the greatest and most comprehensive competitive archive in the TCG. Top Cut decks are released en masse post-event all over the world by the organizers, but the glaring exception is here in the TCG.

Our own beloved Jason Grabher-Meyer has taken it upon himself the last few years to scour the internet and compile the lists of event-topping decks in the TCG. The decks are dated and organized by event and it gives any player who wishes to drop into a competitive environment the ability to do so with the advantage of knowing just what’s been working for the players of any given region.

Furthermore, it gives you access to larger trends as a whole and the directions that each Format is heading.

What’s All In A Name?
The most important innovation to come from the TCGplayer deck archive is the naming conventions that have been adopted. I’ve never understood why, but people get mad when they feel a deck is named improperly; it’s a point that I don’t want to belabor but it’s central to the innovation you’re seeing all across the game. The classic example is Plant Synchro. There were only four Plants in that deck, and plenty of duelists got pretty peeved that those four Plants were credited in the deck’s name – they’re only 10% of what makes the deck, so why call them out?

The answer has everything to do with function. Your Plant Synchro deck does one of two things when you take the Plants out of it: it either a) stops working entirely or b) functions in a fundamentally different way. There’s absolutely no way around that truth.

That’s the biggest reason why the naming conventions that have been developing in the deck archive are so important. A deck labeled ‘Awesome Heroes’ will have vast similarities but important functional differences than a deck labeled ‘Brilliant Heroes.’ As these conventions become standardized for each Format, you can find and process innovations quicker than you ever could before. Let’s highlight three examples from that and talk about why that’s so important.

 Galaxy Soldier
Galaxy Soldier97852
Set World Superstars
Number WSUP-EN010
Level 5
Type Effect Monster
Monster Machine
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 2000 / 0
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

You can send 1 other LIGHT monster from your hand to the Graveyard; Special Summon this card from your hand in Defense Position. When this card is Special Summoned: You can add 1 "Galaxy" monster from your Deck to your hand. You can only use this effect of "Galaxy Soldier" once per turn.

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Take Galaxy Soldier in ABC-Dragon Buster. The ABC deck has been huge in the TCG since it dropped and a lot of that has to do with how easy it is to Special Summon the deck’s eponymous Fusion monster. ABC-Dragon Buster’s a 3000 ATK behemoth that can banish a card on the field during either player’s turn and if it would be destroyed, you’ll just claim a +2 in card economy instead. It’s an absolute monster.

Its biggest strength is the fact that you can banish monsters from the graveyard in addition to the field to Special Summon it. Without something like a Pendulum Scale or Soul Charge, you’d have little means of getting A-Assault Core, B-Buster Drake and C-Crush Wyvern onto the field to bring out the big boss, and as a result this deck would be dead in the water.

Justin Delhon made the intriguing move of adding a pair of Transmodify and a playset of Galaxy Soldier to his build, and in the process he achieved two things. First, he diversified his deck by adding Rank 5 options. Constellar Pleiades and Cyber Dragon Infinity are two incredibly powerful cards that can win duels if played right, but have absolutely no way of being played in a traditional ABC-Dragon Buster deck.

Transmodify and Galaxy Soldier both play strongly into the need to get your Union monsters in the graveyard. You can dump A for a Galaxy Soldier Special Summon, bring out B and C with Union Hangar and then you’ve got Dragon Buster right there if you want it.

That’s a powerful and quick set-up and one worthy of tacking on ‘Galaxy’ to the front of ‘ABC-Dragon Buster’ in the deck name. The combos and play style are different enough to warrant the name because now you know it exists, and you’re clued to the fact that the deck approaches key fundamentals very differently. If a deck like Delhon’s had been named just ‘ABC-Dragon Buster’ I would’ve passed it up in the deck archive and assumed it played just the same as every other ABC deck in the world.

 Upstart Golden Ninja
Upstart Golden Ninja57721
Set Order of Chaos
Number ORCS-EN031
Level 4
Type Effect Monster
Monster Warrior
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 500 / 1000
Rarity Common
Card Text

Once per turn: You can send 1 Trap Card from your hand to the Graveyard; Special Summon 1 Level 4 or lower "Ninja" monster from your Deck in face-up Defense Position or face-down Defense Position.

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Next up, Upstart Golden Ninja in Paleozoic Frogs. For me as a Fro fan, developments in the Frog field this Format have been incredibly satisfying to watch. For close to a literal decade, you didn’t run any backrow in your Frog deck because Treeborn Frog was so important, and now we have a Format where your Frog deck runs roughly 30 traps. I actually think that that’s really funny given the deck’s history.

Opening with a bricked hand is always a massive fear in any deck that runs a ton of traps, and while that’s obviously not a major problem for this one given its competitive record, that concern’s still always there in the background. Furthermore, your Paleozoics like being in the graveyard. That’s how you get them onto the field to make your dope Rank 2’s.

William Reye made a brilliant move by running a playset of Upstart Golden Ninja in his Paleozoic Frog deck; it helped him achieve some big things. First, if the worst of the worst happened and his hand was bricky, he could use Upstart Golden Ninja to ditch a card in his hand, Xyz Summon Bujintei Tsukuyomi, set whatever he wants and get a few more cards to work with off of Tsukuyomi’s effect. The positive side of the scenario is similar, but with a hand full of Paleozoics, setting him up for big plays afterwards.

It was another example of a powerful and intriguing innovation that warrants slapping an addition to the front of an otherwise familiar deck name. It’s too cool and important to pass up!

 Naturia Beast
Naturia Beast94080
Set Legendary Collection 5D's
Number LC5D-EN244
Level 5
Type Synchro/Effect Monster
Monster Beast
Attribute EARTH 
A / D 2200 / 1700
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

1 EARTH Tuner + 1 or more non-Tuner EARTH monsters // While this card is face-up on the field, you can send the top 2 cards of your Deck to the Graveyard to negate the activation of a Spell Card and destroy it.

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Glow-Up Bulb in ABC-Dragon Buster might be the ultimate case-in-point of why this naming methodology is so valuable – or infuriating, depending on who you are. This deck is named ‘Synchro Brilliant ABC-Dragon Buster’ and that’s quite the mouthful for anybody – but it’s justified by the powerful and unique things the deck can do.

Whereas Justin Delhon used Galaxy Soldier as a vehicle for Special Summoning ABC-Dragon Buster, Zachary Baker played Brilliant Fusion to achieve largely the same goal. The extra Normal Summon afforded by Gem-Knight Seraphinite’s enough to get A, B, and C onto the field at roughly the same speed as a Galaxy Soldier build.

But there’re lots of other reasons to run Brilliant Fusion.

Seraphinite can serve as the last push for a strong OTK, it can be Rank 5 Xyz Material, and it doubles as a precision graveyard loader like Foolish Burial. You can make some really powerful plays with whatever monster you dump to the graveyard. Performage Trick Clown can make Rank 4’s easier to achieve, and you can always dump the last of the ABC monsters needed for ABC-Dragon Buster.

Traditionally, the one downfall to Brilliant Fusion is that you’re required to run Gem-Knight Garnet or another Normal monster. But Baker turned that problem into a strength by adding two cards: Glow-Up Bulb and One for One. Garnet will already have some limited utility thanks to the emphasis on Rank 4’s, but by running Glow-Up Bulb Garnet gives you access to Naturia Beast; undeniably a huge strength.

Spells continue to be an important part of competition and having a way to shut them down and feed your graveyard at the same time is a huge deal, often winning games on its own. Baker also ran Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, another win button in a variety of situations.

Those plays were enough to propel Baker to a Top 8 finish, and they present intriguing options for ABC players moving forward.

Putting A Name To Innovation The big goal here is to understand the nature of innovation in our current format. It’s small-scale changes that make big impacts. As you try to plan your next Regional or YCS, check out the deck archive and see what innovations are being made with the deck you’re playing, or ones similar to it. It’ll help you keep ahead of the competitive curve.

The naming conventions adopted in the archive are making it easier and easier to understand these innovations as they arrive, and taking advantage of the archive will make you a better competitor.

-Zach Buckley

Zach Buckley is a junior at Illinois State University where he studies Arts Technology. When he isn't doing his best to meet deadlines for homework and articles, he can often be found trying to strike up a conversation about politics, theology, electric cars, music and videogames with literally anybody who'll listen. The poor soul who is most often subjugated to these talks is his loving wife, Emma.

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