In my last article – Yu-Gi-Oh! Theory: The Fundamentals – I discussed the fundamentals and underlying theory behind achieving victory in Yu-Gi-Oh! and how to evaluate cards to do so. This time I'm going to expand on the concept of Card Economy.
Let's start of by reviewing what I said about it pervious article:
This brief summery introduces three distinct features of Card Economy: Card Advantage, Card Disadvantage, and Virtual Advantage. I'll explain each of these concepts and show how they have an effect on the game and how we evaluate cards.
The notion of card advantage most people have values each card as equal. So Pot of Greed for example is a +1 in terms of card advantage. You simply trade your Pot of Greed for two more cards. You only generate card advantage in this way if you can gain more cards, or cause your opponent to lose more cards than you used in the exchange.
There several ways to gain card advantage:
- Drawing cards – Your draw phase is an instant +1 and some cards allow you to draw more cards than you lose (ex: Airknight Parshath, Pot of Greed, Reckless Greed).
- Floaters – Floaters are monsters with effects that allow them to replace themselves. The reason I separated this from Car drawing is because Floaters don’' necessarily draw cards. There are two types of floaters, floaters than gain your cards, and floaters that cause an opponent tot lose cards. (ex: Dekoichi the Battlechanted Locomotive, Green Gadget, Gravekeeper's Spy, Mystic Tomato, Man-Eater Bug, Newdoria).
- Hand Manipulation – When your opponent loses more cards from their hand than you lose in the exchange then you can generate card advantage. (ex: Don Zaloog, Delinquent Duo, Mind Crush)
- Battle – Winning a battle allows you to get rid of one of your opponent's monsters without losing a card.
- Removal – Being able to destroy or remove from game two or more cards for the price of one goes a long way to gaining card advantage. Heavy Storm and Mirror Force for example are two cards that can generate variable amounts of card advantage through their effects.
The important thing about card advantage is it helps us get more options. Having more options gives us different ways to move toward victory. This is why understanding card advantage can be useful. However, understanding card advantage alone is only useful insofar that we assume that indeed every card is equal. When it comes to card economy (and winning games) quantity is not the only thing that matters, quality is very important too. We will get back to this when we talk more about card economy later in the article.
Some cards actually generate card disadvantage when it comes to the numbers games. A mechanical example built into the game is Equip spells. When a Monster that is Equipped with an Equip spell is destroyed, so is the Equip spell. This 2-for-1 makes it hard for Equip spells to be viable.
The problem with card disadvantage is it doesn't always translate into actual disadvantage. Monster Reincarnation and Beckoning Light are great examples from a recent Top Tier deck. In Lightsworn and Twilight, these two cards do nothing to generate classical card advantage, but trading cards like Necro Gardna, Shiny Black "C". or other dead cards for Judgment Dragon proved to be very effect in allowing the deck to finish the game.
This is an example of Card Economy at work. Trading Monster Reincarnation and Necro Gardna or Shiny Black "C" for Judgment Dragon is a good trade in terms of quality, but not quantity. Similarly cards like Magical Mallet have been used in FTK deck to help them dig for their win conditions. While card disadvantage gives us fewer options, it can sometimes give us better options. Once you understand there is more to advantage and disadvantage than just numbers, the importance of simply counting cards starts to fall flat and brings us to our next point: Virtual Advantage.
What card advantage gives us is a very tangible way to understand how you win the game. You can feel and see the cards, so it is pretty easy to physically see the card impact of how you play. However, the gameplay is situational, and thus a card's value changes with the game state. Virtual advantage (or disadvantage) has more to do with manipulating these game states to make sure more of your cards are relevant and less of your opponent’s cards are relevant.
An example of a card that allows you do to this is Jinzo. Let's assume your opponent has a trap based deck. Now let's assume you are running Jinzo or Royal Decree and few (other) trap cards. You clearly have an advantage, but this won't show up by simply counting cards. Similarly, Dimensional Fissure and Macro Cosmos help when it comes to gaining an advantage over graveyard based decks.
Understanding virtual advantage can be very helpful in overcoming the meta. If you look closely at the deck decks running the meta, you can find ways to make their most important cards less relevant. If you do so, then you can have a better match-up against them and improve your win percentages. Understanding virtual advantage goes a long way to improving your game beyond simply knowing the basics of card advantage.
Card Economy incorporates the importance of more options and better options when evaluating cards. This means understanding both card and virtual advantage.
When it comes down to it, card advantage is always going to be in the back of our minds. I'm not telling you to simply cast it aside when evaluating cards. Card advantage (and Disadvantage) still plays an important role of card economy. Card advantage does help you get more options than your opponent, which is very important.
Now understanding not all cards are simply worth the same amount, we can find a new way to count. Looking for a baseline card value we can take Pot of Greed. Say Pot of Greed is worth $1. With that Pot of Greed you can draw 2 new cards. If they are both average cards you get your money back and then some! Essentially you have traded $1 for $2. However what if they are both unplayable cards? Well if they are not playable this turn, they may become playable later, so it does leave you in a better position, but if you can never capitalize with those two cards then you didn’t really get any advantage.
Let's do a little more advanced economics. Take Destiny Hero - Malicious. In your hand it isn't worth much. It is very weak for a tribute monster and it has no special effects that can activate from the field or hand. Effectively it has a $0 since you can't really play it in most situations, or at least you wouldn't want to. However if you have a Destiny Draw in your hand the value of having a Malicious goes up to say 50¢. Destiny Draw is $1, Malicious is 50¢. For $1.50 we can get two new (hopefully at least average value) cards ($2), and put Malicious into the graveyard. Once in there, if you have another Malicious is your deck, the cards value increases even more ($1)! So for $1.50 you get $3, but haven't even gained any card advantage! Usually a card in the graveyard is worth $0, but not in the case of a live Malicious or Necro Gardna. A card's value is dependent on its relevance to the game state and achieving your goal (win the game).
Life and Death
A card has two states: Alive and Dead.
A card is alive when it can make some sort of impact to the game (it can be played/summoned/set, or its effect can be activated). Some cards can actually still be alive when they are in the Graveyard (ex: Necro Gardna, Mezuki). Live cards have a base value of $1 but can have a greater value depending on the situation. For instance a sturdy monster can have more value than fragile monster, and a win condition can have more value than a utility card.
Dead cards are cards that have no impact on the game. A card can be dead in your hand, on the field, in your graveyard, or removed from play. A card is not dead if it can be used for a cost, and even bluffing can squeeze some value out of a card, it just may not have full value as if it was totally alive and relevant. Dead cards have a value of $0.
Since the game state can change very rapidly, a card can become alive or dead at various points in a given game or turn. Keeping track of these changes is important to help you make the proper play.
Decks and Theory
I wanted to finish up the article by examining some decks that use the principle of Card Economy as the basis of the deck.
The first deck I want to look at is Machina Gadget. Here is a petty standard build.
This deck squeezes every single ounce of value it can out of its cards. On thing to notice is the use of Jinzo as a means of gaining Virtual Advantage as oppose to running multiple Dust Tornado to go 1-for-1. The purpose of the deck is to simplify the game while trading low value cards for your opponent's high value cards, and moving toward a top-deck situation (which it will win).
The other deck I want to look at is the Herald of Perfection deck.
This deck is a perfect example of how different situations change the value of cards. Happy Lover, Mystical Shine Ball, and Mokey Mokey normally don't have much value. This deck allows you to trade them for powerful effects and deny your opponent their effects. The deck has many cards that generate advantage and set up a lock based on virtual advantage (and Tempo).
When we understand card economy we learn one of the ways in which we can bring about a means to an end. Both Machina Gadget and Perfect Herald use the theory of card economy to trade lower value cards, for their opponents higher value cards. They don't simply think in terms of +1 and -1. Interestingly enough both decks use the theory in an attempt to simplify the game and move toward victory.
Well that concludes this article. I'd like to see some feedback, are you guys getting anything out these articles? If you guys want me to keep going the next article will be about Tempo.
1. The Fundamentals