Monday, June 20, 2011

Deck Essay #14: Dark Armed Dragon PACMAN

It is the mark of a true expert, to my mind, when that person is able to apply his or her knowledge, experience and skills to something considered wholly outside the norm in their respective field. The ability to consider an idea previously unknown (or, in the least, not known to any great degree), and indeed the ability to mentally strike upon an idea completely unconsidered up until such point, and observe within that design a course of action which will produce successful results is, without a doubt, the definitive display of the genius. I am not giving this seemingly disjointed discourse for the purpose of affirming my own brilliance, but rather I merely begin this essay in such a way so as to illustrate the common flaw amongst the majority of the Yu-Gi-Oh! player-base: and that, in a simple phrase, is the lack of lateral thinking accomplished in the modern game, and, even more so (and as such even more saddening to myself), in the modern Traditional Format. It is astounding how little players apply their own thought processes when considering this great game, for it is unquestionably the innovators whom enjoy the most accomplishment here. Well, in this essay I will be breaking from the proverbial cast to display this fact, presenting a stunning deck rife with unorthodox card choices: Dark Armed Dragon PACMAN.

To understand the win condition of the PACMAN deck, one must first understand the acronym given as the deck’s name; the full label runs thus: Pure Advantage Camels Munch All Noobs. It is possible then, having disclosed the admittedly ineloquent title, to surmise that the strategy is centred on the use of Des Lacooda, affectionately known simply as ‘the Camel’, to gain enough Card Advantage over the opponent that it is impossible for said opponent to make a successful move. Now, the decks of old would also have included many burn cards, such as Stealth Bird, to whittle away the opponent’s remaining Life Points, but the Booster Set Phantom Darkness offered players another supplement to think about. With the capability to alter accordingly the strategy’s already versatile Monster line-up, it is possible to include Dark Armed Dragon as the necessary extra fire-power needed to claim victory. With an immense amount of drawing and searching granting access to a plethora of control cards, and the facility to Summon one of the most absolutely powerful Monsters in the game with a moment’s notice, the Dark Armed Dragon PACMAN deck is a force to be reckoned with, albeit a highly unexpected one.

The Monsters: 11

3 Des Lacooda
2 Dekoichi the Battlechanted Locomotive
1 Cyber Jar
1 Sangan
1 Witch of the Black Forest
1 Dark Armed Dragon
1 Night Assailant
1 Magician of Faith

While I was constructing this deck, it became apparent to me in the very initial stages that many cards considered staple in the Traditional Format would be useless: for example, Destiny Hero – Disk Commander and Dark Magician of Chaos, both of which are included in every deck without a seconds’ thought, would serve this particular strategy no purpose. If one should skip ahead to the Spell Card list, and read its contents, one would also discover the absence of Monster Reborn, Premature Burial and Painful Choice. These cards are simply incongruous with the aim of PACMAN. What we have here instead is a decklist designed solely to retain Card Presence. There are no fancy tricks as in other decks, where a single turn might last as long as ten or more minutes consisting of complicated, ostentatious manoeuvres.

The list begins, as one might expect, with a full three copies of Des Lacooda, the archetype’s namesake. Three copies are absolutely essential in order to gain access to one, if not more, as quickly as possible. Des Lacooda, backed by a defensive card to prevent the opponent from destroying the Monster, will be one’s ideal opening play; the result will be two cards drawn on the following turn, as opposed to only one, presenting the pilot with access to new resources earlier than the opponent while also replacing used cards. The Des Lacooda will then be flipped face-down again through its effect, and subsequently re-flipped during the next turn to draw yet another card, thus creating a nigh endless loop of draws over the course of many turns. Eventually, through this, along with the other +1s included herein, one will find a distinct gap between one’s Card Presence and the opponent’s. It goes without saying, of course (although I will say it, just to be safe), that one should not commit a Des Lacooda to the field without adequate protection, particularly if that Des Lacooda is one’s only Monster. Cards are exchanged at an accelerated rate in the Traditional Format, and this strategy should be gaining extra cards, not throwing them away unnecessarily.

Next, the only other Monster Card included in multiples is Dekoichi the Battlechanted Locomotive, seen here at two copies. Not only is Dekoichi of the DARK Attribute, it also achieves much the same aforementioned purpose as Des Lacooda – that is, being flipped to draw another card. A Dekoichi the Battlechanted Locomotive backed up by a defensive card in order to gain the +1 is also an acceptable opening, although, of course, it lacks the further use of reusing its own effect and should only be done when a copy of Des Lacooda is unavailable. An ATK of fourteen-hundred also provides the deck with some offensive capability outside of one’s Dark Armed Dragon, although a game will admittedly be slow going in such a case. Patience, however, I will say before I go any further, is key when piloting a deck such as this; haste, in any way, shape or form, will be of the utmost detriment and one must exercise a discipline of the highest degree to find success with this strategy in general, not merely where a longer, drawn-out game is concerned.

From there, three more Flip-Effect Monsters have been included: firstly, Cyber Jar is, I will admit, an obvious inclusion, for not only will it provide a huge boon to one’s Card Presence by effectively drawing more cards with which to control the opponent further, it also has the possibility of placing one’s other Flip-Effect Monsters onto the field, face-down, for subsequent use of their effects; secondly, Magician of Faith has been included for its ability to retrieve any one of the powerful controlling or drawing Spell Cards, each of which will present distinct advantages with a second use; and, third and finally, Night Assailant can either destroy a troublesome Monster or retrieve another Flip-Effect Monster from the Graveyard. The latter is, I must admit, a somewhat questionable addition, for only Graceful Charity will grant the retrieval of a Monster, it cannot retrieve a Des Lacooda in such a case, and its Monster destruction effect is of little importance with the amount of other similar effects herein, but it offers other uses to justify its inclusion: namely, it can be removed for Allure of Darkness or tributed for the cost of Crush Card Virus. I stand by my decision to include it.

Lastly, both search agents of Sangan and Witch of the Black Forest have been included. With the strategy not endeavouring to achieve any sort of fast, aggressive win, I see no reason to omit these two cards. In addition, each one offers the search of any needed Monster within the deck: Sangan will be able to add any Monster, save only Dark Armed Dragon, from the deck to the hand, and Witch of the Black Forest, conversely, can add any Monster from the deck to the hand, Dark Armed Dragon included. The consistency both Monster Cards present is indeed welcome.

A quick note on the use of Dark Armed Dragon before I move on to discuss the Spells; with only a single copy of the card allowed under the current Limited Lists, one will need to be very careful when Summoning it: one should not do so carelessly, only placing it on the field when one has sufficient control over the opponent, and the Summoning of Dark Armed Dragon will guarantee victory. Otherwise, it should be kept in the hand until such a time arises.

The Spells: 14

3 Pot of Duality
1 Pot of Greed
1 Graceful Charity
1 Allure of Darkness
1 Confiscation
1 Delinquent Duo
1 The Forceful Sentry
1 Raigeki
1 Dark Hole
1 Harpie’s Feather Duster
1 Snatch Steal
1 Book of Moon

Continuing with the subject of unconventional card decisions, I have deemed it necessary to include a set of Pot of Duality, indeed a card I would shudder at attempting to play in any other deck. However, since, to reiterate, there is no attempt at any One-Turn-Knockout-style win condition, the commonly recognised drawback of Pot of Duality (that is, the condition of not being able to Special Summon during the turn of its use) is in fact of no injury here. The Spell Card offers an amazing consistency through being able to draw one of the three top cards of the deck, in this way granting instant sifting through the deck and access to a better set of options for the given turn.

To complete the suite of drawing Spells, the three other obvious additions have been made: Pot of Greed, Graceful Charity and Allure of Darkness. Out of the six draw Spells, only the last two require some sort of payment in return for their effects, although each will have little trouble in being satisfied: DARK Attribute Monsters can be discarded for Graceful Charity, or simply unneeded Spells or Traps, and six DARK Monsters is certainly enough to warrant the single allowed copy of Allure of Darkness.

The full retinue of hand control options has then been included – that is, Confiscation, Delinquent Duo and The Forceful Sentry. Pre-negation cards have long been considered one of the most powerful effects in Yu-Gi-Oh!, and this thought is of course no different when considered it within the terms of the PACMAN strategy: they offer the chance to remove cards threatening one’s infrastructure while also giving a peek at the opponent’s other cards, providing a much easier game from that point forth. One must be careful of Life Point payments, however; Confiscation and Delinquent Duo both require a cost of one-thousand points, and several of the Trap Cards will also deplete Life Points in some way. One will need to gauge the possible outcome of the game, and how much Life Points will be required throughout the turns, early on and play accordingly, conserving every point possible.

Lastly, the group of hand control cards is followed by a compliment of specially selected field control options: to begin with, the three Spell Cards I personally consider to be the staples of this group – Snatch Steal, Raigeki and Harpie’s Feather Duster – have been included for their obvious power during any situation; however, two other cards have thence been added to the this retinue, the clearly potent Dark Hole and, yet another unorthodox choice, the single allowed copy of Book of Moon. I feel I must explain the latter: not only can Book of Moon shut down an opponent’s play (a Synchro Summon, an attack, etc.), it can also be used to flip face-down and then re-use one of the deck’s own Flip-Effect Monster. Being able to retrieve another Spell Card with Magician of Faith or draw another card with a Dekoichi the Battlechanted Locomotive can, on the occasion, be a correct move, and one should not overlook this possibility.

The Traps: 15

3 Dark Bribe
2 Bottomless Trap Hole
2 Solemn Warning
1 Solemn Judgment
1 Mirror Force
1 Torrential Tribute
1 Crush Card Virus
1 Imperial Order
1 Ring of Destruction
1 Trap Dustshoot
1 Mind Crush

Finally, we are come to what is no doubt the most startling section of the deck (and, indeed, the facet which commanded the most attention during construction due to the level of difficulty presented by the bizarre nature of the overall idea). It is rare for a strategy in the Traditional Format to run more than about four or five Trap Cards, although I have, in the past, published other deck variations with significantly more; however, none have come even close to the fifteen total played here. With the necessity to maintain certain Monsters on the field over many turns, the number of needed protective cards, of which Trap Cards are the most powerful, is far greater.

While it is fairly typical in the Traditional Format to include Imperial Order, even in non-control oriented decks, in order to shut down opposing Spell-heavy strategies, additional negation cards are used here to create a further lock over the opponent’s options: a full three copies of Dark Bribe and the single allowed Solemn Judgment will give the pilot an extensive ability to prevent key cards from ever hitting the field. These Traps will most often be aimed at cards like Painful Choice, Dimension Fusion, or mass destruction cards which threaten one’s back row. Due to the high cost of each card, however, one will need to exercise restraint in order that cards are not negated unnecessarily or prematurely; one will need to analyse the complete possible outcome of allowing a card to resolve, and only negate it if absolutely essential. Good players will attempt to force an activation of Dark Bribe or Solemn Judgment by throwing unneeded cards away, attempting to remove the threat of having their play prevented while also either gaining an extra card with the former or forcing a massive Life Point payment with the latter. Smart play is crucial in such a case.

From there, the remainder of the Trap line-up, while uncommon in the Traditional Format, is relatively simple and requires little justification: two copies each of Bottomless Trap Hole and Solemn Warning, and the one allowed copy of Ring of Destruction, permit the removal of any single Monster (although, as previously noted during discussion of Confiscation and Delinquent Duo, one must use due care of Life Points when activating Solemn Warning or Ring of Destruction); Mirror Force and Torrential Tribute grant the destruction of Monsters on a large scale, and the massive drawing potential of the deck will quickly and easily find one of the three tributes for Crush Card Virus, adding yet more Monster removal; and, to complete the decklist and round out the hand control group, Trap Dustshoot and Mind Crush have also been included.

There is a great potential contained in this idea. Control-based strategies are often overlooked completely in the Traditional Format for the reason that any opponent who has either already won the game, or has already taken control of the game, should they have the opportunity of going first, is almost impossible to counteract. However, I have found, through these past few years of studying the Traditional Format, that the skill gap between mediocre players and good players, and even that existent between good players and outstanding players, is even greater than it is in Advanced. Moreover, decks capable of the aforementioned feats, in addition to being difficult to construct and play correctly, also tend have within them a certain degree of inconsistency. When taking these two aspects into consideration, taking a control-oriented strategy such as this to a tournament can be an acceptable course of action. Through an almost unrivalled consistency, a massive drawing potential rivalling much faster decks, an almost unfaltering control over the game, and one of the most dominant, destructive Monster Cards as its chief win condition, the Dark Armed Dragon PACMAN deck is easily capable of holding its own in the modern age.

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