What Brandish Format Could Be: In Defense of Current Format
“. . . It is the process of its own becoming, the circle that presupposes its end as its goal, having its end also as its beginning; and only by being worked out to its end, is it actual.”
- G.W.F Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit Sec. 18
We shall here operate under three basic assumptions. First, that the next ban list will arrive relatively soon. Second, that this ban list will move Pendulum and Draco from their dominant position to a non-dominant position in the metagame. Third, and finally, we assume that no unforeseen releases between now and nationals format will severely impact the expected trajectory of the coming format.
Considering the notice on Konami’s site concerning when we may start expecting the next ban list to arrive, considering the last ban list already attempting to substantially address Pendulum and Draco, and considering our current knowledge of releases to be expected in the next few sets, I believe that all three of these assumptions are justified for those duelists looking to get an early start on testing for nationals format.
There are three historical trajectories which we must be mindful of in conceptualizing what the coming Brandish format could mean. First, and most immediate, that of DuelistGroundz.com. Second, and no less important, Brandish’s place in the competitive history of this game. Third, and less obvious, the ever-evolving rules of the game itself.
DuelistGroundz.com & Goat Format
To begin with, let us consider the current situation of DuelistGroundz.com. The dominance of Goat Format is obligatory and has reached a level not previously seen since perhaps the original 2005 format itself. What does Goat Format structurally symbolize? It started being played again in the early 2010s at a particularly vulnerable time for Current Format, and served as a sort of escape from what was deemed “not real Yu-Gi-Oh!”
As such, a certain snobbishness has persisted in the overall attitude of Goat Format contra Current Format, where the Goat Format players believe they are engaging in a more “skillful” game, one that could be properly called “real Yu-Gi-Oh!” If Goat Format were to remain as it was originally intended, a pet project to play at locals for fun in between matches, then there would be no hostile conflict between Current Format and Goat Format. While that situation remains the case in most real-life play, its current manifestation on DuelistGroundz.com is a completely different story.
It is precisely when Goat Format seeps into competitive play, when the allure ceases to be merely an “escape” from current format, but fully an alternative thereof, where Goat Format becomes a legitimate structural threat to Current Format. It is in this sense that I consider Goat Format as a whole to be “self-alienated” Current Format. Signs of this eventuality were there in the beginning of its comeback in the early 2010s, especially in the obnoxious attitudes towards an admittedly defective Current Format, but it took years of effort for its purpose to materialize.
Of course, the original presupposition the entire movement and snobbishness was based on, the attitude that Goat Format is this holy game that no format can surpass, blinds one to some of the greatest formats this game has ever seen. 2013 Dragons, 2014 H.A.T/Geargia, 2015 Nekroz, 2017 Zoo, etc., have been some of the most intricate formats ever in terms of technical play and deck building. To believe that Yu-Gi-Oh! ended in 2005 is ludicrous. To believe that no format could surpass one that was around when the game itself wasn’t even 5 years old is equally absurd.
My hope is that within these words at least a handful of the Goat Format players can find the inspiration to at least glance in the direction of Current Format once more. The central thesis and case I’ll be making throughout this article-post is, therefore, that Brandish format is a better Goat Format in just about every way possible.
Furthermore, I’ll be stepping up to the plate personally, not just in efforts to revive deck discussion as I’m doing here, or in effort-posting generally, but also in terms of getting my old Current Format friends (of whom there are many) to start taking this website seriously again. It’s no coincidence that the time of Goat Format being the most serious thing on this site is the same exact time as most of the great players currently either looking back at this site only nostalgically, or for the newer crop of Current Format players, not even knowing what DuelistGroundz.com is/was to begin with. (The general indifference towards these issues of certain figures in the contemporary administration on the site isn’t helping.)
So, to summarize, what Brandish format could mean for the history of DuelistGroundz.com, via a better Goat Format, more effort from people like yours truly, and so on, is a return to the respectability and identity that we once had as a site. In the words of my dear friend Madeline, “let’s make this [the] format where we remind everyone to suck our dicks again.”
Competitive Yu-Gi-Oh! & Brandish Format
We have seen Goat Format, on this website, rise to prominence at a time of particular vulnerability for Current Format. The first of the vulnerabilities that Goat Format took proper advantage of was after a peak in Current Format, at the famous 6,000-person YCS where they had to knock down a wall just to fit all the players.
While we had many great formats and tournaments since then, the predominant view, especially by the year 2016, was that competitive Yu-Gi-Oh! had declined from its peak some years prior. It is no coincidence that, bar the Monarch mirror, that year is viewed as one of pretty lackluster formats. The deck that won nationals in 2016 was one that, with a few excess purchases, someone could have made by getting three structure decks at Walmart the Thursday before, learning how to play the game with the beginner’s guide included, Last Chance Qualifying for nationals the following day, and then winning the tournament on the next two (not in the least to discredit the actual winner, obviously.)
Pairing this was a decline in attendance of events. Traditionally 11-round YCS tournaments now became 10 rounds. Such YCS’s would occasionally have less participants than California regionals, or even Philadelphia regionals in rarer cases.
But this is changing. Nowadays, in 2018, while we may have had a bad YCS or two, if one digs deeper towards a more local level, regional attendance is rising across the board. Even in 2017, the NAWCQ that year was a 3,000-person tournament. This paired what is viewed as a relatively good format. In the words of my dear friend Azad, “Yu-Gi-Oh! is peaking again.” We’re digging ourselves out of the rut we were in during 2016.
As a result, in the broader history of the competitive game, Brandish format is the next peak. This makes the coming format a prime time to take Current Format seriously again, if not for the comparisons to be made between Brandish format and a better Goat Format, then for the heightened level of competition that recent trends are pointing towards.
There is also an important technological context in which Brandish format is arising. The advent of replays on Dueling Book, as well as the advent of YGOscope.com, have the potential to form the foundations of a new era of testing and theory. It can drastically change also how we conduct competitive deck discussion threads. For example, we can construct replays to display complex situations instead of having to describe them. In doing so it can illuminate all the variables in technical play that the poster might not have thought relevant themselves. The possibilities are endless, and it is important to establish standards for a proper appreciation of these new technologies, which is one of many conversations we should be having at the moment.
[Questions such as whether or not we should have dedicated thread(s) for accumulating replays for different decks come to mind.]
With the modern competitive epoch of the game fully in mind, all that is left for us to discuss insofar as the historical context that Brandish format occupies is concerned, is the Konami-side of things; Rules and releases.
Link Monsters & Rule Changes
The past fourish years of the game have seen more turbulent rule changes than perhaps at any other point in this games history, and I include the switch from Upper Deck Entertainment within this.
Among these rule changes, the ones that stand out the most are the decision to change drawing 6 going first into drawing only 5, the decision not only to release pendulum but then to move the pendulum zones to the Spell/Trap zones proper, and of course, Master Rule 4 and Link Monsters. While Link Monsters and the new rules that came about with them may be ostensibly overcomplicated and hard to understand for non-initiates, a deeper consideration of their implications in the competitive sphere of the game would reveal an absolutely genius mechanic.
Particularly, the idea of limiting Extra Deck maneuvers to only the Extra Monster Zone and the zones that Link Monsters point to, should have ideally made for a slower game overall. The concept of using the previously almost meme-worthy mechanic of card zones to severely impact the plays that all the best decks are able to perform was a great move. However, there were of course some defects here.
First, the defect of them simply releasing Link Monsters that were absurdly abusable (such as Firewall Dragon.) This made for some formats that the overall logic of Link Monsters and Master Rule 4 should have altogether avoided, such as the pre-emergency ban list Spyral format, as well as the current issues we’re having with Electrumite. However, in the broader history of the game, these formats are merely momentary defects and a slower format, one that Brandish format aspires to be, would become structurally inevitable given this ruleset.
Another defect that Link Monsters have which is worth pointing out is that the “Extra Link” mechanic is nothing except for a floodgate built into the very rules of the game. Luckily, Extra Link situations are quite hard to pull off in competitive decks, so it shouldn’t be much of an issue for the time being.
Nonetheless, one of the major impacts that Link Monsters have had on the game which is laudable is that they gave us a real science of which card zones to play our cards in. Our theory on this website and on discussion boards in general have yet to catch up to this reality, but it will in time.
With these three historical trajectories in mind, those of DuelistGroundz.com, the competitive scene, and the rule changes and releases of the game itself, we are thereby able to place a Brandish format within its proper context. From here, we’re able to move on to the central question of this article-post, that of what a Brandish format could be, with the ultimate answer being, in appeal to the modern players on this site, “a better Goat Format.”
Brandish Format Mechanics
Those comparisons between Brandish format and Goat Format structurally can seemingly only be expressed in a list. A defect of this list is that it isn’t exhaustive. Rather, it deals with only those most immediate points understood from even a superficial familiarity with the format’s dynamics. These are, still, more than enough to compose a compelling case.
The first thing to be discussed is the unclearness of when to use cards. Then, we will articulate the so-called “community of cards” between both players that the format creates and compare it to Goat Format. Following this, we will get down to brass tacks and talk about Boss Monsters. After that, we shall talk about going first or second. Penultimately, we’ll broach deck-building. Finally, externalities such as possible FTKs/OTKs and other, non-Brandish strategies will be brought up. The running theme here will be the thesis that while these things compare favorably with Goat Format, they have for the most part reached a “higher level” of more complexity and refinement in the modern day that a format lived out in 2005 continues to not be able to deliver.
When to Use Cards
The first thing that strikes one in Brandish format is that it is not very clear when to use a lot of the cards. Even cards that were traditionally obligatory, such as hand traps (Ash Blossom, Cherries, Transience,) become complicated. Do I Ash Blossom your Reinforcement of the Army hoping to cut you off of a play but then lose to a follow up? Do I Cherries on your turn or let you use a Blue to wait until my turn because I think you’re going to hold Called by the Grave since you’re expecting to use it on an End Phase Ash Blossom for your Blue? Do I Transience this turn one Red or do I hold it to set in a good spot (with respect to my opponent’s card zones) and then use it on a later Red at a more crucial juncture?
Further, the opportune time to use extraneous Spell/Trap destruction such as Cosmic Cyclone and Twin Twisters isn’t clear either. Do I set them to out their Spellbook of Judgment? Do I hold them to not get Jamming Wave’d, or even worse, Afterburner’d? Do I set them to stop Void Imagination against the Infernoid Build? Do I keep them to avoid getting Patrulea’d/Decatron’d because I have an Ash Blossom to deal with their Imagination or an Ogre to deal with their Vanishment? What if they have Called by the Grave?
It isn’t merely the non-Brandish cards that are unclear when to use, it is also the Brandish cards themselves. If I’ve opened just rei and Hornet Bit, do I float with rei or do I Hornet Bit, summon Red, and get it back? I end with more cards in the latter case, but I float in the former case. Or perhaps I Hornet Bit just for Blue to not use a Red on merely a Hornet Bit? Do I hold this Start-Up Engage to do it for 3 on another turn or do I foresee by Red/Blue chain resolving, allowing me to possibly use more of them on my next turn? Can I play through Cherries? Should I rei instead of Hornet Bit here to play around Cherries more effectively?
It is not the case that the actual decision trees themselves are vast, as in a traditional combo deck. Rather, the options you’re given every turn are all defendable. This is akin to Goat Format, where different lines of play are all highly considerable. This being the case, though, we must acknowledge that rather than the decisions to play around 1-ofs in Goat Format, our opponent can potentially have at least 3 of all the cards we’re trying to play around in the Brandish mirror. As a result, there is no “unfortunate” case of them having the 1-of that you decided it was best not to play around, you must play around everything. This is one way in which Brandish format is brought to a higher level than Goat Format.
The Community of Cards
Another way in which Brandish format may be compared to Goat Format is that, rather than my cards being my cards and your cards being your cards, a sort of community of cards is established between my opponent and I where my Claws and Reborns are searchable methods of making my opponent’s cards my own. This “community of cards,” akin to how the aforementioned decision-making is brought to a higher level in Brandish format, is also itself brought to a higher level, since rather than Snatch Steal or Creature Swap being cards to keep in the back of your mind, Claw and Reborn are obligatory and ever-present in the mirror.
A third similarity between the two formats is that of Boss Monsters. This especially applies to how Diabolos in Brandish format compares with Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning in Goat Format. Diabolos is a card that, unlike BLS, is good at all points in the game. BLS and Chaos Sorcerer, if drawn early, may be an issue, but since the only requirement to use Diabolos is to see rei (of which at least 7 are played,) it’s not nearly as much of a problem as getting a light and dark in the graveyard is.
So, the boss monsters that we’re dealing with in Brandish format are in this way “better Yu-Gi-Oh!” than the ones dealt with in Goat Format. The Trap Dustshoots of Goat Format side decks (and sometimes main decks,) further, are actually built-in to Diabolos, making it less relevant who went first or second. Resolving a turn one Diabolos isn’t the end of the world because the opponent gets to pick the card that they return, and you don’t see their hand.
First & Second
Speaking of the decision to go first or second, this is another thing that Brandish format arguably does better than Goat Format. In Goat Format, while it isn’t by any measure the end of the world if you’re on second, it’s still quite obligatory to go first. In the era of only drawing 5 cards going first, on the other hand, and with the possibility of altering your Brandish list with more copies of Jamming Wave and Afterburners to have an advantage going second, it’s not only less clear whether you want to go first or second, but also less clear whether or not you want to build to go first or second (in the same way that it was less clear when to use the cards themselves.)
Regarding how to build your deck generally, you’re given quite a lot of freedom. It had become a cliché of Current Format in recent years to expect deck lists that top to consist of mostly 3-ofs and searchable 1-ofs. But considering the paradigms that cards like Pot of Desires open up for the game, as well as the grindy nature of Brandish mirrors which can require multiple copies of utility cards to “come up,” and finally, because you can splash Brandish in many different decks (simply opening Hornet Bit is a plus two,) the options for deck building are opened up in Brandish format which is also reminiscent of the ability to play more or less Dust Tornadoes, Sakuretsu Armors, Scapegoats, and Metamorphoses in our Goat Format decks.
Brandish format, while I’d like to stress that the card pool which the metagame restricts us to is by no way too daunting for a non-initiate to familiarize themselves with, still has a richer card pool and selection than Goat Format. This is something that both formats do well, but that Brandish format does theoretically better.
Other Strategies and Externalities
Just like in Goat Format, the predominant deck (in their case Goat Control and in our case pure Brandish) is not the only strategy one can use. To begin with FTKs, OTKs, and traditional “combo decks” prior to examining other more “real” [sic] decks, we must first notice two things.
For one, we have an impending ban list that could all but make the Instant Fusion FTK in Pendulum unusable. For two, more hand traps are being released, especially in the form of Infinite Transience, which, between them, Cherries, Ash Blossom, and Ogre, can make such decks hard to win with. There is the possibility of using Curious and Troymare Griffin to combo into a set Imperial Order with a strong field, but for the time being, that appears to be our only worry on this front. This contrasts how frustrating decks like Empty Jar can be to deal with in Goat Format.
Just like splashing Scapegoat and Metamorphosis into non-traditional Goat Control decks, the Brandish engine creates possibilities to be splashed in many decks, most prominently Infernoid and Invoked. Then there are still non-Brandish anti-meta strategies, such as the different builds of Altergeist. While I don’t have an argument for why the deck selection now in particular is “better” or has “reached a higher level” than that of Goat Format, I do think they are at least directly comparable.
What we therefore are dealing with is a slower deck/format which doesn’t OTK much, a deck where the decisions you are able to make on every turn are all defensible, a deck where these decisions often revolve around which cards you’re playing around, a deck where a community of cards is formed between you and your opponent such that you needn’t rely on only your own cards to win, a deck with “fairer” and less troublesome boss monsters, a deck whose building is akin to but in fact richer than Goat Format, a deck that deals with FTKs and OTKs very well, and finally, a deck where going first or second is not merely something that less hinges on, but also not obligatory at all. These things are all brought to either a higher or equal level to that of Goat Format, creating less arbitrary losses overall.
We’ve summarized Brandish format’s ideal place within the history of the game, its ideal place metanarrativistically in the history of DuelistGroundz.com, and we’ve given some basic introductory analyses of the mechanics of Brandish format and how they compare to Goat Format. The conclusion has been reached that, for all intents and purposes, Brandish format represents a “better Goat Format.” The implicit myth that all the fedoras at your locals the past 6 years keep in the back of their mind, that while you’re there grinding out games in the absolute savage barbarity of Current Format, they’re sitting in the back playing a more “cultured” game of “real Yu-Gi-Oh!,” let this myth be completely laid to rest. I highly recommend that the modern Goat Format players on this site get into Current Format. Thank you.