This document should be seen as the end product of ACP’s journey throughout Goat Format, so to speak, as well as his final gift to DuelistGroundz. While I have taken it upon myself to add this preface and have been requested to finish the parts that he did not, the vast majority of this work should be attributed solely to ACP. With this section, my intent is to outline the historical context for the often unique theories and philosophies that came to define ACP’s approach to Goat Format.
The earliest incarnation of the ACP everyone knows and loves (to hate) is “ACP the Gadget Guy.” After scoring his first regional top 8 with Gadgets following the release of Shrink, ACP continued to play Gadgets at a high level long after they were considered a top-tier deck in the TCG. One of the best “ACP stories” from this era in my opinion is a brief, seven-line conversation at a 2008 Florida regional with ACP and local legend David Pratt, recounted by ACP as follows:
The first thing to realize about this exchange is how hilarious/satisfying it feels to say the sentence “Allen C. Pennington, you’re the best duelist!” out loud, but it is important for much more than just this undeniably top-tier meme. I believe “being the best duelist” became an overarching goal, a quest if you will, for ACP the Gadget Guy. Sure, Gadgets weren’t great in the September 2009 format, they were probably worse than decks like Lightsworn, Zombies, or even Blackwings, but this didn’t matter to ACP the Gadget Guy, who would consistently rely on solid theory and fundamentals to carry him through fields of more powerful and more popular decks. As undoubtedly one of the best players in Florida for most of this period, ACP the Gadget Guy had little trouble finishing in the top 8 of most regionals, yet when faced with large fields of national-level talent, top 16/32 finishes at SJCs and YCSes consistently eluded him.
Beginning sometime in 2010, ACP began to branch out from his beloved Gadgets into other archetypes, most notoriously with his list of Frog FTK which, to no one’s surprise, he dubbed “Next Level Frogs.” This name is particularly relevant for this history for the reference it makes to Chapin’s Next Level Magic, the book that ACP would probably tell you himself helped him achieve much of his success in this phase of his career.
Having reached a point where he was largely comfortable with his fundamentals, the post-Gadget ACP became much more concerned with finding what could be considered objective solutions to formats. In other words, his focus shifted from “being the best duelist” to “being the duelist with the best deck.” This was no doubt motivated in part by his studies in mathematics which accelerated during this era of his career, his love for these studies being a part of his personality that no one on DuelistGroundz is unaware of at this point. In 2012, ACP finally broke his premier event curse at YCS Chicago with Chaos Dragons (ironically the same event at which I suffered my first premier bubble loss), and went on to a number of top cut finishes at premier events in the years that followed. With each of these performances, ACP seemed to get closer and closer to his ideal of “the best deck,” and ACP himself will probably tell you that he truly does believe that the Gishki and Domain Monarch decks he topped with in 2013 and 2016 were, indeed, the best decks of their respective formats.
With these key points about ACP’s development as a player in mind, it should come as little surprise that he was one of the first players willing to explore “the lame decks” in Goat Format during the Revival era, to the point that Jazz hilariously tried to ban him from playing shit like Empty Jar during the 2014 War League after a single match. The last thing ACP, and especially hyper-analytic post-Gadget ACP, is ever concerned with is how much fun his opponent is having. After all, losing is generally considered by most people to be not a fun thing to do, and yet, in order to be the best duelist with the best deck, you will probably have to make more than a few opponents suffer such a fate, whether it be in a “fun” matchup like a Plant mirror or with a “lame” deck like Gishki. If ACP is ever going to deviate from such a “lame” strategy, the reason will probably be that he no longer believes that such a strategy is “best” or “optimal,” which, incidentally, ended up being the case in 2017 when he created his Angel Chaos deck, explored later in the article.
After “retiring” from modern premier events, ACP had time to reflect on his career and re-evaluate some of the principles that previously guided him. At the same time, a series of events known quite well to most of us here on DuelistGroundz began to chip away at his trust in the YGO community at large. The ultimate product was a period of tempestuous critiques, directed at both the work of his former selves and that of the community around him. The first breakthrough in the era of this new critical ACP came with the Average Prize Model, an attempt to move beyond the traditional conception of best-deck-as-best-average-matchup towards a truly comprehensive attempt to solve any given format given a few key parameters. He also began to rail heavily against the model of “power vs consistency” developed circa 2013-2014 by Max Reynolds, Patrick Hoban, and Noelle Evelyn. In ACP’s opinion, these two terms shared a single referent; he never saw any reason to distinguish between them. One final theory he never got around to publishing had to do with the threat-answer dichotomy. In private messages, ACP once proposed to me that there existed a third type of “hybrid” card between these two well-known categories that he called “assists,” which largely accounted for the massive shift in the YGO metagame circa 2009-2010 towards Royal Oppression and similar effects (Skill Drain, Archlord Kristya, Vanity’s Emptiness, and so on).
2017 has been a bittersweet year for Goat Format. The metagame saw possibly more development in the span of 12 months than in the format’s entire 11-year history prior, with no less than seven major tournaments to boot, and yet, at the end of it all, we are left without the two great Masters that made such development possible. I often describe the entire modern history of Goat Format as a footnote to the work of Kris Perovic, but with this publication, we might be entering a new era. That is to say, it may be the case that Goat Format, from here on out, will be a footnote to the chain of events that left our community with neither ACP nor KP.