Jonathan Moore here, planning to do a series of articles concerning budget decks, budget players, and why money doesn’t really sink your spot into this community.
As cool as they are, a calculator case and a Spellground-original playmat or rare variant color of the newer ones isn’t what makes YOU cool. Sure they’re cool, and playing on your two-player playmat by yourself is cushy and fun, I’m sure. Your $500 deck and $500 extra deck is not going to give you a victory in hand. The players with these items or things are often the sorest losers. They are often the ones who feel like they deserve victory, and are the quickest to complain, accusing you of luck sacking, getting your only out, and have maximum overdrive of their sodium levels. Not to say they’re all like that. Many people with the calculator case and spellground combo put some of the hardest work into this game that I’ve ever seen, and have treated themselves to such items because they both like them, and want to feel that extra comfort or style while playing the game. Remember kids, stereotypes exist for a reason, but are often inaccurate. On the flip side, the “Budget” player is often thought of as poor, a bad trader, a troll, or a stepping stone. None of these are often true, except perhaps the “troll” part. Looking at you, Zodiac.
When I won my championship, my $200 deck took down $5000 decks back to back, piloted by the (at the time) current national champion and the previous YCS winner. That was in 2008, and decks that expensive don’t really exist anymore,since the hardest to get meta card is a $700 Giant Hand prize card. My road was no stroll in the park. The thing is, I only enjoyed myself in the game playing samurai at the time. Glad Beasts were just starting, and felt routine. DAD felt too slow, and no solid build had appeared since it was week one. Monarchs had been around so long, and were becoming irrelevant. I had an established deck with my own twists such as being the first person to win with triple Solemn Judgment and sticking to Phoenix Wing Wind Blast when everyone was deciding to switch to Raigeki Break, a new power up card that gave me a free plus one in Six Samurai United, and a not commonly dealt with strategy.
These are things I plan to repeat coming back into the game. I don’t plan to pilot Shaddolls or Yang Zing. I’m excited to sink my teeth and learn about decks such as Dark World Burning Abyss, Monarchs, and COOOOOOOOOONS. I’m honestly thinking that Mermails, HAT and Geargia are some of the strongest decks still. People just get tired of playing the same thing, and want to get to the next best thing as fast as possible. People don’t take enough time testing on DevPro or Dueling Network, and just get hyped about what they hear is good. I want to take a look at builds of these decks, formulate my opinions on their weak points against the format and top decks, try to cover them, and build them to make them my own. I’m not stuck on things though, if it doesn’t manage to work, it doesn’t work. My deck needs to be strong on its own, but also counter the formats current decks. I don’t think a deck like Battlin’ Boxers are a strong contender, but I take note of their power cards such as Magnum Shield and wait for the right deck to use them.
My last major even played was YCS New Jersey, in which I was playing Watts when Mermails were big. I did it somewhat to troll, and got to be a bounty duelist. My first loss of the tournament was to Kristopher Perovic in round three, who was running a unique Rabbit/Fire deck called Dino Fist that I couldn’t have prepared for because he was piloting it for the first time publicly. That’s the kind of thing I plan to be doing, piloting something and doing good with it. I also had made the deck the night before because I hadn’t planned on playing (common mistake, I’ve told you all never to make a deck the night before. I learn from experience), and forgot to put in Number 50: Blackship of Corn, which cost me game 2 and allowed me to take my only 2-0 loss of the tourney. On the plus side, I did manage to beat a fully-blinged out Mermail deck, and the other two loses I had were also Mermail decks, but I took both of them to close game threes. My point is, I hadn’t played for about a year and a half, slopped a deck together, and managed to take down three people, and lost to someone who top cut. 3-3 drop is nothing to brag about, but on another plus side, there were $1 drinks for happy hour at the hotel across the street and I got to enjoy the rest of the even with my friends.
Decks that are obscure or counter the format are the scariest to face. How do you beat something when you don’t know how they plan to win, what their combos are, or the potential plays to come? You can do your best to make generalized safe plays or explode on them, but in the end they usually crush you and body you if you don’t know whats going down.
So, what are “budget” decks, and why are there negative connotations? Budget decks are OFTEN cheaper than the current decks because they just missing something, either against the current meta or lacking the ability to be consistent and/or explosive. The thing is though, it’s the player’s job to innovate, create, and push these decks past their preconceived “limits”, and turn them into some of the best decks with the best abilities to compete. Let’s face it, if nobody wanted these budget decks, they’d be worthless. Yet you see it get harder and harder to make ANY deck a “budget” deck. Mermails, Sylvans, and Spellbooks, despite not being among the top contenders often talked about, still manage to pop up and make very strong showings among players in the community, and refuse to fall to the level of budget. Somehow, this commands respect more so than someone who plays a budget deck like Lightsworn Rulers. If it’s affordable and anyone can have it, it seems like it just isn’t as respected. Lightsworn also has the negative connotation of “luck” within milling and getting good or bad mills, but I think it can actually take even more skill to try to work around that and give the best percentages you can find for your deck when deck building, and remembering every card in your deck and the percent chances of what to do and when.
“YOU LOST TO WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?” followed by laughter. That’s pretty commonplace. If you build a Shaddoll deck and went to a regional qualifier today, would you be shocked to lose to some variant of say, Quickdraw Sylvans? Blue Eyes Psychic OTK?? Would it somehow feel better to be beat by an expensive deck you didn’t see coming, such as Spellbook Shaddolls? I love facing all these kinds of decks. I love seeing what they can do, going home, and building my own so that I can pilot them at a YCS and not only give some sob stories, but also to win. If you can’t see it coming, you’re going to have a hell of a time beating it, but for it to win it has to counter the main decks. I cant stress that enough. A card like Skill Drain loses to the commonly played Fire/Ice Hands right now, yet it counters cards like Shaddolls and Gears quite well. It’s hard to counter an ENTIRE format, but it CAN be done between both a main, side, and extra deck. There’s no shame in doing that with a budget deck. You have to enjoy what you play to win. IF you don’t, it’s not worth it honestly. You have to enjoy your combos, what you’re doing with the deck, and it has to fit your playstyle. You have to make it your own. Not everyone can sit there and play control with a HAT deck. I certainly am not one to be able to do that. I like and recognize that Fire and Ice Hands are powerful, but I’d rather find a way to beat them with cards like Stormforth and The End of Anubis.
So what kind of player are you? Are you the ultimate budget player? Are you the holo whore? Are you the kid who’s there to troll? Are you the man who is there just to have fun? Are you here just because the game is cardboard crack that you can’t quit and it’s what all your friends do all the time? Realistically, this game is a way of life. That being said, don’t force yourself into something you can’t enjoy! MAKE IT YOUR OWN!