A reminder on how tournaments work

Mostly about Japan.

This article results from a recent event you may have heard about. A few days ago, the online Yugiohverse caught wind that certain shops in Japan had decided to restrict or outright forbid the use of some or all Zoodiac cards in some of their tournaments. The event itself didn’t surprise me, but something I did find surprising is the reactions people had about it, specially with the usual distortion that comes by mixing news gossiping through the Internet and not many people knowing moonrunes to figure out what’s going on. Accuracy aside, the main reaction people seemed to have was “is this even possible for stores to do this?” and the following question tends to be “if so, can my store do this too?”

To find out, let’s get the facts straight first.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Zoodiacs or however you wish to call the 十二獣 theme have been heavily dominating the OCG meta for the last few weeks. Even after the new January 2017 format change, the Deck is still dominating, or otherwise being used as an engine in unrelated Decks because of its portability. So it’s pretty visible that a number of players are pissed off at tournaments consisting solely of this Deck or engine while everything else is bar unplayable, and therefore it’s understandable that some tournament organizers may decide that a tournament without these cards may be more entertaining for some of the players.

Which leads to an important point, what are Japanese tournaments like?

I often get asked about big tournaments in Japan, like an equivalent to the TCG’s YCS events. The truth is, there isn’t a direct equivalent. The vast majority of Japanese tournaments happen in stores, and as you can guess, they are nowhere near reaching three-digit figures in participants. In recent years, Konami has focused most of its Organized Play events in Japan to the store level. Take for example the recent “Deck Experience” tournaments in which you are introduced to a new Deck type, or various contests that take place in official tournament stores. That’s a key term, “official tournament stores”. These are stores that hold a number of requirements for Konami to recognize them as such, similar to their TCG equivalent that hold sanctioned tournaments.

However, a lot of the action in Japan also happens outside the official tournament stores in the form of unofficial tournaments. These tournaments usually consist of certain sponsors, usually a third party, renting a larger venue space in order to hold bigger tournaments, often team-based ones. These are the kind of tournaments for which you may have seen Decklists at this site listing almost 200 players or so.

Why is this important? For one, because I find myself going over all of this very often while explaining Japanese tournaments. And second, because it’s important to notice that the “larger and competitive” events are usually unofficial ones. This means that if you really wanted to hold a big tournament with a slightly or heavily different format than the official formats, it shouldn’t be an issue. Conversely, unless these big tournaments follow whichever trend you want to set, its impact will be limited.

More importantly, Konami does acknowledge Japanese tournaments with different lists in their Shop Duel section. Aside from the introductory Entry Duel (play with an entry deck) and the usual Standard Duel formats (the “Advanced Format” equivalent), the No-Limit Duel allows TCG language versions of your cards as well as the ability to use no Forbidden/Limited list or a custom one. However, No-Limit Duels don’t seem to be popular according to the event search engine on Konami’s site. It returns 362 events for No-Limit Duels while Standard Duels return 2306 events. While the proportions may vary in favor of different lists in the realm of unofficial tournaments, I think it’s fair to assume that they are probably very similar and that the official Forbidden/Limited Lists are prefered anyway.

That answers the first question on whether stores can just ignore a set of cards or not. There might be a few extra hurdles for the store in question, but the possibility certainly exists. The follow-up question on whether your TCG store can do the same is somewhat similar. Tournament policies tell us that a sanctioned tournament is to be run under either the Advanced Format or the Traditional Format. However, you can just run an unsanctioned tournament without following either list. Again, if your store does sanction tournaments, there might be a few extra hurdles to do so, but it’s ultimately possible.

Another common reaction I saw among this was people overstating that the abundance of Zoodiacs was so bad that stores simply had to resort to this unprecedented strategy in order to keep tournaments going. That is not the case. Stores have already removed a number of cards from the legality pool in order to keep their tournaments interesting before. For example, a tournament held by the end of March 2016 had the following list:
Forbidden:
Any “Performapal” cards
Any “Monarch” cards (帝王, mostly Monarch support cards, not the Level 6 guys)
“Burning Abyss” cards other than Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss
Djinn Releaser of Rituals
Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer
Draco Face-Off
Skill Drain
Rise to Full Height

The tournament was won by Infernoids, with Blue-Eyes, Satellarknights, Evilswarm and an inferior Nekroz being the other top Decks.

Another tournament on January 2016 simply forbade Performapal Pendulum Magician. The tournament was won by Monarchs, with Burning Abyss and Odd-Eyes Performapal being the other top decks.

Yet another tournament by the end of November 2015 used the following list:
Forbidden:
Performapal Monkeyboard
Performapal Pendulum Magician
Performage Trick Clown
Performage Plushfire
Pantheism of the Monarchs
Ehther the Heavenly Monarch
Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
Neptabyss, the Atlantean Prince
Oafdragon Magician
Infernity Break
Infernoid Patrulea
Skill Drain

These three tournaments have some things in common. The July 2015 Forbidden/Limited List was the infamous “NO CHANGES” list that of course provided no answer to the hardships that players faced. The October 2015 hit other things, but by then, Performage Plushfire was already out, creating a new threat. Then the January 2016 list attacked Plushfire and Damage Juggler (along with Number 16) but nothing else. The OCG finally received a more comprehensive list by April 2016. These three lists from different periods reflect a recurrent problem, which was three different F/L lists (across 9 months) doing very little about the same Pendulum-based Deck, which only changed a few cards around. When you consider that Raging Tempest has barely been out for three months in Japan, attacking the Zoodiac cards now seems somewhat premature. The main store which took this decision that is referenced in most discussions has run an 18-player tournament using that format, so I leave it to you to measure the impact this has had, if any.

So to sum up:
-Yes, some Japanese stores are restricting the use of Zoodiacs, but this isn’t weird nor it’s the first time it’s been tried.
-Even if some stores choose to restrict stuff, the larger tournaments are happening outside of their scope. You’ll notice if those tournaments start having custom lists eventually, specially if I don’t forget to upload Decklists on Mondays.
-You could do this on a small scale in the TCG as well, but in the TCG, Konami enforces the Advanced Format for sanctioned tournaments including the larger tournaments in particular, so you are stuck playing with the official lists if you wish to attend those tournaments.
-Calm down when you read stuff online.

At the end of the day, every time you notice a big dark cloud over competitive tournaments, the flipside is that there actually are people engaging in that dark enviroment. If you tell those people that they cannot play with the cards that they bought and that they’ve been testing, they’ll just go to the plenty of existing tournaments where their legal cards are still valid.