Change – A Format Without Heavy Storm

It wasn’t too long ago that [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] was last rotated off of the Forbidden and Limited List, so it the situation shouldn’t be too unfamiliar to the majority of duelists. What is a format without [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd]? Simply put: traps get better and monsters get worse. That’s the general understanding that you can derive from previous years. Suddenly you start the duel facing down not one or two set cards, but any number your opponent chooses to set. [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] never accomplished as much as the fear of [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] did; it was viewed as a way to balance out the game and stopping your opponent from doing unfair things, but to what degree? The difference is what you can view as unfair versus a norm, from one format to another.

Take a deck that’s built in a format with [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd], and sit it down against a deck that was built in a format without the balancer. You’ll see that suddenly [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] goes from being a card that’s good the majority of the time to being absolute nuts, and you don’t even need to draw it. As I said, the general fear of the card is enough to make people not only change how they play their decks but also how they build them; because of that, other important cards’ popularity varies just by this factor. [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd] can appear less powerful in a format with Heavy Storm, because it’s just more removal in a format where people won’t set a lot of traps anyway, but that’s probably the biggest misconception. Typhoon doesn’t get worse in a format with [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] and better in a format without it – it’s actually quite the opposite.

[ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd]’s existence in a format invokes fear about the loss of card economy, and makes players less inclined to set cards. Suddenly, where Heavy doesn’t shine against a lone set card, Typhoon turns into a [ccProd]Harpie’s Feather Duster[/ccProd]. Typhoon is suddenly this dangerous removal spell that can make or break games, forcing each player to feel conflicted: do you try to play around the big bad removal that can shut you out of the game by the sheer loss of card presence, or do you play around the singular removal that’s less damaging, but more plentiful?

The choice obviously comes down to several in-game variables such as the likelihood of you dying if you fail to protect yourself from attacks; what kind of cards you have available to set; whether the game state has already developed to where [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] would also cause your opponent to lose card advantage, and whether or not you’re okay with that trade; so on and so forth. There’s so much going on in each of those decisions that it makes sense why having Heavy with Typhoon can be considered both healthy in the way that it causes a more in-depth thought process, but also unhealthy because of how dangerous removal becomes.

The Flip Side
So what happens when you remove [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] from the equation?  Well, we see a rise in decks that play a ton of traps with very effective monsters. Each monster has to be very good on its own, otherwise it’s not going to survive in the trap-heavy environment that the lack of [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] produces. Look back at the 2011 NAWCQ format: Tech Genus took a surprise win coming basically out of nowhere.  Why? We see that it was indeed one of the best decks that could play a ton of traps while not really needing to worry about its monsters, because each Tech Genus monster simply gave you access to more monsters when they were destroyed, and that’s all that they needed to do. Gravekeepers also performed very well early on in that format for a very similar reason – it was the best trap-heavy deck at the time, and it also had poweful tools to deal with most metagames. The monsters the Graekeeper deck played were also very effective at not only making sure you wouldn’t run out of steam, but also getting problems out of the way. Obviously [ccProd]Royal Tribute[/ccProd] is also a factor in this equation, however the point I’m trying to get across is that when Gravekeepers jumped onto the scene there was no better “trap” deck.

How did the more aggressive decks adapt to that, though? People started playing cards like [ccProd]Dust Tornado[/ccProd], [ccProd]Royal Decree[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Seven Tools of the Bandit[/ccProd]. Those cards could allow you to break through your opponent’s set-up long enough to find an opening, to hopefully either establish a threat that could deal with all the traps your opponent might have, or at least stick a monster to the field that was troublesome to get rid of. Cards like [ccProd]Black Rose Dragon[/ccProd], [ccProd]Legendary Six Samurai Shi En[/ccProd], [ccProd]Master Hyperion[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Scrap Dragon[/ccProd] were the kinds of cards could give quite a bit of value when the opening arose (keeping in mind that at the time, you still had the option to retain priority after a Summon to activate Spell Speed 1 effects).

So is the game better or worse without Heavy? It sounded pretty good, but let’s take a moment to realize how bad things can get.

Say you’re playing your average deck that can shift gears when necessary, so it’s not like you’re over-the-top aggressive or overly reactive, either. You lose the die roll and your opponent opens up with a [ccProd]Thunder King Rai-Oh[/ccProd] and not one, not two, not even three, but four cards set! Wow. You suddenly might be put out of the game by a very common occurrence; the opposing deck’s designed to open with a ton of traps and a monster or two with a relevant disruption effect. You have to battle through a couple [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd]s, a [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd], a [ccProd]Solemn Warning[/ccProd], and maybe even a [ccProd]Solemn Judgment[/ccProd] or whatever else they have set. Not only that, but if you can’t push through everything during a single turn you’re just giving your opponent more time to draw even more protection. The chance of your opponent opening this way is quite a bit higher than your opponent opening with a very powerful combo in a format with [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd], so which is really healthier?

The Solution
Neither, that’s the best answer. With [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] legal you need to keep the power level of monsters in check because something like Dragon Ruler can become so absurd that they push every other deck out of the format with ease. Without [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] the traps, and removal in general, become so troublesome that games come down to who went first and who could set up their defenses before their opponent could do the same. However, the approach that KDE took this time with the Forbidden and Limited list is very unique; not only did they Forbid [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] once again, but they also hit the best removal cards in the game.

It’s not like the traps are worse, but there just aren’t as many good ones to choose from. You can obviously jam the one [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd], the one [ccProd]Compulsory Evacuation Device[/ccProd], the one [ccProd]Solemn Warning[/ccProd], and the one [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] into your deck, but even then that’s not even close to what formats without Heavy Storm previously experienced. There are of course other traps that are worth considering like [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd], but now players can simply hold Typhoons until that card flips to make it a lot less effective. It’s not straight-up removal like the rest of the cards were.

We see decks adapting to this in very uniquely ways: any deck that can play the control role basically needs to have their own themed removal card, such as [ccProd]Icarus Attac[/ccProd]k for Blackwings or [ccProd]Spellbook of Fate[/ccProd] for Prophecy. The rest of the decks adopt a much more proactive approach, but without the ability to blow out defenses with [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd]. Some have begun to play cards that simulate what [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] once did to try and gain an unfair edge, such as [ccProd]A Wingbeat of Giant Dragon[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Black Rose Dragon[/ccProd]; but both of those are a lot easier to disrupt than a [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd].

Suddenly we’ve come to a place that seems like quite possibly the healthiest median, which we can assume will continue to be fine-tuned until we see Yu-Gi-Oh! at its best.

-Robert Boyajian

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