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Baneful's Take IV: Power Creep
(Note to readers: My writing has been
getting a little sloppy lately and I know that my BLS
article, in hindsight, is missing the depth it could have
had. Just been going through a phase of writer's block and
now I'm just doing a straight stream of consciousness, as I
write. I apologize in this article if my articulation isn't
so sharp or the structure of it as tight as it could be, but
still I hope the point gets across)
Power Creep, in a game, is the trend of
newer content making older content obsolete. This trend has
profoundly affected Yu-Gi-Oh. In result, the core mechanics
that Kazuki Takahashi had in mind when making this game are
not the metrics we go by today, though they still remain
vestiges of what the game had intended to be.
Level Four Beaters
Let's cut to the chase. I think
everybody who has played for a while knows what "power
creep" is. We've all defined it by one example: ATK
strength. Since the start, 1800 ATK for a Normal Monster
was the standard. La Jinn the Mystical Genie of the Lamp
and 7 Colored Fish were the main beaters. Instantly, all of
the other monsters were obsolete. 1500 ATK LV4 monsters
were just substitutes you had until you could afford more
packs and get the 1800-atk beaters.
Konami did eventually realize that
making entire sets of vanilla effect-less normal monsters
was pointless. In the anime, at least, the intention was to
have progressively stronger monsters as the game went on.
You summoned a 1300 ATK monster. Your opponent crushed it
with a 1400 ATK monster, and then you summon your 1500 ATK
monster to one-up them. But if you already had an 1800 ATK
monster to summon, then all weaker monsters become instantly
obsolete (or just throw-away defenders until your draw your
In Magic the Gathering, this made
sense. There was a mana-curve. So both players would start
out summoning their weak creatures because they had low
mana, but then they would bring out more powerful creatures
once they could afford them..
But back to my earlier points. After
La Jinn and Fish, Gemini Elf established itself as the 1900
beater and Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer established itself as
the 1800 beater, but with a practical effect. And 1900 ATK
has been the "standard strong beater strength" for years
until Gene-Warped Warwolf set 2000 as the standard, without
having a restriction like Berserk Gorilla.
But these are shallow metrics!!!
Since Synchro's came out, the game has
changed dramatically, and the idea of anything above 1900 or
2000 ATK being an unfairly strong card just doesn't
reconcile with the fact that we can summon 2500 ATK and 3000
ATK monsters with ease (and relatively small cost). The
game back then, in 2002 and 2003 was based on who had the
strongest monster, though there were removal options like
Fissure to help turn the tide. Today, strength still
matters, but it's more-so about removal and building up
We had Cyber Dragon, a 2100 attacker
that didn't even count as a normal summon, though today it's
bad. But I could imagine the response to a 2100 ATK beater
coming out being ugly. A 2200 ATK normal monster could come
out today and it really wouldn't matter a whole lot. Again,
I can Special Summon Dark Armed Dragon and Judgment Dragon
from my hand. Or, I can find a way to finance 39: Utopia as
a one for one.
More importantly, tribute monsters were
conceived as an idea to allow stronger creatures into play.
In order to have that 2700 ATK monster, you need to tribute
2 of your weaker monsters first. But that's not what ended
up happening. Even at the beginning, while Summoned Skull
was used (mainly for tributing cards like Sangan or an
already-used Man-Eater Bug), Blue-Eyes White Dragon and Dark
Magician were not. They just were not worth tributing 2
monsters for, ever. People, all across time, have been
trying to find ways to dump in the graveyard and then revive
it with a card like Monster Reborn.
Today, we Special Summon big monsters
with effects - not tribute for them. In a sense, it's an
honest version of what we all wanted from the very
beginning. Still, much different than what Kazuki Takahashi
had originally planned.
It was just too risky to summon a
Blue-Eyes the way that we were originally supposed to. This
is because of quick easy removal. Dark Hole and Fissure
affects the Blue-Eyes you gave up 2 cards for in the same
exact way it would affect a 7 Colored Fish. Quick removal
became a two-edged sword. Since it's available, no one is
going to want to take the risk. But if it weren't
available, tribute monsters would be broken. The opponent
would basically need to summon one of their own, somehow,
while they're backed in a corner. And compromising in
between would just make things inconsistent. Moreover (back
then), was there a need for a 3000 ATK monster when a 1900
attacker could beat down the opponent just fine?
Then vs. Now
Seven years ago, Pojo writer Dark
Maltos wrote an article called <a href="http://www.pojo.com/yu-gi-oh/FeaturedWriters/DarkMaltos/2006/07-16.shtml">"Tears"</a>,
which stirred up lots of emotion and controversy in it's
time. To summarize his main point: he was upset that Konami
was banning powerful cards instead of releasing more
powerful cards to combat them, calling it regressive.
This was in 2006, and while I don't
think overpowered cards like Pot of Greed or Delinquent Duo
were ever fit for balanced tournament play, I do agree with
his overall point. It was a time period when weak sets like
Elemental Energy were released. Basically, most of the
cards released in that time were really weak.
There was a gap between older more powerful cards and the
mediocre cards of the GX era. Instead of meeting up to
previously set standards, Konami decided to ban/limit cards
to adapt to the new metagame.
But things have changed a lot over the
past 7 years. And, even though he probably doesn't play YGO
anymore, it looks like he got exactly what he wanted.
For example, Black Luster Soldier -
Envoy of the Beginning was ban-worthy back then, but today
he fits well in the crowd of other powerful high-level
monsters. But I also sometimes feel like the game may have
gone too far in the direction of power creep. You can
always loosen the faucet and allow a little more anarchy,
but it's hard today to just all of a sudden reverse every
single design decision in the past 5 years without it
violating Occams Razor. But also, looking back at the time,
having 60-card sets with only 2 powerful cards in them was
not pleasant either and I could see why Maltos was upset.
For me, at that time, I liked the slowness because I didn't
adapt very well to drastic changes but I can easily see how
it could drive other people mad.
There has been evolution in the game,
and YGO did not pan out anywhere near what it planned to be
on paper. This is a good thing, I think. Well, not what
the game was planned to be, but rather what the game became.
Relying on a higher attack strength and tributing to edge
out the opponent in strings of constant linear simplistic
battles just wouldn't have been much fun. It would've been
the equivalent of cavemen hitting each other with clubs.
So, today we are with out fast-paced gameplay. Monsters
are big and strong, easy to summon, they fall easy and they
Surprisingly enough, the game was
allowed to branch out from what it intended to be and what
it is today. Perhaps the idea of have loose mechanics
without a fixed mana cost system helped induce this. But as
it stands, power had crept. For, better and for worse. Get
used to being able to Special Summon a 2700 ATK monster that
can revive itself (and destroy all cards on the field as it
does) with one card. And expect that to become obsolete
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