It’s been… A while since my last article was submitted, and it’s time for us to join in for another trip. This time, rather than talking about gameplay mechanics in raw, we’ll be dealing with substance here – this is a problem that needs to be addressed in depth, so without further ado, let us discuss R4nks.
So what are R4nks tho?
As some games evolve, you need to spice things up from time to time, and make things feel all the more rewarding to your players. And sometimes, your latest concept, while good, didn’t completely revolutionize the game, or at least not enough to have everyone and their moms buying Synchro cards.
So how do we spice things up?
By making a mechanic that’s in practice the same, but without all the intricacies involved within elaborating them, and at the same time, make them obscenely easy to employ to the point not running them is punishing. There’s near to no self-investment involved within Xyz Summoning, yet it is a mechanic that rewards you for… pretty much just having cards.
Xyz Monsters are summoned by lining up two or more monsters with equal levels to make a new monster rise forth from your Extra Deck. There’s no magical substance involved, at least none that can be explained well enough, and aside from that, there’s literally no other guideline as to what can be an Xyz Material and what cannot – sure, there are some with some slight Attribute/Type restrictions, but for the most part that’s hardly shortening the threshold, and even that can still be bypassed in MANY ways one can come up with. You can’t go wrong with Xyz, and that’s exactly their problem.
Their concept, by design, makes it so that any players can access powerful monsters straight from where-I-told-ya-earlier with zero tangles about it. They have access to it, you have access to it, I have access to it. Everyone can run their shiny black cards into any deck and pretend they have all the power in the world – and sometimes, they do, seeing as they involve no dedication towards running them. That leaves their whole main deck space to dedicate to their actual strategies AND have an assorted, petty, solve-it-all toolbox to tear your opponents to pieces.
The Deep Down Issues
In order to truly understand the first fundamental problem with Xyz Summons, namely Rank 4 Monsters for that matter, we need to discuss engines. What are engines, though? Let us scroll further…
Engines, Fuel and a glaring malfunction
Um, let us have a more ”In” definition for Engines; Engines, as far as games go, are the central pieces that get their game running, basically the heart. They make sure things go from stage 1 to the playing field. Other card games such as Magic The Gathering and Pokemon TCG have their own assortment cards that are primordial to engines, Lands and Energy cards are basically the fuel to the battle’s rundown, the creatures in their games require their fuel in order to do anything at all. After all, A 350$ Motor is worth about nothing if you have no gas to make it roar.
In Yu-Gi-Oh!, there’s no such thing as mere ”fuel”. All cards can be engines on their own, because their effects have all the liberties in the world. On the subject of Special Summons, it’s where we come closer to having Fueling cards, but here’s the catch, all enablers(Engines) can and will also act as the fuel, essentially disjointing this delicate relationship between A and B.
Why is this a problem though? Well, for one, it hits a fundamental part of the game: a card’s individual worth. All Level 4 Monsters have a shred of relevance simply because of their Level. This creates a scenerio where cards aren’t looked upon for their attack power, advancing effects or whatever – if a card cannot supply itself to be used as a homogenized component for the normative summon method (or, god forbid, hamper it), it is severely undervalued. Cards stop having meaning and are dehumanized into fodder. YGO really never had any qualms about having monsters being insensitively savaged by the wild nature of the game, but when you have no worth, no identity, all you have is… cardboard.
Power-scaling cards taking summoning restrictions into account has been Konami’s fundamental issue since… Investment is key to really get that adrenaline feeling in which you actually feel like you’re sweating your way to the top, and YGO does NOT understand this concept in the slightest. We’ve had cards with ridiculous summoning conditions from the get-go with trivially powerful effects, many a ploy that amounts to nothing in the end because either the investment doesn’t reap the desired results, or really doesn’t impact the gamestate enough to warrant usage at all. Testing cards is key, and when I say Konami didn’t learn how to play their game until a decade ago, I am saying something here.
YGO phazes out old content like there’s no tomorrow, and they’re right on the idea about that. There’s no future for YGO as much as there is a constant overscaling of the same things, as not only gameplay effects have grown stale beyond imagination, but this stagnancy is slowly creeping into all iterations. If there is one radical constant in this spiral, is that, less than learning from their mistakes, they enjoy testing the waters, and releasing disasters back from the past into the present day, just for the sake of testing if games aren’t completely turned one-sided by single execution.
And you would think that giving all those ridiculous tools just to anyone would be a TERRIBLE idea… Well, it seems Konami and you are not on the same page, as one-card safe swipes, 5000 ATK straight unrelenting beatdown, access to a whole new catalog of Xyz Monsters, that are ”Meant” to be more powerful than this stage, a card that mechanically serves as an universal tutor whose delay is almost non-factor, NuclearWinters, and literally being able to trigger ridiculous Trap effects from the deck, at universal availability. This is not only wrong, but petty and self-entitled, and it encourages people to abandon any vestige of effort in favor of easy answers to anything and everything 99% of the time.
I believe we’ve been setting this one from the start: when you have created a mechanic that’s all to easy to use in margin to the others, that has all the power, and stretch you need, at the access of your palm, you’ve got to expect a personality develop from this treatment.
Xyz Monsters were introduced, and the first reaction was, however, that they would have strong competition from the former spotlight mechanic. So what’s the sane thing to do here? If you answer “to completely wipe said mechanic from the public scene and disallow any further development for it”, well, you would be right.
The game’s wiki, for cards with effects that strictly restrict summoning methods, returns the following results; 10 cards for Fusion, 25 for Xyz, and, wait for it, a whooping 52 for Synchro Summon. That’s not biased in the slightest. This is a problem that is reeking out more on Synchro now than on Xyz themselves: one mechanic is stuck to a dated standard for gameplay, while the other is given free pass to run amok – from a completely eliminatory list in March 2012 that, less that telling you to move on and Buy our new products, is subliminally, nay, Superliminally telling you to forget anything past that point was a thing for any sort of the matter. Pretentiousness? Insecurity? I cannot say, and it really doesn’t matter anymore.
Onto ARC-V, we were led to believe the game would take a better turn, as the new fresh mechanic was tailored with security in mind. Pendulums can be a very explosive mechanic with the right build, and it certainly has a major scale in variance when it comes to deckbuilding that Xyz; granted, that is not saying much, as it only took them 5 sets to completely destroy said security. Fusion and Ritual, two legacy mechanics longly neglected by the game developers, were reimaginated within this era to create two decks whose concept was made with completely throwing all their drawbacks aside in order to assert self-unwarranted relevance at the cost of any design guidelines.
Shaddoll was a complete amalgam with abuse in mind, that created a new era in which Monsters had to be armed to the teeth with safety net plays, abilities to shrug off even the most catastrophic kinds of disruption, come back unscathed, and generate mad card advantage in the process. And that was the good kind, as we’ve got two further examples of this formula taken Too Far by your beloved TCG region developers
And then there’s Nekroz, which I may or may not dedicate an article for later on, whose design perfectly examplifies homogenization between engine and fuel, in which all cards follow one not-subtle-at-all gaming flowchart in which one card recurs into the other, which recurs into another one and then oops, Engine get, you’re set to go because Playability. There are so many fundamental issues with this that will drag this article further than it already is.
These two examples aren’t the source of the problem so much as they are a symptom, in which mechanics have to keep up with the senseless arms race in order to be relevant. It has gone to the point that a Structure Deck, that is themed with the new main character in mind, that suggests a good start for beginners, is suited to break further with more of the same power scaling. When you sell super-competitive product to players like these, and have only scraps to feed the casual playerbase, you plant a self-entitlement that radiates into elitism on your playerbase that makes them slowly drop their old product in favor of Win Buttons, On Sale 50% Off, with decks whose design is so blatant, and outcomes so prone to go off, every deck has a way to generate winning fields at no sweat, and that doesn’t even cut it anymore.
We’re not talking about R4nk monsters anymore, are we? There’s a reason for that, as speaking any further about their glaring issues would fall into redundant territory, if we’re not there already. What’s left to derive is…
What we’re left with is a tattered game in which cards have to be braced with protection effects… which instead of circumventing the game’s issues, it compounds it further with cards that are outright immune to ALL sorts of player interaction, be it from cards that invalidate any shred of effort by sacrificing it to your Sci-fi horror monsters, going through a myriad of cards that have protection to the most common treadmill for solution removal and eventually landing into Cards that are absolutely Immune To This Game. And the worst part of it, is that you can still find ways to bypass all those abominations at the expense of two piece and a Biscuit.
At this point, this article might have come to a conclusion everyone’s already come to, but it’s still important to understand exactly why things are what they are, and exactly what and where are the issues.
I’ll be seeing you in another article. See you guys later!