Last month, I published an article evaluating whether Pot of Disparity is a good card. I realized that the analysis may have been a little advanced, so today I'll break down the ideas of consistency and power even further to help you better identify how good a card is.
In the previous article, I described power as the most that a card can do, and consistency as how often it can do it. For instance, let's take Pot of Desires. Pot of Desires draws you two cards, so in terms of card advantage - the number of cards a card can exchange itself for - Pot of Desires has a power score of 2. However, in around 5% of situations, you won't be able to activate Pot of Desires because you've already activated a copy in the same turn or aren't in a position to pay its activation cost. Therefore, you multiply the card's consistency, 95%, times its power, 2, to get its weighted score: 1.9.
Furthermore, Pot of Desires can often be negated. For example, if your opponent has three copies of Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring in their deck, then in the opening hand, there is a 34% chance that they'll have a copy of the card to negate your Pot of Desires. In that case, we need to multiply the weighted score by its chances of not being negated: 1.9 x 0.66 = 1.254.
What this final number represents is the average number of cards that [Pot of Desires]] will replace itself with. As it turns out, 1.254 is a very high score. If it were possible to build an entire deck out of cards with values higher than 1, your deck would be an endless advantage-generating machine!
In reality, most cards have a score less than 1. Let's examine some of the characteristics responsible for lowering the potential of a card. This will help you determine when a card's value is too low to consider playing it.
Many powerful cards have high power scores that are counterbalanced with low consistency ratings. Such cards are often "live," or capable of being activated or summoned, only during specific stages during a game.
For example, Dark Armed Dragon can potentially blow up three of your opponent's cards and then attack over a monster by battle, generating +4 in card advantage! But you have to ask yourself: how likely is that going to happen?
It certainly won't happen in the early game. Meeting [Dark Armed's)(Dark Armed Dragon) summoning requirements won't occur until you've developed your graveyard. Furthermore, you won't summon it on your first turn even if you've met those summoning requirements, because it derives its value from reacting to an existing board. It's therefore better as a topdeck later in the game than in the opening hand.
You next have to factor in resistance: will your opponent have a card to interrupt it? There are many cards that can negate the summon or effect of Dark Armed Dragon. When all is said in done, the card might have a consistency of under 1%. Multiply 4 times 0.01 and you get 0.04, which is far less than the 1.254 we saw with Pot of Desires, even though Dark Armed Dragon theoretically capable of doing more.
You probably know intuitively that Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss is better than its counterpart, Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss. That's because the deck is almost always live. The number of situations in which you have viable monsters to summon from your deck far exceed the number of situations in which you want to summon from your graveyard, and those situations in turn exceed the number of situations in which you want to summon from your hand.
For this reason, a monster like Orcust Harp Horror has far more playability than its hand counterpart, Orcust Brass Bombard. Similarly, Mermail Abysspike more consistent than Mermail Abyssturge, so you should max out the number of copies of Mermail Abysspike in your deck before considering how many Mermail Abyssturge to run.
The relative consistency of these cards should inform not only your deckbuilding, but also your playmaking. For instance, when deciding what to banish with Allure of Darkness, banish the lower consistency card. However, keep in mind that consistency values are only averages. They can change over the course of a game! If you've reached the late stage of a game in which you've gone through most of your deck, then suddenly Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss and Mermail Abyssturge become much more valuable than Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss and Mermail Abysspike, and you should adjust the manner in which you spend those resources accordingly.
Whether you can use a card immediately or only in reaction to a situation dramatically changes its consistency value.
Back when Maxx "C" was legal, I saw a player make the mistake of deciding between running Upstart Goblin or Maxx "C" in his deck, because he reasoned that both of them were draw cards. In reality, they serve very different purposes and they're not interchangeable. You can use Upstart Goblin in over 99% of scenarios in which it's drawn. Its consistency is incredible because it can be used immediately.
On the other hand, Maxx "C" is reactionary; in exchange for the benefit of drawing more cards, its activation is contingent upon your opponent's actions. Its consistency is much lower as a result. For similar reasons, Jar of Greed isn't a suitable substitute if you need additional copies of Upstart Goblin in your deck. Even though it has the same effect, you can never activate it on the turn you draw it, bringing its consistency score way down.
Defensive cards and removal are among the worst cards in competitive Yu-Gi-Oh that are still playable. That's because none of them advance your position in the game; they only protect you from losing. A card like Mirror Force can never attack your opponent for game. Moreover, most protective cards trade one for one in the vast majority of scenarios. Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring and other hand traps are common examples of this.
Even the protective cards that theoretically generate card advantage don't generate a true net advantage. For instance, you might use a card like Nibiru, the Primal Being, Raigeki, or Get Out! to trade one of your cards in exchange for two or more of your opponent's cards. However, since these cards require you to wait for your opponent to make plays first, theres a high chance that they've generated additional card advantage for themselves in the process of summoning the monsters that you're wiping out, effectively nullifying any advantage you get out of playing those cards.
While I'm not saying that those cards are unplayable - in fact, they're essential - it's important to not be charmed by the powerful effects printed on the text of defensive cards and removal. Those effects come at the cost of being reactive, as opposed to advancing your own position. Cards that protect you from losing are drastically less valuable in Yu-Gi-Oh than cards that bring you closer to victory.
Lastly, be mindful of the conditions and contradictions that are built into cards; a card may seem great on the surface until you take its conditions into consideration. For instance, Pot of Disparity stops you from drawing cards. That limitation directly contradicts many of the most effective strategies in the game. Since you can only include Pot of Disparity in decks that don't rely on drawing cards, playing it narrows your strategic options.
Contradictions don't always come in the form of explicit conditions printed on the card text. Sometimes, they're unwritten attributes of the metagame. For example, Called by the Grave is an excellent card against Orcust decks, but that's only true if you yourself aren't playing Orcust yourself. If you are, then negating your opponent's Orcust cards in effect negates your own for the turn as well. That contradiction means an otherwise good card loses its consistency in a specific matchup.
Another intangible contradiction can be seen in deciding between Evenly Matched and The Winged Dragon of Ra - Sphere Mode as a Side Deck choice. In a metagame where opening boards have lots of monsters with built-in spell and trap negation, the purpose of Evenly Matched to remove threats is contradicted by the dominant strategy. The Winged Dragon of Ra - Sphere Mode would be a better choice in such a case.
On the other hand, if you're playing a deck that can't make any plays if you can't Normal Summon right away, then Normal Summoning The Winged Dragon of Ra - Sphere Mode to clear your opponent's monsters, as powerful as it is, may contradict your win condition.
Players who are new to competitive Yu-Gi-Oh, and even many who aren't, are often charmed by cards with powerful effects. When evaluating whether a card is worth playing, don't just picture all the situations where it shines. Instead think about what it does the vast majority of the time.
How often is it live? Does it work in opening hands as well as in topdeck situations? Can you play it immediately? Does it advance your strategy or merely keep you from losing? Do its limitations have contradictions in the meta?
Until next time!