YCS Sao Paulo wrapped up last weekend, solidifying a lot of the notions we already had about the format: Fire Fists and Mermails are excellent, the game's staying pretty diverse, and there's always a real chance that we'll see something totally out of left field win a major event. At the tail-end of the last format, Karakuri Geargia snagged a win away from Dragon Rulers at YCS Turin. Last April, Elemental HEROes picked one up at YCS San Jose as the filling in a five-YCS Mermail Oreo. This format, Harpies plucked out a win through a minefield of Fire Fists, Bujins, Mermails and a ton of other terrifying competition.

Most people who follow competitive coverage are aware that Patrick Hoban spent the format smashing draw power into his decks with Upstart Goblin and Reckless Greed, setting off a running trend that saw countless others follow suit. Seemingly without concern for which deck you're playing, it's become instantly viable as a strategy to set aside six slots during deck building for three copies of each, and that's raised some questions and interesting conversation. Is it really better to pack those cards into whatever, or is this a case of mass-bandwagoning?

Calculated Decisions
From some of the previous YCS coverage, you could have made a pretty solid argument that Upstart and Reckless have been squeaking into Top 32's just on the sheer volume of duelists using them, but YCS Sao Paulo changes that a little. Of the eleven decklists from the Top 32 over in the Deck Archive, only four of them used Upstart. Of those four, three used Reckless. That being said, three of the decks that used Upstart were in the Top 4, so it's a fair conclusion that the draw power and consistency helped them stay ahead of the pack.

As long as deck building's existed, there've been people worrying about speed and consistency. They're always important factors at all levels of play when it comes to optimizing your deck. All sorts of things factor into a final deck list: the number of copies of each card you play; tech choices; and the gauntlet of staples the game's seen over the last twelve years, among other things. Universally speaking, one thing that applies in every situation is that you can always count on having the perfect six card hand if you have a six card deck. It's guaranteed, because there are fewer cards to draw. Upstart Goblin in particular plays to that concept, reducing the number of cards in your deck right from the get-go.

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I've heard the argument before that "you'll just draw the card you would have drawn anyway with Upstart Goblin; there's no reason to play it." You could say that, but the real strength of Upstart comes more from what you won't draw. Maxing out on Upstart's like playing with a thirty-seven card deck, so you get to exclude three cards and improve your opening hands. Just about five years ago, fellow TCGplayer author Jason Meyer wrote an excellent article on some dueling math that comes into play here for anyone looking to spice up their life with statistics and probability.

The spice of predictability. Zesty.

In that article, Jason points out that there's a 39% chance to open the duel with at least one copy of a card you run three of, and your odds of drawing whatever that card may be go up by about 5% for each subsequent card you draw (that wasn't what you were looking for). Each Upstart you come across in that process is an automatic jump to those numbers, and that's huge. The same kind of benefits apply to each of the statistics in that article, so definitely go back and check out those numbers. If you're anything like me, too much math can leave you with a look on your face like you're thinking of one sustained, high-pitched note, but everything's laid out super clear and the information's exceptionally helpful – especially when you're dealing with cards like Upstart.

Handing out 1000 Life Points used to be a pretty big drawback in the days when damage was hard to bust out. Average-ATK beaters weren't nearly as strong as they are now; Special Summoning wasn't as prominent; and there definitely weren't droves of ubiquitous boss monsters waiting on the sidelines to smash your opponent to pieces. The way the game is now, there might as well be no real consequences to that Life Point gain. Having to deal 1000 more damage is so negligible for most strategies that you probably won't need any extra turns to seal the game anyway. In some instances, like Hope for Escape and Life Equalizer, it's actually a benefit to hand over those Life Points. Unless you're playing Chain Burn, you probably won't even notice.

Unabandoned Reckless
The downsides to Reckless Greed are a Little Different, because it's not so much about making your opponent harder to kill. Instead, Reckless actually looks to go the other direction and makes you easier to beat if things don't go right. Those two cards you draw could be outstanding, but they could just as likely be unusable until a little ways down the line, and at that point you've cut yourself off from future draws. There's a very specific playstyle that Reckless Greed needs, even if you do successfully resolve multiple copies and get your big payoff by stacking their effects. Since you don't get to draw for two turns, making sure you're careful with resources and don't squander them is what's going to make or break that game. There's a chance you could end the duel immediately, but if you don't, knowing how to not throw away your lead is crucial.

Reckless is kind of the opposite of Upstart, despite the two cards seeming similar and having synergy with each other. Most of the time, holding onto Upstart Goblin doesn't make any sense; unless you have searching to do first, you're going to put them down and start cashing in. Reckless, on the other hand, requires a bit more patience. If you activate multiples you draw two cards for each, but you still only skip the same two Draw Phases. The easiest way to look at it is that you're trading one card for two, but then losing two cards over the next two turns; a -1 overall. If you fire off two Greeds at the same time, you're trading two for four and losing two; you'd break even overall. At the full three copies, you wind up with a +1 total, ditching three to draw six, then losing two.

The want to draw Reckless Greeds in multiples is a big part of why it works so well with Upstart. More often than not, playing them one at a time sets you back and causes more harm than good. With Upstart effectively Shrinking your deck, you're maximizing your chances of digging into a second Reckless to avoid that. You had a 39% chance to open with one of them, and pulling out that second copy as fast as possible makes your first one playable without taking a loss.

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Just like Upstart Goblin's single draw affects the chance you'll hit a specific card, Reckless Greed does it in doubletime. If you had two copies of Reckless in your opening hand, and you were hoping to snag a card you ran three of, you would have a 44.8%, 49.8%, 54.5% and 58.9% chance of drawing what you wanted on the four successive cards you pick up (before figuring in the possibility of Upstart). Considering you don't lose anything, pushing yourself ahead that many turns is amazing, not to mention the chances to get an Upstart in those four and keep drawing. Tearing through your deck and filling up your hand that fast puts you in the driver's seat so you can control the tempo of the duel.

Drawing Conclusions
Objectively speaking, Upstart Goblin and Reckless Greed are incredible right now, since the format's aggressive and you can get away with shirking on backrow a little bit in exchange for power. Getting to your important cards faster without any unnecessary clutter's the difference between a laser-focused strategy and a grab-bag of useful cards. I think the only time that you'd veer away from them is when you're trying to jam as much defense into a deck as possible and some of those extra slots end up being crucial for additional backrow. That's a big part of the reason we saw Galo Guillermo Orbea Davila's 2nd Place Bujin deck pass on Reckless Greed and one of the Upstarts; after crushing in all the Bujingi, Kaiser Colosseums, Forbidden Lances and a couple of standard spells and traps, there was no room left and nothing worth cutting.

Conversely, Leandro Rodriguez Correa's Top 4 Dark World deck and Carlos Henrique De Araujo Freitas' 1st Place Harpies are good examples of decks with smaller core suites of cards and more room left over for tech. Instead of piling on excess flash or some kind of gimmick, Reckless Greed and Upstart Goblin helped trim the fat and keep things running as smoothly as possible.

How do you think Upstart Goblin and Reckless Greed are going to fair once the new format rolls around this April? There's no way to predict a new Forbidden and Limited List this early, but they're almost timeless in that they could be good in most anything that becomes popular. I'd say it's a safe bet that we'll see them stick around for a while.

-Beau