Recently, the card Pot of Disparity was released in the OCG set Blazing Vortex. It generated a big reaction from players, and you can click here to see what it does.
The "Pot" series of Spell cards have been some of the most iconic cards in both competitive play and the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime. Whenever a new one's announced, you can expect heated discussion. Disparity was no exception, as folks have gone back and forth debating whether or not the card is good. In this article, I'll analyze Pot of Disparity while giving you tools to better analyze the viability of any card.
The most common deficiency I've observed in the way people evaluate cards is that they describe one attribute of the card that favors their perspective, without drawing any comparisons to contextualize that attribute. For instance, when the text of Pot of Desires was first leaked, scores of duelists thought it was unplayable, citing the fact that the spell requires the player to banish 10 cards from the top of their deck.
Such an "argument" is lacking. Is banishing 10 cards from the deck a lot or a little? How much does drawing two cards raise a player's win ratio, and how much does banishing 10 from the deck lower a player's win ratio? Pot of Desires has proven over time to be one of the most playable spells across formats in the game's history. Many duelists didn't anticipate that because they were thinking in terms of descriptions instead of comparisons.
Stating what a card does is not an argument; it's repetition of given information. When you analyze a card, think about how its limitations lower win percentage, and how its benefits raise win percentage. Consider the card's alternatives. Don't fixate on individual attributes that confirm your gut instinct. Draw comparisons.
There are many valid frameworks to describe cards. One of the most useful ones is also the simplest – a framework with only two metrics. I borrowed this framework from high school subjects like physics and chemistry.
On the x-axis, you have time. Time is often expressed in frequency or duration. On the y-axis, you have size. Size is often expressed in distance or amplitude. The x-axis represents how often something occurs or how long it occurs, and the y-axis represents the size or impact of whatever occurred.
Translating this for card games, you might call the time metric consistency, because it measures how often a card does what it does. You then might call the size metric power, because it measures how large the impact is when the card does what it does.
Upstart Goblin is a card with high consistency; it almost always works. However, its power is low, because it only ever draws you a card. Exodia the Forbidden one is a card with high power (infinite, in fact). Its effect wins the game. However, its consistency is low, because it's nearly impossible to fulfill the conditions to apply its effect in high level play.
How big is the card's effect? How often does it work? The framework I'll teach you serves to measure and answer those two fundamental questions. Let's now apply it to Pot of Disparity.
Pot of Disparity has low baseline power, because on its own, it never does anything other than give you 1 card. In addition to its baseline power, you can include in this metric the additional power it grants if it nets a card that generates advantage in the form of either additional cards or tempo.
For example, suppose you find yourself in the late game with 12 cards remaining in your deck, and 1 of them is a bomb that will generate a +1 of card economy if you can get to it (drawing 2 cards total). You'll excavate 6 cards with Pot of Disparity. In this scenario, you have a 50/50 shot at +1 card advantage. If you multiply the 50% probability by the +1 card advantage, you get a weighted average of +0.5 power granted by the potential of seeing the bomb. Therefore, Pot of Disparity's a +1 in this scenario, based on the following math:
50% x 1 card (baseline effect) + 50% x 2 cards (the bomb you excavate plus the +1 advantage) – 1 card spent (Pot of Disparity) =
0.5 + 1 – 1 =
+0.5 card net gain, or 1.5 total card value
In real games the math will often be messy. Perhaps the other 5 cards you excavate each have some marginal value greater than 1. In that case, your net gain can be a number with decimals like 1.64, because in the event that you whiff on excavating your bomb, you'll most likely excavate a card with value greater than 1.
As you can see, the power of Pot of Disparity depends on the number of powerful cards in your deck. If your deck includes too many defensive cards like hand traps and traps, then Pot of Disparity becomes that much weaker. Since many cards are powerful because they access the Extra Deck or draw cards, this dramatically lowers the chances that a deck will have a high power rating for Pot of Disparity. While it's not impossible, the deck would have to be a very specific strategy that generates massive advantage in other ways, such as by searching for cards instead of drawing them.
However, even in such decks that are not prone to the limiting conditions of Pot of Disparity, the cards that generate advantage are few and far between. Without doing the actual math, an experienced duelist can reasonably conclude that in most strategies, the card's power is closer to 1 than it is to 2 (the 1.5 estimate in my example is high because the gamestate is simplified). That sits in stark contrast against the card's counterparts, Pot of Extravagance and Pot of Desires, which both have a stable power of 2.
Next, let's take a look at consistency.
Like most "Pot" Spells, Pot of Disparity is highly consistent. Since the card doesn't require setup, it's classified as a starter card. Starter cards can be activated in nearly any situation. Not counting the opponent's resistance (such as when they have Imperial Order face-up), there are very few improbable scenarios where Pot of Disparity doesn't work.
One is when you have two copies in hand, an occurrence with less than 4% probability. Even in such a scenario, the second copy becomes live again on the following turn. Another is when there aren't enough cards in your Main Deck or Extra Deck, both scenarios too unlikely to even bother counting. While an additional scenario exists in which you can't activate the card because you drew a card by card effect this turn, you should assume when evaluating cards that they're being used in decks that avoid such negative synergies.
Thus, an approximate consistency value you can assign to Pot of Disparity is 0.95, which means you can use it in around 95% of the cases in which you see it. You can multiply this by the power rating of Disparity to get the weighted effectiveness of the card. For example, if the power rating is 1.2, then the card's overall effectiveness is 0.95 * 1.2 = 1.14.
Context is everything. Is 1.14 a good rating for a card? The answer will depend on additional considerations, such as the 1) the format, 2) viable substitutes, and 3) the opponent's resistance.
1) The Format
In 2003, this card would have been very good. Pot of Disparity would have been a staple in such a time, even taking into account its conflict with cards like Graceful Charity and Pot of Greed. The card also would have been great in the 2006 Chaos format, which was defined by winning through marginal gains in card advantage over time.
2) Viable Substitutes
In 2020, the card is not so good. With a larger card pool, there are more viable substitutes. The aforementioned Pot of Extravagance and Pot of Desires are two examples, but good engine cards in general are also viable substitutes. In most top decks, engine cards have a larger power rating than Pot of Disparity. This was not true in the early days of Yu-Gi-Oh, when monster effects didn't generate much advantage on their own.
3) The Opponent's Resistance
The opponent's resistance describes the amount of "hate" for a card in a given format. For example, in a format in which Twin Twisters is mained, non-chainable trap cards receive a lower rating than normal.
Sometimes "hate" describes not the presence of a card, but the absence of a card. For example, in a format where no top decks rely on summoning Level 5 or higher monsters, Evilswarm becomes a weaker deck. Its power rating is lowered by the fact that Evilswarm Ophion effect to prevent the summon of high-Level monsters becomes functionally blank.
The opponent's resistance changes the true rating of your cards. Pot of Desires nets you 2 cards in a vacuum. However, in an environment in which everyone Main Decks 3 copies of Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, the card's true rating becomes its rating in a vacuum multiplied by the chances that they have Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring. Strictly looking at opening hands, an approximate rating for Pot of Desires is:
0.66 (the chance of the opponent not opening Ash Blossom) x 2 = 1.32
However, be careful not to overrate this last factor. I named it last because it's the most insignificant. When you take into account that a) not all scenarios are openings and there are other stages to a game, b) not every opponent will have resistance for you, and c) even those that do have a low probability of seeing or using it (the Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring example was on the high end), resistance factors very little into the viability of most cards. In the case of Pot of Disparity, players will not negate the card outside of simplified gamestates, so resistance has immaterial impact in evaluating the card.
Be wary when someone argues that a card is good by envisioning only best-case scenarios or that a card is bad by envisioning only worst-case scenarios. To properly assess the viability of a card, the size of its outcomes must be weighted by the probabilities of those outcomes, and the context of the format, along with the card's viable substitutes, must be taken into consideration.