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Columbus Deck Spread & Deck Diversity

December 8th, 2009

Whenever you compete in a major tournament (like a regional championship or SHONEN JUMP Championship) you fill out a Deck list. Ever wonder what happens to those Deck lists after the event? Answer: they get sent to us for analysis!

One of the big things we do here at KDE is take a hard look at all the Deck lists from each event. We’re especially interested in the ‘spread’ of what Deck types everyone is playing. This gives us a good idea of what Decks are popular, what kinds of themes people want more cards for, and gives us warning of when something might be dominating the scene, so we can bring it into line using the Forbidden & Limited Cards List.

Here’s a list of Deck spreads from the last 4 SHONEN JUMP Championships. To save space, we’ll list the Top 5 most popular Decks, and then lump everything else into ‘Other’. (If you’re not sure what some of these mean, see the Deck Glossary section at the bottom of this article.)

Columbus SHONEN JUMP Championship (November)
23% – Blackwings
11% – Lightsworn
10% – Chaos
8% – Destiny Heroes + Zombies
8% – Twilight
40% – Other

Austin SHONEN JUMP Championship (October)
19% – Blackwings
14% – Lightsworn
11% – Chaos
9% – Gladiator Beasts
7% – Destiny Heroes + Zombies
40% – Other

Orlando SHONEN JUMP Championship (September)
20% – Gladiator Beasts
19% – Lightsworn
10% – Blackwings
8% – Chaos
5% – TeleDAD
38% – Other

Indianapolis SHONEN JUMP Championship (August)
21% – Blackwings
19% – Lightsworn
14% – Gladiator Beasts
13% – Synchro Cat
10% – Black Salvo
23% – Other


Deck Diversity

One thing we keep striving for is a diverse tournament format, where as many Decks as possible are competitive. This makes it more fun for everyone, in two ways. The more Decks are competitive, the more freedom you have to bring the Deck you want to a tournament. It’s not as much fun when you feel like you “have to” play with a certain Deck because it’s stronger. If the Deck you want to play is also the Deck you should play, then you’ll have more fun. Also, it’s more fun to go to a tournament and play against a lot of different Deck types. Playing against the same Deck over and over again isn’t as much fun.

We’ve been seeing  a lot of Deck diversity in 2009. No single Deck has made up more than 25% of the Decks at a major event. Also, we aren’t seeing a situation where the same Deck is the most popular one at every event.


The ‘Bandwagon Effect’ Threat

The ‘bandwagon effect’ can be a big threat to Deck diversity. That’s when one Deck is considered so powerful that you don’t have any chance of winning unless you play that one Deck. So you feel like you have to ‘jump on the bandwagon’ and switch to the same Deck as everybody else.

The bandwagon effect is really dangerous because it can be self-fulfilling. The more people jump on the bandwagon and play the same Deck, the bigger the odds are that this Deck wins more and more tournaments, just because more people are playing it. If 99 people show up to a 100-player tournament with the same Deck, that Deck’s probably going to win.

The threat of the bandwagon effect is also a big factor when deciding whether to Forbid or Limit certain cards. Let’s take Lightsworn as an example. Suppose that “Honest,” “Charge of the Light Brigade,” and “Judgment Dragon” were all Forbidden starting tomorrow, making it so Lightsworn isn’t as strong as it is now. Right now, somewhere between 10% and 20% of the players use a Lightsworn Deck, depending on where you go.

All those players will probably switch to a different Deck in this imaginary situation. Let’s say Imaginary Lightsworn Player #1 turns to his friend and says, “Hey, we need to change our Decks. What do we do?” And then Imaginary Lightsworn Player #2 says, “I dunno. Hey, Blackwings look pretty good. They’ve been winning some tournaments. Let’s try that.”

Now repeat this conversation tens of thousands of times. If all of those Lightsworn players jump on the Blackwing bandwagon, suddenly every tournament is 35% to 40% Blackwing Decks. Blackwing Decks start winning more and more tournaments, just because there are more of them. Then the people playing Zombies and Chaos take a look and think, “Wow, those Blackwing Decks are really cleaning up. Maybe I should try it, too.” Pretty soon we have over half the Decks being Blackwing Decks. Then 60%. Then 75%. Now almost all the Decks that are winning are Blackwing Decks, and everybody else decides they have to follow along.

Hey, wait a second… where did our Deck diversity go?



Fortunately, there’s no indication of any bandwagon effect currently in place. At the last 3 events, since the September 1 Forbidden & Limited Cards List, the amount of ‘other’ Decks (meaning, not one of the Top 5) has been stable at around 40%.

Whenever a new Forbidden & Limited Cards List is introduced, people usually expect to see a lot of different Decks, as players try new things. But as the tournament season moves forward, some people expect that more players will shift to the successful Decks, and stop experimenting.

That isn’t happening, though. The amount of players using the most common Decks is staying the same, and the number of people trying different things continues to be very high. Maybe this is because of the exciting new cards we’ve seen released, like in Hidden Arsenal and Stardust Overdrive. Maybe it’s because more and more people are coming to big tournaments that haven’t been before, and they’re bringing fresh new ideas with them.

Whatever the case, we’ll keep an eye on the Deck lists as they come in. Including yours!

Deck Glossary

With so many strategies, cards, and Deck construction possibilities, labeling a Deck can be difficult. Here are the main Deck types discussed in this article, and how we define them.

Blackwings – Pretty straightforward, a Blackwing Deck consists mostly of Blackwing monsters. Blackwing monsters can also be included in other Decks, including Chaos, Twilight, TeleDAD, and Lightsworn. We define a Blackwing Deck as a Deck using almost entirely Blackwing monsters plus the “Black Whirlwind” Spell Card.

Black Salvo – A Deck that focuses around cards that are individually useful, without relying on too many combos. “Black Salvo” is a key card of this Deck, for easy access to Level 7 Synchro Monsters.

Chaos – A Chaos Deck combines DARK and LIGHT monsters to gain access to powerful cards like “Chaos Sorcerer.” A Chaos Deck that uses Lightsworn monsters for its LIGHT component is classified as a Twilight Deck.

Gladiator Beasts – Gladiator Beast Decks focus on the Gladiator Beast monster group, first introduced in Gladiator’s Assault.

Lightsworn – A pure Lightsworn Deck focuses on the Lightsworn monster group, introduced in Light of Destruction, and does not include many monsters from other groups, other than “Necro Gardna,” “Honest,” and “Plaguespreader Zombie,” which are included due to game mechanics synergy.

Synchro Cat – This Deck revolves around super-fast Synchro Summons. Key cards are “X-Saber Airbellum,” “Rescue Cat,” and “Summoner Monk.”

TeleDAD – Short for “Emergency Teleport” / “Dark Armed Dragon,” the TeleDAD Deck focuses on fast Synchro Summons backed up by “Dark Armed Dragon” and other DARK monsters. Usually includes lots of DARK monsters plus Psychic Tuners with “Emergency Teleport.”

Twilight – Defined as a Deck that is mostly Lightsworn monsters but also includes either “Chaos Sorcerer” or “Dark Armed Dragon.” Including either of these cards indicates enough of a shift in strategy and Deck construction to merit a separate category from a pure Lightsworn Deck, or an old-fashioned Chaos Deck, although it borrows principles from both.

Zombies – Identifying a Zombie Deck can be tricky, since monsters like “Mezuki” and “Plaguespreader Zombie” are used in many kinds of Decks. Usually we classify a Deck as a Zombie Deck if it includes “Mezuki,” “Goblin Zombie,” and “Zombie Master.” A Zombie Deck can include as few as 5 or 6 different Zombie-Type Monster Cards, especially variants like Destiny Heroes + Zombies, which can contain more Destiny Hero monsters than Zombie-Type monsters, so we classify those Decks separately from straightforward Zombie Decks.

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