Home > Intermediate Tips > Lessons from Sealed Play for the Advanced Format Aficionado: Threat Escalation

Lessons from Sealed Play for the Advanced Format Aficionado: Threat Escalation

October 15th, 2012

Threat escalation is one of the most important secrets to winning in Battle Pack Sealed or Battle Pack Draft.  Because there aren’t many removal cards that can turn the tables in Limited formats, it’s possible for a single big monster to win you the game by staying on the field for several turns.  Most Duels will see both players activate a couple different removal cards like Torrential Tribute or Fissure, and a couple different battle tricks like Ego Boost or Prideful Roar.  But those cards are in short supply, and playing them at the right time can make or break you.

I get knocked down. But I get up again. And then I get hit by lightning :(

The trick is to hold answers like those above to take out only your opponent’s biggest threats: if you can deal with a monster by attacking it with something bigger, you should try and do that as often as possible.  By using slightly larger attackers to take down your opponent’s monsters, you can reserve your trump cards for the biggest problems.  Stuff like Obelisk the Tormentor and Gorz the Emissary of Darkness are almost impossible to take down with simple attacks alone, so you need to conserve your options as best you can.

Keep in mind though, that the same is true in reverse: if you can make your opponent waste their removal cards on smaller threats, that leaves your big guys free to wade in and start pounding your opponent.  That’s the trick: you want to play your smaller threats first; force your opponent to waste good cards to get rid of them; and then drop your bigger threats when your opponent is defenseless.

And Guess What?

The exact same lesson holds true in regular Constructed play in the Advanced Format, too.  When you unleash a monumental threat like Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning, you want it to stick around long enough to devastate your opponent’s field and Life Points.  You don’t want to lose it to something like one of these instead:

It seems you have met with a horrible fate.

These three cards represent the kind of Traps you want to draw out with lesser threats, as early in the game as possible.  Each won’t just destroy your best monster before it can attack: it’ll keep that monster from using Ignition Effects, too, destroying the monster before you can ever activate its ability.  Cards like Gear Gigant X, Wind-Up Carrier Zenmaity, Chaos Sorcerer and many others all have powerful effects you’ll usually want to activate the moment they hit the table.  The ability to search out additional monsters, or to rid the field of your opponent’s forces for free, are the kinds of tricks that can win you the game if they’re allowed to resolve.  So-called “boss monsters” like Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon, Master Hyperion, and Dark Armed Dragon mix high ATK with devastating and unique powers.  It’s that combination that makes them so deadly.

But you’ll never get to use those effects if you hurl your best monsters onto the table as early as possible, while your opponent’s Spell and Trap Card Zone is full of face-downs just waiting to shred you.  You need to make your opponent play those cards as early as possible, against your less powerful monsters.  The challenge?  Savvy players know you’re trying to do that, and they’ll try to do the same thing to you.  You need to play aggressively and present serious threats early on, without committing your best cards.  Here are three monsters that usually force your opponent into action.

A Horrible Jerk in King Arthur's Court

Thunder King Rai-Oh has two effects, and both of them are trouble.  Keeping your opponent from using search effects will shut down a number of strategies, so they’ll often have to take Thunder King out as quickly as possible.  In addition, Thunder King’s Summon negation will keep your opponent from playing some of their best monsters – including Synchro and Xyz Monsters – so they’re going to have to do something to get Thunder King off the field.  If they don’t, they won’t be able to muster any aggression.  1900 ATK can apply some serious pressure, too.

Geargiarmor is different: it won’t threaten your opponent’s Life Points with its 1100 ATK, and it doesn’t have any effects that directly hinder their moves.  But since Geargiarmor can search a free “Geargia” monster from your Deck every turn your opponent can’t just leave it on the field: if they do, you’ll overwhelm them with a flood of combos.  Geargiarmor’s effect gets really nasty really quick, so it can force your opponent to use cards like Solemn Warning, or make them Summon a big attacker that they’d prefer to save for later.

Defensive walls like Wind-Up Zenmaines can force your opponent to play powerful removal cards or big attackers, too: they’re impossible to get over otherwise.  Sometimes, just having a really strong defensive monster on the field can present a threat, because your opponent has to worry about the combos and plays you’re amassing.  Xyz Monsters like Zenmaines are easily Summoned with stuff like Tour Guide from the Underworld or Geargiano Mk-II.

Whether you’re attacking and controlling your opponent; playing powerful effects again and again; or just biding your time and building your options, there are lots of ways to threaten your opponent in the early and mid-game without playing out your biggest, most powerful monsters.  If you throw down your best stuff on Turn 1 or Turn 2, those monsters aren’t going to survive.  You need to apply pressure with smaller stuff first to force your opponent into action, and save your biggest moves for when they’re most likely to succeed.  That’s a lesson that applies in both Sealed and Constructed play.