A Deck Master Disaster - Deck Master Format and why it Failed Deck Master was a potential alternate Yugioh format, but unfortunately it crashed and burned before it even started. Today we examine what went wrong.

Konami formats document


Back in 2022, Konami showed us a potentially very exciting document.  It was only about a page of information, but it had big promise.  They were officially recognising the existence of other formats beyond their regular ones.  The biggest takeaway was what they called “Time Wizard”.  That meant the real possibility hosting tournaments for formats based on past years, such as the popular Edison Format.  We also got “Common Charity”; a spin on Magic the Gathering’s Pauper Format, where you only used cards in Common.  There was also “Rivalry of Warlords”, where you played with set pre-constructed decks.  As well as “Heart of the Underdog” where you couldn’t use the current meta.  Then one more, that we are about to talk about momentarily. 

Time Wizard lead to some well attended tournaments.  Though other than that and some occasional Rivalry events, Konami didn’t really do much with what they brought up.  Common Charity had some unofficial success online.  In the end, it was about a page or so of what amounted to more ‘suggestions’ than any officially supported format.  There was excitement of this document leading to bigger and better things.  However, we didn’t really get much of that in the end. 

The most egregious one of this was Deck Master format.  The immediate fizzling of what could have been something really amazing.  Proof that they didn’t really think things through.  We thought maybe Konami would provide some additional updates and clarifications beyond this initial document, but it never materialised.  Today, we are going to analyse what happened.

Deck Masters

Deck Masters were first seen in Season 3 of the Yugioh Duel Monsters anime.  Presented by the villainous “Big Five”, the player would select a monster from their deck and set it aside.  It would exist outside the game but have a special ability that affected the game state.  This is sort of reminiscent of Skill Cards from Speed Duels.  Or alternatively, the earlier Valuable Book 3 Character Cards (which were also broken because turn one free Exodia).  In addition, the player at any point on their turn, could summon out the Deck Master for free from its quote-unquote Deck Master Zone. 

The Deck Masters in the anime all had special abilities designed for them that were not the same as their regular card effects.  That meant even Normal Monsters like the Dark Magician could do things while functioning as one.  This information will be important later.  Another rule was losing your Deck Master would also cost you the duel.  But if it was used as material for a Fusion or such, the new Monster would take its place as Deck Master.  Summoning made the Deck Master vulnerable in the process.  That risk could still be worth it for a big swing or way to protect you.

For some TCG fans, this will also be familiar to you as similar to Commander Format from Magic the Gathering.  By far that game’s most popular format these days.  Commander has players selecting a creature (specifically a Legendary) and placing it outside their deck in a Commander Zone.  Then you could play that creature whenever onto your board, so you don’t need to draw it.  However, you will still have to pay its Mana cost to play.  When its defeated, it goes back to the Zone and you can play it again.  Though you will have to pay an increased Mana cost to do so.  Commanders has other rules too, such as being a 100 card singleton format, so no full play-sets.

Konami fails to elaborate

People have wanted Deck Masters to become a real format for many years, ever since it showed up in the show.  It’s an interested concept for sure.  Meanwhile those Mana Flooded players across the proverbial pond got to enjoy the fruits of that concept.  Surely Konami would want a piece of that Commander pie.  They did already have the Deck Master idea to grab that slice with.  Thus, we get Deck Master on their format ideas document, officially recognised as a thing.  We eagerly awaited more details to get ready to play this sort of game with our favourite Monsters.

Details that never came. 

That document was the beginning and the end for Konami’s explanation, as of writing this a couple years later.  This led to a number of issues because they were not really clear about the rules of Deck Master.  We got a couple paragraphs essentially.  Let’s take a look at this small section piece by piece.

Based on the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime arc when Noah Kaiba brought Yugi and friends into a Virtual World to Duel, each Duel allowed the Duelists to select a Deck Master to help them in multiple ways.  Duelists begin each Match by selecting a monster to serve as Deck Master.”  Okay, that’s the introduction which explains the premise, so far so good.  Still, that’s like half the section already.  Then they lay out some bullet points.

· The Deck Master begins each game outside of the Deck.
· Any effects of the monster apply as if the monster were face-up on the field.
· No tributes are required for high-level monsters and no materials are needed for Fusion Monsters, Synchro Monsters, Xyz Monsters, and Link Monsters.
· If the Deck Master is destroyed, the Duelist loses the Game.

That’s it.  That’s all we got in terms of details.  Four sentences.  Not even particularly long or detailed sentences.  In anything, these only lead to more questions. 

The Flaws

The first glaring issue is something that made the anime version work that this one doesn’t have.  The Monsters aren’t getting their own special Deck Master abilities.  They are using their own card effects.  This means while in the Deck Master Zone, it’s applying its effect.  An effect that requires you to do something with it like attack isn’t going to work.  But if it’s a Continuous Effect, then it’ll work.  So the only real options for your Deck Master is a Continuous Effect.

Another issue is these Monsters are basically summoned for free.  You just use your Normal Summon and bring them from outside the game.  You don’t have to draw them.  You don’t have to go through any hoops to summon them at all.  No Tributes, no using material to get out of the Extra Deck.  Just slide the thing on out from your Deck Master zone.  Even the most broken monsters in Yugioh require you to do something, anything!  Draw a needed card or activate some sort of card to do it.  Some kind of play.  This is freer than even some of the craziest things.  You just get to play the Monster.  There’s no Mana cost like Commander to balance it. 

Except guess what, you don’t need to summon it anyway.  Why would you risk losing the game by bringing it out.  Its effect is applying in the Deck Master Zone anyway.  That’s technically not on the field in a Monster Zone.  If you had to play it onto your field to get the effect, it’d be bad enough.  It would turn the game into a complete Coin Toss where whoever Summons it first would win.  But you don’t have to Summon it, you just get the effect.  With it not on the field, then that likely means its essentially invulnerable.  As far as we are aware with the limited information, at least.

What effects are we talking about?  Well for any Yugioh player, it’s entirely obvious.  Floodgates.  A Monster with an in-built Continuous Effect that just stops your opponent from doing things.  Shuts out massive parts of the game.  You think your opponent flipping "Vanity's Emptiness" was bad?  This is infinitely worse.  A floodgate with zero counter-play.  What could possibly go wrong?

The Last Warrior and Friends

the best Deck Master

Let me introduce you to “The Last Warrior from Another Planet”.  The second line of its effect is “Neither player can Summon monsters”.  Not Special Summons, but any Summons.  Both players.  No Monsters.  Under normal circumstances, you have to use bad Fusion Materials to try to get this thing out.  You can’t use Instant Fusion because it’s a Level 7.  With Deck Master though, you don’t need to do that.  You just have the effect applying from the start.  That makes it quite possibly the best and most absurd Floodgate in Yugioh.  It’s in the Deck Master Zone, not on the field.  That means you can’t actually out it unless it was summoned  Which it won’t because what would be the point of that?  It’s a free endless floodgate effect that your opponent will have absolutely zero response to.  No interaction at all.  You don’t even need to play any cards.  You start the duel with this happening.  Then you probably just stack the deck with burn Spells or Exodia or whatever while your opponent can’t play any Monsters.  Fun stuff.

Except, your opponent is probably playing this as well.  It’s a Tier 0 deck essentially.  Both Last Warriors staring at each other.  An immovable object meets another immovable object.  The Metapod Harden battle.  Absolutely miserable.  But okay, what about if you can’t use Last Warrior.  Well we’ve plenty of other options.  How about “Spell Canceller”, which just blanket stops Spell cards, making “Imperial Order” look bad in comparison.  Archlord Kristya” maybe? “Vanity's Ruler”?  Vanity's Fiend”?  Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo”?  Amano-Iwato” just ending effects without having to be bounced at the end of the turn.  Every check and balance on these cards is just removed.  There’s no shortage of these things.  Having their effects so freely ruins the game from the get.


So the big flaw of Deck Masters were them using their own effects.  Konami really needed to elaborate more on this format.  For starters, it clearly would need its own Ban List.  For each insane card that gets banned, you’ll find another one.  Yugioh is a game with a lot of floodgates, which players absolutely love.  For this format to have any legs, Konami needed to hit dozens of cards.  That was something they didn’t.  We only got a few poorly defined sentences.  Alternatively, instead of bans, what about actually doing special abilities for specific pre-chosen Monsters like the anime.  But that’s already like Speed Duel Skills essentially.  Not to mention, we don’t get the fun part of Deck Masters format we wanted.  That’s wherein you get to pick your own special Monster to use.  We need some sort of way to be able to have our pick of Monsters.  Without having to actually deal with the very high number of problematic card effects.

A reworking, or even just working of the rules was something that had to be done.  Those who gave us this vagueness didn’t want to give more than “hey how about you try good ol’ Deck Masters at your OTS”.  But it was without explaining how to overcome the immediate issues that arose.  Issues that was glaring right away.  There was no further info about these formats after two years.  With that, Deck Masters as a format was very sadly, dead on arrival.  It would require a lot of effort to change thing to be a remotely playable way to duel.  And by then, the amount of Rule Zeroing we’d have to do it will make it completely different.  Was there a good way to fix it?  Please feel free to give your ideas of how to build such a format up.  What would be the most reasonable to make this work? 

Will Konami ever revisit the concept of doing multiple formats like MTG has done?  Time Wizard events have been successful.  Still, that’s time based formats rather than alternate ways to play with the current growing card pool.  Our own thing like Commander would have been pretty great.  Deck Master sadly didn’t really get the same level of care as that did.  Even with official formats, there’s been struggles, with Speed Duels seemingly on the way out.  Especially after the most recent set (Midterm Destruction) was limited to only selling in North America.  Essentially splitting the format in half regionally, that seems like it’s on its last legs.  We need something to help spice up the game, giving us alternative ways to play to keep it fresh.  Deck Masters and its four bullet points, at least, the way it is right now, is sadly not it.

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