One of the things that Goat Format is celebrated for is the impact of careful deckbuilding. Unlike today, where archetypes have an obvious playstyle, the lack of developed archetypes in 2005 meant that it wasn't so clear what cards complimented one another. The best players were the ones who had an encompassing knowledge of the card pool and considered theory while designing decklists. Although cookie-cutter decks and netdecking existed--and still exist in the Goat Format community today--the player's style and creativity were often expressed not by the ~35 good cards that their list shared with their peers, but by the five or six cards that were different. It may not seem like much, but these small differences can drastically affect the game once the match starts.
This article will be less about single card techs, and more about a category of card: recruiters. Recruiters are monsters that fetch a defined type of monster when they are destroyed by battle. While not embraced by every 2005 competitor, a glance at the top decklists of the time reveals that many players turned to these as a way to fill out their decks' four or five open slots with versatile cards that searched important pieces, maintained field presence, and allowed them to turbo through the deck. If you find your build's consistency lacking, you may choose to implement a recruiter strategy instead of a collection of one-off tech cards.
Ah, the card with one of the worst localized arts in all of Yu-Gi-Oh! Seriously, WTF Konami, the TCG art looks terrible. Why is a tomato Jack-o-Lantern such an offensive thing?
One of the most common recruiters in Goat Format, Mystic Tomato brings a lot to the table: a respectable 1400 ATK stat, an essential DARK typing, and an impressive roster of monsters to summon. Mystic Tomato can search the following common cards, providing utility such as...
- Spirit Reaper (hand control, indestructible by battle)
- Don Zaloog (hand control)
- Newdoria (monster removal)
- Apprentice Magician (summons Magician of Faith and Old Vindictive Magician)
- Sangan (staple searcher)
The monster most commonly searched by the Tomato, though, is Sangan. This ensures that the Tomato was not destroyed for naught, as it will net you a search should your opponent decide to continue their offense, leaving you with at least a +0. We all know how good Sangan is, searching out important cards like D.D. Warrior Lady, Magician of Faith, Tsukuyomi, and the mighty Sinister Serpent, so being able to turbo into the Limited critter is useful. It is also likely, but not assured, that your opponent will not be too keen on granting you a Sangan search, and they will bring their Battle Phase to an end.
This theme of turboing through the deck to get to your best cards is also apparent when you consider summoning Apprentice Magician off of Tomato. Using one recruiter to get to another is a strategy we will be referring to a few times in this piece, because it increases the variety of monster that each recruiter, limited by its own Type or Attribute restrictions, can summon, as well as thinning the deck considerably. In this case, you can block two of your opponent's attacks (although, to be fair, you'll probably take a grip of damage from an attack into Apprentice) and will end on a facedown Magician of Faith, ready to retrieve a power Spell from the Graveyard for you. Goat Format matches are not known for large fields of 2+ monsters, so it is likely that your Faith will survive the turn and serve as Tribute Summon or Metamorphosis fodder after its Flip Summon on the following turn. Excellent value!
This card is one of the most powerful recruiters on this list, and an absolute staple in Zombie-centric builds. Pyramid Turtle differs from the original, Attribute-locked recruiters in a few significant ways: first, it can summon the monster in any position, instead of just face-up Attack Position, and second, it summons Zombie monsters with 2000 DEF or less, rather than 1500 ATK or less. This allows it to summon strong monsters like Vampire Lord (2000 ATK) and Ryu Kokki (2400 ATK). Rather than summoning puny monsters with good effects like Mystic Tomato and his pals, Pyramid Turtle summons one of the most powerful monsters in the game for the time and a massive beatstick that eats Warriors and Spellcasters for breakfast. The fact that it can summon the monster it recruits in Defense Mode means that it can summon multiple copies of itself to block attacks and deck thin and its controller won't take any damage.
Besides itself, Vampire Lord, and Ryu Kokki, Pyramid Turtle can summon Spirit Reaper to provide a wall, or to go on the offensive and rip cards out of the opponent's hand. Spirit Reaper is a very good card with a pitiful attack stat, so being able to summon it in Defense Mode is definitely relevant, saving you a lot of battle damage until you have a board clear for your opponent.
The pool of relevant cards that Pyramid Turtle can summon is small, no doubt, but the cards it can summon are tempo plays that the opponent may not be equipped to deal with. Some topping Goat Format builds, like Jae Kim's Shonen Jump Championship Charlotte second place decklist, illustrated this perfectly, ditching the most common Chaos variant for a recruiter-focused build with an eight-card Zombie core: 2 Turtle, 2 Vampire Lord, 2 Spirit Reaper, 2 Book of Life. The build thrived on its ability to maintain field presence and summon very strong monsters early and often, putting tremendous pressure on the opponent. There aren't a lot of ways to "cheat" big guys onto the field in Goat Format, so a card like Turtle that provides this service is definitely notable.
Picking back up on the theme of "recruiters recruiting recruiters," Giant Rat is a card most useful for recruiting Pyramid Turtle, which then can summon a big Zombie for the opponent to deal with. That's not all it's good for, though. Like Mystic Tomato, Giant Rat has a decent Attack stat of 1400, which isn't an insignificant poke of damage. The pool of monsters it can summon is interesting, too:
- Pyramid Turtle (field presence, strong monsters)
- Exiled Force (monster removal)
- Mystic Swordsman LV2 (non-battle destruction of facedown monsters)
- Cipher Soldier, formerly Kinetic Soldier (gets over any Warrior)
- Injection Fairy Lily (gets over any monster)
- Legendary Jujitsu Master (returns battling monster to the top of the deck)
With the exception of Exiled Force, most of these are typically side-deck cards, but that's a good point to consider: how great is it to have a searchable side deck card? Granted, Goat Format tournaments these days are rare, and ones with siding even rarer, but Giant Rat's ability to summon counters to many strategies, straight from deck, is very useful. If you go for a Zombie build, instead of maxing out on Pyramid Turtles, consider a copy or two of Giant Rat. Not only will he get you to the Turtle anyway, but he will be able to help you dig for one-off tech cards and the Limited Exiled Force, too.
Apprentice Magician is the common recruiter with the most limited pool of relevant monsters to summon, but one of those is a real doozy: Magician of Faith. Faith is a key piece of the format, a staple in every deck. Goat Format is partially defined by the presence of some of the most powerful Spell cards ever: Pot of Greed, Delinquent Duo, Graceful Charity, Snatch Steal, and Heavy Storm. The ability to re-use these gamechanging cards is insanely strong, so the ability to summon the best Flip Effect monster in the game quickly is remarkable. This effect would be useless if Apprentice Magician was like Shining Angel, though, summoning the monster in face-up Attack Position. No, it was the first recruiter to summon in face-down Defense Position, where Flip Effects are primed and ready to go off.
Besides Faith, you can use Apprentice to bring out Old Vindictive Magician, basically a Spellcaster-Type Man-Eater Bug. Monster removal is a useful ability in Goat Format, and while Oldie is a slower than Exiled Force and the D.D.s and weaker than power traps like Mirror Force and Torrential Tribute, some players might still find its effect and DARK Attribute to be worth a slot.
There is one more notable monster that Apprentice can summon: Hand of Nephthys. An easy way to summon the massive Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys, this little dude is only useful in builds centered around that card. Summoning a Level 7 monster with an effect like Phoenix's from deck is nothing to scoff at, but those builds weren't terribly popular then and aren't terribly popular now. Apprentice is definitely a staple in Sacred Phoenix decks, though.
Besides recruiting, Apprentice Magician possesses another effect worth mentioning. When it is summoned, you can place a Spell Counter on a card on the field. While Spell Counters have never been much of a mechanic, and certainly weren't in 2005, there is one notable card in the format that uses them: Breaker the Magical Warrior. When running Apprentice, you have the option of refreshing a used Breaker, boosting his attack by 300 and giving him another Spell/Trap pop. This...won't usually come up, but it was worth mentioning!
This card is not a recruiter monster, obviously, but it does synergize well with the cards so I thought we could explore it for a moment. All of the recruiters mentioned (except for Apprentice Magician at the time, for some weird reason) don't have to be destroyed on your side of the field to summon a monster from deck. Using Creature Swap, you can exchange your weak recruiter for one of your opponent's best monsters, then smack into it and summon one of your own cards from deck. This definitely provides extra value, and can turn an opponent's winning position into a losing one quickly.
The main thing you have to watch out for is Scapegoat. This card screws Creature Swap hard. The monsters that are swapped are chosen at resolution, so the opponent can chain Scapegoat and give you a pathetic Goat Token instead of the monster you wanted. Be conscious, and make a read: do they have Scapegoat set? If so, hold onto your Creature Swap play until there is no possibility you will be "gifted" a Goat Token.
Creature Swap saw use in almost every recruiter-focused build back then, and if you should choose to add one of more of these monsters to your Goat Format deck, consider it as a tech.
That's it for today! Recruiter monsters popped up in several notable builds back in 2005 because of their versatility and ability to help you maintain field presence, not to mention their ability to thin your deck and find your strongest cards quickly, and they have the same relevance in Goat Format as it's played today.