Almost all of your favorite Goat players have personally requested to me at one point or another that I not write this article. The deck I'm about to show you is so broken that it's on the table for being banned in three Magic formats and one Pokemon format. It's so cheesy against unprepared opponents that it can destabilize entire competitive communities with its presence. As Edo once said about a deck that was not even close to as good as this one, "Its nastiness and pure cheese factor would give anyone lactose intolerance. It is one of the most evil decks in the world of Duel Monsters, and should NOT be taken lightly.
Honestly, they're not wrong. Empty Jar in Goat Format is a deck that I have personally tried to forget about, ignore, or otherwise pretend did not exist. And yet I've gotten a lot of requests on Discord, through email, and on various forums asking me to break down Empty Jar.
I haven't written an article on it yet because I feel like the deck needs to just die. Just...take the damn thing behind the shed and put it out of its misery. But it won't, because of course it won't. So I guess we're talking about Empty Jar in Goat Format today.
Empty Jar in Goat Format - The Deck
Empty Jar's deck list is not finalized. The Format Library version is a good starting place and is probably the one that most Empty Jar players use as a basis when building their own. So that's the one I'm showcasing today. As always, a big thanks to Jazz and Format Library for letting me showcase their lists. Also, a big shout out to Morpp from the Format Library Discord server for helping me learn the intricacies of Empty Jar. A lot of what you read here comes from him. Let's get started, shall we?
|Empty Jar (Format Library Build)|
|Monsters||Cyber Jar x1|
Morphing Jar x1
Mystic Tomato x3
Thunder Dragon x3
|Spells||A Feather of the Phoenix x3|
Book of Moon x3
Book of Taiyou x3
Card Destruction x1
Dragged Down into the Grave x2
Giant Trunade x3
Graceful Charity x1
Heavy Storm x1
Pot of Greed x1
Premature Burial x1
Serial Spell x1
Spell Reproduction x3
The Shallow Grave x3
Upstart Goblin x2
I mean, that list just looks like cancer. Nine monsters, no traps, a ton of OTK-based cards...
Why am I writing this again?
Oh yeah, because Goat Format is a lot more than just Goat Control mirror matches. And honestly, Empty Jar is a deck you should understand and know how to counter.
Empty Jar in Goat Format - The Goal
The goal of Empty Jar is to deck your opponent out. Ideally, you want to increase the size of your hand to maximize your draws when you play Reload or Card Destruction. From there you want to get Cyber Jar on board and be able to flip it several times in a turn. This is achieved through the various Spell Cards in the deck, and we'll discuss how to get Cyber Jar on board and loop it in further sections.
If that fails, you can rely on abusing Morphing Jar instead. This is done by setting as many of your cards as possible before it flips. The issue with Morphing Jar is that you can only search it off Sangan or hard draw it, while Cyber Jar is tutorable via Mystic Tomato. Deck out via Morphing Jar is more difficult, however, as it doesn't bloat the opponent's hand like Cyber Jar does. Therefore, you want to try to get to Cyber Jar off Morphing Jar, as opposed to relying on Morphing Jar for deck out.
Both game plans, really, rely on getting to your Jar and then abusing it and finishing the opponent off with Card Destruction and Serial Spell.
Are we having fun yet?
Empty Jar in Goat Format - The Combos
The primary combo
So, Empty Jar is a combo deck. You're not winning by dealing damage - you're winning by decking the opponent out. And while there are plenty of ways to do it, there are also plenty of ways to screw it up.
As mentioned, your "Plan A" is to set Cyber Jar and then play Book of Taiyou to flip it up and get its effect. Now, because Cyber Jar will go to the Graveyard after resolution, Empty Jar runs The Shallow Grave. Note that Shallow Grave is going to require your opponent having a monster in their Graveyard in order to activate.
However, Cyber Jar and Morphing Jar tend to put monsters in the grave for you. And if they fail to do so, you'll usually have Dragged Down Into the Grave or even Card Destruction to make The Shallow Grave live. Note too that recycling Morphing Jar doesn't require The Shallow Grave most of the time.
It's also a big reason the deck plays Mystic Tomato, Sangan, Morphing Jar, and Thunder Dragon, along with a ton of draw/recursion power. Getting to the combo really is the hard part, but once that goes, unless you blew your wad super early, you're going to seal the win almost every time.
See, you want Cyber Jar to go off once you know you can bring it back and use its effect again. This is why the deck plays cards like A Feather of the Phoenix. It allows you to put Taiyou or The Shallow Grave or Premature Burial to the top of your deck, which you can then draw off Pot of Greed, Graceful Charity, Upstart Goblin or a Jar resolution.
The whole point is to keep it going - keep the loop going, keep the Jars going, keep digging deeper into the deck. Because every card you force your opponent to draw, the easier it is to deck them out. And then once they have enough cards in hand/not enough cards in deck, you drop the Card Destruction+Serial Spell and deck them out and pass turn and they lose.
Or you can do this...
If you don't have easy access to Cyber Jar (say, you don't open Tomato, or Sangan, and just get Morphing Jar), you can still do stuffs. While the initial plan is the same - pass draw phases and build your hand size for better Reload/Card Destruction plays - the combo is a bit different when you're relying on Morphing Jar.
The reason why is because you don't use Morphing Jar to deck your opponent out. You can, but that's like saying you can wear jeans in 100 degree weather. Sure, you can do it, but you're probably not gonna get the results you want.
Instead, Morphing Jar is used to get to Cyber Jar. So you want to make sure that you lose as little of your hand as possible when resolving a Morphing Jar or hope to pitch Cyber Jar off Morphing Jar to then Shallow Grave it back to the field.
Note that the Morphing Jar combo needs both Book of Moon and Book of Taiyou to really shine. And this is partly why Giant Trunade is included in the list; it allows you to set Spells so you don't lose so much off Morphing Jar, then bounce them back to your hand. Not only will having more Spells in hand lead to bigger Reload or Card Destruction plays, it also helps to unclog your S/T zone.
Empty Jar in Goat Format - Maximizing the Potential
Empty Jar, in the hands of a competent player, is pretty darn good. This is because people who know and understand the deck know that it's not so much a first-turn-kill deck as it is a wait-and-OTK deck. They're able to get maximum value out of most of their plays because they're not just gunning cards hoping for the best. They're calculating.
Really, that's Goat Format in a nutshell, but I digress. To say that Empty Jar is a brainless deck is really not fair to it. It does take skill to pilot. But the skill comes in knowing when to push your plays, when not to do that crazy combo and wait for more cards, and knowing what the deck is weak against.
Good Empty Jar players will wait to activate Reload until they can get at least six new cards. That is, if they can. As one of the main ways to counter Empty Jar is to establish a clock, sometimes Reload has to go off early. However, playing Reload (or Card Destruction) for any less is usually not an optimal thing to do, but rather a last-resort sort of play. A lot of it depends on the game state and the clock the opponent puts the Empty Jar player on.
Empty Jar can easily FTK if you open either Jar and Book of Taiyou. But good Empty Jar players understand that the FTK is risky. Understanding when to take that risk - for instance, post-side - is paramount to success with Empty Jar. It's important to know when to be patient and when to be explosive. Going for the FTK is fun if you have all the pieces, but can lead to game losses if you don't.
At the end of the day, your goal is to have as many cards as possible. You don't want to play cards that will end your turn prematurely or result in negative plays without any movement toward your end goal. Smart play wins more than going HAM with Empty Jar.
The Empty Jar Side Deck
Typically, Empty Jar doesn't side deck often; there's not much room for change with the deck being reliant in some capacity or another on so many cards. The only real card you typically see sided out is Mystic Tomato.
As such, there's really no one right way to build the side deck. Instead, what you should be focusing on are things that Empty Jar is weak to. Mind Control can be used against Flip-heavy decks like Turbo Chaos or even Goat Control to an extent. The idea is to use it to steal opposing Flip monsters to recycle your Spell Cards and further your plays. It can also be a good counter against Neko Mane King, though this is rare. Note that if they do side Neko Mane King, getting rid of it can be more challenging as it's a prime The Shallow Grave target.
Since the deck doesn't run any trap cards, Royal Decree is a solid option as well. Some variants, notably the Brandis Build from the Format Library server, run a few traps like Mirror Force and Torrential Tribute in order to disrupt the opponent's ability to put a clock on the deck. But even if you play Decree alongside those they will rarely conflict since you're only playing two traps. Decree can disrupt trap-based and Solemn Judgment-based decks like Burn or even Beastdown.
Threatening Roar and Trap Dustshoot are solid cards to side in. Both are mostly sided in against OTK-style decks that rely on dealing mass damage in one turn (see: any Return-based deck).
What you side is up to you, but remember to hold to the basic tenets of sidedecking theory. Don't run cards that run counter to your goals and make sure that what you're siding is going to be useful.
Countering Empty Jar - Side Deck Options
Neko Mane King has long been the main answer to Empty Jar because it stops the turn as soon as it's discarded. But nowadays, players are learning that Neko Mane King really isn't as great as it used to be because Empty Jar players expect it. Letting it fizzle and just saying "okay" when it resolves is fine. Better yet, watching your opponent summon it off your Cyber Jar is hilarious.
A card that gets talked about a lot regarding countering Empty Jar is Spell Canceller. Now, Spell Canceller can be a real boom-or-bust kind of card. Including it really depends on how much you rely on Spells to stop Empty Jar. But considering 31 cards in the Empty Jar build are Spells, a single Spell Canceller can shut the entire deck down in one move.
Dark Balter the Terrible is another option, and the main Fusion you want to bring out if you're playing Goat Control. However, while it shuts down the majority of Empty Jar's plays, it doesn't counter Quick-Play Spells, which makes Book of Moon a great out to it. More importantly, Reload is a Quick-Play as well, so they can still reload their hand with it under Balter.
Discard Traps, Compulsory Evacuation Device, Skill Drain, Trap Dustshoot and Solemn Judgment are all solid side cards against Empty Jar. Ultimately the goal is to disrupt and put them on a clock. The more easily you can do that, the more you'll do well against it. I recommend testing them out yourself to find which ones you prefer and which you feel are best for your deck and your strategy.
Countering Empty Jar - Basic Strategy
Game one is where a lot of people have issues dealing with Empty Jar. Disruption is great and can help seal the win in games two and three, but oftentimes, game one is where they win. But there are still some ways to disrupt them with your stock list, especially if you're playing Goat Control.
While the idea of "Goat-locking" yourself is usually a bad one, against Empty Jar it's actually not a bad thing to do. That is, so long as you can protect your lock. Basically, a monster, plus four Goat tokens, means your opponent won't be able to activate The Shallow Grave without first destroying a Goat token or your monster. Combine this with some basic protection and you can put a serious kink in their plans.
Note that you need to have this setup before they activate Shallow Grave. You can't chain Scapegoat to it because it won't stop the effect.
Really, game one should be all about minimizing their outs. Commit to the board so Card Destruction and Dragged Down Into the Grave don't hurt you as much. Get Balter out early to disrupt their Spell plays (but be careful of Book of Moon!).
So you've sided in your disruption. Now, it's time to formulate your strategy.
Honestly, a lot of how you approach this, on a tactical level, will depend on what you're siding. Obviously, the sooner you can get to your disruption cards the better. But you should still be working on minimizing their outs especially if you don't draw into your side cards in the early turns.
Dark Balter, Trap Dustshoot, and even discard Traps like Raigeki Break can put a huge kink in the Empty Jar players' plans. Solemn Judgment is another good option. Like with Balter, make sure you're careful with what you're negating. Getting into Balter early and backing him up with protection will force the Jar player to make suboptimal plays. If you can further disrupt their plays, you should come away with an easy victory.
Forcing the Empty Jar player to try to get the OTK early is another option. This is another method of putting them on the clock but it's only as reliable as what you're using to force their plays. Typically, though, forcing an Empty Jar player to go HAM and dig for outs to whatever you're using to disrupt them will result in drastically lower win-rates for Empty Jar.
At the end of the day most people lose to Empty Jar because they simply don't know how to play against it. Minimize their outs, be smart about your side choices and how you use them in-game, and, most important of all, practice.
Empty Jar, for better or for worse, is a valid deck in Goat Format. So you should understand what it does, how it works, and how you can beat it. Sometimes they brick. Sometimes they draw crap. But most of the time, the deck can do enough to win. And, in the hands of a good player - and against a field that's unprepared - Empty Jar can make it all the way to second place at Worlds. Don't sleep on it - they won't be sleeping on you. Also, I want to give a shout out to the Format Library community and especially Morpp, Brandis, and mmf for all their help in making this article happen.
That's it for this time. As always, you can contact me any time at [email protected] or you can send me a DM on Discord.