Card Advantage Part Two: Digging Deeper


To begin, I’d like to expand the definition of card advantage from the previous article.

Card advantage is “the extent to which a player is able to obtain [effectively] more cards than their opponent.”

The first article covered the basics. We learned the addition and subtraction of cards and combos, seeing how each card played affects the total number of cards each player has in their hand and on their field, thus affecting the number of options each player has compared to the other. However, in modern Yu-Gi-Oh, many cards can be just as useful from the Graveyard. These cards can potentially make an impact on the hand and field, and therefore effectively count as advantage. Moreover, since cards in the Graveyard do not count towards your overall card presence, many of these effects, which are triggered by banishing themselves or other cards from the Graveyard, have basically no cost–pure advantage.

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Useful Discard Fodder

You have Destiny Draw in hand. What would you rather discard to pay its cost: Destiny HERO – Diamond Dude or Destiny HERO – Malicious? In either case, you will be going +0, trading 2 cards for 2, but one of these monsters has the ability to make an impact on the game from its new home in the Graveyard. Putting Malicious into the Graveyard is putting it into a zone of greater importance. You don’t want it in your hand, because it is not useful there. It’s a weak tribute monster that has no on-field effect.

In the Graveyard, though, Malicious is pure advantage. At the moment you use Malicious’s effect to Special Summon another copy of itself from the deck, you have gone +1. The banished Malicious doesn’t count for or against your card advantage score, because it wasn’t making an impact on the game buried in the Graveyard, so the newly summoned Malicious is pure advantage. This interaction made such an impact on the game that Malicious was Semi-Limited for many years. The point is, you would rather have Malicious in the grave fulfilling this purpose than in your hand doing nothing. The Graveyard is the card’s zone of greatest importance.

Let’s take a glimpse back at 2005–Goat Control format. Sinister Serpent, with its old errata, allowed players “free” discards for all sorts of powerful effects. Activating Graceful Charity goes from being a +0 to a +1. Tribe-Infecting Virus becomes a devastating +1 or more. Your opponent’s Delinquent Duo goes from being a +1 to a +0, effectively neutralizing it. In the short term, losing Serpent counts as a -1 against you, but since you were all but guaranteed to get it back on your next Standby Phase, it was not unreasonable to write off the loss.

There are even some cards that are equally as impactful in hand or in grave. Consider Twin Twisters in Dinosaur decks. Discarding a Souleating Oviraptor for the cost of Twin Twisters is probably not a play you would be happy to make, because you are throwing away the card’s usefulness. You would rather summon it and get the +1 its on-summon effect offers. For Oviraptor, the hand is a zone of much greater importance than the grave. You wouldn’t feel the same about discarding a Miscellaneousaurus, though. Miscellaneousaurus has some use while it’s in the hand; its discard effect is quite good for protecting the Dino deck’s plays. But it has an even more powerful effect in the Graveyard, offering all sorts of options. The whole interaction looks like this:

  1. Activate Twin Twisters. Discard Miscellaneousaurus for cost. Target two of the opponent’s Spells and Traps. (-1, overall -1)
  2. Destroy the targeted cards. (+2, +1)
  3. Twin Twisters is sent to Graveyard as a result of game mechanics. (-1, +0)
  4. After entering open gamestate on your turn, banish Miscellaneousaurus and a number of Dinosaur monsters from the Graveyard. (+0, +0)
  5. Special Summon a Dinosaur monster from the deck with a level equal to the number of banished monsters. (+1, +1)

So you got a +1 that both contributed to your board presence and weakened your opponent’s board presence? Wow!

Infernoids likewise can be looked at as potential +1s in the Graveyard, since the higher-level monsters like Infernoid Seitsemas and Infernoid Devyaty can be Special Summoned from hand or grave by the same exact method. It almost seems like a shame to not use these monsters to pay for a discard cost–summoning them from hand doesn’t have the same impact!

Potential Energy

There is a concept in physics known as potential energy. Basically, if you know where an object is going to move, and you know how much kinetic energy (energy of movement) it is going to have on its way, you can say that the object already counts as having that much energy–potentially. Picture a boulder at the top of a hill. Anyone can see that this heavy object will have a lot of power behind it if it starts to roll down the hill, and will cause a big impact when it reaches the bottom and has realized its potential. Maybe it never moves. Even so, the energy it has just sitting there cannot be ignored.

Think of cards that have reached their zones of greatest importance as having potential advantage, as it were. They cannot be included in calculations of card advantage because basic card advantage theory only counts cards that are on the field and in the hand. But when they are activated from the Graveyard, that is where their contribution to card advantage can be fully realized. If our hypothetical boulder is sitting at the bottom of the hill instead of the top, it has very little potential energy. If we want the boulder to make an impact, we want it on the top of the hill–its zone of greater importance.

Let’s go back to Infernoids as an example. A typical Infernoid deck contains many cards that can easily be accessed from the Graveyard, so their chief strategy is milling cards from the deck to gain advantage. Let’s say that an Infernoid player has activated That Grass Looks Greener and has sent 21 cards from the top of their deck to the Graveyard. This is a -1 that made no immediate impact on the hand or field of either player, but to say that it was a bad play would be preposterous.

The mill included 7 Spell Cards, 12 Infernoids (including Devyaty, Seitsemas, and Infernoid Attondel), 1 Performage Trick Clown and 1 Fairy Tail – Snow. Immediately, Trick Clown triggers and Summons itself for a +1. Fairy Tail – Snow can activate its powerful effect at any time to summon itself for a +1 while providing disruption. The three big Infernoids can summon themselves from the Graveyard as well, and each will be a +1. Devyaty even has a Heavy Storm-esque effect on summon that could net its controller further advantage if the opponent has multiple set cards. All of these cards have been moved to a zone of greater importance. Potentially, That Grass Looks Greener was a +4.

Pendulum monsters can be viewed similarly. The strength of the Pendulum mechanic has been its ability to gain huge advantage off of their Pendulum Summon. The most effective Pendulum decks would fill up their extra deck with monsters by destroying them or using them for Fusion or Synchro Summons, taking a short-term loss. But as long as they could keep scales on the field, those losses would be repaid by a huge Pendulum Summon–up to a +5, every turn! While the monsters stored in the face-up extra deck do not directly contribute to a player’s card advantage, once they are Pendulum Summoned they are counted and their impact is huge. Therefore, the Pendulum monsters in the extra deck have potential advantage.

Today, with the new Master Rule, a Pendulum deck’s ability to gain advantage from the Pendulum Summon has been greatly restricted. But if you look back at meta-defining Pendulum decks like Performage-Performapal, Dracopals, and Metalfoes, all of which shined under the old ruleset, it’s easy to see why these decks were Tier 1. Only decks that could reliably deal with the Pendulum scales and prevent recurrence from the extra deck could compete with them. All others would be left behind, buried beneath a neverending stream of puns and flavor text. This was always the key to beating a Pendulum deck: preventing them from realizing the potential of the monsters in their extra deck by not allowing them to place and keep scales, limiting their ability to gain advantage over you. A Pendulum player could have five monsters face-up in the extra deck, all with effects that could further bury the opponent in sheer advantage, but if they are under Anti-Spell Fragrance and cannot place scales, none of that means a thing. The boulder will stay at the top of the hill indefinitely.

Bonus Effects

When you have a card that contributes to board presence with its on-field effect and has a Graveyard effect that generates advantage, you have a real winner. Metalfoes Counter let’s you summon a monster from the deck when a card is destroyed. You lose your destroyed card and Metalfoes Counter to gain a monster for a -1. Later, though, you can banish Counter to add a Metalfoes monster from your extra deck to your hand. This later +1 evens out the loss from the destruction completely, meaning that your opponent probably lost card advantage by destroying your card.

Interrupted Kaiju Slumber is an even better example. Let’s say your opponent has three monsters on field and you have zero.

  1. Activate Interrupted Kaiju Slumber. Destroy all monsters on the field. (+2, overall +2)
  2. Summon a Kaiju to your field and one to your opponent’s (+0, +2)
  3. Attack over the opponent’s Kaiju with your stronger Kaiju or another monster. (+1,  +3)
  4. On your next Main Phase, banish Interrupted Kaiju Slumber from your Graveyard to add a Kaiju from deck to hand. (+1, +4)

Not only did you gain advantage from mass removal, but you gain a monster on your field and add a monster to your hand–which just so happens to be that monster’s zone of greatest importance. Kaijus are good cards on their own, but when you are able to start with Slumber, things can get ridiculous. Slumber has earned its spot on the Semi-Limited list, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it hit the Limited list someday.

Concluding Thoughts

Card advantage calculation only considers the impact on both players’ field and hand, but the Graveyard can be a storehouse of massive potential advantage, depending on the cards placed there. By moving cards from a zone of lesser importance to a zone of greater importance, you can get effectively more cards and more options than your opponent, dramatically improving your position in the game.



Article writer or YGOPRODeck. Fond of the GOAT format.


Article writer or YGOPRODeck. Fond of the GOAT format.


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