Battle Pack: Epic Dawn – A Retrospective
- Ryan Atlus
When asked what my favorite core set is, I would be inclined to go for Metal Raiders. However, my favorite Yu-Gi-Oh! product of all time would be Battle Pack: Epic Dawn. Released almost a decade ago, nothing about this pack was anything we had ever seen before in this game's history up to that point.
What Was Battle Pack: Epic Dawn?
Two of the other big trading card games use set rotation, which means that in the most common formats only the last few expansions are legal for play. One of the implications of that is that each set is inherently suitable for sealed play. In Yu-Gi-Oh!, if you ever tried to play a Sneak Peek, you would immediately have to put a good portion of cards from your packs to the side, because you simply could not use them, due to required interactions with cards from previous sets. In Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon, it's not the norm to have cards specifically require cards from older sets, seeing as there will be a point in time where set N is legal for play but set N-1 might not.
After that, you throw out cards that specifically interact with cards from the set that you did not pull. Think of Ritual Monsters without their Spell Cards and vice versa. What you're left with is usually a bunch of beatstick monsters, a couple of tribute summons, some Spells or Traps if you're lucky, and in a happy few cases an Extra Deck Monster or two you can use. It is no surprise that playing sealed Yu-Gi-Oh! was not a very popular thing to do, and almost exclusively seen at Sneak Peek events — which now also no longer exist, mind you.
Battle Pack: Epic Dawn would be the product to change that. In theory, you and a friend could each grab a same amount of Battle Packs, agree on a deck minimum, build your decks, and duke it out! It would be kind of the Yu-Gi-Oh! equivalent of Keyforge. Obviously, there were no "you absolutely need card X from outside the pack to play this card" cards, and the amount of "you need to have pulled card Y to play this card" cards were kept to a minimum. But, those were not all the rules that the pack's designers had in mind.
Intention & Implementation
Playing this format was supposed to look like, well, Yu-Gi-Oh! Even back in 2012, the game had undergone massive changes throughout the decade preceding it. At tournaments, it was not uncommon to see a handful of very similar deck types dominate the top cut. Those were things like Dino Rabbit, Inzektor, and Wind-Up Handloop. For rogue players, each of those decks posed their own problems which made them not very fun to play against.
The tempo and feel of the Epic Dawn format seemed based on the game during the 2004–2007 era and the original anime series respectively:
2004 was when the biggest, baddest cards would be Forbidden and the game became more slow and balanced again.
2007/8 was when the metagame became very much based on archetypes, with decks getting a bunch of search power.
The original anime series was all about making epic comebacks, trying to get into the duel and making every card count.
This creates a pretty good image of what games were meant to look like: removing the opponents' monsters through battle was a common option, and those monsters were often Normal Summoned. Access to your Main Deck was restricted/non-existent, and the Extra Deck was a small resource reserved for big, impressive plays. Your effects that allowed for removal and battle manipulation had to be timed well in order to make the most out of them.
But even if you carefully pick a card pool, sealed play still means you're going to have to play the hand you're dealt. You can pull all of the strongest monsters and go full Joey, but if your opponent has a well-mixed deck you'll be on the short end of the stick! This was resolved using Epic Dawn's five-slot system. Every pack contained five cards, and each of those cards would come from a certain pool of cards within the pack's distribution:
- The blowout pool
- The "pulled a sneaky on ya" pool
- The HULK pool
- The "little dudes with attitudes" pool
- Anything goes!
Because you're guaranteed a card from each pool plus an extra wild card, each time you're opening a handful of packs of Epic Dawn you should be ending up with similar decks, even though some cards within each pool are definitely more desirable than others.
Breaking Down the Pools
Let's start with breaking down the HULK pool. This pool of cards are mostly about having big ATK points (or DEF in some cases), or pumping up to achieve that. In this pool you will see almost all Vanilla Monsters in the set, as well as a lot of the single tribute monsters. Examples include Insect Knight, Mad Dog of Darkness, and Luster Dragon.
As you would expect, these cards fulfill the role of doing a lot of work early and mid-game. The majority of them can be slapped down onto the table and charge into battle with whatever puny card your opponent dared to commit to the board. Zaborg the Thunder Monarch, Vampire Lord, or Alector, Sovereign of Birds have surprisingly scary effects, but what they love doing is smashing.
While battle might not be the primary way of card removal right now, it most certainly was back in a very different era of the game, and Epic Dawn looked to capitalize on that. Seeing as all cards in this pool are monsters, even if you had the worst possible luck, you'd still end up with a card pool of at least 20% beefy monsters. Luckily, monsters were so abundant in the other categories as well that this was a highly unlikely scenario.
Pulled a Sneaky on Ya
In the "pulled a sneaky on ya" category there's a dozen of monsters too, and all of them have a simple effect that lets you remove a card from the field, be it through destruction or returning it to the hand or deck. Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter, Greenkappa, and Mysterious Guard are winning the card advantage battle, one flip at a time. Where the sneaky card pool really shines is the abundance of battle traps you'll find there. Battle traps have become uncommon in modern Yu-Gi-Oh!, but in a format where battle dictates the flow of games, it is obvious that these are going to be big.
Plenty of other cards in the pool are one-for-one destruction cards, equip cards, or even cards that cancel out a battle. Just look at Fissure, Axe of Despair, or Windstorm of Etaqua. Some cards even let you do more niche things such as generating tribute fodder.
This pool is in my opinion where knowing the format, scouting the opponent's deck in the first two games for reads gets really rewarding. The Hulks are often just Hulks at the end of the day, but the sneaky cards in this pool pull of so many different things that it's easy to run into a nasty surprise. With little removal in the format, those are often risks you'll have to take, but the same goes for the opponent. You'll be playing a back-and-forth game where both players constantly get to retaliate, very similar to the oldest of formats.
A good chunk of the blowout pool are very unhinged cards that immediately swing the pace of the game in your favor. Luckily, not all of them were on such raw power levels; we see a few different types of cards in there.
The blowout pool also contained several small guys who would provide you with tribute fodder. Some of the single tribute monsters have incredible effects, so it's easy to see why cards like these can be extremely relevant.
Thirdly, this pool also contains this biggest monsters in the set, such as all double (or even triple) Tribute Monsters. Getting Gorz the Emissary of Darkness, Obelisk the Tormentor, or Machina Fortress on the board at the right time is high risk, high reward.
Rounding off the blowout pool are some Xyz Monsters. They are the only type of Extra Deck Monsters in the pack, because they are the most generic. The pack has some Tuners like Krebons and Dark Resonator, but you wouldn't be guaranteed to pull these. Including Fusions and Synchroes would require a card slot per pack dedicated to facilitating their summons, and the designers ultimately decided against that. Most of the Xyz Monsters are Rank 3 and 4s, and in an article about them they said that those would be the most common to pull out of all the Xyz Monsters. Some Rank 2 and 5s are in there too, but they were made a little bit rarer due to Level 2 and 5 monsters being less abundant as well.
Little Dudes with Attitudes
The last real pool was the "little dudes with big attitudes." This is again an all-monsters category, so your available cards will always consist of at least 40% Main Deck Monsters. As the name suggests, these cards have lower stats than their hulky brethren, but they compensate for that by having useful effects! With ATK stats that are still respectable enough, Dekoichi the Battlechanted Locomotive, Blackwing - Zephyros the Elite, and Twin-Sword Marauder definitely have their uses.
Some of the cards in this pool will specifically help you facilitate Tribute Summons or Xyz Summons, but overall the category is pretty varied in what its cards can do.
The Battle Pack Experience
Back in the day, this set was received well. A bunch of these cards were actually pretty useful outside of the sealed format. Think of Forbidden Lance, Mirror Force, or the highly anticipated reprint of Tour Guide From the Underworld. Events were run on a local scale with some cool exclusive prices, and eventually YCS Sheffield took place: an event of nearly 600 players! Back then we were not consistently hitting the 1,000 player mark for YCS tournaments, so that was pretty impressive. The finals was played between Rodrigo Togores and Peter Gross, two of the biggest names on the European scene of that time.
While a lot of good times were had using this product, all product goes out of print eventually. Battle Pack: Epic Dawn received sequels in the form of Battle Pack: War of the Giants (with the gimmick of big number monsters) and Battle Pack: Monster League (with the gimmick of all monsters counting as all types). While War of the Giants was still relatively successful, Monster League wasn't as convincing, and it was the last entry in the Battle Pack series.
A few years back I managed to get a box of Epic Dawn for cheap, and opening it up with a few friends was a great reminder of how impressive this product was for its time. Epic Dawn was a testament to how much fun the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game can actually be, when reduced to its core. For that reason, it's fun to always have a backup format you can play, and Epic Dawn can be exactly that. Sealed boxes might be hard to find, but you could construct your own Epic Dawn card pool, or even design your own format suitable for sealed play. Whether you are a seasoned veteran player or someone who usually sticks to rogue, I think you'll find that an experience like this can be worth an afternoon of good old hulking, deceiving, and pushing for game.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.