The Battle City Box: An Ambitious Product
- Ryan Atlus
Loyal readers may have noticed that I'm a big fan of the Speed Duel format. When the Battle City Box was announced, it was immediately clear that it would change the format, but it turned out to be an interesting product. Some of its properties and goals are things completely new to Yu-Gi-Oh! …
A New Type of Product
Yu-Gi-Oh! is in a bit of a middle child position when it comes to popularity among the general public between the three big card games. Everyone had Pokémon cards as a kid, and most people still have fond memories of "playing" the game with their friends, while not everyone has ever played or interacted with Magic: The Gathering. Yu-Gi-Oh! is a thing that many people will still remember, even if just from watching the anime. You probably have some friends who know what our game is, and used to play it, but who literally haven't touched cards in fifteen years.
When those people return to the game, they're in for a shock. The current game is so drastically different from how they remember it! This is not only because the game has changed so massively, but also because we were all pretty much terrible at the game as kids. Twelve-year-old Ryan was not able to correctly interpret the 2004 metagame and would have been clueless if you asked him what the damage step was, but the little knowledge he had was enough to have fun at the playground.
In a distant past well before a certain Crush Card Virus was activated, a friend and I talked about how he used to play Pokémon as a kid, and he asked me whether I would know anything about, not necessarily getting back into the game, but to have an opportunity to play the game very casually, kitchen-table level. I was able to tell him about the Pokémon TCG Battle Academy Box, which is actually marketed as a board game. It comes in one of those board game boxes, with one of those hard board game boards, and three Pokémon decks based on generation one classics. The goal of the product is to be able to grab the box and a friend, and thanks to the guides included you'll be attaching energy and drawing trainers in no time.
I would not be surprised if this idea had already existed before in Magic, but it certainly did not exist in Yu-Gi-Oh! yet. The closest thing we had were things like the 2-Player Starter Deck in 2015, or when the Yugi & Kaiba Reloaded Structure Decks came packaged together. Those were pools of only two decks, while I believe that the appeal of a casual product like this should be to be able to have completely different matchups every time you play. Is the three-deck gauntlet from Pokémon's Battle Academy a good number for that? Possibly, since once a player is bored with one deck, they can switch to another instead of calling it a day. But the Speed Duel: Battle City Box does not come with three decks. It has eight.
The Absolute Size of This Unit
When the first details about the Speed Duel: Battle City Box were revealed, I was absolutely stomped. It comes with 200 cards, which increases the Speed Duel card pool by about 50%, as well as sixteen new skill cards. Given the set's theme and size, I had assumed that the set would come with eight 25-card pools for each of the eight finalists of the Battle City tournament from the anime series. When characters who did not make it to those finals were announced, such as Arcana and Espa Roba, my assumption switched to it just being eight decks played by various characters, which came closer to the truth.
In reality, the box comes with eight playable decks:
- Three based on Yugi's archetypes: Dark Paladin, Magnet Warriors, and Phantom Beasts
- Two based on Kaiba's strategies: XYZ-Dragon Cannon and Obelisk the Tormentor
- Espa Roba's Jinzo deck featuring P.A.C.M.A.N. cards
- Ishizu's Fairy-based strategies
- Lumis and Umbra's The Masked Beast deck
While some of these are more iconic than others, the decks are reasonably balanced, with some of them being easier or more difficult to play for first-time Yu-Gi-Oh! players.
Besides the over 160 cards that make up these eight decks, there are some 35 additional cards that players can use to customize their decks. Among them are plenty that support already existing Speed Duel decks, as well as support for new strategies like Odion's Trap Monsters. Additionally, there's a pack of Secret Rares, in which you'll always find the Egyptian Gods, as well as extra copies of some of the most iconic or popular cards from the box. This gives collectors a chance to chase something too.
So, this is a set with guaranteed cards. Factory errors aside, you should always be getting the same cards, similar to products like Duel Devastator. While some people see that as a negative, I am personally a big fan of being able to advise new players to buy product that is not "just a starter deck" instead of telling them to buy singles online, because booster packs might be a disappointing experience. Since Speed Duel is not exactly a popular format (I'm almost sure a Facebook comment in response to this article will be "dead format"), one thing Speed Duel players might want to do is have a collection of decks that they can lend to friends for some quick games. While sealed play with these decks is still vastly different from games with constructed decks, the experience should be able to let friends sit down for twenty minutes, have some laughs and wonder why Saggi the Dark Clown got a reprint in 2020. Exactly the same goal Pokémon's Battle Academy had.
The card selection being fixed will make it so that players who crack open a box have access to a massive and varied pool to experiment with. While opening a booster box would yield you about the same amount of cards, you'd be making twice the investment and still need to start building your deck using cards from outside the box as well.
The Impact on the Speed Duel Format
With such a massive increase in the card pool, things are bound to be shaking up. A few weeks back we talked about how Parasite Paranoid had fallen off of its throne atop the Speed Duel metagame, although heavily favored after the release of the new starter decks. Jinzo had entered the format early as a special event promo, and Warrior decks were running rampant, running either a Twisted Personality or Inner Conflict strategy.
When Book of Moon was confirmed to be in the Battle City Box, the player base immediately recognized it as a powerful battle influencer that could not be stopped by Jinzo. It might become the biggest staple of the format, while quick-play spells had previously not been a very well-represented card type in the format. That is going to change, since the box comes with others of those as well, such as Shrink and Cosmic Cyclone.
Speaking of Mind Crush specifically countering searching, this mechanic is explored further in this set as well. In the past, effects that allowed you to access your deck weren't exactly rare, but they weren't the standard either. The Battle City Box plays into this with cards like Reinforcement of the Army, Fire Formation - Tenki, and Union Hangar. When I heard about the good old Rota coming to Speed Duel at three copies per deck — there is no limitation list! — I immediately started experimenting with one of my favorite decks of the previous format, Twisted Warrior.
New cards are not the only thing we will be seeing. While it might be tempting to try to stick to your old decks and try to innovate on them, you should also consider the new shiny decks.
New Deck, New Me
One of these is P.A.C.M.A.N., which stands for Pure Advantage Camels Munch All Noobs. (I had always thought it stood for Passive Aggressive. Anyone else?) The whole gimmick of this strategy is to ignore the opponent as much as possible, making sure their attacks don't connect on any of your monsters, which need to be flip summoned rather than just flipped face up. Swarm of Scarabs and Swarm of Locusts destroy the opponent's cards, while Golem Sentry bounces them back to the hand. Due to special summoning still not being the norm in Speed Duel, setting the opponent back a monster essentially means setting them back a turn. Des Lacooda, the titular camel, lets you draw a card whenever you flip summon it. All of these monsters can flip themselves face down as well, so your opponent will have to deal with them every turn they weren't able to attack over them.
Phantom Beasts is also a deck that should be on the radar. Phantom Beast Cross-Wing and Phantom Beast Wild-Horn can both be searched by Fire Formation - Tenki, or sent to the graveyard by Foolish Burial. Cross Wing gives your Phantom Beast monsters a 300 ATK bonus while it is in the graveyard. This is not limited to one copy, so a filled graveyard gives your Wild-Horns a 900 ATK boost! Wild-Horn sees play because it's a 1,700 ATK beater on its own. Make that 1,800 thanks to Tenki, and you'll easily be normal summoning a 2,100 ATK monster on turn one! The in-theme trap Horn of the Phantom Beast plays perfectly into the theme of literal beefy beaters as well, netting you some extra card advantage as well.
Since there is no skill card for this strategy other than Beasts of Phantom, Phantom Beast players might want to rely on other skill cards, such as the tried and tested Twisted Personality or some of the new toys like I'm Just Gonna Attack! or No More Mrs. Nice Mai!.
One of the decks I'm most excited about is XYZ-Dragon Cannon. This monster was always a pain to summon, since you need all the materials on the field. ABC-Dragon Buster would take monsters from either the field or graveyard, so setting it up on the first turn was easy as one-two-three. The new skill card Union Combination lets you summon XYZ fusions the same way you would summon ABC. Thanks to Union Hangar, it became easier than ever to assemble your X-Head Cannon, Y-Dragon Head, and Z-Metal Tank.
Remember how Return From The Different Dimension was so powerful in the Pyramid of Light movie? Kaiba is back at it again with Union Scramble, which brings back all the union monsters you previously banished, as well as being able to grab back a banished card on the next turn.
Lastly, a big contender I'm very eager to play with is Magnet Warriors! Like their card text says, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma meld to form a powerful monster. While the skill card Magnetic Attraction does not make it easier to summon Valkyrion, it does make it easier to assemble all pieces of the puzzle. Once per duel you get to add any Magnet Warrior monster after summoning one, and once per duel you can reveal two Magnet Warriors from your hand to add Valkyrion from your deck to your hand. Starting out with any two of the three normal monsters lets you bring out the big guy immediately.
Thanks to Delta The Magnet Warrior you can take a different route on your path to the big magnet. It is a Foolish Burial on summon, and the field spell Magnetic Field immediately lets you bring that monster back, as well as turning any of your Rocks into Wall of Illusion once per turn.
Speed Duel: Battle City Box is a very ambitious product. As a standalone it provides a similar experience as a board game, ideal for people who like Yu-Gi-Oh! but not necessarily the modern Yu-Gi-Oh! experience. It tries to appeal to a very wide audience and I'm hoping previous prejudice against the Speed Duel format won't be stopping people from trying it out.
With many new cards and strategies being added to the Speed Duel card pool, it is anyone's guess which one will be coming out on top. The Speed Duel discords are currently buzzing with players discussing exactly that, and the first big tournaments using the new card pool are already being planned. This product should appeal to both that type of player and the guys and girls at locals who just want to have an afternoon playing iconic cards from their childhood, arriving just in time for the holidays.
I know I'm looking forward to this set. Are you?
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.