Friday, November 14, 2014

The Shadow of Ouroboros (Overview)

Embrace the darkness...

Darkness Dragon World. DDW for short. Since the world has the world "Dragon" in it, we can expect Bushiroad to give it some pretty ridiculous support and a variety of strong options to use. Though it would be interesting to see how different they can make this from, well, regular Dragon World. I say that, but Darkness Dragon World has already started to differentiate itself quite well. The effects are always slightly underhanded and a bit sinister, usually involving self-damage or destroying your own monster. In exchange, DDW can deal a lot of widespread destruction and direct damage in return. Furthermore, on top of that, Darkness Dragon World has two specific keywords: Spectral Strike and Shadow Dive, both allowing a DDW player to bypass a game mechanic to deal unintended damage.

The darkness covers the realms of the Black Dragons and Death Rulers, extending Deep into the heart of the shadows where the Purgatory Knights reside.

Okay, so this is the big one. The world that everyone's been talking about. The world that so definitively changed the metagame of more ways than one. This world was touted as broken and OP as hell before release, but upon release it was received with surprisingly mixed reactions. I've had experienced and respected players tell me completely contrasting things about this world. To be honest, I'm happily shocked. Shocked because I didn't expect this to happen, but pretty glad that it did.

So now you can hear my opinions and thoughts, listen to my reasoning and math, and figure out this little mess. But let's get some basic cards out of the way first.

Devil Stigma
It's a devil thing
I've had way too many people tell me that Devil Stigma is...bad. Please. There's no way in hell that's true. Devil Stigma is, by default, an improvement over the typical 1 card for 2 gauge resource converters because you get life in the transaction, and life is desperately needed in DDW. And you know, I never turn down a consistent +0.5 as long as I can use those resources. But Devil Stigma gets better. Since you destroy the monster of your own bidding, you can effectively negate both Penetrate and Spectral Strike, as well as some effects that require killing monsters to activate (Defeat Monsters! and Emigurette Dragon, for example). So a +0.5 resource gainer that can situationally render complete strategies useless? Sign me up! Oh wait, there's more? You can use it to get an extra attack on your own turn by clearing the center slot? This card!... definitely NOT A 4-of. God, I don't know how many people insist you run four of this card. This card give you no hand advantage! DDW doesn't even need that much gauge! What are you running, Slow Pain Fall? No matter how you spin it, Devil Stigma is a way for you to get more gauge, and you don't need that much gauge to begin with. When you use it for the extra attack, you're actually minusing pretty hard (remember center slot bonus?), so don't expect to pull that trick unless you're gunning for game. And remember, Devil Stigma fights for space with Death Wizard Dragon who gives the same +0.5 and 2 gauge, except it's actually a monster you can use. If a monster can do a spell's job, then almost always go with the monster. A monster is an actual card, it takes up field and deals damage through attacks, meaning it will buy you more advantage in general than spells. Field control, people!

Black Dragon Shield
Now that I think about it,
it kinda looks like a moose
Quickly going over your negate options, DDW sports a different style of nullifiers. Specifically, Death Shield and Black Dragon Shield are both cards that, while good, can only truly stop attacks directed at the you. Death Shield nullifies any direct attack (even linked), and allows a player to target a Size 1 that attacked and kill it. Obviously, if you don't kill a Size 1 then the nullify has a chance to be -0.5. Honestly, that's still plenty good. Don't be afraid to use Death Shield even if a Size 1 isn't attacking if you really need to stop an attack. Your other shield, Black Dragon Shield, is a straight-up costless Flying Dragon Shield. That also works for any damage you take (Chillax?). That's pretty insane. However, neither card can protect any monsters you may have on the field, so Midnight Shadow is still a viable and strong option, despite being a little counter-meta.

Dark Energy
Get stabbed
To protect your monsters, we have instead Dark Energy. Dark Energy is Wrath Trigger for 1 less life cost. I don't understand. How is this a thing? Not only does it prevent the destruction of the monster (Penetrate what?), the monster also gets Counterattack? When all the powers of DDW monsters are so ridiculously high, Counterattack on top just makes the card unbelievable. Or does it? On closer inspection, Dark Energy going off is actually worse than Dragoenergy since you're investing an extra gauge. While this may not be an issue in a single event, through the course of the match this little bit will add up. Not to mention that Dark Energy is one of the sole ways to actually protect your monsters, so some sacrifices will have to be made.

Death Grip
I think I caught your heart
And that's really the thing, you have to look closer with DDW. To be honest, this was really hard for me to do. Being Mr. Digital with my articles and my approach to all TCGs, I was the first to write off DDW as being the most broken set I have ever seen. I mean, Death Grip? Death Damage? We're talking complete upgrades of preexisting cards offered to Dragon World, no less. I didn't even know how to calculate the fact that Death Grip could hit Size 2's with no problem. Death Damage was outright ridiculous. And on top of that, they get Abyss Symphony (Symbel Gard clone, upgrade of Survival Chance) and Black Revenger (Devil Advantage-like card) for even more consistency? Just how was this even fair? The math completely swings in DDW's favor. I thought it was case closed.

But then testing results came in, and the outcome was surprising. DDW was having mixed scores. Sometimes it would go off, but more often than not it would kinda putter out halfway through. It didn't make sense to me. They had all the tools of a good deck and some seriously badass monsters to back it up. I had to revisit all my initial work (*cough cough delays) and reassess my ideas about DDW. For the first time in a while, I skipped the math and actually stared at the cards for a long while before it hit me.

Darkness Dragon World needs progression.

Abyss Symphony
I'd die to be in that
Let me explain. If you look at this article, you'll see that I compared Buddyfight to current Yugioh because every game is midgame. That means that you'll be starting a game off trying to pull of your winning image from the get-go. There's no period of time where you can build resources and prepare and no real definitive "final turn" zone when you're expected to end a game. Games unpredictably span from 1 to 21 turns, depending on what went down. In essence, Buddyfight decks need to be able to work immediately and not require a prolonged period of time to set-up. This (prolonged setup) is actually what Ancient World strives to do, but they make it up by having gigantic Size 3's that are win-conditions in-and-of themselves. Also huge resource machines and board wiping.

But DDW isn't Ancient World. Yet DDW requires the same kind of progression, the early game setup to make things work. Look. Both Abyss Symphony and Black Revenger have a Life Break requirement to reach. In other words, those cards are both dead draws in an opening hand, so running too many is dangerous. Most Danger World decks run 3 Survival Chance, but I can guarantee that Abyss Symphony and Black Revenger together take up more than 4 slots in any decklist. Without those cards, DDW can't draw, but those cards can't even draw until later on in the game, around Turn 2-5. This is a slight issue.

Death Shield
That's...a shield?
The problem is compounded by the monsters. Both Spectral Strike and Shadow Dive require an opponent to commit to a certain strategy in order to receive maximum benefit. Spectral Strike requires opponents to have monsters on the field to plus, and Shadow Dive needs a monster in their center to plus (by bypassing the center field bonus). In other words, if your opponent doesn't have a field, DDW actually isn't winning. This may sound strange, but this is the main reason DDW is falling short a lot of times. You can see for yourself just how much going first hurts a DDW deck. They can't do anything. Most DDW players who have been playing normally have been incredibly shafted by playing a full field and getting utterly demolished. DDW has very sad monster protection on top of generaly low defense. One wrong commit and DDW has no way to regain control.

DDW needs to hit life and have an opponent's board to be full in order to be at max potential. And good players can play around this. Against DDW, all you have to do is wreck all their monsters without touching their life. Their shields become useless, they can't gain advantage and then you simply rush them to death. No amount of amazing spells can save you from getting handed by not being able to do anything early on in the game. 

It gets worse when you're running "good" cards like Deathgaze Dragon and Hallows, both of which are 1 gauge Size 1's. If you open with them, it means you're down in gauge, which means you want to use Devil Stigma to gain gauge and also to nullify Penetrate or destruction abilities. Now you have the gauge but your life is too high, and your monsters are gone. See what I mean? DDW has a serious tempo issue.

Guillotine Cutter
Their spells even work against them sometimes. Guillotine Cutter, for instance, can only be activated while taking damage. While the card sounds great and seems to be an improvement over Dragonic Crush and Cecilia's Spell Disarm, the main issue is that you need to take damage. So what if you're opponent deals no damage to you when you have the card? Then the card's a dead card. It's useless.

"Well, I can always use Death Wizard Dragon." True. How are you going to get that into your hand? By luck? If your opponent isn't damaging you, then you can't use Abyssal Symphony or Black Revenger. And life, once lost in DDW, is really hard to regain. And honestly, you really don't want to regain all of it either. So you need to stick with Death Wizard Dragon, and that's not a good position to be in. The fact that a staple card in the deck requires hurting yourself in order to achieve similar levels of consistency as other decks is really sad.

Evil Death Scythe
Reap what you sow
And on top of that, the weapons are truly disappointing. I'm sorry, they look so amazingly awesome, but they just don't work. Evil Death Scythe gets blocked all too easily, deals pitiful damage, and allows better rush decks to abuse that open center. There's just not enough impact. But you still end up running it because, well, the weapon meta is too strong and it's sadly the only investment in this deck that's easily protected.

It all whittles down to the fact that DDW can't start a game with full power. Their combo comes into play slowly, countering opponent's plays and slowly building advantage. That's a no-no in Buddyfight, especially when Dungeon World can just OTK you like nobody's business. The best comparison I can think of would be like a Tribute-based Yugioh deck fighting against Synchro/XYZ/Pendulum. Even with all the Frog-based stuff you can pull, even with all the traps and spells you can leverage, Synchro/XYZ/Pendulum is just simply faster at getting their crap on the field. If it wasn't for broken Mirror Force and Dark Hole, slower setup decks wouldn't even exist in Yugioh. Buddyfight has no spell that can make such a huge impact, at least not in Darkness Dragon World, so DDW just has no options. Basically, if you don't start off with exactly the right cards, a DDW player is playing from behind.

Sudden DEATH!
And then, out of nowhere!
That being said, it's not all terrible for the DDW player. After all, they truly do have some broken cards. But it requires a pretty major rewiring of the brain and to realize that sometimes, the best strategy is not to call monsters. Your monsters are really precious, and you really can't protect them that well, so never commit if you can't leverage full potential. I mean, a Deathgaze that comes out, gets neutered by a shield and then gets utterly pwned by some random Size 0 is just bleeding resources and advantage. You're better off using monsters that don't require so much investment for more consistent rewards.

This ultimately means that cards that were seen as "broken" in terms of math or just design might not be appropriate to run. I won't go into detail here, but it's about moving away from Deathgaze and trying out some of the other options. Also, understanding that Midnight Shadow is a necessary card to allow for more relevancy and consistency for all stages of the game and not to idealize a winning image that might not ever be accomplished.

This article ended up being a bit lecture-y on gameplay in general, so I might split this in the future.

Darkness Dragon World came out as a pretty incomplete set in BT04. They gave them all the spell support in the world with a abysmal monster lineup that actively served to mess up what goodness your spells afforded. You were frankly better off running vanillas and basic monsters with generic effects and try to maintain advantage through spells. It works barely and is honestly a pain to play. Well, praise Bushi because they've now given DDW the appropriate support. Especially in terms of monsters. Not only do Death and Black Dragon become superiorly outfitted for war, but Purgatory Knights and Deep are also completely revamped with their own archetypes. To the point that DDW has actually become an interesting world to deckbuild for due to the various strategies and attribute mixings that can be utilized.

Death Astray
Team Darkness 
But of course, we also get some new spells that are worth a mention. Death Astray being the first. This card is pretty amazing at life, pretty average at life, and becomes quite a waste at any more than life. Well, since Darkness Dragon World doesn't have a Dragonic Grimoire clone this is a welcome spell, and you actually draw 4 cards which is pretty good. But the real benefit of this card as a 1-of tech is the ability to purposely kill yourself to maneuver out of a bad situation. Say you're not dead yet but you're pretty much going to die next turn. You need to get some sort of nullification or at least a Death Grip to get a grip on the situation. You're far better off killing yourself to gain that last glimmer of hope. After all, Death Astray into Abyss Symphony is quite the turnaround play.

Distortion Punisher!!
I like how this thing looks when put next to the
Tasuku Gargantua PR
Okay. This card. So as you can see, it lacks the very potent "this damage cannot be reduced or nullified" that Gargantua has to guarantee a win. Instead, it guarantees the win by activating as a counter Impact to other Impacts. Since there is a counter limit of 1 chain per counter, there is therefore no way for your opponent to respond and thus you can guarantee a win by counterplay. Of course, if you don't want to wait for your opponent's Impact then you can just activate it on your own turn if you're sure they have no way to stop it.

That isn't to say this card is all that great. Sure, it's better than Slow Pain Fall but not by too much. Gauge is better spent on monsters now that you have better stuff to call. Not many decks run Impacts anymore either. However, it is one of the few ways that Darkness Dragon World as a whole can deal with Jackknife Goldritter.

Dead Scream
Dead Scream is...decent. I mean, you can kill a Size 1 monster on the field and gain 1 life, which is +0.5, but considering that there's no counter and the fact that Death Damage is the same except for any monster, there's definitely better options. Definitely. But the most useless spell we have yet to uncover. If you got too used to playing RPS in Dungeon World and really want to do the same thing here, you can -1.5 initially to either +1 or -1 eventually. Which means that you have a 50% to -1.5 and a 50% to -2.5, ending up with a -2 on average. A spell that -2. That's pretty incredible. Okay, fine, maybe if you don't have any cards on the field then Death Game is only -1.5 at worst. But it's still pretty bad.

Accel End
Next level strategy
Most people think Accel End is also one of those bad cards. At first glance, it seems that way, since you -1 card from hand and only get 1 gauge, which is a -0.5 overall. -0.5 isn't some major sin, I can justify an opportunity cost like that with a relevant effect. And Accel End's relevant effect is mill 5 cards. This is huge for both Death and Deep by getting their toolbox filled almost instantaneously. Remember when I addressed how DDW has a problem with progression? Accel End fixes that problem by getting your toolbox to midgame status as soon as possible. Plus, along with Death Astray, you aren't actually losing cards from hand. This allows for really high-risk high-reward play from DDW that can be very thrilling to pull off.

Pain Field
The real pain is from
staring at that guy's face
Pain Field seems to be amazing, but let's calm down and do some math first to make sure it's as good as it sounds. Set cost is 2 gauge and 1 life, so to even get it on the field is -2.5 right off the bat. Whenever your opponent nullifies an attack, you can deal 1 direct damage (+0.75). Your opponent will need to nullify 4 attacks before the cost pays off. Against Dragon World, this more or less wrecks half their options of canceling damage, but other worlds have other options. Against Magic World, for instance, this set spell isn't as effective and probably will not be able to pay off. Additionally, your opponent can't heal from effects but again, not many worlds besides Dragon and maybe Ancient actually rely on healing as a advantage strategy. In other words, Pain Field is definitely a sideboard only card and probably won't actually be that useful except in specific counter matchups.

The most striking thing about Steel Fist, Blackknuckle is that it showcases just how bad the weapon selection DDW had before this. I actually can't call to mind a good DDW weapon before better Dragoknuckle.

Death Trap is probably the best removal spell ever printed, and I doubt they'll do something this powerful in the future. A card that can indiscriminately destroy any monster for 1 life is pretty good already, but being able to recurse this card for an extra gauge if you killed a Size 2 or smaller monster is pretty ridiculous. The biggest benefit of Death Trap is that due to the recurring nature of the card, you don't even need to run that many copies of it - because once you've got it, you probably won't lose it until you need to kill a Size 3 or you don't want to pay that 1 gauge for it.

- updated to H-BT04, CP01, H-EB04, H-TD04, H-PP01 -

All images were used obtained from the official Bushiroad website and used here solely for reference purposes. Future Card Buddyfight!, logos, and respective content belong to Bushiroad. Large images belong to the Buddyfight! Wikia.


  1. Very interesting read. (also you appealed to my inner frog player)

    On the Ancient World comparison: DDW doesn't have anything like Rise and Fall to push itself into life break territory with a single card. I guess for now the focus should be longevity.

    How are you counting Devil Stigma as a +0.5? Shouldn't it be a -0.5 (-1 from hand, -1 from field, +1 to gauge and +0.5 to life) or am I missing a key mechanic here?

    1. Like the card says, you want to use it on a monster that would die anyways to circumvent the -1 from field. Like when your opponent is attacking.

  2. "What are you running, Slow Pain Fall?" Got me 2 weeks ago and i would have agreed, and while i don't run 4 Stigma and think its stupid, I do run Slow Pain Fall. Slow Pain Fall, until the new impact comes in, is your best option for actually finishing the game, it is that one bad card that actually ends up being good because it fixes the one issue all the good cards have, finishing the game. The trial Impact seems better on paper, but as you said this whole world is good on paper but ends up with unforeseen issues. For example, soulguard to the side completely screws over the other impact, where slow pain fall, in this open center format, has won me games i would otherwise not win. Its funny, because i absolutely hate the card in every way except for the fact it has won me games, important tournament games.