Rant Column
The Cobra Kai Dojo of Duel Monsters

In the famous 1984 movie "The Karate Kid," starring the late, great Pat Morita, the old wise master and his crane-kicking protege are forced to face off against the denizens of the dark otherwise known as the students of the Cobra Kai dojo.

Standing in stark contrast to Mr. Miyagi's teachings of balance, patience, and above all, the wisdom of knowing that the greatest victory is often obtained via the abstinence from violence, is the doctrine of the Cobra Kai dojo master: Hit fast, hit hard, show no mercy. The master would even abuse his own students if they were to fail him, as they did by the end of the film. If I had to classify the metagame of the primary local card & collectables shop as a whole under one category or the other, I would definitely place it in the latter, and thus I have begun to think of it as the "Cobra Kai Dojo of Duel Monsters."

To explain what I mean, let's examine some of the things that go on there on a weekly basis. Although it was initially claimed that the duels were sanctioned and that the shop was an official tournament location, it quickly became clear after the first couple of weeks that there would be no reliable judging or any registration or reporting of points. Although some staff members claimed to be sanctioned tournament judges, they displayed not only a consistent lack of even fundamental knowledge about the game, but a willingness to bend the rules in certain situations to give favor to higher paying customers. Whereas by the official rules a tournament host may not participate in a tournament, I was forced to play against the shop owner on one occasion, and I was also deliberately faced off against the number one player in the metagame on my very first visit. Advanced format tournaments were not held at the store for almost half a year, and they remained unpopular even afterward because no one who dueled there was willing to part with their all-powerful banned Chaos decks.

Now, having become accustomed to a lower quality of all things in general in this run-down corner of the world I inhabit, I was willing to brush all of those things aside. Even after witnessing repeated temper tantrums, numerous attempts at cheating, the blatant theft of a respected opponent's deck, and being required to put up with snotty know-it-all fathers who coach their 10-year-olds to play Cookie Cutter Chaos/Warrior Control decks and don't get kicked out of the store for it, I was still willing to patronize this location for both cards and tournaments. I took 3rd place in a major tournament, winning myself over $80 of cards, and second place in a later foray, which earned me a booster pack and several lower value holos.

I should note that when I took the 3rd place win, several players attempted to have me disqualified from the tournament because I was using a loaned deck at that time (and at that time only). When the attempt failed, one of the "top" players in the metagame left steaming mad because he didn't make it into the semifinal round, swearing his mouth off and saying that he wouldn't be back for a while because "it wasn't fair."

Then came my last, most recent visit to play there. The turn-out was low, as the metagame here is small even when in full force (never more than 30 players), so once again I found myself facing the same old people running their CCCWC decks, and since I had long ago been forced to adopt a Chaos deck of my own to even come close to breaking into the Top 4, I had little trouble facing them down in duel after identical duel. However, having made it to the final match and then having taken second place once again, I learned that I would not receive any prize, and that in fact my entrance fee (along with everyone else's) had gone entirely to buy cards for people who were knocked out of the tournament several rounds before.

I felt this to be a grave insult, and it is in perfect fitting with the financial policies of the store. While I do understand that the market for collectables is small and sluggish and that markups are required, this store has never had any concept of fair market value in anything that is sold or traded. Virtually no playable card in the store is priced less than $50, and a normal Rare Cyber Stein from Dark Beginning 2 is priced at $120 as if though it came from a tournament pack or perhaps a Shonen Jump prize. No normal rares are priced under $5, and now that almost the entire stock of commons was sold off at Christmas at $10 for a box of about 100 cards (some of which allegedly contained randomly inserted Egyptian God Cards), there is not a single card in the store available for less than 50 cents. That's right, it will cost you 50 cents to leave this store with a forgery of Fissure that's colored like a monster card.

My end point? A metagame is a combination of a store and the people who play at it. These two distinct elements come together to form an atmosphere which may be either supportive or smothering. When you're dealing with people who cry when they lose duels, curse when they don't like decisions made by the shopkeeper, insult other peoples' decks and strategies, and refuse to treat their opponents with even a modicum of basic respect, you lose all desire to participate in what amounts to circle of brainwashed madness. When you couple that with a store which misrepresents itself and is so driven by its profit line that it will let a good customer walk out empty handed after more or less winning a tournament, you get something that is simply intolerable.

I have set my heart against any further patronage of this location, at least until I see some actual change either in the way it is run or in the people who frequent it. I have a feeling I will see neither, and thus it may be a cold day in hell before I once again play in a structured tournament. In the meanwhile, it is back to the occasional casual play sessions at the library, which have unfortunately dropped to a frequency of around once every four months. Yu-Gi-Oh! may not be dead in a greater sense, but in this area I believe it is now in its last throes of suffering. I can but wait and hope that I am wrong.


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