The Goat Format community sure has come a long way since Jazz and Ynusgridorh hosted the inaugural Format Library Championship back in early 2018. Ironically enough, that first installment of the series remains to this day both the largest and only one of two that was actually won by a Goat Control deck. I remember telling myself that Sunday that I would win with Empty Jar when I finally got a chance to play in one, but that didn't exactly pan out; instead, I ran the old "undefeated in Swiss, lose in top cut to Burn" at FLC3 that March with Goat Control of all things, a deck I'm not exactly known for piloting well (or at all, for that matter).
Six FLCs and over a year later, I finally got my chance to show the world what Morphing Jar and Cyber Jar can do in Goat Format at FLC9 this past weekend in what is likely to be one of my last serious tournament showings of the year, given that I'll be following in the footsteps of the great Jae Kim and starting law school in a few months and won't be able to play in anything for a while after that.
Why I Played Empty Jar
I could write a few paragraphs on how my expert-level metagame analysis factored in to my decision to finally try to win a FLC with Empty Jar, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't simply trying to prove to myself that I could do it. The deck has held a personal level of appeal to me ever since I read Dexter Dalit's recollection of the final match of the 2005 World Championship.
At Worlds '05, Jorge Fabian Piña Lizarraga was ahead of his time in more ways than I can count. His decklist had already made the rounds on the internet months earlier with his breakout win at Mexican Nationals, but virtually no one on our side of the Atlantic was taking the deck seriously as a top-tier threat in the weeks between US Nationals and Worlds. Aggro variants, whether Dexter Dalit's Warrior deck at Canadian Nationals or Jae Kim's Zombie deck at SJC Charlotte, and Goat Control, most notably Max Suffridge's list from US Nationals, were widely considered the decks to beat heading into the World Championships. Imagine the surprise, then, when Lizarraga took his seat in the finals with a deck that had not a single SJC Top 8 performance to its name at the time. Imagine the suspense as his Greek opponent Markou Miltiadis worked for every last advantage his teched-out Goat Control deck could muster in a matchup in which he could not possibly have had more than a few matches worth of tournament experience. Imagine the thrill of the crowd that bore witness to such an explosive conclusion to what had been an unprecedented summer of growth for the YGO TCG.
Empty Jar: Literally Tier 0
Historic awesomeness aside, it has also been my unironic belief for quite a while that Empty Jar is indeed "literally tier 0" in Goat Format. To this end, I worked quite hard last year to prove this to the community with my teammate Ludrah aka Chevalier de Fromage, who has shared this belief ever since the deck carried him out of his post-2017 slump to a 1st place finish at a Card Sports League Challenge Tour Stop in Berlin. As we tested endless variations on the deck, some of which still have yet to see the light of day in a tournament setting, the parallels to Frog FTK circa 2010 quickly became undeniable. The advantage held by an Empty Jar player who happens to open with Cyber Jar is simply unmatched by anything else in the format, and the immeasurable depth of the deck's plays ensure that it never has to fold outright to any given sidedeck strategy, no matter how hateful. To give a few examples:
Building Empty Jar
Metagame considerations for an Empty Jar maindeck typically include Card of Safe Return, Dragged Down to the Grave, Level Limit - Area B, Gravity Bind, Scapegoat, Rock Bombardment, Heavy Storm, Royal Decree, and even Giant Rat. Recent Format Library Championships have seen an influx of Reasoning Gate Combo, Library FTK, and other similarly non-interactive decks, so I decided to devote my "flex slots" to a set of Dragged Down and a single Rock Bombardment, since these cards are generally your best bet when your goal is to combo faster than your opponent without regard for disruption or beatsticks.
The standard and non-negotiable sidedeck for Empty Jar includes three Prohibition and three Mind Control. Together, these cards ensure that your combos won't be interrupted by a Neko Mane King, whether in the hand or on the field. Heavy Storm, Level Limit - Area B and Gravity Bind come in against the ever-popular Aggro/Beatdown variants. Compulsory Evacuation Device is a convenient answer to Dark Balter the Terrible and Spell Canceller that doubles as a Spell Shield/Riryoku Field against Nobleman of Crossout, and Desert Sunlight has similar uses against all of the same cards, but I didn't end up playing against any standard Goat Control decks against which these cards would have been useful.
The Swiss Rounds
Things got off to a flying start in Round 1, where I was rewarded with a fortunate win when my opponent failed to show up for the round. From there on, it only got harder. As it turned out, Burn and Aggro variants were the order of the day at this FLC, and every single one of my Swiss opponents was playing some combination of Solemn Judgment, Compulsory Evacuation Device, Skill Drain and Trap Dustshoot, not to mention the ever-present sidedeck copies of Anti-Spell Fragrance, all of which are among the hardest cards in the format for Empty Jar to play through, especially in game 1.
Against Mark and his Chaos Recruiter deck in Round 2, I eeked out a win in game 1 despite a Pot of Greed on his side and a Serial Spell discarded to Dragged Down on mine, then managed to get there in Game 3 through a lone Trap Dustshoot with a combination of Cyber Jar and Morphing Jar effects.
Leopard/Android 21 very nearly handed me my first loss in round 4 with a Drain Burn variant, the same deck that ended my top4 run a year and a half prior at FLC3. I was able to resolve Morphing Jar through Ceasefire with not one, but two, Book of Taiyou effects in game 1, but a set of Ojama Tokens and a series of burn cards that left me at 800 Life Points kept me off of Cyber Jar combos in Game 2. Finally, I was able to lock up top4 in Game 3, playing through Compulsory Evacuation Device, Neko Mane King, Skill Drain, Solemn Judgment, and even a lone Secret Barrel chained to my Card Destruction to keep me off of Serial Spell. KL1993 got the better of me in two quick games with a much more aggressive Burn deck shortly thereafter, with a particularly stylish combo involving Last Will, Ring of Destruction and Injection Fairy Lily for exactly 8000 damage in Game 1 and a Neko Mane King against which I couldn't muster a Mind Control or Prohibition in Game 2, but I remained confident about my chances in top cut.
Leopard ended up securing 3rd place in Swiss in round 5 against Mark, while geistD ended my teammate InsiDS's bubble run with his stylish Anti-Meta Warriors deck. This meant that I would play Leopard once again in Top 4, with the winner of geistD and KL1993 waiting for me in Grand Finals. I probably didn't have a single possible favorable matchup in top cut, with two out of my three potential opponents packing full playsets of Solemn Judgment in their maindecks and the third siding them in. I deduced that geistD would be the easier finals opponent between himself and KL1993, since his three Books of Moon were largely dead against me, and he was still packing two Trap Dustshoot, two Magic Jammer, three Dust Tornado, and even Jowgen the Spiritualist in his side!
On To Top4
My work was cut out for me in the top4, to say the least. In game 1 of the rematch against Leopard, I set up a Shallow Grave for a Cyber Jar on each side of the field with Dragged Down and Rock Bombardment. With one of each Book, I was somehow able to combo through Ceasefire, Compulsory Evacuation Device and Solemn Judgment. First, I used Book of Taiyou on my own Cyber Jar, to which he chained Ceasefire to ensure the Jar effect would fizzle. Then I attacked his own Cyber Jar with a Mystic Tomato and attempted to flip it face-down with a Book of Moon, which was promptly met with a Solemn Judgment. Compulsory Evacuation Device saved his Cyber Jar from yet another Book of Moon before the Damage Step, and I had to wait a few more turns before finally finding my third Book of Moon with a Graceful Charity to enable a combo off of my own Cyber Jar. A slew of burn cards left me at 1200 Life Points, but I drew enough gas off of the Jar to keep the combo going and closed out the game shortly thereafter. A timely Solemn Judgment on my Spell Reproduction closed out Game 2 in his favor, leaving me to combo off of his own Cyber Jar in Game 3 with one of each Book and a Prohibition on Neko Mane King. Without a Serial Spell to close out my combo at the end, I was forced to discard myself down to three in hand by looping Spell Reproductions so that I could use Card Destruction with four cards left in my Deck to ensure a win as opposed to a draw. Phew!
Just as I was settling into a groove and thinking to myself that this was "my tournament" at long last, geistD was able to close out another narrow three-game match on the other side of the bracket against KL1993. It was a bit of a relief to know that I'd landed with the marginally better matchup out of the two, but part of the Empty Jar life is being confident against even the worst matchups, because the deck is just that good.
I started the final match of the tournament with something of a slow hand, and my opponent's early Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning swiftly dashed my hopes in game 1. Fortunately, I received a gift in the form of his misplay in game 2 when he left a Blade Knight in Attack Position with no protection, allowing me to crash my Mystic Tomato to find a Cyber Jar and begin a combo that would ultimately win me the game. For all the marbles, we went into game 3, with victory so close I could almost taste it. However, I was not quite able to pull it out.
The misplay that really cost me the game was normal summoning my Cyber Jar and setting four, including a Book of Moon, in a futile attempt to play around a Nobleman of Crossout that didn't exist. I realized just a second too late that he had been using Mystical Space Typhoon and Dust Tornado on the set cards closest to the deck throughout the match, and sure enough, his Dust Tornado took out my Book of Moon at the end phase in exactly that location. He promptly Snatch Stole my hapless Cyber Jar and began to beat me down with it, and yet another Dust Tornado on my last card, a Book of Taiyou, ultimately ended the game in his favor when I tried to Spell Reproduction for a Book of Moon a few turns later.
So, where does all this leave me, besides "disappointed that I didn't win?" In the wake of geistD's win, the Format Library Discord server has been inundated with literally one Twitlonger declaring the poor quality of his deck and insisting upon the superiority of other (in some cases, less-accomplished) Aggro decklists. However, I think people shouldn't be so quick to judge this book by its cover. Jar of Greed is a card I've had my eye on for quite some time ever since I played against it in Swiss back at FLC3, and I wasn't exactly surprised to see it in the top4 or even the top2 of a Format Library Championship.
Others have been packing it up and proclaiming the death of Goat Control, which failed to land a representative in top4, but the top cut doesn't give the full picture there: the 5th, 6th and 8th place finishers were all on relatively standard Goat Control lists, including the aforementioned teammate InsiDS, whose bubble loss I was sadly unable to avenge in the finals. It is with extreme prejudice and absolute bias that I declare the official breakout story of the event to be that of Empty Jar, which hasn't had a deep run at a Format Library Championship since FLC4. Keep in mind that the deck feeds on your tears and grows stronger the more that its haters write it off. Last and least, I'd like to take the opportunity to remind everyone that they're lucky that I'm the one playing Empty Jar here and not Ludrah, because he's ten times better at it than me and probably would have found at least three different ways to win game 3 against geistD and then you would all have to live with a combo deck having won yet another Goat Format tournament.
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Checkout all of the top4 decklists from the FLC9 tournament.
We also have Noelle's 1st place report from FLC8.
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