Capital Gains

Yu-Gi-Oh! GX - Duel Academy [Duel King], by Naomitsu Tsugiiwa and Kazuki Takahashi, Konami, 2005.

What I want to be doing: fighting a series of increasingly tense, increasingly difficult showdowns for exponential rewards. What I am doing: mindlessly wading through hundreds of meaningless duels against the same opponents to slowly build my rank and collection.

So I started deliberately failing the monthly exam to collect 8,000 in pity cash from the instructor, a buxom redhead (but aren’t they all?) named Fonda Fontaine. If you fail the exam, she challenges you to a duel and, if you win, she gives you as much money as you have life left. She’s easy enough to beat, so you’ll often end in the same shape you start: with 8,000 life points. Then I thought, why not really make some money? And I constructed the following deck:

3 Magician of Faith
3 Penguin Soldier
3 Hane Hane
  Witch of the Black Forest
3 Skull-Mark Ladybug
3 Wall of Illusion
  Cyber Jar
3 Kelbek
  Fiber Jar
3 Newdoria
3 Guardian Statue
2 Guardian Sphinx

  Swords of Revealing Light
3 The Shallow Grave
3 Spring of Rebirth
3 Rain of Mercy
  Reversal of Graves
3 Solemn Wishes

Where the aim of most decks is to quickly and consistently reduce the opponent’s life to zero, this one is designed to stall for as long as possible while racking up ridiculous life totals. It’s held together by a linchpin called Fiber Jar, which allows the duel to go on far longer than it normally would. Every turn, you have to draw a card, and if there are no cards left in your deck, you lose; Fiber Jar causes both players to gather up all their cards, shuffle them together, and start again from scratch: decks replenished but life points — crucially — untouched.

To recount one memorable duel:

For the first sixty turns or so, it was business as usual. I was holding both Fiber Jar and Reversal of Graves, waiting to use them until our decks got low enough. I had worked my way up to about 80,000 life points when Fonda played Dark Hole (destroy all monsters) — which was fine, no problem, I can rebuild — and then Card Destruction (both players discard their hands and draw new ones), leaving me without a reset button and only seven turns (as measured by cards left in my deck) to finish the duel. I didn’t even have any monsters to start attacking with.

And anyway I first had to deal with a game’s worth of traps on her side of the field: Negate Attack, one turn, and Mirror Force the next. I started out using Shallow Grave to help set Guardian Sphinx. Next I summoned Newdoria to test the waters; he eventually fell to Mirror Force. Meanwhile I kept flipping back her defenders with Guardian Sphinx, which wasn’t always possible because sometimes she’d launch an attack of her own and turn him face up. Just when I had cleared her traps and was readying him to attack, she summoned a Harpie Lady (neutralize a combatant for two turns), who not only shut down my Sphinx but meant that I would have to use up another of my turns and immobilize another of my monsters just to get past it. Kelbek was the only one strong enough, so I brought him out and attacked. But she still had several thousand life points, and I was running out of monsters. I finally had to summon Witch of the Black Forest, which was potentially disastrous. If Fonda attacked and killed it, I’d have to thin my deck further and thereby miss out on a turn. Instead, when I had one card left in the deck, she killed Wall of Illusion, and the next turn — having drawn my last card — my Sphinx came back on-line and, together with the Witch and the Penguin Soldier I’d drawn, attacked for just enough to kill her.

Played as intended, the game has its moments; it will give you plenty of close matches. Just never quite with this much at stake.

The Academy periodically restricts some of the most powerful cards, on a more or less random schedule, to keep you from relying on any particular secret weapon. Sure enough, the banned list eventually changed, Fiber Jar was pulled, and my life-gaining deck was no longer viable. Over the months it helped me to become a millionaire, a true tycoon.