Goblin Mathematics

Hey guys, Chief Siddharth here. Today I’ll be discussing what, quite frankly, has become an obsession among the Yugioh community: Upstart Goblin


Now, I’m not sure when Upstart Goblin released officially. But unofficially, Upstart Goblin released when it was advertised by Patrick Hoban. Hoban started off with some controversial claims which has divided the Yugioh world. Here are a few:

-Upstart Goblin is a great card
-Upstart Goblin gives decks a great deal of consistency
-Upstart Goblin should be used in every deck

The first statement is pure opinion, which many individuals share. The second statement is a fact, which I will be focussing on soon. The third statement sent ripples around the Yugiverse. Now lets comprehend the latter two statements. Considering how controversial the third statement is, I’ll cover it extensively. The second one will follow suit.

Upstart Goblin should be used in every deck. Not an entirely false statement, and it in fact applies to many meta decks. I’m not looking to increase the intensity of arguments, so I’ll keep my fan-enraging thoughts to a minimum.

What is the basic function of Upstart Goblin? It grants your opponent a thousand lifepoints, but lets you draw a card. The pros and cons of this card are obvious. But considering the sheer number of people using this card, we can come to one conclusion. 1000 lifepoints is worth a card. Upstart goblins is used in threes, so the conclusion is that its worth letting your opponent start with 11000 lifepoints, as long as you have a 37 card deck.

Now, it’s not possible to come to a conclusion by looking at such a scenario. Many people will continue to argue that the level of consistency achieved in their deck is more than enough, that stacking a deck with quality cards and searchers is more than enough. This is true for certain decks. But consistency in Yugioh is never a bad thing. So, does Upstart Goblin really make a difference when it comes to drawing into your best cards? Does it improve your consistency? Time to do some number-crunching to get our statistical answers.

NOTE: NEVER, and I mean NEVER use 3 upstart goblins in a deck that exceeds the 40 card count. Why? Because in a 41 card deck, using three upstart goblins basically gives your opponent a 1000 lifepoint advantage for free. By removing the upstart, you don’t lose consistency (less cards in your deck), nor do you gift your opponent needless lifepoints. In decks that exceed 42 cards, upstarts basically become pointless fillers.

Goblin Mathematics

NOTE: All statistics are calculated in a 5 card draw, or when you go first. All the statistics increase proportionally if you go second.

Let’s say you run 3 copies of an unsearchable card in your 40 card deck. Lets call this card ‘x.’
Now, the odds of opening with card x is approximately 34%. That’s just about 3 duels. In other words, once a match.

Now lets look at a searchable card. In this case, you use 2 searchers for a card at three in your 40 card deck. Technically, you have 5 cards that’ll let you see card x.

The probability of opening into either card x or its searcher is now 51%. Yes, now you open with the card once in a match for sure, and will even open twice in a match with the card far more often. Now, this is a case where upstart doesn’t make much of a difference. 37 cards or not, if you have 5 of a card in your deck your bound to draw into it. In fact, Upstart only increases this number by approximately 3-4%. In other words, open once more in 8 matches. Not much difference in this case.

What if your looking to draw into doubles, but of two different sets of cards? If your using three destiny draws and three destiny hero dogmas, what are the chances of drawing into one of each in an opening hand?
The probability of this is just about 12%. Upstart’s influence here is limited, increasing this number by around 1.5%.

Up till now, the numbers haven’t justified their case completely. Opening with cards increases once in a bunch of matches. Not magic, and some find it too negligible. Upstart severely improves the chances of drawing into cards you already have a lot of, and more the merrier. But packing multiples of cards leads to the dreaded dead draw. But as I dig deeper, Upstart starts proving its value.

However, the true case for upstarts is made when looking at another interesting situation. Up till now, upstart has only seemed to slightly increase the chances of drawing into all your cards in an opening hand. In other words, Upstart only marginally improves your opening hand.

Where it matters

Now lets look at a situation which is present in many decks, the situation where Upstart makes the real difference. Many meta decks, and archetypes tend to have intricate combinations which requires the presence of 2-3 cards. These combinations, while hard to draw into, provide a winning platform for the deck. Its like opening with a summoner’s art, genome and vanity’s with qliphorts. Relishing prospects, but rare.

My Dark World’s ‘golden combination’ revolves around drawing into three cards. These are mask change second, grapha and tour guide of the underworld. This combination, when played without any interference, can churn out a grapha and dark law on the field, along with a broww in the hand. What are the chances of this? In my deck, a 37 card one, the chances are just about 3% to open with this. Negligible upstart difference.

But Upstart Does Help

But what do these statistics tell you about drawing into these cards later in the duel. As upstart increases the chances of opening, what about the chances of drawing into specific cards. The math behind this is number crunching, but Upstart severely boosts the probability of drawing into certain cards as the game wears on. In my dark world deck, as I activate dealings and allure of darkness, and draw by the handful into my deck, the thinning effect takes its toll. Indeed, my strongest moves not only involve ridiculous card advantage, but can deck thin by 10+ cards in a turn. Once, going second, I deck thinned to the point of having 20 cards in my deck. No, I didn’t use a mill engine either. Not every deck is like this, but most competitive decks that search actively once per turn (or use draw power) will feel a positive effect.

In any case, Upstart significantly improves the chances of drawing into cards on later turns. By a few percent I believe. This is furthermore important when you consider searchers. My tour guide, and grapha are searchable. This leaves me with mask change second. Considering the rapid deck thinning, I should draw into a mask change second within my first 3-5 turns. What does this mean? Consistent dark law. The rate at which the average deck searches means that unsearchable cards are seen far more frequently in 37 card decks, because upstart substantially increases the odds of seeing a specific card as we draw further into our deck. I could always have used 3 mask change seconds, and dropped a searcher, some will say. This brings us to my next point.

Why not use more searchers rather than upstarts?

The fact is, many people would rather fill their deck with searchers rather than upstart goblin. Why should malefic decks use upstarts when they can terraforming into their field spell? Why should noble knights use upstarts when they can cram more equip spells into their deck? All valid but reckless questions. One only needs to look at the dead draw. Direct searchers are good, but above all, they are used primarily for important cards. You won’t see players use 3 searchers for a card they don’t necessarily need more than once at a time. Upstart provides consistency by increasing the probability of drawing into cards, without forcing skilled deck-builders into dead draws.

The BEST example for this can be seen in the plight of Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon. Considering its importance to qliphorts, scout had 3 searchers in summoner’s art and many people doubled up with our pendulum dragon. The result? Burning abyss massacred qliphorts in many consecutive YCS regionals. Odd-Eyes was slow, and it lead to various dead draws and average hands. The Yugioh community realized this, slowly cutting Odd-Eyes to 1 or no copies. In place? Upstart Goblins joined the ever-present pot of dualities as deck thinners, leaving a 34 card qliphort deck. Daniele Stella famously won YCS Milan with such a deck, beating a BA player in the final. The case to be made here is Upstarts can increase consistency and playability of your deck without forcing you into poor card choices. Thats why I opted for three upstarts over mask change seconds and searchers.

The fact is, with upstart, each card you pick up from your deck is more and more likely to be the raigeki you need. Another benefit of using ‘triple upstart goblin’ is that instead of doubling up on dark hole and raigeki, you can use less, knowing it’ll reach your greedy hands when you need it to. I found upstarts particularly useful, making my mask change second all the more effective when I needed it.

So far my article has likely accomplished the following:
-Left Upstart supporters firmly nodding
-Made blind Hoban supporters realize what he’s talking about
-Partially convinced goblin haters that its not the worst card

Pure logic isn’t enough to convince everyone. It wasn’t enough to convince me either. I had to test my deck with and without Upstarts before realizing the cards utility. Thats why, I’ll let results speak for me. Here is a string of match results with my dark world deck without Upstart Goblins. In place I used primarily staple traps to compensate for the lower consistency. Back then, I was defiant like many.

Masked Heroes: LWL
Walkovers, I couldn’t get my removal out quickly enough, got crushed. Didn’t draw my raigeki or get a good hand.

Necloths: LL
Closer than expected as my added removal kicked in, but couldn’t stop Trish from ripping me to shreds.

Masked Heroes: WLW
He couldn’t pull dark law out fast enough. Slugfests which I ground out in the end, as tour guide helped me prevail.

Qliphorts: WW My deck excels against qli, regardless of upstarts. Got good hands though

Shaddollsworn: LL Chaos is too hard even with light-imprisoning mirrors.

Blackwings: WW He couldn’t handle my removal, and I got good hands.

Bujins: WW The duels took forever despite my domination.

Chaos Dragons: LL Matches like these call for aggression, which my deck didn’t provide due to consistently bad hands.

Stellarknights: LWL I didn’t see any side cards, but despite having light imps I couldn’t get my combos going.

Qliphorts: WLL My hands magically improved for this matchup once again, but the removal isn’t good against these pendulums.

Record: 4-6

I didn’t open with good hands, and when I did I drew into cards I didn’t need. The underwhelming feeling I had was that my deck was simply not good enough to beat top tier decks. Dark World was too limited. My few wins were due to getting ideal hands. Then I removed the odd trance archfiend, brought in Upstarts for a bottomless and Torrential then tried again. Apart from the odd tweak the rest of the deck was the same. Now let’s see the results with less slow removal and more of the cards I want.

Lightsworn: WW I destroyed him and dark law kept his JDs out.

Qliphorts: WLW Messed too badly with his hand, dark law and dragged down did the trick

Necloths: LL I fought hard, but trishula beat me both times.

Necloths: LWW Can’t believe I won! Dark Law and some early aggression damaged him twice beyond repair

Masked Heroes: WW Raigeki took out two dark laws, and I got a dark law out first game 2.

Yang Zing: LWW I sided debunks and tried to OTK him ASAP. Worked well.

Lightsworn Shaddolls: WLL I sided debunks and once more Dark Law+ Dragged Down=Win. Still, this deck’s tenacity irks me.

Shaddolls: WW He wasted a lot to go into construct, and dolls don’t have much protection against grapha really.

Tellarknights: WW I sided light imps and this time it worked well

Evilswarm: WLW It was a scrapfest in games 1 and 3, and I won simply because I kept plussing with scarm.

I went 7-3 which is incredible considering I used Dark World against the meta. Debunks saved me more often than not, but the key was that since my side deck cards accomplished substantial removal, I could use upstarts to go into dark law and destroy my opponent’s hand more often than not.

I hope this article did it’s best to convince you of Upstart’s utility. I’m not looking to defend Patrick Hoban, but Upstart Goblin itself. Not every deck needs it, but you’ll instantly realize whether its just your deck or inconsistency is plaguing you through extensive playtesting. Hope everyone enjoyed.

Speaking of consistency, a new deck has brought searching beyond anything we can comprehend to the table.

TCG players say hello to Necloths. More on my next post.


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