Welcome to my new series, “Getting There.” This column is aimed to basically break down an archetype entirely. Rather than build decks like I did previously, these articles will focus on more general themes and strategic considerations.
My goal is to help you, the TCGPlayer, become better prepared for premier level events. By having an understanding of what makes a specific archetype tick, you can build stronger decks while knowing how to side-deck and counter the matchup as well.
Introduction to Machina Gadgets
The Machina Gadgets came to fruition relatively recently. The release of the Structure Deck “Machina Mayhem” introduced a number of very powerful monsters that synergized extremely well with the venerable Gadget archetype.
Gadgets, as many of you know, are a fascinating design experiment in floating monsters. The designers wanted to introduce a series of instantly floating monsters with low stats that replaced themselves. The success of Gadgets (they have placed well at nearly ever major tournament in every format since release), to me, is an affirmation of the fact that Yu-Gi-Oh! is a game primarily focused on card advantage and creating floaters (cards that replace themselves).
Strengths of Machina Gadgets
Red Gadget, Yellow Gadget, and Green Gadget are self-explanatory. Each searches another color and have attack scores that get under Bottomless Trap Hole. The Gadgets are self-replacing so it's extremely unwise to use monster removal on them. It's also unwise to waste resources and create an open game.
The Gadgets amplify their advantages in open games where lots of resources have been spent. The reason is that top-decking opponents are less likely to break open fields. If you have no cards in hand and draw two low-utility "dead" cards in a row, the Gadget player can conceivable put three monsters on the field in that time, dealing close to 8000 damage.
They have been buttressed by an even better Gadget monster. Machina Gearframe is an 1800 monster that basically instantly floats on summon as well. The number of cards that do this is limited to a rather brief list: Volcanic Rocket, Elemental Hero Stratos, Gadgets, and now Machina Gearframe (I may have missed one or two, forgive me).
Obviously this instant-floating effect is one of the most powerful early to mid game plays possible. It's extremely difficult to deal with this class of cards, especially if the monster has 1800 attack. Machina Gearframe should ideally always search Machina Fortress.
Fortress is an amazing card. It almost single-handedly shores up most of the weaknesses of the Gadget build. By discarding one of the free Gadgets with the Fortress itself, the deck can break apart powerful field setups. And due to the nature of Fortress's effects, it's extremely difficult to generate card advantage versus it through battle or destruction effects.
Addressing the Pace of the Gadget Deck
Gadgets play far better with a lead in field presence. Having to play "catch-up," or answering opponent's developed fields, is more difficult due to the fact Gadgets have low attack scores. It's not entirely unbelievable for a Gadget player to have 4 cards in hand with no answers to a bigger monster!
Due to their floating nature, the advantages that Gadgets generate are amplified in an open, faster-paced duel. The classic goal of every Gadget player has been to use One for One removal to create a top-decking environment as soon as possible.
Many players have mistakenly equated Gadgets with being anti-meta. As many of you know, anti-meta decks fare far better in a closed dueling environment (lots of resources on the field and in hand for both players). The reason is that continuous spells/traps that form anti-meta strategies function far better when both players have lots of cards. Those continuous cards should theoretically negate the opponent's strategy; the extra cards in the anti-meta player's hand amplifies this advantage. Imagine playing a Necrovalley in a top-decking situation but having no monster to play for 3-4 turns! You'd rather have 7 cards in hand, correct?
Gadgets are not an anti-meta deck. The reason players feel Gadgets are anti-meta is that Gadgets were temporarily forced to become anti-meta due to the dominance of Tele-DaD. Royal Oppression and Fossil Dynos were used to stop the game-breaking Dark Armed Dragon. Don't mistake this with creating a closed pace for your own Gadget deck.
Instead, at their basic level, Gadgets are rather primitive. The archetype is the most primal and savage of deck types. The scorched earth idea is to spend every card possible to remove both player's options, then win the top-decking war with floating monsters. Focus on this part and you will be rewarded.
Formulating a Cohesive Strategy for Machina Gadgets
Unfortunately, Machina Gadget players seem to be building inferior lists (based on what I've seen from Regionals and other tournaments) based on closed-game concepts such as Solidarity and Book of Moon. I can tell without even testing their builds that the idea is terrible.
Gadgets should be built to win the top-decking war. Every card you choose should function well in an open-game state or create an open-game state. Staples include the maximum amount of copies devoted to Dimensional Prison and Bottomless Trap Hole. Cards that remove opponent's monsters from play are obviously far more useful than destruction effects such as Mirror Force.
What is the point of boosting your Gadget's attack by 800 at the cost of losing utility and losing games simply by drawing multiple copies? Wouldn't it be far more prudent to let the Gadget die (it replaced itself), and come back the next turn with more monster removal?
Smashing Ground, Dust Tornado, and other One for One removal cards are all obviously wonderful targets for your Machina Gadget deck. There are a number of underrated cards as well such as Magic Drain. I feel the basic goal should be to protect the back row while extending field presence.
This concept has become even more important with the introducing of Machina Fortress. Fortress is a card that dominates the field single-handedly. Anything that destroys it will also be destroyed. In this type of case, it's a lot more important to clear the opponent's backfield and secure that Fortress summon than get an extra 800 or 1600 damage.
By treating your Machines as expendable, rather than try to prolong their life with low utility, you will be far better served in the long run. Keep it simple! Focus on taking control of the field and let your floaters get to work.
There are, of course, circumstances where the Gadget player would be wise to use Royal Oppression. The reason is the special summoned threats that can break your field. Judgment Dragon, Dark Armed Dragon, and Stardust Dragon are all great examples of this. Oppression also breaks the Gravekeeper's Spy play, one of the biggest brick walls to your domination of the field.
And finally, we are both aware of the cards that most hinder the Gadget strategy. I would suggest including teched cards that can handle these unfortunate situations. Cards like D.D Warrior Lady, Neo-Spacian Grand Mole, and Doomcalibur Knight are all great examples of savvy tech choices that can help swing certain matchups.
How to Counter Machina Gadgets
A well-built Machina Gadget deck is very difficult to counter. The reason is the Gearframe + Fortress interaction, a new wrinkle to the strategy that basically shores up every weakness in the Gadget deck.
In addition, most of the counters you use will probably have to come from the side-deck. As a general rule, it's rather unwise to focus main deck space to Rogue builds (though Gadgets have become far more mainstream and should be expected at SJC New Jersey).
The best and classic counter is to put monsters with strong ATK scores or big rear ends on the field. High DEF scores are extremely difficult for Gadgets to counter since most of their monster removal is defensive in nature. In particular, floating monsters with high scores are the eternal bane of Gadget players. I'm referring to monsters like Elemental Hero Stratos, Gravekeeper's Spy, and Legendary Jujitsu Master.
Your goal is to extend the game and create a closed game state. Oftentimes, a single set monster and one or two back row cards will accomplish this. Gravekeeper's Spy was probably the best card possible to use against the classic (pre-Machina) Gadget theme. It is still great.
You need to take out the weaker monsters in your line-up that cannot ensure field presence for themselves. You need to bring in all possible spell and trap removal. The goal is to close the game until you can clear the backfield, then use your deck's explosiveness to secure the field. Strategically, you should not be tributing or expending monsters on the field that can stand on their own two feet. I.e you do not want to tribute a Spy for a Caius unless you are going to take over the game.
If Gadgets continue to grow popular, the two best cards to counter with are System Down and Cyber Dragon. Cyber Dragon is the better of these two options (due to its utility versus Gladiator Beasts). Simply wait for two or more Gadgets to hit the field. Then create a Chimeratech Fortress Dragon.
The game has evolved. Cards have become far more expendable. In fact, most decks are capable of creating a flurry of exchanges that remove multiple back row cards from the equation. As a Gadget player, your back row is the life line. The monsters themselves are rather irrelevant and expendable.
All of the top tier decks, from Blackwings to Gladiator Beasts to Synchro Cat, have numerous methods of destroying multiple cards in one turn. I would suggest focusing on cards that can help you prevent the Gyzarus's and Black Rose Dragon's from hitting the field. With Dust Tornado, Book of Moon, and other cards starting to see frequent play in triplicate, most of these players are almost doing your job of simplifying the game for you.
Keep it simple. Simplified game states with Gadgets are still the time-tested method for winning. If you are unlucky enough to be faced with this new deck type, turtle up and build resources as soon as possible.