A Closer Look: The Top Decks

Hello, readers! My name is Andrew Tenjum. I may not be that well-known in the Yu-Gi-Oh community, aside from certain online forums, but I certainly know what I'm talking about. This will be my first article for alterealitygames.com, but rather than going through a corny introduction, I'm going to go straight into the article. After all, that's what you came here to read, right?

The game of Yu-Gi-Oh is not as simple as many beginner or even intermediate players may think. Although many players refuse to acknowledge it, Yu-Gi-Oh is a game of skill. Don't get me wrong – there are times when the outcome of a match is completely out of your control. However, a more-skilled player will beat a less-skilled player a surprisingly large percentage of the time. This is why the same top players are always at the top tables of your local, regional, and premier events. They are the ones who more often make the correct play in any given in-game situation.

The optimal play cannot be made based solely on a linear thought process. There are an infinite number of factors that contribute to defining the optimal play. For this reason, it is near impossible to consistently play flawlessly. I believe that the only way to become a better player is to play against top players repeatedly. However, a good start to becoming a better player is building and using a good deck. I see many players with potential struggling in tournament settings simply because of their non-optimal deck choice.

Today, I'm going to give a different, and perhaps more analytical perspective of the top decks this format. I will explain not only why the top decks are good, but also why other decks are not as successful in a tournament setting. I have personally made a list of what I believe to be the top decks of the format, ranked in order. Although many of you will disagree with me, I will explain as well as I can my reasons for why I rank a particular deck higher or lower than another. Feel free to leave comments below if you disagree with me.

Tier 1 – The Big 3– These are the three decks that I consider to be the top decks of the format. All three of them have their pros and cons, and there is not a significant difference in playability between them. If I were to play in an upcoming YCS, I would choose one of these decks.

1. Plant Synchro
Plant Synchro has been my favorite deck this format thus far, and for good reason. Out of the 3 regionals I have played this format with the deck, I placed in the Top 8 twice and in the third I placed 12th. I believe that the main reason for it's success is it's flexibility. Some decks in Yu-Gi-Oh may sometimes be referred to as “one-dimensional”, meaning you can only play the deck one way, and if that game plan is unsuccessful, you will lose the game. The wonderful thing about Plant Synchro is that there are several different ways you can play the deck. The first way is to play monsters such as Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter, Sangan, Card Trooper, and Caius the Shadow Monarch to slowly whittle away at your opponents resources or lifepoints. At the same time, you are setting up for bigger plays to come. When you can no longer continue doing this, you then have the option of creating a field including a boss monster such as Stardust Dragon or Tytannial, Princess of Camellias along with protection such as Book of Moon, Solemn Warning, Solemn Judgment, Effect Veiler, or Fluff Tokens. Usually this set-up is extremely hard to break and will win you the game outright. However, if your opponent manages to break your set-up or is able to prevent it completely, you have other options. Plant Synchro succeeds at playing reactively by holding onto outs in your hand until your opponent decides to make a push or commit to the field. When they do this, you can play your Debris Dragon to make Black Rose Dragon to break their set-up. Furthermore, Formula Synchron and Pot of Avarice ensure that you do not run out of resources.

1. Gravekeeper's
Ah, Gravekeeper's... This deck has been discussed so many times since they first appeared on the scene at YCS Atlanta, taking 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. Although, Gravekeeper's is not quite as flexible as Plant Synchro, it certainly has advantages that other decks (Plant Synchro included) do not have. One option that Gravekeeper's has that no other deck in the game has is Royal Tribute. A first turn Royal Tribute is extremely consistent (with 3 Gravekeeper's Commandant, 3 Pot of Duality, and 1 Allure of Darkness) and can often win the game on it's own. Decks that play 20 or more monsters such as Plant Synchro and Fish OTK will lose outright to a 1st turn Royal Tribute. Even if this on it's
own does not win the game, Gravekeeper's has many more options. Gravekeeper's Spy is an instant +1 and fetches two of the other monsters vital to the deck, Gravekeeper's Descendent and Gravekeeper's Recruiter. These two cards in conjunction with each other are an answer to most troubling cards on your opponent's side of the field without losing anything. In addition, They are 2000 and 1700 attack beatsticks, respectively, while Necrovalley is on the field.
Speaking of Necrovalley, the card in itself is extremely disruptive. Many of the popular decks this format are running plenty of cards that become dead draws with it on the field. Gravekeeper's Stele ensures that you do not run out of monsters, despite running such a low amount. The deck is fast and aggressive, applying constant pressure on the opponent.

1. Blackwings
Blackwings have been finishing consistently all format, taking multiple Top 32 spots at the last few YCS's. I believe that Blackwings are a bit underpowered in a way, but make up for it with consistency. One great thing about Blackwings is the ability to run multiple draw cards such as Pot of Duality, Cards for Black Feathers, and Allure of Darkness. These cards allow you to smooth out rough hands as well as draw into your power cards such as Black Whirlwind, Dark Armed Dragon, and Icarus Attack. Icarus Attack in particular is a vital card in Blackwings because it's an out to almost anything and can often be chained to removal for a +1. Blackwing – Bora the Spear is great against the low-defense monsters Plant Synchro leaves on the field, especially in conjunction with Blackwing – Sirocco the Dawn. Blackwing – Shura the Blue Flame generates free monsters to either synchro summon or leave on the field as a beatstick. Opponents must often make the decision to use Book of Moon on a face-up  Shura in order to dodge Kalut or save it to protect them next turn. Blackwing – Blizzard the Far North gives you free access to LV6 synchros whenever necessary throughout the game. Another great thing about Blackwings is that they are not hurt by Gravekeepers as many other decks are. Blackwings are another fast and aggressive deck that have access to 3 copies of one of the most powerful removal cards in the game.

Tier 1.5 – Just Missed the Cut... - These decks are solid choices for tournament play, but I feel each of them have a flaw that prevents them from being Tier 1.

1. Fish OTK
When I first heard about this deck, many online players were hyping it to be the next big deck. I playtested the deck in several matches and confirmed how powerful the deck was. However, the more I played the deck, the more I realized that despite how powerful and consistent the deck is, I could never see myself playing it in a 10+ round tournament. One immediate reason is because of how one-dimensional the deck is. The deck honestly cannot win without an OTK. If you opponent manages to stop your OTK with something like Effect Veiler, Gorz, Tragoedia, and is able to follow up with a Dark Hole or Debris Dragon, you will lose the game. In addition, sided cards such as Chain Disappearance and D.D. Crow make your Game 2 and Game 3 match-up worse. There is also the random Stun, Macro Cosmos, or other Anti-Meta deck that you might encounter throughout 10+ rounds that you simply cannot beat. I would rather play a flexible deck that I can play differently based on the match-up and opponent rather than a mindless, combo-based OTK deck.

5. X-Sabers

Much like Fish OTK, I feel that X-Sabers are a very hit-or-miss deck. Although it is a very powerful deck that can make a field of synchros and potentially discard your opponent's entire hand, failure to do so leaves you very vulnerable and without a back-up plan. Although there are viable strategies such as “Protect the Fulhelmknight”, the only play-style that will further the game-state for you would be slow-playing your hand until you are able to explode. Playing Cold Wave, followed by two X-Saber monsters and finally a Faultroll is an extremely explosive play and hard to come back from. However, not only do you have to survive until all of your combo pieces are in place, but you also have to hope your opponent doesn't have any answers such as an Effect Veiler or a Mind Crush. In Game 2 and Game 3, cards like Thunder King Rai-Oh make your job as an X-Saber player even harder. I don't believe it is necessary to play a hit-or-miss deck this format when you can simply run a flexible deck like Plant Synchro, or the best Anti-Meta deck to ever exist in Yu-Gi-Oh (Gravekeeper's).

Tier 2+ - The Rest – I would personally never play these decks in a serious tournament. I will not go as in depth with these because it is somewhat obvious in each case as to why it is not a top deck and it is shown by tournament results.

Gladiator Beasts – One dimensional, cannot recover from big plays, lacks explosive plays, and very few answers to set-ups.

Scraps – Not as powerful and less consistent than Plant Synchro, yet plays the same way. Loses if you can't get a Scrap Dragon on the board.

Infernity – Loses to D.D. Crow and Anti-Meta, easy to disrupt combos. Even after the combo is successful, their set-up can still be broken relatively easy.

Machina Gadget – One dimensional, loses to Chimeratech Fortress Dragon. Lacks explosive plays and ability to handle different situations.

Lightsworn – Relies on mills, has tendency to draw completely dead hands. Reliant on Judgment Dragon as a win condition.

Stun/Macro/Light City/Other Anti-Meta – One dimensional, bad match-up against Blackwings and lacks of explosive plays.

There you have it – my thoughts on the top decks of the format. As I said before, I believe that there is little difference between the top 3 decks in playability and only a moderate drop off between Tier 1 and Tier 1.5. You should play the deck you feel most comfortable with. And of course, making correct plays is more important than what deck you play, so get out there a playtest with a friend!

Andrew Tenjum

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