Previous years when the Ban List was released, I would have gone out to write about each popular archtype with some type of general prediction about how well it would perform in the following format. Last time I was pretty spot on about certain deck types, but the majority of my predictions came from a steady about of Theory-Oh. I decided to wait on writing an article about this because this time around I wanted a reasonable amount of play in the new format to have more of an accurate idea about how I felt the upcoming format would shape up. I have been spending a lot of time play testing both in person and on Dueling Network, so I feel quite comfortable about some of the results I have been having.
So I am going to go through a few of the expected top deck right now, and discuss some of the results I have come across.
It didn't take much thought to see Mermails as one of the top decks heading into the March format. The Ban List did not touch a single card in the Mermail archtype, and even made restrictions on difficult matchups, such as Wind-Ups. I have found Mermails to be as potent of a deck as it was last format, and should be the main target of most players this format. I have found myself testing entire side decking packages geared toward defeating the Mermail deck, for example, side decks which include some number of Banisher of the Radiance and Level Limit - Area B. I have found that you absolutely cannot handle the amount of card advantage Mermails can create in a general sense. You either need to find a way to lock them out of their card effects (ex. Dweller, Dolkka, Shock Master, Macro, etc.) or be able to find a way to poke through as much damage as possible, because if you allow the game to progress long enough, you will just be taken down by their sheer card advantage. I have found that Mermails are easily the most explosive deck in the format, but I am reluctant to outright call them the best deck. They are exponentially more expensive than the other decks in the format, which does not often restrict how many people end up putting together copies of the deck when it is the undeniable best deck. But Dino-Rabbit and Wind-Ups may be as powerful, and cost an absolute fraction less. So there is this unique dynamic I have come across where regardless of how strong of a deck Mermails are, the numbers game may limit them to the strength of their playbase. This may not translate at the YCS level, since it usually has little effect - but depending on the setting you are playing, it certainly may.
This deck reminds me a lot of the spot that Lightsworn had in the September 2009 format. It has the most powerful cards in the format (Judgment Dragon to Abyssmegalo and Celestia to Abyssteus) but intelligent play by an opponent can still put them in restricting gamestates, such as that the Zombie decks could do. The Zombie deck nowadays may be considered the Fire Fist archtype, but can also be achieved by Dino-Rabbit and Wind-Ups. Mermails are definitely the most explosive deck in the format, but I am not about to declare them the undeniable favorite.
I love this archtype. Talk about a deck right up my alley. The deck can play virtually as many trap cards as you are willing to stuff into your deck, and a slew of advantage based creatures. I love when a suit of defensive traps can allow your monsters to just simply pound away card advantage, and that is exactly what Fire Fists is designed to do. I have tried versions of this deck using Dragon, the Gene-Warped engine and even the Sabersaurus engine. I have strayed away from builds consisting of Dragon because I found the attack boosting trap cards to be drastically underwhelming when you do not have Dragons. The deck really does not need help generating card advantage, and while I know Dragon can produce it, it really is not worth the risk of drawing subpar hands with multiple lackluster trap cards. Stick to the basics.
The Rabbit engines are an interesting thing. I am reluctant to just run two copies of Rescue Rabbit with the one playset of Gene Warped. With only two copies of Tour Guide and Reborn Tengu in the deck, I feel like you are just wishing to never see a hand with multiples of one creature. So assuming I would want to play another three normal monsters, which is not as daunting of an idea as some make it out to be, since I always thought normal monsters were actually good in a general sense. I am not sure if I would immediately toss Vorse Raiders into the deck. I know the synergy with Deck Devestation Virus is there, but I have yet to be impressed by that in testing. I may be bias with this statement, but when I was testing Sabersaurus in Fire Fists last format I was more impressed than Vorse Raider, and I have yet to be disappointed this format. I am not going to outright say six normal monsters is the way to go, but I would surely be sleeving up three Sabersaurus before Vorse Raider.
Okay, here is my problem with Dino-Rabbit right now. When Dino-Rabbit is as its absolute best, the normal monsters in the deck are actively powerful creatures. Last summer when I thought Dino-Rabbit was far and away the deck best, a creature as weak as Kabazauls was strong enough to compete with the other popular decks. Behind Macro Cosmos, every Inzektor short of Hopper needed some type of attack boost to compete, and Wind-Ups needed to conduct an XYZ summon to get over it. Chaos Dragons were always going to be able to get over a large creature if they had a special summon, but short of that Kabazauls was enough to at least stop Lyla from attacking directly. Sabersaurus was even better.
Now there are suddenly 2000 attack normal monsters in the fray, and an entire archtype in Mermails that will punish you for interacting with their monsters (ex. Abysslinde). So dropping a Kabazauls on the field can be risky proposition, seeing as how the deck is surely not going to be able to just draw Rescue Rabbit every game. What Dino-Rabbit is able to do is adjust the rest of the decklist to adapt to the popular strategies in the format, as shown by the success of Macro Cosmos. The thing is though, Fire Fists and Wind-Ups can simply adjust their side deck right now to do the same thing, but have a suit of creatures that just outclass you right now. Dino-Rabbit the best deck when properly making a meta call, but I am struggling to see why I would want to use it over some of the other archtypes out there right now.
You are never going to be able to kill this deck. Period.
One Magician and no ZenMaity? No problem. Instead the deck now focuses virtually all of its effort on grinding the opponent out with Wind-Up Factory. People have been jamming multiple copies of Tenki, Pot of Duality and even Cardcar D into the deck in hopes of turboing out early Wind-Up Rabbit/Wind-Up Factory gamestates. While at the same type trying to either put together a few of the OTK/Shock Master plays (Wind-Up Magician + Wind-Up Shark + Wind-Up Shark/on field Wind-Up Rabbit), or just exhausting all of the opponent's resources. Unlike the previous format where a significant portion of the games played were ended in the early stages of the game because of Shock Master locks, Wind-Ups actually advocate for a prolonged game because of how well they can bury the amount in sheer card advantage. Wind-Up Factory is far and away the strongest card advantage engine in the entire format, and is single handedly keeping Wind-Ups as a tier one deck. The best part for the Wind-Up player is, unlike previous formats where you dreaded a turn one Maxx "C" against an explosive play, the majority of plays made by Wind-Ups are simplified and less exposed to a devastating Maxx "C", and instead can just be countered by floating Wind-Up Rabbit/Rat on the field.
I have been playing a lot of Wind-Ups recently, and have been trying an array of different card choices. For example, Upstart Goblin, Pot of Duality, Cardcar D, Fire Fist - Bear, Zenmalstorm, Tour Guide from the Underworld, Trageodia and of course the necessary Wind-Up Warrior.
I am not entirely sure which version I am the most confident in, but there is a lot of room for deck building. The biggest question I have is how to adjust the extra deck in order to fit in the new Number 51: Volcasaurus with Gaia-Charger. Sometimes I just wish they would extend the extra deck out to 20 cards....
Sure, Lightsworn, Six Samurai, Blackwings and whatnot may sneak a spot in a YCS, or even win one. But they are strictly inferior decks. These are the top four decks because they are either 1.) Generating insurmountable card advantage (ex. Wind-Ups, Fire Fist, Mermail) 2.) Too Explosive (Mermails, Wind-Ups at times, Dino-Rabbit with the perfect opening) or 3.) Have Effect Negation (Mermail Abyssgaios, Dolkka/Laggia, Dweller and Shock Master)
You can play them, but it is undeniable that the superior decks this format are Fire Fist, Mermail, Wind-Up and Dino-Rabbit. Sounds a lot like last format right? The Ban List did nothing to Fire Fist, Mermail and Dino-Rabbit. All Wind-Ups had to do was realize synergy with M-X Saber Invoker and bam! Back to exactly what we had last format!