Analyzing ARG Format Matchups

Now that there have been two events in ARG format, I wanted to take the time to discuss the popular decks that we’ve seen so far and how they stack up against one another. I think it’s important to understand how cards interact across all matchups, so let’s dive right in, shall we?

Stellarknight Constellar DiamondSatellarknights

I had the pleasure of playing this deck at the first ARG format event in Charlotte, North Carolina. While it wasn’t my first choice, I am still happy to have gained the experience from using something other than Nekroz for once this year. I think this deck has a strong matchup against Burning Abyss thanks to its easy access to Stellarknight Constellar Diamond, and the immense side deck options available. I was siding Stygian Dirge, Flying “C”, and Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror—all of which are game if they stay on the field for as little as two turns. The best thing this deck has to offer is Triverr. I didn’t lose a single game where that card went through, and it has led me to believe that the swing in card advantage is just far too great to be overcome. I think the only real way out of a Triverr loop is Denko Sekka, but Burning Abyss cannot play that card so it’s kind of over once it gets going. I also like how this deck makes an End Phase Call of the Haunted/ Oasis of Dragon Souls lethal. If you don’t stop it, you’d better have a good answer to the Xyz that’s about to hit the field.

Unfortunately, Charlotte also gave me the pleasure of learning how awful the Nekroz matchup is for Satellarknights. Even with one copy of Unicore (at the time), you will find yourself easily overwhelmed by the blue deck. Clausolas is too much, Decisive Armor is too much, Gungnir is too much, and playing through three copies of Nekroz Cycle is a nightmare. Add that in with the fact that Nekroz has a few autowins thanks to Royal Decree and Denko Sekka, or you just not drawing enough traps, or you just drawing the wrong traps, and you have yourself a nice little recipe for disaster. My biggest gripe with Satellarknights is how you absolutely must draw Deneb every single game against Nekroz to even have a fighting chance. Your counter trap is significantly worse if you’re tributing off Altair, Vega, or Unukhalai, and you will be overwhelmed in no time by their card advantage. Also, ever since Valkyrus became an engine by itself, you can’t risk letting Nekroz players go first because they can power through their decks on turn one in order to dig for side deck cards. If you don’t kill it immediately, it will gain further advantage and put you too far behind.

black horn of heavenI was siding three copies of Black Horn of Heaven to make the mirror match and the Qliphort matchup way easier. I ended up beating both of those decks with relative ease as a result, and Black Horn proved itself to be a great asset throughout the tournament. Since the mirror match often comes down to who can resolve the first Delteros or first Triverr, you can see why this counter trap would be a little overpowered here. There’s only one real way to play around it, and that usually entails having four Satellarknights on the field so that you can use Stellarnova Alpha on Black Horn of Heaven should your opponent have it. Wiretap is a good option, too, but you have to already be in a good position for that card to work, otherwise you’ll be sitting there wishing it was anything else when the Xyz plays start happening.

Burning Abyss

This is one of the decks that plays completely different in ARG’s format than it does in Konami‘s format. I noticed that just about every BA player uses three copies of Fire Lake and The Traveler and the Burning Abyss thanks to Zane Lingerfelt, who was the first to discover and succeed with the strategy, and now it is a mainstay at ARG events. It allows the deck to keep up with Nekroz and combat Abyss Dweller at the same time. Once they get the loop going with both traps, you can pretty much scoop it up unless you have a Denko. I would say BA actually had a solid matchup against “blue deck wins” before Unicore went back to three because it was slightly difficult to make Rank 4s. Going forward, I do not forsee this matchup being “solid” any longer. To add to that fire, people are starting to catch on to the devastation that is Ally of Justice Cycle Reader. It banishes up to two light monsters from your opponent’s graveyard, and it’s a hand trap. Needless to say, if a BA player ever loses both of their Dantes in this way, the game is over. The scary thing is, you can’t really do too much to play around it, and so you have to just hope that they don’t have it a lot of the time. It’s the same thing with Flying “C”, except that one isn’t instantly game.

Breakthrough SkillBA does still have a good matchup against Qliphorts, except for when they summon Towers. Everything else the deck does is easily stopped by Fire Lake, as always. In this matchup, the BA player wants to go first in order to prevent the possibility of Towers being dropped, and from there it’s just basic beatdown. It’s even easier now because Qliphorts are playing close to zero traps.

The Satellarknight matchup is not very fun for BA. You have to always have an answer for Diamond or Triverr when they’re summoned, and sometimes you just won’t have the luxury. Breakthrough Skill and Fiend Griefing are godsends in this matchup but even still, things can get out of hand very quickly. In games two and three, Stygian Dirge, Flying “C”, and Cycle Reader get added to the list of things to worry about. At that point, your best bet is to resolve Fire Lake without them having a Stellarnova Alpha.

Nekroz

This is obviously still the best deck in ARG’s format, and probably in Konami’s format as well. I think the main reason for its constant success is how consistent the engine is even when you remove or limit a piece. In order to truly balance this deck, you would need to hit it hard like the OCG. Having six copies of Stratos and several other searchers gives the deck unparalleled resilience to whatever you can throw at it. Also, the restriction of Djinn made the deck even stronger because it doesn’t have to play any cards that do not support the overall strategy.

With Unicore being at three for the next event, I would say that Nekroz actually just got better despite losing two copies of Shurit. Unicore does so many things for the deck that I am actually surprised it is unlimited again. First and foremost, it allows for easy Rank 4 plays, and you can tell how important they were because people started resorting to mediocre cards like Aqua Spirit to compensate. None of that will be necessary anymore. Also, with the new discovery of Exa, Enforcer of the Nekroz, having just one copy of Shurit is not a problem since he allows you to fetch it from the banished zone. Unicore also supports the deck by making sure that you always have a much needed Valkyrus to defend yourself before ending your turn, and it cuts off the strategies of the opposing decks for free. On top of that, summoning Unicore by using Herald of Arc Light will yield a search of any ritual spell or monster, while tributing a Shurit had only searched for either Brionac or Clausolas. What is kind of funny about this situation is that Unicore can also reuse that one copy of Shurit if need be, while still being an overall more important card altogether.

I suspect the BA matchup will get better for Nekroz since Abyss Dweller will be that much easier to summon. Also, Denko Sekka gets a huge boost because you will have a higher chance of opening with her and Unicore, which will then be used to search a Valkyrus and ensure that you keep all traps on lockdown AND the extra deck at the same time.

With easier access to Exciton Knight and Diamond King Crab, the Qliphort matchup just got a lot easier for Nekroz, too. I already think that deck sucks as is, but this can’t help it either. Also, since Qliphorts are virtually trapless, Nekroz has the freedom to do as it pleases in this matchup, which is not okay. I also think that since Kaleidoscope can once again do the Unicore + Valk play consistently, you will be able to dish out massive damage in a single turn just like last format.

The Nekroz mirror match will most likely revert back to recycling cards with the effect of Daigusto Emeral and then tributing it off for Valkyrus. The good thing is…there’s no Trishula to force you to clear your field every turn. As a result, cards like Great Sorcerer, Exa, and Catastor will still prove to be good for this super grindy matchup.

summoner's artQliphorts

This deck started the ARG format as the most feared out of everything presented. It went virtually unscathed on the banlist, losing only one Summoner’s Art, and the community foresaw Towers Turbo becoming the new Djinn-lock. Fortunately, nothing actually happened when it was time for the deck to perform. I believe only two Qliphort decks have topped in two events, which is not a good showing for the overly hyped helmet patrol. It kind of reminds me of Dark World’s premier at YCS Ohio in 2011 when everyone thought it was Tier 0. As fate would have it, not even one player was able to make the top cut with the deck. Usually, this is because everyone oversides for the most hyped up deck, which is partly the reason that Qliphorts haven’t been doing so well, but I think there’s a little more to it than that.

I previously mentioned how Qliphort players have opted for close to zero traps now, and I think that is simply a mistake. Everyone seems to have forgotten what the most annoying part about that deck was: Lost 1 Turn. That card is literally game by itself 99% of the time. It already looks like none of the Nekroz players are maining MST, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon, so what happened to the most absurd floodgate in Yu-Gi-Oh? I mean, I get it, summoning Towers is insane, but that’s only true when everyone who plays the game isn’t prepared for it. And guess what? Everyone happens to be prepared for it. Literally. Everyone. Even the dragon duelists can see that thing coming from a bottom table away.

Maybe Qliphort players haven’t realized that they can still summon Towers without making their decks all-or-nothing? Because honestly, the most devastating summon of that card happens when there are backrows behind it. Even just one is scary enough, especially if it’s real. I feel like the way people have the deck built is just asking to get destroyed by Nekroz. As for the BA matchup, well, all BA players are pretty much using three copies of Fire Lake, so that is going to have to be something you side heavily for. I’m no Crystal Seer, but I think there will be way fewer BA players than Nekroz players in pretty much every event at this point. To get out of swiss, you will need to beat a couple Nekroz matchups first no matter where you are. And I don’t think I have to mention Satellarknights since they lose to Lose 1 Turn and Skill Drain just as much. So, to sum it all up, I think Qliphorts should go back to their roots and play heavy backrows again. If that doesn’t work, there are tons of other decks to try.

Until next time, duelists! Remember, Play Hard or Go Home!

-Frazier Smith

-The Dark Magician

Frazier Smith

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