Analyzing HAM Shaddolls

In recent tournaments, Shaddolls have been gaining popularity thanks to the rise in Burning Abyss players. This has led to many innovations, most of which have stemmed from Jeff Jones, and most recently Paul Cooper. Since I’m an avid fan of Shaddolls over Burning Abyss and Qliphorts, I can tell you that nothing makes me happier than seeing this deck perform well again. In this article, I will be analyzing Cooper’s HAM Shaddolls, and explaining why it’s a strong pick against the current meta.

Monsters: 23

3 Denko Sekka

3 Mathematician

3 Shaddoll Beast

2 Shaddoll Dragn

2 Shaddoll Hedgehog

2 Shaddoll Squamata

2 Black Dragon Collapserpent

2 White Dragon Wyverbuster

1 Shaddoll Falco

1 Eclipse Wyvern

1 Dark Armed Dragon

1 Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning

Spells: 16

3 Shaddoll Fusion

3 El Shaddoll Fusion

3 Upstart Goblin

2 Enemy Controller

2 Mystical Space Typhoon

1 Foolish Burial

1 Allure of Darkness

1 Super Polymerization (Snatch Steal)*

Traps: 1

1 Shaddoll Core

Extra Deck: 15

3 El Shaddoll Construct

3 El Shaddoll Winda

1 El Shaddoll Shekhinaga

1 Arcanite Magician

1 Leo, Keeper of the Sacred Tree

1 Abyss Dweller

1 Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer

1 Daigusto Emeral

1 Downerd Magician

1 Evilswarm Exciton Knight

1 Lavalval Chain

*Paul played Super Polymerization since this deck was before the January 2015 banlist, but I think you could easily replace it with another powerful limited card—Snatch Steal.

The first thing that I love about this deck is the inclusion of Upstart Goblin. Many players have opted to forego that option because of Qliphort Scout, which seems silly since history has already taught us that Upstart should be played in a deck that needs to draw specific cards, regardless (think Soul Charge). If you recall, successful Geargia players all used Upstart Goblin despite the fact that Soul Charge was at three per deck. You needed to open with Geargiarmor, Geargiarsenal, or Geargiagear to have a solid start. Shaddolls are very much like this in that they need to open with Shaddoll Fusion or El Shaddoll Fusion to have a chance against Burning Abyss. Playing 37 cards will yield the highest possible chance of having one of the six fusion cards in your opening hand. The lifepoint gain is negligible. This deck can put out so much damage with Enemy Controller, Baby Dragons, Dark Armed Dragon, and El Shaddoll Fusion.

The second thing that makes Paul’s deck extremely solid is how he uses only one trap card—Shaddoll Core. In general, trap cards are slow. If your deck is trap heavy, it means that you will be doing more reactive playing than proactive playing. In some formats, that’s exactly what you want (think HAT). However, in a format where someone can consistently summon two monsters with 2500 ATK (Dante) on turn one, you might need to reconsider playing too many cards that require a full turn to use. On top of that, Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss makes traps too risky. If your best play is to set three backrows and pass, raw monsters will undoubtedly blow you out. At this point, it should be common knowledge that throwing monsters into backrows will eventually win the game, especially when those monsters are floaters.

So what does this mean for Paul’s deck? Well, it means that his deck has a natural advantage going second because almost all of his cards are proactive. He doesn’t need a turn to set up. If you open with double Dante, he could fire back with Denko Sekka and Shaddoll Fusion. Even El Shaddoll Fusion is fine if one of the Fusion materials is Squamata because you can send Shaddoll Core and Shaddoll Fusion to the graveyard with Construct and Squamata’s effects, allowing you to add the Shaddoll Fusion to your hand and play it on the same turn. This play is the sole reason that Shaddoll Core is the only trap card in the deck. If you think about it, Shaddoll Core isn’t being used as your conventional trap. It’s actually just as proactive as any other card as long as you don’t draw it.

Eclipse Wyvern and Dark Armed Dragon haven’t seen much play lately because they are often seen as a gimmick and can create some less than stellar hands. In other words, they are cards with high variance. On one hand, Dark Armed Dragon is a bomb that usually ends the game if he resolves, but on the other hand, you can draw him either too early or too late. So why would Cooper want to play a two card package that can be unreliable? The reason is that his deck is not trying to grind it out. If he wanted to grind, he’d be using more traps. He simply wants to OTK his opponents or establish unbreakable boards in the early game, which means a card like Dark Armed Dragon is less likely to suffer from the “too late” problem.

Another thing to note about this list is how it has a good matchup against the standard Denko Doll deck because he doesn’t play any real traps. That means she will often act as a 1700 vanilla monster in the hands of the opponent. We saw something similar back in 2012 with Chaos Dragons, a deck that used zero trap cards and banked on the fact that everyone was using Heavy Storm and three Mystical Space Typhoons. No one wants to have four dead cards against a super aggro deck. Also, Shaddoll Dragon can be pretty awful against Cooper’s list for the same reason. Whenever you fuse with a Shaddoll monster without resolving its effect, you’re going minus. And if you’re staring at his copies of Enemy Controller and thinking that he sets them, you are sadly mistaken. That is one of those cards that you hold in your hand until you’re ready to play it. You don’t want to give your opponents something to use their otherwise dead cards on. Why give up an advantage? Now, of course there are times when it is the correct thing to do to set it, but you will be able to feel out those rare occasions.

Now that Snatch Steal is a thing, this deck has the opportunity to do even more damage. Your opponents will have to be fearful of leaving out a monster like BLS or a sole Qliphort Disk. Imagine if your opponent summoned Disk, resolved its effect, did some damage that turn, and then passed. That play is pretty standard for Qliphorts on their second turn. If you don’t die from the onslaught, Snatch Steal could give you an easy OTK. Assuming he or she paid for Qliphort Scout at least once, you would have game with just Snatch Steal and Shaddoll Fusion: 2800 (Disk) + 2800 (Construct) + anything else (Denko Sekka, Baby Dragon, Normal Summoned Shaddoll which you could search from Shaddoll Hedgehog when resolving Construct). Actually, even if your opponent doesn’t die, he would be too low to pay for Scout again, and that’s pretty much game in itself.

Speaking of which, I’d like to point out the fact that this deck has a much better Qliphort matchup than a standard Shaddoll deck because it isn’t using many traps. The way that Qliphorts win most of their games is by grinding the opponent out of options until they can freely summon a huge field of monsters in a single turn. Opposing traps tend to aid in this goal. Not to mention that Vanity’ Emptiness just sucks against them, and Sinister Shadow Games will often act as just another copy of MST. Bottomless and Solemn Warning have the problem of being drawn after the fact, which gives them a high variance, but not the high variance that Paul is looking for. His deck is all about aggression, so if he has to play something that can either be amazing or terrible, he’d rather it be all about damage.

If you’ve been having a hard time keeping up with Burning Abyss and Qliphorts, then I strongly recommend trying this deck out. Play it without changes at first, and then tweak it to your liking. Keep in mind that the goal is not to play grind games. That being said, you will want to avoid adding traps to it.

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

-Frazier Smith

-The Dark Magician

Frazier Smith

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