ARGCS Raleigh 1st Place Tournament Report – Part 1: My Burning Abyss Deck Explained

Hey everybody! I’m back this week with a tournament report for the ARG Circuit Series that took place in Raleigh, North Carolina this past weekend. I played a Burning Abyss deck that was a good bit different than the standard build. This will be a two-part article. Today I will tell you how I arrived at my deck choice of Burning Abyss and then go into the logic I used for my individual card choices. In my next article, I’ll bring you a round-by-round synopsis of my tournament experience. Let’s get right into this!


Last week I talked about solving the trap card paradox that currently exists in the format. I came to the conclusion that the “bigger” the deck was, the better the deck was. If this is the case, why play Burning Abyss instead of Shaddoll?


The standard build that has Mathematicians and is trap heavy is not a very big deck, and certainly not very big in comparison to Shaddolls. So what’s the answer? Make Burning Abyss the bigger deck.


MATHEMATICIANLet’s take a look at the finalized list:


Monsters: 19

3 Tour Guide from the Underworld

2 Calcab, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

3 Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

3 Rubic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

3 Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

3 Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Alich, Malebranch of the Burning Abyss

1 Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning


Spells: 10

1 Soul Charge

1 Rank-Up Magic Astral Force

3 Mystical Space Typhoon

3 Upstart Goblin

1 Allure of Darkness

1 Foolish Burial


Traps: 11

3 Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss

3 Phoenix Wing Wind Blast

3 Vanity's Emptiness

2 Karma Cut


Side Deck: 15

3 Vanity's Fiend

3 Majesty's Fiend

2 Puppet Plant

3 The Monarchs Stormforth

3 Fairy Wind

1 Bottomless Trap Hole


Extra Deck: 15

3 Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss

2 Downerd Magician

1 Number 47: Nightmare Shark

2 Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss

1 Number C69: Heraldry Crest of Horror

1 Number 20: Giga-Brilliant

1 Wind-Up Zenmaines

1 Constellar Pleiades

1 Ghostrick Alucard

1 Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction

1 Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut


The release of New Challengers gave Burning Abyss the necessary card pool to transform from a little deck to a big deck. It also filled two major components that are typically found in the best deck that the deck was previously lacking.


danteThe first of these was the deck’s inability to deal with an established field. Previously, if you could not out it with Dante, you weren’t outing it without a trap card. This became a major problem as it made the deck heavily reliant on trap cards. It needed a trap card every turn to prevent your opponent from setting up. One of those turns, you’re bound to draw a Burning Abyss or Tour Guide instead of a trap card for your turn. When that happened, your opponent could then set up a field that you couldn’t break. This all changed with Virgil’s release.


The second problem ties directly in with the first problem. If you can’t deal with established fields effectively with your engine, you’re going to have to rely on traps. Typically, the best deck can use its engine to create defense. Dragons could summon Felgrand, Mermails had Dweller or Giant Hand, Sylvans could use Orea to draw into Vanity’s Emptiness, etc. The best decks always have this component so that they are free to run fewer defensive cards and have a stronger engine instead.


Until New Challengers was released, the deck lacked this. As I said, it had to draw a trap card every single turn to ensure that the opponent couldn’t setup. Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss changed this. It gave the deck almost searchable defense since it was retrievable off of Dante.


What would usually be the case before was Burning Abyss would have plenty of engine and traps going on in the early game. As the game continues, your opponent will try to advance their game state and whittle away your defenses. If you had more defense than the opponent had resources to throw into your defense, you’d win. If they had more resources than you had defense, they’d win.


Fire Lake allows us to avoid this coin flip-like interaction between traps and resources. In a normal game, Burning Abyss would likely have enough defense to get through the early game, but not be able to consistently draw into more as the game continues. Fire Lake makes it so that we can get to a certain point in the game and just continue to recycle it with Dante looping it. Since Fire Lake is defensive, we no longer have to draw a defensive card in its place and we’ve fixed a major flaw in the deck.


Tour GuideNow that we have the card pool to address two of the major flaws of the deck, how do we go about making the deck big enough? I want to have the most options possible available to me in a single turn. I don’t want my Tour Guide to get stopped and then I have to set a trap and end my turn. I want to be able to do something else if my first play is stopped.


This is where Rubic, Alich, and Calcab come into the picture. Most people were using 1-2 copies of Rubic and avoiding Alich and Calcab altogether. Their effects are pretty subpar, granted, but I don’t think that’s right approach to take to them. I’d consider their effects bonuses and nothing more. Honestly they aren’t that relevant. What is relevant, however, is the ability to special summon themselves from your hand.


There inclusion makes the deck much bigger. Let’s say I have Alich, Calcab, and Tour Guide in hand and my opponent has a set card. If I summon the Burning Abyss first, I can make a push and then a second push if it is stopped. They’re going to need more than a single Breakthrough Skill or Artifact Sanctum to make me end my turn. If instead one of those monsters were Mathematician like they might be in the standard build, I can only summon either Mathematician or Tour Guide, but not both. This means that they can stop one and they’ve effectively stopped the other, at least until next turn.


So how did I arrive on my ratio of 3:2:1 for the monsters from the new set? Well, I knew I wanted a fair amount of them in my deck as they make the deck bigger, but as I said their effects weren’t exactly anything but a bonus. Being a Tuner is essentially an effect Rubic has that, unlike the other two, is actually relevant. Making Virgil comes up a great deal. If one has a useful effect and the other two don’t, it seems obvious that it should be maxed out on before the others are event considered. Thus, I included 3 Rubic.


Why make it a 2:1 ratio for Alich and Calcab? Why not figure out which one is better and play 3 of that one and 0 of the other? It’s true that one is likely more useful than the other, even if their additional effects are relatively useless, but diversity should sometimes be considered when the difference is marginal. This deck is highly capable of searching and recycling its monsters. If we assume Calcab to be the superior monster, that doesn’t make it automatically better than Alich in all situations, it just makes it better than Alich in most situations. However, if our opponent has a Winda on the field, Calcab isn’t going to do us much good. The ability to search and recycle Alich in this scenario is valuable.


number 30Alich also has a neat interaction with Acid Golem. While Acid Golem’s negative sides generally outweigh his benefits, there are still some scenarios where only Acid Golem is going to do the trick and get the job done. Alich makes these scenarios much better for us. We can make Acid Golem using Alich and then attack over something big. The following turn we can detach Alich for Acid Golem and use it to negate Acid Golem. We can now special summon freely, where otherwise we would not have been able. This lets us attack with him again, but this time use Acid Golem to overlay for Downerd Magician. This gives us a way to get Acid Golem off the field before he restricts our ability to advance the game state too much or dwindles all of our life points away.


Diversity is also important to consider when you think of the Burning Abyss in a more general way. The entire purpose of Alich and Calcab is to special them from our hand so that we are able to do more. If we played 3 Calcab and 0 Alich, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario where we have 2 Calcab in our hand. This means that we can only summon 1 of them that turn and the other one won’t give us value from special summoning it. If instead we have 1 Calcab and 1 Alich in hand, we can get value out of special summoning them both.


When constructing this deck, I was concerned with how traps fit into the deck. Every trap you have in hand is one less engine card you could have to advance your game state. Thus, big decks often have fewer defensive cards. The more combo oriented, the lower the ideal amount of traps in the deck is and vice versa. In my experience, I’ve found the ideal number of defenses for a big deck to be as high as 9 if it is less combo oriented (Dragon Rulers) and as low as 5 if it is more combo oriented (Sylvans). It can also be anywhere in between these numbers depending on the degree of combo oriented the deck is. For example, I found the ideal number of traps in Mermails, a deck I’d consider less combo oriented on the spectrum, to be 6-7 and the ideal number of traps in Dragunity, a deck I’d consider a little more combo oriented, to be 5-6.


vanity's emptinessIf we look at this deck, it seems contradictory to the theoretical ideal number of traps it should play. I’d say it is slightly less combo oriented big deck, much like Mermails. Going off of previous experiences, this leaves a 6-7 trap ideal. If we actually look at the deck I ended up playing, we’ve got 3 Vanity’s Emptiness, 3 Phoenix Wing Wind Blast, 2 Karma Cut, 3 Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss, and a single copy of Rank-Up Magic that essentially acts as defense. That’s 12 and the ideal should be 6-7 according to this model. Where’s the disconnect? Why does the deck play literally twice the amount of defenses the model suggests it should play?


What if we’re looking at the idea of “traps” too narrowly? Generally, when I say “trap,” I’m referring to any defensive card. But, traps are sometimes not defensive. Mermails played Abyss-Sphere and Reckless Greed that were technically “traps,” but they were really apart of their engine, not defense. Another example is Shaddolls playing Sinister Shadow Games.


Now all of our traps are actual defensive cards as well and we’ve got a non-trap that acts as defense (Rank-Up), but can any of them actually double as part of the engine? Phoenix Wing and Karma Cut come to mind as they allow me to discard Graff, Cir, or Scarm and advance my game state while simultaneously acting as defensive cards.


If you think about this, it’s kind of a common trend for parts of the engine that are traps to have some sort of defensive properties in addition to their engine properties. Mermails could use Abyss-Sphere to pull Abysspike from deck and discard Atlantean Heavy Infantry to destroy a card. Shaddolls can use Sinister Shadow Games to flip up Shaddoll Squamata or Shaddoll Dragon and trigger its flip effect, something that practically acts defensive.


phoenix wing wind blastPhoenix Wing and Karma Cut appear to follow this pattern of traps that double as both engine cards and defense cards. The entire problem with having too much defense was that every defensive card in your hand is one less card to advance your game state. In this case, Phoenix Wing and Karma Cut are actually advancing our game state. This allows us to not count them towards our trap ideal. This leaves us with 3 Vanity’s Emptiness, 3 Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss, and essentially Rank-Up Magic for true defense. This means we hit the mark of 6-7 defensive cards right where we wanted to.


While we’re talking about Rank-Up, I’d like to expand on it a little bit. It’s a higher risk card in that it won’t be good when you’re losing and don’t have a monster to use it on, but traps in general aren’t good when you’re losing since they don’t advance your game state. Since traps are only good when you’re winning, Rank-Up is justifiable. While Pleiades is the obvious main draw to the card, I also severely disliked the idea of outright losing to a Qliphort player who summoned Towers. Rank-Up gave me access to C69, which could attack over Towers.


Giga-Brilliant was relevant in the mirror match since it helps you break walls of Dantes with 2500 defense. The second Virgil rarely comes up, but it does so enough to justify running a second. Zenmaines is most relevant against Qliphorts to pop Scout and floodgates like Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror. I’d say that Downerd was previously a staple at 3 in Burning Abyss prior to the new set, but the additional Burning Abyss monsters change this. You can’t afford to leave a monster on the field that isn’t a Burning Abyss as it will severely limit your ability to advance your game, thus, it comes up less often and I only play 2.


The side deck plan was primarily routed around beating Shaddolls. Majesty’s and Vanity’s Fiend ensured that they weren’t allowed to play. The idea was that I could gain advantage through them having to set monsters to stay alive long while they dig for an answer and that by the time they finally get to their answer, I’ll have amassed enough resources to overwhelm them. Stormforth complemented this strategy well as it outed already-established fields that the Fiends would be normal too and it played around El Shaddoll Fusion. I used to like Puppet Plant against Shaddolls, but it’s strictly less good now because they can simply chain El Shaddoll Fusion to it.


Bottomless Trap HoleFairy Wind and Bottomless Trap Hole were primarily for Qliphorts, but I must admit Fairy Wind was a bit awkward at times. I found that on multiple occasions my opponent would activate Scout, while already controlling a monster equipped with Saqlifice. If I use Fairy Wind here, Saqlifice will go to the grave and they can simply search another Scout. At times I would have greatly preferred Dust Tornado to Fairy Wind, but other times Fairy Wind took out floodgates and Pendullums. It’s possible that this should not be a 3:0 ratio like it currently is.


That about wraps up my explanation of card choices for the Burning Abyss deck that I played this past weekend. I hope you’ll check back next week to see the second part of this article, in which I give you a round-by-round synopsis of my tournament experience. I wish all players going to the ARG Circuit Series this weekend in Seattle the best of luck.


I, unfortunately, won’t be in attendance due to a conflicting school schedule. Fun fact, this will be the first premier event in the United States that I’ve missed since late 2010. While traveling is great, school is also one of my top priorities. I’ll be back on the competitive circuit the following weekend for the YCS in Anaheim, then the week after that at the Circuit Series in Chicago, and the final event of the year will be a Circuit Series one weekend after that right in my own backyard of Atlanta! I hope you all come out to as many of these events as you can possibly make it to and I hope that you check back for the second part of this article next week. Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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