What’s up duelists! I hope you’re all excited with the release of the newest set, Abyss Rising, this past weekend. I know I am! This is my favorite time to get into the game. It’s when innovation really matters and ideas come to life for the first time. We’ll be seeing 3 new decks take off for the first time on the competitive level at YCS Seattle next weekend. There’s so many ways to approach this tournament, ranging from the obvious Water route, or the Spellbook/Prophecy strategy, or the cute and delicious looking Madolches. But the real issue here is the fact that there are even more decks to worry about now, as if we didn’t already have enough. A lot of players are having a tough time choosing what they want to do going forward, including myself, so hopefully this will help you all out. What I’m going to discuss in this article is the difficulty of using each deck and the reasons behind the rating. Before I dive in, I’d like to state that we’re aiming for perfect play so the difficulty will be based on how hard it is to see and execute the perfect plays with the deck every turn. Some decks don’t have many options and therefore they are much easier to play, while others have too many options and can give you a migraine *cough cough* WIND-UPS. So let’s get right into it shall we?
**The rating for each deck will be below the deck’s discussion.
***Not every deck will be discussed. For now we’ll stick with the most popular ones.
I’d like to kick things off with Agents. We all know this deck very well by now. It made its debut last year at YCS Rhode Island and has been a dominant force in Yu-Gi-Oh in all but one format since then. The deck has a very good matchup against Wind-ups which is one of the main reasons that I think it has been tearing up the tournament scene in the last 2 months. It also has Archlord Kristya which is just gg against just about every good deck. And the best part is that there is more than one way to play Agents, too. There’s the “Trooper-Call” build which fills the grave with big monsters and then brings them back at unexpected times on the opponent’s turn. And then there’s the “Trapless” build which is quite self-explanatory, but just in case you don’t know, I will say that the Trapless build plays Tour Guide and BLS, whereas the Trooper-Call build typically does not.
Now I didn’t go through the trouble of explaining that for nothing. The main reason why I distinguished between the two Agent builds was because I believe that they play very differently and therefore have different difficulties. The Trooper build is heavy on trap cards. Therefore, it plays more like a control deck. It also has several first turn plays that will dictate the flow of the duel. You can choose between a first turn Thunder King Rai-oh which is always a solid choice since he acts as both an offense and a defense. You could go for the first turn Venus into Gachi Gachi Gantetsu which gives your field a bit of a backbone against cards like Torrential Tribute and Solemn Warning. It also kick starts your deck for any boss monsters that you might be holding on to. And speaking of boss monsters, I want to make it clear that Agents are part of the old school style of Yu-Gi-Oh in that you’re supposed to play your bosses only when you either have game or when your opponent places one of their bosses on the field (except with Kristya which should be summoned as soon as you possibly can). Your bosses are meant to be reactive, not proactive. Think of the older Chaos Return format where you tried your hardest to summon your Chaos Sorcerer or BLS after your opponent summoned his/hers. For this reason I believe that it’s a rather difficult deck to play. Most people just don’t have the restraint to hold back their bosses or bait out the backrows with pressure from their normal summons. The best Agent players will know when to be aggressive and when to hold back. It’s imperative that you do both and not just one.
Standard Agents: Hard
Then there’s the Trapless build. It’s really not too hard to play anything Trapless once you’ve done it a couple times. Instead of a Control deck, it’s a Combo deck. You don’t have too much interaction with your opponent since you don’t play real trap cards, which means that you need to make each of your summons count a lot more than other decks. This also means that cards like Bottomless Traphole and Solemn Warning--which already hurt you-- will be even more potent. What I’ve noticed about people who play this deck incorrectly is that they have the propensity to squander their resources too quickly, thus entering “topdeck mode.” Let me tell you the number one rule: Trapless decks should NEVER go into topdecking! It is one of the worst case scenarios if you have 1 card in your hand and your deck doesn’t play backrows. It telegraphs to your opponent that he/she just needs to kill whatever you have on the board and the game is over. Don’t get me wrong, Agents can topdeck some pretty good cards like Hyperion, BLS, Sorcerer, etc. But you really don’t want to have to win that way if you can help it. Once again, it’s a battle of restraint. You’re supposed to be getting as much leverage with one monster as possible and then when the opponent’s life is low enough you can explode. Expert players like Simon He have executed this strategy most recently at YCS Rhode Island. I watched his Top32 match where he demolished his opponent in game 3 because he knew when to spill his hand and make it where the opposing Tragoedia in-hand (which he was playing around the whole game) would be meaningless. Any other player might’ve missed this opportunity and loss the match.
Trapless Agents: Medium
The next deck I’ll discuss is our newest YCS winner, Geargia. I’m not the biggest fan of this deck because your opening play involves you setting a monster and then hoping that nothing goes wrong when you flip it. But that hasn’t stopped it from winning a YCS only months after its debut and taking several top spots on the way there. I think it’s extremely easy to play, though. Each and every time I use the deck for funsies, it’s always like, “well my opening hand has Geargiarmor so hopefully this goes through…oh and here’s 3-4 backrows to better my chances.” The hands where you don’t have Geargiarmor, and no way to get to it, are absolutely horrendous. Some people have founds ways to mitigate that problem. If you play the Machina engine it makes the deck a bit more stable, and it gives you more first turn options, but it isn’t nearly as explosive as the Karakuri build. I think it goes without saying that the whole point of the deck is to gain advantage through flipping Armor several times while searching out Accelerators, and then going into Gear Gigant X or Karakuri Synchros to gain massive advantage and swings in tempo. It’s a solid strategy but I hate it when I’m going second since it’s so slow at times. The deck does have a very good late game if you know how to whittle down your opponent’s options by throwing your pluses at their cards one by one. At that point, you’re free to do whatever you want since there’s really no coming back. There aren’t any hard decisions to be made since the deck is so linear, but it’s also very good.
Chaos Dragons have been receiving quite a bit of popularity ever since they showed up on the scene in Dallas earlier this year. The deck was a bit more “sacky” then with the infamous first turn Future Fusion play but now it moves a little slower with the new limitation on Chaos Sorcerer and Red Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon. As far as difficulty goes, I want to say it’s in the medium range. I won’t doubt the fact that it takes some skill to pilot because the bad players will exhaust their resources too quickly and lose, just like with the Trapless Agent deck. The better players will know how to hold on to their power cards and use them to push for game at the right time. Not too hard. The only issue I have with it concerning difficulty is that the deck is very dependent on the opening hand. A strong opener will guarantee that you have plays for the rest of the game. For instance, if you open with any combination of Solar Recharge, Charge of the Light Brigade, or Allure of Darkness you should be set from there. If your opener is set Ryko then pass, the game will be much harder since you have to work to set up the graveyard while not dying in the process. I’ll touch on something else that bothers me when I watch people play decks like this. They always seem to drop Trag/Gorz on the very first damage they take. This is not always the correct play. Yu-Gi-Oh players have a major problem with taking hits and they feel the need to defend themselves at all costs. Sometimes it’s better to just hold the Trag/Gorz until the real push comes. You’ll get more mileage and the opponent will have exhausted more of his/her outs by then. Learn to take damage people!
Chaos Dragons: Medium
Since we’re on the subject damage I thought I’d dive into the Water deck’s difficulty (Mermail/Atlantean). I’ve been testing this deck for the last few days to see what all the hype is about and the one thing that stands out to me with it is how much damage it can do in one turn. A simple Diva summon can deal anywhere from 3000 damage with Daigusto Phoenix, to 3800 damage with Atlantean Marksman searching out Atlantean Attack Squad. And that isn’t considering any other summons or field presence. But the deck requires a lot of future planning and searching to set up the best plays possible. A misplay will be pretty severe because it doesn’t come with a contingency plan like Wind-ups and their precious Factory. Some decks can afford to waste resources because they have other things to fall back on. This deck is not one of them. You need to play it perfectly at all times, which I know may sound obvious with any deck, but if you use Water you’ll understand what I mean. Players will need to learn how to execute the many tricks the deck can perform with Abyssphere and Abyssmegalo, and the possibilities of dropping a Heavy Infantry with Dragon Ice on what would’ve been a successful Zenmaighty Shark play. Once you get the hang of the deck it shouldn’t be too hard to play out of each scenario accordingly.
I know many of you duelists love this next deck but don’t expect to see me playing it anytime soon because it is the definition of linear in my eyes. That’s right, it’s the dreaded Heroes. The first turn Stratos, the turn two Alius, and the race to 8000 with beatdown and backrows. I never lose to this deck which is why I don’t like it. I think it’s entirely too easy to play around if you’re careful, and I also don’t like the idea of using it because I feel like any good player will just play around my Sparks, Miracle Fusions, and Hero Blasts. It is very predictable and there aren’t any tricks, either. And for those of you who consider a chained Gemini Spark to be a trick, you might want to consider switching to Vanguard. Seriously. The one thing I will give Heroes is that it’s very consistent at what it does. You don’t have to worry about opening poorly as often as the other decks. But that takes away from the difficulty of the deck because your decisions are usually made for you. As I aforementioned, first turn Stratos, turn two Alius, etc, etc,. The deck is on a clock like you’re playing MTG. And I’m not the biggest fan of decks that run on a clock in Yu-Gi-Oh.
Everyone knows I’m not the biggest fan of Dark World but I cannot lie and say that the deck is just auto-pilot. I talked to my fellow teammate, Joe Giorlando, way back when at YCS Chicago this year and he was explaining how easy it is to play your cards incorrectly. Dark World decks follow a strict “Order of Operations,” which is a topic I plan to delve into in another article. You may think that you did everything right because it worked out for you in that one instance, but that type of logic is what we want to steer away from. If you win a whole game by misplaying that does not mean that you should continue to play like that. Admitting that you misplayed even when you win will teach you how to become a better player. Take it from me—I KNOW! But let us get back to the topic at hand which is Dark World. I don’t think it’s the hardest deck to play because a lot of the time your opening hand will either be a winning hand or a losing hand, and nothing in between. You don’t really do much “playing out” of situations. You either utterly destroy your opponent or you sit there frustrating looking at your hand of all monsters and no discard outlet, or all discard outlets and no monsters. Once you get the ball rolling, it’s kind of like a wave in the sense that if you ride it out correctly you will be quite successful.
Dark World: Medium
My favorite boost from Abyss Rising goes to the Spellbook/Prophecy deck. I’ve done a lot of testing with Amanda LaPalme at YCS Rhode Island and it was the first time that I saw what the deck can really do. She was using proxies of the cards that weren’t out at the time to get the best results, and I must say that I was impressed with the deck’s abilities. The new field spell, Grand Spellbook Tower, is beyond insane. It’s like another version of Gates of Darkworld because you get free pluses every turn and it helps you to draw into your combo pieces faster. The deck can be built many different ways and as of now there is no clear cut way to go about it. With that being said, the only judgment I can make on the deck is what I’ve seen so far, and that’s a super fast version driven by the field spell to outcard the opponent and bring out High Priestess to finish the game. Since there are so many good searchers in the deck ( Spellbook of Secrets and Spellbook Magician of Prophecy), you draw very consistent hands and you are left with many different options. The deck’s hardest thing is stabilizing. If you can survive the early game push of the deck you’re facing, since every other deck is just trying to kill you on turn 1, you will be able to easily make short work of them in the late game. It’s just so difficult to live long enough to see that point, though. I’ve been doing a little testing with Spellbooks myself and I feel like it is a pretty difficult deck to play correctly. There are a lot of cool tricks you can do and you have to know what to search for and why you’re searching for it. You also have to keep the graveyard stocked with Spellbooks for both High Priestess and the field spell. Though it is possible to use her effect by banishing from the hand, I’d much rather pay the cost from the grave. Also, it is key to refrain from using your Spellbook cards sometimes because it gives you an alternate way to summon the High Priestess, and she is the only win condition that I can see so far.
And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for. *Drum roll*
It’s no surprise that Wind-ups are easily the hardest deck in the game to play right now. Obviously you can just open broken with Magician Shark and win the game right there but it’s the games where that doesn’t happen that you see who’s good and who’s a poser. There are so many little intricate things that can happen and even the best players can be unaware of them given the proper circumstances. The deck can play out of any scenario if you know what you’re doing. It has way too many options, and the more options a deck has, the harder it will be to play. You also have to know when it’s alright to bring out Zenmaighty and go for game because just throwing him out there like before, when he was on three per deck, will no longer work out. If you thought restraint was hard in other decks, you will be sweating bullets trying to resist the temptation of turning your 2 Wind-up Rabbits into Zenmaighty and going for it all. Also, you’re often faced with decisions like summoning first turn Tour Guide and trying to get massive pluses with Factory, or just summoning Wind-up Rabbit and getting the guaranteed plus while playing around Effect Veiler. If you get Veilered on the Tour Guide you will fall a little behind. That one little decision can cost you the whole game. Tempo means a lot. Another thing about Wind-ups that I think makes it hard to play is simply knowing all of the rulings. People get really tripped up when it comes to using Rabbit to dodge Veilers, or how to use Magician as chain link 1 and Factory as chain link 2 to summon the Shark you just searched in that same chain.
Wind-up: Hard outside of opening gg
So there you have it, Apprentice Magicians. That’s my take on the difficulty of using the popular decks. In the future I may do an article discussing other strategies like Inzektors, Madolches, Gravekeepers, Watts, Exodia, and other lower tier decks. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them in the comments section below.
So what deck are you currently using the most? And how do you feel about its difficulty? Let me know duelists!
Until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!
-The Dark Magician