Devil May Cry

ARG Edison will go down in the history books as the return of Burning Abyss—and for good reason. Not only did 6 of the 16 players who topped the event use it, but the finals also featured a BA mirror match. I’d like to say congratulations to Matthew Monahan for winning the event, and to Calvin Tahan for joining the second place club. The interesting thing about the finals, or all six of the BA decks that topped, was how unique the decklists were from one another. While Matt opted for a direct counter to the nastiest deck in the format, Calvin took a more grind-oriented approach. I will be discussing both of these decks and the future of BA in this article. Since the North American WCQ is quickly approaching, you won’t want to miss out on this possible game changer. For reference, here are the two decklists:

Matthew Monahan

Main Deck: 40

Monsters: 28

3 Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

3 Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

3 Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

3 Rubic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

3 Effect Veiler

3 Maxx "C"

2 Barbar, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

2 Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Tour Guide of the Underworld

1 Daghig, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Calcab, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Alich, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Libic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Cagna, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

Spells: 12

3 Terraforming

3 Secret Village of the Spellcasters

2 Dark Hole

1 Foolish Burial

1 Raigeki

1 Soul Charge

1 Book of Moon

Extra Deck: 15

3 Downered Magician

3 Dante, Traveller of the Burning Abyss

2 Virgil, Rockstar of the Burning Abyss

1 Number 47: Nightmare Shark

1 Number 20: Giga Brilliant

1 Mechquipped Angineer

1 Number 30: Acid Golem Destruction

1 Ghostrick Alucard

1 Wind-Up Zenmaines

1 Number 17: Leviathan Dragon

Side Deck: 15

3 De-Fusion

3 Galaxy Cyclone

3 Droll and Lock Bird

1 Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss

1 Good and Evil of the Burning Abyss

1 Libic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Alich, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Calcab, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Cagna, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

 

Calvin Tahan

Main Deck: 48

Monsters: 24

3 Kuribandit

3 Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

3 Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

3 Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

2 Cagna, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

2 Rubic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

2 Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Tour Guide from the Underworld

1 Calcab, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Barbar, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Draghig, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Alich, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Libic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

Spells: 8

2 Beginning of the End

2 Dark Hole

1 Good and Evil of the Burning Abyss

1 Raigeki

1 Foolish Burial

1 Allure of Darkness

Traps: 16

3 Phoenix Wing Wind Blast

3 Breakthrough Skill

3 Mind Crush

1 Fiend Griefing

1 Solemn Warning

1 Crush Card Virus

1 Skill Drain

1 Mistake

1 Vanity's Emptiness

1 Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss

 

Extra Deck: 15

3 Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss

2 Vigil, Rockstar of the Burning Abyss

2 Ghostick Alucard

2 Downered Magician

2 Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction

1 Number 20: Giga Brilliant

1 Number 47: Nightmare Shark

1 Wind-Up Zenmaines

1 Mechquipped Angineer

Side Deck: 15

3 Maxx "C"

3 Mystical Space Typhoon

3 Galaxy Cyclone

3 Spell Canceller

2 Vanity's Fiend

1 Non-Fusion Area

Denko SekkaI cannot express how much I love the innovation in these two decks. Matt did a great job of explaining the logic behind his card choices, and I will be reiterating that here, as well as adding some of my own thoughts. The first thing you will notice is that he decided to go trapless. We haven’t seen Burning Abyss built in that fashion since late last year when Denko Sekka was seeing far too much play. I think this decision was perhaps one of the biggest factors in his success. When you think about it, Nekroz players started to copy TJ Kinsley’s winning decklist from YCS Ohio, which played three copies of Mystical Space Typhoon. Against Matt’s deck those are dead cards, unless of course you had an MST set when he activated Secret Village of the Spellcasters, and that’s pretty unrealistic considering that most players usually hold it in their hand. Also, if Matt has a read that the backrow is MST, he could go for a Virgil play to ensure that the Village sticks.

The fact that he mained six copies of Secret Village tells us that he was expecting to play against mostly Nekroz, which is both smart and obvious, but it also tells us that he felt the best way to win this tournament was to directly counter the meta. Many players try to counter a little of everything when building a deck, but that can often lead to inconsistencies. For example, if you’re a Nekroz player who mains Effect Veiler for the mirror match, you could end up drawing it against Qliphorts—in which case you would never get to use it. If you’re a Nekroz player who mains Mystical Space Typhoon for the rogue matchups, there’s a chance that you may never get to use it in the mirror match. Matt decided to forego this type of variance by dedicating everything to just Nekroz.

royal decreeAnother cool thing to consider is how quickly the trapless BA deck can end the game. His deck is not trying to grind with you at all. In fact, I’d argue that he wants to enter the Battle Phase no more than three times per game. Do you know what the greatest benefit to a fast game is for Matt’s deck? His opponent may be tricked into believing that there are traps in the deck, but the game ended so quickly that they’d assume he didn’t draw any. This means that the opponent may decide to side in more backrow hate like Denko Sekka, Galaxy Cyclone, Royal Decree, etc. And while they’re doing that, they have no idea that he doesn’t side into a bunch of traps, so there are few opportunities to utilize any cards that are meant to deal with backrows. That just makes his job easier because they’ll have infinite dead cards. I can’t say that anyone would be able to pick up on these inherent mind games fast enough to not screw themselves over in games two and three. Intrinsic advantages like these are extremely hard to come by these days, which is why they tend to win tournaments with relative ease.

Matt decided to include Raigeki and two Dark Holes in his deck to further his goals of ending the game rather quickly and breaking the Djinn lock if it ever happens. I’d imagine that with three copies of Maxx “C” and three Effect Veilers, he probably didn’t get Djinn locked too often anyways. If he did, Farfa and Book of Moon were his other outs. The strength of mass removal in a deck like this—one that hits you for 5000 to 7500 on the regular—cannot be ignored. This is also why he chose to play not one but two copies of Barbar. In fact, many players, including Jeff Jones, considered Barbar to be the MVP of the Burning Abyss decks during ARG Edison.

The only downside to Matt’s build is that it is highly contingent on the surprise factor. After his win, more players are finding ways to fit a Spellcaster into their main decks, or they’ll begin to set their MSTs. On top of that, you cannot bank on anyone siding incorrectly. If I lost game one and I didn’t see you set or mill any trap cards, I wouldn’t side in Royal Decree or Denko Sekka for example. I wouldn’t assume that you just happened to draw all monsters that game. I would realize which build you’re using and play accordingly.

At the same time, Matt could easily decide to side into trap cards to counter the new knowledge. This is how good players ride the flow of the meta. What works one week may not work next week.

Calvin Tahan decided to take a very different approach to Burning Abyss, but a good one no less. His deck was trying to grind it out. He would love for games to last longer because he has more blowouts than most decks. This makes his late game automatically superior. This is evident by his use of two copies of The Beginning of the End. That card screams “late game.” It screams “let’s grind it out.” It’s also part of the reason he used more than forty cards. You don’t necessarily want to open with the Beginning of the End unless you knew your hand was going to get you to seven darks pretty quickly. With sixteen traps in the main deck, you cannot guarantee that. The funny thing is, Matt’s deck will surely get to seven darks faster than Calvin’s, but he cannot play The Beginning of the End because his goal does not align with it.

kuribanditTo further Calvin’s goal of grinding, he opted to max out on Kuribandit. The card’s design makes it beyond fair in the current format, but it can do some nutty things in Burning Abyss. It can dig for much needed traps, or the Beginning of the End, or put Good and Evil in the graveyard, or trigger any of the monsters that he hasn’t used that turn. Kuribandit also doesn’t conflict too much because you can opt to special summon all of your BA monsters when you intend to use it. The basic idea is to wall up with Dante(s) and then dig for what you need. I’m sure that everyone knows by now how hard it is to kill someone through even one Dante, so Calvin will almost always get to use the card he added on the End Phase. It kind of solves the flaw of Kuribandit, which is leaving yourself open for a turn.

His trap lineup is pretty standard, but notice that he did not max out on Fiend Griefing. I think it’s safe to say that Kuribandit covered the job of sending monsters to the graveyard too well. Also, Fiend Griefing is a trap card that doesn’t always stop your opponent from making his or her plays. Every other trap in his deck is blatantly meant to prevent something from happening. The idea is simple: advance your gamestate with monsters, protect yourself with traps.

When it comes to the Nekroz matchup I think it’s obvious that Matt’s deck is superior. However, when it comes to the mirror match, I would say that Calvin’s deck is superior. The only thing he needs to do to win is ensure that the game drags on long enough for him to resolve his bombs. Considering Graff, Cir, and Farfa interactions, that’s not even too much to ask. In any event, I think anyone attending Nationals should thoroughly test against BA because it can easily blindside you if you lack the knowledge.

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

-Frazier Smith

-The Dark Magician

Frazier Smith

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