Evolution of the “Wind-Up Format”

What a format the September 2012 banlist has brought us. From Wind-Ups taking Toronto by storm, to Chaos Dragons going undefeated in swiss at Indy, to Six Samurai winning, to Alistar creating the “Trooper Agent” deck and Billy proving Inzektors were still a serious deck, to Karakuri Geargia winning out of nowhere in a Wind-Up and Chaos Dragon infested YCS.. and finally Inzektors taking home the gold in Seattle. It’s been a format full of twists and turns, surprises and most of all diversity. And although most people are oblivious to this fact, the whole format has revolved around one driving force: the Wind-Up deck. Let me go ahead and give it away right now, it’s the #1 deck in the game right now no contest.

When you look at the events and what decks have done well it’s easy to see. The major weakness of Wind-Up is that unless it opens well, it can’t handle early aggression. If you didn’t know that, this format has probably been pretty insane to understand. But it explains everything. YCS Toronto was filled with slow-paced decks: Heroes, Geargia, Dino Rabbit, and Wind-Ups. Everything was lined up for Wind-Ups to win so there’s absolutely no surprise that it did. Fast-forward to YCS Indy and everyone was trying to counter Wind-Ups. Most people did it by playing hand traps in their maindecks and Steffon Bizzell proved the strategy successful by destroying the swiss rounds 10-0. Josh Graham played 2 Effect Veiler and 2 Maxx “C” which was a huge change from his Toronto build and eventually evolved into Big-Ups, a Wind-Up deck that ran the 4 hand traps alongisde Cardcar – D and Tragoedia to take advantage of the mirror match.

While hand traps were an effective counter to the deck, Alistar Albans was piloting probably the best possible deck anyone could’ve used at that particular YCS. Agents provide it’s pilot an extremely aggressive early game. Triple Thunder King Rai-Oh backed with triple Call of the Haunted plus Kristya, Venus and Card Trooper was way too much for Wind-Ups to handle. Especially considering the deck has 3 Super Effect Veilers in the form of Herald of Orange Light. The deck also bested Chaos Dragons and the only reason Alistar lost any games at that YCS was to bad luck. This also explains why Six Samurai won the event. Of course the winner probably didn’t see the edge Six Samurai gave him at that YCS when he entered the deck but I’m sure over the course of the tournament he started to see why his deck kept beating the best deck of the format.

Most people, including myself and everyone around me, wrote off the success of both duelists. Alistar said himself that he didn’t think his deck was very good and of course no one is going to take Six Samurai seriously – who would? Thing is when someone like Alistar creates a deck like that, people are going to follow. It was also an excuse for people to put down the hard to use Wind-Up deck in favor of a fun one like Agents. While most people picked the deck up without realizing why the deck was so good, there were also people who saw the power of Agent’s and Six Samurai’s aggressive game very clearly. I’m sure you can all guess who I’m talking about.. and if not, his name is Simon He. He took Alistar’s deck and turned the heat up by making the deck even more aggressive. Losing to him Round 9 of YCS Providence was the moment everything clicked in my head. Agents, Six Samurai.. it all made sense. It was no surprise to me when the dust settled in Rhode Island that Wind-Ups had underperformed. All the Agent players knocked them out because they weren’t prepared. For anyone who wasn’t at this YCS it probably looked like Agents were just the better deck and was probably one of the reasons why it was so underplayed at YCS Seattle.

It’s interesting because this is one of those formats where there is a clear best deck to the top players who play this game, but if you ask the average player you could get a variety of answers. Agents, Dino Rabbit, Water.. none of them compare to Wind-Ups and all the pros know it. The fact of the matter is that Wind-Up is not an easy deck to play. That’s a no-brainer, but I can say I’ve seen a lot of players play the deck wrong but think they were doing everything right. They misplay and lose, then blame it on the deck being too fragile or too susceptible to side cards. If you’re one of these people, here’s a newsflash. If your opponent is good and has a Wind-Up Rabbit on the field and Magician Shark in hand it doesn’t matter how many Effect Veilers and Maxx “C”s you have in your hand, they’re now useless. That’s all it takes for a good Wind-Up player to play around hand traps. Just a Wind-Up Rabbit. No Debunk needed! 

The cards that do actually hurt? Rivalry of Warlords, Gozen Match, and Skill Drain. Think about that for a second. 2 to 3 cards you can side, and that’s if your deck can even support them. Compare that to 3 MST, 2 Dust Tornado, and Heavy Storm. Even if you draw and activate one of those continuous cards, chances are your opponent can answer it. When I sit down against an opponent not playing Wind-Ups I feel like I have such an unfair advantage. The last time I felt like that was right after Frazier Smith won YCS Atlanta with Gravekeeper’s and everyone was writing off his success. Everyone thought the deck was a fluke. I was 31-0 in that format before finally losing a match.. No other deck even came close to GKs until Six Samurai became a deck.

There are 2 extremly important keys to having a successful run with Wind-Ups: Practice and the ability to adapt. The deck itself can already get you out of any situation so just knowing how to perform the combos correctly is huge. also, adaptation is very important. In Providence, Agents wrecked Wind-Ups. In Seattle? None of us lost to a single one. That’s because we all knew how to properly side against it at Seattle. The early aggression and surprise factor were what pushed Agents to beat Wind-Ups in Providence but when that’s taken away the better deck is clear.

Wind-Ups are the best deck by far. You might have better success running something else than you would playing Wind-Ups the wrong way but if you want to become the best player, it only makes sense to use the best deck. There’s only 1 YCS left before the banlist drops and if you’re making the trip to YCS Miami I highly suggest picking up Wind-Ups. Just play your butt off and test continuously. Once you realize the insane things the deck can do you’ll wonder what you were thinking not playing the deck all format. I just had to write this article. There is a deck that is so much better than the rest and everyone is just ignoring it! Wind-Ups are broken. Don’t let it sit there and go to waste. I know people that thought Frog FTK was bad too and they regretted it. Until next time!