One of the most important things heading into an event is to be prepared to beat the best deck. The best deck can be defined as the deck that has the "highest overall win percentage vs the expected field", has auto wins, and is consistent. Decks that fit this description often become quite popular because most competitive players try to give themselves the best chance to win. This means that at any given tournament you will likely be paired up against this deck enough times to where the outcome of those matches greatly impacts your likelihood to top. It is important to note that the best deck can change between events due to a change in the card pool, or a change in popular card choices.
How do we identify what the best deck is? Towards the beginning of the format it often seems like people wait for a distinguished player to have success, and then they copy them. In January, this happened when ARG’s own Patrick Hoban made a breakthrough with the Hieratic archetype utilizing the Dragon Rulers when he went undefeated at a southeastern regional. The general player population caught on, and Hieratic Ruler was significantly represented at ACS Nashville. The most common way people distinguish a best deck is by what won the most recent premier event, or what took up the most spots in the top cut of that event. I ended up winning Nashville with an innovative version of Fire Fist, which is being referred to as +1 Fire Fist, or Cardcar Fire. It caught on, and ended up comprising the majority of the YCS Atlanta and ACS Charlotte top cut spots. Most recently, Mermail won ACS Charlotte and YCS Berlin, where it capitalized on a strong Fire Fist matchup, and the absence of effective side deck cards against it. Due to all of this recent success, its consistency and ability to auto win, it is safe to say that Mermail is the best deck as of right now.
So how do we go about beating Mermail? One of the biggest trends this format has been to main deck [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd]. It has been a good choice so far due to the popularity of cards like [ccProd]Harpie Channeler[/ccProd], [ccProd]Coach Soldier Wolfbark[/ccProd], [ccProd]Brotherhood of the Fire Fist-Spirit[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Hieratic King of Atum[/ccProd]. The problem is that Veiler is quite subpar vs Mermail. It isn’t advantageous to stop the effects of the various Mermail monsters to search because you end up netting a -1 in terms of card advantage (if they discard monsters that replace themselves). Veilering a [ccProd]Bahamut Shark[/ccProd] to special summon [ccProd]Mermail Abysstrite[/ccProd], or a [ccProd]Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack[/ccProd] to special summon tokens can be unfavorable if you are not able to answer the monsters on your following turn. To swing things in our favor, we could substitute these Effect Veilers with copies of [ccProd]Maxx “C”[/ccProd]. Maxx “C” can stop your opponent from performing the [ccProd]Lavaval Chain[/ccProd] + Dracossack turn 1 combo, allow you to maintain card advantage when they perform [ccProd]Mermail Abysspike[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Mermail Abyssgunde[/ccProd] combos, and is always a +1 when chained to [ccProd]Abyss-sphere[/ccProd]. The nice thing about Maxx "C" is that it still interacts with all of the aforementioned cards, all while discouraging them from performing combos and replacing itself at the same time.
We also need to reduce the amount of spell and trap removal cards that are ineffective against water. Cards like [ccProd]Forbidden Lance[/ccProd] and the gimmicky [ccProd]Full House[/ccProd] are quite mediocre against Mermail’s small trap lineup of only 2 [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Raigeki Break[/ccProd], and 1 [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd]. What do we replace them with? [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] is an easy way to clear an opposing Dracossack as all you need is it and a [ccProd]Fire Formation - Tenki[/ccProd] to finish the job. Hole also makes destroying [ccProd]Mermail Abyssgaios[/ccProd], and other established fields much more feasible than before. These same things can also be achieved with [ccProd]Compulsory Evacuation Device[/ccProd], which is a 1-card out to these problematic boss monsters, so I could see it increasing in popularity again.
The side deck is what I feel is the most critical part to countering Water. Players have not even begun to scratch the surface of hate cards vs Mermail. Currently, most people are only using some assortment of [ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd], [ccProd]Soul Drain[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Mistake[/ccProd] to counter water. Fissure and Drain are only single cards due to the Forbidden and Limited list, and Mistake can hurt your own deck depending on what deck you choose to play. One card that could make its return from the March 2012 pre-Tachyon format is [ccProd]Banisher of the Radiance[/ccProd]. Banisher single handedly prevents water from doing anything, and is a reliable way to counter [ccProd]Mermail Abysslinde[/ccProd]. Although it crashes with Abysspike, and is smaller than their 2 [ccProd]Mermail Abyssturge[/ccProd] and 1 [ccProd]Atlantean Dragoons[/ccProd], your trap lineup can protect Banisher from them. One neat card interaction that can be explored is with [ccProd]Tour Guide from the Underworld[/ccProd], which can make the Rank-3 XYZ monster Number 20: Giga-Brilliant. Its effect can increase Banisher’s attack, and reduce the amount of outs the water player has to it. Other notable cards are [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd], [ccProd]Debunk[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Vanity's Emptiness[/ccProd].
To be successful in countering the best deck you need to identify what it is, and make changes in your card choices to reflect your expectations. This strategy has proven to be quite successful for me. Before Nashville I expected there to be a lot of Hieratics and 3 Axis Fire Fist, so I main decked Effect Veiler, Dark Hole, and Compulsory Evacuation Device to counter Atum and Spirit combos. Before Charlotte I expected there to be a lot of Cardcar Fire, so I main decked Full house to counter opposing Fire Formations, spells, and traps. The next premier event is ARG Circuit Series Las Vegas March 15-16, 2014 (click the pic below for the details), and I foresee there being lots of Water there, so you can expect to see me making changes to my deck to counter them! Until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!