When the Dragon Rulers were limited and Ravine was banned, a whole new world of possibilities seemed to open up. I created a pretty long list of decks that I thought could be viable, but then I remembered going through the same exercise last format when we were all under the assumption that Dragons weren’t, well, Dragons. Sure enough, they went on to dominate the format and that extensive list of decks that could compete was essentially narrowed down to just two: Dragons and decks geared (see what I did there?) to beat Dragons.
While it may seem like an open meta now (like last format and others before it), natural selection will take its due course and the number of viable decks will be narrowed down to just a few. It’s been about a week since the Forbidden & Limited list was announced and while it’s still early, I’m going to venture out and make my prediction for what the best decks in the upcoming format will be.
September 2013 Results
It’s been pretty funny listening to the chatter amongst the community. “Every deck is terrible”, I’ve heard quite a few times, which is true when you compare the power level of the best decks under the 2014 list to Dragons last format. Players will adjust soon enough, though, and realize that there wasn’t always such a significant power gap. Once upon a time the “best deck” was only marginally better than the competition.
To be clear, I do think there is a best deck, a couple more of Tier 1 decks and then a lot of other decks that have the ability to top. (Because the power gap isn’t what it was last format, you’ll definitely see more “rogue” making its way into the top tables.) What are they? Well the first step that I took towards determining this myself was to see what decks were successful last format, despite the dominance of Dragon Rulers. Decks that were able to have success under those circumstances are pretty likely to continue to be strong contenders into the new format, with the exception of Evilswarms. I compiled the results from the YCS and ARGCS events and out of the 207 decks (only 31 decks were reported from Turin), Dragons (and Dragunity) accounted for 137 of them. No surprise there. Evilswarm had 20 but their success was a product of the dominance of Dragon Rulers. That’s not to say they can’t still complete, but unless the meta were to take a surprising turn, I’d say Constellars (which leverage similar tactics and strategies) would be a stronger choice next format. After those, here were the most successful decks:
There’s more than meets the eye, though. Constellars actually had five tops, but three of them had the same pilot (congrats again to Sean McCabe for winning ARG Columbus). All four of the tops that Water had were from YCS Toronto. It’s a deck that, some might say is really strong but was made irrelevant because of Dragon Rulers. Without them to push Mermails around, perhaps they could contend. Similar arguments could be made for other decks (like Infernity) if hand traps (driven by Dragon’s domination) are phased out of the maindeck.
Here’s a summary of the other decks that have topped:
2: Madolche, Chain Burn, Hunder
1: Herald, Infernity, Assault Mode, Bujin, Heratics, Monarchs
Looking at these a bit closer, it’s probably safe to say that the success Chain Burn had is a result of a Dragon Ruler meta, in which the dominant deck didn’t run many traps and Mystical Space Typhoon was rarely used in the maindeck. I’m told Assault Mode had a good matchup against Dragon Rulers, too. You could say the success Heratics had is a result of an extremely seasoned pilot in Paul Cooper. On the other hand, the top by Bujins is particularly noteworthy because they didn’t have as many events to prove their worth as most of the others have.
January 2014 Format
All-in-all, I used these results to look most closely at these decks for the upcoming meta:
Prophecy, Geargia, Fire Fist, Water, Constellar, Bujin
I’ve started the format by watching a lot of games on DuelingNetwork and by testing Geargia, although not necessarily for the reasons you might think. The Geargia monster lineup isn’t really going to change. Neither are the combos. I already know the deck in-and-out and don’t need the testing. What I need is to know what the meta’s going to be like so that I can adjust my defensive lineup accordingly. I’ve actually been using the deck so my opponents have a good measure on how their deck will perform against Geargia when played optimally. The trap lineup is obviously still in flux, but it’s still been pretty effective for telling us what we need to know.
To my surprise, the first deck I tested against was Dragons. I’ve also tested against Water and Fire but the most important results I’ve gotten have been playing against Prophecy. In my personal testing, I found that they lost relatively nothing from [ccProd]Spellbook of Fate[/ccProd] going to one. It’s a bit more difficult to recycle, especially if you place a premium on destroying [ccProd]The Grand Spellbook Tower[/ccProd], but it’s not impossible due to [ccProd]High Priestess of Prophecy[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Spellbook of Eternity[/ccProd]. That’s it.
Before being rudely awakened to the fact that Dragons were massively overpowered last format, I had been anticipating a meta which consisted as Prophecy as the best deck, with Fire, Geargia, Water and Dragons not far behind. With Dragons out of the picture? I think that’s exactly what we’re looking at:
Best Deck: Prophecy
Tier 1: Fire Fist and Geargia (and maybe Water)
Why are Mermails in parenthesis? If you remember, Fire Fist almost beat them in the Finals a couple of times. Maybe it Heavy Storm wasn’t around, they would’ve done it. Meanwhile, Prophecy actually started to become relevant before [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] due to a strong Mermail matchup. Now? Fire has gained Wolfbark in 4-axis, Rooster in 3-axis, Geargia received Geargiagear and Books received a World of support and Water lost Heavy Storm, Diva and Dragoons. Actually (piggybacking on the part about losing Heavy Storm), ALL decks EXCEPT Prophecy lost a significant number of power cards (Books didn't even play Storm, Reborn and others like Shock Master). Water can compete but I am not so sure they're going to be dominant force, although I am hearing whispers...
(It’s worth noting that [ccProd]World of Prophecy[/ccProd] makes for a significant upgrade over the version we saw back pre-Tachyon because it also creates certain side-deck paradoxes.[ccProd]Imperial Iron Wall[/ccProd], [ccProd]DNA Surgery[/ccProd],[ccProd]Anti-Spell Fragrance[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Mistake[/ccProd] are all viable counters but now they’re only as good as your ability to prevent World from hitting the board.)
Bujins are probably out, too. From what I hear, their Dragon matchup wasn’t (relatively speaking) all that bad. But it Spellbooks are the best deck? Good luck protecting [ccProd]Bujin Yamato[/ccProd] from Fate. Perhaps when they get the new support in Legacy of the Valiant.
As for Constellars—I’m honestly not sure how they’re going to fit in. I don’t have much experience with the deck.
What does this mean?
Only time will tell us for certain and it’s up to us to test, theory and find out, but here are some early thoughts:
Effect negation is going to be at a premium. [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd]. [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd]. [ccProd]Divine Wrath[/ccProd]. (Maybe even [ccProd]Skill Drain[/ccProd].) That last one, in particular, could be a game-changer. Decks that can support Wrath (namely Prophecy and 3-axis) might be at an advantage. Because of it, [ccProd]Trap Stun[/ccProd] becomes much riskier to play and the alternative, Seven Tools, doesn’t do anything about Tower, Fate or Tenki, which all seem poised to be major factors within the meta (making us all give MST some strong maindeck consideration once again). Divine Wrath also gets around [ccProd]Spellbook of Wisdom[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Forbidden Lance[/ccProd]. Those, combined with the more passive Geargia strategy, make cards like [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] liabilities.
Of course it's still early and I could be proven wrong. What do you all think? Do you believe the list I provided above is accurate? If so, what else do you think we can expect to begin trending? And if not, then what do you anticipate the meta will be like and why? The next stop for the Circuit is in Indianapolis, IN on January 11th for a 1K in 1 Day! Then, on January 18-19 it stops in Nashville, TN for a Circuit Series event!