When the new forbidden and limited list was announced during the middle of March, it seemed as if the majority of players felt rather underwhelmed by it. There were a total of nine changes on the list this time round. Whilst everyone were in agreement with what decks should be hit (namely, Mermail and Fire Fist), there was a general discordance between the player base as to how to best hit them. When the list was published, a limit to [ccProd]Mermail Abyssgunde[/ccProd] was the solitary hit to Mermail, a deck which has been weakened for three successive formats now but still manages to contend at the top tier, and the arrival of [ccProd]Rekindling[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Coach Soldier Wolfbark[/ccProd] to the limited list dented the power of both 3.5Axis and any variants of 4Axis Fire Fist. These hits are a slight contrast to the predicted [ccProd]Mermail Abyssteus[/ccProd], [ccProd]Abyss-sphere[/ccProd], [ccProd]Fire Formation - Tenki[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear[/ccProd]: cards which decorated the vast majority of players’ prediction lists. As a Fire player, I feel that Coach Soldier Wolfbark was the correct hit if Konami intended on giving Fire Fist any semblance of life for the next format. A limit to Tenki, or even worse, Bear, would force fire players to run sub-optimal cards in order to try and keep the deck remotely viable.
The limit to Wolfbark is not without its problems, however: That one card is pretty much 4-Axis’ mid to late game all by itself, where top-decking it can instantly swing the game in your favour. This is all the more poignant in “+1Fist”, a deck which runs essentially 7-8 monsters in the main deck, and relies on Wolfbark’s recursion in the late game to help finish an opponent off. On the other hand, the deck still has its main engine of Bear and Tenki completely intact, meaning the deck hasn’t really lost any of its consistency or overall functionality. In this article, I want to touch up on the options available for Fire Fist as we head into the new format.
At the start of the January format, 3.5Axis presented itself as the best variant of Fire Fist, making explosive Horse Prince plays whilst at the same time, being able to regress into the more consistent 4Axis engine, all within one deck. After the list was announced, this was the variant I saw most people flock to, and it’s no surprise: the deck had only lost 1-2 cards, depending on the number of Rekindling you played. Despite being run at two, Wolfbark was not a crucial part to the 3Axis synchro-spam nature of the deck; he was just so ridiculously strong that it was hard to omit him from any build maxing out on Fire Fist Bear. The hit to Rekindling will smart somewhat, as it reduces the effectiveness of 3.5Axis’ late game plays. However, before the arrival of +1Fist onto the competitive scene, several players had begun dropping Rekindling from their decks altogether. Whether the extra copies will be missed remains to be seen. 3.5Axis is not without its flaws, however. Despite having good match-ups across the board, which lies strongly in its favour, the deck has an unrelenting ability to brick at the worst times, a seemingly natural side effect to a deck which devotes so much of its resource to one particular power play. With Bujin rising in both dominance and popularity (arguably 3.5Axis’ worst match up), 3.5Axis’ stay in the new meta might be short-lived. Nevertheless, I fully expect this to see some kind of showing, simply because it is a build with which people are extremely familiar with and Konami’s hits were somewhat favourable to it.
Aside from the limit to Wolfbark, the 4Axis part of Fire Fist has been left completely untouched, largely in part due to the popularity of +1 Fist, making most of the level 4 Fire Fist monsters either superfluous or redundant. True 4Axis flourished in the September format, where running Fire Fist Dragon alongside [ccProd]Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Boar[/ccProd] gave you consistent access to both [ccProd]Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Cardinal[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Crimson Blader[/ccProd], two cards which really allowed the deck to stand up to the dominance of Dragon Rulers. One of my favourite 4Axis builds was Jovhan Roberts’ Top 32 build from YCS London where, in his deck profile, he mentioned that opening Fire Fist Dragon plus a formation against Rulers was pretty much the strongest play the deck had, which makes it hard to understand why so many people have gravitated away from him. In reality, Dragon’s two effects make him more suited to a faster metagame, where it is more important to beat over monsters than push through backrow.
The release of Legacy of the Valiant did little to help Dragon’s cause. In my first article for ARG, I mentioned how [ccProd]Evilswarm Exciton Knight[/ccProd] made turn 2 field wipes a very real possibility. Dragon’s primary effect creates a lot of ‘false’ advantage, and by that I mean he increases your field advantage in terms of number, but not necessarily in terms of power. The cards he sets are dead unless the game is battle-phase heavy. Opening Dragon against your opponent is just asking for trouble, as you’re inviting an Exciton nuke. Running Dragon also forces you to the run the sub-optimal [ccProd]Fire Formation – Tensen[/ccProd] (which is greatly inferior to lance I feel), reducing the amount of viable back row you can run.
It isn’t all bad though; Dragon-centric builds have an advantage over other Fire Fist builds when it comes to decks with high level monsters, due to the speed at which they can churn out extra deck answers. Whilst Mermail are far from dead and Dragon Rulers have had a slight resurgence (again!), Dragon may once again become a viable option. Besides, with Wolfbark now limited, he is now the only real form of recursion for the deck, which will stand him in good stead for the coming format.
As an overall fan of the game, one of my favourite things to do is see how the OCG player base approaches their deck building. Before the OCG/TCG split, this was a lot more relevant, as the OCG allowed us to almost peer 3 months into the future, observing the projected meta before the product hit the TCG. Despite having split lists, the OCG stills acts as a great source of inspiration. Before they began splashing Artefacts into every single deck (I draw the line at Samurai Artifacts, although Galaxy Artefacts on the other hand…), the previous, most popular, splashable engine were Traptrixs. These fascinating insect demons gained popularity for their ‘anti-meta’ish design, and began appearing in Fire Fist decks towards the tail end of last format, most notably in Jordan Winters’ recent iterations of the deck. The Traptrix engine is a lot more effective in the OCG (where Myrmeleo is played in multiples) due to the semi-limiting of [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd], which is limited to one copy in the TCG. Running multiples of this card requires investment into more ‘Trap Hole’ cards, of which the most obvious choice is the regular [ccProd]Trap Hole[/ccProd] – a risky main deck pick in a currently undefined meta. In spite of this, Traptrix Myrmeleo is currently an excellent ‘one-of’ tech in the now-short-on-numbers +1 Fire Fist deck.
Before I started writing this, my intention was to put this in as a bit of fun. However, at the time of writing, I have just discovered that Chain Beat gained a regional top at the Bournemouth regional over the past weekend, meaning I can’t easily ignore its credentials. Depending on whom you ask, this deck is either really fun to play with, or a nightmare to play against. The premise is pretty simple: [ccProd]Wind-Up Rabbit[/ccProd], some anti-meta cards, and a massive amount of chainable backrow. In a simplified state, the premise of Chain Beat is comparable to +1 Fire Fist. Both decks seek to control the game state using a minimal monster count supported by a large amount of back row. Whereas +1 Fire uses draw power to out resource the opponent, Chain Beat just uses two rather annoying floaters to drain the opponents back row. It wouldn’t be a massive stretch of the imagination to suggest that the two builds could find a common ground, utilising a playset of Bear and the solitary Wolfbark in addition to the two floaters. Whether it would be competitive is another matter. My one gripe with Chain Beat is that its play style can sometimes be simplified to “Keep [ccProd]Black Garden[/ccProd] on the field or lose”, making the strategy frail at times, and going against the advantages +1 Fire Fist set out for itself. As an anti-meta alternative, this deck is worth a shot. With Tenki and Bear still being unlimited, I feel that this is as good a deck as any to splash to full three copies of each into whilst still maintaining the integrity of the deck.
As far as the future for Fire Fist goes, I feel that this is a pretty comprehensive review of where the deck can, and may go over the next month. Time will tell whether someone can recreate the success Dalton Bousman had with +1 Fire Fist with a new variant, or whether the loss of two Wolfbark actually makes any difference at all. Whilst Fire may struggle this format, I do not see people giving up on the deck, due to its sheer popularity last format. In any case, before Primal Origins is released (and with it, the plethora of Artefact decks that will descend upon the TCG), we still have three major tournaments to look forward to: YCS Vegas, YCS Paris and the ARG Circuit Series: Richmond (On April 26-27, click the pic of the dragon below for details). By the time the two latter tournaments roll around, we should get a better feel of the meta going into Primal Origins, and I am most definitely hoping that Fire Fist are still in contention for ‘deck of the format’.