The Hysterical Dark Horses

paul cashenHi all! I should probably start this article by saying that when I originally had the idea for this article in mind, Billy Brake hadn't just topped the ARG Circuit in Nashville and Jeff Jones hadn’t just won ‘The Bash of the Nash’. Up until then, Harpies had managed to slip under the radar this format. Their couple of tops at regional level weren't any more surprising than the couple of Inzektor or Hunder tops that we’ve seen under this format (as I explained in my last article). Since ARG Nashville however, Harpies have garnered a little bit more attention from the playerbase and with a bit more representation over the coming months, they could shape up to be genuine meta contenders.

As they sit right now, Harpies are the perfect ‘dark horse’ and that’s really why I chose to write about them this week. Harpies have some of the best themed cards at their disposal: cards that search, swarm, double summon, and pop backrow. Having such a plethora of options makes Harpies extremely difficult to deal with and can make a lot of games against them a struggle. They can side into a wide range of archetype hate as they themselves are not hindered by many floodgate cards, save for [ccProd]Skill Drain[/ccProd] and at times, [ccProd]Mistake[/ccProd]. One of the biggest advantages Harpies have is their versatility, and whilst a lot of their power plays revolve around their field spell card, they can still cause a lot of damage without it. In this article, I want to highlight just how great a lot of the Harpie support is. But also, I want to demonstrate why I believe they are often overlooked for other archetypes.

Hysteric Sign

hystericForget saving the best for last. To sum it up, this card is crazy. Unless you’re opponent has an [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd], you should be plussing off of this card. The first effect: adding to hand an Elegant Egotist from the deck (or graveyard) isn’t game breaking. In essence, it’s a one for one searcher, a commonplace amongst nearly every competitive deck ([ccProd]Fire Formation – Tenki[/ccProd], [ccProd]Abyssphere[/ccProd], [ccProd]Spellbook of Secrets[/ccProd], etc.) and almost a pre-requisite to being a competitive archetype. That being said, its second effect is the proverbial ‘nuts’. Being able to add three on-theme cards of your choice to your hand is incredible, and it lets you tailor your hand to fit the current game-state. Successfully resolving the second effect of this card can turn a game round for you and, if you can resolve both effects of the card, it’s a plus three (plus four if you include the special summon from Elegant Egotist). That’s ‘almost’ on the [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Super Rejuvenation[/ccProd] scale of pluses, and when you relate Hysteric Sign to cards like that, it’s hard to understand why people haven’t yet flocked to this deck.  Granted, getting the second effect off can be troublesome, but it is by no means impossible (or even moderately difficult), which brings me to the next stand-out card of the deck.

Harpies’ Hunting Ground

One deck I’ve grown to admire recently is X-Sabers, mainly because of one card:[ccProd] XX-Saber Hyunlei[/ccProd]. It’s not ahuntingground strong card in terms of attack points, but her effect to destroy three back row upon summon requires your opponent to deal with the card as soon as it hits the field. Harpies’ Hunting Ground is similar in its execution, albeit slightly less hyper-offensive.  Akin to Monarch cards, the effect of Hunting Ground applies upon summon, allowing the player to create a consistent barrage of destruction turn after turn, deterring your opponent from setting multiple back row for fear of losing it all. With this card on the field, the longer the game drags on, the more card advantage begins to lie in your favour, allowing you to make better use of Hysteric Party. Hunting Ground is a massive MST target and really helps to draw the focus away from your other set cards. The best thing about the card is that it isn’t once per turn, meaning you can destroy as many back row cards as you can summon Harpies.  Combined with the Harpie monsters’ effects, you can rip through back row pretty quickly.

The Harpie Ladies

The three main Harpie monsters of the deck have such great synergy with one another, working better in combination as opposed to being standalone monsters. As well as being a nice beatstick, [ccProd]Harpie Queen[/ccProd]’s main role is to tutor Hunting Ground to your hand, adding extra consistency in the process. [ccProd]Harpie Dancer[/ccProd]’s greatest asset is that she can get under [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd] and takes full advantage of Hunting Ground’s effect with her own effect. The last of the trio: [ccProd]Harpie Channeller[/ccProd], is a themed [ccProd]Summoner Monk[/ccProd], and is the main point of access to the extra deck (of which Harpie’s have one of the best in the current metagame). Instead of having a linear ‘go-to’ play, the three of them combine in a multitude of arrangements, allowing you to vary your plays with consideration to your current hand. Without that go-to play, you’re far less likely to rely on a certain card as a crutch, which can be a benefit within itself. Collectively, they all help further your end game; because they all contribute to maximising the benefit you can get out of Harpies’ Hunting Ground.

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Hysteric Party

HystericPartySD8-EN-C-1EA themed, continuous [ccProd]Return from the Different Dimension[/ccProd] of sorts, except the longevity of the monsters summoned by it is directly linked to that of the card. Balanced somewhat by the discard cost and the fact that it’s MST prone, Hysteric Party becomes more dangerous as the game goes on. Despite being around for some time, it was the releases of Harpie Channeller and Harpie Dancer that really contributed to this card being as good as it is. Both of them gave this card more targets within the graveyard and effectively nullified the ‘Rule of Three’ conundrum the archetype is stuck with. The aggressive nature of the card is a stark contrast to the grind game the deck plays for most of the game and offers three opportunities to either turn the game around or further solidify your dominance after you have exhausted most of your resources. The card can generate such a momentum shift and it’s for that reason I liken it so much to Return: It’s a card which pretty much throws the idea of card advantage out of the window. The relative weak nature of the Harpie ladies is offset by the strength of their extra deck, which Hysteric Party can fully exploit. Much like Return, resolving this card can win you the game. Unlike Return however, you get three attempts to do so.

So, with all these cards, why aren’t Harpies higher up the tier ladder? The running theme throughout all of these cards is that they all have pre-requisites for their activation, i.e. they all need another card to do be able to do something. This creates a problem when you consider that a lot of the stronger decks right now have cards which don’t require set up, don’t require other cards to work, and can turn the game round just by top decking them. Secondly, Harpies suffer in the first turn set up department, and this relates back to my last point. Fire Fists can get their game going with [ccProd]Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear[/ccProd] and a couple backrow, Prophecy with [ccProd]Spellbook Magician of Prophecy[/ccProd], Geargia with [ccProd]Geargiarmor[/ccProd] etc. Harpies don’t have a rigid, first turn play that they can sit behind for a couple of turns in order to take control of the game; they have to work hard for their resources which brings me to my last point. The hardest aspect of this deck is the continual resource management the deck requires. Always having that card to pay for Hysteric Party or Harpie Channeller’s effect becomes harder to ensure as the game goes on. Cards such as [ccProd]Raigeki Break[/ccProd] are usually only reserved for a handful of decks which can afford the discard cost, making this point all the more imperative.

In closing, I feel that Harpies are a strong deck which can certainly contend with the current meta, and their tops within the format can attest to this (at the time of writing this, Harpies have just earned a top 4 spot at ARG Charlotte and went undefeated at a regional in Glasgow). However, at this minute in time they seem to fit into the frustratingly niche area of a ‘balanced’ archetype, and the perceived dominance of the popular Fire Fist and now Mermail archetypes will likely restrict them to sporadic tops at regional level and above for the next couple of months. On the other hand, their representation at the top tables in premier events this year proves that they do have the ability to topple the bigger decks of the format. When you take all this into consideration, it’s hard to disagree that Harpies are the dark horse of the current format.

The Circuit Series comes to Las Vegas on March 15-16, 2014! Click the picture below for all the info!

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Paul Cashen

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