The Monarch Mirror Match

Hey everybody! I’m back this week fresh off a Top 16 at YCS Providence this past weekend! I played a version of Extra Deck Monarchs that I started 9-0 with, only losing one game in those rounds. Monarchs are definitely one of the most played, if not the most played, decks in the format. Throughout the tournament I played against five Monarch mirror matches. That was more than any other deck that I played against. Without any real deck advantage and playing a fairly standard deck, we have to rely on technical play to gain an edge in the mirror. If we assume that both players are able to get going, then this is one of the better mirror matches we have had in recent history. I managed to go 5-0 against all the Monarch mirrors I played against this past weekend and today I’m going to bring you some tips on how to get the upper hand in the mirror. Let’s get started!

The games are very back and forth and there are a lot of little things to do. One of the reasons I think the Monarch mirror is so good is because it matters very little who goes first and who goes second. If we look at something like a Kozmo mirror match, a player who went first and opened with Fire King Island would be at a huge advantage. This can lead to the games being polarized by the dice roll.

Monarchs can be equally as unstoppable as Kozmo in other matchups when going first. Most decks aren’t going to be able to deal with a loaded graveyard of Pantheism + Prime, a monster on the field, Stormforth set, with Ehther in hand. The advantage is going to spiral too quickly in favor of the Monarch player who opened with a strong hand. This isn’t the case in the Monarch mirror match, as a player who opens well still won’t blow the other Monarch player out. This is because Stormforth in the mirror match does a lot more for the player activating Stormforth in the mirror match than it does in other matchups, while simultaneously hurting the player who had Stormforth activated on them significantly less than it hurts in other matchups. What I mean by this is that Stormforth will allow you to tribute their monster for Ehther or Erebus and count as the whole tribute, since you will be tributing a tribute summoned monster that can count as the whole tribute. The player who got Stormforthed won’t actually be that hurt, because while most decks would have to pass after having their play disrupted, passing in Monarchs is okay because you can summon Ehther on your opponent’s turn. Once you have resolved a single big Monarch and dumped Prime into the grave, it will be difficult for your opponent in the mirror to ever do more than 2800 in a single turn. This is because they are generally limited to a rank 5 play and a tribute summon per turn and prime will be able to block one of the attacks. The result of this dynamic is a long and dragged out mirror match with lots of back and forth and very few blowouts if we assume that both players don’t brick.

I think a mistake that almost everyone makes in the mirror is choosing to go first. As we talked about, it’s very difficult in other matchups to stop a Monarch player going first with a good hand, but there are almost no blowouts in the mirror match. The point of going first at all is to do all you can without being hindered by your opponent. If blowouts do not exist, then what is the point of going first in the mirror?

You can also gain a couple of advantages by choosing to go second. Firstly there’s the obvious advantage in seeing an extra card. Secondly, if your opponent sees only five cards they are more likely to brick. The final advantage of choosing to go second is a lot less obvious, but extremely important when the games go so long. If I go first and summon Ehther or Erebus and dump two spell or traps into the grave, and we assume that we’re playing roughly the same number of Monarch spell and traps, then won’t I be the first to run out of them at the end of the game? When the games go so long and you’re almost guaranteed to reach this point, it’s important to be the last player with spell and traps still in your deck to activate your effects with.

On a similar note, we want to prioritize Prime’s on field effect to shuffle back spell and traps in the mirror. Actual card advantage means very little, and the matchup has a lot more to do with tempo, what’s on the field, and the philosophy of fire, what’s left in deck. Putting cards back and extending your game is paramount to winning the long game.

A neat trick you can do to make their Return of the Monarchs not resolve when you have Stormforth set and Ehther in hand is to activate Stormforth in their draw phase. Then when they go to tribute for a Monarch, activate the Monarch and the Return, if you make Ehther chain link 3 and tribute their Monarch, the Return won’t resolve since their Monarch has to remain face up on the field for it to resolve. Be careful with this though, as if they summon Erebus his effect will resolve before Ehther will activate. This means that if they shuffle away your Ehther it won’t get its effect at all.

Card advantage doesn’t matter that much in the mirror because having more cards doesn’t usually mean having more plays. Whether you have 4 cards in hand or 6 cards in hand, you’re usually going to be limited to having two plays per turn (one rank 5 and one tribute summon). The mirror is a lot more about dealing with the cards that are on the field and stopping these two plays.

This means what is correct to hit with Erebus in the mirror isn’t that obvious. If your opponent has two Monarchs on the field, a Prime and Pantheism in grave, six cards in hand, and you were planning to Stormforth away one of their Monarchs to summon Erebus, what do you think would usually be right to hit here?

Hitting the hand is usually the worst option. They’ve got plenty of things they can do and everything is super searchable. If you hit one thing, they’ll simply do something else. You’re not actually taking away options as they are still limited to making two plays per turn. I would argue that it would most often be correct to hit their other Monarch on field. You want to keep the bigger board in the mirror and concentrate on stopping the two plays they can make. If you deal with their board and have a board of your own, while being able to stop one of their two plays, then they’re not going to be able to deal with all your cards no matter how many cards they have in their hand. Field presence is much more important than card advantage in this matchup.

If the opponent has double Prime in their graveyard, it is rarely correct to hit one. They will simply be able to revive one on the end phase, summon a Monarch, and redump the Prime to still give them a rank 5 play and a Tribute summon in a single turn. This makes hitting the second Prime usually ineffective. What can change their number of plays is an in grave Eidos with Edea. Here, they will have a third play per turn by banishing Eidos to revive Edea, giving them either Mithera or another Eidos. When they have Eidos, usually you want to make it a priority to hit it with Erebus as it will take away their third play in a turn.

This about wraps up my tips for the Monarch Mirror Match. I think it’s a really solid mirror with a lot of minor things to do and it rewards heavily for practicing. I hope to see everyone in St. Louis next weekend for the Circuit Series! Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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Discussion

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  • Adam Hamilton

    Great article, I’m actually happy to know ! was doing everything right in the first place without having to feel like an idiot. Thanks!

  • Kesavan Kushalnagar

    Fantastic article! I really wanted to distill xyz monarch into a set of strategies so I can counter this, and this helps a ton. I appreciate these articles a lot!

  • Alan Davies

    Good stuff. As someone who’s never played monarchs this is a nice insight into how to deal with them with different decks as well.