What's up duelists? I've been wanting to write this article for a long time but was always busy preparing for events. Now that the 2012 YCS season is over I finally have time to sit down and write all about a deck I've loved and played all format - Wind-Ups. At first glance the deck looks pretty straightforward: Either open Magician + Shark, Rabbit + Factory, or grind out with whatever you have until you can draw into those broken combos. But there is so much more to the deck than that, and by watching deck profiles from YCS toppers among others I've realized that most people have no idea of how many dimensions this deck has. Sure, the deck is so powerful that it's possible to do very well without knowing everything but it's very hard to make the most optimal play most of the time when you can't tap into everything the deck can do. The first card I want to talk about is one that someone I respect a lot just used to top YCS Barcelona. The person? Sean McCabe. The card? Forbidden Lance.
Forbidden Lance is something Ali Yassine and Bobby Barone brought to my attention way back in the days leading up the YCS Indy. In fact, Ali had earned himself a 9-0 finish at his regional with 3 copies in his deck. The combat tricks it gives you come in handy - protecting Thunder King from other Thunder Kings and bigger monsters, letting Wind-Up Rabbit get over your opponent's Thunder Kings, letting Soul of Silvermountain go over a monster and trigger his effect, and more. It also protects your monsters from anything short of a huge Torrential Tribute, Solemn Warning, and Solemn Judgment while being especially good against Bottomless Trap Hole, Compulsory Evacuation Device, and Book of Moon when you're going off - the latter two losing popularity. I'd say those are pretty good applications of the card and I can see why people would want to run it but what are you going to run it over? You most likely aren't going to cut MST down to any less than 2 copies, and there's a card you should be running over this anyway. So you really aren't going to run 2 MST, Heavy Storm, that other card, and then Forbidden Lance for more spell and trap removal hate when there are decks that don't even threaten your monsters with trap cards. And I highly doubt you're going to cut any of your other traps and removal for Forbidden Lance either. Those cards are just too good. In my book Lance makes the "Good card, but not good enough" category.
Now back to that other card you should be running over that third MST. That card is none other than Trap Stun. I played this card to Top32 success at YCS Providence and played it again at YCS Tacoma and it's one of my favorite cards. The only cards you really want to hit with MST are Wind-Up Factory and Skill Drain. Heroes always see a huge increase in play at the start of every format before it starts declining over the course of the rest of the 6 months. Most people weren't even playing Skill Drain to start with, making running 3 copies of MST unnecessary. But why Trap Stun? Think about what this deck tries to accomplish. It tries to make swings in tempo with huge pushes. Until it's ready to do that the deck likes to sit back on traps and gather resources together. When you're always setting a lot of traps, it gives your opponent the same luxury as they don't really have to worry about a blowout Heavy Storm from the hand. Fast forward a couple turns and now you're ready to go off! But your opponent has backrows and you can't safely go off, even if you have an MST. I mean shoot, you could just blind MST one of them and try anyways but I'd much rather have Trap Stun set and be able to guarantee my combos going through outside of a hand trap. Geargia plays the same way, setting a ton of backrows before going off. It's probably the reason Robbie Boyajin played Trap Stun when he piloted Geargia to a Top4 finish at YCS Guatemala.
While I'm on the topic of cards that help against your opponent's trap cards I might as well mention Starlight Road now. Another card that was overly hyped before YCS Indy, it's obvious by Stephan Sluis's 3rd place finish this past weekend that it's still being played. It does help against Torrential Tribute when you're trying to go off, but more importantly it protects your set cards and Factories from Heavy. Most Wind-Up decks play 10+ traps so it's nice to be able to feel safe to set them. The problem is that Starlight is a very inconsistent card. It can sit there the entire game because your opponent doesn't give you a chance to flip it. Some people argue that that's fine because if they aren't drawing Heavy or Torrential Tribute AND you can play like those cards don't exist you should win the game fine without needing to resolve it, but that's just not true. Sometimes that extra card really does count, especially in a deck that can draw the clunkiest of hands on a regular basis. Cards like Starlight aren't what you want to be adding to your deck to help those hands. And then there's the extra deck. There are already more than 15 exceed monsters I bring out on a consistent basis and I can't play all of them so there's no way anyone can find room for Stardust Dragon easily. Some people just cut Stardust Dragon entirely or play The Huge Revolution is Over but those are both bad options in my opinion. It's just better to man up and stop fearing Heavy Storm. Don't set more traps than you really need, or just pretend like Heavy Storm doesn't exist if you really have to. We've all done it sometime in our lives.
Thunder King Rai-Oh is a card that deserves the biggest paragraph of them all. Most people think this card is just splashed in this deck because it's great against the meta and it helps with the naturally low monster count the deck has. While those are valid points to be made, there is much more to Thunder King Rai-Oh that people don't see. Your deck is a machine at churning out rank 3 exceed monsters. The Rat-Rabbit combo is pretty easy to get going from the get-go and gives you access to any rank 3 for any problem your opponent threw at you the turn before. That's pretty obvious, but there's one in particular I want to bring up here - Leviair the Sea Dragon. When you have Tour Guide or Wind-Up Rat at your disposal your Thunder King is immune to Bottomless Trap Hole and Dimensional Prison. When your deck can protect Thunder King from those cards and force your opponent to actually waste important resources to get him off the board he becomes invaluable. I actually discovered the Rat-Rabbit-Thunder King interaction before YCS Toronto when I was trying to find ways to beat the mirror on a consistent basis. While I ran 2 Maxx "C", I hated hand traps so this was an awesome find for me and I can credit it for my almost flawless record vs the mirror match in 2 Regionals and 3 YCS's this format. At the beginning I was maining Mirror Force and kept it in against the mirror because I was scared of the trick but as the regionals went by I was beginning to realize it wasn't very common knowledge and people were even dropping Thunder King from their decks. When I asked my opponents why they had they told me they thought Josh Graham was just making a meta call and it wasn't optimal after YCS Toronto. I bet they wouldn't have thought the same way if they knew this mirror match winning trick.
Speaking of Rat-Rabbit, the Necro Gardna-esque combo also turns into destruction (Zenmaines), backrow hate (Soul of Silvermountain), extra damage (Zenmaity into Rat into Acid Golem = 4500 or Leviair with a removed Thunder King = 4700), an out to exceed monsters (Temtempo), a 2500 beater (Leviathan), or even just strengthening something as simple as a Thunder King you summoned that turn with Giga-Brilliant. It's such a powerful, floating combo that I advocate trying to set it up as soon as possible! It makes it really hard for your opponent to play around all the plays and options it gives you. Not to mention if you can protect your Rat-Rabbit combo it just churns out free exceed summons for you instead! The huge trap line-up helps get you to this setup, but there's another card that lets you achieve this even better..
Messenger of Peace! This card is so insane. Ever have your opponent open broken or you just opened bad and lost because your opponent beat you down quickly? It's happened to me before and I always thought to myself, "Man, it'd be nice to actually be able to play an actual game of Yu-Gi-Oh!" so I figured what better way to do that than to shut off the battle phase. I was siding this card in almost every match I played and by playing it I made more space in the side for other cards so it seemed like killing 2 birds with 1 stone. And it paid off - Jonathan Weigle and I both rode Messenger to Top32 at YCS Providence. Whether you open broken with the Shock Lock or you open a very bad hand of Magicians, Factories and other dead cards, Messenger is always a great addition to your hand. It's very rare to find a card that's good both when you're winning and when you're not in a good position and are on the defensive. The first card that comes to mind is Solemn Warning, and I don't have to tell you how good that card is.
Some people, myself included, have tested 2 Rat and 0 Pot of Avarice. It was something I was testing with Sam Pedigo but after a while he pointed out the need for Pot of Avarice. While in theory you should have won by the time you run out of exceeds and need them all for the 2nd time in the same game, sometimes the pushes you made weren't enough to take the opponent all the way down to 0 lifepoints or the game went into the direction of a grind game and you were using your exceeds to stabalize rather than push at your opponent. Pedigo was quick to point out the need of Pot of Avarice for the back and forth game but kept Rat at 2. I myself did the opposite before eventually just going to the full 3 Rat 1 Avarice suite. Rat opened up plays early game like being an extra level 3 to go into Zenmaity and get some plays online, as well as being a better topdeck. A better topdeck than Pot of Avarice? To me, yes. When you're in that position and need a play you could draw Pot of Avarice to put Rats and other monsters back but what if you draw 2 blanks after shuffling everything back? I would've just rather drawn into Rat and have my play right there. It happened to me at YCS Indy actually. Even though I was already playing 3 Rat, I did draw into Pot of Avarice and I did draw 2 blanks to my opponent's developed field - MST and Maxx "C". If I had drawn a instead Rat I might've been able to mount a comeback.
Moving on to the side decking, I almost always remove Sangan from my deck. Against Agents, Water, and Dragons you're siding Dimensional Fissure in so it only makes sense since it'll be dead with those cards on the field and Dimensional Fissure makes you immune to Maxx "C", so you'll never need to grab Sangan to stop your opponent from drawing more cards. I'd be hard pressed to think my opponent is going to swing into your facedown monsters in the mirror outside of with a Thunder King up or if they're really trying to pressure you hard. More often than not that Sangan is just going to sit there and be xyz'd with because it'll never leave the field outside of Dark Hole and Torrential Tribute. It's just not worth the risk of swinging into a Sangan or Wind-Up Magician in the mirror and I'm going to give my opponents the benefit of the doubt when it comes to that.
Another card I take out quote often is Wind-Up Factory. I keep the full 3 copies in against the mirror, Water, and Geargia but take out 2-3 against Agents and Dino Rabbit. Agents have a lot of cards to keep you from getting effects off or triggering Factory. Triple Thunder King along with 3 Call and Monster Reborn, 3 Herald of Orange Light, Solemn Warning, along with just MSTing it makes it unreliable and a liability. If you can't trigger that Factory it's just sitting there doing nothing. And that's one less card you have to fight your opponent with. I'd rather just have removal for those cards and Gozen Match than try to just push Factories through. That's what makes the Agent matchup so hard - you need to draw enough outs for their counters, enough ways to clear their backrows and enough combos to keep up with the early pressure they put on you. Unlike against Dino Rabbit, Messenger isn't the best counter either. On the surface is looks great to fend off aggression at any point of the game but playing the waiting game isn't the best plan against them. While you're trying to build resources up, you're giving them more time to draw into Thunder Kings, Calls, Heralds, Kristyas, Gozen Matches and even worse Hyperion. You need to keep a steady pace against them and just hope to come out on top. Don't waste too many resources on their floater monsters - Thunder King, Venus, Trooper, etc. You need to save your removal for Hyperion and Kristya. That's why I love Tsukuyomi so much: She's a continuous out to their floater monsters. She's so threatening that even if your opponent has more floaters in his hand, they might not even want to summon them so don't worry about them just going summon + attack to deal damage while your Tsukuyomi stays in your hand. Unless they have the right hand for it they can't, so just having the threat of Tsukuyomi in your hand should save you a lot of lifepoints.
Now that Water and Dino Rabbit have hit the scene, I can't see myself wanting to play hand traps in the main. Messenger does work very well with Veiler, giving you time to draw Veiler before they push or letting you draw into more live cards if you drew a clunky hand and Veiler contributed to it. Even then, I think I'd much rather side it. You could argue Maxx "C" as being a reasonable hand trap against the meta right now but it still has the same problem it did before - you need to play Tragoedia, Gorz, or Effect Veiler or else your opponent can just push through and kill you. Granted they probably shouldn't because of the potential risk of those cards but trust me, don't rely on your opponent stopping. That mistake cost me my 9-0 record and a Top32 at YCS Indy. Onto the next card, Soul Taker is something I think you have to side if you aren't already maining it. It just answers so much.. Thunder King, Laggia, Dolkka, Kristya.. just any big monster like Hyperion falls to Soul Taker too. It gets rid of any problem monster and outside of Gozen Match, this deck can grind through backrows fairly easily so once you get those monsters out of the way it's smooth sailing. Speaking of problem mosnters, Level Limit lets you stall through them and you can even take out Thunder King in conjunction with Wind-Up Rabbit. It also lets you take out Neos Alius, Sabersaurus, or any big monster with an exceed fairly easily.
And then there's Dimensional Fissure. I feel like I shouldn't have to touch up on this card but I will anyways because it's so great. It lets you blow out a ton of decks without hindering your own. It completely shuts down Water and Chaos Dragons as long as you can keep them from outing it, and is the best weapon this deck has to combat Agents. It shuts off their hand traps and Thunder Kings, and they obviously can't use Call of the Haunted, Master Hyperion or Kristya without a graveyard! If you opened decently well and they can't answer this card you'll be winning in a matter of turns. Sometimes I just wait and hold and Fissure in my hand until I'm ready to shut off their hand traps and go off. Their only real saving grace against a Dimensional Fissure they can't out is to hold you off with Gozen Match.
While I love Trap Stun in the main, I think it's important to sidedeck the 3rd MST and any copies of Dust Tornado before Trap Stun. Game 2 becomes a lot different, especially since almost every other deck in the format can side Rivalry or Gozen Match. You want to take a different, controlling approach in games 2 and 3 and be able to answer those cards. For example, Shock Lock is amazing and is a huge win condition game 1 but becomes a lot riskier since your opponent can easily comeback from it with a simple Rivalry or Gozen Match. Chances are they have hand traps in game 2 and 3 so you have to be aware of the cards they'd side in and make different plays than you would in game 1.
As for siding for the mirror and Geargia, I've found a flaw in most side cards. Cards people consider staple for the mirror like Compulsory Evacuation Device, Effect Veiler, and Maxx "C" aren't good against Thunder King, and outside of Dimensional Prison hitting Zenmaines, Maestroke and Tiras, that card isn't very good against the Wind-Up engine. The same goes for Geargia - while Nobleman of Crossout works exceptionally well at getting rid of Geargiarmor, it does nothing to Machina Gearframe and Fortress. So after realizing these paradoxes I've altered how I side against them. I bring in cards that help against both things the decks can do. I bring in a 3rd Thunder King and 1 Compulsory Evacuation Device since it's too good (you can bounce their Thunder King, go off and leave it dead to them at the very best) against the mirror and Fiendish Chain is good at stopping both Machina Gearframe and Geargiarmor. Of course, I still love siding double Messenger of Peace to play the "build up resources and push for game with Heavy Storm/Trap Stun" game against those decks. I also don't think a single copy of Nobleman of Crossout would be bad either since Geargiarmor is a lot harder to deal with than Gearframe + Fortress.
And then comes the extra deck, one of the most important things to perfect in this deck. Here's the 15-card extra deck I use:
1 Wind-Up Zenmaines
1 Wind-Up Carrier Zenmaity
1 Temtempo the Percussion Djinn
1 Number 17: Leviathan Dragon
1 Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction
1 Number 20: Giga-Brilliant
1 Soul of Silvermountain
1 Leviair the Sea Dragon
1 Abyss Dweller
1 Number 39: Utopia
1 Photon Papilloperative
1 Number 16: Shock Master
1 Maestroke the Symphony Djinn
1 Tiras, Keeper of Genesis
1 Adreus, Keeper of Armageddon
Wind-Up Zenmaister, Wind-Up Zenmaioh, the 2nd Wind-Up Zenmaines, Gagaga Cowboy, Steelswarm Roach, and Number 50: Blackship of Corn all don't make the cut for me. When Zenmaister was in my extra deck I almost never dropped him. If you have the opportunity to use it to OTK with Tour Guide + Shark unopposed, that most likely means your opponent doesn't have much anyway and wouldn't be able to deal with your big field even if you didn't have Zenmaister to OTK with. If they would have enough cards to deal with it, I wouldn't feel safe going for the OTK over something like Shock Master anyway. So really, defending Zenmaister with Tour Guide + Shark is a bad argument. I have seen some cool tricks with it though. I was watching Jonathan Weigle play and he had Thunder King and 2 Factories. He was able to make a Zenmaister to go along with those cards and flip his Thunder King down to search with his Factories, then at the end of the turn his Thunder King would flip up. The only other time I've seen Zenmaister put in work is when it allowed someone to trigger Shark off its summon. The cad just doesn't have enough uses to see play over something like Utopia that I use almost every other game.
Zenmaioh and the 2nd Zenmaines are both luxuries you just can't afford to have anymore. While Zenmaioh combos very well with Maestroke to clear threats, it's usually a better play to just summon Tiras or Adreus and with Maestroke or even have the option to make a different rank 4 like Utopia or Abyss Dweller. Geargia is the matchup where Zenmaioh really shines but chances are if they let you resolve a Zenmaioh against them, they either have a chainable or Starlight down. There are those rare times where it does go off and destroy 2 of their cards but it's really risky. Unless you use it like a Scrainep Dragon to just pop their Geargiarmor and a card of your own, you're going to give up some games to Starlight. When it comes to Zenmaines, I've always been a fan of the 2nd copy. Being able to use the first one to stall and the 2nd to solve problems or vice versa has always been an awesome option to have in your extra deck. I played it over Leviathan Dragon for the longest time but you just can't deny how good of a card it is right now. Being able to swing over Darkflare or Abyssmegalo without having to crash with Zenmaines, being a water to go into with Sharks under Gozen Match, and it's sheer attack power makes it a great addition (or re-addition) to the extra deck. Gorz is starting to see a lot of play again and being able to play around it by swinging with a 2500 ATK Leviathan and then making it 3000 ATK in main phase 2 is a nice option to have.
Gagaga Cowboy's burn damage is useful I suppose, but I never see myself needing the ATK position effect. If I'm ever summoning a rank 4, I usually always have access to a rank 3 or 5 as well so I'd rather summon Maestroke, Utopia, or Abyss Dweller and use my other exceed to take care of the problem monster. That's naturally where Blackship of Corn comes in to get rid of any monster my other ranks can't get rid of. But.. there is no monster really seeing play right now that this card shines against. It's especially useful to get rid of Zenmaines and Maestroke but your deck makes rank 3s like nobody's business and Temtempo is already there. I'll admit it could probably come in handy sometimes but the extra deck is tight and again this card is good but not good enough. Steelswarm Roach is a card a lot of people have sided instead of used an extra deck space for, but I'm not really sure it's even worth the side space. It isn't good against Agents, and you have to have the right setup for it to be good against Chaos Dragons. Like I said earlier, most of the time when I'm making a rank 4 exceed I'm also making a different rank too and the possible 3/4/5 rank combinations you can make that don't use Sweelswarm Roach are a lot better than the ones that use it.
Soul of Silvermountain is the last exceed monster I want to talk about. It's one of my favorite cards and some people don't even play it. I first tried it testing for YCS Indy because if your opponent had a backrow and you resolved a Magician + Shark through it, you could go into Soul of Silvermountain, stun what is probably a Prison, Mirror Force, or bluff, and swing for 7900 damage. It's not game but if they took anything before, even a Rabbit swing, it is. Also, being able to stun backrows from your extra deck can only be described by one word: AMAZING. I can't even begin to tell you how many games this card has won for me. A lot of the times I'll even time it to stun 2 backrows - incredible for what is a lot of the time a free exceed. It even has uses against trap-less decks. In round 9 of YCS Providence I was playing Simon He and used it to stun his set MST and allowed me to set my Prison and set up game next turn with Giga-Brilliant. Another time I used the card was under Gozen.. I was stalling with Rat-Rabbit and when I finally drew Heavy Storm I xyz summoned into Soul of Silvermountain, stunned the facedown I read as Solemn Judgment, Heavied the field and went off with the other Rat I had in my hand. Soul turned that game into a blowout, and without it I would've had to draw my own Solemn Judgment and hope it didn't get hit by an MST. That's if I even drew it in time.
I know people who won't play this deck on the fact alone that they don't know it well enough and won't be able to play the combos out correctly. This deck is only as good as the pilot and understandably, a lot of people turn this deck down because they think their chances of winning with a deck they know better with simpler combos are a lot better. If there are no intricate combos to make, you can't screw up. But for the people who put the time and effort into this deck it really shows. And the people who play it instead of playing a deck they'd be able to pilot better.. well, I'm sure if you've walked around the tables at any YCS this format you'd be able to point them out almost immediately. Also, just a tip if you were to play Wind-Ups.. great plenty of sleep the night before and eat plenty during the YCS! You will not Magician + Shark every game. All those grind games take a toll on your brain. Even the best Wind-Up players start to feel fatigued and tired by the last few rounds of Day 1, and one screw up could be the difference between topping and bubbling. The Friday night before Providence I had a nice dinner with the ARG crew before heading off to bed and I started 8-0 before finally falling victim to fatigue after my grueling 2 hour Round 8 match. The Friday night before Seattle I partied with some of my best friends, went out to eat at 3 AM, barely got any sleep and I went from 5-0 to 6-3. Those last rounds are important, stay as focused as you can be and of course practicing the combos before hand definitely helps! I hope I was able to share some information that was maybe not widely known, I've certainly never been this passionate about writing an article before. But until next time guys, play hard or go home!
- Mike Steinman