I hope everyone has been frantically testing because YCS Toronto is finally upon us. I did not think it was a good idea to write an article discussing how I felt the format would progress without actually taking the time to sit down and play a reasonable amount of games first. I briefly discussed some of the ramifications of the new TCG exclusive Ban List, but today I am going to go ahead and talk about some of the conclusions I have made - and in turn make my predictions for YCS Toronto.
First off no, I am not attending YCS Toronto this year. I certainly wish I could, but the event was announced with too few days of notice and I have work responsibilities keeping me at home. But that certainly did not mean that I have not been testing as if I was going to attend the event, I was actually quite excited to play the new format. Anyway, the first major conclusion that can be made is well, Spellbooks and Dragon Rulers are still on top.
Shocking I know, but after jumping into the deck building process this format - I, along with many other duelists, just realized these engines were still so potent. Luckily they are not as over the top as last format to a point where they warp everything out of the game, but they are still the two strongest contenders in the room. As Frazier wrote about earlier this week, Spellbooks may have lost the outrageous Spellbook of Judgment, but World of Prophecy does go a long way when the format losses those type of cards and resorts back to the way it was pre-Spellbook/Dragon Ruler. Frazier, Steinmen, Bogli and I were confident enough in Spellbooks before Spellbook of Judgment when the field was full of Mermails and Infernities, so why would we not now - especially with the newly released World of Prophecy?
Spellbooks themselves have a lot of different ways to be build. World of Prophecy creates this unique issue where you want it everywhere but your hand. If it is in the deck you can tutor it out with Temperance and when you have it in the graveyard you can revive it with Spellbook of Life. The problem is that while it is in your hand you literally have no advantageous way of using it. Tribute summoning it is miserable, especially in a deck with such a low monster count. So Spellbook players have been returning to the powerful Phoenix Wing Wind Blast from last format, and inclusion I am certainly in favor of. Unfortunately Spellbook of Judgment will not provide you can unlimited discard outlet, but finding a way to bin World of Prophecy is crucial. Plus Spellbook players have even been teching a few copies of Stoic of Prophecy in order to add addditional Wing Blast targets to their deck. Yes, Stoic triggers when discarded - so it adds an instant tutor for Temperance or Justice of Prophecy. On top of that it even adds the possibility of running a Spiritual Water Art - Aoi/Mind Crush package with Spellbook Magician of Prophecy and Stoic... just something to think about.
Other than Spellbooks, variations of Dragon Ruler continue to pop up. Unlike last format where all you had to do was jam a bunch of Baby Dragons and call it a day, this format we still have yet to find the most effective way of utilizing the Dragon Ruler engine. These free creatures are an obvious strength in any deck, but I have seen them used in Dragunities, Plants and Chaos Dragon Variations. Not to mention the decks where they are used with their appropriate element - such as Mermails. Card choices like the Plant Engine and Dragon Ravine has been the subject of much debate in the forums the last few weeks, and it will be interesting to see which variations of Dragon Ruler decks end up having the most success. I am honestly inclined to believe that Dragunities may be the deck that can utilize the engine most effectively. Though I am not confident enough that there will be a substantial population in Toronto running the deck - which may hinder how well they do overall. But from what I have seen, they have a scary engine with an incredible propensity of abuse the Dragon Rulers.
Beyond these two decks there have certainly been a considerable amount of players reverting back to strategies such as Blackwings. Now do not get me wrong, I was quite the believer the moment I saw the Ban List too - I thought an array of decks would become playable again. But I am just impressed by Blackwings right now. Whenever I play against them the only reasons I do not win are because of them being down to one or two cards and having something like the last Kalut to fight through a small bit of damage when I am in sheer control. I just cannot see myself wanting to sleeve these guys up right now. They are not the worst do not get me wrong, I just feel like the game has moved beyond where the Icarus Attack/Kalut threats are potent enough. Dragon Ruler and Spellbooks just generate card advantage so easily, which is unfortunate to say because I truly wanted to see these decks return again.
The combos deck I discussed last week are also as alive as ever. Unfortunately Infernity and Hieratic are going to be decks this format - even with the existence of hand traps. They may force us to add additional copies of Effect Veiler to our decks, but there will be games we never see those hand trap and watch these combo decks win on the second turn. The worst part is, Hieratics are always going to end the combo with Drago - shutting down Trageodia and Gorz, the Emissary of Darkness - so even though those creatures may be returning as main deck inclusions - that will not help you against Hieratics. What I have found useful is siding copies of Swift Attacking Scarecrow as a way to counter the Hieratic OTKs. I am legitimate about not dropping games to that deck. I have lost matches in under 3 minutes to that deck before and I think I will pull my hair out if I have to witness it again.
Infernities on the other hand are quite tricky. Everyone knows the popular side deck options such as Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror, but Infernity players have been countering that plan for years. A card I did find particularly interesting was an old spell card from back in the day - Spiritualism. I cannot take credit for coming up with the card, but I am sure to pass it along. I use to think there were very few ways to counteract the Infernity combo, since there really are. Beyond something like Needle Ceiling in draw phase when Infernity Barrier is turned off - which may still be a legitimate option. This old spell card has its own way around Infernity Barrier and Break. Simply target whatever spell or trap card you know the Infernity player did not search and enjoy a counter free turn. If you have a deck strong enough to sweep the board, you've successfully broke the lock and won the game. Usually an Infernity player will tutor four Infernity trap cards (2-3 Barriers and 1-2 Breaks), while having a previously set trap card. Bouncing the non-Infernity card will leave them with four deck trap cards during your turn. Perhaps that is all you need to counter what they have done.
Overall I would be willing to bet Spellbooks and Dragon Ruler variants make up anywhere from 10-15 slots in the Top 32. Because player are going to be bringing an absolute array of other options into the event, I see the rest of the Top 32 being quite varied. However, once we progress into regional season and YCS San Fran. we will have a monumentally more concise view of the format and what to expect the rest of the Fall.