Counting Down to Worlds

As I write this 2 weeks stand between Team USA and the rest of the World at the World Championships.  Just 12 days left before we leave, that's it.  Without broken TCG exclusives or OCG cards in the meta there are so many playable decks.  If you thought the current format had too many playable decks, preparing for Worlds would quickly make you appreciate how limiting the TCG format is.  At Worlds, the possibilities are endless .. Heroes (Standard and A Hero Lives), Inzektors, Dragons, Hieratics, Dark World, Six Samurai, Karakuri, Final Countdown, etc.  The list goes on and on.  In this article I want to discuss which decks we've found to be insufficient at handling the meta, and why these decks will fail their pilots.  I'll start with the deck that is the most fitting for this article's title: Final Countdown.

Final Countdown - When I ask people what they think I should play at worlds this is probably the most common answer I get.  At first, it seemed like a good idea.  It beats Inzektors, Heroes, Dragons, Hieratics, and mostly anything else.  But there are a couple problems with it even on the surface.  Tour Guide not being in the format boosts Six Samurai's playability a ton; no easy access to Leviathan and Zenmaines is huge.  Dark World is also a deck (albeit a bad, inconsistent one) and if they hold their draw cards and Card Destruction til the last turns of Countdown, they can easily deck you out unless everything goes your way.  For that to happen you need to have had an early Countdown and not needed to use your draw cards or Gold Sarcophagus to avoid thinning your deck.  You usually just resolve a Hope for Escape in this matchup to get extra stalls when you need it instead of using your Jars/Legacies/Upstarts to really thin your deck more than needed, but if all you're drawing are those cards and no Hope in sight you're going to have to use them.  You can use Sarcophagus to dig for Escape.. it's not a horrid matchup but winning it relies on a lot of factors that are out your control.  And then g2 when they bring in Eradicator Epidemic Virus your odds get even worse.  Rounds at the World Championship are 60 minutes, so it's a lot harder to do the whole win g1 with Countdown, lose g2 to their side cards but drag it out to time and win in game 3 because of your sided Burn and LP cards.  With the new 60 minute rounds, side cards actually hurt you and a lot of matchups actually become just straight out unwinnable.

When you look deeper into the decks interaction with the format, you start to see even more problems.  The Hero Lives deck that won the World Championship 2012 Japanese Representative Finals is a horrid matchup.  It plays a whopping 4 ways to cut its LP in half (3 A Hero Lives + Solemn Judgment) and an unimaginable 9 ways to "End phase MST you" (3 Mystical Space Typhoon + 3 Gemini Spark + 3 Call of the Haunted on Stratos).  I've won games against it but I always had to have triple Scarecrow and the perfect combination of cards to beat it, while they drew minimal amounts of those cards (around 3-4).

Inzektor is another iffy matchup.  Yes, I just said Inzektors were iffy for Final Countdown.  You can never safely double set vs the deck if you're reading an end phase MST because they can just pop whatever they want on their turn.  Even then the matchup isn't even that bad.  It gets hard where some players are teching 2-3 copies of Raigeki Break or Phoenix Wing Wind Blast.  Those cards gain a lot of value in a format without Rabbit and I fully expect people to take full advantage of those game-breaking cards.  If not in the mainboard, sided along with multiple copies of Dust Tornado.  Inzektor players are going to be fully prepared for Hero and Final Countdown decks and there isn't really much a Countdown player can do about it, especially if they can't even guarantee game 1 anymore.

Even Dragon players are getting smarter about beating Countdown.  At the NAWCQ, scooping game 1 as soon as you see that they're playing Countdown to save time was a common strategy.  Wanting to use all the time in the round they could to play a control game with LADDs, Royal Decrees, Plaguespreader, Catapult Turtle and more was a very smart way to handle the matchup.  But now, some Dragon players are even electing to play out game 1s and maining to beat Countdown.  Dragons, the easiest matchup before.. suddenly becomes a lot harder.  Tournament results prove this shift in thinking and deckbuilding; Oliver Parle, who won the Oceanic Championship with Chaos Dragons use Blood Mefist in his extra deck - a card that is widely obtainable to those attending the World Championship.  I've even seen people extra decking T.G. Hyper Librarian as a way to go into Tempest Magician with a 4 star monster and double Effect Veiler.  With all the options available to Chaos Dragon players, I can't see them not taking fondly to at least a couple of them and that will spell a loss to you if you're playing Countdown.

Six Samurai and Karakuri both being revelent decks is also a huge blow to the deck.  Before, you would either: A) side in Lava Golems and Metaion, the Timelords and try to beat them, B) Just take the loss and move on because you probably wouldn't face more than one, or C) Try to stall out as much as possible and tie the game, the latter only an option if you're that kind of player.  A is just a terrible way to play the matchup in my opinion, B is completely false in this meta and C doesn't even exist thanks to the 60 minute time limit.  Coming to this conclusion was where I pushed the deck to the side and realized I couldn't run it, there was just no way I was going to get lucky enough.  Six Samurai and Karakuri are probably weak enough decks that they won't make the top cut and then you'd be home free, and when you look at the probabilities it seems fine that you'd only play 1 in swiss.  Just take the loss and move on, right?  Even if there weren't other things to be worried about like Dark World, AHL Heroes, Inzektors, etc.. I still don't think I'd take that risk.  Losing to an early Samurai or Karakuri puts you in the x-1 bracket where you're likely to face another.  If brackets didn't work like that and you just faced 5 random opponents it would be fine, but sadly for the Countdown players Yugioh doesn't work like that.  But speaking of those 2 decks, I want to talk about them next.

Six Samurai and Karakuri (aka the "Protect the Naturia Beast" decks) - There's no denying it, Naturia Beast is an absolute tank in this format.  Getting it onto the field early can spell doom for Heroes, Countdown, Dark World, Hieratics, Inzektors (When it's protecting your Fiendish Chains and Solemn Warnings) and even the Samurai and Karakuri decks themselves.  It's the card of the format, it's natural for people to try to play a deck that can consistently churn it out turn 1 and abuse it.  Another thing about these 2 decks, their side deck options are almost limitless.  Macro Cosmos, Rivalry of the Warlords and Gozen Match, Shadow and Light - Imprisoning Mirrors, and many more are all completely viable options for them.  They even have access to other powerful synchros.  Let me tell you how powerful those side decked cards are when they're also being protected by a Stardust - It's insane.  But the major downfall of these decks comes with one simple word: Consistency.  I don't have to tell you how Six Samurai draws sometimes.  Sometimes it goes off with Gateway, United and Shi En and all is good in the world, but when deck's good hands are really good, often times their bad hands are really bad.  Not to mention, if you don't even open with a turn 1 Shi En what is your deck even doing?  The answer is nothing.  If you can't consistently get to Kagemusha when you need it, you're playing a Warrior Toolbox deck with cool special summon tricks and a Rank 3/4 toolbox.  That doesn't sound like a competitive deck at all in my opinion and if you can't get something rolling within the first couple turns then your deck just falls apart.  Not to mention how hard it gets to actually go off when you go second.  When your opponents can actually hit your Uniteds and Gateways with their Typhoons, Torrential your boards, and hit your synchros with Solemn Warning.  And that's if you even get those really good hands with the deck.

Karakuri is also like that but to a much lesser extent.  If you do happen to open with an awkward hand that doesn't really have a way to explode you can atleast set a Karakuri Soldier "Nisamu" or try to search your deck for a Komachi via your Merchants and try to get something going next turn.  But the deck loses really hard to cards like Effect Veiler, Fiendish Chain and Solemn Warning.  Investing 2 cards into a synchro that can be taken down with a single card isn't the best thing, and when your deck forces you to either make those trades or not make plays at all you can often get stuck with the short end of the stick.  Karakuri and Samurai both have bad matchups against Inzektor too unless they draw enough Effect Veilers and access to Naturia Landoise+Spell cards.  Passing with a field of Bureido, Burei and Naturia Beast isn't very threatening to a player holding an Inzektor Dragonfly.  You have to hit hard and fast against Inzektor if you're playing either of these decks and when you consider the fact that sometimes you just open with those hands where you can't make any really spectacular plays, you're just asking to lose to what is considered the most popular deck for the event.  When you dive into sidedecks, you also realize that people have side cards for your strategy that they aren't even siding specifically for you.  Kinetic Soldier, Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo, Chain Disappearance, and more all already near side deck staples to beat the expected top decks, and they all serve roles in the side deck other than beating your strategy.  But it's nice to know that they're also extra cards your opponents can side in to help beat you too!  I don't think I could ever play inconsistent decks like these at such a high-level event like Worlds.  When you think about it you need only win 4 rounds on Day 1 and 3 on Day 2 to win the whole thing and become a World Champion.  That's only 7 rounds; why wouldn't you try to play the most consistent deck?  These decks are far from the consistency I'm looking for, and I really don't know why anyone would play either of them.

Now onto the last deck I want to talk about in this article, and I'm sure it was the most predictable one..

Dark World - I think this is a terrible deck choice for worlds, yet I keep seeing discussion over it.  The fact that I couldn't even find enough good cards to run in DW in the current format, even with Upstarts, means that I'll definitely be playing a lot more of those sub par filler cards with the loss of Tour Guide from the Underworld.  Cards like DDV, Mind Crush, Skill Drain, Starlight Road, Dark Smog, etc are all terrible cards to main in DW in my opinion but I'm always forced to do it anyways because there are simply no better options.  Which brings me to another point.  While we're talking about Skill Drain, I wanted to go over the fact that I don't understand why it's such a huge maindecked card in this archetype.  I don't understand how turbo'ing to it can even be considered a win condition.  When you're playing something like DW where most of your cards are chainable, no one is going to randomly Space your backrows.  In fact, the only real target for your opponent's Space Typhoons are your Gate field spells.  By running Skill Drain you're giving them more targets.  This means your Drains will hardly ever stick around to do anything or effect the game at all.

Moving onto the matchups, it has a pretty good one against Heroes.  It doesn't have an easy Zenmaines drop anymore but as long as your opponent doesn't see enough Bottomlesses and Prisons, or if  you're able to just pop them with your Graphas, you should be winning against them every time.  Inzektor on the other hand is a whole different story.  Your own Dealings essentially set up their grave with Hornet/Ladybug while letting them dig for Dragonflies and Centipedes.  You might be able to knock a couple out with Dragged Downs but they're still drawing 2 after you see their hand.  Oftentimes if they draw an Inzektor name off the top that you aren't prepared for you'll lose or at least be put in a bad position.  But how can you even prepare for it?  I already covered why I think Skill Drain is bad, I think the only way to guarantee that they can't go off on you is turbo'ing through your deck to Deck Devastation Virus + Mind Crush.  That way you can literally rid them of all Inzektors they could possibly have.  That still leaves Monster Reborn and Call of  the Haunted though!  So even if you're lucky enough to do that with a deck as inconsistent as DW, you still can't guarantee your field not getting popped.  A turn 1 Naturia Beast also spells doom for this deck.  After siding it gets even harder; one landed Dimensional Fissure, Macro Cosmos, or Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror and you're just sitting there until you're able to draw an answer.  At which point it's probably too late.. the terrible inconsistency issues, so-so matchups, and huge weakness to single side deck cards turns me off from this deck completely.  There's almost no possible way for this deck to go 7-1 in the Worlds environment.

While I don't know what I'm playing yet I can tell you one thing; whatever it is, it wont be any of the decks I've listed above.  And I don't expect anyone else trying to win Worlds to play them either.  I'm sure the decks will be there but they won't win,  I can almost guarantee you that.  Worlds is such a hard format to predict, Tyler and I often joke about how much easier it'd be to prepare for a YCS.  Team USA has been testing extensively and they definitely won't stop anytime soon!  I know I certainly haven't gone at bed at a decent time since before the NAWCQ and I definitely miss the pleasure of going to sleep while it's still dark out.  But all the testing is worth it - We feel like a have a firm grasp on what's going on and a lot of us feel like we're way ahead of the competition, myself included.  The next article I write will probably be the last one before Worlds, but Tyler and I will make sure to keep you guys updated on how it goes!  Until next time!

- Mike Steinman