Performage Nekroz

Two weekends ago we saw the culmination of the dueling season with the ARG Circuit Series Championship and the World Championship. After the dust had settled we saw a familiar face and close friend of mine, Chris LeBlanc, reign supreme in Philadelphia to join the elite few to have won three championships. Having moved in to attend college, he brings an unprecedented 11th ring to the Leverett household. His consistency across multiple formats is truly inspiring and a testament to how great this game really is. Congratulations Chris!

The Nekroz deck he piloted to victory was one that I came up with and was quite different from other Nekroz strategies. Today I want to explain the concept behind the deck. Let’s start by taking a look at the decklist:

Monsters: 27
3 Nekroz of Unicore
2 Nekroz of Brionac
3 Nekroz of Valkyrus
2 Nekroz of Clausolus
1 Nekroz of Decisive Armor
1 Great Sorcerer of Nekroz
1 Nekroz of Gungnir
3 Senju of the Thousand Hands
3 Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands
1 Exa Enforcer of Nekroz
2 Performage Damage Juggler
2 Performage Trick Clown
2 Performage Hat Tricker
1 Shurit Strategist of Nekroz

Spells: 13
3 Upstart Goblin
2 Reinforcement of the Army
2 Nekroz Kaleidoscope
2 Nekroz Cycle
2 Nekroz Mirror
1 Foolish Burial
1 Preparation of Rites

Extra Deck: 15
2 Daigusto Emeral
1 Diamond Dire Wolf
1 Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk
1 Evilswarm Exciton Knight
1 Castel the Skyblaster Musketeer
1 Bujintei Amaratsu
1 Abyss Dweller
2 Herald of Arc Light
1 Number 104: Masquerade
1 Gagaga Cowboy
1 Dragon Master Knight
1 Star Eater
1 Number 52: Diamond Crab King

Side Deck: 15
2 Puppet Plant
3 Mystical Space Typhoon
3 Royal Decree
3 Debunk
1 Dance Princess of Nekroz
2 Dark Hole
1 Raigeki

el shaddoll fusionWhen I originally read the Performage cards I saw huge potential in them. I thought they were similar to Burning Abyss cards, but they allowed you to make rank 4 monsters as opposed to rank 3s, which are narrower in scope. We originally tried to incorporate them in Shaddolls, but the limitation of El Shaddoll in ARG format and the presence of Unicore proved to be too much.

We kept trying to make other decks besides Nekroz work, but they all just had an inferior engine to Nekroz, so we kept coming back to Nekroz time and again. There were several problems that up until this point we were unable to effectively solve.

The formats (both ARG format which was used for the 25k and Konami format that will be used this weekend in Toronto) are actually very similar to a two-deck format. This might come across as strange seeing that Nekroz, Burning Abyss, Shaddoll, Satellarknight, Qliphort, and Kozmos all hold a presence in the formats. I think it’s much more useful to look at the format as if the only decks were Nekroz and Anti-Nekroz. The fact of the matter is that no strategy can use only its engine to compete with Nekroz, as they are an inherently bigger deck. If you take Nekroz engine and put it against Burning Abyss’ engine, or Nekroz engine and put it against Satellarknights engine, and so on, Nekroz will win nearly every time if they were to go head-to-head. The other strategies have to rely on non-engine components (traps), in an attempt to bring Nekroz’s high ceiling down a few notches to their level. I don’t think the engine of the other decks matters very much, even though they technically have different engines, because Nekroz would beat any head-to-head bouts against other engines. The anti-Nekroz nature of each of these trap decks is what is actually important as all the traps have a similar purpose (lowing Nekroz’s ceiling. For this reason, I think it is most useful to approach the format in terms of Nekroz and Anti-Nekroz decks.

The presences of these two very opposite strategies gives the format a paradoxical nature. Do you want to put MSTs in your Nekroz deck to counter the Anti-Nekroz decks? Then you weaken your matchup when you play mirrors. Do you want to forego cards like MST in the main deck to improve your Nekroz matchup? Then you’ll drop games to Anti-Nekroz decks’ main decked floodgates. It seemed that there was no efficient way to solve this paradox.

castelThat is until, of course, Performages! I saw them as a potential solution to this contradiction between countering both Nekroz and non-Nekroz strategies. The basic idea is that against Anti-Nekroz decks, the Performages will allow you to make rank 4s such as Castel or Diamond Dire Wolf to out floodgates like Mistake. Unlike alternatives like MST for dealing with floodgates, the Performage cards also improve your Nekroz matchup.

There are only four ways to win a game of Yu-Gi-Oh. You can set up a lock to prevent your opponent from being able to play (such as Mistake or Vanity’s Emptiness), you can grind them out of resources, you can reduce their life points to zero, or you can use an alternative win condition (such as Exodia).

The ARG format set up a very interesting dynamic for Nekroz mirror matches between these win conditions. Because there are very few floodgates in the format (Emptiness was banned, Djinn was banned, Mistake was limited) and how diverse Nekroz plays are (ie Senju/Manju searching any card to deal with an opposing threat), setting up a lock wasn’t much of an option. Because of how readily accessible Valkyrus is, attacking for game is rarely viable. Since we’re not shoving the five pieces of Exodia into our Nekroz deck while being protected from Valkyrus, this left almost every single Nekroz mirror match to be an attrition war.

The cards in either player’s hand rarely mattered since most Nekroz cards will get most other Nekroz cards. This made it so that the only thing that truly mattered was what resources you still had available in your deck. How many of your six or seven ritual spells were gone? How many Unicores were gone? This forced a shift to focus on what they had in deck rather than what they had in hand.

I am a firm believer of the notion that the only way you can enter a tournament and realistically expect to win is by having a better deck than everyone else in the room. The fact of the matter is that you need to be able to have free games given to you, simply because your deck could do more. It’s not a reliable strategy expecting to grind through every round and come out on top. You’ll get tired and misplay, you’ll be playing a strategy that every opponent is well-practiced for, and a host of other reasons make technical play less important to having an outright deck advantage over the rest of the field. The notion that “big is better” is certainly true for the game of Yu-Gi-Oh and whoever has the bigger deck will likely be the winner.

When I talk about how big a deck is, I’m referring to how much the deck’s engine can do when compared with another deck. If you have a bigger deck, you’ll be able to win an attrition war as you’ll be able to do more than them. Since you’re able to do more, and by extension your opponent can do less, your deck’s bigness is similar to a semi-soft lock. Since you’re able to do more, you’ll be more easily able reduce their life points to zero. These three things are why having a bigger deck is the equivalent of having a better deck.

Damage JugglerThe Performages allow you to have a bigger deck than the typical Nekroz opponent. Any time you tribute Damage Juggler or Trick Clown for Valkyrus, you’ll get an extra card to use in addition to the cards you draw off of Valkyrus. This allows you to make cards like Diagusto Emeral to recycle Unicores (and by extension ritual spells) to give you more resources left in your deck to help you win attrition wars in the mirror match. The Performages further raise the ceiling above typical Nekroz decks by allowing them to progress the game without using any ritual spells. Typically to make any play you’ll have to use one of your six or seven ritual spells. Performages just gave extra options so that we didn’t have to exhaust ritual spells as quickly.

Performages also aided by allowing us a way to attack for game through Valkyrus. This was by using either Senju or Manju, Unicore, and Hat Tricker or Trick Clown to make Number 104: Masquerade, to negate Valkyrus. This interaction is even more important in terms of Konami format, because of the existence of Trishula. Trishula’s impact is almost always game-ending, which leaves players to typically not be able to leave a field. This creates a powerful and paradoxical lose-lose scenario (that I’m sure I’ll regret discovering later in the format) for any Nekroz opponent not playing Performages. They can either leave a field and lose to Trishula, or not leave a field and have their life points reduced to zero, regardless of whether or not they have Valkryus.

These cards provided a powerful alternative and useful solution to many of the problems that existed for Nekroz. These cards certainly hold weight in Konami’s format as we head into YCS Toronto. Chris’ win at the 25k is a prime example of exploiting card interactions within a format to create a bigger deck. Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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