The New 40?

First off, I just want to congratulate our newest 3-time champion, Billy Brake, on his victory at YCS Dallas. He was able to do something that no other player has ever done before, which will be the premise of this article. Billy was able to pilot a whopping 60-card deck to the Top16 playoffs before reigning supreme in his own backyard, sending the entire community into an uproar.  The last time we’ve seen anything close to this would have to be when Long Dao won YCS Lille with his 53-card Mermail deck in 2013. Before we begin discussing the pros and cons of running more than the standard 40 cards (or 37 if you’re a Hobanite), let’s take a look at Billy’s list:

Monsters: 33

3 Artifact Moralltach

3 Kuribandit

3 Mathematician

3 Effect Veiler

3 Tour Guide from the Underworld

3 Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

3 Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

2 Shaddoll Dragon

2 Shaddoll Falco

2 Shaddoll Beast

2 Shaddoll Squamata

2 Shaddoll Hedgehog

1 Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

1 Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning

Spells: 9

3 The Beginning of the End

3 Shaddoll Fusion

1 Allure of Darkness

1 Foolish Burial

1 Super Polymerization

Traps: 18

3 Artifact Sanctum

3 Sinister Shadow Games

3 Phoenix Wing Wind Blast

3 Vanity’s Emptiness

3 Trap Stun

2 Breakthrough Skill

1 Karma Cut

Side Deck: 15

3 Mobius the Frost Monarch

3 The Monarchs Storm Forth

3 Malevolent Catastrophe

2 Majesty’s Fiend

2 Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter

1 Mind Control

1 Raigeki

Extra Deck: 15

2 Shaddoll Construct

2 Shaddoll Winda

2 Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss

2 Ghostrick Alucard

1 Arcanite Magician

1 Black Rose Magician

1 Leo, Keeper of the Sacred Tree

1 Armades, Keeper of Boundaries

1 Michael, the Arch-Lightsworn

1 Number 49: Fortune Tune

1 Downerd Magician

el shaddoll constructTyping that decklist out was quite the chore, so I hope you’ve taken the time to digest it all. There are three engines at work here: Shaddolls, Burning Abyss, and Artifacts. What I love about these three archetypes is how different they are from one another, but how well they compliment each other. They each come with their own powerful trap card, too, which, when combined, can create some nasty plays. Artifacts have Sanctum, Shaddolls have Shadow Games, and Burning Abyss have Wing Blast. Maxing out on all of them effectively allows you to have some of the best responses to your opponent’s plays.

Personally, I think the Burning Abyss engine is amazing, but I don’t think it’s meant to be played by itself (in its current state), in the same way that D-Heroes weren’t meant to be played as a standalone deck, either. Sure, you can certainly do well with a standard Burning Abyss deck, but what’s really winning you those games? If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s the trap cards. The only time you’ll ever lose to Burning Abyss is when they have a constant stream of traps to lock you out of the game.  Jeff Jones realized the importance of traps in the Burning Abyss strategy, which caused him to create a build that used twenty of them.

It has been stated time and time again that Burning Abyss lacks a win condition when piloted on its own. Rank 3s are pretty underwhelming, and outside of BLS, there isn’t really much pressure behind the strategy after the first few turns. Where Burning Abyss excels is in the early game, thanks to Tour Guide. What it lacks is a legitimate closer. Therefore, by adding the Shaddoll engine, you have a great late game and a great win condition in the form of Shaddoll Fusion. That card is the thread holding all three strategies together. It doesn’t matter if you draw Artifacts or too many monsters, as long as you have Shaddoll Fusion, you can make use of all of them, and trade them for other cards. When you use Shaddoll Fusion with a Moralltach to make Shaddoll Construct, her effect will most likely send Shaddoll Beast, which means your Moralltach just became Upstart Goblin. You’ve effectively turned a dead card into a live one. Shaddoll Fusion gives you another way to transform your Scarm(s) and Graff(s) into Tour Guides on the end phase, while also creating an annoying monster for opposing decks.

I would argue that Billy’s deck has the best late game in the current format, thanks to The Beginning of the End. It allows you to draw three cards, which is far too many when both players are either grinding it out, or low on resources. Do you remember when Pot of Avarice was the most savage top deck in the game? Well, what if it drew you an additional card? Yeah, that’s not okay, especially when it isn’t hard to resolve, either. Players who tried to patiently grind it out with Billy’s deck were making a terrible misplay without even knowing it.

MATHEMATICIANFor openers, he has a full playset of both Mathematician and Kuribandit. Most decks are forced to choose between the two because there isn’t enough space for both of them. When going first, Kuribandit is the ideal monster to have because it can outright win you the game sometimes. Even if it only hits a Squamata or a Beast, that’s just too much. Then, when you think about the fact that it can also hit the entire Burning Abyss engine, too, it becomes a real problem card. If that weren’t enough, Kuribandit fuels The Beginning of the End, and it digs for those powerful trap cards that keep your opponent at bay. If the game goes too long, this deck cannot lose.

Mathematician is the ideal summon when going second, since he’s a floater, and you don’t mind soaking up cards like Breakthrough Skill or Effect Veiler with him. At that point, those cards become minuses to your opponent because the Mathematician is still on the field. He also packs a pretty decent punch with 1500 attack, and he draws a card to help you cycle through the colossal deck. Another thing that players haven’t quite caught on to yet is how to use Mathematician correctly, though. You see, none of these decks are using Mystical Space Typhoon, which means there aren’t many immediate outs to Vanity’s Emptiness. However, if you can forego using your Mathematician too soon, you can use him later as a way to clear out the backrow, and force your play to go through.

Let’s say, for example, that your opponent has two backrows and two monsters on the field with only a few lifepoints left. You have Shaddoll Fusion, Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning, and Mathematician in hand. Instead of trying to hit the correct backrow with Mathematician by sending Shaddoll Dragon, you could purposely use Shaddoll Fusion to bait out the Emptiness, then summon Mathematician to pop the other backrow, and drop BLS for game. This line of thinking is a common thing amongst good players. You’re making the most use out of your cards, without needlessly risking any resources. Obviously, there are times when it is correct to rely on chance, like when you need both the Shaddoll Fusion AND the BLS to go through, but you’ll know when that’s the case.

artifact moralltachThe other great part about using so many cards in your deck is the fact that there are certain cards that you never want to draw, like Artifact Moralltach. Simple probability says the more cards you play, the less chances you have of drawing into those awful cards. However, this is a double-edged sword because you will also draw into your good cards less often as well. A 60-card deck could certainly utilize a bad draw like Felis, Lightsworn Archer, since you won’t draw her that often, but you also won’t draw your Shaddoll Fusions or BLS that often either.

You have an 8.3% chance to open with a card you play 1 copy of in a 60-card deck when going first, and a 10% chance when going second. When playing 40 cards, you have a 12.5% chance of opening with a card you play 1 copy of, and a 15% chance to open with it when going second. So how many good cards are you playing, and how many “bad” cards are you playing? This answer changes when considering how some cards are amazing to open with, while some are horrible to open with. The obvious elephant in the room would have to be The Beginning of the End. I have emphasized how amazing it is in the late game, but let us not forget that you need no less than seven Dark monsters in the grave to activate it, which doesn’t always happen on the first turn…if at all.

To further stress my point about NOT wanting to draw into your bad cards as often, I had come to realize that the Shaddoll monsters are all actually pretty awful draws on their own, and usually lead to terrible hands. How often do you really want a Squamata and a Dragon in your hand, unless you have Shaddoll Fusion? It kind of resembles Sylvans in that you want to keep the monsters in the deck, and draw all of your spells and traps to trigger their effects. You’d much rather have a hand of Sinister Shadow Games, Artifact Sanctum(s), and Shaddoll Fusion(s), with just one Shaddoll monster.  You also don’t want to constantly draw cards like Kuribandit after turn one, which happens less often when playing 60 cards.

trap stunI can imagine that this deck has some huge plays, which is why he chose to max out on Trap Stun (and why not, it’s 60 cards after all). It’s also exceptionally good against Burning Abyss for obvious reasons. When I take a closer look at the decklist, I see that it has an incredible matchup against standard Burning Abyss. Not only do you have Shaddoll Fusion, but you also have the vicious traps like Karma Cut and Phoenix Wing Wind Blast. If they put of a Dante, you can match it with your own AND get a Construct or Winda to go with it—for free.

He kept the side deck very simple. Most of it is just backrow destruction, because realistically, if Shaddolls clear the backrow, the game is over. Storm Forth is one of my favorite cards and has high utility with Shaddoll Beast, Mobius, and Majesty’s Fiend. It even deals with opposing nuisances, like Vanity’s Fiend, Majesty’s Fiend, and Leo, Keeper of the Sacred Tree. If that weren’t enough, you can turn the tides by tributing your opponent’s facedown Shaddoll Beast for your own facedown Shaddoll Beast. And yes, if you were wondering, you CAN tribute set with The Monarchs Storm Forth. The card is amazing, so if you haven’t tried it out, I strongly recommend that you do.

Malevolent Catastrophe is an auto-win, so there isn’t much that needs to be said on that. Ryko is for Satellarknights—the only deck that can really side Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror. It also happens to trigger Shaddoll/Burning Abyss cards when it mills, so you can pop a Shadow Mirror AND go plus off of it.

The extra deck is standard. I think the only thing that sort of sticks out is Michael, the Arch-Lightsworn. You make him with Moralltach, and he mills on the end phase, which will undoubtedly trigger some of your monsters. He also deals with cards like Dante and Construct in a manner that ensures their effects aren’t triggered. Paying 1000 to banish any card is amazing, especially when all it takes is a Falco and Moralltach to make.

To be honest, I really like this deck. I like the idea, I like the fact that it’s different, and it’s innovative, and overall it just seems like something fun to play with. Not everyone will have the same results as Billy Brake, but don’t be afraid to test your skill with the deck. If it does nothing else, it will certainly teach you card interactions.

There’s been an increase in players opting to use more than 40 cards, so is it possible that the toolbox of Burning Abyss and Shaddolls gives merit to that form of deck construction? We know that once you see one Burning Abyss monster, you will essentially see the entire package. What do you think, is 60 the new 40? Can decks playing more than 40 cards be considered better than 40 card decks in certain formats?

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Thanks for reading, and Remember, Play Hard or Go Home!

-Frazier Smith

-The Dark Magician




Frazier Smith

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