The Problems with Shaddolls

patrickhobanThe Problems with Shaddolls

Shaddolls were the most hyped deck right off the bat from Duelist Alliance. They garnered lots of attention and unsurprisingly took the most spots in top cut at the first event after their release, but despite being played in mass, they couldn’t make it past Top 4. Was this a fluke and are Shaddolls really the deck to beat or is there something more at play that contributed to them not being able to finish the job?

While I’m sure we all know what benefits there are to playing Shaddolls and all the powerful things they can do, being told “good job” or “that’s terrific” doesn’t foster growth. If we point out what problems the deck has, we’re half way to fixing them!

I played the Shaddoll deck in Atlantic City two weeks ago. That event and my testing since them have lead me to compile a list of problems that typical Shaddoll build has.

Shaddoll FusionMonsters are Subpar and Slow

Shaddolls greatest strength lies in the ability to use Shaddoll Fusion. Without being able to Fusion summon, the monsters in that deck are incredibly underwhelming.

Hedgehog is the only flip effect monster you’re going to want to see on your first turn the majority of the time when you don’t have Fusion. Since your strategy is rooted in resolving Fusion and Hedgehog gets you Fusion, he seems integral. The problem is he’s a level 3 monster where the entire rest of the deck is not, his stats are rivaled by Baby Dragon, and his send to the graveyard effect is the worst of them all. Searching monsters to your hand is rarely optimal because, as this section might suggest, most of the Shaddolls aren’t actually very good. Because of this, you would usually rather trigger a different graveyard effect and Hedgehog ends up being the last Shaddoll in deck and is pretty useless once you have resolved a Fusion.

Beast is definitely the best thing Shaddolls have going for them in the monster department. Both his sent to the grave effect and his flip effect are pretty incredible. Being level 5 makes him awkward though, as tributing for him isn’t very commonplace and when nothing else in the deck is level 5, your XYZ and Synchro plays are limited and awkward to say the least.

Squamata is solid in that he can be any Shaddoll card when he’s sent to the graveyard, but whenever you draw him without Fusion he’s not going to advance your game state. Destroying monsters is useful, but you want to be setting up your next move like Falco or Beast do when using their flip effects.

shaddoll FalcoFalco is the absolute slowest card in the deck. You have to set him, flip him up, set another monster, and then wait another turn to flip that monster up. Falco is also bad in your opening hands as you won’t have anything to pull back with his effect. Being a level 2 fits with the whole “awkward level” thing Shaddolls have going. You’re rarely going to get lots of use out of him being a tuner because whatever he summons is summoned face down. To synchro with him, you’d have to summon another monster and give up any Shaddoll effects when you tune with it as it won’t have been flipped or sent to the grave by a card effect.

Dragon is solid in that drawing him is an out to any established field, he’s one of the less awkward levels, and he’s got solid stats. The only real downside to Dragon is that he doesn’t advance your game plan in the way that Beast or Falco does.

Another problem that comes with the monsters is the number of normal summons they add to your deck. If you’ve got a 5 card hand and 3 of them you can only summon once per turn, you’ve got a 3 card hand. Each additional normal summon is one less option you have for the turn. The entire Shaddoll monster core is comprised of normal summons. I think we’ll see a minimalistic approach take over.

The Light monster options for this deck are exceedingly underwhelming as well. The vast majority of them only contribute to the aforementioned normal summon problem or are inconsistent in accomplishing the deck’s goals such as White Dragon.

Lack of Auto Wins / Good Soul Charge

Let’s not underestimate how good Soul Charge actually is. It’s quite literally one of the best cards ever printed since the game was conceived. Because of this, I have an idea that the best deck will be able to effectively use the maximum amount of Soul Charges and that if it can’t, there probably is a better deck that can. This is a good explanation for why Satellarknights won the first event with three Soul Charges in their deck.

Have you ever used a Soul Charge in your typical Shaddoll deck? It’s actually extremely underwhelming. Other decks are Soul Charging into unbreakable fields of Felgrand for protection, powerful level 8 synchros, and have cards like Heliopolis at their disposal to clear an opposing field without a battle phase. Shaddolls version of that is something like Arcanite + Dweller. It doesn’t quite compare. I think the best build of Shaddolls, even if it hasn’t been discovered yet, will be able to effectively fix this.

Additionally, you need auto wins in the best deck. If one deck wins x percent of the games just because they have a super crazy combo and the other decks don’t, that’s a pretty big advantage for that deck over the field. This combo often goes hand-in-hand with Soul Charge. Shaddolls percentage of games where they can look at their hand and say they are going to win outright is extremely low in comparison to many other decks and the ability to make it happen through a turn one Soul Charge is practically nonexistent.

Bad Late Game

Shaddolls are limited by the amount of stuff you can do. If you can survive long enough against a Shaddoll deck, they’ll eventually run out of Shaddoll monsters and this actually happens pretty quickly. This means Shaddolls are lacking a solid late game strategy. One thing you can do is avoid sending Squamata from the deck first. Often times you’re going to need him to attack for 1800 to actually win.

Difficult to do Damage

Which brings me to my next point; Shaddolls that don’t play inconsistent cards like White and Black Dragon can’t really do much damage. They can be doing well in the grind game, but actually reducing your opponents life points to 0 is a different story.

Think about that. It seems a little contradictory to have difficulty doing damage and a bad late game. It seems like your inability to kill your opponent is going to result in the majority of your games going to the late game, a game state that you are not favored in.

rivalry of warlordsFloodgates

Now it’s nothing new that the flavor of the format can be stopped by one floodgate or another. It’s the same old story of “draw MST or you can’t play the game.” The problem is actually worse for Shaddolls though. Let’s look at a deck like Water that might lose to Rivalry of the Warlords. Water can kill your opponent in few enough turns, that there’s a good chance they won’t see any sided copies of Rivalry. Shaddolls, on the other hand, take lots of turns to win and thus give the opponent lots of turns to draw any sided floodgates.

I don’t necessarily think I have the answer to several of these problems, but to come up with a solution you must first pose a question of “what’s wrong?” Whoever is capable of solving this puzzle will definitely see great success with the deck this weekend in Toronto and in three weeks in Indianapolis. I look forward to seeing you all there. Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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