With two more ARG events in the books, we now have a defined meta. Burning Abyss and Qliphorts are leading the pack, taking most of the top spots, while Shaddolls struggle to keep a foot in the game. Even though it’s quite obvious, I will say that Burning Abyss is the best deck and I will be going over why that is, but I will also offer a counter argument, too.
As you all know, Burning Abyss received five new cards in the last set, and all five of them are being put to use. Fire Lake is obviously the most impactful, followed by Virgil, but we cannot discount the three new Malebranche monsters, either. Because of Fire Lake, Burning Abyss pretty much has a bye when playing against Qliphorts. This is because that deck cannot go without committing most/all of its cards to the field, which is terrible when playing against something that utilizes easy-to-get-to mass destruction. The second reason why Qliphorts are a bye to BA (Burning Abyss) is due to the high damage output that comes from two Dantes and a possible third Xyz/Synchro—or even just a Cir. Paying for Scout several times is integral to the strategy, and when you have to start debating if it’s safe to make your next payment, you’re already in trouble. That’s the kind of pressure that BA puts on Qliphorts.
To make the matchup even more skewed, cards like Skill Drain and Forbidden Chalice don’t do much to stop this. Both cards are pretty subpar against BA because of the loop with Dante and Cir, and every other card just replaces itself, anyways. This means that the BA player only has to wait until he/she can resolve Fire Lake, and the game is pretty much over. Sure, it might take two of them to win the game, but it’s so easy to achieve it that you can’t refer to it as luck in any way. I’ve watched this matchup play out several times, and whenever the BA player is competent enough or doesn’t draw horrible, he/she usually wins. It reminds me of the Dino Rabbit vs. Wind-up matchup, where Rabbit had such a huge advantage because of Dolkka. This was mostly due to Wind-ups needing at least a two-card combo to do anything, while Rabbit could thrive off of its individual pieces. Qliphorts also need two-card combos to do anything, which means it can be very easy to break up their plays, and they don’t automatically replace themselves.
Simple things in the BA deck like Karma Cut and Phoenix Wing Wind Blast have their merits, too, successfully halting the opposing strategy for free, and progressing the gamestate on the opponent’s turn. If you’re making sure to resolve Cir, Graff, and Scarm on both turns, you’ll have a quick match. Virgil can be pretty amazing once you get the first one out because he’ll just keep coming back, and he puts Saqlifice back in the deck. This allows you to beat over one of their monsters and push with the rest of the field when the Qliphort player is trying to stall.
After siding, I think the matchup is still just as skewed thanks to Fairy Wind being a card, which outs all of the opposing side cards except Majesty’s Fiend and Vanity’s Fiend, but those cards will often lead to some less than optimal hands. Also, having one of those guys spun to the top of your deck is not okay.
Now, this is not to say that there are no upsides to playing Qliphorts, because clearly the numbers are in their favor when it comes to the number of tops to total representation ratio. If only twenty players use the deck and eight of them make it, that’s pretty good, whereas if sixty or so Shaddoll decks enter and only three are making it each time, something is clearly wrong. And there is a reason for this. Qliphorts have such a good matchup against Shaddolls that it almost makes you want to give up on the deck. It is about as much of a bye as Qliphorts are to Burning Abyss. Shaddolls, as they have been built in the past, have a hard time doing enough damage to put adequate pressure on the Qliphort player, and Shaddoll Fusion will never be free against a good player. No one is summoning something from the extra deck and leaving it there against you, unless they don’t know how to play, in which case you would probably beat them regardless of the matchup. There will always be a tribute summon waiting to happen after a Pendulum summon from the extra deck.
On top of this, Shaddolls don’t have nearly as much defense as Burning Abyss, so if you stagger for even one turn, you’re dead. The Shaddoll deck also cannot afford to put out massive damage AND keep Qliphort Scout from resolving at the same time, which is unfortunate because BA can do both of those things easily. If you spend your games trying to stop the resolution of Scout, you will lose to having low resources. Qliphorts thrive off of one-for-one trades because they know that it only takes one play to go through to win the game against Shaddoll. If a Disk goes off, that’s probably it.
Remember how Skill Drain doesn’t really affect Burning Abyss that much? Well if absolutely ruins Shaddolls. The problem is, you need cards like Mathematician and Construct to resolve so that you keep your card advantage. You also need to preserve lifepoints. Both of these things are impossible to do against Skill Drain. Your best friend is Shaddoll Dragon to pop it, but it’s not like Skill Drain is absolutely necessary to the Qliport strategy, either. In fact, you will find that destroying their Skill Drain often leads to having a Disk dropped on you that turn or the next. It’s bad. The whole matchup is just bad. I have learned the hard way that you have to play like an ape to beat that deck instead of trying to grind it out as you would in the Shaddoll mirror match, or against Burning Abyss. Your goal should be to do as much damage as possible early on, which will make your power cards like Super Polymerization and Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning lethal.
As for Shaddoll vs. Burning Abyss, that matchup has gotten a lot more even now. It used to be pretty one sided thanks to Shaddoll Fusion, but now there are a few things wrong with relying on that. First, Fire Lake can be chained to Shaddoll Fusion. This is nasty because you will be forced to fuse with the cards in your hand or on the field, instead of getting to use your main deck as materials. The Burning Abyss player can simply target Shaddoll Fusion with Fire Lake if you have nothing on the field, and they won’t actually lose advantage. Dante will activate and so will Cir, and if more than one Dante was used for the cost of Fire Lake, then it gets even worse. If this trick play causes you to lose your Shaddoll Fusion altogether, you will lose the game right there on your first turn. Secondly, there will be games where you simply don’t draw Shaddoll Fusion, or they have the Emptiness on turn one to protect their setup. Despite this, I prefer to go second against Burning Abyss because you don’t have a strong enough opening play outside of maybe Winda, and their best play is good for you because it gives you a chance at a free Shaddoll Fusion. The ideal opener for Burning Abyss is multiple Dantes and at least one good trap. Your best play is a Shaddoll Fusion while they have an extra deck monster out.
Lately, a lot of players have been using Denko Sekka in the main deck to stop the destructive force of Fire Lake and other annoying backrows, like Karma Cut, Phoenix Wing Wind Blast, Compulsory Evacuation Device, and face-down Vanity’s Emptiness. She is essentially a walking Cold Wave, allowing you to freeze all set spells and traps while you play your Shaddoll Fusions or drop BLS/Dark Armed/anything to push the momentum in your favor. And the best part is—without Tour Guide—there is no out to Denko. You can set Scarm if she is the only thing on the field, but chances are that’s not the case, otherwise there would have been no reason to summon her.
One of the other things I’ve noticed is that there’s been some use of Honest and Thunder King Rai-oh in Shaddolls as well, which really helps in the Qliphort matchup. Glow-up Bulb seems to have picked up, too, giving you a one-card Armory Arm if you have Mathematician, and you can make Star Eater with Shekinaga. Both of these things allow you to beat over Qliphort Towers, which was an auto-win for that deck. You can deal a quick 3800 damage by equipping a Construct with Armory Arm and attacking a normal summoned monster, or you can make your El Shaddoll Winda unbeatable in battle by making her 3200.
Glow-up Bulb also triggers the effects of Shaddolls if you happen to mill one with its effect, so there’s that, too. I personally love all the innovation that we’re seeing with Shaddolls, which brings me to my last point.
So, basically, our meta is composed of three decks that all have one good matchup and one bad matchup. This is what is meant by “triangle meta”: Burning Abyss beats Qliphorts, Qliphorts beat Shaddolls, Shaddolls beat Burning Abyss. It’s like choosing a starting Pokemon in the first gen. You have your Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Charmander each with a strength and weakness to the other two. The only thing is I wouldn’t say that Shaddolls have an auto-win against Burning Abyss because that’s definitely not true. The matchup is very 50-50, and because of this, Burning Abyss has a slight edge in the format. That slight edge is enough to make it the best deck for now, though.
If someone were to create a build of Shaddolls that has a good matchup against Qliphorts while also increasing the rate of auto-wins against Burning Abyss, then Shaddolls will become the best deck again. However, this is very hard to do and may not even be possible because of how different the two opposing decks are. I haven’t given up on Shaddolls and I would encourage the other Shadduelists to not give up as well. There is nothing wrong with challenging yourself as long as it’s reasonable. Continue to innovate and find new tech to help against these matchups.
Until next time, duelists! Remember, Play Hard or Go Home!
-The Dark Magician