Greetings everyone! The new format's officially a week old, and we've already started seeing shifts in the competitive landscape.

This last weekend, over a hundred players battled it out in two RDI Qualifiers, all vying for their chance at a seat in April's Remote Duel Invitational. The sixteen duelists who secured their spots had to play through six rounds of Swiss, proving that their decks could make it in longer tournaments, everyone fighting tooth and nail for the coveted chance to become the next King of Games.

The interesting thing about the top decks from this weekend - both Group A and Group B - is that while Dragon Link was the most represented strategy with six seats in the Top Cut, the other ten qualifying decks were all unique. Those competitors were fighting an uphill battle the whole weekend, but they each won just enough matches to secure their invite.

Even though those ten decks were different, the players who piloted with them were all applying the same principals to find success. Here's how they did it.

Play For The Grind Game

Combo decks often win by unleashing a flurry of plays, either setting up a board with multiple points of interaction to mess with your opponent, or immediately attacking for game-winning damage. Dragon Link's the perfect example, and it's certainly the biggest deck-to-beat right now.

Here's Sean Pittman's 1st Place list from Group A if you still need to get up to speed.

Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG Deck - Dragon Link by Sean Pittman

'Dragon Link' - constructed deck list and prices for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Sean Pittman

Event: Remote Duel Invitational Qualifier Group A

Rank: 1st

Advanced

Market Price: $725.31

Cards

Rokket Synchron

Market Price: $0.21

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/220682_200w.jpg

When this card is Normal Summoned: You can target 1 Level 5 or higher DARK Dragon monster in your GY; Special Summon it in Defense Position, negate its effects, destroy it during the End Phase, also you cannot Special Summon monsters from the Extra Deck for the rest of this turn, except DARK monsters.

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Rokket Tracer

Market Price: $0.51

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/253927_200w.jpg

(Quick Effect): You can target 1 face-up card you control; destroy it, and if you do, Special Summon 1 "Rokket" monster from your Deck, except "Rokket Tracer", also you cannot Special Summon monsters from the Extra Deck for the rest of this turn, except DARK monsters. You can only use this effect of "Rokket Tracer" once per turn.

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Absorouter Dragon

Market Price: $0.92

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196810_200w.jpg

If you control a "Rokket" monster, you can Special Summon this card (from your hand). You can only Special Summon "Absorouter Dragon" once per turn this way. If this card is sent to the GY: You can add 1 "Rokket" monster from your Deck to your hand. You can only use this effect of "Absorouter Dragon" once per turn.

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PSY-Frame Driver

Market Price: $0.20

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/254290_200w.jpg

A Psychic soldier that rides into battle against the Security Forces on currents of lightning, using an autonomic amplifier called "PSY-Frame".

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Chamber Dragonmaid

Market Price: $16.71

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/253929_200w.jpg

If this card is Normal or Special Summoned: You can add 1 "Dragonmaid" Spell/Trap from your Deck to your hand. At the start of the Battle Phase: You can return this card to the hand, and if you do, Special Summon 1 Level 7 or higher "Dragonmaid" monster from your hand or GY. You can only use each effect of "Chamber Dragonmaid" once per turn.

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Artifact Lancea

Market Price: $0.80

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/92358_200w.jpg

You can Set this card from your hand to your Spell & Trap Card Zone as a Spell Card. During your opponent's turn, if this Set card in the Spell & Trap Card Zone is destroyed and sent to your Graveyard: Special Summon it. During your opponent's turn: You can Tribute this card from your hand or face-up from your side of the field; neither player can banish cards for the rest of this turn. (this is a Quick Effect).

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World Legacy Guardragon

Market Price: $0.61

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/242883_200w.jpg

When this card is activated: You can target 1 Level 4 or lower Dragon monster in your GY; add it to your hand or Special Summon it. Once per turn: You can target 1 Dragon monster you control; move that monster you control to another of your Main Monster Zones. You can only activate 1 "World Legacy Guardragon" per turn.

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White Dragon Wyverburster

Market Price: $0.21

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/254438_200w.jpg

Cannot be Normal Summoned/Set. Must be Special Summoned (from your hand) by banishing 1 DARK monster from your GY. You can only Special Summon "White Dragon Wyverburster" once per turn this way. If this card is sent from the field to the GY: You can add 1 "Black Dragon Collapserpent" from your Deck to your hand.

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Borreload Savage Dragon

Market Price: $29.59

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/184143_200w.jpg

1 Tuner + 1+ non-Tuner monsters

If this card is Synchro Summoned: You can equip 1 Link Monster from your GY to this card, and if you do, place Borrel Counters on this card equal to that Link Monster's Link Rating. This card gains ATK equal to half the ATK of the monster equipped to it by its effect. When your opponent activates a card or effect (Quick Effect): You can remove 1 Borrel Counter from this card; negate the activation. You can only use this effect of "Borreload Savage Dragon" once per turn.

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Fantastical Dragon Phantazmay

Market Price: $4.35

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/220688_200w.jpg

If your opponent Special Summons a Link Monster(s) (except during the Damage Step): You can Special Summon this card from your hand, draw cards equal to the number of Link Monsters your opponent controls +1, then shuffle cards from your hand into the Deck equal to the number of Link Monsters they control. When your opponent activates a card or effect that targets a monster(s) you control (Quick Effect): You can discard 1 card; negate the activation, and if you do, destroy it. You can only use each effect of "Fantastical Dragon Phantazmay" once per turn.

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Hieratic Seal of the Heavenly Spheres

Market Price: $5.02

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/186917_200w.jpg

2 Dragon monsters

Once per opponent's turn, if this card is in the Extra Monster Zone (Quick Effect): You can Tribute 1 monster from your hand or field; return 1 face-up card on the field to the hand. If this card is Tributed: Special Summon 1 Dragon monster from your hand or Deck, but make its ATK/DEF 0. You can only use this effect of "Hieratic Seal of the Heavenly Spheres" once per turn.

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Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon

Market Price: $1.50

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/217423_200w.jpg

You can Special Summon this card (from your hand) by banishing 1 face-up Dragon monster you control. You can only Special Summon "Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon" once per turn this way. During your Main Phase: You can Special Summon 1 Dragon monster from your hand or GY, except "Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon". You can only use this effect of "Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon" once per turn.

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Triple Tactics Talent

Market Price: $39.74

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/249086_200w.jpg

If your opponent has activated a monster effect during your Main Phase this turn: Activate 1 of these effects;

• Draw 2 cards.
• Take control of 1 monster your opponent controls until the End Phase.
• Look at your opponent's hand, and choose 1 card from it to shuffle into the Deck.
You can only activate 1 "Triple Tactics Talent" per turn.

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Red Reboot

Market Price: $0.29

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196848_200w.jpg

When your opponent activates a Trap Card: Negate the activation, and if you do, Set that card face-down, then they can Set 1 other Trap directly from their Deck. For the rest of this turn after this card resolves, your opponent cannot activate Trap Cards. You can activate this card from your hand by paying half your LP.

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Borrelsword Dragon

Market Price: $12.93

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/197204_200w.jpg

3+ Effect Monsters

Cannot be destroyed by battle. Once per turn (Quick Effect): You can target 1 Attack Position monster; change it to Defense Position, also, this card can make a second attack during each Battle Phase this turn. Your opponent cannot activate cards or effects in response to this effect's activation. Once per turn, when this card declares an attack on a face-up monster: You can activate this effect; until the end of this turn, this card gains ATK equal to half that monster's current ATK, and if it does, that monster's current ATK is halved.

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Black Dragon Collapserpent

Market Price: $0.21

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/254441_200w.jpg

Cannot be Normal Summoned/Set. Must be Special Summoned (from your hand) by banishing 1 LIGHT monster from your GY. You can only Special Summon "Black Dragon Collapserpent" once per turn this way. If this card is sent from the field to the GY: You can add 1 "White Dragon Wyverburster" from your Deck to your hand.

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Dragunity Knight - Romulus

Market Price: $0.31

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/254391_200w.jpg

2 Dragon and/or Winged Beast monsters, except Tokens

If this card is Link Summoned: You can add 1 "Dragunity" Spell/Trap or 1 "Dragon Ravine" from your Deck to your hand. If a Dragon monster(s) is Special Summoned from the Extra Deck to a zone this card points to (except during the Damage Step): You can Special Summon 1 Dragon or Winged Beast monster from your hand in Defense Position, but for the rest of this turn, its effects (if any) are negated and it cannot be used as Link Material. You can only use each effect of "Dragunity Knight - Romulus" once per turn.

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Dragon Ravine

Market Price: $1.43

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/203899_200w.jpg

Once per turn: You can discard 1 card, then activate 1 of these effects;

• Add 1 Level 4 or lower "Dragunity" monster from your Deck to your hand.
• Send 1 Dragon monster from your Deck to the GY.

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Dark Ruler No More

Market Price: $8.47

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/224992_200w.jpg

Negate the effects of all face-up monsters your opponent currently controls, until the end of this turn, also, for the rest of this turn after this card resolves, your opponent takes no damage. Neither player can activate monster effects in response to this card's activation.

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Hot Red Dragon Archfiend Abyss

Market Price: $0.31

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/254277_200w.jpg

1 Tuner + 1 non-Tuner DARK Dragon Synchro Monster

(Quick Effect): You can target 1 face-up card your opponent controls; negate its effects until the end of this turn. When this card inflicts battle damage to your opponent: You can target 1 Tuner in your GY; Special Summon it in Defense Position. You can only use each effect of "Hot Red Dragon Archfiend Abyss" once per turn.

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Guardragon Elpy

Market Price: $0.85

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/184157_200w.jpg

1 Level 4 or lower Dragon monster

You cannot Special Summon monsters, except Dragon monsters. During your Main Phase: You can Special Summon 1 Dragon monster from your hand or Deck to your zone that 2 or more Link Monsters point to. You can only use this effect of "Guardragon Elpy" once per turn. You can only Special Summon "Guardragon Elpy(s)" once per turn.

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Quadborrel Dragon

Market Price: $0.39

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196859_200w.jpg

2 Dragon monsters, including a "Rokket" monster

You can discard 1 card, then target 1 face-up monster on the field; you cannot Special Summon Link-2 or lower monsters from the Extra Deck for the rest of the turn, also destroy the targeted monster, then, if it was a Link Monster, you can Special Summon any number of "Rokket" monsters with different names, from your hand or GY, up to its Link Rating. You can only use this effect of "Quadborrel Dragon" once per turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/196859/yugioh-structure-deck-rokket-revolt-quadborrel-dragon

PSY-Framegear Gamma

Market Price: $4.29

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215427_200w.jpg

Cannot be Normal Summoned/Set. Must be Special Summoned by a card effect. When your opponent activates a monster effect while you control no monsters (Quick Effect): You can Special Summon both this card from your hand and 1 "PSY-Frame Driver" from your hand, Deck, or GY, and if you do, negate that activation, and if you do that, destroy that monster. During the End Phase, banish the face-up monsters Special Summoned by this effect.

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Imperial Order

Market Price: $3.00

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/181780_200w.jpg

Negate all Spell effects on the field. Once per turn, during the Standby Phase, you must pay 700 LP (this is not optional), or this card is destroyed.


Official Tournament Stores must review their Konami OTS agreement before selling this product.

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Omni Dragon Brotaur

Market Price: $1.68

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/220735_200w.jpg

If a monster you control is destroyed by battle or an opponent's card effect: You can Special Summon this card from the GY (if it was there when the monster was destroyed) or hand (even if not), but banish it when it leaves the field. If this card is Special Summoned: You can target 1 face-up monster on the field; discard 1 card, and if you do, add 1 monster from your Deck to your hand, with the same Type and Attribute as that target, but a different name. You can only use each effect of "Omni Dragon Brotaur" once per turn.

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Forbidden Droplet

Market Price: $119.99

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/256381_200w.jpg

Send any number of other cards from your hand and/or field to the GY; choose that many Effect Monsters your opponent controls, and until the end of this turn, their ATK is halved, also their effects are negated. In response to this card's activation, your opponent cannot activate cards, or the effects of cards, with the same original type (Monster/Spell/Trap) as the cards sent to the GY to activate this card. You can only activate 1 "Forbidden Droplet" per turn.

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Dragonmaid Tidying

Market Price: $0.43

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/249064_200w.jpg

Target 1 Dragon monster you control and 1 card your opponent controls or in their GY; return them to the hand. You can banish this card from your GY; Special Summon 1 "Dragonmaid" monster from your hand or GY in Defense Position, but return it to the hand during the End Phase. You can only use 1 "Dragonmaid Tidying" effect per turn, and only once that turn.

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Saryuja Skull Dread

Market Price: $0.83

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199578_200w.jpg

2+ monsters with different names

This card gains effects based on the number of materials used for its Link Summon.
• 2+: If a monster(s) is Normal or Special Summoned to a zone this card points to: That monster(s) gains 300 ATK/DEF.
• 3+: Once per turn: You can Special Summon 1 monster from your hand.
• 4: When this card is Link Summoned: You can draw 4 cards, then place 3 cards from your hand on the bottom of your Deck in any order.

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Rokket Recharger

Market Price: $2.17

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196808_200w.jpg

If a DARK monster(s) you control that was Special Summoned from the Extra Deck is destroyed by battle or card effect: You can send this card from your hand or field to the GY, then target 1 of those destroyed monsters; Special Summon 1 DARK monster from your GY with a different original name from that targeted monster. You can only use this effect of "Rokket Recharger" once per turn. While you control a DARK monster Special Summoned from the Extra Deck, your opponent's monsters cannot target this card for attacks.

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Boot Sector Launch

Market Price: $0.94

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196836_200w.jpg

All "Rokket" monsters on the field gain 300 ATK/DEF.

You can activate 1 of these effects;
• Special Summon up to 2 "Rokket" monsters with different names from your hand in Defense Position.
• If your opponent controls more monsters than you do: Special Summon "Rokket" monsters with different names from your GY in Defense Position, up to the difference. You can only use this effect of "Boot Sector Launch" once per turn.

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Nibiru, the Primal Being

Market Price: $18.95

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/256371_200w.jpg

During the Main Phase, if your opponent Normal or Special Summoned 5 or more monsters this turn (Quick Effect): You can Tribute as many face-up monsters on the field as possible, and if you do, Special Summon this card from your hand, then Special Summon 1 "Primal Being Token" (Rock/LIGHT/Level 11/ATK ?/DEF ?) to your opponent's field. (This Token's ATK/DEF become the combined original ATK/DEF of the Tributed monsters.) You can only use this effect of "Nibiru, the Primal Being" once per turn.

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Cosmic Cyclone

Market Price: $1.80

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212672_200w.jpg

Pay 1000 LP, then target 1 Spell/Trap on the field; banish it.

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Striker Dragon

Market Price: $0.70

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/254439_200w.jpg

1 Level 4 or lower Dragon monster

If this card is Link Summoned: You can add 1 "Boot Sector Launch" from your Deck to your hand. You can target 1 face-up monster you control and 1 "Rokket" monster in your GY; destroy that monster on the field, and if you do, add that other monster from the GY to your hand. You can only use each effect of "Striker Dragon" once per turn.

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Crystron Halqifibrax

Market Price: $44.47

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/210209_200w.jpg

2 monsters, including a Tuner

If this card is Link Summoned: You can Special Summon 1 Level 3 or lower Tuner from your hand or Deck in Defense Position, but it cannot activate its effects this turn. During your opponent's Main Phase or Battle Phase (Quick Effect): You can banish this card you control; Special Summon 1 Tuner Synchro Monster from your Extra Deck. (This is treated as a Synchro Summon.) You can only use each effect of "Crystron Halqifibrax" once per turn.

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Quick Launch

Market Price: $1.27

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196834_200w.jpg

Special Summon 1 "Rokket" monster from your Deck, but it cannot attack, also destroy it during the End Phase.

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Starliege Seyfert

Market Price: $10.31

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/220882_200w.jpg

You can send any number of Dragon monsters from your hand and/or face-up field to the GY; add 1 Dragon monster from your Deck to your hand, whose Level equals the total original Levels of those monsters sent to the GY. You can banish this card from your GY, then target 1 Level 8 LIGHT or DARK Dragon monster in your GY; add it to your hand. You can only use each effect of "Starliege Seyfert" once per turn.

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Chaos Space

Market Price: $7.36

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215382_200w.jpg

Send 1 LIGHT or DARK monster from your hand to the GY; add 1 LIGHT or DARK monster that cannot be Normal Summoned/Set from your Deck to your hand, with a Level from 4 to 8, and with a different Attribute than that monster. You can banish this card from your GY, then target 1 of your banished LIGHT or DARK monsters that cannot be Normal Summoned/Set; place that monster on the bottom of the deck, then draw 1 card. You can only use each effects of "Chaos Space" once per turn.

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Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring

Market Price: $19.29

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199550_200w.jpg

When a card or effect is activated that includes any of these effects (Quick Effect): You can discard this card; negate that effect.

• Add a card from the Deck to the hand.
• Special Summon from the Deck.
• Send a card from the Deck to the GY.
You can only use this effect of "Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring" once per turn.

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Chaos Dragon Levianeer

Market Price: $3.39

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/210266_200w.jpg

Cannot be Normal Summoned/Set. Must first be Special Summoned (from your hand) by banishing 3 LIGHT and/or DARK monsters from your GY. When Summoned this way: You can activate this effect; apply the following effect, based on the Attribute(s) of the monsters banished for the Special Summon, also this card cannot attack for the rest of this turn. • Only LIGHT: Special Summon 1 monster from your GY in Defense Position. • Only DARK: Shuffle 1random card from your opponent's hand into the Deck. • Both LIGHT and DARK: Destroy up to 2 cards on the field. 

You can only use this effect of "Chaos Dragon Levianeer" once per turn.

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Guardragon Pisty

Market Price: $1.02

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/184158_200w.jpg

1 Level 4 or lower Dragon monster

You cannot Special Summon monsters, except Dragon monsters. During your Main Phase: You can target 1 of your Dragon monsters that is banished or in your GY; Special Summon it to your zone that 2 or more Link Monsters point to. You can only use this effect of "Guardragon Pisty" once per turn. You can only Special Summon "Guardragon Pisty(s)" once per turn.

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Harpie's Feather Duster

Market Price: $4.55

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/241996_200w.jpg

Destroy all of your opponent''s Spell and Trap Cards on the field.

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Chaos Ruler, the Chaotic Magical Dragon

Market Price: $1.81

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/249121_200w.jpg

1 Tuner + 1+ non-Tuner monsters

If this card is Synchro Summoned: You can excavate the top 5 cards of your Deck, and if you do, you can add 1 excavated LIGHT or DARK monster to your hand, also send the remaining cards to the GY. You can banish 1 LIGHT and 1 DARK monster from your hand and/or GY, except this card; Special Summon this card from your GY, but banish it when it leaves the field. You can only use each effect of "Chaos Ruler, the Chaotic Magical Dragon" once per turn.

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What many players often overlook when they pick up a combo deck, is what happens when you set up your board full of interruptions, and your opponent not only refuses to concede, but plays straight on through and builds up their own field in response. Having to play past Turn 3 is a rare thing these days, sure. But when it happens, you need to know how to manage your resources to grind efficiently, and still o pick your spots and push for damage when it's time to go for the win.

Dragon Link has an interesting line of play nowadays: you'll often see a Dragon Link player end their first turn controlling Hieratic Seal of the Heavenly Spheres, with Dragonmaid Tidying face-down. That's usually the minimum of what they'll put on the field, giving them two powerful points of interruption without using many resources. That set-up allows the Dragon player to keep their opponent under control and then be more aggressive on their second turn when they can attack, often churning out a Borreload Savage Dragon and a Borrelsword Dragon to secure the game. If the Dragon Link player's feeling more adventurous on their first turn and they don't fear Nibiru, the Primal Being they can also end on Hot Red Dragon Archfiend Abyss as an extra negation.

Dragon Link does an excellent job of grinding out wins; I saw a game this weekend where a player used Dragonmaid Tidying to bounce a Nibiru, the Primal Being and then proceeded to play the rest of the game without summoning more than four times per turn. The Dragon player won that match without any crazy combos, because they knew how to grind for a win and optimize their plays for the best value.

Dragon Link's not the only deck that can take this approach. Three of the most successful decks from the weekend are known for dictating tempo and playing the game at their own pace. Eldlich, Burning Abyss, and Stun are all great examples of strategies that control the pace of the game. Eldlich and Burning Abyss both rely on maintaining card economy with self-replacing monsters and powerful trap cards like Ice Dragon's Prison and Paleozoic Dinomischus.

Meanwhile Stun decks have their own way of controlling tempo, by summoning monsters with powerful lockdown effects like Banisher of the Radiance and Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo. Those lockdown monsters are then protected with trap cards like Storming Mirror Force, Phantom Knights' Wing, and There Can Be Only One. Stun strategies layer floodgate type effects over the game until it's shaped the way they want, and the opponent's range of options are extremely limited.

Piloting a deck designed to win in one turn and playing a longer game with it requires practice; stretching games out over more turns can be hard to do, even just in casual play with your friends. But if you take the time to learn this type of playstyle you'll open up entirely new avenues of success, and that versatility will pay off in tournaments.

Respect Your Opponent's Natural Counters

I'm sure you've probably seen crazy combo videos on YouTube that use all fifteen cards in the Extra Deck to make a seemingly unbreakable board. I know I'm guilty of seeing those decks and wanting to play them in tournaments - they're hella fun looking - only to lose to cards specifically played to stop those types of over-invested strategies, like Dark Ruler No More. I don't think I can even count how many times I've made boards that just imploded under Dark Ruler No More, and it usually costs me the game, because that one combo took all my resources.

Invoked variants, Lyrilusc Tri-Brigade, and Dinosaurs were three of the most represented decks from the weekend's RDIQs. And all three have one card that serves as their kryptonite: Artifact Lancea. If Artifact Lancea resolves against these decks, it's often strong enough to end the turn entirely. Dinosaurs rely on Miscellaneousaurus to bring out Animadorned Archosaur, searching Double Evolution Pill. Invoked decks banish from the graveyard for their Fusion Summons, and Tri-Brigade uses their monsters in the grave as fuel for their Link Summons.

If your deck relies on banishing cards for your combos, I'm sure you're aware of just how popular Artifact Lancea is right now. Some decks still have ways of playing around it to generate subpar boards, but it's hard to do with the types of hands these decks actually want to see: often, it's awkward monster-heavy hands that play best under Artifact Lancea. The catch-22 is that you're probably optimizing your build to avoid those types of hands in the first place.

PSY-Framegear Gamma and Nibiru the Primal Being are both insane right now and many players are maxing out on both between their Main and Side Decks to help deal with Dragon Link. The great thing about combining them together is that you take cards like Borreload Savage Dragon or Apollousa, Bow of the Goddess out of the equation. While many decks can play through Nibiru, the Primal Being, removing those key negation cards from your opponent's end board is often enough to make an oppressive field subpar, and easier to beat.

One of the coolest things when you're looking at the RDIQ lists, is seeing how some players chose to adapt for their weakest matchup. Example? Dragon Link usually loses to El Shaddoll Winda like there's no tomorrow, but Ryan Levine and Esala Wathuthantrige both played a nearly identical Dragon Link list. In the past, we've seen players run cards like Cyber Dragon Nova and Elder Entity N'Tss as an out to Dogmatika Maximus. Ryan and Esala had a different strategy in mind: countering Winda.

Esala played one copy of Predaplant Chimerafflesia in his Extra Deck, and another in his Side Deck, so he could have copies for the Shaddoll matchup. Those were his picks when his opponent played Dogmatika Maximus, beacuse he also sided two copies of De-Fusion. See what he did? Esala could send Predaplant Chimerafflesia to the graveyard under Dogmatika Maximus, search De-Fusion, and de-fuse his opponent's El Shaddoll Winda to turn off El Shaddoll Winda restrictions and Special Summon as normal.

If Esala was paired up with a Dogmatika player who tried to resolve Maximus in Game 1, he'd send two other monsters from his Extra Deck to the grave to keep his hidden tech from his opponent for a blowout in Games 2 and 3. Ryan had something else in mind for his opponents...

When I talked with Ryan about his list, he said that it was almost identical to Esala's… except he couldn't find any Predaplant Chimerafflesia. Instead, Ryan played a lone copy of Elder Entity N'Tss in his Extra Deck and sided some Shaddolls himself! He opted for one copy each of Naelshaddoll Ariel and El Shaddoll Apkallone. That gave Ryan active Dogmatika Maximus targets in Games 1 and 2, so he could use El Shaddoll Apkallone to fetch Naelshaddoll Ariel from his deck and then discard it.

The discard would trigger Naelshaddoll Ariel banishing effect to get rid of all the Shaddoll monsters from the opponent's graveyard, turning off Shaddoll Schism in the process. Respecting one of their deck's biggest counters helped lead Esala and Ryan to Top Cut finishes.

Face The Facts

Let's face it, you aren't always going to draw the most broken hand imaginable for your deck. I'm pretty sure Dan or Jason could do the math for me, but realistically we've all been there; you don't always get what you want.

The best deck of the format usually ends up being the one with the highest chance of opening with an overpowered hand. Currently, in my opinion, the decks that offer that are Dinosaur and Dragon Link. With Dinosaurs you're essentially playing six copies of both Miscellaneousaurus and Souleating Oviraptor thanks to Fossil Dig. And don't even get me started on how many starter cards Dragon Link has.

If you aren't playing one of those decks, you might find that you don't have optimal hands as often as you want, unless you've taken some serious time to tailor your deck for a balance of grind game, respecting counters, and consistency. That's not easy to do.

You have to accept that sometimes your opening hand might have a golden ticket, and other times you might get a ticket to Brick City. It happens. What you should do is adjust your perspective on playtesting when it does. Look at those games in your testing sessions, not as a loss to whatever deck beat you, but as a loss to bricking. Mentally, it'll help you avoid feeling as if the matchup was the problem, and help you come to better testing conclusions. You didn't lose because the matchup favored your opponent; you lost because you didn't even get a chance to play.

This last week I competed in three Remote Duel tournaments, and my combined record for all three was two wins and five losses. I played a Level 8 Tri-Brigade deck that Zach's lovingly named "Beastdown 2021 Edition" for two of the tournaments, going 0-2 drop in one and 2-1 in the other. For the last tournament, I played Adamancipators and went 0-2 drop. My losses with the Adamancipator deck were both due to bricking. The losses with Beastdown 2021 Edition were due to me not respecting my deck's hardest counter - Artifact Lancea. I hadn't learned enough about the deck to know how to grind through Artifact Lancea and I took Called By the Grave out of my deck at the last minute. Big mistake.

If I'd made sure to respect my counters and learn to play the grind game more with my particular decks, I might've done better in those tournaments. Thankfully they were locals and not an Extravaganza Main Event or an RDIQ! This weekend there's a Remote Duel Extravaganza hosted by Shadow Realm Games where I'll be judging. Hopefully you can take these next few days of playtesting to work on what we talked about here, and I can see you finish strong in the Main Event.

Until next time!