Hey there, duelists!
We're in the midst of a Spring season locked down under Cold Wave, but we're still at the start of a new format and that brings with it all of the usual challenges. In fact, with no tournament results to build off for at least a few more weeks, it's even tougher than usual to choose your strategy or build your deck from scratch.
Whenever a new format arrives there are always players who dive right into creative mode, as well as players who hang back to see the first few event results before they commit. But this time around we're all in the first group; everybody's trying to figure out the format blind. Where do you start when there are no points of reference? You could look back to the last format and try to adapt a deck that's already successful; that's not bad, lots of proven decks were untouched by the F&L List, including some of the top strategies. Or maybe this is your time to finally tackle a new pet project, or update a favorite deck that got sidelined by Master Rule 4. This is a unique situation that we've never been in before, and now's a great time to shake up your routine for a different approach.
Regardless of how you want to tackle the new format, I want to highlight some key points you should consider moving forward; some universal tips to help you make those early choices correctly, set yourself up for success, and start to anticipate some of the biggest threats in what could still be the WCQ season. Hopefully.
Every format I personally compile a list of "rules" that any deck I'm considering needs to follow. Doing so gives you a rough outline of the bare minimum requirements for success. There won't be nearly as many witty lines or snappy jokes this time around; today's talk'll be much more of a meat and potatoes piece. This week, I want to bring you my Top 5 (optimistic) WCQ format rules.
#1 You Can't Auto-Lose To Nibiru
Kicking it off with the obvious, if you're looking for any sort of real success in an 8+ round tournament, you can't be losing to Nibiru, the Primal Being. When Duel Overload dropped, the format trended towards strategies that make even more summons before they go into Apollousa, Bow of the Goddess and other monsters that have effect negation. Blame stuff like Crystron Halqifibrax, Union Carrier and the rest, but combo strings are getting longer and more ambitious. That means there are even more opportunities to use Nibiru in a wider range of match-ups, so Nibiru becomes even more valuable as a defensive resource.
The ability to effectively restart the game at the cost of nothing but a ridiculously giant Token for your opponent, while also removing many of your opponent's most vital assets, is nothing short of extraordinary. Most of the better decks over the past few months were able to play accordingly, efficiently dodging the threat of Nibiru by pre-empting it early on or playing through it with a high level of efficiency, and that's something you'll need to account for when you're making your plans for this format – especially once events are back.
If your strategy doesn't allow for effective answers to Nibiru, the Primal Being, you'll be in for a rough tournament. There are no real silver bullets for Nibiru, so now more than ever your success comes down to careful sequencing and skilled risk assessment.
#2 You Must Answer El Shaddoll Winda
Another obvious point, but one that needs to be stated? El Shaddoll Winda's going to be very strong going into the WCQ season. When the game effectively went on pause, Invoked Shaddoll was already positioned to be one of the most represented decks in the field. With Master Rule 5 finally in place and the rules about Extra Deck use now far more loose, I expect to see more Shaddoll variants hitting tables, with Winda and her stringy dragon leading the charge in every version.
If your deck can't destroy El Shaddoll Winda by battle, or find a way to negate its effect so you can play through it, your Side Deck's going to be critical. Cards like Forbidden Chalice, Infinite Impermanence, and Book of Eclipse are all potent answers that let you quickly adapt and compete as normal, but if you can find a deck that can ignore Winda altogether, give that strategy some hefty consideration as you decide what you're going to play.
#3 You Need To Beat Multiple Floodgates
To be blunt, floodgates suck to play against. Nobody will deny that. What's worse is that floodgates as we know them are now even worse; combo decks have a potentially searchable floodgate in the form of Dragon Buster Destruction Sword thanks to the introduction of Union Carrier. It's essentially a Domain of the True Monarchs that can also become a potential extender in Dragon based strategies, which is nothing to sneeze at, especially when lots of players are still sniffing around Dragon Link looking for their next strategy.
Cards like Cosmic Cyclone will shine over the coming months due to the power of Union Carrier, and if you aren't familiar with Artifact Dagda yet you'll want to give that a read: it lets you bypass the need for Artifact Sanctum - lovely for your wallets - while also opening up access to the floodgate effect of Artifact Scythe, which is another silly and not-so-fun effect that you have to respect.
Decks like Eldlich, Salamangreat, Altergeist… The list of strategies that can establish early floodgates or prop up control of the game with multiple negations goes on. You need to have either low cost, high utility removal built into your strategy's core engine, or you need to run cards like Cosmic Cyclone to help with that weakness. The floodgate game's just never been so strong and you don't want to get caught off guard by it. Being under-prepared is a great way to lose your first tournament back once events return.
#4 You Must Respect Salamangreats
Let's all take a moment and understand something very clearly; Salamangreat is still REALLY strong.
Amongst the online communities, I haven't been seeing a proper amount of respect given to the deck, which is a Mistake that's going to cause many frustrating tournament finishes for otherwise seasoned competitors. Losing nothing on the F&L list, and gaining a small boost from the Master Rule update in the form of more Extra Deck utility thanks to easier XYZ monsters in particular, the deck runs powerful engine cards like Salamangreat Rage and Salamangreat Roar; hugely consistent cards that provide defense and removal on an as-needed basis.
When you look at it that way, and you consider the range of starter cards, extenders, and powerful defensive cards available, you can probably see why I feel that Salamangreat is (ahhhhhh here we go) a great pick going forward. While it's extremely weak to Nibiru, the Primal Being, that's the only major problem the deck has. With careful play and a refined build, Salamangreat is a force to be reckoned with and a strategy that every player needs to plan for. Cards like D.D. Crow, Called by the Grave, and Fantastical Dragon Phantasmay are all incredible in this match-up, and they're all viable because they're useful in other match-ups too.
#5 Siding's A Lot More Difficult
Looking forward, you might be surprised to hear me say that side decking's going to be even more complicated than it was before. Given how large the central engine of each deck has become, along with the myriad number of different match-ups, potential blow-outs and all the complex game states, using your Side Deck for maximum impact will be vital to your success. Unless there's some major shift where the format's refined in record time when events are back, there will probably be an inflated number of "viable" decks; players are going to have a more casual mindset coming out of the off season.
Most decks fall into the same overall pitfalls, you just need to understand their choke points and where to cut them off. But so many of the problems you're going to encounter can't be easily sided for, so it's going to be important to find silver bullets for the widest variety of problems. Cards like Evenly Matched, Lightning Storm, and Dark Ruler No More are invaluable because they're so high-impact across all match-ups, and at the same time they're incredibly effective taking up very little Side Deck space. That also means you don't have to rotate out as many cards from your Main Deck too, keeping your core strategy intact.
That's it for me today! It's not easy to ensure that your deck of choice can answer all the above problems, as well as the specific issues within each strategy, but it's well worth the time and effort to figure that out. Hopefully the competitive season's going to kick up again soon. Until then, stay safe, and read on!