Remember those OCG Structure Deck polls, where players voted on which themes they most wanted to see in an upcoming structure deck? It looks like the TCG's about to get in on the action: the Create-A-Card Project announced last week will pit sixteen decks against each other in a voting competition where the winning theme receives a single new card. It's the first time the TCG has had input on the creation of a new card, and it remains to be seen how much control we'll have over its effects.
There's nothing stopping you from voting for your favorite theme in each round and hoping for the best. I won't voter shame you – do your own thing! If you're the biggest Fortune Lady fan on the planet then you should definitely vote for them every round, and that's a totally reasonable thing to do. However, it's worth considering that not all of these themes are starting on equal footing. Some of them are downright terrible, horribly outdated, or simply not supported enough to stand up to modern strategies. Even the decks on this list with a prior history of competitive success could still be stuck in the mud without a complete overhaul.
The problem is that too many of these themes need much more than a single new card to be playable again. One power card usually isn't enough to hold up an entire strategy. Delivering an incredibly powerful new card to X-Sabers – a theme that at one point was the deck to beat – won't change the fact that the rest of the deck's line-up is full of weak cards with outdated effects. XX-Saber Darksoul isn't the powerhouse it once was, and the X-Saber Extra Deck is missing a win condition beyond Naturia Beast and maybe a hand loop with XX-Saber Gottoms. You'd need to fill that void with at least two cards: a new themed search effect, and a better Synchro or Link Monster that delivers a more modern win condition.
On the bright side, there are a handful of very promising themes with the potential to become way more relevant with just one new card. Some are already close to being seriously competitive strategies, and they're totally playable in their current form at the local level. These are the decks with the most to gain from a single card. In fact, they're probably the only ones that might actually see more play if they win the Project.
Mermails and Frogs have already had their time in the spotlight, and Mermails in particular have received indirect support quite recently. They stick out among their competitors in the Create-A-Card Project largely because they're already totally playable – or in the case of Frogs: Toadally Awesome. Neither deck is as good as today's top strategies, but they're not too far off. Frogs are significantly better now thanks to the updated Master Rules, and Mermails also benefit from Bahamut Shark suddenly being very good.
I think Mermails and Frogs are the two most dangerous picks in the entire bracket. A single excellent card could push them into scary levels of degeneracy. The Deep Sea monsters added in Eternity Code, especially Deep Sea Minstrel and Deep Sea Sentry, give Mermail the ability to drop four cards out of their opponent's hand with a little help from Moulinglacia the Elemental Lord. It's incredibly degenerate and not fun to play against, but ultimately a Mermails do have the most to benefit from a single new card. Virtually any Water monster with a solid discard effect would help trigger the Deep Sea and Atlantean monsters more often, and a more consistent hand loop is the last thing this game needs.
Frogs might not have access to a hand loop, but a new Level 2 Water monster would probably make a field of three Toadally Awesome even more likely. Frogs are already loaded with the fantastic interaction between Swap Frog and Ronintoadin, and it's a little concerning imagining what a third pillar of that strategy would look like. A Frog that could add Swap Frog from the deck to the hand would make the deck a serious competitive threat overnight.
Toadally Awesome isn't as terrifying these days thanks to Dark Ruler No More, but it's not as if Frog players are defenseless without their Xyz effects. Solemn Judgment, Paleozoics, and hand traps are an effective second line of defense that cover the deck's biggest vulnerability. Frogs have always struggled with consistency – you're often dead in the water if you can't get your Frog engine going. A card that accelerates that, or at least gets you to Toadally Awesome faster, is terrifying to imagine.
Lightsworns were another controversial addition to the bracket for the same reason as Mermails and Frogs: the theme has already had its shot as a former deck to beat. Granted, it's been an incredibly long time since Lightsworns were at the top of the game. The most recent iterations of Lightsworns relied entirely on Fairy Tail - Snow and its completely Special Summon effect. That deck vanished as soon as Fairy Tail - Snow was Forbidden, and Minerva, the Exalted Lightsworn also disappeared from most Extra Decks at the same time.
The Lightsworn umbrella includes a lot of sub-par cards, but there's just enough excellent support to develop a complete build. Lightsworns are probably best as a Rank 4, Synchro and Link-focused strategy, and it only needs a little help to reclaim its former glory. That 'help' can really only come from a retrain of Fairy Tail - Snow. The engine doesn't work without it: there's simply not enough summoning power in the base Lightsworn deck to hold up in today's game. The deck needs the boost from a monster that can summon itself from the graveyard and leverage the mill effects that the Lightsworn theme's known for.
Don't underestimate how strong a Lightsworn-specific Snow can be. Charge of the Light Brigade and Solar Recharge are still incredibly powerful support cards, and there's a lot of unexplored potential in the Twilightsworn monsters. Lightsworn are more of a long shot than Mermails or Frogs, but they have a surprisingly solid foundation to work from despite many of the deck's best cards dating back to 2008.
So far I've mainly talked about decks that have had a competitive history, but Weather Painters are different. This deck has never seen real competitive success since it debuted in 2017, although I think that could change with a new support card. The deck has a lot going for it already: a very strong boss monster that can offers Summoning and generic effect negation, Quick Effect interruption that returns spells and traps to the hand, an effect that returns the opponent's monsters back to the hand, and interruption that targets search effects by banishing a freshly-searched card.
The biggest challenge currently facing Weather Painters is their lethargic early game. It takes time to develop a meaningful set-up with this deck, and that's a hard sell when other strategies can build a board with multiple negation bodies on their first turn with two-card combos. The difference in speed is staggering compared to more recent strategies, but a single card could change that.
Something in the vein of Crystal Bond or World Legacy's Memory could work wonders for this deck by improving consistency and giving the deck access to more Summons. An Altergeist Multifaker-like monster that can be searched or Summoned from the deck with The Weather Snowy Canvas or The Weather Rainbowed Canvas would also help players rapidly develop their field presence to keep pace with other decks.
Let's take a look at another former competitive strategy: Inzektors. For a long time Inzektor Hornet and Inzektor Dragonfly languished on the Forbidden & Limited List, and by the time they returned to Unlimited there was effectively zero interest in playing them. The game had moved on, and targeted removal had stopped being worth pursuing a long time ago.
Back in 2012 you could wipe out your opponent's set-up with Inzektor Hornet and expect to win the game from there. In today's game the sheer number of monsters that benefit from destruction will keep your opponent in the game, and they might completely shrug off your attempts to clear their board. I think the appeal of Inzektors today has more to do with their ability to fight through negation-heavy boards. Resolving Dark Ruler No More and proceeding to dunk on all of your opponent's Links and Synchros is very tempting, and Inzektors could pull it off.
The problem is that Inzektors suffer from the same problem that plagues Giant Ballpark Insects : it's a strictly going-second strategy because there's no real Turn 1 goal. The easiest way to change that is to introduce a new Link to the theme that makes resolving Inzektor Dragonfly worth the effort. Inzektor Picofalena's more support for when you're playing second, but what about a real, worthwhile Insect Link that has can fire off Inzektor Hornet effect during either player's turn?
The last round of Fortune Lady support added two solid support spells and an explosive trap that parallels Return from the Different Dimension. Fortune Lady Calling's an easy way to trigger your monster effects, and those effects are nothing to scoff at. Seriously, have you read Fortune Lady Fire and Fortune Lady Water? A one-sided Ring of Destruction? A Pot of Greed on legs? These cards are wild, but there's really only two ways to summon them: Fortune Lady Light and Fortune Lady Calling.
The problem with Fortune Lady Light is that its effect is difficult to trigger. It uses the old school "When...you can" wording that makes it possible to miss its activation timing. Fortune Lady as a deck would be so much better with a retrain of Light that eliminates that obnoxious condition on its effect. A new Fortune Lady monster that can summon another member of the theme from the deck is exactly what the deck needs. The deck's playability would skyrocket with only that simple change, especially since Fortune Ladies now have a dedicated search spell via Fortune Vision.
The rest of the decks in the Create-A-Card Project would likely require more cards to see competitive success. Cyber Angels as a theme never got off the ground, but a new card could help Herald of Perfection decks find more success. There's been a lot of Ritual support over the last few years, but so far that hasn't driven players to Cyber Angels. I doubt that would change with a single new card.
Fire Kings and Hazy Flame need new win conditions to ever hope to see competitive play again. These decks are terribly positioned in a post- Duelist Alliance world where monsters regularly benefit from being destroyed, and the old Xyz strategy of Hazy Flames just isn't worth pursuing anymore. Likewise, I think Photons, Graydles, and X-Sabers simply have outdated playstyles or weak boss monsters.
Sylvans rely on one of the worst gimmicks in the game, and I don't think there's any hope for that theme as long as cards like Mount Sylvania are mandatory. Dinomist, on the other hand, have a solid foundation to work from and probably only need a few more cards to see serious play again. I think a Dinomist Link Monster would be amazing, but I'm not sure it'd be enough. Dinomist Charge helped future-proof the deck against Master Rule 4, and that could pay off massively with a great new Link and a spell that boosts the deck's summoning power. Yes, Dinomists are a Pendulum strategy, but the Pendulum mechanic takes a significant investment to establish that's also easy for your opponent to disrupt.
Finally, T.G. and Valkyrie just need a better set of cards to pull from. The bulk of the old T.G. cards are seriously outdated, and the Valkyrie theme just wasn't good enough to begin with. Again, this article isn't about changing minds: it's about setting expectations. Some decks are simply better positioned to take advantage of a single new card than others. Dragunity got a new Equip Spell in 2015 that did nothing, had a wave of support in 2017 that changed nothing for the deck, then it got Dragunity Knight - Romulus, and now it's finally seeing a reworked Structure Deck in the OCG this year. That's a lot of new cards that still might not change the deck's competitive prospects.
But seriously: vote for whichever deck you want to win, and maybe consider picking up a few key cards from one of the other themes. Just in case. The Create-A-Card Project is a speculator's paradise, and there's plenty of forewarning to hold onto cards from these themes for a little longer.
Until next time then