I'd like to start off this article with a congratulations to my friend Jeff Jones for winning the Indianapolis ARG Circuit Series with Burning Abyss! He showed me his build on Saturday at the event and I had total confidence in his unique choices going into Day 2.

Anyway, as I'm writing this the Forbidden and Limited List hasn't been revealed yet. I've waited a few days, hoping it'd be posted sometime this weekend, but unfortunately it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Regardless, I wanted to show off a new Spirit Shaddoll hybrid I've been testing with that could potentially be a powerful variant moving forward, depending on how the F&L List goes.

First Things First
As most of you know, I'm basically the number one Spirit-enthusiast in Yu-Gi-Oh. Aratama and Nikitama are my best buddies, and unlike Loukas they don't complain for years on end after I eat one bowl of cereal. Every time a new format hits, I look for a way to use this interesting pair, and for the first time in three formats I've actually been stuck. I'm not a fan of playing any deck that's just a worse version of another strategy, and it was looking like the Spirit Traptrix Hand deck was just a slower, less consistent Satellarknights. I'm not just going to enter a tournament with an inferior deck for the sake of being different, so I needed to stretch Spirits further than they've ever gone before.

Enter: Shaddolls. If you've been living under a rock the past few weeks you might not've noticed Shaddolls taking over competition everywhere. I honestly think one of the reasons they're so successful over Satellarknights and Burning Abyss is that you can run them so many different ways. There's Artifact Shaddolls, Dragon Shaddolls, Control Shaddolls, Combo Shaddolls, and so many more. Today we're adding another version to the totem pole - Spirit Shaddolls - and for good reason. Do you like drawing cards for free? I do. And both of these themes have built in draw engines: Nikitama and Shaddoll Beast.

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All of the Shaddolls in the Main Deck have two effects, but you can only activate one of them per turn. One activates whenever they're flipped face-up, and the other kicks in whenever they're sent to the graveyard by a card effect. Shaddoll Squamata can either destroy a card or send another from the deck to the graveyard; Shaddoll Dragon bounces a threat away, or pops a backrow; Shaddoll Hedgehog searches Shaddoll Fusion or a Shaddoll monster; Shaddoll Falco Special Summons a different Shaddoll from your graveyard face-down, or sets itself. That's a quick crash course, and as you play with the theme more and more you'll get the hang of things.

The big interaction in this variant is between Nikitama and El Shaddoll Construct. The latter requires a Shaddoll and a Light monster, and whenever it's Special Summoned you get to send a Shaddoll from the deck to the graveyard. Nikitama's conveniently a Light monster, and you can grab it right from your deck with Aratama. The idea is that with a hand of one Shaddoll monster, Aratama, and Shaddoll Fusion you can end with Aratama and El Shaddoll Construct on the field plus two free draws. Additionally you'd get an effect for whatever Shaddoll monster you used, too, which makes that play kind of insane.

It gets even sillier when you're up against other Shaddoll decks, because Nikitama can't miss timing and gets you a free draw if it's discarded for a cost. Super Polymerization's already a format-defining card, and it's even dumber when you're playing Aratama and Nikitama. For example, you can Normal Summon Aratama, add Nikitama, and then Super Poly two of your opponent's monsters to not only Special Summon El Shaddoll Construct or El Shaddoll Winda, but also net a free draw to replace the cost of Super Poly itself. Before we break down the logistics of the mashup let's jump into the list.

DECKID=101148If you were to compare this style of Shaddolls to any of the others you might find it's closest to a mix between the Thunder Dragon Combo version and Patrick Hoban's Lightsworn variant. Thunder Dragon's used to get you a quick +1 that you can leverage into El Shaddoll Construct. The Lightsworn build's designed to make the most of Soul Charge while also giving you ample Level 4's for easier Xyz and Synchro Summoning. The Spirit version makes great use of Super Polymerization, as well as Synchros and Xyz, but it can't capitalize on Soul Charge. That said, if Charge gets hit on the F&L List then this might be the better way to go.

It really just gets better with the accidental overlaps between Spirits and Shaddolls. For example, comboing Lavalval Chain with Nikitama to stack and immediately draw a Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning is a common combo in previous Spirit decks, and it works here. However, since you're playing Shaddolls you can also use Lavalval Chain to send any of those to the graveyard too, triggering their effects as needed. I use Lavalval Chain to send Nikitamas to the graveyard pretty frequently; you get the same result here by sending a Shaddoll Beast to the grave.

Another instance of overlap feels similar to the general effect Fire Hand and Ice Hand have in Spirit decks. Setting Aratama can be really beneficial if it survives, but that can be sort of difficult because if it's destroyed by a card effect you're totally screwed. When you're playing Shaddolls, though, nobody's going to destroy your face-downs because they know they might trigger a Shaddoll monster's ability. Aside from Shaddoll Beast, the highest Shaddoll DEF is only 1400, which means your opponents will think they can just attack over them. Aratama and Nikitama both share a hearty 1800 DEF, which is sure to throw your opponent off guard. It works especially well if you haven't revealed that you're playing Spirits!

Under Pressure
Several top-level duelists have pointed out that the easiest way to beat Shaddolls is to apply pressure without using your Extra Deck. That makes sense, because Shaddoll Fusion's not as good if your opponent needs to play their Fusion Materials from their hand or their field (as opposed to just Fusing them from the deck at no cost). Black Dragon Collapserpent, White Dragon Wyverburster, Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress, and Raiden, Hand of the Lightsworn all do that in different ways. Aratama and Nikitama get there too, poking for 1600 damage each turn while also building up your card presence for free by repeatedly searching Nikitamas.

Going forward you can use some of the other Spirits, too, like Rasetsu and Yaksha. They're not Light or Dark so I'm not playing them in this build, but as more Shaddoll Fusion Monsters are released with varying attributes you could definitely start Main Decking more Spirits. Yaksha's my favorite of the two, since it bounces floodgates like Vanity's Emptiness and Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror.

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I also really like the added benefit of easy Rank 4's. As someone that's played Rank 4 strategies almost exclusively over the past eight months, you could say I'm kind of in love with them. Lightsworn monsters can crank out Level 8 Synchros with Soul Charge, but Spirits can field some of the best problem solvers in the game, free of charge. Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer; Number 101: Silent Honor ARK; Number 103: Ragnazero; and Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk are all stellar, and the Spirit duo pushes them out almost as fast as Satellarknights.

Breaking Competition?
It's a bit difficult to talk about metagames right now because we're seeing not only a format shift next week, but also a new set relatively soon. Regardless, I'm sure we'll see Satellarknights, Shaddolls, and Burning Abyss all surviving the F&L List; I don't expect any direct hits to those strategies. That means it's worth mentioning Spirit Shaddolls' matchups with those decks. In general, your matches are going to play a lot like any other Shaddoll match-up, but with the added benefit of more draw power and Rank 4's.

In other words, your games will largely be tilted in your favor across the board. Satellarknight Deneb backed by four backrow cards is scary, but that's going to be true no matter what you're running. One of the cool aspects about Nikitama is that you'll be drawing more cards than normal so you'll have more ways to push through trap cards. As for Burning Abyss, any non-Monarch build just kind of loses to Shaddolls, and with the pressure from Aratama and Nikitama you'll find that match-up even easier. If your opponent only has one Phoenix Wing Wind Blast or Karma Cut you can simply bait it out with a Rank 4, and then safely activate the Shaddoll Fusion when you're opponent's run through their cards.

Anyway, it's possible that I'm just over-hyped about this deck because it's the only good way to run Spirits right now. Looking at things objectively, Spirit Shaddolls borrow a lot of parts from alternative builds without succeeding more than any of them. It doesn't draw quite as much as Blue-Eyes Shaddolls, and it doesn't make use of the Extra Deck quite as well as Lightsworn Shaddolls, but it does do both of those things evenly, something neither of those strategies can consistently accomplish. It's basically a jack of all trades,. Let me know in the Comments what you think about Spirit Shaddolls, and if you have any suggestions!

-Doug Zeeff