At first I thought The Phantom Knights of Break Sword was a cute little card for Burning Abyss, acting as spot removal for Rank 3's: something that was desperately needed for the past year. I eventually started playing around with a Phantom Knights and Burning Abyss hybrid strategy. On paper, the themes had awesome synergy because they both revolve around Level 3 Dark monsters that love being milled. But after a few hours of testing I realized that the Burning Abyss cards were always the worst ones in my hand, and they were my least favorite to mill. That's mainly due to their self-destruction effects, which totally screws up your damage output.
Luckily, cutting the Burning Abyss suite opened up a ridiculous number of spots to fill. It reminded me of when someone submits a Rescue Rabbit Yosenju deck and he cuts all the monsters to make room for Junk Synchron and Hieratics. The difference of course is that I'm not pretending to keep the strategy the same after gutting the entire deck. Make no Mistake: Phantom Knights are completely different without the Burning Abyss monsters, but that's far from a bad thing.
The Burning Abyss monsters were cool because they gave you something to get back with Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss, but they were awful because you could never get them on the field without them blowing up.
So… What Do Phantom Knights Even Do?
The Phantom Knights are a set of Level 3 and 4 Dark Warrior-type monsters, but for our purposes we're only going to be focusing on the Level 3 ones because they're inarguably the best of the bunch. All of the Level 3 monsters have two effects, the second of which is always a "banish this card in the graveyard" effect. It's important to note that you can use both effects once per turn, unlike the Burning Abyss monsters.
The Phantom Knights of Ancient Cloak is your searcher. While it's on the field it has an effect that lets you switch it to defense position to boost a Dark monster's ATK and DEF by 800. It's not amazing, but it does help you OTK in situations where you wouldn't otherwise. The more important part is that you can banish it in your graveyard to search any "The Phantom Knights" card. Similar to the Fabled theme, cards are separated into "The Phantom Knights" and "Phantom Knights." But for this theme it actually matters, because specific cards can only be searched via certain effects.
While there's one trap that's a "The Phantom Knights" card, we're not going to be playing it. That means Ancient Cloak's always going to be adding a monster to your hand. The Phantom Knights of Silent Boots is the opposite, banishing itself to get a "Phantom Knights" spell or trap. I'll talk about those shortly, but for now let's focus on Silent Boots' other effect, which lets it Special Summon itself from your hand if you control a Phantom Knights monster. That's critical for making that first Dante to get the ball rolling, so you're usually grabbing Silent Boots with Ancient Cloak.
The third wheel of the bunch is The Phantom Knight of Ragged Gloves. It's not that it's terrible, but Ragged Gloves is probably the worst standalone Phantom Knights monster. Its first effect banishes it from the grave to mill a Phantom Knights card, sort of like Fiendish Rhino Warrior does for Burning Abyss. Its second effect gives a Dark Xyz that you made using Ragged Gloves an extra 1000 ATK, which makes some non-threatening monsters pretty scary. A 3000 ATK Break Sword or a 2800 ATK Ghost Alucard are nothing to scoff at, but Ragged Gloves' most important use is pumping up Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon to 3500 base attack.
"But Doug," you say, "how are you going to summon Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon if all of our monsters are Level 4?"
Don't worry, I'm not cheating by making Rank 4's with Level 3's. The Phantom Knights of Break Sword has another effect besides just being a Scrap Dragon. Whenever it's destroyed after being Xyz Summoned you can revive two Phantom Knights with the same Level from your graveyard, and then they get increased by 1 Level. The downside is that you can only summon Dark monsters for the rest of the turn, but that shouldn't really matter. Some of your basic plays involve popping Break Sword to destroy an opponent's card, and then reviving its Xyz Materials to make Dark Rebellion at 3500 ATK to OTK your opponent.
Every Knight Needs A Sword
While I'm not a huge fan of big back rows this format due to Twin Twisters, I'm fine if the backrow doesn't mind being destroyed. Blaze Accelerator Reload and Artifact Sanctum come to mind, and luckily the Phantom Knight traps don't care if they're destroyed, either. All three of the traps that I'll be playing have an effect that you can use once per turn: banish the trap in the graveyard to revive a Phantom Knight. That's phenomenal because it means you can mill a bunch of traps and it's not as annoying as milling a Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss or Traveler of the Burning Abyss.
On top of that their effects are pretty good, too. Phantom Knights' Fog Blade is by far the best, acting as a Fiendish Chain that also keeps the monster from being attacked. That might seem like a downside, but you can always pop Fog Blade with The Phantom Knights of Break Sword, destroying a card and putting a trap in your grave to banish whenever you need another monster. You can also do some interesting stuff by using Fog Blade on your own monster to protect it for a turn, but those don't come up too often. The most relevant example of this is using it on Card Trooper to mill three cards every turn, which forces your opponent to deal with Trooper instead of other cards you have on the field, just to stop your momentum.
Phantom Knights' Sword is marginally worse, but still not bad. It equips to a monster and gives it 800 ATK, and then if that monster would be destroyed you can send Sword it the graveyard instead. The main use for Sword is attacking over the Kozmo spaceships, which otherwise would prove to be a difficult challenge. All of your monsters keep coming back to the field so it's surprisingly hard for Kozmos to actually kill you, but getting over the ships without targeting them is pretty tough. Luckily Sword gives you that ATK boost to run them over.
Last and definitely least, Phantom Knights' Wing is only played so you don't have to send the other trap cards with The Phantom Knights of Ragged Gloves if you want to Special Summon a monster from your graveyard. Its on-field effect is kind of just a worse Sword, providing the monster 500 ATK and preventing it from being destroyed the first time that turn. The problem is that it doesn't stay on the field so you can't pop it with The Phantom Knights of Break Sword, and the 500 ATK boost often isn't quite enough to be useful. Still, it's fine to play as a 1-of to send off of Ragged Gloves so you can preserve Fog Blade and Sword.
Your main goal is raw aggression. You want to plow through your opponent's defenses without losing card advantage by carefully managing your graveyard effects, and then you want to OTK at the drop of a hat. Let's take a look at what I've come up with:
DECKID=104438Speedroid Terrortop's your best opener, and it's a huge factor that led to me cutting the Burning Abyss monsters entirely. If you control no monsters you can Special Summon the Terrortop, and then its effect adds Speedroid Taketomborg to your hand. Taketomborg can Special Summon itself from your hand as long as you control a Wind monster, and then you can overlay for Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss to dig towards your Phantom Knights. A single Terrortop does the job of two Burning Abyss monsters, but doesn't require nearly as much space in the deck list.
Your standard opening is one or two Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss, a copy of The Phantom Knights of Break Sword, and one or two trap cards. In most cases, you also end with a loaded graveyard, which makes it really hard to push through that field and win the duel. Much like Burning Abyss, Phantom Knights force your opponent to play the grind game with you, and you'll usually come out on top because your monsters constantly recycle each other.
Genex Ally Birdman was suggested to me by a friend, and so far it's been great. If you have a Terrortop and Birdman you can make either Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier or one and a half Rank 3's. The latter won't even consume your Normal Summon, and usually propels you into those double Dante and single Break Sword Turn 1's. Kagemucha Knight and Crane Crane offer similar play patterns, getting you to as many Rank 3's as humanly possible.
Solemn Strike and Solemn Warning are necessary to attack over the Kozmo spaceships without your opponent streamlining a bunch of other Kozmos. As I've already explained, getting over the Kozmo spaceships isn't the hard part, but finishing the game before your opponent mounts a comeback can prove difficult without Strike or Warning. You can't really Side Deck Imperial Iron Wall because all your cards need to banish themselves, so some combination of The Monarchs Stormforth and Vanity's Fiend might be a good idea.
Burial from a Different Dimension is swell, but I think Necroface is better in a lot of different cases. While Burial does put your banished Phantom Knights back in the graveyard, sometimes you run out of targets for their effects. It reminds me of playing Duelist Alliance Burning Abyss, where you'd sometimes run out of cards to search with Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss. Necroface resets everything, putting both player's banished cards back into the deck.
The really cool part is that it recycles your banished Phantom Knights trap cards, too. It's about as close to Fiber Jar as you're ever going to get, and it's often enough to win the game right then and there. You can also use it defensively to put back banished Kozmos so your opponent can't retrieve them with Kozmotown, but you're really using it to shuffle back your own cards.
At the end of the day, this deck is a blast. It basically solves all of the problems that kept me from playing Burning Abyss in the past. The Phantom Knights of Break Sword is a fantastic generic Rank 3, but it truly shines in its own theme. Opting to skip the Burning Abyss monsters limits your use of Dante's graveyard effect, but I think that it's worth it in the long run because your hands are a lot more consistent. Let me know what you think of Phantom Knights in the comments, and if you have any sweet tech choices that I overlooked!