A lot of duelists don't understand why you'd bother playing a rogue strategy over a more conventional one, but I think the answer's simple. Whenever I enter an event with a rogue strategy I'm placing the surprise factor at a greater priority than whatever the top decks at the time have that my deck doesn't - usually consistency or power. Rogue themes often make up for that loss by using cards your opponents won't even know exist, making it difficult to predict what you're going to do next.

For example, think about how differently you'd play against Nekroz if you didn't know what any of their cards did. Maybe you'd leave an Extra Deck monster on board only to get shut down by Nekroz of Unicore, or maybe you'd leave cards in your hand and get blown out by Nekroz of Trishula. Playing a rogue deck can give you a huge advantage because your opponent simply cannot play around combos that they've never seen executed.

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However, I'm not saying that rogue decks are inherently better than top strategies just because they surprise on their side. The top decks generally don't need the surprise factor because they're just that much better than everything else. For that reason I'd suggest avoiding rogue decks unless you feel that the surprise factor puts your strategy on equal or greater footing than the current top strategies. Just because you're opponent doesn't know what any of your Ice Barrier cards do doesn't make your deck better than theirs.

In Ahead of the Curve I try and write about decks that are wholly unexplored but have a ton of potential. The more of your cards your opponent has to read the greater advantage you're at. Whether this be revisions of past strategies in new ways or archetypes nobody's tried competitively, I try and at least do something different. Today's strategy, Trap Monsters, is one that I touched on a few months back, but I've had a ton more experience with it now so I'm happy to update my previous build.

Why Trap Monsters?
A perfect rogue deck would be incredibly powerful and consistent, and also completely untested by every duelist ever. We don't live in a perfect world, but I'd argue that Trap Monsters in terms close to that criteria . Not only are there some ridiculous interactions that no other decks produce, the deck's also widely overlooked by a large portion of the dueling community. I'm confident in saying that no player I've come across actually knew what all my cards did. That makes piloting a successful Trap Monster variant a heck of a lot easier.

Trap Monsters are a classification of Continuous Traps that Special Summon themselves as monsters when they're activated. They're then treated as both a trap and a monster, allowing you to abuse cards like Imperial Custom to protect your monsters from battle and destruction of all kinds, regardless of what zone they're occupying. Pasquale raves about how useful rulings knowledge is in this game, giving you a leg up on your opponent, and unsurprisingly the Trap Monsters pack a ton of weird rulings. I'm going to break down the important ones:

- If Vanity's Emptiness is chained to a Trap Monster being activated, the Trap Monster stays in the spell and trap card zone even after the Emptiness leaves the board.

- If Royal Decree is activated, all Trap Monsters stays in the spell and trap card zone, even if the Decree leaves the field.

- If a Trap Monster is targeted with a card like Book of Moon, it goes back to the spell and trap card zone face-down. It does not get flipped into face-down defense.

- Trap Monsters can be used as Xyz and Synchro Material, after which they are no longer taking up a spot in the back row.

- If a Trap Monster is banished via Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss it returns to the field as a monster again.

Now that you know some basic Trap Monster rulings, let's take a look at my current version of the deck. I want to focus on some specific changes that I made from my last build so I thought it'd be easier starting with the full picture.

DECKID=103347Like any Trap Monster deck, Statue of Anguish Pattern is your main star. It has a gigantic 2500 DEF and while it's on the field you can pop a card your opponent controls every time you Special Summon one of your Trap Monsters. It also can't be targeted while you control another Trap Monster, making it extremely hard to kill. It's difficult to lose if you start the game with Statue of Anguish Pattern and one or two other Trap Monsters, so you're playing a full three copies. You want to see it early, often, and in multiples.

Abyss Stungray is the only other Trap Monster I'm playing three of, and that's because it's my second favorite of the bunch. It packs 1900 ATK and it can't be destroyed by battle, separating it from the other cards we're playing because it's one of the few that's good on its own. Even Statue of Anguish Pattern needs other monsters to work properly. Stungray often sits on the field turn after turn, especially when you have Imperial Custom active. Custom, as I mentioned before, protects your Trap Monsters from being destroyed. it protects your cards from destruction by battle and card effect, which really slows down the game.

Cyber Shadow Gardna's probably the biggest new addition to this strategy, a card I completely overlooked in my initial testing. A few commenters on my last article, as well as on my Youtube channel pointed out that Cyber Shadow Gardna could trigger Statue of Anguish Pattern every turn indefinitely, and man am I glad they suggested it. Gardna solves one of the problems that plagued Trap Monsters forever: not having enough monsters for Statue of Anguish Pattern. Even if you opened up three other Trap Monsters you'd only get three destructions, and after that you'd be left waiting around. If you had Imperial Custom face-up your opponent couldn't destroy your monsters so you couldn't set new ones, and I'd commonly find myself waiting around turn after turn passing.

Cyber Shadow Gardna changes all that. It has a couple restrictions, most notably that you can't use it as an aggressor. You can only activate it in your opponent's Main Phase, and then whenever they battle it you copy their monster's ATK. Then it sets itself in the End Phase. Coupled with Statue of Anguish Pattern you're destroying a card every single turn, and that alone is usually too much for other rogue decks to handle. Throw in Imperial Custom and Necrovalley and even most top strategies can't keep up with the constant onslaught.

Speaking Of Necrovalley
Last time I featured this deck I was playing three Necrovalleys and two Gravekeeper's Commandant. Now I've bumped it up to three Commandants, a Royal Tribute, and – oddly enough – two copies of A Cat of Ill Omen. Necrovalley isn't necessarily better than it was before, but it's definitely not worse. It totally shuts down Nekroz, Burning Abyss, Satellarknights, and Infernoids. Even better, plenty of rogue strategies require at least some use of the graveyard, even if Necrovalley doesn't stop all their plays. Madolche can't banish for Madolche Hootcake; Lightsworn can't bring back cards with Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner; and any deck playing Call Of The Haunted loses a lot of momentum.

Kozmo's definitely your hardest matchup. Necrovalley stops the Machine monsters from replacing themselves but unfortunately the benefits stop there. Kozmo Sliprider can destroy Necrovalley – or any of your other important backrows – for free almost every turn, and Kozmo Forerunner's almost impossible to get over. You can't destroy it with Statue of Anguish Pattern so you're pretty much left trying to attack over it with The Calculator, a plan that's regularly foiled by Honest or Forbidden Lance. So far I've found the best way to deal with Kozmo is by siding Vanity's Fiend, but it's looking rough.

I never in a million years thought A Cat of Ill Omen would be playable, and yet here I am running two of them. I took out the Cardcar D's because they were susceptible to a bunch of commonly played effect negation, and I kept drawing cards that just weren't useful. A Cat of Ill Omen cuts out the middle man because you're getting exactly what you need. If you have Necrovalley face-up on the field you can search your deck for any trap card, and in most cases that's going to be Statue of Anguish Pattern, Cyber Shadow Gardna, or Imperial Custom. Basically whichever you don't already have.

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Beyond that, though, you can search out any floodgate that you Side Decked as early as your second turn. Imperial Iron Wall, Mistake, Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror, Light-Imprisoning Mirror, and Soul Drain are all a flip-effect away. I can't think of a single other deck that can search every trap floodgate in the game for free so I'm taking full advantage of it here. I'm also running one Tsukuyomi to reset my Trap Monsters for extra destruction but every once in a while you can loop A Cat of Ill Omen searches. That doesn't happen a lot but when it does it's hard to lose.

At the end of the day Trap Monsters are a lot of fun, but also beat the top strategies frequently if you play them correctly. Kozmo have proven to be a huge obstacle, but that deck hasn't become popular enough to where I'd drop Trap Monsters entirely. For now, this is a great strategy to score some local or Regional Qualifier wins when the new season starts up, and I've been having a ton of fun with it. Royal Decree is annoying, but as long as you prepare accordingly you should be cool as a cucumber.

-Doug Zeeff


Doug Zeeff hails from Michigan and is currently an English major in college. When he's not found emailing Konami about why there's not a single walrus card in all of Yu-Gi-Oh! you can find him regularly posting unorthodox, unfiltered semi-Yu-Gi-Oh! related content on his Youtube channel, Dzeeff. In his spare time he enjoys eating cheese, pretending school isn't about to start, and, of course, playing Yu-Gi-Oh.