Despite not technically having the best record with Spirits (darn Loukas and his tiebreakers), I have played the deck at more premier events to the most success of anyone I've met. Spirits have guided me through four different Regional Qualifiers and one YCS. Because of that I've developed some reputation for playing them, and lately I've received the following question more than a few times: "What's next?"

To be completely honest, I didn't really have an answer up until a week ago. I'd slowly become more and more frustrated with my builds, and eventually put down the deck all together for the first time since I picked it up four months ago. It wasn't that I grew bored of good ol' Aratama and Nikitama, they just weren't accomplishing as much as I wanted them to. Kind of like when you become a parent and put your kids in a sport that you wished you were good at as a child, but then they totally suck at it. You're not going to disown your kid because they're not living up to your expectations (hopefully, at least), but you're going to be disappointed in them.

…Does that make sense?

Anyway, I wanted to wait and see how competition shaped up after Primal Origin before I made any changes to my previous build. The play patterns of the top decks and the general speed of the format really influence which Spirits you play, so making speculations too early would just be a waste of time. Luckily, YCS Philly and YGO Series Orlando happened to fall on the weekend of Primal Origin's release, giving us plenty of deck lists to delve into. After going through all the lists and taking note of player's tech picks I ended up revamping my Spirit build, and today we're going to go through it comprehensively so you can pick it up and go get your invitation to the World Championship Qualifier!

DECKID=100407Bobby Kenny posted two great articles about Traptrix Hand Artifacts last week (which can be found here and here), but one of the most important concepts came at the very end the second installment. He pointed out that "while the HAT build may appear to be the best at the moment, I'd keep an eye on the results of major tournaments over the coming weeks. As people adapt to the threat of Artifacts and learn how to play around them, the strength of those builds will slowly decrease." That's an insightful observation, and it's one that'll play into the decisions made here today.

Basically, cutting the Artifact suite lowers the diversity of the strategy, making Rank 5's unobtainable. Additionally, your opponent's back row removal is slightly more effective because they don't have to worry about hitting an Artifact Moralltach or Artifact Sanctum. What you gain from playing Spirits, though, is slightly more longevity and a way to gain card advantage over your opponent without destroying their cards.

Spirits Doing Spirit Things
Aratama and Nikitama are one of the best Rank 4 engines out there. Opening with just a single Aratama leads you to Nikitama, and next turn you've got a Rank 4 and another Spirit search (again thanks to Aratama's ability). Clever planning results in draws off of Nikitama, which grants you a free card whenever it's sent to the graveyard while you control a Spirit monster. Naturally that's difficult because all of your Spirits bounce back to the hand during the End Phase, requiring you to have a Nikitama, another Spirit monster, and a third Level 4 monster to actually get its effect off.

Don't worry though: Kagetokage's your best friend. I've mentioned it in previous articles, but starting off with a Nikitama, Aratama, and Kagetokage is an auto-win. Your first turn field will be King of the Feral Imps, with Nikitama, Aratama, and Kagetokage still in your hand for Turn 2. You'll have drawn card off of Nikitama's effect too, but the real fun starts on your next turn. Depending on if King of the Feral Imps survives or not you're looking at a +3 to +5 swing in card economy. It's crazy, it's difficult to play around, and it's super easy to pull off.

I haven't mentioned the third Spirit we're playing yet: Yaksha. I've always been a fanboy for this dude, but right now is a really, really good time to play it for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is that Artifacts are all over the place and Yaksha rips them apart. There's nothing quite like having your Artifact Moralltach repeatedly returned to your hand every turn, is there? Even better though, Yaksha can get rid of stuff like Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare and Black Horn of Heaven before you make your Xyz Summon with Nikitama or Kagetokage. There's really never been a better time to play Yaksha.

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In fact, this is just a stellar time to be running Spirits in general. Setting a Spirit monster in defense mode is a high risk, high reward play that's often a Gamble. But against the HAT strategy, there's literally nothing they can do to get around a defense position Aratama or Nikitama without making an Xyz Summon. That's such an immense advantage it's not even funny. Their strongest Normal Summon is only 1700 ATK, and setting an Artifact Moralltach or Artifact Sanctum won't stop you from searching cards with Aratama.

Two Thirds HAT
The rest of the monster lineup's fairly straightforward. Two Fire Hand and two Ice Hand may be a couple Hands short of what you're used to seeing in HAT decks, but I needed to cut back on the Normal Summons to avoid unplayable openings. I don't need to go into detail about how good Fire Hand and Ice Hand are: you're probably quite familiar by now. But here, they're not only going to be popping cards and whittling down your opponent: they're also going to help you keep three monsters on board to make the most of Nikitama.

I've also made the decision to use a full playset of Traptrix Myrmeleo backed by two copies of Traptrix Dionaea. I did a lot of flip-flopping between five Traptrix and three, but at the end of the day I just felt this was the best way to go. Dionaea isn't as good on her own as Myrmeleo, but once you have one Myrmeleo in the graveyard every Dionaea you draw afterwards plays at full strength. It's an easy way to 1-for-1 into a Rank 4 while at the same time destroying a back row card, and playing two seems to be the right choice.

Still, this deck does have quite a bit of Normal Summons on paper. To be honest, I was definitely worried about the awkward hands I could draw combining three different monster engines. Luckily the strategy proved to be incredibly consistent. Aside from Nikitama and Dionaea, all of your monsters are good on their own, and that's hugely important. Kagetokage makes all of your Normal Summons into 2-for-1 Xyz Summons, and that -1's easily mitigated when all of your +1 effects are going off. Additionally, an early game King of the Feral Imps - even without the Nikitama, Aratama, Kagetokage combo - can often result in a big enough swing of momentum to win the game outright.

Fine Tuned To Beat Competitive Metagames
One of the reasons I wanted to play this deck is that is has a good HAT match-up, but also because Spirits have great match-ups across the board. There's just so many different things you can do that most opponent's won't see coming, and that's a big advantage. That being said, I still had to make some cuts and add-ons to better suit the current competitive metagame. With those tweaks made, this build will probably continue to be relevant up through the World Championship Qualifier since there aren't any big releases between then and now.

Double Debunk's one of the more outlandish Main Deck tech choices here. Right now, Fire Hand and Ice Hand are tearing up tournaments, and Debunk gives Hands the middle finger. That's not all: because Debunk stops stuff like Artifact Moralltach, Bujingi Hare, Bujingi Crane, Effect Veiler, any of the Dragon Rulers, many of the Mermail monsters, and a bunch of other threats, it's never been safer to actually Main Deck this common Side Deck pick. It's especially good if you're using a trap-heavy theme already.

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The two Dimensional Prison are another weird choice. Prison and Mirror Force haven't been the strongest removal cards for a long time now. Many decks blow up backrow before ever reaching the Battle Phase, making things like Compulsory Evacuation Device and Black Horn of Heaven wiser options. However, with Artifacts around, it's very possible that players won't be Mystical Space Typhooning your cards for fear of accidently blowing up a Moralltach or Sanctum. That means Dimensional Prison's going to get a chance to activate way more often. Even better: the deck is two thirds a HAT build, and as such your opponents will most likely always be afraid of possible Artifact cards.

Heck, if you really want to be a jerk you can actually conversion side out your Spirits for Artifacts.

Anyway, I really feel that Spirits - especially this variant - are a solid contender going forward in the coming months. I don't believe I'll be attending any more Regional Qualifiers before the WCQ, but if I did I'd confidentially bring Traptrix Hand Spirits. Like I said before: if you're aiming to get your invite to the WCQ, give this deck a shot. With proper play testing you'll outplay a variety of situations with ease. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns feel free to ask them in the Comment section below.

-Doug Zeeff