But this week I won't be looking at a competitive deck; instead I'll be taking a look at the ideology behind why the top decks are on top, harkening back to my old articles on control and tempo. There's one major thing that Madolche, Dragons, Geargia, and Sylvans all have in common: they revolve around specific card interactions, better referred to as combos. What makes combo plays so strong, and why are they so prevalent right now? Among the many facets of combo-driven strategies, a few stand out: card selection, consistency, synergy, and power.
A combo is an interaction between two or more cards where the result is advantageous and often greater than the sum of its parts. Combos can be as simple as Book of Moon together with Nobleman of Crossout, or as devastating as the Yata-Garasu Lock or Magical Scientist OTK. Combo decks are often capable of creating OTKs, and in the case of engines like Magical Scientist, Frogs, or Morphing Jar, combos can end the duel before your opponent gets a chance to even draw a card. Some of Yu-Gi-Oh's most infamous decks have been combo strategies, or have at least played a particularly backbreaking combo.
But why are there so many combo decks popping up right now?Card Selection
Pot of Duality's another great example of card selection; it digs you three cards deep and lets you pick the best one for your current situation. Kuribandit, a new tool introduced in Dragons of Legend, takes that to another level, digging through five cards and letting you add a spell or trap to your hand. While the monsters do go to the graveyard, that's more than fine in strategies centered around building a graveyard filled with monsters – stuff like Dragon Rulers, Zombies, and Lightsworn. While Kuribandit's one of the slower ways you can achieve optimal card selection, it's just so powerful when you're allowed to go first and set up for your next turn safely.
Kuribandit does double duty in Sylvans as you not only add a card like Sylvan Charity or Soul Charge to your hand, but you get to trigger all of the excavation effects of your Sylvan monsters, leading to greater advantage from just one card. But Kuribandit's not without its faults; going second with Kuribandit as your only viable play leaves you really vulnerable, and a timely Breakthrough Skill can outright cost you the game (as seen in the finals of the European WCQ). When your opponent manages to stop your Kuribandit it's a huge loss in tempo that can be impossible to recover from, so it's best to see Kuribandit as a supplemental edge rather than truly relying on it.
Note that Madolche decks only rarely play some form of card selection, instead relying on the power of its combos and the consistency to get it out, but more on that later.Consistency
Consistency is essential for decks like Lightsworn, which revolve around an inherently luck-based mechanic (in this case, milling). Lightsworn shore up that weakness with Charge of the Light Brigade and Reinforcement of the Army for searching power, and Solar Recharge plus Allure of Darkness for additional draws. Madolches take advantage of search power through Madolche Magiliene and Madolche Ticket. Geargia have the hard-to-run-over Geargiarmor, and Gear Gigant X also searches. Sylvans draw their consistency from Sylvan Charity, an incredibly potent draw card very much like the original Graceful Charity. Mount Sylvania's also a form of added consistency as it gives you some semblance of control in relation to your excavations.
It's not a coincidence that all of the top decks have some form of search or draw effect; having access to the cards you need when you need them is invaluable. Madolche makes up for its lack of inherent card selection with search effects like Madolche Magiliene and Madolche Messengelato. The fact that Madolche also has a one-card combo in Madolche Anjelly makes it incredibly easy for the deck to go off successfully.Synergy
Geargia have similar tools in Geargiarmor and Geargiarsenal to search out missing pieces to enable the flurry of Xyz Summons the deck's known for. The pieces of the Madolche engine also work well together, especially Madolche Chateau and Madolche Ticket. The two spell cards work in tandem to give you an endless stream of card advantage to bury your opponent.
The opposite of synergistic combo decks are what are often referred to as "goodstuff" decks. They usually don't have any cool combos – they're just a deck full of good cards. The HAT decks that have exploded in popularity in the wake of the WCQ are a great example of a strategy stuffed to the brim with "just good" cards that work well by themselves.Power
As we saw this past weekend at the ARG Circuit Series Championship, Sehabi Kheireddine's Mermails overpowered Larry Musgrove's Karakuri Geargia by shredding Musgrove's set cards with Atlantean Marksman. The Marksmans could clear the way for devastating turns on the back of Mermail Abyssteus and Mermail Abyssmegalo. Aided by Soul Charge, Mermails have access to a ton of different Xyz monsters at variable Ranks. While they can't make Rank 8's as easily as Sylvans or Dragons, the ability to string one Mermail Summon into another and then follow it up with a Soul Charge can be just as powerful.
Power right now is defined by how well you can abuse Soul Charge, which is why Madolche and Geargia are on the lower end. Geargia can take advantage of Soul Charge to set up a field, but not in the same way as other decks.Play or Draw?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Infernity duelists swore by going first to set up their field lock before their opponent would have a chance to lay down any pesky traps. Infernity catapulted three duelists into the Top 8, and for good reason: a strong Turn 1 deck with the ability to take full advantage of Soul Charge makes for a powerful combo strategy that can end the duel outright. Look for Infernities to make a big splash wherever you play in response to this excellent showing.
Playing a combo deck takes a different train of thought than other strategies. Every turn, you should always be trying to figure out whether you have the resources to kill your opponent, or if you need to bide your time and setup for a push later. Remember that your Life Points are a resource; you haven't lost the game until they're all gone.
Mermails, Geargia, Sylvans, Madolche, Infernity, and others are all very strong picks right now and you'd be hard-pressed to find a combo deck that doesn't fit your style. Try them out – you might just find out you're a combo duelist at heart!