We all know competitive metagames change faster than the news cycle, but ifyou can imagine at all just a few short weeks ago, Elemental Hero Stratoswas finally lifted from the Forbidden List and moved to Limited after whatseemed like an eternity. Heroes might not have the competitive rep theycommanded in the past – the deck's definitely just getting started on thecomeback trail – but between the cult following and a legion of nostalgicfans, it's no surprise that we're starting to see Stratos appearing in TopCuts at major events.

A few short weeks ago on October 6th, Chase Owens piloted his Dark Herodeck to a Top 8 finish at the Regional Qualifier in Kissimmee Florida,using a bevy of cards across several different themes. I got a chance totalk with him about his strategy and he had some really interesting stuffto say, but first here's a look at his approach to Dark Heroes.

DECKID=109220Elemental Hero Stratos?


The new Elemental HERO Solid Soldier with two dominating effects?



No, but maybe I can convince Owens to add that later on.

60's The New 40
Regardless of how crazy or flashy your combos are, your strategy nevermakes the winner's circle without delivering real end results. I can't tellyou how many times I've gone down a rabbit hole of a combo only to find Ispent four cards from my hand and seven more cards from my Extra Deck tomake a Saryuja Skull Dread, resulting in little more than just a waste oftime.

For a lot of strategies, the payoff just isn't there.

That's not the case in Owens' build. Take a look at the Extra Deck: in anyHero deck worth its salt, Masked HERO Dark Law's arguably the glue thatholds the strategy together, but there are plenty of almost genericpowerhouses to go along with it. I'll speak more on the consistency levellater, but Owens packed his deck with a handful of threats that are allgood in the early, mid, and late game. That made his strategy flexible andpowerful.

F.A. Dawn Dragster's always just one Destrudo the Lost Dragon's Frissonaway, and it can steal games as a defensive maneuver or an aggressivesafety blanket. Meanwhile Borreload Dragon and Borrelsword Dragon runthrough virtually any offensive suite. On top of their raw power a lot ofthe strength there comes from their ridiculously easy summoningrequirements. But the real kicker is Topologic Gumblar Dragon. If you cansummon both Masked HERO Dark Law and Topologic Gumblar Dragon youropponent's in serious trouble.

Unlike a Gouki deck, 60-Card Dark Heroes doesn't try to stuff a smallstrategy with tons of duplicate cards to make an Extra Link combo everygame. It instead focuses on isolated moves to get more direct outcomes.Despite the range of combos at his fingertips, Owens admitted the matchupagainst Gouki scould go either way: his one loss at the Kissimmee Regionalwas handed to him by a Gouki player. Goukis and Heroes are both verypowerful in their own ways, but in his own words, Owens' achievement "Showsthat Heroes still have a place in the meta."

The main difference is obvious: a large portion of the strategy's devotedsolely to either summoning Elemental HERO Shadow Mist or sending it to thegraveyard, and the rest of the deck's effectively a byproduct of that. Thatmay sound a bit circular, but consider Armageddon Knight and Dark Grepher.Without thinking on too many specific combos, you can regard both monstersas means to yard Elemental HERO Shadow Mist and get a Hero to your hand toassist you moving forward. Add in Destiny HERO - Malicious and ArmageddonKnight, Dark Grepher, and Vision HERO Vyon all become 1-card playsfor Isolde, Two Tales of the Noble Knights.

#####CARDID= 18081 #####

Lastly, the Phantom Knights act as a unique extender that help lengthenyour combos in ways that other Hero strategies can't. Regardless of whetherwe're talking about Elemental HERO Solid Soldier, Goblindbergh, PhotonThrasher, or Instant Fusion, a lot of Hero decks often have a milliondifferent ways to get to more Warriors but can easily run into the problemof overlap between the combo-starting cards they rely on; at some pointthings just peter out and you have no real way to put them to use. Owensbuilt his deck a Little Differently, careful to hedge his bets betweengoing first or second. "There are so many extenders that I felt reallycomfortable playing out of boards early in the game."

I don't think a hand full of Goblindbergh could do that.

That's one way that Masked Hero decks of old suffered. You were sodesperate to get the necessary pieces to make Masked HERO Dark Law on Turn1, that you'd often be stuck with several cards that were worthless beyondthat one goal. Opening with multiple copies of A Hero Lives and PhotonThrasher really throttled your progress and limited what you could do aftermaking your Fusion; the Phantom Knights are a great answer to that problemhere.

Whether you're looking to put an extra Warrior on the table just for LinkSummons from Isolde, Two Tales of the Noble Knights, or maximizing yourdiscard of choice with Mask Change II, the Phantom Knights solve asurprising number of issues. If you're not familiar with the PhantomKnights, it's a relatively easy strategy to understand: the monsters andtraps mostly banish themselves from the graveyard to get other PhantomKnights, so they're perfect as a small suite of disposable cards.

It Only Gets Better From Here
One thing I love about larger decks that break the 40 count barrier is theDomino Effect that cards often have. While a smaller deck might have alaser-sharp focus on a specific task or two, much of the inner workings ofa larger deck come from coinciding agendas that meld together byhappenstance and convenience.

As you can infer, a 60-card deck has an inevitable struggle getting tospecific cards without playing a bunch of searchers to get them, and uponclose Inspection here, the Phantom Knights assist your struggle. ThePhantom Knights of Ancient Cloak searches Phantom Knights' Fog Bladedirectly from your deck to your hand, so think back to those combos welooked at earlier. Largely thanks to Destiny Hero – Malicious, Owens' deckhadsa very high chance of fielding Isolde, Two Tales of the Noble Knightsand thus Summon Sorceress, which makes throwing down Warriors really easy.

Why is that so important? As Owens said, "I was focused on getting Dark Lawand Topologic Gumblar Dragon out as quickly as possible; searching out theFog Blade and using my leftover resources against that 2-card comeback."Having the Phantom Knights and thus having access to a searchable negationtrap means you've wrecked your opponent's with Gumblar, you cut off anysearching with Dark Law, and Phantom Knights' Fog Blade kind of addresseseverything else in between. It's really difficult to fight back againstthat.

#####CARDID= 23577 #####

In fact, you can see that a lot of cards in Owens' deck are perfectadditions to his core strategy, despite being mediocre by themselves.Naturally drawing into Elemental HERO Honest Neos? Garbage. Having it asanother defense for Masked HERO Dark Law? Beautiful.

Another complication that often plagues decks that hinge on Isolde is theEquip Spell quandary. In a 40-card deck you have almost a 50/50 chance ofnaturally opening with an Equip Spell, but the odds of that dead drawhappening drop significantly when you add 20 more cards to the equation.And when you factor in the sidenote that almost every Equip Spell played isa revival card that's a welcome draw, and the fact that yourPhantom Knights are Level 3 and can be summoned off Isolde even in theworst of opening hands…?

Ok, I guess the worst opening hand would still be five Equip Spells, but Idon't appreciate the snark. Good job playing Devil's Advocate. Still, thepoint stands: the chance to brick here is significantly lower than asimilar strategy with a smaller deck count.

So outside of some of the most garbage hands imaginable, the addition of somany niche cards diversifies how and when a duelist like Owens canaccomplish his main goals. Think more on traditional Masked HERO Dark Lawdecks and the cards that get you to your central play but wind up beingquite worthless later on. Owens built his deck so that cards are rarelydead, for any reason. Additional copies of Mask Change II turn your uselessDark monsters into devastating game-enders like Masked HERO Anki, whileDark Grepher lends utility to even your worst card in hand.

It's funny. Building 60-card decks is often the inverse of building 40 carddecks. With 40 deck slots you're usually trying to cut cards to thin yourdeck as much as possible, but with a larger deck you're often forced to cutthings thanks to the 60-card upwards limit.

"I took out Knightmare Mermaid, Knightmare Corrupter Iblee, and Blackwing -Zephyros the Elite and missed Zephyros the most," Owens lamented, alreadyhitting the 60-card limit but happy that those were never a factor in hiswins or losses. He never saw Monster Reborn and only saw The WarriorReturning Alive once, but he saw there's only one major change he wouldmake moving forward. "If I owned Infinite Impermanence, I would play thatand bump my hand traps to twelve."

I'll Take New Cards For 200, Please
Again, because of the 60-card deck count, Owens can get away with certainthings tighter decks can't while keeping competitive integrity. He playednine hand traps in Effect Veiler, Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, and AshBlossom & Joyous Spring while still having room for starter cards likeThe Phantom Knights of Shade Brigandine. Balancing counters whilemaintaining focus on his central lines of play let him succeed against awide competitive field.

Part of that flexibility also comes from his diverse suite of HERO Fusionshidden in the Extra Deck. Masked HERO Anki can steal games while MaskedHERO Dian speeds up your OTKs. Even Vision HERO Adoration makes youropponents' strongest monsters crumble! I've touched on F.A. Dawn Dragster alot, but I can't stress how well it lets you cover a wider field ofthreats. With such a diverse range of cards that isn't solely focused onhyper Link Summons, Owens had options going first and second againstvirtually any deck out there.

And ultimately the deck still has room to grow. The Phantom Knights ofRusty Bardiche wasn't released when Owens played this deck, but talk aboutthe perfect card for it. Even if Rusty Bardiche had just one effect, theease of summoning combined with the fact that it gives no open Link Arrowsto your opponent warrants a spot. I already lauded The Phantom Knights ofAncient Cloak as fodder for your plays and a segue to searchable defense,but Rusty Bardiche takes it a step further.

#####CARDID= 24312 #####

The Phantom Knights of Rusty Bardiche takes that aall a step further bysending a Phantom Knights monster to the graveyard and setting a trapdirectly from your deck without a yarded Knight to self-banish. Thatdiversification of plays would be huge here. Having a strong Link Monster,especially one that can blow up threats going second, means your Dark Lawwon't be alone. Rusty Bardiche gives you two Link Arrows, so your Dark Lawcan be accompanied by a trusty F.A. Dawn Dragster or a Hero monster waitingto turn into a bigger threat.

"I'm super excited for Rusty Bardiche since it adds an extra elemental toyour line of plays," Owens said, but he's excited for the other LinkSummons Bardiche fosters as well. After all, Rusty Bardiche gives you twoarrows and a graveyard full of Phantom Knights. "I'm mostly excited tocontinue plays by setting Brigandine from the deck to the field!"

Keep in mind, Elemental HERO Solid Soldier revives fallen Heroes and ShadowMist gets cards when it's sent to the graveyard as well, so you can useyour extra open slot when needed, or in the case of Shadow Mist, maybe youjust need an excuse to use its effect on your opponent's turn?

Just remember: beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson

Loukas Peterson lives in Nashville, Tennessee where it's warmer thanwarm, whatever that means. When he's not submitting ideas for Fabledsupport and a Fabled Link monster, you can find making "attempts" at"art" and playing his ukulele terribly, or on Wednesday nights, hangingout with the local mice. Hailed as the only person capable of cookingMinute Rice in 56 seconds, Loukas is always looking at expanding hisapartment to house every dog in the world.

Do you love winning with unconventional strategies? Do you lovecreating mash-ups? Does your deck need an injection of crazy? Send thefollowing to rerouting.tcgplayer@gmail.comto have your deck featured in the "Re-Routing" deck fix column!

-Your Main and Extra Deck list. (No Side Deck needed, but please send awritten deck list, not a screencap; screencapped deck lists will befiled and then burned in the furnace accordingly… and your deck shouldbe TCG legal).

-Your name and city.

-Remember, please use full card names! Abbrevs and mis-sipllngs makeLoukas' life sad. Try your darndest to get the TCG name on there.

-A paragraph or two describing your deck: what it does, why you'replaying it, and its strengths and weaknesses. "Winning" is not astrategy per se, and neither is "beating your opponents before theybeat you."

-Your favorite card from the build and why – make me fall in love withthe deck! The cooler your strategy the more I'll want to fix it, and ifyou throw in funny jokes, that'll surely get my attention too; bewarned, unfunny jokes will push your deck to the back of the stack.Don't be afraid to get creative! New stuff takes priority, because I'mnot bored of it yet! –LJP