I'm writing this on Wednesday evening, and at present we don't yet have the new Forbidden and Limited List for the October 1st Advanced Format. That's made our week a little tricky here at TCGplayer: we want to present content that discusses current trends and addresses relevant event results, but at the same time we kind of have to hedge our bets against the odds that something, anything we talk about this week could wind up being invalidated once the new list drops. In this case I think we're all largely betting that the Big Three of this format – Shaddolls, Burning Abyss, and Satellarknights – will go largely unchanged. But even the smallest tweak could switch up key dynamics, and hey, what if we're just wrong? What if one of those three decks just gets wailed on super-hard and disappears from competition?
Those are the thoughts that go into our planning in times like these, and it's especially relevant for a column like Competitive Corner. In this specific case I chose today's deck for a few different reasons: its likelihood to survive the Forbidden and Limited List; the possibility that the deck will be relevant, despite other changes affecting different strategies; and general originality. I want to talk about something that you still can build, that you'll still want to build, and that you haven't already seen a million times before.
With that in mind I want to talk about one of the standout Top 32 decks from YCS Madrid – a deck that's seen surprisingly little conversation. Alexandre Dray played a minimalist Artifact build that relied on a combination of basic Artifact strategies and two big Tribute monsters, both of which take advantage of the shape of competition, and ran it all the way to the playoffs. It's a fascinating deck because on the surface there's not a lot going on. Last format, Artifacts were almost always accompanied by two different suites of independent cards – most commonly Traptrix and Hands. This format Artifacts have generally splashed with complete themed strategies, usually Satellarknights and Shaddolls. They've been played to add a reactive edge to strategies that might lack that element of interaction with the opponent otherwise: Artifact Sanctum into Artifact Moralltach is leveraged to break up combos and plays in mid-sequence, sort of like a high-impact Book of Moon.
This deck's neat because it barely even does that. On one hand, with a monster lineup that consists of Artifacts, Cardcar D, and a couple of big Tributes it really looks like it's all about the Artifacts. But there's more than that going on under the hood, as this strategy taps into a variety of trends that are likely to persist into the next format. Check it out!
DECKID= 101124The Artifact suite played here is like a slightly more extreme version of a simple "three Artifact Moralltach, three Artifact Sanctum" engine. Its primary purpose is still to disrupt opposing plays: Artifact Moralltach does that here just as it would elsewhere, popping cards while your opponent's trying to piece together big plays. Xyz Summons don't work if one of your Xyz Materials goes missing as soon as you field it. Synchro Summons fail even harder, stranding Tuners on the table where they can be attacked. Numerous Rogue cards fall to Artifact Moralltach as well – think Bujin Yamato – and that factor was tremendously relevant in the rogue-heavy YCS Madrid (remember, three of the Top 4 decks in Madrid were Artifact Shaddolls, a deck that didn't do nearly so well in the less rogue metagame of YCS Toronto).
But beyond that the deck runs Artifact Scythe as well. It puts a full-stop on your opponent when they want to go off with a long string of Extra Deck Summons, or just resolve something like Shaddoll Fusion or Super Polymerization. Scythe works sort of like Flying "C" if that card was searchable from your deck, could stop Synchros and Fusions, and placed a Level 5 2200 ATK beater on your side of the field instead of giving your opponent a free chump Blocker. Note that 2200 ATK's pretty big right now: Scythe can end games, swing over a number of popular monsters, force out removal, and become one half of a Rank 5 Xyz.
Together that basic forward thrust of 2200 ATK coupled with the Rank 5 aspect is huge: there are no Satellarknights or Shaddolls to carry this strategy, so monsters like Constellar Pleiades and Artifact Durendal are more important. With that emphasis in place and four other Artifacts already in the mix, Artifact Beagalltach is an easy call that then establishes the infrastructure for Artifact Ignition and Double Cyclone.
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That's great, because the removal power offered by those cards is extremely powerful in a format where backrow removal is so effective, and they help ward off disruption like Fiendish Chain, Breakthrough Skill, and Stellarnova Alpha that would keep you from controlling your opponent's options otherwise. Ignition and Double Cyclone outpace Mystical Space Typhoon here because they harass your opponent's backrow while advancing your own strategy – they're not quite as easy to use, but they accomplish more for you when they work.
And all that's pretty obvious. What's more interesting is where the strategy goes from there.
The Shadows, The Majesty, And The Non-Targeting Removal
Caius the Shadow Monarch is popular in a few different decks right now, chiefly for its ability to boot El Shaddoll Winda and El Shaddoll Construct when they're locking down the field. Since Caius banishes cards instead of destroying them it works around Winda's protection and kicks out 1000 damage as a bonus. It's a quick answer to the tough-to-approach Construct too, removing it without resorting to battle (which Construct's effect would win). All you need to drop Caius is one successful Special Summon – allowable under Winda – so you can Tribute that monster off. That turns cards like Call Of The Haunted and Soul Charge into instant outs. Even just protecting one monster so you can Tribute it on the following turn is enough to bring Caius online, and its ability to deal with set monsters, tough Xyz like Number 101: Silent Honor ARK, and the high DEF of Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss has made it a big pick for strategies like Shaddolls late in the format.
It's even better here, since you have so much infrastructure to support it. Artifact Sanctum can Summon an Artifact to unleash an effect and then grant you the Tribute fodder you need for Caius on the following turn. Artifact Ignition and Double Cyclone on your own set Artifact monster do the same thing, and Call Of The Haunted can pull Artifacts back from the graveyard to give you even more redundancy. Since Dray played so few Main Decked monsters – just thirteen total – he had room for draw acceleration that can get you to Caius faster and more consistently. Triple Pot of Duality, Cardcar D, and Upstart Goblin combine with the deck thinning of Artifact Sanctum and Artifact Ignition to give you a grand total of fifteen cards that narrow the odds on every card you draw. That makes it easier to use those two copies of Caius when you want them.
That draw power makes it much easier to get to Majesty's Fiend, too. While Breakthrough Skill, Fiendish Chain and Effect Veiler only block single monster effects per activation, and Skill Drain can't touch monster abilities that activate from the graveyard or hand, Majesty's Fiend stops everything. Satellarknight effects are useless; Shaddoll Flip Effects won't work, and neither will their graveyard triggers; Burning Abyss is in the same boat, stranded without their Special Summon effects nor their graveyard tricks. No matter your match-up, your opponent's usually left fighting to get Majesty's Fiend off the field with trap cards, or stuck burning resources to try and field something big enough to get over Majesty Fiend's ATK. And that's doable, but frankly? El Shaddoll Construct's just not very good when you're taking a hard -2 to get it on the table.
Majesty's Fiend is great, and to call back to the comments made about Artifacts earlier, it's not just great against the top strategies. Successful rogue decks like Mermails, Infernities, Bujins, and plenty of others just hate this thing. A big part of Dray's genius here was zeroing in on a group of independent cards that are all really well-tuned to competition right now, and finding a way to make them all work together. One of the reasons I'm so keen on this strategy is that since it can handle such a wide array of threats, I believe it'll still be a good pick for October no matter what the new format ends up looking like.
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Case in point? The Monarchs Stormforth. Not only is it another big Tribute enabler to help you field Caius and Majesty's Fiend, it's also non-targeting removal. That makes it tough to outplay with chainable tricks, while its non-destructive nature makes it another answer to El Shaddoll Winda. It works against a variety of self-protecting monsters; lets you make big, powerful plays when Vanity's Emptiness is on the field; and though there are really five monsters in this deck you want to play it with, you can also Tribute Summon one of your five Artifacts to get an opposing threat off the field or make a Rank 5 play. Despite being so invested in combo plays, this deck was clearly built with utility in mind.
On The More Micro Side Of Things…
…There are some smaller, more universal choices being made here that work really well, all of which represent good lessons to carry forward into the next format. Triple Wiretap is great in the trap-heavy metagames that are the expected norm right now, but it's especially good against some of the format's biggest trap cards: namely the discard-costed Stellarnova Alpha, against which Wiretap is a +1; and Breakthrough Skill, which Wiretap shuffles away to the deck so your opponent can't use its graveyard effect.
Call of the Haunted has always been strong with Artifact Moralltach, triggering its removal ability without consuming another Artifact Sanctum, but it's especially good here recycling Artifact Scythe to repeatedly stop the key Extra Deck plays that fuel the top decks of this format. Double Cyclone works nicely with Call as well, giving you something to do with a dead-on-the-table Continuous Trap you resolved and kept on the field due to an Xyz or Tribute Summon.
Specific combos aside, Double Cyclone's just really easy to use in a deck packing so many simple spells and traps: Pot of Duality, The Monarchs Stormforth, Upstart Goblin, and Breakthrough Skill are all very easy to activate whenever you want, and you can chain Double Cyclone to your activation of those cards to destroy them at effectively no cost. That makes Double Cyclone much easier to play. Not all decks have that level of flexibility, and again, it's another payoff tied to the low monster count. Dray had the room to run those big spell and trap lineups.
Vanity's Emptiness is huge this format, but it's even better with Majesty's Fiend freezing your opponent out of their best moves and warding off effects that could eliminate Emptiness otherwise. Between Fiend and Constellar Pleiades you've got two big, commanding monsters that can hold their own and secure the field while Emptiness effectively wins you the game.
There's a lot going on here, so if one part of this deck happens to fall to the Forbidden and Limited List there are still tons of valid points to carry forward. A Limitation on Artifact Sanctum or Artifact Moralltach is just about the only reasonable format change that could knock this deck for a loop – I don't personally think we'll see that happen, but it might. If it does, the strength of Majesty's Fiend, The Monarchs Stormforth, and a bunch of the other core concepts here still remain valuable. There's a lot of theory playing out here, and Dray's insight paid off in the form of a YCS top cut. Now I want to see where his ideas could go from here.