Now that YCS Charleston has come and gone, results will be pouring in over the next few days; we'll get to see a lot of answers, to questions players have been asking since the debut of the January list. Specifically we'll get to see what the most successful builds of the biggest decks look like: the numbers and data should give us a pretty big sampling, with Qliphorts taking eight Top 32 seats and Burning Abyss a whopping nineteen.
But right now only about a dozen of the Top 32 deck lists have been logged – you can check them out over in the deck archive. Before I start breaking down the new builds of Qliphorts and Burning Abyss, I'd rather see as many of those decks as possible. We'll save them for next week. This week I want to focus on the more anomalous decks in the Top 32.
Right off the bat, the biggest standout at YCS Charleston was Sohrab Pasikhani's Volcanic deck, which went undefeated in the Swiss Rounds. I'll talk about that tomorrow, but for now I'm intrigued by a bit of news that seems to be flying under the radar: the return of Artifacts to Top 32 action, despite the Limited status of Artifact Moralltach.
Wait, That Happened?
Yup! While the official coverage stated that three Satellarknight players and one Shaddoll duelist made the Playoff cut, the coverage didn't mention that two of those duelists actually played full Artifact suites: Charlie Finnegan made Top 16 with Artifact Satellarknights, while the lone Shaddoll deck piloted to the Top 32 tables by Mark Balaban actually included ten Artifact cards.
With the latest F&L List all but killing Artifacts as we once knew them, that's a tremendous surprise for a number of reasons. On the Satellarknight side of things, that deck never really played Artifacts even when Moralltach was playable at three. And as for Shaddolls, Artifact variants were often popular in previous formats, but the debate heading into YCS Charleston pit Equip Shaddolls with Nephe Shaddoll Fusion and Hidden Armory, against OTK Shaddolls with Denko Sekka. Artifacts weren't even in the dialogue.
#####CARDID= 16156 #####
So what happened? Both competitors have given their explanations post-event, and while there are five or six big reasons to play Artifacts in my mind, one trumps all the rest: Artifact Scythe is really good.
In past Artifact variants the emphasis was always on Artifact Moralltach and Artifact Sanctum, with some players opting for Artifact Beagalltach as a secondary choice if they wanted Artifact Ignition. Whether we were talking Artifact Shaddolls, Artifact Hand Traptrix, Artifact Constellars or any other variant, Moralltach took center stage in slimmer engines, while Beagalltach stepped in to fill the need for cards if you wanted to run Ignition. While we did see a few big tournament showings from Artifact Scythe – notably a couple big finishes in the South American WCQ and YCS tournaments – it was regarded as an oddity. Most Artifact players didn't even know what it did.
Now that's all changed, because Artifact Scythe happens to be a tremendous answer to the reigning dominant deck today: Burning Abyss. With 2200 ATK it's an even bigger beatstick than Moralltach, and thought Moralltach's destruction effect could be mitigated by the graveyard trigger effects of the Burning Abyss monsters, Scythe keeps that deck from ever Summoning its biggest threats in the first place. Bring it out on your opponent's turn and Scythe keeps the Burning Abyss duelist from touching their Extra Deck, staving off Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss and Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss. Without those two cards, the entire strategy's nothing but underwhelming Level 3 monsters.
And while Artifact Sanctum's certainly the easiest way to Summon Scythe, both of our featured players had lots of ways to leverage its effect. Both ran Artifact Ignition, and Balaban ran two Mystical Space Typhoon while Finnegan ran three. Setting Scythe and then destroying it on your opponent's turn will Summon it, triggering its ability. Call Of The Haunted can bring Scythe back to the graveyard, and even just setting Scythe when your opponent's not expecting it can trick them into doing the work for you. In fact, a set Scythe is especially vicious against Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss – one more edge for Artifacts in the Burning Abyss match-up.
The advantage Scythe offers against Burning Abyss is the number one reason to play Artifacts right now.
But Is That All?
Far from it! While Artifact Scythe's effect might not be tremendously useful in the Xyz-starved Qliphort match-up, Artifacts offer you a totally different advantage there: namely the chance to run up to six Mystical Space Typhoons, thanks to Artifact Ignition. As much as the Qliphort deck has changed since the release of Secrets of Eternity, it still derives the bulks of its power from Qliphort Scout and repeated search effects; keep Scout off the field and destroy it before its effect can resolve, and winning's much easier. Night Beam can't offer that kind of removal on a reactive basis, while Dust Tornado's slow and Twister's overly specific.
But Artifact Ignition's different. Not only does it offer the same speed and reactive opportunities as Mystical Space Typhoon, it serves other purposes that make it much easier to run than your other removal options. If your opponent doesn't control a crucial backrow you'd want to destroy? Destroy your own set Artifact monster to press for damage, then set another one from your deck for free. Artifact Ignition doesn't just have higher utility than the alternatives, it offers the chance to make +1s under the right conditions, and helps you play aggressively on both a path-clearing and threat-Summoning basis.
#####CARDID= 16180 #####
And that's bad news for everybody, but especially bad news for Qliphorts where disrupting their Pendulum Scale is so crushing. If you've ever been playing a Qliphort match-up and wished that you could open Mystical Space Typhoon with twice the consistency? Well, that's what Finnegan and Balaban were doing all weekend long.
And of course, those two anti-meta edges are kind of just icing on the cake, because Artifact Sanctum and Artifact Moralltach are just as good as ever; you just can't kick out a second or third Moralltach anymore. Moralltach's still just as deadly, destroying face-up monsters, face-up Pendulum Scales, and even certain face-up floodgates at will, before dropping to the field as a Level 5 2100 ATK beater. In fact, both cards are even better today in at least one respect: surprise factor.
When your opponent destroys your set Sanctum they reap the whirlwind, losing a card to Sanctum's trigger effect and then getting hit with the Artifact monster you Summon. That threat made it almost impossible to blindly destroy a Traptrix Hand Artifact player's backrow cards last Summer, but the trick's even more vicious today, because nobody knows to expect Artifact Sanctum in the first place. Your opponent needs to play around Sanctum very carefully to avoid a devastating -2; they can't do that if they don't know what they're up against, and since Artifacts were considered down and out, anyone running them at Charleston had a serious leg up on their opposition.
Finally there were two more conditional advantages that as you'll see, both of our Top 32 finishers made use of: synergy with Call Of The Haunted, and the many uses of free Level 5 and Light monsters. Since Artifact monster effects trigger whenever they're Special Summoned – even when they're just being revived from the graveyard – they're huge with Call Of The Haunted and Oasis of Dragon Souls. They also allow for more Synchro Summons and Xyz Summons, and they can be Chaos fodder or Fusion Materials. With those two last points in mind, let's take a look at the two Top 32 Artifact decks and discuss how these concepts relate to those specific builds.
DECKID= 101701 Let's start with Charlie Finnegan's Artifact Satellarknights. As you can see, he ran five Artifact monsters plus three Artifact Ignition and three Artifact Sanctum. That five monster count is important, because it's a proven quantity: Artifact variants dating back to the Summer of 2014 almost always ran triple Moralltach and double Beagalltach if they wanted to run three Artifact Sanctum and three Artifact Ignition. The specific monster lineup has changed, with two Artifact Scythe filling the roles of the two missing Moralltachs, but the core concept's essentially the same.
Thanks to Artifacts, both of the strategies we're looking at today have all the general advantages over Burning Abyss and Qliphorts that I mentioned previously. But let's talk about the unique, theme-specific synergies they had as well. First and most obvious, Finnegan's deck was already running triple Call Of The Haunted. Satellarknight duelists play it to bring back Satellarknight Altair in the opponent's turn, reviving Satellarknight Deneb to trigger its search effect and then create Xyz opportunities the turn following; activating Call on your opponent's turn lets you dodge the Special Summon restriction of Altair's ability, attacking freely.
Those same recursion tricks combo with Artifact Moralltach to destroy cards; Artifact Beagalltach to trigger combos; and Artifact Scythe to shut down your opponent's Extra Deck Summons. Though Finnegan would usually need to resolve an Artifact Sanctum to load an Artifact to his graveyard, doing so would then make his three Calls live and turn them into removal with Moralltach, or a complete momentum killer against Burning Abyss, Shaddolls, or other Satellarknight decks by way of Scythe. That's huge. It makes arguably the best card in the deck even better, and cements a second threat against Burning Abyss beyond Stellarknight Constellar Diamond.
Note too that Moralltach and Scythe help fend off a new threat that's sitting at the forefront of a savvy Satellarknight duelist's mind: Masked HERO Dark Law. The Satellarknight deck relies on Reinforcement of the Army and Satellarknight Deneb to get the cards it needs, then relies on recycling them from the graveyard with Satellarknight Altair and Call Of The Haunted. If you can't search cards because Dark Law's banishing stuff from your hand every time you do, and you can't revive monsters from your yard because Dark Law's banishing those as well, the deck just doesn't work. Artifact Scythe keeps Dark Law off the field, while Moralltach pops it when it's already there. This was a definite concern or Finnegan: he remarked that he played Satellarknight Rigel in part because it was another answer to Dark Law.
The Artifact suite helps Satellarknights address one of their biggest match-ups in Burning Abyss; one of their most threatening problem-cards in Masked HERO Dark Law; and makes stuff they were already running that much better. You can see why Charlie Finnegan opted to play Artifact cards, and how they carried him to the strongest finish of any Satellarknight duelist in the tournament.
DECKID= 101714 Meanwhile Artifacts also delivered the strongest finish for any Shaddoll duelist at the YCS as well. Again, that afforded Mark Balaban an edge against Burning Abyss and more removal against Qliphorts, but it also gave him some advantages that were keenly tuned to the Shaddoll strategy.
First up, just like in months-old examples of this deck, free Light monsters were an asset. Balaban could use a spent Artifact monster from the field as a Fusion Material for El Shaddoll Construct; banish a yarded Artifact for Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning; or Tune Shaddoll Falco to an Artifact for Michael, the Arch-Lightsworn. Having a free Level 5 monster kicking around also made it easier to Synchro Summon Black Rose Dragon and Arcanite Magician, or Xyz Summon Constellar Pleiades and Number 61: Volcasaurus. Those are all cards this deck wants to run, but Artifacts make them easier to justify.
By that same mentality, Balaban had an easier time running Mathematician and Felis, Lightsworn Archer, since he had more Extra Deck cards to play with them. Even just kicking an Artifact to the graveyard for Call Of The Haunted or Black Luster Soldier would've been a viable move with Mathematician in certain situations. Note that Balaban went so far as to main a Call Of The Haunted in part for that purpose. The reverse is true too: while drawing an Artifact monster can be tough to deal with, the option of using an in-hand Artifact as Fusion Material helps cushion the blow of what might be a dead draw otherwise. Everything works in combination to make everything more consistent.
Hugging 43 cards due to his ten-card Artifact suite, the question of Nephe Shadoll Fusion was moot to Balaban: there was no room for it anyways. And on the most basic of levels, it's likely very easy to consider Artifact Sanctum or even Artifact Ignition as better cards overall. Frankly I'm of the opinion that Artifact Moralltach was curbed on our last F&L List strictly for that reason: every new support card made for a worthwhile strategy needed to be better than Artifact Sanctum and Artifact Moralltach moving forward, or players would just run a few Artifacts instead. It's interesting to see that thanks to Artifact Scythe – a card that was all but ignored previously – that same challenge to design may still exist.
What do you think? Are Artifacts back? Will they continue to feature in Shaddolls, Satellarknights, and other strategies moving forward, or was YCS Charleston an anomaly? Is Artifact Shaddolls really better than Equip or Denko Sekka variants, and is the Artifact suite better than an expanded monster or trap lineup in Satellarknights? Hit me with your thoughts, down in the Comments.