Even with the dominance of Nekroz right now, I think the past few months have been a pretty exciting time. Shaddolls put in a notable showing in February, back at YCS Chicago; fell from grace across two months of Regional Qualifiers; then came roaring back into the Top 4 at both YCS Bogota and YCS Bochum… only to collapse again at YCS Columbus. Qliphorts took a giant hit from the April 1st Forbidden and Limited List, did virtually nothing at Chicago, but made the Top 4 at Bogota and the Top 8 at Bochum, with the latter performance coming from long-time YCS veteran Benedikt Junk.

The deck continued to fade from Regional relevance, but Junk remained resolute, exploding to a Top 3 finish amongst a field crowded with naysayers at YCS Columbus. Half a world away from home, the globe-trotting German turned heads as the only non-Nekroz player in the Top 4. What changed? How did Junk's Top 8 at Bochum become a 3rd Place finish in a field that was even more hostile toward Qliphorts? And how did at least one other Top Cut finisher – Jordan Lee in the Top 32 – seem to capture the same lightning in a bottle?

The answer should be obvious, and it's very possible that with new support from Crossed Souls – and a field that's still unwilling to Main Deck triple Mystical Space Typhoon – Qliphorts could be the number one non-Nekroz pick for this WCQ season.

Make no Mistake, this was not a fluke: Qliphorts may have the perfect-storm mix of sheer deck quality and underestimated match-up potential that could see the strategy win continental Championships this Summer. This is must-know material.

It's Only After We've Lost Everything…
While Junk made Top 8 at Bochum on sheer skill, will, and that thing he does where he kind of grimaces at his opponent and they mess up half their plays because he's terrifying, Junk's heightened successes at Columbus were owed squarely to Lose 1 Turn. Going off early deck lists that have emerged so far, a lot of CROS cards either under-performed or simply failed to appear at YCS Columbus: we're still waiting to see more notable Top Cut finishes for Jar of Avarice, Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, and to some extent Clear Wing Synchro Dragon. And we may be waiting a while.

But as far as I'm concerned, Lose 1 Turn delivered. Junk played two copies alongside one Re-qliate, while Jordan Lee ran a full three copies. Want to beat Nekroz? Throw down a card they aren't equipped to remove; that they can't out with tech cards that are eating up space for their mirror match; and that stops their best monsters from using effects and attacking. They can't really hold a candle to that. Granted, those factors are just the beginning – Lose 1 Turn's a complicated card in any situation, and it's never more complicated than it is in Qliphorts.

Let's take a peek at the deck list before we get into the details.

DECKID= 102113So before we get to Lose 1 Turn and its fallout in the strategy – which runs deeper than you might first think – there are a few points to address. Junk's deck list from Columbus is so close to his Bochum version that it's worth it go just go point by point and look at the changes he made.

Junk played two copies of Qliphort Stealth in his Bochum build, but bumped that up to three copies here, stating it was the best card in the deck. That's tough to argue with: Stealth's incredible on its own, and it was a great combo card to keep your opponent from responding to the Tribute abilities of Qliphort Carrier and Qliphort Helix, long before Crossed Souls arrived. Now it's even better, because its ability to protect its own effect from chained responses keeps your opponent from using stuff like Clear Wing Synchro Drago, Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, or the newly re-popularized Breakthrough Skill to stop it.

Junk actually made room for that third Stealth by dropping his second copy of Qliphort Disk, which has grown less and less effective with time, and performs poorly with Lose 1 Turn on the field. It's still useful, but it got the nod here over what I'd consider to be the other at-risk pick, Qliphort Shell (which Junk continued to use after a successful showing with it at the previous YCS).

Junk's spell lineup was identical at both events, but his trap choices varied quite a bit. The pair of Mind Crushes that once gave him an edge against Nekroz are now gone, perhaps as a matter of pacing and the conundrum of going second versus going first. One Re-qliate was cut as well, an obvious choice that helped make room for two Lose 1 Turns. Dropping a Re-qliate isn't a big loss since it's searchable with Qliphort Scout anyways.

The remaining slot was used for Bottomless Trap Hole, a strong pick against many of the top decks – including Nekroz and the Qliphort mirror – as well as a good choice for any event marking the beginning of a new play environment, in this case the Championship debut of Crossed Souls. It'll remain a good choice for that 40th card slot if Junk's performance influences more competitors to run Qliphorts.

Taking a glance over at Jordan Lee's Top 32 build, there are similarities and differences; Junk seems like the clear winner in most cases. Lee ran Apoqliphort Towers, remarking post-event that he wouldn't run it again. He didn't play Performapal Trampolynx, nor the third Qliphort Stealth, instead running a third Effect Veiler and double Maxx "C" mained.

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He played a second Qliphort Disk too, running 20 monsters total to Junk's 18, which cost him some room in the spell and trap line-ups. He didn't run Pot of Dualities, Mystical Space Typhoons, or Book of Moon. Both duelists played Vanity's Emptiness, Solemn Warning, Skill Drain, and two Fiendish Chain, but Lee played a third Chain; the Mind Crushes Junk passed on from Bochum; and a third Lose 1 Turn over Re-qliate, skipping Bottomless.

Most of those differences feel like missteps. Pot of Duality's obviously important, and Mystical Space Typhoon wound up being better at YCS Columbus than some had anticipated. The interesting factor is the question of Lee's triple Lose 1 Turn versus Junk's two copies with Re-qliate. The thought processes there are understandable on both sides and labeling one decision as "correct" seems very difficult. We can say one thing for sure, though: Junk made at least one decision that gave him a distinct advantage in a different field entirely.

If I See That Fog King Cat One More Time…
One of the biggest differences between these two builds was the German's use of double Performapal Trampolynx. While Extra Decks are usually a joke in Qliphorts, Junk remarked that he was using his "every second duel" thanks to Trampolynx. Xyz have been so irrelevant in Qliphorts for such a long time that it's possible some readers might not be familiar with the point here: Trampolynx occupies the low side of your Pendulum Scale and bounces away your other Pendulum Spell, removing the Qliphort effect that restricts your Special Summoning. From there you can Xyz Summon as normal with the Qliphort monsters you've been Pendulum Summoning, busting out uncommon plays most opponents won't see coming.

That's huge in this build for a number of reasons. Taking a look at Junk's Extra Deck, it was notably different from Lee's and others we've seen before, chiefly because he was running three cards the deck couldn't use previously: the new Tellarknight Ptolemaeus, plus Stellarknight Constellar Diamond and Artifact Durendal to go with it.

The ability to drop Tellarknight Ptolemaeus and overlay it with Constellar Diamond immediately meant that even if Junk's opponent could play around Lose 1 Turn, Skill Drain, or Re-qliate, by destroying them or dropping monsters that would be unaffected, he'd have another layer of protection against Burning Abyss, Shaddolls, and anything else with the Dark attribute. Both of his Rank 5's have abilities that work on either player's turn, effectively shrugging off Lose 1 Turn's negation despite being Special Summons.

Artifact Durendal's different, usually hitting the field a turn later off Ptolemaeus than Constellar Diamond, but also being a regular Xyz Summon candidate through normal means. Again, there's an element of effect negation here, but the real gem is the combo-breaking hand disruption of Durendal's second ability. As your opponent pieces together combos and specific play sequences, Durendal shoves their cards back into the deck to give them a random assortment of garb. Or, as Junk himself pointed out, he could rely on it get a new hand himself if things were just really not working out.

So how do these cards interact with Lose 1 Turn? That's a huge, really fascinating question. Lose 1 Turn has a ton of impacts in this strategy, many of which have more to do with negating your own Qliphorts' effects than negating or slowing your opponent's cards. Normally when you Special Summon a Qliphort, say by Pendulum Summoning it, its effect kicks in to reduce it to Level 4 and 1800 ATK.

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Lose 1 Turn keeps that from happening, but also turns your now-enormous Qliphort to defense mode so you can't swing with it immediately. Granted, your opponent's Special Summons are also robbed of effects and slowed by being turned to defense position, and they don't get massive unfair stat bonuses.

Those stat bonuses come in handy, because while they won't help you make Rank 4 plays – the affected Qliphorts never become Level 4 – they do help you keep Qliphort Carrier and Qliphort Helix on the field to threaten delayed Tribute plays or giant beatdowns on the following turn. Remember, your Normal Summon Tribute plays still work just fine, and Lose 1 Turn won't impact monster effects that trigger in the Graveyard either. You can even Pendulum Summon monsters you want to Tribute in defense position to ensure that your own Lose 1 Turn's effect won't trigger, fending off Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit when you want to make a Qliphort Stealth play.

What does that mean for Xyz Summons? Lose 1 Turn effectively makes Rank 4's a bit tougher to pull off, since you're working against your own Level manipulation effects. But at the same time, it actually makes it slightly easier to field those lonshot Rank 5's, 6's and 8's by preserving the Levels of your monsters; that could be kind of interesting moving forward. For now, it looks like aside from Number 61: Volcasaurus and Artifact Durendal, Junk opted to keep things simple. There's a lot of intricacy here that didn't exist in this strategy before, and that makes it difficult for me to speak on with absolute authority.

…But of course, that same factor applies to anyone who was playing against this thing in Columbus. There's no way people were ready for this strain of Qliphorts, especially since Junk played with such an emphasis on the unexpected Xyz factor. On the surface this deck looks so similar to Junk's Bochum build, but the context is tremendously different with Lose 1 Turn in the mix. All the Continuous Traps here change the playing field in drastic ways, and they can be tough to adapt to if you're not intimately familiar with the ramifications of each.

I really believe that anyone who puts in the time practicing with Qliphorts will have very good positioning going into big tournaments this Summer. A Qliphort upset at the North American WCQ wouldn't surprise me; it wouldn't be inexplicable, nor undeserved. The deck's been ignored for too long despite its successes in the last few YCS tournaments. If you're looking for a strong, underrated darkhorse pick that rewards knowledge your opponents won't have, this is the strategy you've been waiting for.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer