Unless you follow me on social media or know me in real life, even those ofyou that have been reading my articles over the last six years probablyknow very little about me personally.

Sure, I play Frogs more than anyone human should and my favorite hobby isdrawing similarities between Knightmare Goblin and my friend Mitchell. Butin the end, I'm just another Yu-Gi-Oh! duelist, right?

On the flip side, people that know me outside of the sphere of Yu-Gi-Oh!and learn that I play the game competitively cast a strange gaze at me ifand when I try to explain anything about cards. "Are you some kind ofanime?" is a phrase I'll never unhear from my boss; on the flip side, I cansay 110% that my non- Yu-Gi-Oh! life is perfectly accepted by otherduelists, while playing cards causes ire and confusion to everyone else inmy life.

American football is easily the biggest sport here in the states, but thatisn't an excuse to get all emotional at a Regional. Just to let you know,judges will say you're "causing a disturbance" if you start cryingduring your round as you watch your favorite team blow a 31 point lead inthe third quarter of a wildcard game. Long story short - and I really meanit's a long story that involves a broken neck, Dallas, smoothies, and a hug- I've been a Kansas City Chiefs fan for years, and when I found out that aplayer from the Chiefs not only played Yu-Gi-Oh!but did well at an event, I was amazed.

Ryan Hunter plays offensive line for the Kansas City Chiefs and piloted hisnuanced strategy to a 12th Place finish at the Lenexa, Kansas Regional thispast weekend! After a 35 minute Game 1 in the final round where healmost beat Kozmo player Johnny Nguyen, Hunter barely missed outon the Top 8.

Which is fair. At this point, I'm convinced you could hand Johnny Nguyen 40copies of Watapon and he'd slap you around.

Check out the deck below - you'll see a few key differences that setHunter's strategy apart from other builds.

DECKID=109713Fifteen year-old me right now is still amazed and confused.

Seriously, if I could travel back in time and tell my former self that notonly do I still play Yu-Gi-Oh! in 2019 but I write for TCGplayerand I got to talk to an NFL player about the gamewho just so happens to play for theKansas City Chiefs, my former self would call the cops and ask to arrestthe crazy man trying to lull him into a false sense of security. We'dprobably duel to settle our differences, someone would get thrown into theshadow realm… a typical Thursday, honestly.

Hunter had lots to say about his deck choice post-event: "I chose DangerThunder Guardragon as it has so been deemed, because it's the meta deck I'mthe most comfortable with." He explained that he skipped over Sky Strikerssince his deck of choice crushes that strategy in testing. And as powerfulas Danger Thunder Dragon variants are, you can't call the deck autopilot:there are plenty of ways to falter when you're trying to make your corecombos, and the pitfalls range from opposing counters to your own blundersas you try to make the correct moves at the right times.

Comfortable with the strategy, Hunter elected to play Thunder Dragons overthe shiny "new" Salamangreats. We both share the sentiment thatSalamangreats aren't very interesting or entertaining, especially comparedto something with more branching combo paths like Thunder Dragons. "Iabsolutely love the deck," Hunter remarked. "It's so fun. It has such ahigh ceiling because even though the full combo's quite linear, there areso many different routes that can get you there." Let me back up a sec forthose that aren't too familiar with Thunder/Chaos/Guardragon/Danger…whatever you want to call these types of decks.

In short, the strategy floods the field with Thunders and Dragons,leveraging Saryuja Skull Dread, Guardragon Elpy, and Guardragon Agarpain tofinish with a field of Thunder Dragon Colossus and Hot Red Dragon ArchfiendAbyss. And it does it in the most economical ways possible. By addingGalaxy-Eyes Cipher Dragon and Number 95: Galaxy-Eyes Dark Matter Dragon tothe mix, any two Level 8 monsters lead into Amorphage Goliath as well.Capping off your big field with a monster that says no to Special Summonspretty much seals the deal.

If you scrutinize Hunter's build, you'll see a few little nuanceddifferences that open up the "different routes" to victory that hementioned, no matter how minute. With three of both Phantom Skyblaster andBatteryman Solar, Hunter was more likely to see one on his opening turn andextend some combos. Thunder Dragonduo ensured Number 95: Galaxy-Eyes DarkMatter Dragon was closer at hand, and two Chaos Dragon Levianeer simplymeant Hunter would see it more often.

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"The deck's biggest strength is its ability to extend so well throughinterruptions and hand traps," Hunter said, and while that's normally true,not every deck of this caliber can do that. I think what setsHunter's deck apart are the big beatsticks. When all else fails,overwhelming damage won't. "The most important cards were Chaos DragonLevianeer and Chaos Emperor Dragon – Envoy of the Beginning."

When you're running those cards plus Darkest Diabolos, Lord of the Lair,outmaneuvering your opponent isn't always necessary – you can just run overtheir face with 3000 ATK beaters. "These two cards are the best extendersin the deck because they trigger your Thunder monsters in the grave, whichallow you to push during mid to late game."

Yeah, and they're just big. You can have all the traps andcounters you want, but sometimes you'll just lose to pure damage.

"They also helped me get into Rank 8 plays and have very good effects ifneeded" Hunter continued. "They allowed me to clear fields and push fordamage or retake control of board presence if I needed to." Giant monstersthat don't consume your Normal Summon that also trigger graveyard effects?I say bring 'em all!

First Or Second? It Doesn't Matter!
In spite of his success and his personal affinity for the deck, Hunter'swilling to deviate from his exact list or even change archetypes entirely."If I had to change the deck, I would cut down on the number of ThunderDragon monsters I played. Maybe play two of each instead of three [ThunderDragon] Dark… in reality, you only want to see maybe one or two."

Little Differences like that may come and go - like Hunter playing only 1Danger! Mothman! with his 1 Danger! Bigfoot!. Hunter admits that theForbidden and Limited list may slap around his strategy of choice any weeknow, so it's a day by day decision. Hunter put it best when he discussedthe choices he might make for future Regionals or the World ChampionshipQualifier: "Nobody ever knows what Konami will do."

Regardless of what the Forbidden & Limited list winds up doing to theformat, I'm excited to see how the Danger… Thunder… Yeah I still refuse togive this deck a real name because it has so many vital facets thatneed to be in the title. But whatever the nomenclature, I'mexcited to see how the deck evolves and if dedicated players like Huntercan keep their foot on the gas pedal.

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"It plays so many extenders than any hand can give you [the] full combo."Hunter alludes to the many small parts working together, eventually nettingtwo Thunder Dragon Colossus, Number 95: Galaxy-Eyes Dark Matter Dragon,Saryuja Skull Dread, Amorphage Goliath, and Hot Red Dragon Archfiend Abyss.

Even against tougher matchups like Salamangreats or the mirror match, Iimagine the deck can adapt moving forward and implement new changes tocapitalize on innovations. Just like Amorphage Goliath and Number 95:Galaxy-Eyes Dark Matter Dragon have become the standard after YCS Atlanta,I imagine we'll get another new normal soon enough.

After all, collaboration and innovation keep the game alive. I'm ahuge champion of the sentiment that we never really play the bestversion of any deck. There's always going to be somethingstronger, faster, or better that no one thought of at the time.

So whether you're just starting out, or you've made top cut at a dozen bigtournaments, or you're a professional football player, always be looking toimprove and innovate your strategy.

Just remember: beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson


Loukas Peterson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, hoping one day to run in5th Congressional District on the platform of "Fabled Link Monsters forEveryone." You can find him onTwitteror building a bonfire in his backyard to attract the local wildlife foran audience with his ukulele. Hailed as the only person capable ofcooking Minute Rice in 56 seconds, Loukas is always looking atexpanding his backyard to house every dog in the world without a home.Well, and those with homes already.