How's it going TCGPlayers? With YCS Atlanta said and done and a bit of time before the next YCS events in Sao Paulo and Chicago, now's the perfect time to take a look at the format as it stands now. Legacy of the Valiant brought with it plenty of powerful new cards for a variety of different strategies, but the tried and true archetypes from last format still remain on top. You can't go wrong with Fire Fists, Mermails, Geargia, or Spellbooks right now as each deck offers a different but powerful avenue to victory. Last week I discussed one of the more popular Spellbook builds and the hyper-consistent "+1 Fire Fist" deck. Eschewing the additional plays the Rank 3 engine provides for consistency, Rank 4 Xyz summons seem to be the way to go right now in a format that's light on OTK's apart from Mermails.

But this week I want to discuss the newest iteration of Dragon Rulers; it seems that duelists just don't want to let the deck die! This week we'll be looking at Hieratic Rulers, the latest iteration to keep the beloved (or hated) Rulers alive and kicking.

DECKID=99566Right off the bat we can tell this is nearly identical to the Hieratic shell we've seen in the past. Three Hieratic Seal of Convocation is the big reason the Hieratics are back on the competitive map; the fact that this card was once Semi-Limited is a little confusing, as search effects always tend to be Limited. But if Fire Formation - Tenki can be at three, why not this?

Three copies each of Hieratic Dragon of Eset, Hieratic Dragon of Su, and Hieratic Dragon of Tefnuit give consistency and ensure that you open with the pieces that you need as frequently as possible. Some duelists have advocated the use of just two copies of each Hieratic, but being a combo deck you really want to see all your combo cards as often as possible. The glue that holds the strategy together is Cardcar D. Easily your strongest Turn 1 play, Cardcar D lets you set up and rip into more useful cards. Increased access to cards at the loss of a Battle Phase is a small price to pay for the added consistency it provides, especially if you go first and aren't really giving up any attacks to begin with.

The four Dragon Rulers in the Main Deck go without saying. They synergize nicely with Dragon Shrine as well as Hieratic Seal From the Ashes, and this wouldn't be a Dragon Ruler deck without them! Your Rulers have plenty of fodder to Special Summon because all of the Hieratics are Dragons, and you'll always have a beater when under Skill Drain.

The Normal Monster lineup may be a bit confusing, given the lack of Labradorite Dragon; the Reasoning behind Luster Dragon and Flamvell Guard is that Luster Dragon isn't dead when you're unlucky enough to draw it. You can very easily Special Summon a Tefnuit and tribute it to Luster Dragon to search out Flamvell Guard and make a Black Rose Dragon to equalize the field.

Zaman chose not to run Debris Dragon but many duelists still swear by the card in Dragon Rulers for its ability to make Star Eater alongside another Dragon Ruler, or even Trident Dragion with Tefnuit or Su. Trident Dragion can OTK out of nowhere without much field presence, so its inclusion could be worth a look. Debris Dragon also gives you a way to recur a Flamvell Guard from your Graveyard for Level 7-8 Synchro Summons should the need arise for them.

Spells And Traps
Despite being a combo deck with some tight numbers in terms of the OTK's, three Upstart Goblin is almost necessary to give you the additional dig power to get to your combos. I can't write enough about how good having a 37 card deck is over the course of a long tournament, and the results of decks with Upstart Goblin and even Reckless Greed show just how helpful that kind of draw power can be.

Three Hieratic Seal of Convocation are a must; when you're given the chance to run three Reinforcement of the Army, you don't question it and just enjoy it. As long as this card remains unlimited, Hieratics will always have a place in whatever format Konami decides to throw our way. Dragon Shrine's the new replacement for Dragon Ravine, and while it's nowhere near as good, it's an easy way to get to your Dragon Rulers while also thinning your deck of Luster Dragon #2 and Flamvell Guard (also, it should be noted that you can search Guard off of Blaster for Level 8 Synchro plays). The only drawback is that you can only use one Dragon Shrine a turn, which is why we've seen some duelists run Foolish Burial in order to get additional deck-thinning and early game infrastructure.

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Zaman ran a healthy number of trap cards for a combo-oriented deck. Three Hieratic Seal From the Ashes is the highlight of the strategy, breathing new life into Hieratics with the January 2014 Forbidden and Limited list. Ashes lets you gain incremental card advantage in conjunction with your Dragon Rulers by sending Hieratics back to your Graveyard. It's also a great chainable to Mystical Space Typhoon, letting you send a Hieratic monster to your Graveyard so you can then Special Summon. Seal from the Ashes works really well alongside Call Of The Haunted, letting you recur any of your Hieratics or any big threat. Call's easily one of my favorite cards, and the fact that it's not Limited right now is mind-boggling to me. While it isn't as powerful as Monster Reborn ever was, Call Of The Haunted is the fuel for huge OTK's and game-winning pushes, and can even serve as surprise defense on your opponent's turn.

Most Hieratic Ruler decks have been running Skill Drain in the Main Deck to combat the big threats of Fire Fists and Spellbooks. Dragon Rulers have always paired well with Skill Drain, and the same can be said for Hieratics' Special Summoning effects. But if Skill Drain ever gets to be a problem for you on your turn, there's always Trap Stun to shut it down… as well as all of your opponent's defenses. Trap Stun lets you freely push through big backrows, a feat that Mystical Space Typhoon can't manage. It's great at preventing blowouts because of Solemn Warning and Torrential Tribute, and like I just said, it can free you from the shackles of your own Skill Drain for a turn without eliminating it permanently.

Rounding out Zaman's list are the staple trap cards of the current format: Bottomless Trap Hole, Torrential Tribute, and Solemn Warning. These cards are all incredibly powerful and versatile; there's a reason they're Limited, so run them with impunity!

Side Deck Tech
The most popular tech going into YCS Atlanta was easily Overworked. Capable of wiping a Fire Fist duelist's entire field, and having some use against Harpies as well, it's not hard to see why Overworked has become so popular.

Zaman also chose to run a large number of hand traps to target the mirror match, as well as Mermails, with three copies of Maxx "C" to stop any kind of Special Summoning shenanigans. Electric Virus is for the Dragon mirror, although it does have uses against Evilswarms where you can steal Evilswarm Ophion to Tribute it off. The pair of Effect Veiler are prime against Spellbooks and Fire Fists, shutting down their crucial search and destruction effects. The lone Swift Scarecrow comes in for the mirror match and Mermails, to stop OTK's and let you survive to try and take your opponent out the next turn.

Dark Hole in the Side Deck follows this same ideology; survive, then clear the way for your big push. While it may seem odd to see Dark Hole sided rather than in the Main Deck, space is tight and when you need to combo out Dark Hole does little to help you advance your game position. The two Mystical Space Typhoon come in against Fire Fists and any backrow-heavy decks.

Rounding out the Side Deck are a pair of the increasingly popular Mistake; great at shutting down Spellbook plays, Mistake's quickly becoming one of the more expensive Side Deck cards we've seen in recent memory thanks to it's Secret Rarity and unique but powerful effect.

The focus of Hieratics is the same as it's always been – set up for a powerful OTK. What the Dragon Rulers provide is a Plan B in case your opponent stops your big push, or you're forced into a grind game, a style that suits the Rulers just fine. With plenty of search effects and OTK enablers like Call Of The Haunted and Trap Stun, Hieratics can pack quick a punch. While the strategy may be a bit fragile due to its combo-centric nature, you should definitely give Hieratics a try if you're still in love with the Dragon Rulers and want to surround them in a new shell.

That's all I have for this week! Next Wednesday I'll be looking at the reemergence of our fishy friends, Mermails. As always, happy testing and remember to think outside the box!

-Joe Soto
Invictus