While we don't have a full deck breakdown for the Top 32 at YCS Columbus yet, we've logged eleven of the Top 32 lists so far here on TCGplayer, and we know at least two Burning Abyss decks made the top cut; probably two more than most people were expecting, given the deck's performance in YCS Bogota, YCS Bochum, and the Regionals leading up to Columbus. After being outperformed for weeks by everything from Nekroz, Shaddolls, and Satellarknights, to Ritual Beasts, Strange Hero Variants, and even Volcanics, Burning Abyss was back in full force at the latest YCS, wielded by Faisal Khan and YCS veteran Sean Shakir.

Both competitors reached the Top 32 with Burning Abyss decks, but they did so with very different builds. Each played a disciplined 40 cards to hit those big openings Burning Abyss is so known for, and their trap lineups were fairly similar. But their monster lines and spell selections were very different, and both decks demonstrated the power of new cards from Crossed Roads – cards that could power Burning Abyss to some big finishes this WCQ season. Intriguingly enough, Faisal Khan played all three of those cards while Sean Shakir played only two, and the two new cards they shared in common were actually played differently.

I think taken together, these two decks give us a clear perspective on what the future of Burning Abyss could look like. But for sake of getting a complete picture, let's look at Khan's build first:

DECKID= 102124Khan's build is interesting for a number of reasons. Right off the bat, we haven't seen a Burning Abyss deck Top 32 a YCS in 2015 running so few spell cards. In fact, I'm not sure if it's ever been done before, period. Virtually half this deck is trap cards, with nothing but Foolish Burial and Raigeki making the cut in Khan's Main Deck. He's not even Side Decking Mystical Space Typhoons, which Sean Shakir did side a playset of. There's some gutsy stuff going on here.

The lack of Mystical Space Typhoon's owed in large part to Galaxy Cyclone: Khan sided three copies of that instead, knowing it could pull double duty against decks with heavy backrow, destroying set cards and then reappearing from the graveyard to pop face-ups like Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror and Vanity's Emptiness later.

More than that, Galaxy Cyclone was played in part for its synergy with the milling effect of Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss. By sending Cyclone to the graveyard when you go to boost up a Dante, you score a free +1 against any face-up spell or trap your opponent might field on future turns. That's huge on the same level of Breakthrough Skill, which Khan Main Decked three copies of. For perspective on this matter note that Shakir mained two Breakthroughs and then committed to two mained Galaxy Cyclones as his chief backrow removal. Same card, same deck theme, but played in two very different ways.

There's a lot of versatility here and both decisions seem valid: mained Galaxy Cyclones are going to be more effective against decks presenting big backrows, especially the rising Qliphort match-up; while sided copies won't appear as dead draws against Nekroz, and can be brought in for Games 2 and 3 as needed. Making that call isn't easy, and I'd expect it to become a major point of analysis and revision for anyone looking to play Burning Abyss in a WCQ. You'll need to be constantly re-examining your decision to main or side Galaxy Cyclone if you want the best results.

Moving on to the trap lineups, both players ran the same five Limited traps: Crush Card Virus, Skill Drain, Solemn Warning, Torrential Tribute, and Vanity's Emptiness. The only real surprise there was Skill Drain, which we've seen before in Burning Abyss but was never clearly a must-run as it is now. It's a great answer to the effect-driven Nekroz and Satellarknight strategies, and it lets you make bigger plays with Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction (which Shakir ran two of). They both ran triple Phoenix Wing Wind Blast, triple Mind Crush, and double Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss, too. Khan played triple Breakthrough Skill to Shakir's two copies, and a Karma Cut over Shakir's one Mistake.

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From there we see our second new card from Crossed Souls, the powerful new trap Fiend Griefing. This card's nothing short of outstanding, comboing with a ton of Fiend cards in different themes ranging from Archfiends and Dark Worlds to Fableds and beyond.

But nowhere does Fiend Griefing shine as it does in Burning Abyss. Its first effect, which lets you target a monster in your opponent's Graveyard, can deprive Nekroz of their most important banish effects; rob Satellarknight Altair of it revival target; keep your opponent's Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss under control in the mirror; and lock down Shaddoll Falco. It's the bane of Call Of The Haunted, Jar of Avarice, and a wealth of other generic cards that might target a yarded monster.

But oh, that ability to send a Fiend from your deck to your graveyard! That's the real kicker. You can Special Summon with Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss; set up a search with Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss; retrieve a monster with Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss; or banish something with Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss. And it all works on your turn and your opponent's. Alich, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss turns Fiend Griefing into Effect Veiler, while the new Barbar, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss makes it into a Poison of the Old Man and sets up further burn damage – more on that in a bit.

Both competitors had glowing things to say about Fiend Griefing. Khan played two copies, while Shakir played one and left Columbus remarking that he wanted a second. It's chainable, flexible, and really tough to anticipate in a strategy that's going to surround it with twenty other freaking trap cards. It's probably the best new card for the Burning Abyss theme, and it's exactly what the deck needed to stay relevant: a flexible answer, a proactive threat, and an enabler for many of its key plays. It's so good.

The Burning Inferno
While both Shakir and Khan played Galaxy Cyclone and Fiend Griefing, Shakir passed entirely on Barbar, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss. I'm sure he had a reason for that, but Khan did a great job of explaining why Barbar's so good. In post-event comments Khan described how previously, the danger zone against Burning Abyss was 2000 LP: a threshold determined by the 2000 ATK of Number 47: Nightmare Shark. Drop to 2000 LP and suddenly the Burning Abyss player can blast you with Nightmare Shark for game, stealing a win by attacking through your monsters.

Now, with the threat of 900 damage off Barbar, that threshold is pushed all the way to 2900 Life Points instead. Easily accessible off Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss; Tour Guide From the Underworld; Foolish Burial; or even Fiend Griefing, Barbar's extremely easy to play at virtually any time past Turn 1. It's another slight edge for Khan's double Griefing, and it gave him a tremendous advantage over pretty much any other strategy in End of Match Procedures.

If a Match came down to time, Khan's could easily wall up with his 19 different trap cards, make a simple Dante play to fill his graveyard, and then burn his opponent into a loss with a single Barbar effect. Aggression on behalf of his opponent could see them just returning Barbar back to Khan's hand, triggering Dante or Cir so he could refill his graveyard and banish monsters a second time for even more damage. While that seems like a one-time trick that would be tough to repeat, Khan sounded confident in his ability to just continually burn his opponent again and again.

With Barbar in the mix I don't think there's a better strategy for a time situation. That 900 points of burn is just enough to best a Gagaga Cowboy's 800 damage, and the threat of Nightmare Shark still looms apparent. Not many decks are playing this much backrow defense either, giving Burning Abyss another clear advantage in that kind of scenario. You can't even hope to Qliphort Cephalopod through it because the Burning Abyss duelist is actively stripping their graveyard.

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Barbar also packs more ATK than any other Malebranche, and it's another Burning Abyss "name" for your Special Summons: note that Shakir and Khan each played six different Malebranches in their Main Deck aside from Rubic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, which seems like a healthy number of options when you're trying to put together multiple Rank 3's.

Speaking of Rank 3's, it's worth examining some of the choices that were made there too. Many, like Dante and Downerd Magician, speak for themselves. But there was some interesting stuff going on here. Wind-Up Zenmaines is becoming more relevant in this deck and others as Mistake and Lose 1 Turn become more common. It's not a surprising choice, but it's worth a nod so we can appreciate the changing context of that card.

Mechquipped Angineer's more interesting, a card Shakir called out for its synergy with Alich, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss; a chainable answer to a Nekroz Ritual Spell when your opponent goes for Nekroz of Trishula. Just detach Alich from Angineer in response to the Ritual Spell's activation, and when Trishula hits the field Alich's ability will go on the chain as Link 2 so you can negate Trishula's banishings. That's pretty swanky, and it makes me want to run both Alich and Barbar instead of just one or the other.

While Khan ran Number 49: Fortune Tune and Number 20: Giga-Brilliant, Shakir played a second Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction to take advantage of Skill Drain – likely a very good call in the weeks ahead – and Muzurhythm the String Djinn. Running Muzurhythm gave Shakir outs to big monsters when Acid Golem wasn't appropriate, giving him what I'd consider to be a better problem-solving toolbox. I don't think Giga-Brilliant is as relevant now as it once was, and Fortune Tune's ability to wall up seems to be kind of redundant given Mechquipped Angineer anyways.

Will YCS Columbus mark a big comeback moment for Burning Abyss? I think so! With three powerful new cards from Crossed Souls, some key innovations that help outplay some of the format's biggest threats, and an under-the-radar position in competition, I think now's a great time to rethink the strategy. While I don't expect Championship-level builds to look exactly like either of these moving forward, I do think Sean Shakir and Faisal Khan established important groundwork that will inform the shape of the deck this Summer. It's a lot better than most people were giving it credit for.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer