How's it going TCGplayers? YCS Berlin is now in the history books, and with an all-Mermail finals, its clear that there's a new top dog amongst the rest of the pack. Mermails have cemented themselves as the go-to deck for the most competitive players, even in the face of new support from Legacy of the Valiant; a year after their first rise to dominance, Mermails are back on top.

But their fiery brethren are just a step behind! Fire Fists are easily one of the most popular decks in competitive play right now, and the most common build you'll see is the card advantage driven version called +1 Fire Fists. This week I'll be taking a look at several of the +1 Fire Fist deck lists we've seen in recent tournaments, and give you an explanation as to why they're still so popular when Mermails have been dominating the top tables.

DECKID=99576Even in the face of Mermails, Fire Fist duelists have still appeared in droves at major tournaments; the deck's put many a player into the Top Cut thanks to the sheer numbers and high representation . What makes +1 Fire Fists work so well compared to the 3.5 Axis builds (which mix Coach Soldier Wolfbark alongside Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Rooster and Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Spirit) and the versions that play Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Dragon is its raw consistency. I've harped on this week in and week out, but consistency's the difference between making it through to the Top 32 or not even making it to Day 2. You want your deck to do what it needs to do in every game, and that's where +1 Fire Fists' strength lies.

Turn 1 Cardcar D is one of the strongest plays in the deck; you have plenty of backrow to protect yourself the next turn, as well as Effect Veiler to stop any of your opponent's shenanigans should you happen to go second. Your next best play is to set up a Turn 1 Bear with the help of Fire Formation - Tenki, or even a Rank 4 Xyz play by using Fire Formation - Tensu. What's interesting to note is that Georges ran a playset of Upstart Goblin to further his consistency. Fire Fists rarely play for an OTK anyways, so giving your opponent an extra 1000-2000 LP isn't that big of a deal when it lets you thin through your deck and get to the cards you need. Upstart Goblin, alongside Pot of Duality and Cardcar D help keep your draws consistent while providing a steady stream of card filtering and opportunities for card advantage.

The Main Deck hand traps have been a source of contention for Fire Fist duelists, all throughout this entire format. Maxx "C" is great against Hieratics and Mermails, but serves little purpose against the Fire Fist mirror match; Effect Veiler shines in the mirror and against the popular Spellbook archetype. So which would be best? Georges gave the nod to Effect Veiler in the Main Deck as it's slightly more effective when going second, and you have plenty of room for Maxx "C" in the Side Deck. Effect Veiler also gets better when you know what you're going to be up against, and with a format solidly dominated by Fire Fists, Mermails, Spellbooks, and Dragons, it's safe to make the assumption that you'll be seeing those decks throughout most of your tournament experiences.

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Now I can't talk about +1's without mentioning Coach Soldier Wolfbark. A free Rank 4 Xyz is incredibly powerful; even though you can't summon Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Cardinal off of Wolfbark, you can easily gain card advantage with powerful board swings thanks to Evilswarm Exciton Knight and Number 101: Silent Honor ARK. These two Rank 4's are the stars of Legacy of the Valiant, which is apparent when you look at the price of cards in the set: they occupy the two top spots by miles. Evilswarm Exciton Knight's one of the most backbreaking and one-sided effects we've seen in awhile. Wiping the entire board at will is a threat your opponent has to be careful to play around, often forcing more cautious moves which let you gain further card advantage. Number 101: Silent Honor ARK's another easy plus letting you steal any Special Summoned monster from your opponent, turning it into protection for Silent Honor ARK. Near unconditional removal is rare in Yu-Gi-Oh, so take advantage of every piece of it you can, especially when it takes up no room in your Main Deck.

Other powerful +1 effects come in the form of Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Tiger King and Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Cardinal. Tiger King can grab any Fire Formation card when you Xyz Summon it, replacing the monster you lost when you overlaid for it in the first place. Tiger King also possesses a powerful ability to negate effects, letting you push through heavy defensive cards like Gachi Gachi Gantetsu, and even an opposing Number 101: Silent Honor ARK. Yet the real backbreaker Xyz is Cardinal. Much like Madolche Tiaramisu for the Madolche archetype, Cardinal lets you target two Fire Fist or Fire Formation cards in your graveyard or on the field, as well as two cards on your opponent's field or in their graveyard and send them all back to the deck. Not only does that effect let you get extra use out of your Fire Formation spells, but it deals with any powerful monsters your opponent has, and disrupts any kind of setup in their graveyard (Dragon Rulers for starters).

But all of this consistency doesn't come without a price. The +1 Fire Fist deck is incredibly predictable, and your options are pretty limited. That's why some players gravitated toward the Mixed Axis build as you get the best of both worlds with the Rank 3 and Rank 4 Xyz engines at the sacrifice of consistency. But like always, consistency reigns supreme! Round after round in tournament play, you're going to be seeing the same types of hands over and over, but that's a good thing. What you'll lack in options you'll make up for by being able to stick to your game plan duel after duel.

For the most part the +1 Fire Fist build has been set in stone, with only a few flexible spots available for your own tech. But one of the newest additions to the strategy is a lowly rare from Judgment of the Light, Traptrix Myrmeleo. Myrmeleo has a respectable body with 1600 ATK and 1200 DEF, but what makes this bug so powerful is its ability to search out any "Hole" trap card from your deck, another free +1! Grabbing Bottomless Trap Hole can give the added defense you need to protect your field. But having just one option doesn't really warrant the inclusion of Myrmeleo...

DECKID=99742Matthew Mills included a Main Decked copy of Trap Hole as an extra target for Myrmeleo. Other duelists have toyed with cards like Void Trap Hole or even Dark Trap Hole' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Deep Dark Trap Hole">Deep Dark Trap Hole in the Side Deck to give you additional options. Give some of these unique cards a try and you might just find one useful enough for Main Deck play!

When you're running Fire Fists you won't always be able to plus, but being able to keep your monsters on the field is an advantage in and of itself. Mills ran a playset of Forbidden Lance to not only use as a combat trick when running over bigger monsters, but to protect against cards like Mirror Force, Torrential Tribute, and Fiendish Chain. Forbidden Lance has long been one of the most versatile spells around (sorry Book of Moon), much in part due to its Quick-Play Spell Speed.

Side Deck Tech
One of my favorite strengths of the Fire Fist deck is the versatility of its Side Deck. You can run hate cards like Rivalry of Warlords and Gozen Match if you so choose, but they severely restrict your Extra Deck options. Black Horn of Heaven has become increasingly popular since it deals so well with Xyz and Synchro Special Summons. Having additional Solemn Warnings against Hieratics and Dragons give you extra control over the field.

Overworked is also still the most popular Side Deck card against Fire Fists, but it might seem weird for a Fire Fist deck to side it themselves. Luckily, you have the ability to control when you play your Fire Formation cards and you can use them to fuel Bear and Gorilla to make sure your monsters are safe from Overworked's destruction effect.

But the shiniest metagame-breaking piece of tech, especially for the mirror match, is Full House from Extreme Victory. Full House lets you clear away your own Fire Formation cards when you've used them up, while decimating your opponent's backrow. Full House was all the rage at ARG Charlotte, with some duelists even going so far as to Main Deck the card for the added edge in the mirror match. While Full House is an incredibly narrow card, its power in the Fire Fist mirror match is so great that it's worth using. It's also a great hoser against any backrow-heavy decks like Geargia, Bujin, and Infernities.

A new Forbidden and Limited list is on the horizon, and I fully expect Fire Fists to be hit in some way due to how dominant they've been this format. Only time will tell if Konami has any really drastic changes in store for us. But until then, give some of these different cards a try - you might just like the results!

~Joe Soto
Invictus