Historically speaking, Gem-Knights haven't always been a strong strategy:without picking on the deck too much I can safely say it's often had a seatin the realm of the mediocre, bouncing between a coin flip glass cannon anda miserable lost cause depending on who you asked, and when you tried toplay it. Brilliant Fusion's been an incredibly powerful card for many decksever since its release, but Gem-Knights overall?

It's not exactly the safest bet in the history of dueling.

Sure, I can still hear Doug "Fruit Cup In The Corner" Zeeff laudingBrilliant Fusion as soon as it was released, but separate the Gem-Knightsfrom that card for a moment and focus on the real hero of the deck: theLink monster Gem-Knight Phantom Quartz. At the low cost of two Gem monstersyou'll get a Link-2 monster, a free Gem-Knight card from your hand, andthen you'll chip in 1000 Life Points to recycle Gem-Knights and score moreboard presence. It's a great set of effects that can lead into huge burndamage keying off repeat use of Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazuli thanks toGem-Knight Master Diamond and Gem-Knight Lady Brilliant Diamond.

…But like the recent demise of the Firewall FTK certain decks are bound tobe crushed by the Forbidden & Limited List eventually, and evenGem-Knights couldn't stay immune forever. With Gem-Knight Master Diamondnow Limited the strategy can't create a consistent First Turn Kill aseasily as it once could, making it tougher to off your opponent with whatwere once just simple two-card combos.

There are still permutations of a Gem-Knight and Brilliant Fusion playsequence that are enough to make game through burn damage, but that's rarethese days; when Vladis Baranovskis set out to beat the field at YCS Milanwith Gem-Knights he had to improvise a bit and double down on hisstrengths, sacrificing some of the deck's weaker suits. Since there's noway to search Brilliant Fusion in Baranovskis' build it's actually more ofan outlier than a consistent mechanism for victory.

But if you win enough dice rolls and you play around hand traps carefullyenough, Gem-Knights can be just as lethal as they were in their heyday;lethal enough to take Vladis Baranovskis to a Top 32 finish at one of themost competitive YCS tournaments of the year! Congratulations to him forburning the competition: here's what he played.

DECKID=109413When I first saw the list, I thought to myself that Gem-Knights were ofcourse still relevant since Summon Sorceress remained untouched on theForbidden & Limited List. Curious the Lightsworn Dominion could fill infor European players before the release of the Soul Fusion SpecialEdition, but Baranovskis kept with Curious in a cram-packed Extra Deckwhile teching a few brilliant choices. Personally, I like Summon Sorceresssince it allows more permutations of OTK hands to fetch rogue combo pieces,but it's not an impossible Mountain to overcome and Curious clearly workedfor Baranovskis.

Even with that slight hindrance, there's still plenty of wickedly strongcards in the deck that balance out the strategy and make up for any lostground. First note that Baranovskis ran triple Rescue Rabbit, tripleUnexpected Dai, and triple Pot of Desires. And yes, that looksunconventional because it is. Remember, he could only use each of thosecards once per turn. He really went all-in with this deck and it's worth itto get what he desperately needed in the early game, every game: morecards.

With only one Gem-Knight Master Diamond and no Summon Sorceress, a simpleMaster Diamond can't do as much of the heavy lifting all by itself, andGem-Knights will invariably rely on having three to four combo pieces intheir opening hand to truly achieve the First Turn Kill. Those cards allfeed directly into positive card economy or summoning Gem-Knight PhantomQuartz early on, so Baranovskis maxed out on them on account of necessity.

Another piece of the puzzle comes in getting more out of each individualcard. Fusion Summons are inherently costly and require multiple cards, buteven when you factor the cards that mitigate the steep requirements, you'regoing to easily exhaust resources. Crystal Rose and Block Dragon should beplayed in duplicates to ensure Baranovskis would see the cards becausesometimes he'd just need to hard draw into one of them instead of alwayssending it straight from the deck to the graveyard. In Baranovskis' ownwords, "I played 3. If you play any less, don't play this deck. It's thebest card in the deck.

#####CARDID=10810#####

Their importance needs to be stressed because of the value they provide.Crystal Rose fields a monster while feeding Gem-Knight Fusion's recursiveeffect, but Block Dragon's arguably the more important piece. It likewisefields itself for Link and Fusion materials, but in terms of search cards,Block Dragon nets you up to three monsters, includingGem-Armadillo!

When I spoke earlier about order of operations, I really meant it. Withsingle copies of cards like Gem-Knight Zirconia and Gem-Knight Seraphinite,the deck doesn't have the luxury of wasting specific resources forroundabout ways of getting enough burn or direct damage on the field.Searching Gem-Armadillo's important, but having Gem-Knight Seraphinite atthe ready is just as vital so Armadillo's effect can happen in the firstplace.

After all, one of the main ways you win comes in the form of KnightmareUnicorn as a way to reuse Gem-Knight Master Diamond. Baranovskis stressedthe importance of that card now that Master Diamond is Limited and FirewallDragon is gone, but the only reason that avenue's possible comes with themyriad of free cards Gem-Knights made for themselves.

It's a sort of self-fulfilling process based off a mandate: you reap whatyou sow, right?

2-For-1's Up To 5-For-1's
One interesting hallmark of most FTK decks is their sheer lack of defense,but Baranovskis ran counter defense to ensure that he could stick thelanding on his combos in the form of Dragged Down into the Grave and CalledBy The Grave. Dragged Down can trigger Gem-Knight Lazuli, but moreimportantly the spells drops cards out of your opponent's hand that wouldotherwise threaten your plays. Not only will Pot of Desires and RescueRabbit get you to important combo pieces earlier, but they free up deckspace for your own counters to ensure your combos are realized.

But in the end, it's really in the category of cool combos whereBaranovskis circumvented popular counters, like countering Ghost Reaper& Winter Cherries with Missus Radiant. That's not a typo, buttechnically you'll need Gem-Knight Prismaura, which is also why Baranovskisplayed Gem-Knight Tourmaline over Gem-Knight Garnet: a card traditionallyviewed as a stronger option.

"You can make a Missus Radiant," Baranovskis said, explaining his comebackagainst an opponent using Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries to off hissingle Gem-Knight Master Diamond. "Then you can make Gem-Knight Prismaura,destroy Missus Radiant, and put Master Diamond back into your Extra Deck!"

It's a very cool trick, and it's niche interactions like that which make meappreciate nuanced strategies like this one. It might be a misnomer to callan FTK strategy "nuanced" but the thing that makes the current status ofthe deck so unique is the extremely specific way it's built. Three copiesof Pot of Desires may look out of place, but that's a decision that wasmade by mandate, not by arbitrary compulsion.

#####CARDID=23131#####

Baranovskis' Extra Deck also looks slightly ragged, but thespecific numbers were completely intentional with so few cards flexibleenough to side out. Even with 42 cards, there are surprisingly few cardsyou can even consider siding out, and Baranovskis never took out more thanfive cards from his Main Deck in any given match.

While the ratios were off-message and unfamiliar in some ways, keep in mindthat a deck like this is a sum of its parts and don't dismiss any card justbecause it wouldn't fit as well into other strategies. Not every straetgycan function so well with three copies of Dragged Down into the Grave orthree Block Dragons, but when those non-Gem-Knight cards prove to be themost valuable players in a deck like this, you tend to appreciate them fortheir strengths while forgiving their weaknesses.

While it's true about nearly every competitive deck, Baranovskis summed uphis Gem-Knight experience succinctly, saying "It's the best deck around ifit doesn't get hand trapped." It's hard to disagree with that, given thepower of the FTK and the chance to win before your opponent ever gets aturn. Adding cards to outplay those hand traps in the first place lendsthis deck a validity that most FKT's don't have, and that was central toBaranovskis' success at the YCS. At the very least that's a strong takeawayfor future events.

Just remember: beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson


Loukas Peterson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, hoping one day to run in 5thCongressional District on the platform of "Marshmallows for Everyone." Whenhe's not submitting ideas for Fabled support and a Fabled Link monster, youcan find him building a bonfire in his backyard to attract the localwildlife for an audience with his ukulele. Hailed as the only personcapable of cooking 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.


Do you love winning with unconventional strategies? Do you love creatingmash-ups? Does your deck need an injection of crazy? Send the following torerouting.tcgplayer@gmail.com to have your deck featured in the"Re-Routing" deck fix column!

-Your Main and Extra Deck list. (No Side Deck needed, but please send awritten deck list, not a screencap; screencapped deck lists will be filedand then burned in the furnace accordingly… and your deck should be TCGlegal).

-Your name and city.

-Remember, please use full card names! Abbrevs and mis-sipllngs makeLoukas' life sad. Try your darndest to get the TCG name on there.

-A paragraph or two describing your deck: what it does, why you're playingit, and its strengths and weaknesses. "Winning" is not a strategy per se,and neither is "beating your opponents before they beat you."

-Your favorite card from the build and why – make me fall in love with thedeck! The cooler your strategy the more I'll want to fix it, and if youthrow in funny jokes, that'll surely get my attention too; be warned,unfunny jokes will push your deck to the back of the stack. Don't be afraidto get creative! New stuff takes priority, because I'm not bored of it yet!–LJP