Yishan McNabb's 2nd Place finish at YCS Portland was easily the biggeststory of the weekend, and quite possibly the biggest story yet thiscompetitive season.

Sure,Brian Chenwon the event with Sky Strikers, but let's be honest: anyone barelysqueaking into the top cut with a Gren Maju Da Eiza strategy would havelikely driven more discussion. McNabb exceeded expectations by taking hisdeck all the way to the YCS Portland Finals, so it's no surprise that hisdeck is the focus of this week's Competitive Corner. It's a fascinatingstrategy that demands further discussion, but it's also not a new idea. Infact, McNabb has been trying to pull off big wins with Gren Maju for closeto a year now.

McNabb's latest iteration of what's effectively Gren Maju Beatdown featuresGolden Castle of Stromberg. While Stromberg was available to him last yearhe hadn't played it until this format. His attempts at topping Regionalslast format used Mystic Mine, and before that he was even playing BattleFader and Threatening Roar to slow the pace of the game.

He dropped all of his Main Deck traps for YCS Portland, and instead reliedalmost entirely on Golden Castle of Stromberg, Super Polymerization, andGizmek Orochi, the Serpentron Sky Slasher for defense. His Portland buildis by far the strongest variant yet, and I'd be surprised if we don't seeeven more players trying to build Gren Maju decks after being inspired byhis YCS Performance.

DECKID=109982Despite all the changes that Yu-Gi-Oh! has undergone over the years thereare still a few things that remain constant, and the power of monsters withhigh ATK continues to matter even in an era of plentiful monster removaland interruption. In some ways monsters with huge ATK stats are actuallybetter suited to surviving on the field these days – they're less likely tobe targeted by negation effects, or be destroyed by Ghost Ogre & SnowRabbit, a negation body, or a Counter Trap.

You'll still win games if you can land a sufficiently strong monster on theboard, and you'll win games quicker by going into the Battle Phase withgame-ending damage on your side of the field. Aggressive strategies stillwork, but they need to double down on removal to clear a path throughdestruction-immune monsters, or cards that can protect themselves likeThunder Dragon Colossus.

McNabb's monster line-up is laser-focused on clearing a path for Gren Majuto make a direct attack. Danger! Bigfoot! and Danger! Thunderbird! are morethan just extra beatsticks – their discard effects pick off problem cardswhether they're discarded for their own effect or as a cost to activateTrade-In. Their flexibility as monster removal, beatsticks, Link and XyzMaterials, and components of a draw engine made each of them worth playingat three in McNabb's build. We rarely get to see these Dangers in action,but they're still excellent cards in decks that aren't strictly focused onmaking Link Summons. McNabb played a handful of Rank 8 Xyz to takeadvantage of the times he did Summon them.

There were two other Level 8 monsters in McNabb's build: Gizmek Orochi, theSerpentron Sky Slasher and Hexe Trude. Gizmek's still fairly new to thegame, and it's like a cross between Fairy Tail - Snow and Eater ofMillions. McNabb could use its effects to banish cards off the top of hisdeck and further pump up the ATK of Gren Maju, but Gizmek's a solid card onits own. It carries another monster removal effect – this time a QuickEffect – and it helped McNabb piece together more Rank 8 Summons. It was aperfect fit alongside his Danger! monsters, and it really drives home thepoint that the more widely-played Dangers aren't needed here.

I don't blame you if you've never read Hexe Trude – I suspect many playersare reading its effect for the first time this week. It's another Level 8with a targeting removal effect, but it doesn't have a built-in SpecialSummon. Instead, McNabb could either Normal Summon it while he controlledGolden Castle of Stromberg, or use Stromberg's effect to Special Summon acopy from his deck. Hexe Trude's deceptively strong no matter how it'sSummoned, but getting a copy for free from Stromberg makes it incrediblyuseful for chipping away at set-ups.

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Glife the Phantom Bird operates similarly to Hexe Trude, but its effectdestroys spells and traps rather than monsters. McNabb could still SpecialSummon it with Stromberg whenever he needed backrow removal, and he couldalso Normal Summon it to destroy a card whether he controlled his FieldSpell or not.

Gilfe's primary use in this deck was to search Stromberg, but McNabb coulduse both effects in the same turn. Otherwise his remaining backrow removalwas attached to Danger! Thunderbird! and his sided copies of Cosmic Cycloneand Twin Twisters. Searchable removal is a rarity this format, but McNabbsomehow managed to find the one engine that provides on-demand destruction.

Eater of Millions is an obvious must-play for a deck that's looking to pumpup Gren Maju and remove opposing monsters from the field. It's theone monster besides Gren Maju that's appeared in all of his successfulvariants, and it's hard to imagine a better monster for the deck.Dinowrestler Pankratops helps sell the deck's ability to win even whenplaying second in the duel. It's an important card even when playing first:McNabb couldn't lock his opponent out of the game by creating a massivefield of negation effects, so he'd always have to find a way to breakthrough his opponent's set-up to score an OTK.

Keeping Your Life Points In Golden Castles
Offensive power only goes so far. At some point you need to keep your LifePoints safe even if your other cards are expendable. McNabb tried to solvethat problem with cards like Battle Fader, Threatening Roar, Scapegoat,Mystic Mine, and Fairy Tail - Luna in earlier variants, but his latestbuild played none of them. Instead, Golden Castle of Stromberg provided allof his defensive needs – and so much more.

Stromberg's effect destroys the opponent's attacking monsters and dealsdamage back to the opponent equal to that monster's ATK. It effectivelyshuts down their Battle Phase as long as they're not attacking with amonster that can avoid destruction effects. Thunder Dragon Colossus mightbe able to tank Stromberg's effect, but most other monsters on thecompetitive scene will need some kind of extra card effect to survive.

Stromberg's Special Summon effect means it'll always be a +1 if itresolves. You can pick up another +1 if you can keep it on the field for afull turn, but all that power comes at a cost: you must banish the top tencards of your deck face-down during your Standby Phases. If McNabb didn'thave a way to destroy Stromberg he'd be losing 25% of his total deck countevery single turn. He typically wouldn't deck out–Stormberg will simplydestroy itself when he had fewer than ten cards left in his deck–but ittakes some skill to makes sure that deck count doesn't hit a number likeeleven or twelve at the start of a turn. Even if he wouldn't lose outrighthe was still on the clock, and Stormberg would play havoc with his abilityto find resources in his deck.

Of course, Stromberg's banish cost is just extra fuel for Gren Maju. Tenbanished cards skyrockets Gren Maju to an astonishing 4000 ATK, andSummoning Gizemk Orochi immediately after pumps it even further to 7200ATK. Spiking Gren Maju's ATK is incredibly easy, and McNabb wouldn't needto play out a long grind game if he could simply OTK with Gren Maju earlyin the duel. Eater of Millions and Pot of Desires helped him add extrapower to Gren Maju, but he only need two of those effects to get the ballrolling. After that Gren Maju's ATK would be high enough that just aboutany of his other Special Summons would give him game-ending damage on hisfield.

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McNabb's strategy is astonishingly simple, and it's also well-suited totoday's game. Each individual monster presents an opportunity to destroy acard or to make an aggressive push for damage during the Battle Phase, andas a result they regularly bait out interruption that should probably besaved for Gren Maju. Top decking Gren Maju is insanely strong, and GoldenCastle of Stromberg becomes extremely dangerous in a simplified game. HexeTrude can win games by itself, and it's a magnet for the kinds of cardsthat could end up threatening Gren Maju.

McNabb's Side Deck is built with the expectation that some players willforce him to play first in the duel. His deck is, after all, largely an OTKstrategy. There Can Be Only One and Eradicator Epidemic Virus offeredMcNabb defense and disruption on top of his Main Deck options likeStromberg, Gizmek, and Super Polymerization. His mash-up of monster typeslet him play effectively under There Can Be Only One, and by limiting hisopponent's ability to commit Dragons or Cyberse monsters to the field hewas also cutting down on the work his monster removal needed to do.

I don't think there's any question that McNabb's success will get moreplayers on board with Gren Maju beatdown, but that might not necessarilytranslate to actual tournament wins. The secret is out – if it wasn'tbefore – and players now know what to expect if they see Stromberg hit thefield. We don't know how many players made the wrong choice by lettingStromberg resolve its Special Summon effect, or how many were baited intousing their defensive effects on less-consequential monsters before GrenMaju hit the field.

The deck certainly improves with the new promos in theGold Sarcophagus Tin, and especially with Dimension Shifter. Itcould become a serious rogue contender now that its potential has beenproven.

Until next time then


Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​​​​gamer and writer. You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​ ​​​​​​Twitter​​​​​​ for more updates ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​. He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.