Welcome back! In Part 1 of our massive deck profile and interview with Canada's Hanko Chow, we delved into the origins of his two-time Regional topping Igknight Zexal Lock strategy, fresh off his encore victory going 9-0 at last week's Regional Qualifier in Toronto. We also looked at a few different iterations of the core combo, using Igknights to establish Rank 4 and Rank 6 Xyz Summons.

The combo uses Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal to send Rank-Up-Magic Argent Chaos Force to the graveyard, and then adds it to the hand by overlaying Beatrice with Gaia Dragon, the Thunder Charger, to effectively search the Rank-Up-Magic. From there that Rank 4 Xyz Summon turns Number 39: Utopia into Number S39: Utopia Prime or Number C39: Utopia Ray, and Argent Chaos Force Ranks-It-Up into Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL.

From there Chow's deck holds the line with Utopic Zexal's ability to keep his opponent from playing anything, and he bats cleanup on Turn 2 with a number of options depending on what his opponent did or didn't do. Problematic monster in the way? Diamond Dire Wolf or Number S39: Utopia the Lightning gets it off the field with a Rank 4, or if he's locked and loaded for a Rank 6 instead, Constellar Ptolemy M7. Need a bunch of damage? Gagaga Samurai swings 1900 to the face, twice. And so on. If you need a refresher, here's the list:

DECKID= 107075But the deck generates a number of even more unique situations, and with them, questions I wanted answers to. First and foremost amongst them: what's up with the TWO copies of Utopic Zexal?

Chow explained: "The only way to make two Utopic Zexals is by drawing Rank-Up-Magic Argent Chaos Force." That's a hard draw, skipping the Beatrice-into-Gaia-Dragon rigamarole. "You can still do it with two Level 4's and two Level 6's by making Utopic Zexal with the two Level 4's first, and then Number 39: Utopia Beyond to retrieve the Rank-Up-Magic and make the second Utopic Zexal on top of Number 39: Utopia Beyond.

"But I would never really make that play on Turn 1 because I'd keep Utopia Beyond on the field. Playing Utopia Beyond with Utopic Zexal actually offers an answer to Forbidden Chalice if they try to negate Utopic Zexal's effect after they draw." If Chow activates Utopic Zexal's effect and his opponent plays Forbidden Chalice, he can use Number 39: Utopia Beyond to banish the Utopic Zexal on the chain and keep its effect from being negated. Better yet, if he detached a Utopia from Utopic Zexal for its ability, he can use Beyond's effect to bring that Utopia monster back fro the graveyard. "It's not the optimal, because I've lost the Utopic Zexal, but as long as its effect has resolved then everything should still be fine.

"The only time I would make a second Utopic Zexal is when I feel like my opponent has two Solemn Strikes or Dimensional Barriers, and they survived my second turn. I would make a second Utopic Zexal in that situation, so that unless their set cards were Barrier and Strike, there would be very little chance of answering both Utopic Zexals. But yeah, the second Utopic Zexal is usually just for if they had a Kaiju to remove my Utopic Zexal on the field, and I needed to make a second to keep the lock in place."

With things like Kaiju in mind, I wanted to know what could typically break that Utopic Zexal setup. What does your opponent really have to do to beat that?

"There are lots of answers to Utopic Zexal," answered Chow. And in many situations where my opponent did not Maxx "C" me, they'll have 6 cards to play with. They'll have to hope I don't draw follow-up plays. They'll have to play cards that can be activated on my turn that to get rid of Utopic Zexal or to stall, namely traps. And before all that, a Forbidden Chalice to negate Utopic Zexal or a Kaiju to get rid of it… In which case thanks for a beatstick. So really, unless you're playing a pure trap deck or PSY-Frames, the other decks are mostly playing spells, monsters or pendulums, [and they] fall to Utopic Zexal because they don't have a consistent answer to it."

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Are there situations where Chow doesn't go for a Utopic Zexal at all for Turn 1? Does matchup change how he approaches the basic combo?

"Yes, if I know that my opponent is playing a trap-based deck, then Utopic Zexal would have very little effect. It doesn't mean that I won't make it though, it's just that my priorities would be different. I would just hope I draw myself a Denko Sekka with Royal Magical Library and other draw cards, or I hope I open up with a second combo where I make Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal and Constellar Ptolemy M7. I would send Denko Sekka or Jinzo to the grave and get it with M7."

And the big one: what does Chow do when he goes second?

He laughed. "Let's just say I'm facing a deck with many traps. I will just have to hope I draw enough cards to make a Normal Summon that can pressure the backrow, or that I have Instant Fusion to help with that. Or I try to grind with my Igknights. That usually doesn't work very well against trap decks because they'll out grind me, usually with one or two other monsters. Thus I Main Decked Denko Sekka hoping that I draw it and blow away all their traps.

"BUT, if I were to play against other decks like Different Dimension Demons, Blue-Eyes White Dragon, or Metalfoes where they usually just have big monsters, [it's a bit different.] In the D/D/D match-up, their best bet would be to make Number 38: Hope Harbinger Dragon Titanic Galaxy to snipe a Scale from me. Blue-Eyes will have to make Blue-Eyes Spirit Dragon to slow down my Pendulum Summon and their only answer to my Number S39: Utopia the Lightning or Diamond Dire Wolf would be Return of the Dragon Lords in their graveyard. Metalfoes usually set up a defense of Majespecter Unicorn – Kirin and Fullmetalfoes Alkahest.

"So my best answer to that match-up would be to beat over everything with Igknight Gallant and others, as they aren't affected by Alkahest. You force the Kirin bounce and then hopefully you can either get rid of one of their Scales, or they got rid of it themselves so you can make Utopic Zexal and win the game. So yeah, all in all, against other combo decks you just need to clear their board and make Utopic Zexal and it usually seals the game. Though when you're against Blue-Eyes, Blue-Eyes Alternative White Dragon's pretty big and they can still Special Summon without activating anything under Utopic Zexal's effect.

"And that's why I have all my cards in the Side Deck to adapt to the matchup going second. I still have to hope I draw those cards, but those choices are the only saving grace against whatever I'm guessing I'll see going second."

With so much interest in the wake of Chow's second Top Cut, I wanted to ask: if someone were to pick this deck up for the first time with an idea of the basic combos and goals, what would Chow think they might miss at first glance? The deck's got a really remarkable central game plan, but it's often easy to lose the finer details in the shadow of something that flashy.

"Well, they'll probably mess up the follow-ups after the Utopic Zexal lock. I keep telling people, that Utopic Zexal isn't the card that wins the game. It's the fact that Igknights give themselves a follow-up play through their own Scales. if I draw another Igknight or had another in my hand, then the Scales are easily replaced and your follow-ups will appear. But you have to make sure that they're the same Level, so that you have the option to Xyz Summon with them for a better monster.

"And not only that, but when you detach for Utopic Zexal's effect on your opponent's turn, what you detach is usually very, very important. Sometimes you want that Utopia Xyz Monster in the graveyard so that Number 39: Utopia Beyond has more value, or sometimes you want to detach a Level 4 so that Instant Fusion into Elder Entity Norden can be a follow-up. And if Pot of Desires banished most of your Igknights, you gotta remember that the Igknight's Scale effects can get back Igknights from the graveyard. The Field Spell only grabs Igknights from the deck, so you have to count and make sure you have enough cards to make plays."

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Chow had commented that Raging Tempest would put this deck back on the shelf again. I asked him to explain that, wondering if it was more than just the obvious.

"If you look at what's happening in OCG land, you'll see that everyone started playing the Zoodiac engine. It's very consistent, getting you a free Rank 4 or two Level 4 monsters and an Xyz Monster – namely Zoodiac Drancia, which can pop a face-up card on either player's turn. Traptrix Rafflesia could already defend against Denko Sekka, but now if everyone has an easy answer to it then this deck has even less of a chance to win going second.

"I can still see this deck doing well making Utopic Zexal going first, and the Zoodiac's only answer would be to make Drancia and set traps. But this deck [struggles so much] with generic traps when it needs to address an established board, that it might not be worth playing in the upcoming format."

With all of my questions out of the way, I wanted to know if there was anything else Chow'd like to say about the deck.

"Sometimes I think that my deck is stupid to play against," he remarked. "And it really is. When I was a kid I lost to an Empty Jar deck and I hated it. I've lost to Magical Explosion FTK, I've seen people to lose to Exodia, and sometimes I can relate this to those degenerate decks. But at the same time, no, because I'm not using an alternate win condition. I'm winning by attacking, and it's because I have SOME interaction with the opponent that I just kept playing this. And [by the same Token], I've seen people win by just having Vanity's Fiend, Majesty's Fiend, and Domain of the True Monarchs.

"But Utopic Zexal will always activate, and that means there are more weaknesses to the card. It's always getting weaker, and so I have to build a follow-up play to win the game fast enough so that Utopic Zexal's work won't be wasted. So I think, my deck is more about playing against the metagame rather than playing against my opponent. I'm sorry if you are my opponent, but I just see the map of the metagame; I see that that is very popular and this isn't, so I played a strategy that beats all the combo decks and has cards to beat all the trap decks. Kinda simple I guess.

"I'm happy that the community has given me lots of positive feedback from this. Because when I was playtesting the deck I didn't really like the way that I was winning, but at the same time I at least felt it was "different", and I always aim for that. Because if no one does anything different, then you know what? The majority of the people are right. 'The game is really boring and creativity doesn't exist at a competitive level'."

"But it does. There are over 7000 cards in the game, and even if half of them are useless that's still a very big card pool. I don't know if it's as big as MTG, but from what I've seen, a bigger card pool means more card combinations, and while some might not be too good it'll happen. Someone will find gold. It's out there, waiting to be found. And while people will always popularize something and the game [inevitably] becomes repetitive, it's actually a good thing. Because patterns are easier to break if they're repeating themselves. Playtesting is easier if things are always the same. I hope that I've inspired people to find something in this game, much like how others have inspired me."

And the shoutouts!

"I would like to thank all my friends that've supported me throughout the years," Chow started. "Carpooling together, hanging out, tolerating me!" He laughed.

"Gamer's Lair was the best place ever to play Yu-Gi-Oh! or any tabletop game. Thank you to OMG games for supporting Yu-Gi-Oh! in Barrie. Thank you to Dolly's Toys and Games for helping me out whenever I need something in Toronto. And other great card shops like 401 Games, Cardmasters, Untouchables, Skyfox, Cardboard Memories and so on in Ontario, as well as the shops in Montreal: Gamekeeper, Carta Magica, Face to Face. Without a card shop, there wouldn't be a place to play cards peacefully, or a place to meet new people and make more friends.

"And that's the real purpose of playing this game. So thank you. And sorry if I beat you with Denko Sekka and Utopic Zexal. Tell konami to put it on their next Forbidden List." He grinned.

Congratulations to Hanko Chow for his two-time Top 8's with Igknight Utopic Zexal Lock, and thank you tremendously for taking the time to discuss the strategy! What do YOU think? Will Raging Tempest knock this strategy out of contention? Could we see it return in another era of competition? Let me know your thoughts down in the Comments.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer