While the bulk of competitive discussion revolves around Performage Pendulums, Majespecters, and Kozmos, a lot of rogue decks and long-time fringe strategies that are topping Regional Qualifiers. The discussions surrounding those decks aren't as deep, largely because the strategies aren't as new and a lot of their core dynamics were explored and understood a long time ago. But at the same time, some of the are seeing some clever innovations that give them a surprising edge against more popular decks.

The core game plans are worth revisiting, because while the decks might be similar, their context changes in a new era of competition. New trends and other strategies alter how you build and play them, and understanding shifting challenges and opportunities is key to piloting these decks today, as well as playing against them. At the same time, some of the new cards these decks are running and some of the new adaptations are really smart, and deserve to be acknowledged for both competitive reasons, and just because they're freakin' cool.

So today I want to look at two strategies you're probably familiar with, revisited for your consideration in the new format. These are decks you know, but with new twists that you may not have seen yet; note that both are pretty soft on your budget, too, so if you're looking for something new that can surprise your more mainstream opponents, these decks may be an approachable answer.

Let's get started with a look at one of the few Duelist Alliance strategies that's survived into the new format.

DECKID= 103749Losing nothing but two Reinforcement of the Army to the latest F&L List and rallying in the last days of the previous format, I expected Tellarknights to continue to see some success in the new competitive landscape. This Tellarknight deck, played by Sandor Cselenyi to a Top 8 finish at the mid-sized Darthmouth Regional in Nova Scotia, didn't really make an impression on me the first time I saw it.

Frankly I was expecting to see the deck lean towards Brilliant Fusion variants like the one played back in October by Victor Lam; Brilliant Fusion compensates for the loss of Reinforcements and introduces the powerful Archlord Kristya plus Performage Trick Clown for acceleration. There's none of that here. At first glance Cselenyi just took his lumps losing two ROTA and ran essentially the same Tellarknight deck we've seen for over a year. There's nothing fancy here, not even a Satellarknight Rigel or a compensatory Satellarknight Skybridge.

Instead, Cselenyi's build focuses on consistent fundamentals, maxing out on Satellarknight Unukalhai, Upstart Goblin, and packing two copies of Pot of Duality. It's evidently solid, ensuring that the deck plays smoothly and hits its big plays as early as possible without resorting to uncommon measures. Even the use of triple Mystical Space Typhoon feels like it's seated on the strong side of average instead of attempting something that could have made a bigger impact.

But the reason we're discussing this deck is the trap line-up. By taking so few risks with his monsters and his spells, and just ensuring that everything moves smoothly and reliably, Cselenyi made room for seventeen trap cards in a 37-card deck with twelve pieces of additional deck thinning. That gave him the room to run a heavy defense keyed to stop the biggest threats in the format, backed by infrastructure that let him see those cards every match. Bottomless Trap Hole, Solemn Warning, Torrential Tribute and Vanity's Emptiness are the usual suspects, while Time-Space Trap Hole and the classic Horn of Heaven do a stellar job warding off both Pendulum Summons, and basic moves that constitute the bulk of a Kozmo player's aggression.

While Horn of Heaven certainly draws an immediate comparison to the new Grand Horn of Heaven, the chief difference between the two is costing: one trap requires a tribute to activate, while the other gives your opponent a free card instead. I'm generally of the opinion that giving your opponent another card is better than losing one of your own, especially an on-field monster that means less opportunity to capitalize on the time you're buying yourself, but with nine revival effects it looks like Cselenyi was comfortable running both two Horn of Heaven and triple Stellarnova Alpha; five cards total that deplete his field in exchange for superior control over the game.

The result is a tenacious strategy that constantly revives monsters, rebukes the most common forms of aggression, and locks down your opponents with constant control effects. That kind of strategy might not have been possible with Evilswarm Exciton Knight legal, but since Exciton's gone and Black Rose Dragon's still seeing relatively little play, the potential's obvious. As much as Tellarknights get slammed for being overly simplistic, there's a strong, consistent game plan here that could easily have a role in further Regional competition.

Next up, one of several successful Infernoid builds we've seen in the new format so far, with some quirky and powerful tech choices.

DECKID= 103750Infernoids exploded into the competitive dialogue when Erik Christensen swept YCS Dallas, going undefeated over the course of the weekend to shock the Yugiverse with his unexpected win. Christensen played the negation effects of Infernoid Devyaty and Infernoid Onuncu to the hilt, abusing them with Infernoid Decatron's mimic effect. Dismantling Nekroz and Burning Abyss from the graveyard on up, he out-resourced his opponents with big pushes made by reviving Infernoids from his graveyard. Constant on-field removal helped, and little tech choices like Rekindling and Galaxy Cyclone let him make the most of the Infernoid deck's inherent strengths.

Fast forward to today, and while the top decks have changed and graveyard manipulation isn't nearly as important due to the rise of Penduum Monsters, a number of competitive trends spinning out of the latest F&L List seem to have aligned with the Infernoid deck's strengths. My favorite is mass field removal. With Evilswarm Exciton Knight gone, very few decks have the ability to wipe entire backrows and whole fields of monsters in one go; as mentioned, Black Rose Dragon remains a rarity amongst the most popular strategies, and all other alternatives are niche at best.

At the same time, two of the biggest strategies going – Performage Pendulums and Majespecters – rely on their Pendulum Scales for the bulk of their moves. It's widely speculated that Evilswarm Exciton Knight was Forbidden almost entirely to allow for that, as too much easy backrow removal means nobody plays Pendulums. So you've got a situation where most players aren't really planning to deal with mass removal, and two of the biggest decks in the game are naturally weak to it. And with Nekroz gone, monster effect negation's at an all-time low. You literally just have to look at the last round of Regional Qualifier deck lists in the deck archive to see what I'm talking about: only two players ran Effect Veiler, two more ran Breakthrough Skill, and Fiendish Chain's nowhere in sight.

Basically, if an Infernoid player can work around the now common threat of Abyss Dweller, there might not be much standing in their way. Infernoid Devyaty and Infernoid Onuncu are wickedly powerful right now, and that probably didn't escape the attention of Tairone Stutson when he piloted the deck above to a Top 8 finish at the Indianapolis Regional a few days ago. Note that he played triple Raiden, Hand of the Lightsworn instead of the more common double Raiden with a single Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress. He leveraged that into a range of Synchros that included Black Rose Dragon and the new Red Dragon Archfiend' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Scarlight Red Dragon Archfiend">Scarlight Red Dragon Archfiend – two more mass removal cards.

Other Extra Deck highlights included Alsei, the Sylvan High Protector, which combos with a variety of mill effects to screw with your opponent's field and stack cards to the top or bottom of their deck, potentially disrupting draws. Those deck-stacking effects target, so they won't work against every threat in the format, but they won't trigger graveyard effects nor will they send a Pendulum Monster back to the Extra Deck. Alsei's a ton of value if you can get it to the field, and it fit nicely with Stutson's ability to continually reuse his Raidens. More on that in a second.

Stutson also played Chaos King Archfiend, flipping the ATK and DEF of decks like Kozmos to destabilize dug-in fields. Ancient Sacred Wyvern would let him steal wins when he got off to a strong start, closing out duels against decks that need more set-up, and PSY-Framelord Omega could often be a strong opening or early game play. He even ran Stardust Dragon and Colossal Fighter to keep field presence, plus Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier for even more removal power. How'd he pay for it all?

Instant Fusion. Three copies of Instant Fusion backed by double Elder Entity Norden are the key innovation here, and it changes the deck so much that Stutson could forego more commonly played Infernoid picks like Scrap Archfiend. More Nordens meant he could revive more Raidens, which meant more Synchro Summons and more problem-solving Rank 4's. While the Infernoid deck is all about value and card economy, reviving big monsters again and again, its best plays can run the graveyard out of steam in a hurry.

Norden's a great fit, requiring minimal graveyard set-up and offering big power as a simple 1-for-1 that works largely independently of the rest of the strategy. While Stutson would have had to sequence his plays carefully to work around the Infernoid monsters' Level limitations, it clearly wasn't a problem given his success.

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The slightly higher emphasis on Raiden may have also lent Stutson some more confidence in the number of cards he could run that would benefit from milling. Double Galaxy Cyclone, double Void Seer, double Breakthrough Skill, and even a copy of Electromagnetic Turtle made the cut. How many people do you think would've had to borrow that thing to read it when it hit the yard?

At a conservative estimate I'd place the number somewhere around "all of them."

Most competitive players have largely ignored the Yugi's Legendary Decks release, but the Turtle's pretty awesome here, where it can often be cashed in as a free Waboku and you stand a far better chance of milling it then drawing it.

Even if you do happen to rip into the Turtle it's far from useless, since this version of Infernoids makes Xyz and Synchro Summons more often than a conventional build. Electromagnetic Turtle's status as a Level 4 comes in handy for those kinds of plays, and it even combos with one of the deck's favorite cards: Burial from a Different Dimension. In a format where fast OTK's are so often the norm at the upper levels of tournament play, this stupid little tech card no one's talking about has obvious potential. It's kind of hilarious. Since the effect is optional and you only play it when you're about to lose, you're literally just forcing your opponent to kill you twice. In a deck that can then blast the field with any one of four mass monster removal effects, that's nutty.

While competition continues to shape up and Performage Pendulums, Majespecters, and Kozmos battle over market share in competitive metagames, I think there's still plenty of room for these more fringe decks to make big showings at tournaments. We're seeing some exciting stuff go down, and it seems like winter is just starting to heat up.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer