Kaijus?! In MY Regionals? It's more likely than you think.

I don't know if you live and breathe the TCGplayer deck archive like I do, but if you're not checking in with it on a regular basis I think you're missing out. For sheer time efficiency, there's no better way to stay on top of competitive trends than reading Top Cut deck lists. Whether you want to emulate successful players or just know what you're up against, keeping informed is wildly important; since the deck archive aggregates so many deck lists in one place, it's easy to go through them all in one sitting and develop your own insights.

If you did that this week, then you might've been surprised by one of the newer – and weirder – trends that's emerged: Kaijus, suddenly being played in different ways and getting real competitive results. It started with this deck list, played to a 9th Place finish a few weeks ago in Birmingham.

DECKID=103809This deck saw a lot of discussion as a flavor-of-the-day, share-it-on-facebook-and-then-forget-about-it social media darling. If you were tired of reading Performage Pendulum lists toward the end of November, a Kaiju deck or a Graydle list would've felt like sweet, sweet oxygen filling your lungs. But a Kaiju-Graydle mash-up? Even better.

Oliver Garbett had several really cool ideas here, but the core concept was based on the oft-discussed synergy between Kaiju and Remove Brainwashing. Since you always have to give your opponent a Kaiju before you can Special Summon one yourself, the idea of Tributing away your opponent's biggest monster to force a Kaiju on them, then taking it back with Remove Brainwashing or Owner's Seal, saw speculation the first day Kaiju were revealed.

The problem was that even if you ran three copies each of Brainwashing and Seal, you might never see them, and if you did your opponent might play around them and then beat you to death with your own Kaiju. The fact that Seal and Brainwashing were useless on their own was a small sticking point as well.

Graydles were the solution, since Graydle Alligator, Graydle Cobra, and Graydle Eagle all come with built-in Remove Brainwashings; when they're destroyed by battle, each has an effect that lets you target an opposing face-up monster, equip the destroyed Graydle to it, and take control of it. You can give your opponent a Kaiju, ram it with a Graydle, and then take the bigger monster for an immediate attack.

Alligator, Cobra, and Eagle will also trigger if they're destroyed by a spell card, trap card, or monster effect respectively, and they solve the utility problems that drag down Seal and Brainwashing; they're monster cards that function with no exclusive need for combos. Oliver Garbett was effectively running eleven copies of Remove Brainwashing, eight of which could defend him from attacks if his plays took a while to come together. Combined with Graydle Slime for Synchro plays and the powerful effects of his Kaiju monsters, Garbett's strategy was good enough to let him compete with big decks at the Regional level.

What most people didn't realize at the time, myself included, was that he also had the groundwork to outplay a range of incoming threats that wouldn't emerge until the Master of Pendulum Structure Deck arrived. With eight Kaiju that could Tribute opposing monsters without targeting or destroying them, Garbett could answer big Kozmos like Kozmo Dark Destroyer and Kozmo Forerunner. Sacking them off for a Kaiju plays around their immunity to targeting and keeps your opponent from Special Summoning a free replacement, while also setting you up to control the game once you Brainwash or Graydle that Kaiju back.

It was an effective strategy for dealing with Kozmos, but it wasn't going to do much against Performage Pendulums, where Tributing a Pendulum Monster would just send it to the Extra Deck and where non-Pendulums were usually free, or already finished doing their job by the time your turn rolls around.

But that changed pretty quickly.

DECKID=103875 Two weeks later we saw two more Regional players running Kaiju, and while Garbett topped out at an admirable 9th Place, both made Top 8 finishes. The first example was Justin Nesbit's Pendulum Magicians which was interesting for a few different reasons: he Main Decked Breaker the Magical Warrior, a stellar answer to stuff like Anti-Spell Fragrance; Ebon Illusion Magician in his Extra Deck; as well as a single Igknight Reload, which may be seeing more play by the time you read this but was pretty uncommon at the time. That said, the most interesting tech choice was a pair of Kumongous, the Sticky String Kaiju in his Side Deck.

That same weekend, Paulo Goncalves was playing the Burning Abyss deck above down in Rio de Janeiro, taking everything one step further by playing three Kaiju instead of two, and Main Decking them to boot. Goncalves played triple Gameciel, the Sea Turtle Kaiju for all the same reasons Nesbit ran Kumongous. Which raises two big questions: what were those reasons, and why did two duelists looking to accomplish the same thing play two different cards?

The first answer's as easy as it is fascinating. Several weeks removed from Garbett's 9th Place finish, Kozmos were still big and the Kaiju were still a great answer. While Garbett looked to Kaiju away Kozmo Dark Destroyer and then trade into it by attacking it with a kamikaze Graydle, then using its effects with Kyoutou Waterfront, Nesbit and Goncalves had a simpler solution: drop a Kaiju with no intent of ever controlling it, and then just attack over it.

That wasn't just a solution to Kozmos anymore: with the Master of Pendulum Structure Deck ushering in a new era of control-oriented Pendulum set-ups, Majespecter Unicorn – Kirin and Mist Valley Apex Avian have taken center stage in numerous Pendulum builds. And while those two cards can repel a number of threats and knock your opponent off balance in the process, neither of them can stop you from replacing them with Kaiju.

Nesbit and Goncalves selected their Kaiju for ease of destruction. While Dogoran, the Mad Flame Kaiju has 3000 ATK and Radian, the Multidimensional Kaiju has 2800 ATK, Kumongous and Gameciel have just 2400 and 2200 ATK respectively. If you're not familiar with the Kaiju, the current lineup's divided into passive and aggressive monsters – Dogoran and Radian have more ATK than DEF, and each wields an effect that can activate the moment they hit the field. Kumongous and Gameciel have lower ATK and higher DEF, and boast reactive effects instead. They're the easiest to attack over since all the Kaiju hit the field in attack mode.

So why did Nesbit run Kumongous when it has 200 more attack points? The key difference seemed to be Level: Goncalves mained nothing bigger than a Level 3 in his Burning Abyss, and his Extra Deck topped out at Level 6. Nesbit's situation was different, running Dragonpit Magician, Xiangke Magician, and Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon mained, with Odd-Eyes Meteorburst Dragon and Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon in his Extra Deck, all at Level 7.

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With so many Level 7 monsters and a slim but not impossible chance of seeing both copies of Kumongous at once, Nesbit picked the option that gave him an outside opportunity at more Rank 7 plays. With numerous removal effects and no monsters between 2200 and 2400 ATK anyways, he wasn't losing anything by picking the 2400 ATK Kaiju over Gameciel with 2200. Very cool.

I think we're going to see an increasing number of Pendulum players adopting Majespecter Unicorn – Kirin and Mist Valley Apex Avian, and I don't expect Kozmos to lose much of its share in the competitive scene. Answers to the biggest, most controlling monsters in the format aren't easy to come by right now, especially proactive solutions that can drop straight from your hand. The Kaiju technique's really effective, and it's still new enough that most players won't see it coming. Definitely consider trying a few Kaijus mained yourself. It's a sharp concept that's going to remain effective through the new year.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer