Kristijan Masic's Top 32 finish at YCS Milan with Magical Musketeers was one of the biggest stories coming out of the event. High level competitive play has become a playground for Orcusts and Sky Striker variants, and rogue strategies that can succeed in that environment are in high demand.

 

Salamangreats and Pendulums are still relatively safe picks, but they've become predictable and they're vulnerable to blowout Side Deck cards, making them less appealing to players seeking a truly under-the-radar pick.The Top 32 at YCS Milan also featured True Dracos, Thunder Dragons, and a Lunalight Orcust build, but Masic's Magical Musketeers totally stole the spotlight.

Magical Musketeers have a handful of advantages against other competitive strategies, and the deck's excellent grind game is chief among them.Musketeers aren't building up an unbreakable board on the first turn, but the deck's ability to rapidly score small gains in card economy ends up snowballing after just a few turns. Competitively the deck's well positioned to stay in the game against slower-paced strategies like SkyStrikers and True Dracos, although it still struggles against explosiveTurn 1 boards.

Magical Musketeer Max was a fantastic addition to the theme that's largely been responsible for the deck's recent competitive success. It's hard to imagine mounting a serious comeback against most Turn 1 boards withoutMax's effects. That said, Masic's Top 32 finish with the theme is the firs twe've seen at a Championship-level event, and whether it's actually a precursor for more Magical Musketeer wins is yet to be seen.

Balancing Monsters And Support
Masic played just four Main Deck Magical Musketeer monsters to keep his overall monster count as low as possible. The deck suffers from the same problem that so many other themes struggle with: you want to open with at least one monster, but opening with more than two can immediately cost you the duel. Masic had to carefully balance his monster line-up against his themed support, combo pieces, and interruption to avoid bricking.

Fantastical Dragon Phantazmay and Pot of Desires helped correct some of his worst openings and gave him a few extra cards in the process, but MagicalMusketeer Kidbrave helped tremendously by trading out unnecessary theme-stamped cards for more draw power.

DECKID=110314Magical Musketeer Kidbrave was a Turn 1 priority for Masic whenever he opened with too many Musketeer cards. It's a little counterintuitive, since you'd imagine Magical Musketeer Caspar would be the go-to Normal Summon every time, and to be clear that would absolutely be the case if Masic didn't open with enough Magical Musket cards in his hand. But Kidbrave helped Masic dig for disruption that Caspar couldn't find, like Ash Blossom& Joyous Spring and Phantazmay. In the early game it could also turnMagical Musket traps into monsters, or help find combo pieces like InstantFusion.

Leading with Kidbrave's also much easier to justify thanks to MagicalMusketeer Max. Triggering Kidbrave's effect doesn't guarantee that theMagical Musketeer engine will be up and running – Kidbrave itself doesn't search or Summon additional Magical Musketeer monsters. Max, however, could find whatever Masic needed to start breaking down his opponent's board.

The card economy gains from Max's effect are insane: Masic could search as many as four cards depending on the match-up when he was playing second, or when Summoning Max a few turns into the duel. Either way, Max's effects can transform any Magical Musketeer into a catalyst for the entire MagicalMusketeer engine. Kidbrave's draws might not have always found the cards Masic needed, but Max would let him grab exactly what he wanted.

Magical Musketeer Caspar and Magical Musketeer Starfire are self explanatory, and it's no surprise that Masic ran three copies of each.Magical Musketeer Doc was the only Main Deck Magical Musketeer monster that he played at two copies instead of three, and that's because its effect is useless until the graveyard is sufficiently built up. Doc is fantastic in the mid and late game because it totally offsets the cost of activating aMagical Musket spell or trap. Masic could start building card advantage extremely quickly with some combination of Doc, Caspar, or Starfire, and his Magical Musket line-up would stop his opponent's plays in their tracks.His biggest challenge was actually building that set-up in the first place.

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Magical Musketeer Max is a one-card set-up builder, but it's vulnerable to negation and useless on the first turn of the duel. Masic needed to defend his monsters for a turn to start building his set-up, and Instant Fusionpresented a fantastic off-theme way of doing so. Masic ran a copy ofThousand-Eyes Restrict both for monster removal and as Link Material forLinkuriboh, which helped protect his monsters if his Magical Musket cardsweren't enough.

On that note, Masic's Magical Musket line-up had enough firepower to shutdown his opponent's aggressive plays, so he could save Instant Fusion for later if he drew enough of his themed defensive cards.

The Magical Musket Arsenal
The Magical Musketeer engine can generate insane card advantage turn after turn, but it's all useless if the Magical Musket cards don't contribute anything to the strategy. Luckily that's far from true, and Masic took full advantage of the Magical Musket arsenal to beat the game's best decks and cards.

All of them could be activated from his hand thanks to the effects of hisMagical Musketeers, which made his opponent's backrow removal totally useless. Cosmic Cyclone, Twin Twisters, and Heavy Storm Duster had exactly one target in Masic's build: Magical Musket - Crooked Crown. Even the collateral damage of Sky Striker Maneuver - Afterburners! wasn't a concern for Masic; his backrow was always safely secure in his hand alongside more traditional hand traps.

Magical Musket - Cross-Domination is arguably the most important MagicalMusket card in the theme thanks to its utility and general stopping power.Negating monsters and zeroing their ATK and DEF isn't quite as powerful as taking control of them, but Cross-Domination doesn't need to be as incredible as Sky Striker Mecha - Widow Anchor to be worth playing. It does need to be timed a bit more carefully, though – a targeted monster can easily be recycled as a Link Material, and the ATK-changing effect is worth holding onto to keep Magical Musketeers from being overrun during theBattle Phase.

Cross-Domination also helped Masic push past negation bodies likeApollousa, Bow of the Goddess, and make high-ATK monsters a bit more manageable. Masic explains in his deck profile that his build's options against massive Extra Deck monsters made Number 39: Utopia Doubleunnecessary.

Magical Musket - Desperado's utility gave Masic a one-card solution to floodgates like There Can Be Only One and Imperial Order, although he still played a full set of Cosmic Cyclone to answer set backrow cards.Desperado's arguably the easiest Magical Musket in the deck to use, sore cycling it can quickly become a priority over Magical Musket - Last Standor Magical Musket - Dancing Needle. Both cards are much more situational and match-up dependent, and the combination of Desperado andCross-Domination is more than enough to handle most situations. But there's a big advantage to running a larger line-up of Magical Muskets: there are more opportunities to trigger multiple Magical Musketeer monsters in a single turn.

Magical Musket - Dancing Needle just so happens to be amazingly strong against today's best decks. Orcusts, Sky Strikers, and Salamangreats can't function if their graveyards are being constantly disrupted, and that's exactly why D.D. Crow and System Down are so popular. Dancing Needle can effortlessly rip apart a developed graveyard and break down Orcust and Salamangreat combos before they happen. Masic could take control of the duel early by banishing three spells out of his opponent's graveyard to weaken Sky Striker effects, or simply stop his opponent from reusing LinkMaterials by kicking them into the Banished Zone.

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Magical Musket - Crooked Crown was a searchable combo piece that let MasicSummon more Magical Musketeers. Occasionally he could use it to block aMain Monster Zone, but ultimately just having more monsters on the board and a reliable means of activating a Magical Musket effect every turn was more than enough reason to play Crooked Crown. Masic only played a single copy since multiples had much less value compared to other Magical Muskets, and Crooked Crown is searchable via Max or Caspar anyways.

Lastly, Masic played just two copies of Magical Musket - Last Stand to counter back row, Evenly Matched, Infinite Impermanence, and the opening spells from combo strategies and Sky Strikers. The fact that MagicalMusketeers have access to hand-activated spell and trap negation is huge, and it totally changes the considerations around targeted removal likeCosmic Cyclone. Masic took advantage of one of the format's biggest trends– the huge uptick in Main Deck back row removal – by playing a deck that kept its Counter Traps in the hand until the last second. He could still easily lose to Red Reboot, but with so many traps at his disposal it's hard to imagine him losing to a single piece of negation as long as he opened reasonably well.

All of the advantages of the Magical Musketeer theme are incredibly relevant this format and totally worth capitalizing on. Masic isn't the only duelist topping tournaments with the deck, but this high-profile win has already caused price jumps in some Magical Musketeer cards. That said, the deck's still approachable thanks to the affordable Extra Deck and spell and trap line-up. The Main Deck's still under $100, and you can really catch opponents off-guard by profiting off their spell and trap activations. I don't think Magical Musketeers are about to become a top strategy just yet, but it's definitely a worthy choice for players trying to top Regionals.

Until next time then

-Kelly


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.