Shaddolls haven't dominated the competitive scene since El ShaddollConstruct was Limited, but the facts don't lie. We've seen handfuls ofShaddoll decks pop up in Regionals around the world all thanks to ElShaddoll Construct! And now…At least in some capacity… Shaddolls are back!

Acting in tandem with Shaddoll Fusion, El Shaddoll Construct is justthat good. Face with an opposing Extra Deck monster, ShaddollFusion gives you a giant beater that outs almost any monster while alsotriggering several Shaddoll effects, often meting out destruction ordrawing you extra cards. It's by no means an instant win button, butShaddoll Fusion piles on the free cards in much the same way as BrilliantFusion, Lady Debug, and Sky Stiker Mecha - Hornet Drones.

Obviously the Invoked and Mekk-Knight engines have merit and strength, buta single Magical Meltdown doesn't really compare to the raw power ofShaddoll Fusion. I can tout the worth of Aleister the Invoker's seeminglyinfinite stream of Fusion Monsters, or laud the value of the pivotalMekk-Knight of the Morning Star, but El Shaddoll Construct is what reallyties all of this together and hammers your wins home.

It's the straw that breaks the camel's back. I mean, to be more accurate itsort of curb stomps the camel instead of throwing a straw on it. But youget my point.

I'm always torn when I have to wonder whether I should feature a deck in a"Competitive Corner" column versus an "Almost Famous" article, but ifyou're mashing up three different strategies and manage to finish 9th at aRegional Qualifier, I'll say that it definitely falls more in theCompetitive Corner camp.

With all that preamble out of the way, congratulations to Leonard Williamsand his 9th place finish in Texas! Here's what he played.

DECKID=109757While there hasn't been much success from pure Invoked decks, thatshouldn't be surprising to anyone. After all, what would a pure Invokeddeck be, even? Magical Meltdown adds Aleister the Invoker from your deck toyour hand, and Aleister searches Invocation. That's about it, since theInvoked Fusion Monsters take into consideration whatever's been sent to thegraveyard. There aren't a ton of moving pieces in the Main Deck.

With so many hand traps at your disposal, the Invoked cards fit seamlesslyinto virtually any strategy that doesn't already live and die by its NormalSummons. Since Williams kept his hand trap attributes to Fire, Dark, andLight, it made sense that he only played Invoked Mechaba and InvokedPurgatrio. But once again, it's not like he's losing value from addingthose cards.

Once he got an Effect Veiler or Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring into thegraveyard, a single Magical Meltdown could spell doom for any opponent thatdared mount a force of monsters. In fact Williams could also just wait forhis opponent to yard one of those cards for him and then go off. And whileMagical Meltdown and Aleister the Invoker can be countered with hand trapsin their own right, it's not like Williams lost much value when his singlecard was negated in a 1-for-1 trade. Those kinds of even simplificationsarguably favor this deck in most match-ups anyways.

Unlike Effect Veiler crippling someone's Saryuja Skull Dread, the Invokedcards work a lot like the Shaddolls. Resolving Magical Meltdown and itssubsequent follow-ups could win the game outright, but losing them justmeans a card for card trade-off at worst.

Obviously drawing multiple copies of Shaddoll Fusion or Aleister theInvoker can set your plan back a few steps, but Williams mitigated that byonly running necessities and not playing around with any what-if scenarios.Sure, a third Invocation means pushing through Fusion plays when Aleisterthe Invoker gets negated and El Shaddoll Fusion can thwart defenses inunexpected ways, but those cards aren't one shot wonders by themselves.

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Consider the Mekk-Knight monsters as well. Both Mekk-Knight Blue Sky andMekk-Knight Purple Nightfall search more Mekk-Knights, but stuffing thedeck too full means sacrificing space for other cards and clogging thehand. With only two copies of those aforementioned Mekk-Knights, Williamswould resolve their effects often enough that it'd be beneficial when ithappened and negligent when not.

After all, Mekk-Knight Blue Sky baits out hand traps without wasting yourNormal Summon and then gets stuffed into a Link monster with virtually nodownsides. The only monsters in the Main Deck that aren't too beneficial ina vacuum are the Shaddoll monsters and Mekk-Knight Indigo Eclipse. Thefirst wave are necessary components that'll still offer a good return oninvestment while the second is at worst a free monster on the board.

Second Is The New First
I'm a huge fan of all things free, and any deck that can thrive from goingsecond attracts me. It's delayed gratification - wait a turn and you'll getan extra card! Though accruing card economy has never been easier than itis now, and starting the duel is going to be better in most situations,planning to go second can prove just as powerful when everyone else istrying to go first.

Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, Effect Veiler, Ghost Ogre & SnowRabbit and Fantastical Dragon Phantazmay are all worth their weight in goldwith a go-second mentality. Actually, since Fantastical Dragon Phantazmayis around 100 dollars on the secondary market and gold is only 40 dollarsper gram, Phantazmay is actually more expensive than its weight in goldright now, but I digress.

Even though Williams only used a fourth of his deck space for hand traps,Fantastical Dragon Phantazmay can fix hands that were otherwise average anddig for more. When going second, Williams only needed a hand trap or two toensure his opponent's couldn't make unbeatable boards. All he'd need was afighting chance.

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That or Evenly Matched.

Between the Invoked monsters and Shaddoll Fusion, Williams would haveenough weight behind his offensive retorts to tear down whatever defenseshis opponent could muster. Unlike combo-heavy decks that rely on tons ofinteractions, a few key cards with the right timing could go a long way.After all, decks that make the most of going second are much more concernedwith card economy than making unbreakable boards.

In Williams' own words, "I just really didn't see the hand traps at all. Iwas just, kinda, OTK-ing people." While that may seem like an off-handcomment, it's the basis for his deck's success and offers a nice summary ofhow the strategy wins. No matter how many hand traps you have in your handthere's a chance your opponent could still establish a great board; you'reonly option is playing through.

As we see more Shaddoll decks compete at high levels, we'll see othergo-second decks that leverage this same principal with other cards thatmatch Shaddoll Fusion's power level. Sometimes the key to victory isshoving the best cards you can into a deck - cards that can all stand ontheir own legs – and hoping for the best.

Just remember: beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson


Loukas Peterson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, hoping one day to run in5th Congressional District on the platform of "Fabled Link Monsters forEveryone." You can find him onTwitteror building a bonfire in his backyard to attract the local wildlife foran audience with his ukulele. Hailed as the only person capable ofcooking Minute Rice in 56 seconds, Loukas is always looking atexpanding his backyard to house every dog in the world without a home.Well, and those with homes already.