How's it going TCGPlayers? It's finally the start of a new format and that means that the field of competition's wide open, waiting to be defined! Last time I discussed how well-positioned Spellbooks are now that their nemesis, the Dragon Ruler deck, has been nerfed once again (hopefully for good). But with the absence of Dragon Rulers there are still plenty of other strategies ready to step up and try to fill that void. This week I'll be looking at the deck that was shoved out of the spotlight when Prophecy and Dragon Rulers hit full strength over the Summer: Mermails.

Last Spring, Mermails were easily the deck to beat. The watery archetype put up impressive YCS numbers and Tyree Tinsley was able to capture his second YCS win championing the deck. Mermails even saw marginal success at the start of the September 2013 format with Sorosh Saberian placing second at YCS Toronto, but the deck was soon eclipsed once again by the Dragon Ruler menace. Let's take a quick look at what made Sorosh's deck so successful, and how that might translate to the new format.

DECKID=98117 Apart from two copies of Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls, Mermails didn't lose or gain anything significant to the January 1st, 2014 Forbidden and Limited list, but that's okay. The core elements of the deck still remain, and once Legacy of the Valiant hits, Mermails will have some new toys to play with.

What hasn't changed is the deck's extreme focus on its monsters. Saberian ran a whopping 34 monster cards with only three Mystical Space Typhoon and three Abyss-sphere to round out his Main Deck. Three Aqua Spirit, alongside Mermail Abyssocea and Mermail Abyssteus, fueled the powerful opener of Mechquipped Angineer, Bahamut Shark, and Mermail Abysstrite. Yet part of the reason for the high monster count was the three copies of Tidal, which helped send whatever you needed to the graveyard as well as triggering key Atlantean effects.

Moving forward, some of the biggest points of debate among Mermail duelists are going to revolve around how many copies of certain monsters should be run in the Main Deck. First, Mermail Abyssmegalo: the powerhouse of the deck, it's slowly become more popular to run only two copies rather than the full three. 'Megalo lost a lot of its OTK potential when Deep Sea Diva was Limited. That hurt consistency, and along with the loss of Tidals #2 and #3 made it more difficult to create a big game-winning push. Instead, you're often better off making a press with powerful Rank 7's like Mermail Abyssgaios or Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack. But three Mermail Abyssmegalo's still not out of the realm of possibility. Yes, it takes two discards to properly Summon, but you do want to see it fairly often and playing three gives you the best chance at that. You also can't ignore Abyssmegalo's search ability; a free +1 in the form of Abyss-sphere can help set you up for an OTK on the following turn.

Three Abyssteus has become the golden standard, as well as the new workhorse of the deck. Abyssteus sets you up for the Mermail deck's massive opening plays, and it's the easiest Level 7 to Summon apart from Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls. Its 2400 DEF is also nothing to sneeze at, giving you a much-needed wall when you don't have an Armored Kappa to protect your board.

Splashy Tech Picks
Mermails aren't short on tech options: Mermail Abyssocea for the crazy Turn 1 play, and a single Mermail Abyssturge for recycling Atlantean Marksman and Heavy Infantry, are both popular picks. Abyssturge shines against Evilswarm, giving you an out to Ophion so you can make your big moves; it's decent at clearing away Fire Fist monsters too. While making 1-for-1 trades against those types of decks isn't ideal, because their cards do more than yours on an independent basis, sometimes it's necessary to make those trades to get into a better field position. Two copies of Mermail Abyssgunde has become the norm as well, giving you easy access to Rank 7 Xyz by reviving Mermail Abyssteus or Mermail Abyssmegalo. Abyssgunde helps save those hands where you're stuck with a dead Abyssleed, giving you an easy way to bring it to the field. Abyssgunde's key to OTKing your opponent, too, and it's the most important part of those combos save Deep Sea Diva, which Limited to one copy.

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Last but not least is Aqua Spirit. This common from Labyrinth of Nightmare finally received some love last format serving as another Special Summon, fueling the Bahamut Shark, Mechquipped Angineer, and Mermail Abysstrite opener. I've mentioned the combo so much already, we might as well recap it. All you need in hand is a Mermail Abyssteus, Aqua Spirit, and any other Water monster.

1) Special Summon Abyssteus by discarding any Water monster, and searching out Mermail Abyssocea.

2) Normal Summon Abyssocea and target Abyssteus to Special Summon a Level 3 and Level 4 monster, more often than not it will be Mermail Abysspike and Mermail Abysslinde. Abysspike will miss his timing here sadly.

3) Special Summon Aqua Spirit, then Xyz Summon Bahamut Shark.

4) Use Bahamut Shark's effect to Special Summon Mermail Abysstrite.

5) Use Mermail Abyssocea and your other Level 3 monster to Xyz Summon Mechquipped Angineer.

Mermail Abysstrite can let you grab a Mermail Abysslinde or a big Level 7 monster when it's destroyed, and the Angineer makes sure that your Bahamut Shark lives until the next turn to bring out another Abysstrite.

Aqua Spirit's also an easy Special Summon for a quick Rank 4 Xyz when needed, and with the upcoming Exciton Knight and Number 101: Silent Honors Ark Knight in Legacy of the Valiant, there will be plenty of powerful Rank 4's to go into. Aqua Spirit's also a soft out to Evilswarm Ophion, giving you a chance to lock Ophion in defense position so that you can run it over on your following turn. Sorosh Saberian ran three copies of Aqua Spirit in his YCS-dominant deck, but with a trend toward heavier backrows in this format you can easily get away with only two, since additional copies aren't desirable in your opening hand.

The Atlantean suite most Mermail decks run remains unchanged going into the new format, and it's there where much of the strength of Mermails lies: you gain effects off of your discard-costed plays. Three copies of Atlantean Marksman coupled with two Atlantean Heavy Infantry are your main removal cards, with the lone Atlantean Dragoons delivering an on-demand search effect. There's been rumblings amongst Mermail players about cutting down on the number of Atlantean Heavy Infantry the deck should run, because even though it's great at removing face-up threats like Evilswarm Ophion or a Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Tiger King, removal only puts you at parity with your opponent. Extra copies of Heavy Infantry can often be dead draws, and with only one Deep Sea Diva left you can't go for more than one Rank 2 Xyz, and you have to balance your first with the Synchro Summon of Armory Arm. But until we see defined metagames emerge, the number of Heavy Infantries you run will be up to your own personal preference.

If you haven't already noticed, many of the monster counts boil down to personal choice and how often you want to see certain cards. While Mermails have a history of playing deck sizes over the standard minimum, you really want to keep your Main Deck as close to 40 cards as possible this format. Fewer cards means a greater chance of drawing what you need, and that makes it easier to win.

Looking To The Future
Moving forward, I'd really advocate the use of traps in Mermails. As far as spells go, you can get away with a playset of Mystical Space Typhoon and maybe a Dark Hole. Creature Swap's a spicy tech card that's already seen some marginal success. Swap can be an absolute blowout by giving your opponent your Mermail Abysslinde, and it can even lend some use to those dead Atlanteans and Mermails by stealing a big opposing monster. I'm personally a fan of a lone Salvage to add some late-game oomph to my plays, and give me the ability to close out the game in a flash with a swift OTK.

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But as for the traps, you should try and find room for mainstays like Torrential Tribute, Solemn Warning, and even Bottomless Trap Hole and Mirror Force. Not only do those cards help curb your opponent's OTK's, but they let you protect your own board when you only want to make small pushes yourself. I'd also like to advocate the use of Call Of The Haunted; it's been at three for awhile now and with so many powerful monsters to bring back on the fly, Call Of The Haunted's right at home in Mermails. You can bring back an Abysslinde in a pinch to let you run over a bigger monster, or just grab a discarded Mermail Abyssmegalo or Mermail Abyssleed to push for game. The synergies with Call and Mermail Abysspike or Abysslinde can't be ignored; it's almost like having more Abyss-spheres in your deck. While crazy-fast OTK's may not be your style of play, stealing a game early before your opponent can set up will often be the difference between an event top, or petering out on the bubble.

Mermails also have an incredibly versatile Extra Deck, which I believe's a must for top competitive strategies right now (Spellbooks being the one exception). With the ability to go for powerful Rank 4's or Rank 7's, as well as Synchro monsters like Armades, Keeper of Boundaries, Black Rose Dragon, and Gungnir, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, Mermail decks are never starved for options.

Mermails spent much of last format in the shadow of Dragon Rulers, but maybe now it's their time to shine again. They possess all the tools needed for competition, but only time will tell if enough duelists choose to champion the theme and work toward a YCS victory. That's all I have for this week! Happy testing with the new format; there's somuch for us to explore.

~Joe Soto
Invictus