At the start of a new format many older strategies are always floated asserious rogue contenders at higher levels of competition.

Whether or not those decks have real potential is typically sorted outearly on as players race to beat more popular strategies. In the arms racefor the next sleeper hit, the success stories happen early, and BurningAbyss was the first strategy to show its worth at the 200th YCS. Mermailsmight be next, though, as Miguel Soto's Frog Mermails showcased at the SanAntonio Texas Regional earlier this month.

Mermails have struggled to stay relevant since their decline in 2013despite new support and plenty of Summoning advantages over otherstrategies. The deck's made regular returns and has seen infrequentRegional and YCS play followed by complete disappearances for months at atime.

Even with Soto's top I don't think we'll see a mass migration of Goukiplayers switching to Mermails instead, but it's a great alternative thatpursues largely the same win conditions: the game-ending Extra Link and theTopologic Gumblar Dragon hand loop. Here's what his build looked like.

DECKID=109216 The heart of Soto's strategy is the Knightmare Extra Link combo fueled bydozens of Water Monsters and made possible by the ridiculous power ofFirewall Dragon. These combos aren't new, but success stories at theRegional Level are few and far between.The last Mermail buildin our deck database is from August, and like Soto its pilot Alex Ahearndesigned it to take advantage of the Extra Link mechanic. He played many ofthe same cards, including Frogs and Crystrons.

Alex Ahearn's build is outdated by this point – at least as far as theExtra Deck's concerned. Knightmare Goblin's now on the Forbidden List, andinstead Miguel Soto had to find other ways to make his combos work moreconsistently.

Soto opted to play Sekka's Light: a card with plenty of undiscoveredpotential that's insanely explosive in Mermails. Even when Sekka's Lightwas first revealed Mermails were a top pick to play it, and it makesperfect sense to run it in this strategy where the Extra Link and Gumblarare so often the means to victory. Soto was at risk of running out of cardsduring his combos without the extra draw from Sekka's Light, and thetrade-off of losing two copies of Called by the Grave turned out to beworth it.

Flooding The Field With Links
The legacy of Mermails as nearly a straight beatdown strategy is misleading– today's Mermails are all about intense Link Summoning and flooding thefield with monsters to Summon Topologic Gumblar Dragon.

The Mermail engine plays out with repeat Special Summons from the hand andgraveyard coupled with the search effects of Mermail Abyssteus, AtlanteanDragoons, and Neptabyss, the Atlantean Prince. Mermails have a distinctadvantage over Goukis thanks to their many Special Summons and immediatesearch effects, which gives the deck enough flexibility to play aroundinterruption.

Outplaying those interruptive threats is huge since Soto's build didn'tinclude Called by the Grave. He couldn't respond to an Ash Blossom &Joyous Spring, Droll & Lock Bird, or Ghost Belle & Haunted Mansion,but Mermails have enough chain blocking opportunities to make sure the mostimportant card effects still go through. The extra draw power of Sekka'sLight and the deck's additional engines also helped push throughinterruptions and make big plays despite opposing hand traps.

The deck's primary play starters are the same as they've been sinceNeptabyss, the Atlantean Prince, but there are more opportunities to extendthose plays thanks to Frogs, Genex Undine, and two Crystron monsters.Soto's Frog line-up exists for the sole purpose of putting more Watermonsters on the field and, on occasion, into his hand. Swap Frog cantrigger the effects of Atlanteans too so there's plenty of synergy on thatend. Missing from the Extra Deck is Toadally Awesome, but that's expected–it doesn't add much value here when the goal is to leave your opponentwith no cards in hand by the start of their turn.

Genex Undine has historically been a strong card in Mermails and it's anexcellent addition to the Link-focused build. One of the newer tricks inthe Undine toolbox is to send Crystron Thystvern from the deck to thegraveyard, then banish it to search Crystron Rosenix. It's a simpleinteraction that puts another Water monster in the hand and turns GenexUndine into a +2 of card economy. Later Soto could banish Crystron Rosenixfrom the graveyard to Summon a Token for another free Link Material, whichmakes Undine a +3 over the course of a single turn.

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Ultimately the Frogs and Crystrons in Soto's build are filler and carve outroom only because Atlantean Dragoons can't be played at more than threecopies. Dragoons and Mermail Abyssteus are still the stars of the show, butwith a Link-focused strategy there are two great incentives to play a fullset of Mermail Abyssmegalo: it's a Level 7, and it searches Abyss-sphere.

Abyssmegalo fill the role of another Link Material for the obscenelypowerful Number 42: Galaxy Tomahawk, but if that wasn't enough its abilityto search Abyss-sphere is huge in games where Sekka's Light is nowhere tobe found. Using Abyss-sphere Soto could drop another two cards from hisopponent's hand during their turn by triggering Topologic Gumblar Dragon.

Extra Links And Hand Loops When Playing First
Hand loops are devastating against the vast majority of match-ups andarguably one of the most degenerate win conditions in competitive Yu-Gi-Oh!Unfortunately Extra Linking and Topologic Gumblar Dragon has created a raceto win the duel by Turn 1, and this time winning that race practicallyguarantees that you'll deprive your opponent of a comeback. Gumblar's handloop is insane on its own, and it's even more impressive in Mermails:rather than knocking out two cards, Gumblar can kick as many as six out ofyour opponent's hand thanks to some help from Abyss-sphere and Moulinglaciathe Elemental Lord.

Soto could activate Abyss-sphere during his opponent's turn to SpecialSummon a monster to a Linked Zone during the Draw Phase to triggerGumblar's first effect. His opponent's hand would be completely empty asthey exited their Draw Phase assuming Soto already knocked out two cardswith Gumblar's second ability and two more with Moulinglacia. At that pointit's game over for the opponent unless they were playing Danger! Themajority of Soto's match-ups would be won as soon as the Gumblar loopresolved, but failing that the presence of the Extra Link or just offensiveLink spam could carry him to a win.

Going first let Soto unleash his best combos while only contending with hisopponent's hand traps, and it's no surprise that his deck preferred to playfirst. When he had the choice to play first in Games 2 or 3 he could sidein Anti-Spell Fragrance and Imperial Order to slow his opponents and leavethem vulnerable to an OTK on the following turn. They acted as backup plansin the event his Gumblar combo didn't pan out.

Mermails prefered playing second in earlier formats, and beforeFlames of Destruction Soto's build would have been tailored to doexactly that. The theme packs incredible OTK potential, but with ExtraLinks and six-card Gumblar drops it's impossible to pass up what'seffectively an FTK.

That said, Soto couldn't bank on going first all the time. Not only wouldhe lose the dice roll on occasion, but he'd also end up forced to playsecond in Games 2 or 3. Soto's Side Deck was prepared for that outcome withthe usual picks – cards like Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries andGameciel, the Sea Turtle Kaiju – and some more curious choices.

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Soto sided in a full set of True King Bahrastos, the Fathomer as an ExtraSpecial Summon and backrow removal tech. While Bahrastos wouldn't activateany Atlantean effects its non-targeting backrow destruction is insanelypowerful. Bahrastos can't be negated by Infinite Impermanence or EffectVeiler, so it's relatively safe from interruption if its initial activationisn't negated. Blowing out two cards in your opponent's backrow isdevastating, but costly. Sekka's Light would make up the difference fromtime to time, and Genex Undine also fetched extra Water monsters to act asfodder for its Summoning effect.

Chimeratech Fortress Dragon's a surprising choice considering Soto didn'tside a copy of Cyber Dragon along with it, but since Cyber Dragon combosoften end with a card that becomes Cyber Dragon there's rarely ashortage of Fusion Materials. All Soto needed to do was declare a FusionSummon for Chimeratech Fortress Dragon and scoop up all of his opponent'sMachines. It's an outstanding Side Deck pick for when Cyber Dragons areforced to play first in the duel, and it gave Soto some flexibility nomatter what his opponent chose.

Miguel Soto's success isn't simply the result of a great build with smarttech choices. Soto is also an amazing player who earned an invite to theWorld Championship in 2015 withRitual Beasts. Mermails are a serious contender this format if players take therisk to try it against the vastly more established Gouki strategy, but Ithink trailblazers like Soto will convince at least a few duelists to giveMermails a shot this format.

The allure of discarding six cards from the opponent's hand won't gounnoticed for long. It's dangerously consistent, but it's also about to bein even more danger when Danger! receives more support inSoul Fusion. Topologic Gumblar Dragon might not be competitive ifDanger becomes prominent enough.

Until next time then

-Kelly


Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​​​​gamer and writer. In​​​ ​​​addition​​​ ​​​to​​​ ​​​writing​​​ ​​​onTCGplayer,​​​ ​​​Kelly​​​ ​​​writes​​​ a ​​​​​​personal​​​ ​​​blog​​​​​​ ​​​covering​​​ ​​​Yu-Gi-Oh!,​​​ ​​​Destiny,​​​ ​​​and​​​​​​other​​​ ​​​hobbies. You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​​​​​​​Twitter​​​​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​. He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.