Guardragons – like Orcusts and Dangers – have unlocked the potential of numerous decks this year by offering new pathways to win conditions and more Summoning power.
It's almost annoyingly consistent how so many rogue success stories are fueled by those three themes, but that hasn't stopped me from being excited about them. Nikolas Konikkos' Buster Blader deck from YCS Niagara isincredibly cool and absolutely worth talking about even if it leans heavily into Guardragons and Dangers.
The Buster Blader strategy itself has repeatedly fallen just shy of real competitive potential since the release of Prologue of the DestructionSwordsman, and Guardragons just happened to be the final push the deckneeded to see a Day 2 at a YCS.
Konikkos missed the Top 32 at YCS Niagara, but his deck still drew a massive amount of attention and discussion post-event. At its coreKonikkos' build relied on intense combo power of Guardragons and used theBuster Blader engine to apply two different floodgate effects.
There are some great synergies between the two themes thanks almost entirely to the fact that Buster Whelp of the Destruction Swordsman pairs perfectly with World Legacy Guardragon. Buster Whelp's arguably the bestNormal Summon you can ask for in a Guardragon strategy because it provides so much value through its search effect. That's all centered around the card that makes this strategy worth playing: Prologue of the DestructionSwordsman.
Prologue solved multiple issues present in the initial debut of the Buster Blader theme by effortlessly fielding Buster Dragon and tossingDestruction Sword Memories into the graveyard with one effect. The deck doesn't need to spend resources Synchro Summoning Buster Dragon, andDestruction Sword Memories is perfectly set up to activate in the graveyard immediately after Prologue resolves. As long as Konikkos had a Dragon in his graveyard he could activate Memories to Fusion Summon Buster Blader, the Dragon Destroyer Swordsman during his opponent's turn, then equip it with a Dragon Buster Destruction Sword from the graveyard with BusterDragon's effect.
The end result of Buster Dragon and Buster Blader, the Dragon DestroyerSwordsman is surprisingly similar to Mystic Mine, but it's entirely one-sided. Buster Blader's effect locks down the opponent's Dragons by changing them to Defense Position and stopping them from activating their effects. That's awesome because Buster Dragon completes the lockdown by continuously changing opposing monsters into Dragons, which is even more disruptive against decks that rely on controlling certain Types of monsters. Those two monsters alone can fully disable some of the best strategies this format, and Dragon Buster Destruction Sword can be workedinto the combo to add even more stopping power.
Konikkos could launch his Buster Blader combos simply by opening with Whelpof the Destruction Swordsman and resolving it. It's incredibly straightforward: searching Prologue of the Destruction Swordsman and landing a single Dragon in the graveyard sets the stage for the Buster Blader lockdown. That said, Konikkos needed a Link Monster to finish his combos.
Buster Dragon and Buster Blader, the Dragon Destroyer Swordsman are bothExtra Deck monsters after all, so he'd need a Link 2 to Summon both on the same turn. PSY-Framelord Lambda fulfilled that condition easily, butHieratic Seal of the Heavenly Spheres was probably his best option. It added another piece of disruption to his final board, and by tributingSpheres for its effect he could open up an Extra Monster Zone for hisFusion Summon.
The Buster Blader theme isn't exactly known for its Link Summoning potential, so Konikkos invested heavily in extenders. Of course, the staples of his Guardragon engine helped here too. Crusadia Draco, Destrudo the Lost Dragon's Frisson, and World Legacy Guardragon were fantastic cards for his hybrid build that helped him set up both his Guardragon combos and the requisite Links for Buster Dragon and his Fusion Monster. His Danger!line-up put in a ton of work by creating Link 2s with Whelp whenever a full Guardragon combo wasn't available, and the added utility of the Danger monsters themselves helped Konikkos solve problems and make bigger Linkplays for non-Dragon monsters.
Konikkos also played two copies of Jester Confit!
Full disclosure: I'm a huge fan of Jester Confit and I've frequently found myself playing it in Orcusts this year. Its Special Summon effect has no requirements and no special conditions to meet, which makes it one of the most reliable extenders in the game. It's also super affordable, and a solid replacement for the third copy of Danger!? Tsuchinoko? So what's not to like?
Jester Confit, like many of Konikkos' other extenders, is a perfect follow-up to a negated Whelp. It's a quick way to Salvage a play after encountering interruption, but Konikkos' decision to play it – and other extenders – came at the cost of not playing Called by the Grave.
Outplaying Interruption With Two Win Conditions
The Buster Blader engine itself practically screams "win more" at first glance – it's not necessary for the Guardragon combo, and it kind of onlyadds more defense to an already stacked field of negations. It provides abit more coverage against decks that can manage to sneak past BorreloadSavage Dragon, but is it offering something worthwhile to a strategy that'salready been done in dozens of other ways?
For Konikkos that answer was a resounding yes: Buster Bladers mesh incredibly well with the Guardragon engine thanks to a mixture ofsynergies, but also because the theme's combos represent a second wincondition. Like Cyber Dragon Orcusts there are multiple ways for Konikkos'deck to win, and the final ending field of Buster Dragon, Buster Blader,the Destruction Swordsman, Hieratic Seal of the Heavenly Spheres, andeither Borreload Savage Dragon or Hot Red Dragon Archfiend Abyss justhappens to be the best possible outcome.
Remember how Prologue of the Destruction Swordsman and Destruction SwordMemories are designed to Summon Buster Dragon and the Buster Blader Fusionon your opponent's turn? Imagine for a moment that Konikkos' opponent washolding Nibiru, the Primal Being in their opening hand. They'd naturallywant to activate Nibiru before Borreload Savage Dragon hits the field, anddoing so would probably crush Konikkos' ability to continue with hisGuardragon plays, but it wouldn't have much impact on his Buster Bladercombo.
After all, Destruction Sword Memories activates on the opponent's turn, so Konikkos could easily set up the Buster Blader lockdown so long as he stillSummoned a Link 2 after being hit by Nibiru. Oh, and Nibiru's 600 DEF is extremely relevant against Buster Blader, the Destruction Swordsman's piercing damage.
Konikkos used the same interruption-dodging logic as Cyber Dragon and Lunalight Orcust variants in his Buster Blader build. He was able to jump from one set of combos to another in the face of interruption even without relying on cards like Called by the Grave. He did end up playing a full set of Twin Twisters in the Main Deck, and his Side Deck was stacked with more answers to backrow-heavy strategies. Denko Sekka protected his offensive pushes despite the fact that it competed for his Normal Summon with BusterWhelp.
Eradicator Epidemic Virus let Konikkos trade in his Buster Dragon – which is destroyed during the End Phase of the next turn after it's Summoned withPrologue anyways – for a blowout against Sky Strikers. Lastly, ImperialOrder is a perfect fit here: all of Konikkos' spells are designed to be burned in the first turn, and his combo deck is surprisingly trap-heavy anyways.
So let's do a little recap: the Buster Blader engine added more stopping power to Konikkos' final Guardragon boards, and it gave him another win condition if his Guardragon plays were interrupted. Additionally, BusterWhelp was itself a play-starter for Guardragons, and the Buster Blader engine would bait out hand traps and outplay some of the more popular choices this format. Buster Whelp itself is a vulnerable target, but Konikkos didn't have to resolve it to get Buster Dragon on the field.Activating Prologue, and possible searching it with Trap Trick, was enough to at least Summon Buster Dragon.
The synergies between these two themes is too good to pass up. I'd be surprised if we saw a Top 32 Buster Blader variant at a YCS ever, but we might still see it show up in a Regional Top 8 before Guardragons inevitably take a hit on the Forbidden & Limited List. Unfortunately Id on't think this deck has enough to offer without its Guardragoninteractions, though Links like Salamangreat Almiraj and the excellent extenders in the Danger theme have definitely improved its playability.
I never expected to see Buster Bladers find competitive success post-MasterRule 4 since the introduction of the Extra Monster Zone completely brokes ome older combos, but the accessibility of new Link Monsters has clearly been a tremendous help.
Until next time then