How's it going TCGplayers? The long-awaited release of Duelist Alliance is finally here, and with its arrival come a slew of new powerful themes! Many duelists have already claimed the sky is falling with the coming of the Dark-based Shaddolls, but plenty of others out there are itching to champion the Light Satellarknights or the Synchro-happy Yang Zings!

This week, I'll be going over the most talked-about of the new archetypes: Shaddolls. This past weekend at the TCGplayer YGO Open in Orlando Florida, many different variants of Shaddolls rose to the top. The most common build was using Black Dragon Collapserpent and White Dragon Wyverbuster for Rank 4 Xyz plays as well as a powerful Light and Dark engine.

As always, let's get started by taking a look at three of the different builds that topped this event!

DECKID=100918

DECKID=100919

DECKID=100920

We'll start by discussing what's similar across these three lists. Each of these duelists ran three copies of Mathematician from Dragons of Legend. This Armageddon Knight for any type is great for triggering your Shaddoll effects or comboing with Felis, Lightsworn Archer for a one-card Arcanite Magician or Black Rose Dragon. Mathematician's used over Armageddon Knight because it can ditch both Light and Dark monsters, and the card draw can be valuable in a pinch. Its 1500 ATK is also relevant as it can run over Shaddoll Falco in the mirror match (although Armageddon Knight being a Dark means you can use it for Fusions, and a Level 4 is more useful than a Level 3).

Now let's look at the core of the deck, the Shaddolls! Each duelist ran a minimum of twelve Shaddoll monsters including three Shaddoll Beast, two Shaddoll Dragon, three Shaddoll Hedgehog, two Shaddoll Falco, and two Shaddoll Squamata (Rovert Tanney ran a third Shaddoll Falco as well). Shaddoll Beast is an easy three-of because of how powerful drawing cards is. Its 2200 ATK is nothing to sneeze at, letting it bump heads with El Shaddoll Winda or running over small threats. It's flip effect lets you dig even further should you be able to tribute summon it face down or bring it back with Shaddoll Falco. Next up we have Shaddoll Dragon, arguably the Shaddoll with the highest utility. Not only does it act like a Typhoon' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Mystical Space Typhoon">Mystical Space Typhoon when sent to the graveyard setting up further plays, but it serves as a Compulsory Evacuation Device when flipped to get rid of any big threats that El Shaddoll Construct can't. It also has a solid 1900 ATK, the benchmark for Level 4 monsters. Two copies is enough to use it when you need it, but not so much to clog your hands.

Shaddoll Hedgehog is the ultimate searcher for the deck, grabbing you another Shaddoll monster with its discard effect or a Shaddoll spell or trap with its flip effect. It's the simplest form of card advantage, but Hedgehog greatly improves the consistency of the deck and lets you include one-ofs like Shaddoll Core because you can get them on-demand.

Shaddoll Squamata's your answer to big monsters thanks to its flip effect, and it's the easiest way for you to fill your graveyard to thin your deck, or fuel a Soul Charge or Shaddoll Falco play. That brings us to the last Shaddoll monster, Falco itself. The only one of the bunch that's a Tuner, Falco's flip effect let's you keep a strong field presence. Remember that you can bring back ANY Shaddoll monster with its ability, including a fallen El Shaddoll Construct or El Shaddoll Winda.

It should also be noted that while all these duelists ran Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning, none of them chose to run Dark Armed Dragon. Dark Armed is a staple of Shaddolls over in the OCG, but they can use two copies of it alongside Eclipse Wyvern for added consistency. I've tested out Dark Armed Dragon a lot myself, and while it's incredibly powerful, it's definitely a win-more type of card and is impossible to summon late game without the help of Pot of Avarice.

#####CARDID= 16073 #####

So now that we've covered Mathematician and the core Shaddoll engine, how do we supplement the strategy? Each of these three duelists chose to take a different route and all saw success. Robert Tanney's first place list is arguably the most innovative of the three with a playset of Caius the Shadow Monarch plus a pair of the new The Monarchs Stormforth from Duelist Alliance. Shaddolls have a hard time dealing with opposing set monsters in the mirror match and Caius is the perfect answer! Caius deals with anything your opponent can throw at you very easily, and being a Tribute Summon, it gets around things like Majesty's Fiend and Vanity's Emptiness.

I'm most surprised at seeing The Monarchs Stormforth, but it makes sense in a build with three Caius and three Shaddoll Beast. It serves as a quick-play Soul Exchange, letting you rob your opponent of any monster that would otherwise be difficult to remove. Many duelists have toyed around with Super Polymerization, and The Monarchs Stormforth functions in pretty much the same way. Both cards get rid of any threat your opponent may throw at you while advancing your own field (although Super Polymerization can be used during your opponent's turn). That huge tempo swing is often enough to end the game.

Robert also supplemented his Shaddoll engine with a pair of Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress. Lyla's always been great at baiting out backrow and getting rid of spells and traps should she happen to stick on the field, but she can also accelerate your Shaddoll engine since all their effects trigger when they're milled. Lyla also has the handy benefit of being a Light monster to fuel later El Shaddoll Construct Fusion Summons.

Robert's spell and trap lineup is pretty standard for what we'd expect from Shaddoll lists. Three Shaddoll Fusion are a must; they're the powerhouse of the deck and enable your El Shaddoll Fusion Summons. Foolish Burial serves as your generic Shaddoll enabler, while Allure of Darkness digs you deeper to your power cards like Caius and BLS.

All that said, it's Robert's trap lineup that I love the most here. Three copies each of Breakthrough Skill, Sinister Shadow Games, and Vanity's Emptiness with a lone Shaddoll Core rounded out his Main Deck. Breakthrough Skill's an allstar at the moment, stopping crucial effects on both your turn or your opponent's. Sinister Shadow Games is the signature Shaddoll trap card, enabling your flip effects when you want them as well as speeding up your engine by sending a Shaddoll card to the graveyard. Vanity's Emptiness is the true standout of the deck, however. Locking down the crazy things that Satellarknights, Yang Zings, or even Lightsworn can do are critical to winning with Shaddolls, since the deck's relatively slow and favors a grind game more than anything else.

The biggest thing we can take away from Robert's build is that Caius can be an incredibly powerful tool in the mirror match; don't underestimate the power of tech cards this early in the format!

Moving Along
Next I'd like to take a look at Jameson Marzek's Shaddoll Artifacts. With the same Shaddoll Core plus Mathematician, Jameson chose to incorporate three copies of Artifact Moralltach as his main Light engine. We've already seen the Artifact suite splashed in just about everything (like in Tyree Tinsley's Geargia from the ARG 20k), so it makes sense to see them here. They may not be so great in the mirror match as there aren't any great face-up targets to hit and you're completely blanked by Winda, Moralltach's utility shines in just about every other matchup. We're already seeing some deviation between builds, with Robert choosing to crush the mirror match while Jameson hedged his bets against the rest of the field.

Jameson supplemented the Artifact engine with three copies of Kuribandit and a pair of Effect Veiler. Eschewing Breakthrough Skill from the Main Deck, Jameson opted for the Light Effect Veiler to stop plays during his opponent's turn. Kuribandit was the most interesting choice. I've harped plenty on how strong that card can be, so it should come as no surprise that I'm singing its praises yet again. Kuribandit digs you deeper through your deck while also triggering your Shaddoll effects. But why play Kuribandit here? Three copies of Soul Charge is enough reason. While Soul Charge has been regarded as a bad choice for Shaddolls due to the lack of powerful Xyz or Synchro monsters, Jameson decided to go all out with it regardless. You can't underestimate the power level of Constellar Pleiades and Number 61: Volcasaurus.

#####CARDID= 16884 #####

The biggest differences come in Jameson's spell and trap lineups. Three Soul Charge and two Super Polymerization are the standouts here. Super Poly's incredibly powerful if you expect a ton of Shaddolls and Satellarknights, and with how the early format is shaping up we might be looking at public enemies A and B. Jameson beefed up his traps with more hard answers in the form of Bottomless Trap Hole, Torrential Tribute, and Compulsory Evacuation Device. While the first two are weak to Winda, access to mass removal can stop an explosive play from the likes of Satellarknights or Infernity.

Last but not least we come to Raymond Mears' Shaddoll deck with White Dragon Wyverbuster and Black Dragon Collapserpent. Raymond, like Jameson, chose to use Kuribandit to churn through his deck looking for power cards like Soul Charge and Super Polymerization. But the biggest standouts are the White and Black Dragons. A powerful duo that pair wonderfully for Rank 4 Xyz, the Dragons give you bodies to Synchro or Xyz Summon with while replacing themselves in the process. They're also easy targets for Super Polymerization. The Dragons shine brightest in longer games since they can get in for some quick damage, giving the Shaddoll duelist some additional reach as the duel drags on.

Like Jameson, Raymond complimented his Sinister Shadow Games with Bottomless Trap Hole, Torrential Tribute, and the catch-all of Solemn Warning. HE also ran some quick-play spells in the form of Book of Moon and Forbidden Lance. Book's great at breaking up Satellarknight plays and you can even use it to reuse your Shaddoll effects. I'm definitely interested in testing Lance because Breakthrough Skill is so popular right now; making sure effects like Arcanite Magician or Black Rose Dragon go through can be vital to your success.

Why Choose Shaddolls?
So now that we've seen some different builds, why choose to run this deck? Shaddolls are a great fit if you like always having options at your fingertips. While not as consistent as say, Satellarknights, they make up for it with a wide range of high-utility monsters and some powerful Fusions. El Shaddoll Winda deserves special mention for locking down Special Summons, acting like a pseudo Vanity's Emptiness and making it hard for your opponent to come back after you've made your push.

Shaddolls are easy to Side Deck with too, since their engine isn't disrupted by much apart from generic graveyard hate cards like Macro Cosmos and Dimensional Fissure. Shaddolls also excel at the long game, maybe not as well as Lightsworn Rulers, but you can very easily bury your opponent under the amount of card advantage you build up over the course of just a few turns.

Time will tell which of these themes will rise to prominence, but signs are shining bright already for the Shaddolls! Give them a try; you might just find your new tournament-winning deck.

~Joe Soto
Invictus