I want to admit something that some of you may know, and some of you may not, depending on where you read my stuff. When Primal Origin dropped, I openly expected Fire Fist Hand Artifact variants to become the new competitive norm. Artifact Moralltach and Artifact Sanctum were obviously good; Ice Hand and Fire Hand were obviously more than good; and Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear afforded the deck a ton of different advantages in a format that was largely dominated by Geargia at the time. I figured that while Moralltach and Fire Hand took on face-up threats and Ice Hand punched through backrow, Bear could take out face-down threats and create fast card advantage by capitalizing on the clear fields your other cards would create, making direct attacks for Fire Formation - Tenki searches and gathering momentum.

But that's not what happened. Despite the fact that Fire Fist Hand decks exploded out of the gates when Dragons of Legend first dropped (before Artifacts arrived), YCS Philadelphia arrived and the story of the day was Traptrix Hand Artifacts, not Fire Fist Hand Artifacts. While the Fire Fist variant was a factor in Day 1, it didn't make it to the Top 32 while Traptrix Hand Artifacts and just basic old Traptrix Hands did. The TCGplayer YGO Open in Atlanta that same weekend provided similar results, as did Regionals in the weeks that followed plus the ARG Circuit Series in Washington a week later.

The fact is, Fire Fist Hand Artifacts didn't even make it out of the chute. The now-conventional HAT deck was so successful that the Fire Fist variant saw no exploration beyond its first weekend out. That made the situation all the more surprising when it had such a big showing at the North American WCQ last weekend. Here's the deck Tej Trivedi took third place with in Detroit:

DECKID=100614Trivedi wasn't the only competitor to make the WCQ Top Cut with the Fire Fist Hand Traptrix Artifact deck, affectionately called "FAT". Frazier Smith took a similar build to a Top 64 finish, as did others – it popped up all over the place across the weekend. That raises an interesting question that lies at the heart of our analysis today – why did that happen?

After months of being ignored from the get-go, overshadowed by the HAT deck, why was the Fire Fist variant suddenly seeing such play and such success, at the most competitive North American event of the year?

Well, Because It Offers A Ton Of Advantages
The biggest advantage of the Fire Fist HAT variant is the most obvious factor setting it apart from the more-played versions: Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear. Fire Formation – Tenki can bring a lot of different cards into the build, some of which Trivedi played and some of which he opted not to run, but Bear's the one constant. Its search effect lets you build momentum after clearing the field for a quick attack, capitalizing on Fire Hand, Artifact Moralltach, and your removal traps, while the fear of Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare – which can delay plays involving effect-driven monster cards – can place momentarily dead cards on the field for you to Bear into oblivion when your turn rolls around. But the biggest factor is just the strength of its simple removal effect all on its own, letting you drop it into play to pop cards like Geargiarmor.

In fact, the advantage Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear affords you in the Geargia match-up is huge, and was likely the driving factor that made this deck so popular and so successful. Geargia saw tremendous play at the WCQ as most expected; hence, a HAT variant that was keyed toward the Geargia match-up would be more successful in at least the Day 1 field than a regular HAT build. This deck's very good at beating Geargia, and it can often place more pressure on decks like Lightsworn and Sylvans than a conventional HAT build.

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By playing two copies of Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear and three Fire Formation – Tenki, the deck can also play Coach Soldier Wolfbark. It's a lot like Traptrix Dionaea – it makes 1-for-1 Rank 4 Xyz plays, it pluses you off an established graveyard… heck, it even combos for an instant plus off Call Of The Haunted. The big advantage is the searchability: it's very easy to draw Traptrix Dionaea before you see a Traptrix Myrmeleo, since neither card's searchable. And once Traptrix Myrmeleo's locked and loaded, you have no way to reliably get to Dionaea to take advantage. Fire Formation – Tenki solves both problems.

Running Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear opened up Trivedi's Extra Deck, allowing him to play Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Cardinal and Bujintei Kagutsuchi. While the Cardinal's difficult to Summon because it demands Fire Fist Xyz Materials specifically, it functions as a sort of Madolche Queen Tiaramisu with its stunning ability to clear the field and allow you to make presses. It's pretty sweet when it goes off. Bujintei Kagutsuchi's easier to play since you can make it as a 1-for-1 with Wolfbark reviving a Bear – it only requires Beast-Warrior materials, not name-stamped Fire Fists. Kagutsuchi's destruction-resisting ability makes it a great answer to Fire Hand and can force your opponent to commit an Artifact Sanctum for Artifact Moralltach before you make your Xyz Summon.

Because attacking with Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear can be so profitable, netting you free Fire Formation – Tenki's, Trivedi could play Forbidden Lance over Mystical Space Typhoon, Wiretap, or his third Artifact Ignition. Lance is great with Bear, but it also protects the rest of your monsters from meddlesome Breakthrough Skills and Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmares too, giving you more confidence in some of your basic HAT plays; it answers Mind Control and Book of Moon as well, two cards that can't be stopped after activation by any of the alternatives.

Beyond all that, it's also important to recognize that this version of the HAT strategy plays more aggressively and can create more momentum in the early game. Bear's just better against the no-trap and trap-light decks right now; stuff like Lightsworn Rulers and Sylvans. The advantages here are as straightforward as they are plentiful.

But It Gives Up A Lot In Return
The Fire Fist HAT variant may not seem very different from the regular HAT deck, but right off the bat there are a few key cards missing. It only runs two copies each of Fire Hand and Ice Hand in order to conserve deck space, so it's easier to burn through your Hand cards and lose one pillar of your strategy. It also passes up on Traptrix Dionaea, so it can't revive Traptrix Myrmeleo nearly as easily for a free shot at your opponent's backrow, nor can it make it repeated 1-for-1 Xyz Summons by looping Lavalval Chains. One of Korey McDuffie's most brutal moves in his first place HAT deck involved Summoning Lavalval Chain, using its effect to stack his next draw with Traptrix Dionaea, and then drawing it on the following turn to make another Rank 4. That's not possible here, since you only run one Coach Soldier Wolfbark.

Because the strategy needs to play Fire Formation – Tenki, it doesn't have as many free slots for spell and trap tech, nor generic acceleration. Note that while Trivedi played just two Pot of Duality, Korey McDuffie ran three Duality plus three Upstart Goblin. The weight of those cards compared to the three Tenkis that essentially take their place is debatable, sure, but there definitely is a difference, and that seems like a competitive factor.

Note that there are some significant options Trivedi opted not to explore. Frazier Smith played a Side Decked copy of Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Gorilla, which can be worthwhile in any match-up involving passive backrow cards. He also played Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Tiger King, giving him a potentially powerful negation option off a Coach Soldier Wolfbark as well as more access to continued Fire Formation – Tenki plays. Neither ran Constellar Kaus, searchable with Tenki and acting as a quick Normal Summoned Level 5 Light to overlay with an Artifact Moralltach for Constellar Pleiades. While the defining features of Trivedi's build were largely just Bear, Wolfbark, and Tenki, there are other possibilities that could help the strategy adapt for the new format – or just your personal playstyle.

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All in all, while this deck has obvious advantages over Geargia, and possesses a speed that can work in your favor when you're up against the big, monster-driven strategies that run Little Defense like Sylvans and Lightsworn, it's the HAT match-up that gives it trouble. Time and time again over the weekend, we saw Fire Fist HAT and regular HAT go head-to-head, and it was in those match-ups where Fire Fist HAT's weaknesses were most evident. The deck plays so many trap cards that the early game rush strategy wasn't viable, and the reactive nature of the deck, combined with its ability to make secure Rank 4 aggressors in the form of Number 101: Silent Honor ARK, nullified the biggest advantage of the Fire Fist version. At the end of the day, it's very telling that the top two finishers at the WCQ – Korey McDuffie and Deon Akridge – both played relatively normal HAT variants, while Trivedi took third. An admirable finish for sure, but seemingly a simple statement about this deck's match-up against the simpler non-Fire Fist version.

Heading into the WCQ the Fire Fist HAT variant would've been attractive, since the biggest question about the WCQ metagame had to do with the popularity of Geargia versus the popularity of Sylvans and Lightsworn. A lot of decisions were being made based on a metagame read favoring Geargia, or favoring the trap-light big-monster strategies. Fire Fist HAT had the advantage of being a great call against both types of decks: Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear gave it the opportunity to break a Geargiarmor set-up before it could get going, as well as some clever deferral plays with Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare and Bear working in tandem; but it could also rush Lightsworn or Sylvans and punish them in the early game, netting a free Fire Formation – Tenki and rolling it into a Coach Soldier Wolfbark the next turn. It was a great way to hedge your bets.

Now the question's different: coming off a WCQ win and a tremendous Top Cut showing, will conventional Traptrix Hand Artifact decks catch on? If so, the Fire Fist variant may be a poor choice moving forward. But if Geargia, Lightsworn, and Sylvans continue to see heavy play, then the Fire Fist HAT deck could remain a strong option. The introduction of the new draw rule could have an impact as well, since a Turn 1 Fire Formation - Tenki into Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear going second is a better move now than it was two weeks ago. What do you think? Did Fire Fist HAT have its one lone moment in the sun, or will it have legs moving forward in what remains of the summer? It's an intriguing deck and the shape of competition's really still up in the air right now, so I'd be intrigued to hear your comments down below.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer








Don't forget! Now that the competitive season's largely over, it's time to break out the deck fixes again! I need your deck list submissions for upcoming columns;if you want to see your strategy featured in a "What The Fix?" here on TCGplayer just send the following to fixmydeckjason (at) gmail (dot) com to be considered:

-Your Main and Extra Deck list. (No Side Deck needed, but please send a written deck list, not a screencap.) Remember, your deck should be TCG legal!

-Your name and city.

-Remember - please use full card names! Abbreviations and mis-spellings make Jason's life sad.

-A paragraph or two describing your deck: what it does, why you're playing it, and its strengths and weaknesses.

And don't forget, the cooler your deck is the more I'll want to fix it, so don't be afraid to get creative! New stuff takes priority, because I'm not bored of it yet! -JDG