It's actually kinda sad to see decks get totally destroyed when a newForbidden & Limited List is released. If something's been a problem incompetitive play for months, I agree that the strategy should be knockeddown a few pegs to make things interesting, sure. But it always seems a tadunfair for a deck to be completely stripped of its power and thrown intothe pits of obscurity, just for being successful.

After all, there aren't that many decks that draw a consistent cringe fromme once the entirely unfair elements have been removed. Dragon Rulers mighthave been the best deck in September 2013, but at least the most brokencards were sent off to dueling prison, leaving a strategy that was at leasta little fun to play against.

A lot of decks were represented at the UDS Invitational this past weekendin Panama City, and the Top Cut was as diverse as it's ever been in 2019.Sure, no Ice Barrier OTK decks snuck into the Top 8, but players managed torevamp and reinvents lots of strategies old and new to prove that there maynot be one specific deck-to-beat in the new format, at least for now.

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Sky Strikers remind me of Burning Abyss: a deck that just won't die despitetaking repeated hits on the Forbidden and Limited List again and again.

The playstyle of the modern Sky Striker deck hasn't fundamentally changed,but the win condition has. With Sky Striker Mecha Modules - Multirole andSky Striker Ace - Kagari, it wasn't uncommon to resolve Sky Striker Mecha -Widow Anchor at least seven times in a duel in previous formats. When allelse failed, you could always slap down several on the same chain, stealeverything your opponent had, and hopefully end things right there.

So while Sky Strikers aren't dead due to the Limiting of Widow Anchor, thestrategy has shifted to a game that grinds card by card even more thanbefore. Since you no longer have the option to pop off a Widow Anchorwhenever you please, the game's more decided by a slow burn. That's evidentin both lists from the Top Cut:Manav Dawar's build, which ran nine trap cards;and Andres Torres', with a whopping eleven traps. Go ahead – hit those links and give them both a look.

Instead of hiding behind Sky Striker Mecha - Widow Anchor, it's easier tohide behind one or two trap cards to delay your opponent. Your games won'tbe as fast, but it's very easy to win with Sky Strikers in a simplifiedgame where neither opponent has the wide card presence usually required tomake big combo turns and control the field. Between the recursion, thesearching, and the raw economical advantage that Sky Striker Mobilize -Engage! provides, the deck can succeed by gaining an inch every turn aslong as you keep your opponent from making the same kind of progress.

That seems like an obvious statement, but it's the core strategy behind alot of successful decks and a pretty big dividing line between certainstrategies. Spellbooks, old school Gadgets, Paleozoics and Sky Strikershave always adjusted in their respective eras to keep winning in sheercards. Even incremental advantages of card economy can add up over time,whether that be popping a Lost Wind with Sky Striker Airspace - Area Zeroor using Metalfoes Goldriver to speed through your cards.

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Despite Knightmare Mermaid flying off to the land of the Forbidden for(hopefully) forever, it's no surprise that Orcust decks had a strongshowing at the UDS. Any variant of the Orcust combo is now technicallyharder to achieve, and by that I mean it takes more than just "any twomonsters you have lying around." BothVictor VasquezandEmmanuel Castroplayed similar decks to Top 8 finishes, both relying on a few key cards tomake them run smoothly.

As with Sky Strikers, Orcusts have had to change up howtheyachieve their end goal, even if the final product is the same in theory aslast format. The new wave of Orcusts have made the leap in what may be asurprisingly easy fashion. Between Armageddon Knight and Scrap Recycler,Orcust Knightmare's really easy to get into the graveyard so you cankickstart the combo, but now there's a further reliance on cards that we'veonly seen very rarely so far this year - Orcustrated Return and BrassBombard.

While the effects of those cards are obviously once per turn, theyfacilitate the field of two monsters that Orcusts need to achieve withoutdiverging too far from the core theme of the deck. Orcust Brass Bombardturns into Linkuriboh, and after you banish it from the graveyard you'llhave another Orcust monster on your field to start your lengthy combos;that often ends with Orcustrated Babel, a set Orcust Crescendo, or both.

Orcustrated Return is very similar in its function – it yards more Orcustswhile keeping your card economy stable. Orcust success might take a moreconcentrated push beyond just fielding two random monsters now, but thereisn't much sacrificed overall. The few cards you'll need for the big comboscan only come from a small pool of monsters, but the deck hasn't reallylost much power overall. The farewell to Knightmare Mermaid doesn't meanOrcusts are dead, it just means not every deck can slap in some Orcusts forfree and get an immediate power boost.

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With no one deck completely crushing the rest of the competition, there'smore wiggle room for rogue strategies to make it to the top tables. Andwith such a diverse field of play it's harder to build a Side Deck to covereverything. Several other decks that made Top Cut at the UDS too -True Dracos,SalamangreatsandThunder Dragons– and they're all powerful in a vacuum. They're also more vulnerable to ahandful of Side Deck cards, which makes them a little riskier to rely on.

That said, the simple fact that the format is so diverse means more andmore strategies will be effective: Nibiru, the Primal Being, Twin Twisters,Red Reboot, Inspector Boarder, Artifact Lancea… you'll have mixed successwith those cards right now depending on what you're going up against. Butthere's one great equalizer I haven't discussed yet.

That's Super Polymerization. While it's fallen out of popularity, CyberDragon Nachster and by extension Chimeratech Megafleet Dragon have beenpivotal in their own right. But Super Polymerization is finding its wayinto more and more decks in a trend that started months ago and has onlyramped up month to month. It's not an out to absolutely everything by anymeans, but you literally can't counter it and it works aggressively anddefensively.

So while Super Polymerization might not always be the best Side Deck orMain Deck option, the trend you're likely to see the most success with whenyou're approaching such an open field is one of versatility or extremeconsistency: you either build your Side Deck to cover the most threatspossible, or create such a streamlined deck that the speedbumps just don'tdo much to impede you.

Does that mean we'll see a rise in True Dracos? Galileo Mauricio De ObaldiaSoza snaggeda 2nd Place finish in Panama City, presenting an extremely consistent strategy while also being immune tomost Side Deck counters. Even if that deck doesn't dominate the competitivescene forever, it's not a strategy you can sleep on right now. Definitelyget familiar with it.

Just remember: beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson


Loukas Peterson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, hoping one day to run in5th Congressional District on the platform of "Fabled Link Monsters forEveryone." You can find him onTwitter or building a bonfire in his backyard to attract the local wildlife foran audience with his ukulele. Hailed as the only person capable ofcooking Minute Rice in 56 seconds, Loukas is always looking atexpanding his backyard to house every dog in the world without a home.Well, and those with homes already.