Crusadia's back in the spotlight as a major competitive strategy thanks toGuardragons: a somewhat-new theme featured in Savage Strike that'squickly becoming one of the game's most popular tech engines.

The Crusadia/Guardragon hybrid made its first appearance at YCS Chicagowhere two players took their own builds all the way to the Top Cut.Kenneth McCarthymade the Top 32 with Crusadia Guardragons whileStefan Molgatbroke into the Top 16 with his version. Both players made excellent techchoices that we'll cover a bit later, but first I want to discuss the mostimportant part of the mash-up strategy: the Guardragon engine.

Unleashing The Dragons
Just a couple of weeks before Savage Strike arrived in the TCG Ifound myself taking a second look at the Guardragons theme. I'd looked itover when it was revealed in the OCG for their Savage Strikerelease, but at first I was underwhelmed by the theme's lack of cohesionand win condition.

There simply weren't enough outstanding cards among the Main Deck EffectMonsters to seriously compete, so I tempered my expectations and waited fora chance to use the cards in a future Dragunity hybrid. But when I took asecond look at the Guardragons I realized the Main Deck monsters werelargely irrelevant: the support cards and Link Monsters didn't requireGuardragons at all – almost any Dragon would do.

The selling point of the Guardragon theme is Guardragon Elpy and its'Summon from Deck' effect that can put Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon onthe field. Summoning Elpy doesn't require any fancy combos withGuardragons, so cards like Destrudo the Lost Dragon's Frisson, Black DragonCollapserpent, and White Dragon Wyverburster are totally viable as LinkMaterials. Destrudo's effect will lower its Level below 5 as long as you'retargeting a Level 3 or higher monster. All of these Dragons have tremendousvalue, and Elpy's own effect delivers even more card economy when itresolves.

You can think of Elpy as a better Hieratic Dragon of Atum: it Summons aDragon from the deck with minimal investment and doesn't zero out thatmonster's ATK and DEF. You'll usually be Summoning Red-Eyes Darkness MetalDragon – just as you would with Atum – and activate its effect to SpecialSummon another Dragon from your hand or graveyard. If you're keeping trackthat's a +2 after Summoning Elpy, and since Destrudo only costs Life Pointswhen Summoned from the graveyard, and both Collapserpent and Wyverbursterreplace themselves, the entire combo is a +3 overall.

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There are a couple of catches with Guardragons, and they're especiallyrelevant to Elpy. While Elpy's on the field you can't Special Summonnon-Dragons, so your Link Summons after resolving Elpy arelimited. There's a more pressing condition on its Special Summon effecttoo: you can only Summon a Dragon from the hand or deck to you Monster Zonetwo or more Link Monsters point to.

Keep in mind that the Elpy doesn't need to point to that Zone, but you'llneed a minimum of two more Link Monsters to activate its effect in thatcase. Summoning Elpy is something you'll want to do only once you'vesecured a Zone to Summon a Dragon from the deck to, but you're not quitedone even after Elpy resolves.

I think Elpy has a ton of standalone value for Dragon themes or anythingthat wants to see Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon. It's even an excellentway to Summon Darkest Diabolos, Lord of the Lair and Amorphage Goliath tosupport your Game 2 and 3 strategy. There's still more to the Guardragonengine, and Summoning Guardragon Agarpain is the next step. Its effect canSummon an Extra Deck Dragon to a Zone two Link Monsters point to, and italso carries the same Dragon-only Special Summon restriction Elpy has.

While Elpy will win over players who are conscious of card economy,Agarpain's the highlight of the engine in terms of raw power. Its targetsare tremendously strong: Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon, Hot Red DragonArchfiend Abyss, and Borreload Dragon have excellent offensive anddefensive effects that are totally game changing when they hit the field.

The fact that they're largely accessible by a combo that's relatively easyand low in cost should have everyone's attention, and if YCS Chicago's anyindication that certainly seems to be the case. Hot Red Dragon ArchfiendAbyss shot up near fifty dollars last week as players picked up the bestend-combo monsters to play with the Guardragon engine.

So Why Crusadia?
You can fit the Guardragon engine into almost any strategy that's playinglow-Level Main Deck Dragons or Destrudo, but Crusadia are particularlystrong thanks to Crusadia Draco and the abundance of Light monsters in thetheme.

One of the deck's best cards is a low-Level Dragon that can be SpecialSummoned from the hand, so it's an obvious choice for quickly SummoningGardragon Elpy. Between Draco's graveyard recycling and Crusadia Magius'search effect there's a steady stream of monsters available for Link plays,and the Light Attribute of Crusadia Link Monsters and Crusadia Maximus makeBlack Dragon Collapserpent an excellent choice.

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Kenneth McCarthy's list was still very much a Crusadia deck at its corewith a handful of Dragons tossed in. The teched Guardragon engine open upoffensive options and provided more defense in what's traditionally an OTKstrategy. He played a full line-up of Crusadia Main Deck monsters, but onlyone of each Crusadia Link Monster in his cramped Extra Deck.

The decision to compress the Extra Deck to make room for more Dragonsspeaks volumes for the deck's late game strategy: there isn't one. WhileMcCarthy's deck wouldn't outright lose in the mid game it was definitely aplace he didn't want to go. He went all-in on the Guardragon engine–agambit that paid off at YCS Chicago by landing him in the Top 32.

His Main Deck Eradicator Epidemic Virus is an excellent pick that trades aDark Extra Deck Dragon or another Dark monster that's boosted by SaryujaSkull Dread for a blowout win against Sky Strikers and Altergeists. Neitherdeck can effectively recover from a Turn 1 EEV, and McCarthy could evenwait to activate his trap until after he negated a card with HotRed Dragon Archfiend Abyss.

Fantastical Dragon Phantazmay's also especially powerful in decks with theGuardragon engine because it is, after all, a Dragon too. More importantlyit gave him a better shot at winning when playing second by letting him seemore cards and negating targeting effects like Infinite Impermanence andEffect Veiler.

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Stefan Molgat's build complicates the Crusadia/Guardragon hybrid by addinga Rescue Cat and Kaiju engine to the mix. Rescue Cat's an incrediblypowerful Normal Summon in Crusadia already, and quick access to NaturiaBeast helped him close out games against Sky Strikers immediately.

He also played Naturia Barkion in his Extra Deck to Summon with GuardragonAgarpain, or he could use Rescue Cat and Elephun to Synchro Summon it ifthe opportunity came up. The Kaiju engine provided what's essentially thesame play we've seen in World Chalice and other strategies ever sinceSaryuja Skull Dread was released: if you're sending a bunch of cards to thegraveyard for Link Summons you might as well be earning Kaiju Countersalong the way.

Just like McCarthy, Molgat played a full Main Deck line-up of the Crusadiamonsters with plenty of Dragons added to the mix. But instead ofFantastical Dragon Phantazmay he instead ran World Legacy - "World Crown".It's a useful monster for building field presence, but it's also anexcellent pick to push through Extra Deck monsters with Quick Effects orset up yet another negation against Extra Deck-heavy strategies. It'sactually a great counter to the Guardragon engine too, though it'sdecidedly better in a deck that actively benefits from Summoning monstersfrom the hand to Linked Zones.

Both decks are ultimately landing on Saryuja Skull Dread to finish theirTurn 1 boards. Molgat leaned a bit harder into Game 2 and 3 floodgates buteach build runs plenty of card combinations that end up being realisticoptions thanks to the draw power and hand correction of Saryuja. Playing asingle copy of Eradicator Epidemic Virus works because resolvingtwo Saryuja in a turn lets you see nearly half your deck. Playing cardsexclusively to Summon from your hand with Saryuja's second effect is onlyviable because you can look for it among a pile of four cardstwice in a turn.

The Guardragons are impressively powerful, but even Summoning big ExtraDeck monsters through Agarpain's effect might not be worthwhile if Saryujawasn't a Dragon. Fortunately there's a huge Dragon that can take theGuardragons off the field, and it just so happens to be a monster with acritically important effect in these strategies. You can't play Crusadiawithout it, and I'd propose that the Guardragon engine just isn't the sameif you're not Summoning Saryuja to cap off the combo.

You should expect to see this engine not just in Crusadia, but in ThunderDragons as well. It'll be a new hurdle for decks like Sky Strikers andAltergeists to overcome, and Turn 1 Synchros like Crystal Wing SynchroDragon and Hot Red Dragon Archfiend Abyss should be factored into yoursiding strategy.

It's worth reevaluating Evenly Matched when your opponent could potentiallySummon multiple monsters that can negate it. The value of simple effectnegation's a lot higher when targets like Guardragon Agarpain or GuardragonElpy exist. It's a game-changing engine to be sure, and a totalrevitalization of Crusadia for the competitive scene.

Until next time then

-Kelly Locke

Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​​​​gamer and writer. You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​ ​​​​​​Twitter​​​​​​for more updates ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​. He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.