When Elemental Hero Stratos was finally removed from the Forbidden &Limited List, a sigh of relief could be heard around the world.

After all, HERO decks have always been a fan favorite ever since ElementalHERO Flame Wingman first appeared in the anime. Stratos is the defacto gluethat holds the HERO theme together with the sheer breadth of its incrediblesearch effect. Between Destiny Heroes, mismatching Elemental Heroes, MaskedHeroes and Vision Heroes, it's refreshing to have a solid monster that cansearch any of them, OR destroy spells and traps, all restriction free!

As any old-timer can tell you, a lot of HERO decks have come and gonethroughout the years; a near ceaseless march of strategies that oftenhighlight single cards or subsets of the nebulous HERO nomenclature. Butwith Vision HERO Faris and Vision HERO Increase, we can finally start tocombine years of different strategies into a single deck. It was reallyjust a matter of time.

And while we haven't seen much HERO action lately, Francisco Xavier InfanteCastro proved they're a force to contend with at YCS Guadalajara this pastweekend. While I think the build could benefit from a few tweaks, Castro'ssuccess is a testament to the power of the theme: Heroes are back in theTop Cut, and countless duelists across the globe are taking notice!

We don't have granular statistics on the number of HERO players at YCSGuadalajara, but I can guarantee that many duelists aren't familiar with alot of the HERO cards because the theme has been relegated to rogue statusfor so long. Perhaps things will be different now in the wake of Castro'ssuccess? Ponder that thought while you peruse his deck list.

DECKID=110119With so many cards that search, summon, and destroy now readily availableyears after the debut of Elemental Hero Stratos, the semi-Limit that'sstill in place on Stratos seems a bit out of place. When a card's at threeit signifies that the card's not a problem, while a lone copy means you'llonly have one shot at using it, creating major consistency issues.Semi-Limiting a card puts it into a weird middle ground that often feelslike a weird compromise, or a liminal state that simply says "this card isgoing to continue moving further on or off the list."

No one's really asked me what I think about that, but we'll have to see howmuch longer Elemental Hero Stratos stays semi-Limited. I don't think it'sgoing to be 2-per-deck forever.

Holding Out For A HERO
You may be familiar with Masked HERO Dark Law and the extremely annoyinghurdle it chucks in front of many decks, but summoning and protecting DarkLaw as a total helmet strategy isn't as viable today as it once was. RecallthisHERO deckby Chase Owens a year ago that did everything in its power to summon andprotect an early Masked HERO Dark Law. The strategy still has merit butwith new HERO cards, the "best" version of a HERO deck has certainlyevolved.

Vision HERO Faris and by extension Vision HERO Increase are absolutelyinsane, and I say that without hyperbole. By discarding any HERO monster,not just a Vision HERO, you'll Special Summon Vision HERO Faris from yourhand and then place Vision HERO Increase in your spell and trap zone.You'll follow that up by tributing Vision HERO Faris to Special Summon yourVision HERO Increase and subsequently Special Summon any Level 4 or lowerHERO from your deck.

If you stop there you've already broken even on card economy, but dependingon the rest of your hand the possibilities are almost limitless. You may berestricted to HERO monsters for the turn, but you'll still have your NormalSummon and you can probably imagine all the big monsters that can follow.Instead of listing the combos with a million steps, consider what thatseries of plays can field.

First, you can Special Summon a Shadow Mist from your deck, fetching MaskChange for an easy Masked HERO Dark Law. Or you can bring out ElementalHERO Stratos and fetch another combo piece from your deck, or even blow upa pesky trap that's sitting in your way. Even better, bring out Vision HEROVyon: use its effect to send Destiny HERO Malicious to the graveyard,banish it to Special Summon another and suddenly you have three tributesfor Destiny HERO – Plasma. And you still have your Normal Summon!

The biggest reason this deck works so well is the simple rule of cardeconomy. While most of the cards here won't produce a ton of damage ontheir own, the reality is often "a combo piece + virtually any other card."Vision HERO Faris needs to discard a HERO to net more Heroes, but thedeck's already stacked in your favor to accomplish that. A lone ElementalHERO Stratos might look like a simple +1, but combine it with ElementalHERO Solid Soldier to abuse its effects and suddenly it becomes so muchmore.

#####CARDID= 25434 #####

In terms of individual cards, there's not a lot here that I'd say is bad.Destiny HERO - Dynatag helps add a crucial 1000 ATK to help you build OTKs,but it's not the best card to draw. Nibiru, the Primal Being counters bigcombo decks and works as the Rock monster for the possibility of Evil HERODark Gaia, but is one copy the best choice moving forward?

I think it's a testament to the versatility that can exist in the confinesof the HERO deck, and the more you play around with this build, the moreniche plays you start to notice. For example, Destiny HERO - Decider getsback previously used HERO monsters or ones you discarded, extending thelife of Elemental HERO Honest Neos or Destiny HERO - Plasma without needingto add more copies of them. There are a lot of little interactions herethat make the deck stronger than it looks at first glance.

Fusion Destiny might summon a limited pool of monsters, but sendingmultiple Destiny Heroes to the graveyard is just as beneficial to yourstrategy. Yarding Destiny HERO Celestial gives your follow-up turns morelife while loading up Destiny HERO - Malicious makes finishers like XtraHERO Dread Decimator that much better.

I'd also like to point out that summoning Xtra HERO Dread Decimatoralongside Destiny HERO - Dystopia sets up another counter to youropponent's plays. Destiny HERO - Plasma and Masked HERO Dark Law areintimidating enough backed by Elemental HERO Honest Neos, but adding a wayto pop cards your opponent controls as well? That's just impressive.

With the release of Evil HERO monsters like Evil HERO Adusted Gold and EvilHERO Malicious Bane, there's definitely structural changes to be made herethat can modify or improve the deck, and there are lots of possibleoptions. Another card to counter your opponent – one that sendsthreeDestiny HERO monsters to the graveyard for their graveyardeffects – is Destiny HERO - Dominance. Not only can you control what youropponent will draw next turn, if you summon it with Fusion Destiny, DestinyHERO - Dominance will get back whatever monsters you sent to the graveyard!

But moving onto the non-HERO cards here, I'm surprised to see somemismatching numbers of cards being run, and some that even seem to bemissing. For a deck that's focused on pushing through plays to make winsCalled by the Grave is conspicuously absent, and instead Ash Blossom &Joyous Spring, Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, Nibiru, the Primal Being, andInfinite Impermanence take its place.

Are those bad choices? Not necessarily, since the deck can play going firstor second, but other singles like the one Dark Ruler No More in the MainDeck or the lone Raigeki in the side deck seem out of place. With theoff-kilter proportions the deck doesn't explicitly lean toward going firstor second, and while that makes it flexible that can also be a double edgedsword. Is establishing a dominating board more important than focusing onOTKs? There isn't one right answer to that, at least not yet, and this deckdoesn't seem to have an opinion one way or the other.

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.