Our last Competitive Corner discussed Tien Nguyen's Artifact Hero deck, and went in depth discussing the Artifact suite; what it offers today, and what it did specifically for Nguyen's Hero strategy.

Artifacts were held in high regard on a theoretical level for weeks before they started topping Regionals this format, largely for one spearhead reason – Artifact Scythe's ability to shut down Pendulum variants, cutting off your opponent from their Extra Deck the turn it's Special Summoned. But as Artifacts have begun to push different strategies to Regional success, the true diversity of the Artifact engine's shining through, both independently and its interactions with particular themes.

While we saw one Artifact Hero build top at the end of the 2015 Regional Season, we saw two Artifact Kozmo builds logged with Top 8 showings. Today I want to do a quick recap to look at the basics of what Artifacts offer, and then examine and compare those two Kozmo builds to really see what Artifacts did for them, and what that might mean for the future of Kozmos moving forward.

It's another double-header this week on Competitive Corner, as we prepare for the impact of Breakers of Shadow at Sneak Peeks next weekend!

Revisiting Artifacts
While I think Artifact Kozmos are more relevant to competition than Artifact Heroes moving forward, I wanted to start with the discussion of Artifact Heroes for two big reasons. First, that deck was mega-cool. Sorry not sorry; I'm a giant mark some times.

But the Hero deck also served as a great example of how Artifacts work to fill the gaps that can cripple a number of strategies that are powerful, but have key blind spots or Achilles' heels. In the right deck, Artifacts can compensate for major competitive challenges and bring a deck to a competitive standard that just wouldn't be possible otherwise.

In the case of Heroes the problems are evident and the results dramatic, since Heroes are at this point a classic example of a fringe rogue strategy; they topped all over Regionals and even some YCS events in 2015, but the fragility of the deck's set-ups has always kept it from achieving the consistency needed for wider success. Masked HERO Dark Law means the deck's essentially one giant floodgate, and it comes with all the strengths and weaknesses of individual floodgate cards.

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Kozmos are different – despite a lower ceiling of power than Pendulum decks, Kozmos are a mainstream success for two reasons: they're easy to pick up and get very good results from, with minimal practice; and while they don't offer the same level of power as Pendulums do at their peak, the deck's power level is still "high enough". The reality we're learning in this format is that at some point, a strategy's peak performance becomes irrelevant; at some point the line between "crazy" and "even crazier" starts to blur. The deck's good enough to win tournaments consistently.

That said, Kozmos still have specific blindspots and problems which we'll discuss a bit later. First, let's quickly re-establish what the Artifacts offer.

- Special Summoned on your opponent's turn, Artifact Scythe cuts your opponent off from their Extra Deck, fending off Pendulum, Fusion, Xyz, and Synchro Summons.

- Played in conjunction with Artifact Sanctum and recursive effects like Call Of The Haunted and Oasis of Dragon Souls, Artifact Moralltach offers both reactive and proactive monster removal, as well as face-up spell and trap destruction.

- Less commonly played, Artifact Lancea offers similar protection against banish-costed strategies, namely Infernoids.

- Artifact Ignition fills the role of Mystical Space Typhoon.

- All the Artifacts offer more attack power in addition to your regular Summons, ranging from Artifact Beagalltach's 1400 ATK on the low end to Artifact Scythe's 2200 ATK on the high end.

- Each is Level 5 as well, potentially making Rank 5's.

- And finally, the "when destroyed" trigger effects threaten to punish your opponent's backrow removal, discouraging them from disrupting your defenses.

That's an impressive list. Add everything up and you get big advantages against Pendulum decks; stall power for Infernoids; more power for decks that run traps in significant numbers; you speed up your wins; and you change what might be a purely reactive defense into something more proactive and flexible.

While the engine generally clocks in at ten or eleven cards – four or five Artifact monsters plus triple Artifact Ignition and Artifact Sanctum – Ignition takes the place of Mystical Space Typhoon and Sanctum easily subs in over defensive traps. That means you just need to find four or five card slots once you make the necessary swaps – not super difficult.

So what do Kozmos get out of the Artifact engine? Let's take a look at Darrin Martin's Top 8 build from the Garden City Michigan Regional to find out.

DECKID= 103907 Of the builds we'll examine today, I think Martin's was the simpler of the two. There's not a lot of fancy footwork here: while most Kozmo duelists have started to Main Deck Mystical Space Typhoon in part to press through attacks and disrupt Pendulum Scales, and in part to destroy their own Kozmotown for its search effect when assembling OTK's, Martin swapped them out for Artifact Ignitions. It does basically the same thing, provided you have room in your backrow and an Artifact remaining in your deck to set.

The Time-Space Trap Holes and Storming Mirror Forces that are often so popular in Kozmos are gone in favor of Artifact Sanctum, and Martin made room for the Artifact monsters by slimming down on Kozmoll Wickedwitch and Kozmo Goodwitch, passing on hand traps entirely. The biggest head-turner may be the lack of Reasoning, since it can interfere with your Artifact cards. But realistically we've seen numerous players skipping Reasoning and making Top Cuts anyways this format. It's not discussed much, but you can go through the deck archive and see a surprising number of examples.

Double Mistake was Martin's one bit of creative flair; a good choice since while his own deck packs a few search effects, he doesn't rely on them as much as a Pendulum player would, and once he locks in a good set-up and flips Mistake he can defend his position dynamically with Artifact Scythe and Artifact Moralltach as needed.

That was the first deck-specific advantage the Artifacts offered Kozmos in this example. To get a more complete perspective, we need to take a broader view and look at the Kozmo theme's challenges. Aside from the lower comparative power ceiling that arguably limits the deck – I say "arguably" because again, the deck's raw force is enough to consistently make it a top contender anyways – the biggest problem is linearity. Kozmos have some ability to solve problems on the fly, but they usually ignore the biggest toolbox in the game – the Extra Deck – and instead rely on trap cards and a few useful monster effects to destroy or neutralize threats. It doesn't react or adapt to shifting conditions as well as Pendulums, or perhaps even Tellarknights, instead issuing challenges to the opponent and hoping they can't work around them efficiently.

The Artifact cards work to fix that problem on three different levels. First, the ability to flip a card that says your opponent can't use their Extra Deck limits threats and effectively creates more Kozmo-style roadblocks for your opponent to deal with. You can reasonably expect your opponent to overcome one roadblock with the right tool pretty easily, but when you start stacking problems on problems they have a way of weaving together to create a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts.

Second, since Artifact Sanctum and Artifact Ignition can both unleash powerful effects on your opponent's turn in response to their moves, with or without chaining to their plays as needed, the relatively non-reactive Kozmo strategy suddenly becomes much more interactive. You unlock a new axis where your strategy's more maneuverable and more responsive, offering more decisions for both you and your opponent turn by turn. That ups the demand for skill on your side, presents more opportunities for your opponent to misplay, and twists the deck into something that still won't necessarily have a higher power ceiling, but that's suddenly tougher to play against nonetheless.

Finally, those new twists and layered set-ups make the deck less predictable. That's good for any strategy, but it's especially powerful for any deck that's long been successful and is now treated as a solved quantity. Innovation's often extremely powerful when your opponent has set expectations for what you can and can't do, because it creates perceived safe spots in your opponent's estimations; that's a chance to turn their understanding of current competition and expected metagames against them. What would be insightful plays against a regular Kozmo deck can actually be misplays here, and that's super-powerful when you're talking about a deck that's widely maligned for being the most predictable and "stupid" strategy in the format.

With Martin's build standing as a basic example, let's look at another Top 8 Artifact Kozmo deck, this one from Tulsa Oklahoma.

DECKID= 103897This build's a bit more complicated. It clocks in at a strained 41 cards, which probably isn't ideal when you want to see key cards like Kozmo Farmgirl and Artifact Sanctum as often as possible. But it has a lot of reach and wanders into a lot of territory Martin's build didn't approach.

This duelist played hand traps, namely Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit and Maxx "C". Instead of replacing Mystical Space Typhoon with Artifact Ignition, he played triple Ignition and kept one MST – it was either a bit of a Gamble, or a well considered metagame read that anticipated a lot of key spell and trap cards on the field.

He also did more with his Artifacts, opting to Side Deck his third Artifact Scythe so he could Main Deck an Artifact Lancea. Its effect is tremendously useful against Infernoids, and can even prove useful in the Kozmo mirror match. The unnamed competitor Side Decked two more copies, and that seems like a very good idea if you expect to see Infernoids over the course of your tournament. Whether Martin didn't consider the notion or simply didn't want Artifact Lancea, I'm not sure, but I like that it appeared in this build.

This version also ran a single Call Of The Haunted, useful both when your opponent has a destructive answer to one of your more powerful Kozmos that would keep it from being banished for its effect, and a great combo with Artifact Moralltach and Artifact Scythe. While the value of graveyard recursion was really obvious in the Artifact Hero deck, where revival effects combo easily with Elemental HERO Shadow Mist, it's not so evident here. That said, reviving a Kozmo Farmgirl at just the right time can be invaluable, pushing through game-winning attacks when your opponent thinks they have you blocked for the turn. It's a fringe bit of value with relatively little monster destruction seeing play, but it's still worth a nod in the face of Solemn Warning and the upcoming Solemn Strike.

And I guess that forward-thinking consideration is really what has me so keen on Artifact Kozmos. While Kozmos have been on a slow decline since the release of the Master of Pendulum Structure Deck, making the strategy more adaptive, reactive, and giving it a big edge against Pendulums is exactly what it needs to survive. If you're a dedicated Kozmo duelist and you're worried about the deck's prospects moving forward, this seems like just the solution you needed.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer