Kozmos have been a big topic of discussion ever since they released, and as soon as the deck had a Championship-level platform it was instantly topping. That success hasn't slowed, but one of the most interesting things about Kozmos decks in recent competition is that when you break it down? When you really, really look at it?

They're all kind of the same.

Now don't get me wrong, we've seen Kozmos decks with and without Juragedo, and we've seen builds that used or didn't use various hand traps: Effect Veiler, Maxx "C", Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit – heck, even Honest – have all seen widely varied use across successful builds. And we've also seen Kozmos decks that played Traptrix Myrmeleo and builds that didn't. But in the grand scheme of things none of those variable choices really make tremendous differences to how you play the core Kozmos strategy; the base game plan largely remains the same. You want to clear the field, make direct attacks with Kozmo Farmgirl to search cards, then banish Farmgirl to drop Kozmo Forerunner or Kozmo Sliprider. With one successful push like that dealing up to 4300 battle damage, the rest of the game's spent trying to close the deal.

Kozmo Goodwitch offers more redundancy in Special Summoning, the Kozmo starships offer resiliency with their graveyard triggers, and hand traps provide more disruption. It's a graceful deck that plays to a lot of consistency-building tricks, but it wasn't terribly dynamic. It was effective, but it was kind of one-dimensional and the most surprising plays were largely not that surprising if you were familiar with how the deck works.

So imagine my surprise when an entirely different build took Top 8 at the recent Regional Qualifier in Cincinnati. While most Kozmos builds have run between eight and twelve trap cards to protect key monsters and clear the way for attacks, Ethan Ennis ran just four, making room for a suite of cards we haven't seen in serious competition for literally years.

The Fire Kings.

DECKID= 103659First, a word of caveat: Ennis remarked post-event that his Side Deck was thrown together at the last second, and that choices like Artifact Moralltach – likely intended to combo with destruction effects like Sliprider and Yaksha' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Fire King Avatar Yaksha">Fire King Avatar Yaksha – just weren't very good. We also don't have Ennis' complete Extra Deck, which may or may not have been a patchwork assembly as well. That's fine. Ignore that. Those are details you're probably better off working out for yourself anyways, customizing the Side and Extra Deck for your metagame, the new format, and the new cards from Dimension of Chaos.

What matters here are the Main Deck innovations, and the ways in which Ennis managed to harness a years-old theme to harass and abuse some of the biggest decks in the game, while creating combos and synergies with the core Kozmo cards that let to new play patterns. The result is a deck that innovates both outward and inward to do things we've never seen a Kozmo deck do; stuff opponents won't see coming. That's invaluable when you're playing a deck that your opponents are going to believe they understand.

One thing's universal in Yu-Gi-Oh: your opponent's never weaker than the moment they think they know all your options.

Burn The Witch!
There are four cards in Ennis' build that we're not used to seeing: Fire King High Avatar Garunix, Yaksha' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Fire King Avatar Yaksha">Fire King Avatar Yaksha, Onslaught of the Fire Kings, and Chicken Game. Each is a great card on its own, but they also sesrve a number of specific purposes in Kozmos. Let's look at them from those two perspectives.

First and most spectacularly, Fire King High Avatar Garunix is a great way to clear the field and fend off the big fields and key monsters Summoned by everything that isn't Nekroz right now. Anything with banishing effects, like Masked HERO Dark Law in Masked Heroes or Dimensional Fissure and Macro Cosmos in Ritual Beasts, can lose serious tempo and card economy to Garunix's destruction. It's especially valuable against decks that run mass removal, like Dark Hole and Torrential Tribute in Burning Abyss or the Kozmo mirror, and Infernoid Onuncu in Infernoids. As Black Rose Dragon slowly creeps up in popularity across a number of decks, it's a great counter to that threat as well, providing an instant comeback with removal and the pressure of its own admirable 2700 ATK.

If your opponent manages to run Fire King High Avatar Garunix down in battle, you can Special Summon Yaksha' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Fire King Avatar Yaksha">Fire King Avatar Yaksha from your deck with Garunix's ability. With 1800 ATK it's another simple beatstick that keeps the pressure up when your opponent manages to rid the game of your bigger threat. It's also a bizarre opening move that can bewilder your opponent in Game 1, guiding them to incorrect plays that can open more opportunities. Yaksha's destruction ability also lets you pop Garunix from hand should you draw it, setting you up to Special Summon it from the graveyard in the next Standby Phase. It's an insurance policy on several different levels.

Onslaught of the Fire Kings works with both monsters, usually Garunix first and Yaksha second, Special Summoning either from your deck and destroying whatever it Summons in the End Phase. That means you have two draws that immediately place Garunix on the field for an attack, or the chance to draw Garunix and then Yaksha it to the field. Special Summoning Yaksha from your deck with Onslaught fields 1800 damage and sets up Yaksha's destruction ability in turn, which again triggers Garunix, but also a whole lot more. We'll talk about that in further depth a little later.

Chicken Game's the final intriguing pick here, giving you more flexibility with Terraforming, which you'd already run for Kozmotown. Its damage prevention effect makes it a natural fit for both Kozmos and Fire Kings, since both decks can often get an edge by refusing to field monsters until the right moment. Not losing when you're trying to set up those kinds of plays is always welcome. The draw power of Chicken Game helps you get to key cards like Onslaught and Farmgirl, and protects your face and groin while you look for combos.

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So these are all good cards on a surface level, but the real beauty is what they do with and for Kozmos specifically. Garunix is always a pretty amazing card, and the ability to wipe away your opponent's monsters, discourage mass removal, and force awkward attacks is great. But the removal's particularly good here because it synergizes so well with Kozmo Farmgirl. Since the deck scores 4300 damage off a single successful Farmgirl attack played into the search and Special Summon of a Kozmo Forerunner – a play that'll become even more deadly with the release of the 3000 ATK Kozmo Dark Destroyer in Dimension of Chaos – keeping the field clear of blocking monsters has always been a priority for Kozmo duelists.

Garunix makes that happen, reviving to wipe the field and clear away whatever would stop you from making that 1-card combo happen. But at the same time it can swing for 2700 damage itself, dropping your opponent to just 1000 Life Points off the Farmgirl followup. That play leaves you with two big monsters on the field to threaten game – Forerunner and Garunix – instead of Forerunner alone, and both resist destruction by effects: Garunix just revives itself and Forerunner Special Summons another card from your deck. If Garunix happens to wipe your own field in the process, you'll get free Special Summons to replace your Kozmo starships, making Garunix easier to use in Kozmos than it might be in other strategies.

By reducing your opponent to 1000 Life Points you don't just place yourself in striking distance of victory, but you also turn Chicken Game into a completely one-sided card. While pressing for 7000 damage and then dropping Chicken Game will keep your opponent from losing so long as Chicken Game remains on the field, it also affords you an immediate draw for 1000 Life Points, and leaves you the option of destroying it or keeping it around for another 1000 LP next turn, depending on whatever your opponent does on their own turn. The one thing they won't be doing is using Chicken Game themselves, since they can't pay for any of its effects with 1000 Life Points left. Meanwhile the Kozmo player just gets to double draw until they're ready to win the game.

While Kozmotown offers similar card economy, it requires different inputs and gets you different results. Having two very different cards that help advance your position off a single Terraforming can be invaluable, and it shows the level of sophistication and synergy Ennis was dealing in.

Finally, Yaksha' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Fire King Avatar Yaksha">Fire King Avatar Yaksha occupies a special place here. Yes, it's 1800 damage off Onslaught, and yes, it can help you field Garunix if you're unlucky enough to draw it. But the real utility here comes from its synergy with Kozmo Forerunner and Kozmo Sliprider. If you control either Kozmo starship, or have a copy in hand, Yaksha's destruction effect can destroy it, sending it to the graveyard to activate its trigger effect. That's huge, because in more traditional Kozmo build the only reliable way to Summon a starship from your hand is to banish Kozmo Farmgirl or Kozmo Goodwitch. Should you wind up with two starships in hand it can be difficult to field both, creating a predictably slow play pattern that opponents can exploit.

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Fire King Avatar Yaksha turns those expectations sideways, giving you five more cards that help you launch your Kozmo fleet – End Phase starship Special Summons become possible with Onslaught of the Fire Kings, while any opponent who considers running over Yaksha or blasting it into spacedust with an effect has to be wary of the chance that you'll replace Yaksha with a far bigger threat…and potentially pop a backrow with Sliprider in the process.

The ability to field an 1800 ATK beatstick that threatens an even more brutal followup should your opponent fight against it is a big advantage, and that's very different from the kind of resilient field Kozmos were known for in the past. While you could banish Farmgirl or Goodwitch in response to an opposing activation to replace either with a bigger monster, doing so consumes effects that might be better reserved for more proactive plays. Those effects can also be stymied by cards like Imperial Iron Wall; a common pick against Kozmos to stop the bulk of the deck's aggression, but that won't stop Yaksha in the slightest.

The Fire King cards help patch up a lot of holes in the conventional Kozmo strategy, offering more damage, more opportunities to make attacks with Kozmo Farmgirl, and making better use of Kozmo Forerunner and Sliprider. They also play around some of the common answers Side Decked for this match-up, catching your opponent offguard in Game 1 and then making you tougher to approach in Games 2 and 3 when the cat's out of the bag. The addition of Fire King cards at the cost of traps is a pretty simple change, and the plays that result aren't terribly complicated. But the beauty rests in how these cards complement the established norms and make everything more effective.

Whether we'll see more Fire King Kozmo builds in the future is anyone's guess, but I think the fundamental synergy here makes this deck really attractive; more than just a one-hit wonder. If you're a Kozmo player yourself, consider trying the Fire King suite in your build. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, especially when you see how bad your opponents are at adapting to it.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer