Go ahead and get your panicked screams out of your system now! Because yes, Zoodiacs are back in Top Cut again.
There. Feel better? Don't worry, this isn't like 2017, where Turn 1 would take 30 minutes and your opponent would end with five monsters, five cards in their backrow and five cards in their hand. It's… I mean, ok, Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops IS an unbeatable wall. But at least your death will be colorful and different.
If you didn't play competitively back in 2017 during the reign of true Zoodiac domination, be happy you missed that unfortunate era. And hey, we have what feels like an entirely different strategy to explore here in 2020!
Now that Elder Entity Norden, Zoodiac Broadbull, and Zoodiac Drident are all Forbidden with Zoodiac Ratpier Limited, Zoodiacs have gone from a meta-destroying menace to a relatively healthy rogue strategy. If you asked the average person what the deck did, there wouldn't be a clear answer because raw Zoodiacs aren't productive on their own. Today's version of Zoodiacs is largely geared toward summoning Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops, since Zoodiacs on their own aren't really a win condition anymore.
What are you going to do, really? Beat me over the head with a 1600 ATK Zoodiac Hammerkong? That's just nowhere as good as unleashing Megaclops, with its 4000 ATK, immunity to monster effects and battle, and its revival / monster swiping shenaningans. Megaclops blocks major threats, takes out half your opponent's Life Points, brings your stuff back and eliminates your opponent's cards. Just ridiculous.
The Zoodiac deck's mere existence in 2020 is a testament to players' tenacity; it really shows that if there's a will there truly is a way. Check out what I mean below! Just don't get overwhelmed when you see that not even Zoodiacs are safe from Orcust cards… or the addition of Infinitrack finishers!
DECKID=110432 Have I mentioned Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops yet? It's so ridiculously tough for your opponent to overcome once you get it established. Sure, Castel the Skyblaster Musketeer and Raigeki are easy outs if your opponent has them, but we just don't see those cards in many competitive decks today.
Year Of The One Trick Pony
Let's cut right to the chase - Zoodiacs, in a vacuum, are pretty awful in 2020. Without Zoodiac Broadbull and more importantly Zoodiac Drident, the theme can't put up much of an aggressive front on its own. Zoodiac Whiptail acts as an offensive boost with raw ATK and its banishing effect, but Zoodiacs by themselves are sort of like Spellbooks if they didn't have Spellbook of Fate, High Priestess of Prophecy or World of Prophecy to pay everything off.
So how did Zoodiacs do well enough to Top a Regional? I'll give you a hint: I've mentioned it half a dozen times so far: Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops. The Link Monster's relatively hard to summon in any conventional deck right now, but Zoodiacs are the best way to do it thanks to Zoodiac Chakanine, fielding Xyz straight from the graveyard without the help of Link Arrows.
If you're looking at the deck and you're still confused, don't worry because there aren't many roads to a first turn Megaclops. There are ways to do it in Lunalight decks and other decks that spam monsters, but thanks to Gravity Controller, you can easily manipulate your field into having three Xyz monsters on board. I for one welcome our new Link-1 overlord.
Consider this combo: normal Summon Zoodiac Ratpier to yard Zoodiac Ramram, and turn Ratpier into Zoodiac Boarbow then Zoodiac Chakanine. Revives the yarded Zoodiac Ramram with Chakanine, then turn Chakanine into Gravity Controller to send the surprisingly important Boarbow to the graveyard.
Activate Zoodiac Barrage and destroy your Zoodiac Ramram to summon Zoodiac Thoroughblade from the deck, reviving Zoodiac Chakanine with the Ramram's effect. After you turn Thoroughblade into Zoodiac Tigermortar, use Tigermortar's effect to attach a material to Chakanine and use Chakanine's ability again to revive the Boarbow. Surprise, that's three Xyz monsters! Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops, hear I come!
Thankfully that's not the only way to achieve that sort of combo, but it's the most straightforward. Just start with Zoodiac Barrage and Fire Formation - Tenki and it's smooth sailing from there. Thankfully, there are other ways to skin this particular cat but they tend to involve more and more combo pieces each time. Zoodiac Thoroughblade can also send Zoodiac Ramram to the graveyard, but that requires you to draw both instead of just having access to a single Ratpier.
There aren't too many tricks to the deck beyond that. Sure, Orcust Cymbal Skeleton brings Dingirsu, the Orcust of the Evening Star into the strategy too, both an aggressive powerhouse or another Xyz for Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops. But with no way to search or yard Orcust Cymbal Skeleton it's not a consistent problem solver.
Were you expecting something else? That's pretty much the deck. Worst case scenario, you can fall back on Gravity Controller turn after turn and hopefully see your big combos. The deck packs a few cards to stall, but there's not much else here.
Oops! All Hand Traps!
The aforementioned combo isn't exactly the most consistent thing in the world, so the deck mitigates that with a brutal overstock of hand traps. Not just a few, but a staggering 18 hand traps. That's virtually unprecedented in a competitive deck today. I've seen plenty of strategies with upwards of 15 hand traps, but 18 is just mind blowing. If you can't summon Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops on your first turn, there's always the strategy of stopping your opponent from doing anything they want to do until you can, right?
Thankfully, the hand traps cover virtually every competitive strategy. Even without Droll & Lock Bird, there are enough ways to stop search-heavy decks like SPYRAL, though I wouldn't be surprised if you wanted to remove Orcust Cymbal Skeleton, Monster Reborn, and Pot of Avarice for three Drolls.
Consider the other top decks right now - Dinosaurs, Heroes, Lunalights - virtually every top deck outside of Altergeists is stunted with a well-timed hand trap or two. Dropping a single Effect Veiler or Nibiru, the Primal Being devastates the most combo-heavy decks, but imagine that you'll see 2 or 3 hand traps in your opening hand every time when you go second. If your opponent expends all their resources, it's only a matter of time before you'll set up your Megaclops and take the win in short order.
Keep in mind, the real star here is Gravity Controller. It's instrumental to the core combo we discussed, and Zoodiacs always have access to it no matter what Zoodiac monster you control. Simply place one of your many Zoodiac Xyz on top, then go into Gravity Controller. If your opponent managed to put a big monster on board Gravity Controller will take care of them too.
What decks the Main Deck hand traps don't cover are certainly addressed in the Side Deck. Typhoon and Skull Meister are hand traps as well, so the deck could theoretically have an ungodly 24 hand traps in Games 2 and 3. Even Twin Twisters, Evenly Matched, and Mystical Space Typhoon are quick and easy enablers to help you get your combos going. They may not proactively stop your opponent on their first turn, but they don't need any setup on your turn either.
It ain't much, but it's honest work. Time your hand traps to ruin your opponent's card economy and steal their momentum, buy time with Gravity Controller, maybe throw in a Mystical Space Typhoon, and eventually you'll have everything you need for Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops. Make sure you're smarter than I am and remember that Zoodiac Tigermortar can attach materials to other monsters too, not just itself!
Call me old school, but I was shocked by the inclusion of Pot of Avarice. I completely forgot that just a few short weeks ago Pot of Avarice left the Forbidden List, migrating to the much more friendly Limited List. Will we see it in every deck moving forward? No, even though it's arguably the best card ever created. Fight me on that, my Twitter's down below.
Just remember: beat your opponents before they beat you.
Loukas Peterson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, hoping one day to run in 5th Congressional District on the platform of "Fabled Link Monsters for Everyone." You can find him on Twitter or building a bonfire in his backyard to attract the local wildlife for an audience with his ukulele. Hailed as the only person capable of cooking Minute Rice in 56 seconds, Loukas is always looking at expanding his backyard to house every dog in the world without a home. Well, and those with homes already.