How's it going TCGPlayers?! Our first major tournament to feature Legacy of the Valiant is now in the books, with YCS Atlanta drawing to a close this past weekend. Not only did Atlanta mark the Championship debut of LVAL, but it was also the first tournament in the Yu-Gi-Oh! Championship Series to see a new style of top cut elimination in the playoff rounds, with the Top 16 duelists drafting Battle Pack 2: War of the Giants Round 2 rather than finishing the tournament with their Constructed decks. That's a very big change, and only time will tell how effective this new tournament structure will be. I for one am a big fan of the change, as Draft is one of my favorite Limited formats for any TCG. The use of multiple formats at a YCS tournament requires would-be Champions to hone multi-talented skill sets, and serves as an extra step to help decide who's the best of the best.

While the new Constructed-then-Draft structure keeps us from seeing what Constructed deck officially reigns supreme at the end of the day, we still can take a look at the decks that made it through to the Top 32 and even the Top 16 to get a better picture of how strategies are evolving. This week I'll be looking at some of the breakout Top 32 decks and the themes they represent! First up is Adrian Sean Shakir's Spellbooks.

DECKID= 99571My favorite archetype of the current format, Spellbooks offer plenty of options to help you control the game and build card advantage, establishing both hand and field presence. The strategy's gone through many changes since it was introduced in Return of the Duelist, with most additions being newer and more powerful cards. World of Prophecy from Judgment of the Light brought a new boss monster to the table; one that could be Special Summoned as quickly as Turn 1 while also giving you massive hand advantage by retrieving used Spellbooks.

But we're in a Fire Fist heavy format, and that strategy's clearly become the most popular deck at the Top 32 tables: it took the most top cut spots at both YCS Sydney and YCS Atlanta. With the Fire Fist matchup as your biggest concern, High Priestess of Prophecy's destruction effect is vital. Although you can still cleanse the board with a well-timed World of Prophecy drop, High Priestess lets you grind away at your opponent's backrow card by card; it's also easier to Special Summon, and you can play it from your hand as opposed to drawing a dead World.

The lone Effect Veiler in Shakir's Main Deck is great not only in the mirror match (here's looking at you, Spellbook Magician of Prophecy), but also against the popular Fire Fist and Mermail decks. Although Maxx "C" was falling out of favor up until Atlanta – where it experienced a resurgence – Effect Veiler's been showing up mre and more all format long, and shows no real sign of slowing down. The same trends explain the enduring popularity of Fiendish Chain, despite the overwhelming use of triple Mystical Space Typhoon in current competition.

Although Fiendish Chain can't be used from your hand on your opponent's first turn, the ability to stop early aggression while negating effects can buy you the time you need to stabilize early and eventually pull ahead. It's great in all your relevant matchups, from the mirror match to Fire Fists: it's even good against stuff like Madolche and Hieratics, the latter having a breakthrough weekend in Atlanta.

What's really innovative about the deck Shakir played in Atlanta was his Side Deck, specifically the new "bus" themed Quick-Play. Introduced in Legacy of the Valiant, Shared Ride is what I'd like to call a "mirror breaker," a card that if drawn can greatly swing the mirror match in your favor. Much like Mystical Refpanel in the Dragon Ruler mirrors of last format, Shared Ride lets you gain big card advantage off of your opponent's search effects. Spellbooks can't Side Deck Mistake because the deck relies so heavily on search effects, but Shared Ride is a great substitute that won't disrupt your overall strategy.

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Similar to how Prophecy players used to activate Spellbook of Judgment in response to their opponent's actions during the Spring 2013 format, you can chain Shared Ride to a Spellbook Magician's effect or Spellbook of Secrets, or anything else that's going to get your opponent a search. Much like Maxx "C", Shared Ride forces your opponent to stop and think about whether or not they want to proceed at the cost of giving you free cards. At worst Shared Ride is a 1-for-1 trade, and at best it can keep your opponent from advancing their game position, leaving them vulnerable to your moves.

Black Horn of Heaven's another big piece of tech that's been gaining a lot of popularity lately, emerging as one of the big tech picks from Atlanta. In such an Xyz-heavy format, Black Horn of Heaven lets you stop just about anything. It gives you the edge of added protection for your High Priestesses and your World; who doesn't love more copies of Solemn Warning?

But That's Not All!
Spellbooks weren't the only strategy to make waves at YCS Atlanta! The ever-popular Fire Fists showed up in droves, as well as a varied mix of Mermails, Hieratics, Geargia, and even Bujin, all breaking into the Top 32. I'd like to take a look at the "Stun" version of Fire Fist piloted by Joe Bogli all the way to the Top 8. It was a straight 4-Axis build revolving around Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear, Wolfbark' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Coach Soldier Wolfbark">Coach Soldier Wolfbark, and Thunder King Rai-Oh.

DECKID= 99560Bogli referred to the deck as "+1 Fire Fists" in post-event interviews, and I can't come up with a more fitting title. Bogli's strategy revolved around Summoning a monster and keeping it alive with hand traps and backrow protection, easily one of the game plans Fire Fists do best. There's no need to complicate the deck with a mixed-axis build blending Level 3 and Level 4 strategies: that approach often leaves you vulnerable to clogged draws. Bear and Gorilla, along with Wolfbark to make 1-for-1 Xyz plays, are really all you need. Remember: Rank 4 Xyz plays were more deadly in Atlanta than ever, thanks to Evilswarm Exciton Knight and Number 101: Silent Honor ARK making their debuts in Legacy of the Valiant.

I'm a huge fan of Cardcar D, Effect Veiler, and Maxx "C" in Fire Fists. Cardcar D improves your Turn 1 efficiency, while the hand traps give you resiliency against some of the faster decks in the format when you're stuck going second. With the incredibly explosive Dragon Rulers finally taking a back seat in tournament competition, slower but more consistent cards like Cardcar D and Pot of Duality are seeing more play, since the average deck now has more time to set up. Consistency's the number one thing you need if you want to stand any kind of chance in a tournament that's eight rounds or longer. Seeing the same power cards more often, or even just having the option to take different lines of play, opens up duelists' creative sides. Combo decks like Hieratics thrive off cards like these, but that doesn't mean slower strategies like Evilswarm and Fire Fists can't take advantage of them too.

Bogli's Fire Fist deck, although it's perfectly happy protecting a lone Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear or Thunder King Rai-Oh, packs a ton of powerful Rank 4's. Evilswarm Exciton Knight lets you wipe the board at a moment's notice, and Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Cardinal has what's got to be one of the most one-sided effects in the game right now, apart from Madolche Tiaramisu.

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Taking a look at Bogli's Side Deck, we can see some similarities to Shakir's lineup. Overworked is once again the go-to Side Deck hate for Fire Fists because of the Fire Formations' ATK boosts, while Black Horn of Heaven can stop problematic Xyz. But Bogli played a card Shakir's deck couldn't support: Mistake's one of the most powerful new Side Deck cards in ages, completely shutting down search effects for both duelists. It cripples Spellbooks and demolishes the consistency of plenty of other decks, while still letting you activate your Fire Fist monsters' abilities.

Although more typical Fire Fist decks saw more play at YCS Sydney, Bogli's aggressive card advantage driven version from Atlanta definitely deserves a look. If you aren't a fan of super flashy plays but love the grind game Yu-Gi-Oh! frequently offers, Fire Fists are definitely the deck for you.

That's all I have for this week! Next Wednesday I;ll be looking at the last of the Dragon Ruler strategies left in Championship-level competition, and one of the most successful decks from YCS Atlanta – Hieratics! The Hieratic Ruler deck's still in its infancy in terms of design, so there's plenty of room to explore and lots of potential to brainstorm new ideas. As always, happy playtesting and be sure to think outside the box!

-Joe Soto
Invictus