When Duelist Alliance graced us TCG plebeians, competitive Yu-Gi-Oh! took a turn for the strange. Shaddolls, Burning Abyss and Satellarknights were so good that literally everything else became irrelevant overnight. Obviously not every deck that topped an ARGCS, YCS or Regional fell into one of those categories, but outliers were statistically insignificant. For every Yang Zing deck that topped an event, 50 Burning Abyss players topped others. It's not that Bujins, Mermails, and Geargia are inherently horrid; the new cards were just astronomically better.

To absolutely no one's surprise, the trend's continued since then. El Shaddoll Shekhinaga and Virgil, Rockstar of the Burning Abyss powered up their respective decks, and The New Challengers added the Qliphort archetype to take Satellarknights from "The Big 3" and punt them halfway across the galaxy. Satellarknights got their best card to date in New Challengers, Stellarknight Triverr, and still struggled to keep up with the competitive scene. Hell, the Forbidden and Limited List netted Satellarknights a second Honest and a third Reinforcement of the Army, but the newer strategies just kept getting better.

And then Secrets of Eternity happened - Burning Abyss and Qliphorts got some bangin' new support cards and Shaddolls got… El Shaddoll Wendigo and Nephe Shaddoll Fusion. Satellarknights were thrown a bone with Stellarknight Constellar Diamond, making them suck less, and the status quo changed once again by adding fuel to the fire instead of putting it out. YCS Charleston's results are the only evidence you need to see the direction of competitive Yugioh. Qliphort and Burning Abyss are in, while Satellarknight and Shaddolls are fighting for third place.

Do I even need to mention Nekroz thanks to The Secret Forces?

Don't Cry For Winda
Considering how many people hated Shaddolls, it's hardly heartbreaking that Shaddolls have been kicked out of the Big 3… and maybe even the Big 4. Or 5. It's downright mind boggling to me that a deck with Shaddoll Fusion, Chaos monsters and Denko Sekka isn't slapping booty left and right. I know a ton of people that play Shaddolls, trying to keep the deck strong, but they're all running into the brick walls that are Burning Abyss, Nekroz and Qliphorts. It should go without saying, but trying to use old strategies to keep up with new ones is suboptimal; actually, that's literally the worst thing you can do in Yu-Gi-Oh: saying to yourself, "gee this was good three weeks ago, so it'll probably be good at my upcoming Regional."

I know there's the popular mantra of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," but Shaddolls are broken and need to be fixed. Whatever "standard" of Shaddolls there is right now isn't dominating Yu-Gi-Oh! like it was four months ago. I'm trying to balance "wacky" ideas with "good ideas," so please take this article with a grain of salt, realizing that I probably haven't found the best Shaddoll deck quite yet; I'm merely here to recognize some of the glaring weaknesses and issues that I've run into over the past two weeks, and what we can do about them.

Ok, so Masked HERO Dark Law has been all the rage because Mask Change II lets you splash the raddest new HERO in every deck that runs Dark monsters. HERO decks capitalize on Dark Law, obviously, but Burning Abyss and Shaddolls can wreak havoc since most of their monsters can transform into Dark Law. The deadly new Fusion Monster turns half of your opponent's plusses into banished cards instead and it's a one sided Macro Cosmos. Where could you go wrong?

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And of course there's Denko Sekka, the Cold Wave on legs that's so often an instant OTK button. Summon Denko Sekka and go ham with Snatch Steal, Shaddoll Fusion, El Shaddoll Fusion and Black Luster Soldier- Envoy of the Beginning. Throw in Mask Change II and you're looking at ten bajillion points of damage in one Battle Phase. Miniature Chaos Dragons and Enemy Controller, too? Boom. Game over. This is how Shaddolls should be played.

Right?

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the deck has to go in a different direction. Despite being explosive, I feel like that variant of Shaddolls is going to be the most fragile. Mark Balaban's YCS Charleston deck was the only Shaddoll build to make top 32, and the ARGCS barely squeezed out three Denko-Dolls played in the OTK style. If Shaddolls weren't already hurting, the introduction of Nekroz proved that whatever Shaddolls are doing right now is literally the opposite of what's going to work. I won't focus completely on an anti-Nekroz deck, but let's see if we can find some success making something different.

Warrior Toolbox 2.0
Remember when Warrior Toolbox was the best deck because you had a way to search almost every monster? If you're new to Yu-Gi-Oh, picking up your deck, fanning it out and saying "I want that one" wasn't always as common as it is today. The introduction of Spellbooks in Return of the Duelist kinda ruined it for the rest of us because it set a dangerous precedent; it mandated that every deck have cards that search virtually anything. If you told me two years ago that Reinforcement of the Army would be at three and irrelevant, I would have stopped talking to you.

Reinforcement of the Army's unlimited status prompted me to try for some sort of Warrior Shaddoll hybrid. Imagine combining the Satellarknight family with Shaddolls. No, I'm not talking about making a full fledged 50/50 hybrid, but it can drastically change how you play the deck. You have a ton of Light monsters at your disposal for El Shaddoll Construct and your Turn 1 plays are a lot more straight forward because you can start searching for the goods immediately – namely Satellerknight Altair and Satellarknight Vega.

Of course, Altair gives you cheap Rank 4 plays for extended turns, and having access to Evilswarm Exciton Knight; Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer; and Daigusto Emeral is incredibly useful. Throwing Vega in the mix gets you to Stellarknight Delteros for cheap removal and a way to Summon Stellarknight Constellar Diamond. Obviously, Altair's effect is a huge drawback, but you score added consistency, Rank 4 plays, and the strength of Diamond and Chaos monsters. At the very least, Chaos Sorcerer and Black Luster Soldier are outs to Nekroz of Unicore.

Though it can't be searched with Reinforcement of the Army, I'd like to introduce my new favorite Level 8 monster: Swordsman of Revealing Light! As a Light Attribute and Construct Fusion Material, I was drawn to Swordsman's defensive potential but really like it even more after testing it against Nekroz. Whenever your opponent declares a direct attack, you can Special Summon Swordsman from your hand and chump block it. If your opponent's monster has less than 2400 ATK, it explodes in a fiery death. If the attacker has 2400 ATK, hooray, you're at an impasse and their attack won't work. If the monster has more than 2400 ATK, well, I guess Swordsman is like a Necro Gardna. Obviously this card isn't going to win games on its own, but surprise defense is never a bad idea. To boot, it's another out to Nekroz of Unicore.

If you can't tell, I really hate Nekroz of Unicore.

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And yes, I'm excited about a Level 8 monster because you can finally go into Rank 8's without being a total dweeb and wasting your Envoy of the Beginning. For the last two weeks of my locals, I've gone out of my way to overlay two El Shaddoll Constructs for Hieratic Sun Dragon Overlord of Heliopolis to blow out the Qliphort matchup, shattering Pendulum Scales like Doug "Why is Crystal Beast Stuff OCG Only" Zeeff breaks my dreams when he sends me leaked spoilers of upcoming cards. The Shaddoll deck doesn't have a lot of spot removal, especially against Qliphorts, and Heliopolis has proven to be a huge blowout card for me.

And funny thing (please laugh)? You can have a stream of Swordsman for constant blocking if you use Warrior Returning Alive. Initially I felt that idea was too gimmicky, but then a friend reminded me of one simple thing: Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the End can be yarded with Shaddoll Fusion and then retrieved, so like you're actually searching your deck for the Chaos powerhouse! Then if you add Satellarknight monsters into the mix, The Warrior Returning Alive is even better because Constellar Diamond becomes much easier to Summon.

Deck On A Diet?
With some success, I created this hyper-mill deck... but it still has all the problems that plague most mill decks. I've tested it with Needlebug Nest and Kuribandit, since this is a Shaddoll deck that was supposed to vomit a victory within two or three turns, but that actually proved to be the most inconsistent build. Blindly throwing away your cards could be the best thing in the world or the worst option possible depending on what gets yarded. The deck would obviously be tailored to facilitate worst case scenarios, translating to more Shaddolls monsters for trigger effects; perhaps two or three copies of Shaddoll Core to trigger more stuff, and Rainbow Kuriboh as your Construct Fuel. That way, no matter what cards are tossed to the graveyard, you'll land something useful.

If you want to take Shaddolls in that direction, maxing out on cards to get the most consistent mills is your best bet. Obviously you can only play one Snatch Steal and one Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning, but there's hardly a reason to play fewer than three Shaddoll Beasts, Shaddoll Squamatas, and Shaddoll Hedgehogs. Shuffle well so you don't mill all three copies of Shaddoll Beast at once. Hidden Armory could be a tech choice in that kind of deck, specifically for the turn following a Kuribandit mill, searching or retrieving a yarded Nephe Shaddoll Fusion so you can Fuse a staggering three times on the following turn.

However, trying to maximize your mills can leave you a little flat on defense. Using Kuribandit, Needlebug Nest or other forms of mass milling conflicts with your defensive lineup. Sure, Rainbow Kuriboh's the perfect card for this version, but other defensive hand traps like Maxx "C" and Gorz are examples of a tough Catch 22. You want enough defense to survive, but you don't want to clog your hands and miss out on possible OTK's. Come on, if you mill upwards of ten cards in a turn, you know the duel is going to have to end sooner than later. You just want to trigger as many cards in the first few turns, then field a few Shaddoll Fusion Monsters and a few Chaos guys for the win.

And speaking of beating your opponent as soon as possible, you could go into hyperdrive and play Cyber Dragons Shaddolls, a variant that's absolutely balls to the walls in terms of speed. Cyber Dragons facilitate El Shaddoll Construct and Rank 5 plays, like Number 61: Volcasaurus and Constellar Pleiades, but they also add the best excuse to use Power Bond.

If you didn't know, El Shaddoll Shekhinaga's a Machine and thus a Power Bond target. As if Cyber Twin Dragon wasn't a case for game already, a hybrid of Shaddolls and Cyber Dragon means that packing more copies of Power Bond creates more opportunities to Fusion Summon. Of course, the main problem with Cyber Dragon Shaddolls is the deck's extreme vulnerability to floodgates on top of one card answers like Swift Scarecrow and Nekroz of Valkyrus.

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Despite having three copies of El Shaddoll Fusion and Shaddoll Fusion, sometimes you're left with no outlet for Fusion Summons, or you have duplicate Fusion spells clogging your hand. You could tailor your deck around El Shaddoll Shekinaga for an early lineup and keep Power Bond options alive, but having a reliable Earth core isn't easy. I guess if you want more excuses to OTK, Machina works, right? If you desperately want to search for Fusion spells even faster, play King of the Swamp and Polymerization. I'm mostly joking, but King of the Swamp does let you play El Shaddoll Grysta and El Shaddoll Wendigo without a Shaddoll Core or an appropriate Attribute. Once athe Water Shaddoll hits our shores, King of the Swamp will have more merit.

My biggest stink with Shaddolls is the lack of Xyz Summoning. Shaddoll Falco's all about Synchro Monsters, but I'm most comfortable with Rank 4 Xyz. That's rough, because there are so few ways to make Rank 4's with this deck. Satellarknights help, but that staunches your offensive front. The miniature Chaos Dragons won't net you more Chaos Dragons if you use them as Xyz Materials, and just about every Rank 4 engine has some negative complications. My favorite option is Secret Sect Druid Dru, but Spirits are (arguably) the best Rank 4 engine for Shaddolls; I went out of my way not to mention them because Doug already wrote on them. Hell, put Batterman AAA in the deck if you feel like it – it works with Construct and gives you two shots at Rank 4 shenanigans.

Don't Be Lazy - Get Crazy!
Some ideas will obviously work better than others, but only time will tell which direction is the best direction for Shaddolls over the coming weeks. The sun's set on the last chapter of the strategy, but I like revamping fallen decks to try and help them get their mojo back.

Except for Inzektors.

Anyway, below I'll show off a version of Shaddolls I've really been interested in. I don't have any completely ridiculous builds yet, but maybe I'll update my channel to show off some more concepts if you're curious. Let me know down in the Comments.

I think you can tailor Shaddolls to beat Satellarknights and Burning Abyss, but the Qliphort matchup will obviously be a hard one. Nekroz are going to be running rampant now too, so ignoring the blue cards means certain death. Putting all your faith in an OTK Shaddoll deck is just asking for an auto-loss against a Nekroz of Clausolas backed by Djinn Releaser of Rituals or a Nekroz of Valkyrus. Since Masked HERO Dark Law's largely hit or miss right now anyways, I opted to share a defensive list I've been toying around with.

DECKID=101762Don't even get me started on the other half dozen Shaddoll builds I'm tinkering with, as I try to balance out what I can do and what I should do with the deck. Again, this list isn't something set in stone, so I'd really like to hear what y'all think Shaddolls should do moving forward.

Revert back to the Artifact support? Adopt a Chaos strategy? Give up and move on the next deck? Let me know in the Comments! I'd like to hear if Shaddoll players are going to focus on going all-in to beat Nekroz or leaving it up to chance for OTK's.

Just remember, beat your opponent before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson