People always accuse me of hating the big competitive decks. I can understand why. It's rare for me to play in a tournament with one of the big decks-to-beat. When I do, it's usually to help myself learn how a deck works, and in turn find better ways to beat it. That said, my rogue tendencies aren't born out of a hatred of the popular decks; it's quite the opposite.

As more and more tournaments happen, the format fleshes itself out bit by bit. Trends start to form, and things become more predictable. Obviously the decks that can put up repeated results are strong decks, but the more the same thing happens, the more people learn how to combat it. Fire Fists may be the most competitively successful deck at the moment, but in general you do the same plays over and over again with them. They're strong plays, but if everyone expects them, then they'll become less effective in the long run. From time to time you'll see new powerful strategies pick up and take the competition by storm. Hieratic Rulers came out of nowhere, and were a rather difficult deck to deal with at first, as no one was prepared for it. Now it's a month later, and while the deck's still powerful, it's not putting up anywhere near the results it did at first. People are adapting to it.

By playing a rogue deck, you give yourself an extra strength through the element of surprise. If no one knows what you're playing or how it works, then they can't counter you anywhere near as easily as they could if they knew how your deck functioned. That said, a rogue deck's plays often aren't as devastatingly powerful or consistent as the popular competitive decks'. You may find it necessary to fall back on the tried and true decks of the format in order to compete. However, that doesn't mean there isn't room to innovate. Some decks have enough freedom in their lineup to mix things up, and give an otherwise highly predictable strategy some much-needed depth.

DECKID=99699Here's a perfect example! This deck pretty much plays like a standard 4-Axis Fire Fist deck, except we have six Dinosaurs to give access to the powerful stun monsters Evolzar Laggia and Evolzar Dolkka! Oh, and it also plays what may be the most headache-inducing card ever printed: Black Garden.

I'm warning you now: this deck isn't for the faint of heart. On the surface it looks simple, but there's a lot to learn.

Blacker Than The Hearts Of The Judges That Have To Deal With It
Black Garden recently had another printing in Astral Pack 4, and while the Problem Solving Card Text (PSCT) on the latest printing's a lot better than we had previously, the card's still insanely complex. On the surface it seems pretty simple. When either player Summons a monster its ATK is halved, and the opposite player gets an 800 ATK token in attack position. That's not too hard to grasp. The problems come with all the little situations that can be present alongside the Garden. Let's start by laying down some basic ground rules.

First of all, it's important to know how Black Garden behaves. Its primary effect is a Mandatory Trigger Effect that occurs when a monster's Normal or Special Summoned (Flip Summons ignore it!). By the rules of SEGOC (Simulataneous Effects Go On a Chain), that means it will automatically be put on the Chain before any Optional Trigger Effects that may also occur on the summon. However, if triggered alongside another Mandatory Trigger Effect, it will be placed after a Mandatory Trigger of your opponent on their turn; before the Mandatory Trigger of your opponent on your turn; or in either order of your own Mandatory Triggers. This can be important when dealing with anything that may blow up the Garden, for knowing if it resolves properly or not.

The next point's knowing when a token should be summoned. Black Garden's text states "Halve its ATK, also you Special Summon 1 Rose Token to its controller's opponent's side of the field." Note the use of the word "also" in the text. When a card's PSCT says "do A, also do B" then that means you do as much as possible, regardless of if one of them isn't possible when the card resolves. Even if the monster isn't halved, a token's still Summoned, and even if a token can't be summoned, the monster's still halved. By that logic, you should just always Summon a token. Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

There's one last detail you have to keep in mind: it states "Special Summon 1 Rose Token to its controller's opponent's side of the field." If the monster isn't on the field, it has no controller, so there is no opponent to give a token! That means the monster has to still be on the field when Black Garden resolves in order for a token to be summoned. Other than that, it's pretty simple. If the monster is on the field when Garden resolves, a token is summoned. It may seem strange to give this longwinded explanation just to say "a token is summoned only if the monster's still on the field," but I've seen a lot of people misinterpret the PSCT due to the use of "also," and even some automated simulators have the card programmed incorrectly in this regard. Knowing is half the battle!


The last thing I want to touch on is how Black Garden interacts with ATK modifiers. This is pretty important, considering our use of Fire Formations, and that abusing these interactions is actually a large part of today's strategy. When Black Garden resolves, the ATK value that's halved is whatever the current ATK is, not the original ATK. After this is done, any new ATK modifiers apply to the new ATK value. For example, if you summon a Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear by itself and it gets halved by Black Garden, it will be at 800 ATK. Activate Fire Formation - Tenki, and it'll gain 100 ATK, up to 900 ATK. Use Bear's effect, sending the Tenki, and Bear returns to 800 ATK. It's pretty intuitive. The weird part's when you have the Tenki on the field before Bear is Summoned…

When a monster has a modifier applied to it before Black Garden halves it, any of those modifiers are halved with it. They're then essentially "locked" in place – anything that may alter that specific modifier in the future has no effect. Let's look at our Bear example again.

Let's say before you Summon the Bear, you already have a Tenki on the field. Bear hits the field with the boost, starting at 1700 ATK. Black Garden triggers, and when it resolves, Bear's ATK is halved to 850. That extra 50 is "locked in" from the halved Tenki boost, so Bear can activate its effect, send that Tenki to the graveyard, and still stay at the 850 ATK it was when it was halved. Any new Tenki played would boost it to 950 ATK, and then reduce it back to 850 ATK if it leaves – only the changes that get halved become permanent.

Getting Gritty In The Garden
Now that you know the basics of how Black Garden works, it's time you see what it can do for you! The first thing to note is the strength of our monsters compared to the tokens Black Garden creates. The tokens are 800 ATK, while the vast majority of our monsters are 1600 ATK. That means they tie with the tokens under normal circumstances. However, most of them also get an ATK boost from the Fire Formations. As mentioned earlier, you can abuse this to make your Fire Fist monsters permanently 50 points higher than the Rose Tokens. You can punch through tokens to score some free card advantage, and then use your effects to clear any other threats that may be present.

The next thing you should note is how Jurrac Guaiba is conveniently 1700 ATK, and doesn't care where the monsters it kills in battle end up. Again, you wind up with 850 ATK against the 800 ATK tokens, easily killing them and becoming an instant Evolzar! While Black Garden's active, you'll usually Summon your Evolzars in defense position. The defense of monsters isn't halved, so you will have an incredibly hard to kill wall that can negate whatever you may need to stop, while your Fire Fist engine plays clean-up.

My favorite card to go alongside Black Garden has to be Wind-Up Rabbit. This little bunny loves to play in the Garden, as it's capable of hopping in and out of trouble in the blink of an eye. With the ability to dodge nearly any threat, Wind-Up Rabbit's already difficult to kill, but the best part of its effect in here isn't leaving – it's coming back! Wind-Up Rabbit never Summons itself back to the field, it simply "returns." Not being summoned means that Black Garden won't trigger, leaving Wind-Up Rabbit at its full 1400 ATK. Considering everything's at only half of their potential, it means Rabbit's effectively 2800 ATK in terms of what it can take down one-on-one. It also happens to be a Beast-Warrior, giving you a searchable pest to annoy your opponent with while they try to play around all of their monsters being crippled.

Since everything's halved, battle tricks are twice as strong in the long run. Forbidden Chalice provides effect negation while also boosting tokens to run over anything that's naturally 2400 ATK or less. Forbidden Lance's 800 point drop is gargantuan, letting tokens take down things that are inherently 3200 ATK, while still letting you dodge trap cards or even the Garden itself. Lance also lets your Fire Fists and Dinosaurs win nearly any battle, triggering their effects and putting you in a slowly dominating position.

The biggest thing with Black Garden's that you can always choose to activate it after you Summon a monster. Fire Fists are annoying at 1600-1700 ATK, but when they're effectively twice that? That Bear's gonna see a LOT of action. Don't even get me started on the effective 3800 ATK Thunder King Rai-Oh. It wins enough games on its own, without being a towering behemoth. And if you can stick a strong Xyz before using Garden, that's often enough to win by itself.

"Activate Garden, Target Wolfbark." "… Wait, What?!"
Did you know that Black Garden has a second effect? If you didn't, don't feel too bad. Most people are completely oblivious to it. It's pretty powerful though, and can set up huge plays. You can target any monster in your graveyard whose ATK's equal to the total ATK of all Plants on the field. Destroy all of the Plants and Black Garden itself, and you can Special Summon that target back from the grave! Because the tokens are 800 ATK, you can easily revive anything that is a multiple of that. That gives you another bonus for running monsters of the magic number of 1600 ATK! Your entire Fire Fist engine is 1600 ATK, as is the Evolzar generator Hydrogeddon, giving you a good variety of targets to grab back. If the opponent has a shrunken monster on the field already, grabbing a Bear or Hydrogeddon generates free card advantage there, while Wolfbark' rel=" Soldier Wolfbark">Coach Soldier Wolfbark lets you trade Garden for any non-Evolzar Rank 4. You can even resurrect an Evolzar Laggia by trading in three tokens if you just need a beater.

The trick to using this ability efficiently is to manipulate what Summons are possible and strategically killing things in battle to allow a play. Sometimes you can force an opposing Xyz Summon to leave you with three tokens. If your opponent runs one of them down, you have the two necessary to revive a monster and make a play. Alternatively, you can Summon a pair of monsters yourself, giving two tokens to your opponent and letting you revive with Garden. Wolfbark and the Dinos can really help with that. Summon Wolfbark and then revive a Fire Fist, and your opponent gets two tokens right there. Blow them up with Garden to revive a Bear, and you can grab a free Fire Formation and still make an Xyz with the Wolfbark.


My favorite play has to be using a Dinosaur with Wolfbark in the grave. Let's say your opponent has an empty field. You can summon Jurrac Guaiba, kill the token it makes, and summon another, giving your opponent another token. Summon a Laggia or Dolkka in defense position, and your opponent gets a second token. You can then use Garden to nuke the two tokens and itself to grab back Wolfbark, which then revives a Fire Fist and makes another Rank 4. Even if it's the go-to Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Tiger King, you just netted an Evolzar, a Tiger King, a Tenki with Tiger King, and any Beast-Warrior from your deck with Tenki, all for a simple two-card combo. If you started with Wolfbark and revived Hydrogeddon, or if your opponent had another monster to run over with your dino instead of a token, you can even get out your Evolzar at full strength, nuking the tokens before you make your Xyz play.

I've played a good number of Black Garden decks in the past, but this one gets so much mileage out of that second effect, and that's what puts it a step above my older builds. However, there's one last thing I love about Garden in this deck.

You Don't Even Need It
Sure, Black Garden can make your set-ups really tough to break, expand the effectiveness of already powerful cards, and make your opponent want to rip their hair out, but in all honesty, you can play just fine without it. Just look at the deck! Every card in it's already powerful in its own right, and there are plenty of little synergies without Garden in the picture at all. Fire Fists have already evolved into what's essentially just "GoodCards.dek." This deck takes that same approach.

And that's the beauty of it. There's always a big risk involved in playing decks that need specific continuous cards to run properly. If you don't see those cards, the deck can fall apart. There's a reason we didn't see much of things like the Macro Cosmos deck in top tables – your recurring monsters like D.D. Survivor were useless if you didn't see one of your banishing continuous cards, and have it stick on the field.

Meanwhile, Macro Rabbit, which was just a standard Dino Rabbit deck with Main Decked Macro Cosmos, was a star competitor! Macro Cosmos was a very powerful card, and synergized with the deck (or at the very least didn't hurt it at all), but at no point did the Macro Rabbit deck have to draw Macro Cosmos for the deck to function properly. It still did what it wanted to do without Macro, just with an added bonus when it saw it. This deck's largely the same way. Black Garden's a great card to see, but if not, we still have Fire Fists and Evolzars!

Every Rose Has Its Thorns…
I'm writing about this deck because of how it takes an established powerful strategy and takes it in a new direction. I know for a fact it can have some competitive success if the effort is put into it, but there are some bigger risks I want to address for the current general metagame.

Now, if you note earlier, one of the biggest perks of playing Fire Fists is how the Fire Formations interact with Black Garden to allow you to run over tokens. That can become an issue in the Fire Fist matchup if you aren't prepared for it. Just as you can manipulate the tokens to your advantage, so can your opponent, so you have to be sure to keep things in check. Using your battle tricks carefully will be the key to victory, and using Garden as a Monster Reborn will often pay off more than using it to Shrink monsters. The sided Dimensional Prisons are great here, as they can be used when an aggressive play is baited through the allure of Black Garden.


The other big problem matchup is Bujins. Bujingi Crane's a real challenge, as it ignores Black Garden entirely, and then resets the monster to its original stats. That means Bujin Yamato becomes gargantuan, and Bujintei Susanowo can even threaten OTKs! There are plenty of Side Deck cards for the matchup to help make Garden more powerful by shutting off Crane, but you can still easily side out any number of your Gardens in this matchup. Again, Black Garden isn't a vital part of the deck. You can get away with not drawing it! Another cool bonus in this matchup is the ability to use your sided DNA Surgery to make everything Dinosaurs. Turning a Wolfbark into Laggia or Dolkka never gets old.

…But It's Worth It For The Sweet, Sweet Scent
While there are some tough matchups that can turn Black Garden against you, there are also a ton of matchups that are completely crippled by it. Mermails are an aggressive combo deck that really can't handle every monster it summons being halved. On top of that, since every monster the deck Summons is met by an 800 ATK buffer, the damage pushed through is even less! That lets you come back with systematic elimination of your opponent's resources pretty easily, and if you can Summon an Evolzar Dolkka with Black Garden protection, it gets to a point where your opponent can't come back.

Similarly, Hieratic Dragon Rulers struggle immensely to OTK through Black Garden. They'll often go out of their way with Hieratic Dragon of Su to blow up a Garden part-way through their combo, extending further and making it easier to come back. Garden forces attention away from your actual backrow, so you can take down the push with the likes of a Mirror Force or well-timed Summon stop. In addition, Forbidden Chalice gives a way of stopping OTK combos through Trap Stun, negating Hieratic Dragon of Atum when they least expect it. Your biggest fear in this matchup is your opponent filling up all of your monster card zones with tokens, but when played properly, that rarely becomes an issue.

All in all, Black Garden's proving to be a very powerful supplement to an already-powerful deck. It's not an easy card to master, but its power level is high and its utility is incredible with such a large pool of revival targets. This deck isn't as well tested as some of my other decks, so there's definitely room for improvement, but if you're a Fire Fist player who's feeling adventurous, take this for a spin! Find your place within the Garden, and it will guide you to victory!

-Bobby Kenny