There are some concepts from the olden days of Yu-Gi-Oh! that still remain true today, beyond the underlying core theories like card advantage. For one, big monsters can be hard to stop. Recurring big monsters can by very hard to stop. There are plenty of decks that can benefit from just dropping one giant threat after another, as demonstrated by the success of Dragon Rulers in the last two formats, and even Hieratic variants in this format.

Another thing: monsters that do stuff when they die are good. Any card that can make up for its disappearance with an effect is great! You can use the monster as you normally would, then just reap the benefits when your opponent finally takes it down. Whether it's Summoning a replacement monster like Mermail Abysslinde, or destroying a card like Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter, monsters that threaten to advance your position if your opponent deals with them conventionally can force a lot of awkward plays.

There's one last thing that always seems to remain constant: preventing your opponent from playing Yu-Gi-Oh! is one of the best ways to play Yu-Gi-Oh. I'm pretty sure if you ask anyone what their least favorite deck to play against is, there's a high chance it's something that focuses on locking out your plays or beating you in a non-interactive fashion. People like to have control over any situation they may be in, so anything that strips most, if not all of that control away can leave them flustered and frustrated. When that happens you don't think as clearly, and when you don't think as clearly, you start to make Mistakes.

Today's strategy takes all three of those factors and puts them together into a wonderful package of brute force, resilient threats, and annoying effects that are sure to make your opponents squirm!

DECKID=99799This deck is all about hitting hard while keeping your opponent off of their game plan. The rather top-heavy monster lineup is designed to pack the biggest hitters through Skill Drain, while summoning Machina Fortress again and again and again.

Drained And Confused
Skill Drain's one of the most powerful trap cards of all time, and now it's close to the best it's ever been. Skill Drain shuts off any monster effect that resolves while the monster's face-up on the field, disrupting the vast majority of monster abilities.

Most decks right now rely on powerful on-field effects to get by. Fire Fists need Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear and Wolfbark' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Coach Soldier Wolfbark">Coach Soldier Wolfbark. Mermails rely on the constant searching effects of Mermail Abysspike and Mermail Abyssteus, and Mermail duelists are playing dwindling numbers of Atlantean Heavy Infantry to destroy Skill Drain. Bujins almost dodge Drain due to their in-hand and in-grave effects, but they really need Bujin Yamato's ability to set them all up. Harpies have Harpies' Hunting Ground to clear away Skill Drain, but without a Cyber Harpie Lady or Harpie Lady 1, you won't have the true "Harpie Lady" name you'd need to trigger Hunting Ground's effect while Skill Drain's active,. The only truly competitive deck at the moment that can play through Skill Drain effectively is Hieratic Dragon Rulers, and even that strategy loses out on its OTK potential without the ability of Hieratic Dragon King of Atum. While Mystical Space Typhoon will always be a thing, any time Skill Drain sticks, your opponents will be struggling.

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With so many popular decks (and even more rogue picks) vulnerable to Skill Drain, it's obviously a good Main Deck pick for anything that can take advantage of it. Dark Worlds are most people's first thought. All the Dark World monster effects activate in the graveyard, and Grapha, Dragon Lord of Dark World can Summon itself repeatedly by bouncing other Dark World monsters, often Summoned through their own effects. The issue with Dark Worlds is the need to balance discard outlets and monsters to discard, which can result in the entire deck self-destructing at the worst times.

Despite those issues, the concept is sound. If you have a big recurring threat and the ability to clear opposing cards with graveyard-based effects, and Skill Drain will take a much larger Toll on your opponent than it will on you.

Deus Ex Machina
Machinas have been incredibly powerful ever since their release in the Machina Mayhem Structure Deck in 2010. Sometimes seated at the forefront of competition and sometimes a fringe pick, Machinas have been played competitively alongside just about every Machine archetype. Sometimes they're the primary focus, other times they're just a backup plan, but they're always played for the sheer power of their star monster, Machina Fortress.

Machina Fortress is a prime example of a boss monster that's in it for the long haul. While the bosses of some decks, like Lightsworn's Judgment Dragon, Madolche's Tiaramisu, and the nearly-splashable brute Dark Armed Dragon generally hit the field, wreak havoc, and prepare brutal OTK's, Fortress is a Little Different. Machina Fortress sits at a powerful 2500 ATK, stronger than most Rank 4's and all but the biggest Main Deck monsters, and it's incredibly easy to Summon. Discard 8 or more total Levels of Machines, and Fortress hits play from your hand or graveyard. That may sound like a hefty price, but there are tricks and loopholes. Since you can Summon Fortress from either your hand or graveyard, it can count itself as part of the discard cost! That means Summoning in-hand Fortress is only as tough as Summoning a Quickdraw Synchron, which is far more manageable.

So, we have a recurring beatstick that's fairly easy to Summon, but that on its own will only get you so far. Luckily Machina Fortress isn't called a "Fortress" for nothing; it has two powerful defensive abilities that make it a pain for your opponent to deal with. First, if Machina Fortress is destroyed in battle you get to destroy an opposing card. That's a great tool for simplification, and it can often force your opponent to stay passive, waiting for to find an answer and letting you push through more damage. Since the effect triggers in the graveyard, you even get to use it when Skill Drain's active! It's often difficult to run over Fortress when Skill Drain's up anyways, so using Fortress' effect to clear whatever destroyed it is huge.

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If Skill Drain isn't active and your opponent tries to answer Fortress with a monster effect, that may Backfire even more. Machina Fortress has a continuous effect that says if it's targeted by an opposing monster effect, before that effect resolves, you get to look at your opponent's hand and discard a card of your choice! Confiscation was so powerful that it was Forbidden, and Machina Fortress mimics that spell card if your opponent dares to target it. That ability can strip away the card advantage a Fire Fist player may have been building up with Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear; makes Number 101: Silent Honor ARK almost a liability; and can force your opponent to use traps if they want to clear Fortress without suffering reprisal. While it may not be very relevant in this deck, it's also good to know that even if the opposing effect would be negated by something like Effect Veiler or Fiendish Chain, you still get to apply Fortress' discard! In Machina builds without Skill Drain you can turn those powerful -1 effects into brutal disruptive 1-for-1's.

Fortress is incredibly powerful and it's the backbone of your plays, so getting to it quickly is your first priority. That's where the other member of the Machina family comes in: Machina Gearframe. When you normal summon Gearframe, you can search any other Machina monster from your deck. You'll usually search out Machina Fortress, compensating for the initial minus you take when Summoning it, but Gearframe can also search the Level 8 Machina Cannon, giving you a 1-card discard to revive Fortress from the grave.

On top of that, Gearframe can equip itself to any of your Machines as a Union, and while it doesn't grant any effects, it still protects that monster from destruction. That can make it even tougher to clear Machina Fortress, and lends even more power to your other Machines. Gearframe's one of the only monsters in this deck that really has problems under Skill Drain, but your first few turns will usually be focused on Summoning it to get to Fortress anyways, before the Skill Drain becomes a factor.

Draining Your Troubles Away
While your opponents may not like your Skill Drains, most of your monsters thrive under it! You're packing four giant monsters that can all be Summoned without tribute, but at a lower ATK value. Beast King Barbaros is a classic pick for Skill Drain decks, being a solid 1900 ATK beater on its own, but skyrocketing to 3000 ATK when Drain's active. Similarly, Fusilier Dragon, the Dual-Mode Beast's a modest 1400 ATK without tributes, but it goes to 2800 ATK once its effect no longer applies. While Barbaros is stronger by itself, Fusilier is both a Machine and a Level 7. You can easily Normal Summon Fusilier alongside a Machina Fortress to make any Rank 7 Xyz, or discard it with literally any other Machine to revive Fortress from the graveyard.

Malefic Cyber End Dragon's the last chunk of your offense. At 4000 ATK, it ends games in two attacks – it can even OTK with Limiter Removal. Unfortunately, Malefic Cyber End needs a Field Spell to stay alive under normal circumstances. You can circumvent that – and its attack restrictions – with Skill Drain, but we also have a single copy of The Seal of Orichalcos. This resilient Field Spell pushes your already-huge monsters over the top, at the cost of keeping you from Summoning from your Extra Deck. Thanks to Skill Drain and Machina Fortress your Extra Deck's usually a Last Resort, so you can almost always play Orichalcos with no regrets.

Still, Malefic Cyber End Dragon will be dead in your hand some portion of the time. This isn't a perfect world, so you won't always have a Skill Drain or Seal when Malefic Cyber End shows up. Luckily, Malefic Cyber End Dragon has another powerful use: it's a level 10 Machine! Since it's so easy to get to Machina Fortress in the early game, you can trade your Cyber Ends in to revive the Fortress in an instant. When you do have Skill Drain or Orichalcos, you get the flexibility of summoning a 4000 ATK brute or a 2500 ATK beater with bonus effects. One way or another, you'll be ending a lot of games with Malefic Cyber End.

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Thunder King Rai-Oh's a game-winner by itself since it locks search effects, but even under Skill Drain you can still send it to the graveyard to negate a Special Summon, making it incredibly valuable. Since your win condition is a mix of beatdown and attrition, Thunder King's a star player at nearly any point of the game.

Cardcar D's amazing here for a couple reasons. First, since it tributes itself to activate its effect, it dodges Skill Drain, letting you get further ahead in cards while your opponent struggles to clear Drain. In the early game Cardcar gets you closer to your Fortresses and best backrow cards, and in the late game it can help you win topdeck wars. However, even when you don't need its ability, Cardcar D shines by being a Machine. While only Level 2, that still gives you the last bit you need to pair with an in-hand Machina Fortress or Fusilier to Summon Fortress.

One last note on Skill Drain: just like my Black Garden Fire Fist deck last week, you don't want your deck to be too reliant on a Continuous card. While everything here thrives under Skill Drain, they all have their uses without it, too. Barbaros is still a good-sized beater, Fusilier makes Xyz plays, and Malefic Cyber End Dragon's still an instant Machina Fortress Summon.

Leave Them Powerless
Skill Drain will leave your opponents feeling powerless quite often, but it's not the only card here that does that. The rest of the trap lineup's designed to keep your opponent off balance so they can't recover once they start to fall behind. You've got the three Limited Summon-stop cards, Solemn Warning, Bottomless Trap Hole, and Torrential Tribute. Effects aren't the biggest concern for you, and you generally want to keep pressure on your opponents; stopping big monsters from seeing the field's the best way to achieve that.

As I mentioned earlier, your opponent's going to have to rely on traps to answer your monsters, especially with Dark Hole seeing less and less play. Two Seven Tools of the Bandit can stop any trap that may throw you off of your game. Unlike Forbidden Lance, which will often grant your opponent an extra turn due to the loss of damage, Seven Tools keeps you hitting at full power. Unlike Trap Stun, Seven Tools leaves Skill Drain active, allowing you to stop powerful traps like Geargiagear or Hysteric Party without leaving yourself open to monster effects. It's also Spell Speed 3, so your opponent can't chain to it. Lastly, Seven Tools protects you from opposing Trap Stuns and the dreaded Royal Decree, keeping your other traps online.

Call of the Haunted boosts your resiliency too. It shines here as not only another way to Summon Machina Fortress, but helping you realize the full potential of Barbaros and Fusilier when Skill Drain isn't around, too. Since you can flip it in the Battle Phase you can create unexpected damage on your turn or defend against attacks on your opponent's. But one of the biggest reasons to play it is its use as backup for the last trap in the deck: Proof of Powerlessness.

I'm really not sure why this card has never caught on in the past. Released back in Raging Battle¸ Proof of Powerlessness may very well join the ranks of other unnoticed cards from the set that later break out in competition, like Snowman Eater, Forbidden Chalice, and most recently, Trap Stun. You can only activate Proof of Powerlessness if you control a monster Level 7 or higher, but it destroys everything your opponent has Level 5 or lower! The only catch is that you can't attack that turn, but it's a trap, so you'll generally aim to play it on your opponent's turn anyway.

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The best part about Proof of Powerlessness is that you can activate it whenever you want. You can destroy monsters that were just Summoned, wait for your opponent to push for an Xyz play and cut it short, or just Raigeki a developed field of solid beaters. My favorite deck to use it against has to be Geargia, chaining it to an effect after they Summon Geargiaccelerators and cutting them off from their optional effects, but Proof's so flexible you can just use it whenever it hurts your opponent the most.

Needing a Level 7 or higher monster seems like a big stretch, but with Machina Fortress returning to the field on a regular basis, and a large number of other easily Summoned Level 7+ monsters, Proof's virtually never dead. Call Of The Haunted can revive a high Level monster if necessary too, immediately turning Proof of Powerlessness on. While Skill Drain's probably the headlining trap here, Proof of Powerlessness keeps your opponents from assembling a coherent gameplan through everything else.

Finish Him!
The last two cards I want to bring up are the real game-enders: Limiter Removal and Gearspring Spirit. Both keep the deck aggressive, helping you create game-winning damage and ending the duel outright. Limiter Removal needs no explanation – it doubles the ATK of all of your Machines, but destroys them at the end of the turn. Using it in the damage step of an attack will force your opponent to take huge damage, and it's rare that they'll survive. Against weaker opening fields, you can sometimes pull off Turn 1 or Turn 2 kills by attacking with a Malefic Cyber End Dragon or a Gearframe and Fortress pair, backed by Limiter Removal. To be honest the card's pretty dumb, and I'm surprised it didn't get caught by the F&L List when other similar game-winning cards like Gateway of the Six and Card Destruction were Forbidden.

Gearspring Spirit's a little more complex. A Level 8 monster with only 100 ATK and 100 DEF, you Summon Gearspring from your hand for free as long as every monster in your graveyard is a Machine (and you have to have at least one). From there it can Shrink an opposing monster to 0 ATK until the End Phase. While that might seem like a mediocre effect, when your attackers are anywhere 2500 to 4000 ATK it lets you can push game-ending damage through otherwise sturdy monsters. It's also good to note that Gearspring Spirit can simply run down whatever it Shrinks if you need to clear a monster and have no other way to do it, but generally you'll Summon it to win the game instead of solving problems. If you're stuck with a non-Machine in your graveyard, or have a Skill Drain up, it's still a Level 8 Machine. Much like the "dead" Malefic Cyber End Dragons you can just discard Gearspring to revive Machina Fortress.

While I'm not sure if we'll see Machinas in the Top 32 of the next YCS, Machinas are just as powerful as ever. They can play some of the most brutal traps in the game – including one that most people won't even recognize – and this brutally aggressive approach can force grind games against your opponent's will. Skill Drain Machina's an unexpected pick that most opponents just aren't for. It's a well oiled machine that can mow down almost anything in its way.

-Bobby Kenny