I remember the March 2010 Forbidden and Limited list pretty clearly. The dominating forces of Lightsworns and Destiny Hero Zombies took heavy hits, and Blackwings took their second of many blows when they lost a Black Whirlwind. Dandylion was Semi-Limited, leading to abundant shenanigans with Quickdraw Synchron and Debris Dragon, and a variety of Continuous Traps were knocked down to two per deck. However, there was one change that stood out more than anything for me: Treeborn Frog was no longer Limited, for the first time in four years.

Frogs are my favorite animal, so the fact that there was a whole deck based around them was enough to get me to pick them up in the first place. At the time it was mostly a beatdown strategy that used Wetlands to power up the little guys to 2000 ATK or more, and it had incredible toolboxing thanks to Substitoad, but as a whole the strategy didn't have much going for it. Treeborn Frog was the only Frog to see any sort of play outside of a dedicated Frog deck, thanks to its revival effect allowing for near unlimited Tribute fodder. Monarchs were a serious threat for several years – most competitive decks played at least a couple of them at the time. Easy removal strapped to a large body was hard to come by, making the Monarchs a prime pick for any strategy; that kept the best Tribute fodder in the game, Treeborn Frog, stuck on the Limited list.

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When Synchro Summoning became all the rage Monarchs weren't nearly as relevant anymore, so Treeborn Frog was finally released from its shackles. On top of that, the latest addition to the Frog family – Swap Frog – was released just a few months prior in Stardust Overdrive, giving players an easy way to drop Treeborn to the graveyard. Substitoad let you immediately Summon Swap Frog, and Dupe Frog could stall and then search it out. Suddenly over one fourth of your deck was centered on getting Treeborn Frog to the graveyard, giving life to a whole new Monarch strategy.

Ronintoadin joined the Frog's arsenal a few months later, giving even more easy Tribute fodder, and setting up ridiculous combos with the already-overpowered Substitoad. Frog Monarchs were at an all-time high, and Frog FTK was devastatingly consistent; it OTK'd to win games instantly, while still backing up its plays with Synchro combos thanks to Fishborg Blaster. Ultimately Substitoad was Forbidden, but the core of the Frog theme was left intact.

Fast forward to the release of Generation Force. Frog Monarchs saw a resurgence thanks to Formula Synchron and Fishborg Blaster, giving you an effective way to filter out unwanted draws and replace them with fresh cards; that boosted the consistency the theme had lost without Subsititoad's mass deck thinning. The Dawn of the Xyz Starter Deck also gave Frogs the first of a series of new toys – the Rank 2 Xyz Gachi Gachi Gantetsu. A powerful defensive wall that buffed the Monarchs into 2800 ATK brutes, Gachi Gachi made Ronintoadin much more valuable. But the real gem for the Frogs' future went unnoticed for several months, only surfacing after Fishborg Blaster fell victim to the F&L List. Generation Force released the mismatched "Generation Fish" support card, Sea Lancer.

DECKID=99648Sea Lancer's an incredible mix of offense, defense, and general card advantage in one lovely little package. While starts with just a measly 1300 ATK at Level 5, Lancer can boost itself to a respectable 2300 ATK and protect itself from destruction multiple times, as long as you have the banished Fish, Sea Serpent, or Aqua monsters to equip it. While the Generation Fish deck – which was focused around banishing monsters that Sea Lancer can target – ironically struggles to get enough banished monsters and Tribute fodder for Lancer to be effective, Frogs can use Lancer to not only present a troublesome obstacle, but extend the longevity of the entire Frog engine!

The Original Dragon Rulers
That's what I like to call Frogs. The strategy as a whole revolves around dumping large numbers of Frogs to the graveyard, and then reviving the Ronintoadins for free in order to make Xyz plays. The little toads might not have enough attack points to be a threat on their own, but the monsters they let you summon– both Xyz and Tribute Summons – can be. Much like the Dragon Ruler deck, your concept of card advantage is completely different from the norm. As long as you have enough Frogs to use your Ronintoadins, you're never out of the game completely.

Without a doubt, Swap Frog's the best card in the deck. Each time you summon Swap Frog, you get to immediately send another one of your Frogs or Toads from your deck to the graveyard. Swap Frog then gets to return a monster from your field to the hand once per turn, allowing you an additional Normal Summon any Frog monster except Swap Frog. You rarely use the extra Summon, but what's important is the ability to reuse your on-field monster, especially the Swap Frog itself. Repeatedly dumping Frogs out of your deck, turn after turn, makes the little amphibian look more like a Dragon Ravine! Like I said, they're the original Dragon Rulers.

Unlike the old Dragon Ruler deck however, Frogs don't have a way to continually resupply themselves when banished. That's where Sea Lancer comes in. Lancer's effect can equip any number of your banished Frogs to it, and those Frogs will inevitably return to the graveyard, barring something like Macro Cosmos. That refuels your engine. Poison Draw Frog and Dupe Frog are the two cards you'll want to banish most when Summoning Ronintoadins: they give you free cards when they're sent to the graveyard from the field, but they don't care if they're in the monster card zone. Because of that, once they're equipped to Sea Lancer, any time your Lancer shields itself from death with one of these Frogs, their effects trigger, either drawing a card or letting you add another Frog to your hand – usually a Swap Frog, for more deck-thinning and monster-bouncing shenanigans.

Just like Dragon Rulers, once the Frog engine gets going, it becomes incredibly hard to get ahead of it. With Ronintoadin making free Xyz plays and giving practically endless Tribute fodder, and the equips on Sea Lancer giving more cards when your setups are finally taken down, every time your opponent starts to get ahead of you, you can simply set everything up again!

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Of course, as similar as the Frog engine is to the Dragon Rulers, they don't have the same backbreaking power by themselves, and most Rank 7's outshine Rank 2's on their own. Luckily, you can easily play a couple Dragon Rulers in this deck, too! Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls is an obvious addition, thanks to the massive number of Water monsters that you play, and the ability to restock them with Sea Lancer.

However Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders can squeeze into the deck easily as well, thanks to the effectiveness of Maxx "C" and Cardcar D as accelerators to Swap Frog, and the use of the powerful Light and Darkness Dragon. Running these two Dragon Rulers with Gorz the Emissary of Darkness and a handful of ways to steal monsters means that you can run Rank 7's of your own, and thus have even more ways to stay in the game.

The Toad Toolbox
With Ronintoadin the backbone of your plays, Rank 2 Xyz are the star of the deck. There's a relatively small selection of Rank 2's, but all of them are powerful enough to keep your set-ups strong. The most classic example is Gachi Gachi Gantetsu, which provides another troublesome wall to get over, and pumps Sea Lancer to 2700 ATK – large enough to crash with or run over nearly every relevant monster in competitive play right now. Number 96: Dark Mist was the second Rank 2 in the mix, running over nearly any monster in battle, and potentially more if your opponent couldn't find an answer to it. Daigusto Phoenix is an amazing offensive force, giving you 3000 damage by itself, or more when combined with Gachi Gachi or a stronger Wind monster like Gaia Dragon the Thunder Charger. I've lost count of how many games I've won by making two Daigusto Phoenix and stealing a monster with Enemy Controller. Two Phoenixes add up 6000 damage, and they'll often be sitting next to a Swap Frog or Sea Lancer, so clearing you opponent's only line of defense and turning it against them will finish a lot of games.

The last Rank 2 you play is incredibly underrated, but it's probably the best card in the extra deck. Herald of Pure Light's the Xyz monster I summon the most, and the final piece of the series of endless plays this deck's capable of. Herald returns any monster from your grave to your hand, and then returns any card from your hand to your deck. Let that sink in a little. Any monster. Any.

Did your only Sea Lancer get hit by a Solemn Warning or Fiendish Chain? Get it back and Summon it again. Did your first Light and Darkness Dragon leave your opponent low on playable cards? Well I wish them luck in getting over it again. Do you have a strong set-up, but need an insurance policy? That Effect Veiler or Maxx "C" you used earlier could come in handy! Formula Monarchs was popular for its ability to filter unwanted cards for fresh ones, discarding for Fishborg Blaster and drawing a new card with Formula Synchron. Herald of Pure Light's largely the same thing, but you get to choose what card you get. I know I wished I could guarantee that Monarch draw when I needed it in Formula Monarchs…

The biggest complaint I've seen towards Herald of Pure Light is its size. At only 600 ATK and 1000 DEF, it probably won't stick around, which discourages people from Summoning it. While it was great if you were planning to tribute it off for a Lancer or LADD anyway, sometimes you had to sit on Herald by itself, just to see it get demolished by even the scrawniest attacker. Legacy of the Valiant gave us an amazing tool to solve that problem: Downerd Magician! Downerd can upgrade any of your Ranks 2's into a 2500 attacker with piercing, after netting some card advantage or dealing some damage through their effects. 2500 ATK's a lot harder to kill than 1000 DEF, or even the 1500 ATK of Daigusto Phoenix, and it lets you turn any Rank 2 into a 2700 ATK beatstick for the next turn if you opt out of using effects altogether. Downerd's a star player for the long game, keeping field presence and giving a strong offensive option against larger monsters when you're stuck without Tribute Summons or Dragon Rulers for backup.

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You may notice that I'm only playing two Downerd Magician, when you can Summon her a LOT. You may also find yourself wanting to use Herald to summon a Downerd to avoid using up another Rank 2 Xyz you may need later, and run fewer copies of. Well, in both cases, Herald of Pure Light shines. If you look at its Problem-Solving Card Text, you'll notice the key word "then" in Herald's effect. When it appears in PSCT, any effect worded "Do A, then do B" will only do part B if part A happens successfully. In Herald's case, it states "add it to your hand, then shuffle 1 card from your hand into the deck." That means if the monster doesn't make it to your hand, you don't shuffle a card from your hand back to the deck.

Extra Deck monsters can't exist in the hand, so if you target a Synchro or Xyz, you simply return it to your Extra Deck and do nothing else. That lets you Summon even more copies of things like Downerd Magician or Gachi Gachi Gantetsu; Summon a Downerd without using up extra deck resources by returning another Herald; or even reuse powerful Rank 7's like Number 11: Big Eye or Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack for your Dragon Rulers, all at no cost to your card presence!

Slipping Through The Competition
I'm always going to suggest a deck that has competitive worth in my Going Rogue segment, but I think I can confidently say that Lancer Frogs is one of, if not the best rogue pick to be playing at the moment. Lancer Frogs happen to have an amazing matchup against the two decks that are seeing the most widespread play at the moment – Fire Fists and Mermails – and it's still strong against nearly every other popular deck that's not Madolches. (We don't like our Frogs being kicked back to the deck.)

The amazing Fire Fist matchup's the number one reason to play this deck right now. The most popular build of Fire Fists is a 4-axis version that focuses around extremely conservative play and generating free card advantage over time with things like Cardcar D and Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear, while solving other problems with 1-for-1 Rank 4 Xyz through Wolfbark' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Coach Soldier Wolfbark">Coach Soldier Wolfbark. The deck's been dubbed "+1 Fire Fists" thanks to the ability to grind a +1 in card advantage over and over and over again, and the easiest way to bring down the deck is to strip that ability away.

Light and Darkness Dragon's one of the most troublesome monsters for control and grind-game strategies to deal with. Negating the first spell, trap, or monster effect on each chain is a serious deal. Most decks have to drain LADD of 1000-1500 ATK before they can take it down in battle, so they have to waste two or three cards just to kill it. LADD can still be destroyed by effects when several are used in the same chain, but that still means your opponent probably had to use multiple cards to do so. In the Fire Fist matchup, cards like Fire Formation – Tenki get stopped cold, reducing the small monster lineup of the deck to even smaller levels. Thunder King Rai-Oh's the only common monster in the deck that can run over Light and Darkness Dragon after it negates two cards, often forcing your opponent to waste even more. To make matters worse, LADD gets to resurrect any monster from your graveyard when it's finally destroyed, setting up another obstacle for your opponent to deal with or at the very least giving you back a Frog (which'll thin your deck in turn). Using Herald of Pure Light to recycle a Light and Darkness Dragon multiple times can end games.

But that's just one card. Sea Lancer's another huge thorn in the Fire Fist player's side. The biggest fear you as a Sea Lancer player will have is seeing your Lancer negated without any defenses, resulting in a big push for game through the Lancer. Fire Fists happen to have one of the best cards for negating monster effects: Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Tiger King. It's powerful not just for searching a Fire Formation, but for negating the abilities of everything but Beast-Warriors. It easily tears down tons of defensive cards like Gachi Gachi Gantetsu, Number 49: Fortune Tune, and even Number 101: Silent Honor ARK. However, Sea Lancer stands out in a way the others don't: it's actually a Beast-Warrior. Without the ability to negate Sea Lancer's effect with Tiger King, Fire Fists are forced to use the harder-to-summon Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Cardinal or clear their own field with Evilswarm Exciton Knight, unable to easily deal with Sea Lancer through Wolfbark (especially with Maestroke the Symphony Djinn on the decline).

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The Mermail deck's weak to many of the same core cards. Light and Darkness Dragon forces out effects that need discards to trigger, eating up cards very quickly. Even when discarding Atlanteans or Mermail Abyssgunde, LADD will generally negate their effects as well. Atlantean Heavy Infantry's an answer when used in a cleverly developed chain of multiple Atlantean monsters discarded from a Mermail Abyssmegalo, but that's still two cards to beat LADD before it sets up another monster. With Infantry's usage slipping, LADD shines brighter than ever!

Sea Lancer's easier to deal with thanks to Mermail Abyssgaios, but without going into 'Gaios or Big Eye, Lancer forces the deck to overextend. That's the perfect opportunity to take advantage of your hand traps. Maxx "C" can drive a lot of Mermail players into making plays they really don't want to, and you can save Effect Veiler for the key monster that would bring everything together otherwise. While hitting a powerful Xyz with Veiler really hurts, the most important card to stop is Mermail Abysspike.

Your oppponent's range of options spike immensely the instant they hit Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls, and they get to it reliably through Genex Undine. You can't stop Undine from dumping Tidal to the graveyard, but you can stop Abysspike from searching the Undine. Your hand traps are the key to keeping control, and Herald of Pure Light can make sure you always have another one to use. If you can't get set up with a devastating LADD play early on, your Heralds will usually be recycling Maxx "C" or Effect Veiler. I've had some games against Mermails where I used Maxx "C" four or five times. Battle Fader makes it even scarier to push through Maxx "C," since any OTK attempt could end in total failure. Keep your opponent's plays tame and winning's inevitable.

Fire Fists and Mermails may be the two most popular decks right now, but they're also perfect examples of the playstyles you need to be ready for. Fire Fists are a strong conservative control strategy, while Mermails are a more flexible and aggressive combo deck. By identifying which style your opponents' strategies fall into, you can make relatively strong decisions even if you're not sure how exactly a certain deck plays.

Reckless Driving
One of the things that might stand out on this list is the use of both Reckless Greed and Cardcar D. These are some interesting picks that I got from Gabriel Iriarte's Regional Top 8 deck list, and I have to say I'm impressed. Cardcar D's an amazing fit for any deck that wants to see a specific set-up card (Swap Frog) ASAP, and has some additional synergies that don't stand out at first. Cardcar's issue has always been drawing it when Special Summons would be inevitable for the next few turns, but this Frog deck has multiple ways of using it without counting its effect.

Cardcar D's often great to return to the deck with Herald of Pure Light, as it will be a much stronger draw later in the game when it can dig for more answers with Battle Fader as backup. It's also an Earth monster to banish or discard for the effects of Redox, and a big reason why Redox can fit here. The biggest thing that people tend to overlook about Cardcar D is that it's Level 2. Summoning a Cardcar at the start of your Main Phase can often bait out a Veiler, just for you to revive Ronintoadin and make a Rank 2 out of it. When you weren't planning on using the effect, that's a free +1 that had no negative impact and makes plays down the line easier. Even if you did want to use the effect, you end up with something loads better than 800 ATK sitting dead.

Reckless Greed can be a tough card to use here, but it can really pay off. Drawing multiple copies in anything is a huge advantage, but a lone Reckless can make or break a hand. You have to make a careful judgment call any time you activate a single Reckless in the early game. If it gets you to that vital Swap Frog to start your deck rolling, it could win you the game right there; but at the same time, missing out on the set-up and skipping two Draw Phases can lose you the game just as easily. Without any Frogs, your early game can come down to getting to as many cards as possible while staying alive, so saving Reckless Greed for a couple turns can make all the difference. Once you are set up, using Reckless by itself is a lot safer. With your Frog Xyz plays and graveyard toolbox through Herald, you don't have to worry as much about the lost Draw Phases, and the Frogs attached to a Sea Lancer can often supplement those as well.

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With these six draw cards in the mix, I keep getting asked why I'm not playing Upstart Goblin. The first reason is space. You need to have enough Frogs that your engine can run smoothly without Sea Lancer for a while, and also have enough Tribute Monsters to make bigger plays consistently… and also have plenty of defensive cards, which generally consist of hand traps. This deck plays 31 monsters, and all of them are important. I could potentially cut a few for the Upstarts , but there's also that Life Point issue. If you recall from earlier, one of the common methods of winning is a quick OTK with two Daigusto Phoenix and a Sea Lancer or a monster you steal with Enemy Controller. That's 8300 damage with Lancer, and most likely less than 9000 damage with anything you may have taken. That means even a single Upstart activation can cost you a chance to OTK later on.

I know a lot of people love to think "advantage over damage" when using Upstart Goblin. Boost consistency a bit, and you can do what you want to do and get overwhelming card advantage more often. It's sound logic, but in this case it's less "advantage over damage" and more "advantage over winning the game." If you feel Reckless Greed's a little too risky for you, but still want to get to Swap Frog more often, go ahead and try Upstart Goblin. Just know the different set of risks that Upstart Goblin carries in comparison.

Don't Croak!
Lancer Frogs is one of the best, most flexible defensive decks in the game, and it's an excellent choice for almost any event right now. New releases have made the strategy stronger than ever before, and the competitive field is primed for the deck to succeed. It's got a lot of little intricacies that you need to master to reveal its true strength, but with a little practice you can hop between defense and offense at will, drown your opponents in card advantage, and wriggle your way out of almost any situation.

No one sees them coming, so pick them up and rain down a plague of Frogs.

-Bobby Kenny