Dragon Link took the game by storm last month, and players flocked to the strategy at both YCS events in February. I wrote about it two weeks ago, but since then even more players have scored big wins with Dragon Link variants. It's quickly become one of the best Link-spam decks in the format, and a worthy competitor to other favorites like SPYRAL, Altergeists and Salamangreats.
This week we're trying something new: instead of spotlighting a single build of Dragon Link we're going to talk about how to actually build and play the deck, discussing individual cards, combos and match-ups. Maybe you've seen deck lists floating around online or Dragon Link's popped up in your tournaments, but you don't know enough about the deck to try it yourself? You're in luck! Today we'll cover the fundamentals and a bit of Theory-Oh to build your understanding. By the time we're finished you'll be able to grab a deck list and start playing.
Sound good? Then let's get into it.
What Does Dragon Link Look Like?
The first 2020 build of Dragon Links showed up in our deck archive in early February, topping a Regional in Quito, Ecuador. Since then we've added seven more lists, including Shunping Xu's 1st Place build from the UDS Invitational in Oklahoma, which I wrote about here. Xu would go on to score a Top 8 finish at YCS Las Vegas with this updated build below:
While most players followed Xu's example, Matteo Bertulezzi finished 2nd at YCS Utrecht with a Level 3-focused build that prioritized Cherubini, Ebon Angel of the Burning Abyss. His unique approach had largely the same win condition, but different combos and a significantly larger Main Deck.
The core elements of Dragon Link can be squeezed into just about any Dragon-heavy theme, or even decks with very few Dragons at all. Christos Georgiou's build that won the main event at a recent Regional in Cyprus then went on to win a post-event Top 4 playoff as well, and it's a really cool example of that technique adopting Dragon Link as an engine: Georgiou used Dragonmaids to fuel Guardragon combos that are actually pretty similar to the mainstream Dragon Link decks.
Regardless of what variant of Dragon Link you're playing, a lot of the cards are going to function in the same ways. Even if you're playing a more off-the-wall variant like the Dragonmaid deck you'll need to know how the core cards for the engine function, how they relate to one another and which cards are comparable or redundant. To get you there, let's break down the card pool and talk about where everything fits in some common terms.
Nearly all Dragon Link combos start with getting Striker Dragon on the field. Guardragon combos need a supply of low-Level Dragons to make their initial Link Summons and set up Guardragon Elpy or Guardragon Pisty's effects. The Rokket engine, and particularly Boot Sector Launch, effortlessly floods the field with Dragons without a massive initial investment.
What you're looking for is a Rokket monster and a monster that can be Special Summoned. Either combination works, so if your Rokket monster is your Special Summon you're equally ready to go. Quick Launch is one of the best openers in the strategy thanks to its ability to Summon Rokket Tracer straight from the deck.
Rokket Tracer's a fantastic combo piece for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it's a Tuner. It's your most important Rokket in the deck and the one monster you'll absolutely want to find at some point in the duel. Your other Rokkets aren't irrelevant, especially considering how easy it is to trigger their effects with Striker Dragon; Silverrokket Dragon and Magnarokket Dragon are among the most popular. But theoretically you could tailor your Rokket line-up to answer your likely match-ups.
Starliege Seyfert's another key Summon in this deck thanks to its ability to search Rokkets and the smaller chaos dragons: White Dragon Wyverburster and Black Dragon Collapserpent. You'll be Link Summoning and destroying your own monsters with Striker Dragon, so self-replacing monsters will keep your combos rolling without forcing you to dump every card in your hand. Meanwhile, alternative builds are banking their Normal Summons on on-theme Dragons like Dragonmaids, or Level 3s to reach Cherubini, Ebon Angel of the Burning Abyss.
The mid-combo cards in the Dragon Link deck give it an insane level of flexibility, and that comes in handy since the effect that searches Rokket monsters is more complicated than activating a Field Spell.
Absorouter Dragon doubles as a search effect and an extender for Summoning Links, and it's the reason why Dragon Ravine's so important. There are other cards you'll find yourself dumping with Ravine too, like Destrudo the Lost Dragon's Frisson and Galactic Spiral Dragon. Dragon Shrine also stands in as an alternative to Dragon Ravine, and it can sometimes free up Dragunity Knight - Romulus to search Dragunity Divine Lance instead. Lance's effect equips a Dragunity Phalanx from your deck to Romulus, and you can immediately Summon Phalanx to use it as a Link Material.
World Legacy Guardragon is, of course, a must-play in Dragon Link as an extender and a Guardragon-fixer. Its Special Summon can trigger Omni Dragon Brotaur's ability, or return Rokket Tracer back to the field and act as a potential target for Tracer's effect.
End Combo Monsters
Borreload Savage Dragon's incredibly easy to Summon in Dragon Links thanks to the frequency with which you'll be seeing Rokket Tracer. It's hardly the only end monster you'll be using: Unchained Abomination and Borrelsword Dragon are powerful defensive and aggressive options to keep your board safe once you've finished your Guardragon combos.
Both Abomination and Borrelsword can trigger your Main Deck Rokket monsters like Silverrokket Dragon, but more importantly they put a huge amount of pressure on your opponent. Abomination destroys more cards the longer it stays on the field, and it pairs perfectly with the typical siding strategy in Dragon Link that uses Anti-Spell Fragrance to stall spell-heavy strategies.
3-Axis builds can end on a much scarier combination of Borreload Savage Dragon, Apollousa, Bow of the Goddess, and Number 38: Hope Harbinger Dragon Titanic Galaxy. Either way, virtually all of your combos make space for Chaos Dragon Levianeer, which leaves your opponent with one less card to work with or two fewer cards on their field. Draco Masters of the Tenyi is another interesting offensive option that saw play in 3-Axis Dragon Link, adding even more removal options to the Dragon Link arsenal.
We're about to get technical, so remember, if you need to see card text just hover over any card name to view a spoiler (or click through if you're on mobile). Your typical Dragon Link combo unfolds like this:
1. Activate Quick Launch, Special Summon Rokket Tracer from the deck
2. Link Summon Striker Dragon using Rokket Tracer, activate Striker's effect to search Boot Sector Launch from the deck to the hand
3. Normal or Special Summon another monster, especially one that can replace itself immediately
4. Activate Striker Dragon, destroying your new monster to get Rokket Tracer from the graveyard to your hand
5. Link Summon Dragunity Knight - Romulus using Striker Dragon and another Dragon or Winged Beast monster. Activate its effect to search Dragon Ravine, or Dragunity Divine Lance if you already have Ravine in hand.
6. Activate Dragon Ravine and use its second effect to send Absorouter Dragon from the deck to the graveyard. Activate Absorouter to search another Rokket monster
7. Activate Boot Sector Launch and Special Summon two Rokkets from your hand
With a Link 2 in your Extra Monster Zone and low-Level Dragons on your field you're perfectly positioned to Link Summon Guardragon Elpy and Guardragon Pisty. After that you'll Summon Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon from your deck, then begin working towards Borreload Savage Dragon and some combination of Unchained Abomination or Borrelsword Dragon.
There are many variants of this combo using any number of alternative cards to both start the plays, and to extend them based on what you have available. Starliege Seyfert's an excellent target for Rokket Tracer, Omni Dragon Brotaur can search Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon instead, and Absorouter Dragon's a potential extender at nearly any point in the combo.
Like most combo decks, the Dragon Link strategy lives and dies by the opponent's ability to interrupt its plays. An uninterrupted Dragon Link combo can end with a board of multiple negation bodies and an interruption effect or two. You'll often end your turn holding one or more hand traps since Dragon Link combos require very little initial investment. For example, the 3-Axis build reliably ends its first turn with three cards in hand, and any number of them could be hand traps to help protect the final board.
So what exactly is Dragon Link afraid of? Effect negation isn't a huge concern unless it's especially well timed - if your Striker Dragon's negated you might be stuck with a bunch of Rokkets in your hand. Most players are fairly cautious about negating your combo starters or extenders because they're easily replaceable. On the other hand your once-per-turn Extra Deck monsters aren't as safe. That said, you can always hold cards like Called by the Grave or Red Reboot for those specific instances, and there are plenty of ways to play out of a bad situation when a Dragon Link monster's effect is negated.
Monster removal's harder to play out of. Losing a Link, especially if its effect was negated, means you've lost important pieces of your Guardragon set-up. If your Dragunity Knight - Romulus is nuked by Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit you're forced to reinvest cards into a Link 2, ultimately wasting precious resources that were probably better spent on extending into a third or fourth Extra Deck monster. Nibiru the Primal Being is totally devastating, and as far as I can tell there are no combos that can field effect negation before the 5th Special Summon.
Going second against decks with interruption is a mixed bag. You have enough extenders to push through most effect negation, but if you're facing Quick Effects that can take your Links off the board you'll have a tougher time actually completing your combos. Luckily, many popular hand traps are significantly less useful against Dragon Links than other decks this format. Droll & Lock Bird's typically irrelevant in the match-up, and D.D. Crow can be played around even if Rokket Tracer's banished.
Dragon Link represents the current iteration of a strategy we've seen for a decade now: take all the best Special Summoning power in the format and mix a variety of themes into a single cohesive strategy. In this case it's astonishingly consistent thanks to the Rokkets' synergies with Dragon Ravine, Romulus, and the Guardragons. Luckily Rokket Tracer just so happens to allow Guardragon Elpy and Pisty to be Summoned even after activating its effect. The 3-Axis builds have even more flexibility because their combos won't use Rokket Tracer until much later in the turn.
Even if you're not playing Dragon Link itself, I think the Rokket engine will probably end up finding its way into other strategies. Dragonmaid's just one example of the Rokket hybrids that could exist, and I'm sure players are already finding others. A lot of strategies can get pretty dry by the time they've been around the Top Cut block a few times, but the flexibility of the Rokket engine means the door's wide open for exciting new stuff in the future!
Until next time then