Each format, after the first Yu-Gi-Oh Championship Series has concluded, it becomes more important than ever to get a little creative and bust out some of your hidden techs. That's because once there are undeniably strong decks out there to imitate and test against, the shape of competition becomes a little more defined and a little more narrow. If you can break the mold and find something that works really well, then you're bound for success in your given format.

Right now we're staring down three huge threats: Shaddolls, Satellarknights and Burning Abyss. All of these strategies are different, which makes innovating really difficult. In a format with one major dominant deck, you can often build to beat that deck with a rogue strategy. When you've got three top decks in contention that's much tougher. Lucky for us, we've got some really incredible support cards in Duelist Alliance for older strategies along with some hidden gems for new ones. My obsession right now is the Ultimate Athlete theme, known as the U.A.'s. These Level 5 Warriors have some killer effects and an incredible field spell. But with only three cards to their name, can they compete?

I believe they can. Let's take a look.

Batter Up!
Leading off the theme we have U.A. Mighty Slugger, packing 2300 ATK and an ever-so-important effect that keeps your opponent cannot activating any card effects until the end of the damage step when Mighty Slugger attacks. That means no Shaddoll Flip Effects, no Burning Abyss searches from Cir, Graff or Dante, and no Dimensional Prisons, Forbidden Lances or other responsive backrow cards. It's also fun to note that even if your opponent has a Breakthrough Skill, they have to use it before you attack, so you can simply end your Battle Phase and take that quick +1 of card economy for wasting your opponent's Breakthrough.

Also on deck is U.A. Perfect Ace, a mini Herald of Perfection. For the cost of one card from your hand it lets you negate any card or effect your opponent try tries to activate, once during your opponents turn. The pitcher has 2500 DEF, which is sure to withstand a lot of things your opponent tries to do to it, especially when you can negate their first feeble attempt to destroy it. The best part about these two monsters is that they can return one another to your hand to Special Summon their counterparts. The two of them create a bit of a lock, which can be really incredible.

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On your turn you can Tribute Summon for Slugger and attack. It's pretty safe to assume that you'll destroy a monster and Slugger will be safe thanks to its effect. Once you've accomplished that, return the batter to your hand to Summon Perfect Ace in defense mode in Main Phase 2. Rinse and repeat until your opponent loses. Sometimes it really is that simple, but it actually gets even better.

Like any star batter and pitcher team, the Ultimate Athletes need an incredible Stadium for their fans to watch them work – U.A. Stadium doesn't disappoint. Anytime you Normal Summon a U.A. monster, you can add any U.A. monster from your deck to your hand, including another copy of the same card you Summoned. Once per turn, when you Special Summon a U.A. monster, all monsters you control gain 500 ATK. Both effects are huge and make the Ultimate Athletes a real threat moving forward.

If you accomplished the play sequence of attacking with Mighty Slugger and then shoring up with Perfect Ace, you can Special Summon Slugger at 2800 ATK by returning Ace to your hand next turn. That means you could potentially bump into an El Shaddoll Construct and due to Slugger's effect, your opponent wouldn't be able to get back Shaddoll Fusion. If you'd Summoned a different monster prior to Special Summoning Slugger, it gets a free permanent 500 ATK boost as well. It's those small interactions that lead me to believe that this deck is dangerous. As you continue to play with the strategy, you realize how important and deadly Stadium can actually be.

Filling Out The Lineup
Now that those small introductions are out of the way, it's time to figure out what the rest of your deck's going to look like. Heading over to the Konami Yugioh Database, our first strike is going to be finding Warrior support cards. If you want to look for spells and traps first, simply click "Search by Card Text" and type Warrior. Then in the "Icon" field, select Quick-Play, Normal, Counter, Continuous and Equip. Hit search and the database will throw fifty options at you. Amongst all of the Fire Formation and Bujin support cards are a few standout Warrior tricks for this particular deck: Battleguard Howling and Feast of the Wild LV5. Feast is easily the most important of the two, because it lets you quickly re-use your fallen U.A monsters or Special Summon them from your hand.

The reason I love Feast so much here is because of the versatility of the U.A monsters. Feast doesn't target, so the monsters are chosen upon resolution of the card's effect. That means you can Special Summon one monster from your hand and one monster from your graveyard: both monsters don't have to be in the same place since the card says "up to 2" in addition to "and/or." The perfect scenario for Fest of the Wild LV5 is if you have a U.A. monster in your hand and two in your graveyard. Simply activate Feast and revive Slugger and Ace from your graveyard. If Slugger's in your hand, then Special Summon it by returning Ace to your hand. Once Slugger hits the field you'll Special Summon Ace by returning the other Slugger to your hand. That lets you bypass both terrible conditions Feast creates, and your Slugger and Ace gain 500 ATK if Stadium's on the field.

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Battleguard Howling's important for an entirely different reason: it wins games. I'm beyond excited to play that card here, because it's essentially a Magic Cylinder and Compulsory Evacuation Device in one. The burn damage is significant and Compulsory's easily the most devastating trap of the format next to Vanity's Emptiness. Returning monsters to the hand is a game-breaking mechanic when so many of them have great effects that activate in the graveyard.

The other nifty thing about Battleguard Howling is that you can trigger it even if your opponent targets your monsters with a monster effect: no attack needed! You can even bounce any monster, too, not just the one that attacked or used its effect. You have the freedom to choose your opponent's monster with the highest ATK for maximum burn, no matter how Battleguard's triggered.

Relievers Of The Army
With Reinforcements of the Army finally Semi-Limited, and with a pretty steep six Tribute monsters already in place, I wanted to see what lower Level Warriors offered support. Going back to the homepage, set the "Level/Rank" boxes to 1 and 4, click Warrior, Effect and hit search. There are a staggering 351 monsters to choose from, which is a helluva lot to sift through.

To narrow down the search, I decided to see if any lower Level Warriors directly supported the Warrior type. So I went back and typed in Warrior, and selected "Search by Card Text." That returns a manageable 31 cards. While scrolling through, I stumbled upon two very interesting monsters: The Immortal Bushi and Valkyrian Knight. Bushi's essentially a Treeborn Frog that lets you control spells and traps, but you can only have Warriors in your graveyard. Its Dark attribute means that you can quickly get it into your graveyard with another Warrior, too: Armageddon Knight .

Valkyrian Knight's a pretty neat monster: it's got 1900 ATK, and if it's destroyed by battle you can banish it and another Warrior to revive any Level 5 or higher Warrior from your graveyard. That means with U.A Stadium face-up on the field you could Special Summon Slugger from your graveyard at 2800 attack points. I was just as tempted to include Wasteland' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Warrior Lady of the Wasteland">Warrior Lady of the Wasteland, but she ultimately fell a little short of what I wanted to accomplish.

With a large chunk of the deck out of the way, let's skip to the finished product:

DECKID=101085The goal in finishing the deck was to include a bunch of useful inherent Special Summons, and I did that with Photon Thrasher and Spell Striker. Striker's cool here because you can combine it with Bushi for Dante, Traveller of the Burning Abyss or use it as quick Tribute fodder. I also found that Special Summoning it next to a U.A is incredibly useful, because you can boost it to 1100 ATK and attack directly. Thrasher allows for quick Xyz Summons and its big 2100 ATK puts solid pressure on a variety of decks.

I rarely include Upstart Goblin in the decks I build, but I felt it was needed here because the pool of good Warriors you can run in this strategy is narrow. So instead of clogging the deck with three random cards, I felt running a 37-card build with a lot of search power and deck thinning made it more consistent.

The deck lives and dies by its pitcher, batter and stadium and I cannot wait to see what's in store for these athletes moving down into the next set, New Challengers! What are you thoughts on U.A's? What would you like to see for the theme moving forward?

What are your thoughts on the shape of competition today, and the results from YCS Toronto?

-Pasquale Crociata
Team Parallel Worlds Gaming