Andddd we're back! Much like last week, I've decided to tackle another deck I know nothing about because it was so much fun for me: Ritual Beasts. These Ritual Tamers and Beasts caught my eye for one reason and only reason only: I love Psychics. I had to know what was happening with a new theme of monsters that included a slew of Emergency Teleport targets. Sadly,for me, Emergency Teleport is not even close to the star of the deck, but rather a necessary evil.

We've got a lot to talk about, because this deck's extremely confusing, especially when compared to the likes of Burning Abyss and Qliphorts. It's difficult to get a handle on, but once you get the hang of things it's a stupid fun time.

So let's begin.

I decided we'd start this week with a little introduction of every card the deck has to offer, because you're going to need some combination of all of them.

Let's get this out of the way first: Spiritual Beasts are Ritual Beasts…they just have a "Spi" at the start of their names. Think X-Saber and XX-Saber: any card that supports the Ritual Beast Tamers will support the Spiritual Beasts as well. I don't know why, but that took me a minute to understand. I'll admit it. Sometimes, I'm slow. Don't be ashamed if you missed it as well.

Also, you can only Special Summon each Ritual Beast once per turn, which is an annoying, but relevant clause to keep the deck in check. The Spiritual Beasts all vary in type, while the Ritual Beast Tamers are all Psychics.

When Dolphins Fly
The monster we'll discuss first is Spiritual Beast Pettlephin, the least important of the bunch. Like all of the Spiritual Beasts, it's a Level 4 Wind monster, which is important to note because Lightning Chidori is awesome. Secondly, it's an Aqua with a hefty 2000 DEF, but 0 ATK.

Its effect lets you banish a Ritual Beast card from your hand to return a opposing card your opponent's hand. That's really awesome, because it gets around Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss and Virgil, Rockstar of the Burning Abyss without triggering their effects. It's an easy out to El Shaddoll Winda, too. Its ability to banish any card can also be relevant if you're in a jam and have no monsters to banish, because all of the theme's spells and traps have "Ritual Beast" in their names. Overall it's got decent utility against monsters, but it's not great against backrow unless you're going for game.

The second Spiritual Beast is Spiritual Beast Rampengu, from Secrets of Eternity. This 1600 ATK Beast banishes one Ritual Beast monster from your Extra Deck and sends another of the same Type to the graveyard. Although it's a little slow, putting your Spiritual Beasts into the graveyard is perfect, helping set lots of different combos. There are no Psychic Ritual Beasts in the Extra Deck yet, so you'll only be yarding Spiritual Beasts . If there were more Main Deck monsters, you could get away with running fewer Rampengus, but right now it seems pretty important.

Next up is Spiritual Beast Apelio, your Pyro and big beater. While Apelio starts at 1800 ATK, it can banish a Ritual Beast card from your graveyard during either player's turn to boost all Ritual Beasts by 500 ATK and DEF until the end of the turn. Much like Pettlephin, Apelio is your one card answer to Winda and makes easy OTK's, boosting all of your monsters at once. While it might not seem like much, banishing a monster from your graveyard is wildly important, because it'll setup further combos. But if you don't want to banish a monster, a spell or trap will suffice. Simply put, Spiritual Beast Apelio is fantastic.

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Rounding out the Spiritual Beasts we have Spiritual Beast Cannahawk, your Thunder-type and the star of the deck. While Cannahawk's stats are nothing to write home about, it allows you to banish any Ritual Beast card from your deck to add it to your hand during the 2nd Standby Phase after activation. A Gold Sarcophagus on legs may seem mediocre at first glance, but trust me, it's not. Thanks to your awesome Extra Deck monsters you'll never wait two turns for that card to hit your hand – we'll get to that in a minute. But if you do end up waiting around for it, Cannahawk doesn't have to be face-up on the field. This little guy's the Spiritual Beast you want to see in your opening hand every game.

Just to recap:

- The Dolphin banishes from your hand to return opposing cards to the hand.

- The Penguin banishes from your Extra Deck to send from your Deck to the graveyard.

- The Lion banishes from your graveyard to boost 500 ATK and DEF.

- The Thunder Bird is Gold Sarcophagus on legs.


How To Tame Your Beast
The Ritual Beast Tamers are all relatively similar in that they all open up your Contact Fusions. Each has an effect that only works when you Normal Summon them and they're all Level 3 or lower, so you can Special Summon them with Emergency Teleport. But be aware that you can't Special Summon them in any other way that turn. I told you it wasn't the star of the deck. I warned you.

Ritual Beast Tamer Elder is easily the strongest at first glance, because it grants you the ability to Normal Summon 1 additional Ritual Beast during the turn you Normal Summon it. It's worded exactly like Constellar Pollux and Evilswarm Castor, so it's immune to all effect negation except an already face-up Skill Drain.

That's strong for two reason: the first is that it won't eat up the Special Summon clause of any of your monsters while getting a second monster on the field; the second is that your extra Normal Summon can be used on another Tamer, to get its effect or a Spiritual Beast to start Contact Fusing.

Ritual Beast Tamer Lara Special Summons a Ritual Beast from your graveyard upon successful Normal Summon, while Ritual Beast Tamer Wen grabs one from your Banished Zone. Both of these cards are slower, since they require proper set-up to be effective. Lara works well with Rampengu, while Wen with Cannahawk. Since you can't guarantee which suite of monsters you'll open, you can easily trim back on both monsters.

Another quick re-cap:

-Elder is your Evilswarm Castor.

-Lara is your Debris Dragon

-Wen is your Laval Cannon

I hope you absorbed all of that, because now it's time to truly learn how to tame your beast.

Let's start with the basics of your Extra Deck. Each Ritual Beast requires any "Ritual Beast Tamer" and any "Spiritual Beast." That's awesome, because it gives you insane utility in that you only need one of each on the field to start doing stuff. Secondly, Contact Fusion can only Summon each Ritual Beast: a neat little game mechanic that doesn't use Polymerization to Fusion Summon. Instead, you banish your Tamer and Spiritual Beast to Special Summon whichever Ritual Beast you think is right for the job. Contact Fusion Materials can be facedown as well; Book of Moon won't stop you. You'll simply reveal the monster and then banish it for your Fusion Summon.

Finally, during either player's turn, all of your Ritual Beast Fusions can return themselves to the Extra Deck to target one of your banished "Spiritual Beast" and one of your banished "Ritual Beast Tamer" monsters to Special Summon them. You read that correctly. It's a quick-effect De-Fusion on itself.

That incredible ability means your opponent can't Shaddoll Fusion from their deck, and your Fusions can all dodge any card effect that targets them, because ain't nobody got time to lose to Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss anymore. With the formalities out of the way, let's tame those beasts!

Doug May One Day Get His Walrus
It's only fair that if Spiritual Beast Cannahawk and Ritual Beast Tamer Elder are the best monsters in your deck, then the Fusion depicting each of them is your strongest, right? Ritual Beast Ulti-Cannahawk is the Fusion you'll summon the most, because it searches any Ritual Beast card. It does that by returning two banished Ritual Beast cards to your graveyard. What's important to note about Cannahawk is that it only has to return one card to the graveyard to gain its effect, so if something were to happen to either card, you'd still get your search.

And bam! Just like that we've uncovered the main combo of the strategy. Still don't see it? Don't worry. It actually took me FOREVER to figure it out.

Since they're on the card, let's pretend you opened with Cannahawk and Elder. Simply Normal Summon Elder and use your second Normal Summon on Cannahawk. Activate Cannahawk's effect to banish a Ritual Beast card from your deck. My first pick is usually Spiritual Beast Apelio, so we'll go with the lion.

Next up, Contact Fuse for Ritual Beast Ulti-Cannahawk. You could Contact Fuse for any Ritual Beast at this point, since you won't be searching right away. Your goal is to just banish another monster with Cannahawk. Now use Ulti-Cannahawk's De-Fusion ability to Special Summon back Elder and Cannahawk.

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With your first two monsters now back on the field, use Spiritual Beast Cannahawk's effect once again, this time banishing Ritual Beast Tamer Lara. Contact Fuse for your second Ulti-Cannahawk, but this time you'll use its effect to search. You'll choose Lara and Cannahawk for the search, but you'll chain Ulti-Cannahawk's De-Fusion effect to Special Summon Lara and Apelio.

As the chain resolves, Lara and Apelio hit the field while Cannahawk goes to the graveyard and you get to search for any Ritual Beast card even though only one card returned to the graveyard. Cool, huh? Now you get to use Apelio's effect to banish your Cannahawk and boost your monsters by 500 ATK and DEF. Contact Fuse for Ulti-Cannahawk one more time. This time you'll put Apelio and Elder into the graveyard for your second search. With this combo you've successfully searched two times and left Lara and Cannahawk in your banished zone so you can De-Fuse on your opponents turn if you need to.

As the game goes on and more Ritual Beast cards get banished, you can search a ton of times each turn using the trick I showed above to only return one card to the graveyard. It's important to always leave one Tamer and one Spiritual Beast Banished so you can De-Fuse during your opponents End Phase or to dodge card effects.

The final two Fusions are important for their utility, but offer no further combos. The Ritual Beast deck lives and dies by Ritual Beast Ulti-Cannahawk.

While Ulti-Apelio is your big beatstick, Ritual Beast Ulti-Pettlephin is your defender. It's got a hefty 2800 DEF and can't be destroyed by any card effects. If you couple that with the ability to De-Fuse at any moment, your Ulti- Pettlephin will always be swimming around in your Extra Deck or on the field. It can take care of itself. It's a solid Turn 1 option after an Ulti-Cannahawk search, but doesn't offer a ton as the game progresses.

So What Will You Search With Ulti-Cannahawk?
Before we dive into the deck itself, we need to talk about the Quick-Play Spell and trap cards.

Ritual Beast Steeds is your go-to search with Ulti-Cannhawk, because it's generic monster removal that doesn't target. Because of how the card is worded, you destroy the monsters upon resolution of the trap, so if you activate it and chain your Ritual Beast Fusions effect to De-Fuse, you'll destroy two monsters instead of one. It's also mildly worth noting that Stardust Dragon cannot stop Ritual Beast Steeds, because you can destroy "any" numbers of monsters and "any" could mean zero. Because you destroy on resolution and don't have to destroy a monster, Stardust Dragon and Starlight Road won't work.

The second trap was released in Secrets of Eternity and is a simple +1 that'll set you up for a fantastic turn. Ritual Beast Ambush Special Summons a "Ritual Beast Tamer" and "Spiritual Beast" from your graveyard and/or banished zone, but restricts you from Special Summoning Ritual Beasts for the rest of the turn: not nearly an issue. What's really cool about this trap is the "and/or" clause, which means you can Special Summon both monsters from the graveyard, the banished zone or one from each zone. There's no wrong place for the monsters to be, so you'll almost always have targets and D.D. Crow or an Infernoid effect won't cause it to fizzle out.

The final piece of support is Ritual Beast's Bond, which lets you banish any two "Ritual Beast" monsters you control to Fusion Summon a Ritual Beast from your Extra Deck, ignoring its Summoning conditions. This spell gives the deck extreme OTK potential and another way to dodge card effects. It also lets you use your Fusion monsters themselves as Fusion Materials to win games. I've ended a number of duels by activating two in a single turn to Special Summon two Ritual Beast Ulti-Apelio after I cleared my opponents' field with Ritual Beast Steeds.

These spells and traps are highly searchable and have fantastic synergy. They're half the reason this deck is so good.

When I'm testing a deck, I like to construct a version using three copies of every playable card in the theme. Fortunately for us, none of these cards fall into the "terrible" category, so testing was actually really easy. After a handful of games, you get a good idea of which cards you don't need three of and I made note of them earlier. Without further ado, let's take a look:

DECKID= 101764The Ritual Beasts made a quick believer out of me once I realized the power of the Ulti-Cannahawk combo. Not to mention the fact that you can easily Main Deck Macro Cosmos and Dimensional Fissure; two near auto-wins against Nekroz, Shaddolls and Burning Abyss. Your main game plan is to generate quick and easy +1's with Ulti-Cannahawk, while controlling your opponents' plays with Steeds. If they go for an attack, you can destroy two monsters by De-Fusing. If they try and set up a fantastic board you wipe them out as well.

You've also got the opportunity to easily explode into multiple Fusions with Ambush and Bond. It's a simple and effective strategy. Because your deck thrives on the Banished Zone, Nekroz of Trishula is only minorly annoying and not nearly as game breaking. Your incredible monster destruction trap gives you an easy out to Rituals summoned with Djinn Releaser of Rituals, as well as a way to handle large fields of Qliphorts and Saqlifice.

Dodging Karma Cuts, Phoenix Wing Wind Blasts and Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss has also never been easier.

The consistency I look for is here too, thanks to the generic requirements of all of the Ritual Beast Fusions. While you can brick at times, as more Tamers and Spiritual Beasts are released, that issue will become non-existent. To help try and curb the initial awkwardness, and to innovate further; I've even begun testing Mask Change II to Special Summon Masked HERO Divine Wind early and often. The best thing about Divine Wind is that every monster in your Main Deck can be transformed into Divine Wind, including Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms. The 3-card cost of Mask Change II is offset by the fact that you'll be setting up a ton of further plays by loading your graveyard with Tamers or Spiritual Beasts and netting potential draws with Divine Wind. It also can setup Ritual Beast Ambush right away! It's in the early stages of testing, but so far it's been pretty good.

Not many decks can play superb defense and spectacular offense, but Ritual Beasts can. They're also really fun and give a nod to Gladiator Beasts, one of my favorite decks of all time. "Tagging in and out" has never been so much fun, because you don't need the Battle Phase to do so!

Let me know what you all think below. Are you interested in the theme? Or are you on the Nekroz hype train? Any cool tech ideas you've tested out?

-Pasquale Crociata