Hello from Italy! Once again, 2014 North American Champion Korey McDuffie of SuperGames Inc joins us to give his perspective, returning to TCGplayer to share his insight on the unique World Championship metagame just hours before the tournament begins! It's an unprecedented look at World Championship competition; enjoy! – Jason Grabher-Meyer

Hey everybody! As I write this, I'm finishing packing my bags to leave for Rimini, Italy! The World Championship starts early Saturday morning (Late Friday night in the US) and I've put a lot of time into preparing for the event. In my previous writing, I outlined the format for the tournament and how I expected the updated Forbidden & Limited List to impact our current metagame. Today I want to go more in depth about the individual decks that I expect to see and how they pair against the rest of the metagame. While our current metagame shouldn't change much, it's important to know the incentive behind piloting any deck for a given event.

What's Unique About Worlds
The first topic I'd like to discuss is the significance of the structure of this tournament. It's different from other competitions like the NAWCQ in attendance, meaning a significantly lower number of rounds. The field will also be concentrated with professional play skill. These are two important factors that inform one's decisions about which deck to play. The fact that there should be 6 rounds of Swiss adds a bit of variance to the tournament.

When you play an 11-round tournament before a top-cut, you want to play a deck that's consistent. Something like the HAT build I played at the North American WCQ; they're reactive to the opponent's cards and are useful without requiring many specific synergies. Of course there will be a trade of power for consistency with these types of strategies, but the number of times that your deck performs optimally is more important across a large stretch of rounds.

While you could apply the same theory for a 6-round tournament, I think the shorter tournament length is a good reason to play an explosive deck or a Giant Monster deck. The fact that most of the players will be on a more competitive level decreases the number of times you'll be able to outplay them with your cards. If you start the game with two Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand in play or you've searched out three Infernity traps before your opponent begins their first turn, the skill level of your opponent doesn't matter as much. I believe this is the kind of situation we're going to see at the World Championship this weekend.

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The biggest decks I expect to see at this tournament are Sylvans, Infernity, Lightsworn Ruler, Madolche, and a Geargia/Traptrix/Hand variant. The theory I just mentioned will probably be a conclusion lots of players arrive at, leading them to play an explosive deck opposed to a control deck. It's hard to determine exactly what they will play, as the tournament consists of players from regions all over the world that we aren't familiar with. They have different cultures and play styles, and many will likely pursue different strategies that we're not used to. I think that despite the Limited status of Artifact Moralltach in this tournament, some sort of HAT variant is viable, but it will have to be built as an anti-meta deck because of its match-ups with the other strategies. The new five-card draw rule for the opening player also hurts the HAT deck, so much to where I'm not sure if it is correct to go first or second with it if I don't know what I'm playing against. What do you think?

Sylvans
Sylvans have been a dominant deck in our normal TCG metagames for the past couple months. The Worlds F&L List removes Sylvan Princessprout from the strategy, but I don't think it reduces the deck's power level by much. Patrick Hoban mentioned at one point that Princessprout is a win-more card in Sylvans. You don't need Princessprout for the deck to function, she just makes your excavations a bit better and adds a couple of plays with cards that are already efficient. The deck can still open Lonefire Blossom + Soul Charge, which will still put a game out of reach for any opponent.

Soul Charge probably belongs in this deck more than any other. Infernities need Soul Charge for less than a third of their key combos while Lightsworn Ruler and Dragons usually can't play Soul Charge until Turns 2 or 3. The deck has giant monsters paired with cards like Sylvan Charity and Mount Sylvania to ensure your deck can operate. This deck is always a nightmare to play against. The excavation effects can deliver outs to virtually anything, and a Sylvan player can just set up their excavation effects with Sylvan Charity and Mount Sylvania. Sylvan Charity is one of the best draw spells the game's ever seen. It doesn't have a drawback. Its "drawback" simply helps you more than it hurts you.

There are many strategies in the Sylvan deck that make it difficult to Side Deck against. Dimensional Fissure and Macro Cosmos are not effective for a couple of reasons. The first is in addition to Typhoon' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Mystical Space Typhoon">Mystical Space Typhoons, the Sylvan player can just Summon a Lonefire Blossom and make a giant monster. That leaves your floodgate dead because it didn't stop your oppoennt from building a strong field presence. If you draw Dimensional Fissure or Macro Cosmos when you're behind they won't pull you back into the game. Winning the die roll is important, which adds to the variance at the World Championship main event.

Because of that, I'm going to be talking a lot about "hand traps". Hand traps are cards that can be activated from your hand as Quick Effects during your opponent's turn, such as Effect Veiler, D.D. Crow, Maxx "C", and Flying "C". I specifically expect to see those four at this tournament. Maxx "C" is probably the most powerful hand trap against Sylvans, followed closely by D.D. Crow. Effect Veiler will work differently at Worlds, but I still don't find it to be as important as D.D. Crow. At Worlds, effects that say "until the End Phase" will actually say "until the end of this turn". In our TCG, if you activate Effect Veiler on Kuribandit, since it's your opponent's turn, they're the first player to try to activate their End Phase effects. If your opponent passes, you will at some point have to stop negating with Effect Veiler during the End Phase, allowing the player to activate Kuribandit. This new rule's in effect in the OCG, will be in effect at Worlds, and is personally how I feel the interaction should work in the first place.

Infernities
I was completely set on playing Infernities for Worlds as soon as I saw the special F&L List. The deck wasn't touched by the list except for the second copy of Reinforcement of the Army being Limited again, along with Armageddon Knight. Most regular TCG Infernity Decks played two Armageddon Knight, but the deck can perform optimally with just one.

I'd practiced with it and was feeling great until I saw the results from the ARG Championship in Cleveland a couple of weeks ago. Infernities took multiple top slots in that tournament and instantly gained popularity. Another reason I was excited about playing Infernity was its surprise factor. I don't think Infernities have been competitive since Infernity Barrier got Limited, so it hasn't been targeted for Side Deck counter-measures. Infernities gain a lot of value when your opponents aren't expecting the match-up: it's not resilient to hate cards like Sylvans, but makes up for that in sheer power. The deck's recent success has left me much less excited to play it at Worlds, because I wanted it to be unexpected and I think it loses value when your opponents come prepared to beat it. You'll win many Game 1's, especially when you get to go first, but it's scary entering Games 2 and 3 knowing that your opponent has Side Deck cards that suddenly make the match-up unfavorable for you.

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Infernity's also an extremely difficult deck to pilot. There are ways to fight through Side Deck cards, but only if you're playing the deck optimally. You get to use your Extra Deck and search your Main Deck alot; sometimes you'll perform those actions as many as twenty times on your first turn alone. Inferities aren't forgiving of your Mistakes and you can't call any audibles at the last second. I went over to the Leveretts' house one night and I was trying to play a match against Patrick. On the first turn, I tanked for thirty seconds and revealed my hand and asked everybody in the room how they would play it. After fifteen minutes of discussion, we determined the right play, only to arrive moments later at another play that could lead to a similar discussion that same turn.

Maxx "C" and Flying "C" are anathema to the Infernity deck. To start your combos going, you usually have to take a minus of card economy by using your Dark Grepher, or pairing two monsters to send a monster to the graveyard for your Lavalval Chain. A lot of those scenarios are vulnerable to Maxx "C", forcing you to give your opponent a +2 or +3 just so you can get to a position where you don't end your turn with a field that's basically a 7 Colored Fish and a Mystical Elf. These are situations that you need to not only be prepared for, but need to play very effectively against. I expect most of the competitors who lose with Infernity at Worlds will have lost more to their own play Mistakes than the rough side of variance, or the plethora of Side Deck cards they find themselves up against.

Lightsworn Ruler
The Dragon Rulers have been around long enough that we're all familiar with their power level. They're arguably the best Dragon archetype to ever be printed in the game, and we're allowed to have one of each in our decks at Worlds. I think that any strategy capable of abusing the Dragon Rulers is viable; I'm just calling the deck Lightsworn Ruler because I think pairing them with the Lightsworn monsters is the most popular way to play them.

The F&L List for the World Championship puts Dragon Shrine to one per deck, hitting the strategy in a couple of different ways. Dragon Shrine was a universally useful card, sending Dragon Rulers to the graveyard and letting you grab Blue-Eyes White Dragon with The White Stone of Legend. Fueling your graveyard with monsters so you can Soul Charge is what makes many Dragon Ruler variants so powerful, and losing two Dragon Shrines will really cut the consistency from this strategy. The draw spells Cards of Consonance and Trade-In are underwhelming, so adding with Solar Recharge is probably an efficient way to feed your graveyard. The Dragon Rulers are just bonuses, really, while you're fueling your Judgment Dragons with your Lightsworn monsters (which conveniently remain live against Soul Drain and Vanity's Emptiness). Charge of the Light Brigade is another powerful mill effect that can find Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress to destroy those floodgate cards.

The difference between Lightsworn Ruler and Sylvans is again, another trade of power versus consistency. Sylvans have Mount Sylvania and Sylvan Charity compared to your splashed Solar Recharges and other mill effects. Lonefire Blossom + Soul Charge is the best Turn 1 play from Sylvans, but if a Dragon deck can Soul Charge effectively on Turn 2, it can end with a field that's just as powerful if not more powerful. The Sylvan deck has the biggest advantage in that situation if they go first. You usually can't just play a Lonefire Blossom and Soul Charge if you're going second, and it's not nearly as devastating if your opponent has Maxx "C".

Dragon Ruler strategies can fight through traps more easily since you can just keep reviving your cards. Dragon Rulers also access Mecha Phantom Beast Draccossack and Number 11: Big Eye with ease, both of which are resilient to Maxx "C" as well. If your opponent Maxx "C"s, it usually doesn't hurt you much since you can often just stop Special Summoning that turn and still finish out with an acceptable board. You also have Lightsworn monsters to Normal Summon, which could create some situations where your opponents draw too many Side Deck cards and have no use for them. I don't expect this deck to be popular at Worlds, but I think it's a good choice.

Madolches
Madolches appeal to me because they're particularly resilient to hate. The deck acts as a combo strategy in some ways, having a simple opening with Madolche Anjelly that consistently ends the the first turn with multiple resource gains. The standard play is to use Madolche Mewfeuille's effect to summon Madolche Anjelly and use her ability to Special Summon Madolche Hootcake. You then use Hootcake's effect to banish the Anjelly and Special Summon Madolche Messengalato, which will then search you a spell card.

This combo's very resilient to common counter-measures. Even if your opponent chains Maxx "C" to your Anjelly, you can just search out another one; since she can't be destroyed by battle you can just try again next turn. The Madolche deck plays a lot like HAT or Geargia, keeping the early game simplified, but it has several openings that can create OTK's with an Anjelly combo. The reason I mention this deck is that I think it interacts with your opponent little enough to be highly consistent. The deck's strategy is "fair" – it doesn't try to defeat you on the first turn and it has different options of when to shift gears, ramping up into aggression. I can't say that Madolches will be a heavily represented deck, but I do think they're a fine choice.

A deck that doesn't interact with your opponent's strategies as much as others has some advantages. When you look at a similar deck, like Spellbooks, I find it difficult to counter. All of their cards just set up their plays and resources, and the deck doesn't try to interact with the opponent until the game progresses and its infrastructure is in place. Searching your deck for every utility Spellbook is similar to how Madolche sets up. As long as you can stay alive and not lose too much momentum, the combo cards you search will eventually be synergetic enough to create a highly powerful range of options.

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There are very few tech cards that take Madolches out of the game. The cards have universal effects; the Madolche player isn't trying to just Special Summon a field of Xyz or trying to make a push and deal 8000 points of damage. They have a lot of search tricks and can use a "toolbox" to find whatever card they need for the given situation. Madolches kind of remind me of Wind-Ups. I personally haven't played as much with this deck as I have against it, but I wouldn't suggest playing it at Worlds because I think it's just marginally worse than a few of the other strategies I've mentioned. That said, I wouldn't rule it out as making a possible appearance at the tournament.

Traptrix/Geargia/Hands
As you might have guessed, this is the deck that I've wanted to play at the World Championship. I've been trying all kinds of variants, from a build similar to what I played at the North American WCQ to new version with cards you haven't seen before. The problem is the Limited status of Artifact Moralltach; it was the main incentive to play the deck. I don't think a strategy that combines the HAT deck with Geargia is the worst, per se, but it's certainly not as good as it was when I was playing the same style of strategy in Detroit.

However, it's really just a style of deck more than a rigid list, and you can adapt it to accommodate a different metagame. You can target a lot of your opponent's important cards with your own Side Deck cards. A certain combination of real trap cards and hand traps can fight a lot of the big strategies, but ultimately, it comes down to the fact that you're playing a reactive deck. If you're up against an opponent packing lots of powerful removal cards, such as Torrential Tribute, Black Horn of Heaven, and Solemn Warning, you'll find yourself in situations where you're left playing defensively and trying to decide whether to or not to take your opponent's bait. The field this weekend is expected to be flooded with Infernities and Sylvans, too, which are not good match-ups for this type of strategy. Naturally, the deck always needs to go first so you can set your traps before your opponent takes their first turn. Even then, there are diminishing returns because you start the game off with one less card than normal. I would love to play something like this, but I'll be surprised if I end up doing so.

The main advantage in playing these reactive trap-heavy decks is that your win percentage in Games 2 and 3 increase significantly. Your deck will act like an anti-meta strategy. You won't have many good natural match-ups, but your cards are so reactive that you can usually fight any strategy, which means you won't have any outright bad match-ups either. Another challenge with the Worlds-only format is that we don't know exactly what the metagame will be, so it's hard to choose which cards to Side Deck and which cards to tech. You can make your choices according to which strategies and specific cards you expect to see, but ultimately those decisions are more valuable if you have some idea of what the metagame's really going to look like. I've been taking shots at this deck repeatedly in preparation for the tournament, but will probably be leaving my Fire Hands and Ice Hands at home.

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As I type this last paragraph I'm waiting to board my plane to Paris, which will then send me to Rimini, Italy. I'm looking forward to seeing the city and yelling at Deon Akridge until he gives up his plans to play Chain Burn. The live stream will be starting at about 10 AM on Saturday, which will be about 4 AM Saturday EST, back in the States. I appreciate all of the support and I'm excited to see what the results of the tournaments are like. It's been an intense few weeks of preparation and now it's time to put my skills to the test. Don't forget to tune in, and you'll all hear from me soon!

-Korey McDuffie