Zach wrote on Masked Heroes a few days ago, a deck that can easily fit most player's budgets while still remaining competitive. While I'm not a budget duelist myself I can still definitely see the appeal of a cheaper strategy beating decks worth quadruple the cash.

This past weekend I attended the Tinley Park Regional Qualifier amongst a blizzard. Unfortunately the staff onsite thought it'd be fun to cut registration off 30 minutes early despite all the snow, resulting in over half the attendees taking Round 1 losses. I was really only going there to Top 8 as I already have a few invites to the WCQ, but the combination of a Round 1 loss due to being "late" and my eventual loss to one of the four Qliphort duelists I played against was just enough to crush my chances of topping.

The deck I took with me was Masked HERO, and I felt my build was unique enough to warrant some discussion. I see a lot of people playing slow versions of the deck and while I wouldn't say that's the worst idea ever I just don't think it's what HERO needs to be. The concept of my build was simple: Summon as many Masked HERO Dark Laws as I could with minimal effort, and then just OTK my opponent before they can deal with the Dark Law. I've made minimal changes post-Regional because I felt my list was really strong; let's take a look before I delve into the individual card choices.

DECKID=101728The theory behind my deck was that I wanted to open up every single game with two pieces of backrow destruction, a Rank 4 play, and some way to put Dark Law on the field. I don't think I've ever put so many three-of's into a single list before, but I really do think that this is the way to go. HERO, like many rogue strategies, just doesn't have the inherent advantages that the top themes currently have. In other words, there really isn't a good way for a HERO duelist to plus on a consistent basis. Instead you have to make Dark Law as fast as possible to prevent your opponent from being aggressive and executing their best plays.

Elemental HERO Shadow Mist is an interesting Elemental Hero Stratos replacement. What it lacks in speed and standalone power it makes up for in versatility. Whenever Shadow Mist is Special Summoned you can add a Mask Change or Mask Change II to your hand, and whenever it's sent to the graveyard you can search a HERO monster from your deck. It's a bit different from Stratos in that it requires combos to work, but both cards accomplish similar things: digging deeper in your deck turn after turn.

The tricky part about Shadow Mist is that you can only activate one of those effects per turn. That severely limits them number of plays you can make, but I can definitely see why that restriction was tacked on. We all have horror stories of players inflicting 8400 direct damage just by opening with A Hero Lives and The Warrior Returning Alive, and that's all thanks to Stratos' unrestricted effects.

A Hero's Dilemma
Again, one of the biggest challenges here is that HERO decks don't have any way to get easy, consistent card advantage. If you Summoner Monk out Shadow Mist as a 1-for-1 you can search Mask Change as a +1, but if you use Mask Change that turn then you're using it as a -1. That means you have to Special Summon the Shadow Mist and then wait a turn before using Mask Change just to break even on card economy. That's a total downer, and it means that for HERO to be successful you need to play the deck under conditions where Dark Law's banishing effects are going to make up for the loss of card advantage.

For the most part that's not difficult. Dark Law cripples Shaddolls and Burning Abyss, keeping Shaddolls from getting their effects and turning off almost every single one of Burning Abyss' plays. The best part? Your opponent can't even use Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss to get over Shadow Mist because they can't mill cards from their deck to the graveyard. That leaves your opponent with two options: Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction or Number 17: Leviathan Dragon, and the latter isn't being played outside of a few competitors ahead of the curve.

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Dark Law's surprisingly helpful against Qliphorts, too. It screws up their Saqlifice searches and if they grab something with Scout then you can randomly banish a card from their hand. It doesn't just completely stop your opponent from using their cards like it does with Burning Abyss and Shaddolls but it does slow them down quite a bit.

So Dark Law's good, but I think everyone already knew that. A one-sided Macro Cosmos is incredibly well-timed for this format, but not every strategy revolves around the graveyard. Rogue decks are the bane of HERO's existence, which is ironic considering they're a rogue strategy themselves. The fact of the matter is that if your opponent breezes through Dark Law you're going to have a tough time winning.

To The Rescue
Once I figured out the struggle of beating opposing rogue decks I tried to make those matchups easier, and that's reflected in what may seem like some of my more outlandish card choices like triple Mask Charge. In my eyes, Mask Charge is the perfect card for the modern HERO deck, and yet nobody else seems to be running more than one copy if they're playing it at all. Mask Charge is a free +1, and sets up a variety of plays that wouldn't be repeatable otherwise. You can use Mask Charge to reset a Dark Law play by getting back a Shadow Mist and Mask Change, or you can use it as a Warrior Returning Alive to recycle copies of Elemental Hero Bubbleman to keep your combos going.

More than that though, Mask Charge means you don't have to play the lackluster Mask Change II or Form Change. Don't get me wrong, Mask Change II is a really powerful card, but most of the time you want to swap your HERO cards for Masked HERO cards, which means taking a -2 to make a Dark Law. Heroes don't have the free cards that Shaddolls and Burning Abyss do so it's tough justifying such a hefty cost for something that Mask Change can do as a -1.

In regards to Form Change I feel that it's just the worst card ever and has literally no positive applications.

You should also note that I'm only playing one copy of A Hero Lives. I really, really hate this card right now. Every other person is trying to OTK you as fast as possible with both competitive and rogue themes so taking that 4000 points of damage isn't worth it. A Hero Lives is only good late game or with Stratos, so I don't think maxing out with three copies is the right plan of action. Half your Life Points is huge, especially when you consider that the other two cards with that cost either stop any card (Solemn Judgment) or literally win you the game (Return from the Different Dimension). Paying half your Life Points for a Dark Law is a bit steep.

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I wanted to point out the use of Photon Papilloperative in the Extra Deck because it's crucial to beating Burning Abyss. I always choose to go second with this deck and if your opponent opens up double Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss then your Dark Law won't do anything to mitigate your opponent's set-up. Photon Papilloperative puts your opponent on a very short clock. Basically you switch the Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss without a Tour Guide From the Underworld under it to attack mode and then run over it for 2000 damage with Dark Law. From there your opponent has to deal with the Dark Law immediately because next turn you can just switch their other Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss to attack position and run it over, too. That's better than using Heroic Champion - Excalibur or Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon because you can actually deal with both Dantes instead of just one.

My other choices are pretty standard. Two Goblindbergh and two Summoner Monk give you more ways to Special Summon Shadow Mist and get the search effect, and everyone seems to have figured out how good Mirror Force is with Dark Law on board. A non-targeting, field wiping Dimensional Prison is nothing to scoff at. Still, there's always room to improve, and I'd be happy to hear your comments on this build. Between our site and CoreTCG there's three completely different Hero decks to analyze and pick out the parts you find important. Let me know what you think of Dark Law and Heroes as a whole in the comment section!

-Doug Zeeff