Franco Ferrara is TCGplayer's resident expert on card lore, but what you might not know is he has a fascination with all things gem related. The other day I was browsing Facebook looking for deck ideas, and I have Franco to thank for today's strategy.

You might be used to me posting several Crystal Beast builds, but there's another crystal theme worth taking a look at: Gem-Knights. While Crystal Beasts focus on streamlining Xyz Monsters, Gem-Knights are all about pushing out massive Fusion Monsters with their signature spell card, Gem-Knight Fusion. The goal of your deck's not only to summon these big monsters but to do so at little overall cost. It's a fast, powerful archetype that, with the right preparation, can completely decimate opponents before they even know what's going on.

So Gem-Knights Are A Worse Version Of Elemental Heroes?
I think Loukas Peterson said it best when he stated that "there have been seven installments of Hidden Arsenal, and each brought a new wave of disappointment. Hidden gems litter these seven card sets, but the archetypes within were underwhelming, often loaded with subpar to downright horrid cards." I like to think that the "hidden gems" he mentioned might literally be gems, as in the Gem-Knights. Out of all the Hidden Arsenal archetypes I feel Gem-Knights are the most viable without outside support. Even some of the better options in those sets require outside help, like Evilswarms, Constellars, and Lavals. Gem-Knights are in a league of their own where the Hidden Arsenal cards are the best ones, and the cards from core booster sets kind of fall flat.

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As I mentioned before, Gem-Knight Fusion is the main spell in Gem-Knights, and most of your plays revolve around using it as much as possible. On the surface it looks like a worse Miracle Fusion, requiring you to have in-hand or on-field monsters as opposed to ones in the graveyard. The key difference between the two, though, is that Gem-Knight Fusion can just add itself back to your hand as many times as you want. That's a pretty distinct advantage. Not only that, but two of the best Gem-Knight monsters replace themselves when used for Gem-Knight Fusion. That means you'll theoretically always break even on card economy with every Fusion Summon.

You always want Gem-Knight Lazuli or Gem-Knight Obsidian to make up one half of your Fusion Summons. Lazuli instantly adds a Normal Monster back to your hand, and Obsidian Special Summons the same. Depending on the situation one may be better than the other, but in general they're both doing the same thing: making sure you don't fall behind on card economy. Unfortunately we've got to play Normal Monsters for their effects, but the Gem-Knights have two decent cards to fill that role. Gem-Knight Garnet has a solid 1900 ATK, and Gem-Knight Tourmaline has well-rounded ATK and DEF at 1600 and 1800 respectively. It's always a downer when your deck requires Normal Monsters, but I'm thankful these Normals don't totally suck.

Your main Fusion Monsters are Gem-Knight Citrine and Gem-Knight Prismaura. You bring them out by preferably fusing Lazuli or Obsidian and Tourmaline or Garnet. Afterwards you can banish whichever Effect Monster you used to add Gem-Knight Fusion back to your hand, which means that on top of the effects of Lazuli or Obsidian you didn't take any minuses for your Fusion Summon. The cool thing about Citrine is that you can actually bring it out with Lazuli or Obsidian and Volcanic Shell, so you actually end up gaining card advantage in the long term. Previously I wasn't a fan of Volcanic Shell in Gem-Knights but I think now's finally the time for it to shine.

I've also included a single copy of Gem-Knight Zirconia, which you can bring out with a variety of combinations of Gem-Knights. Probably the most back-breaking play would be to fuse two Obsidians for Zirconia to revive two Normal Monsters, going into a Rank 4 and a 2900 ATK body in one move. Before I go on any further let's take a look at the deck:

DECKID= 99964Gem-Knights want to see their cards early and fast, so it only makes sense to play triple Reckless Greed and Cardcar D. You need a hand with one Normal Monster and multiple Lazuli or Obsidians to make any real combos, so we're playing everything possible to get to those cards with ease.

This deck OTK's out the wazoo so you're going to spend a few turns passing to your opponent before you Special Summon a bunch of monsters under Trap Stun and end the game. I considered Upstart Goblin but in the end it conflicted with the OTK's too much, so I had to leave it out of the final product.

Free Cards For Everyone
Gem-Knights rely on breaking even in card economy while putting out Fusion Monsters. I already mentioned why Reckless Greed and Cardcar D are important, and the same thing is true for Gem-Armadillo and Gem-Turtle. Armadillo searches one half of the Fusion Summon equation and Turtle grabs Gem-Knight Fusion when you can't draw it or mill it. Unfortunately neither of these cards can be used for any Fusion Monster besides Gem-Knight Zirconia, and they can't be banished to return Gem-Knight Fusion to your hand. You're losing a slight amount of consistency in one area to increase it in another. I've struggled to come up with the right numbers of Armadillo and Turtle but right now I feel two and one works great.

Summoner Monk's great here because you can do silly things with Gem-Knight Fusion. You can use Summoner Monk, discarding Gem-Knight Fusion, to bring out Gem-Knight Garnet. Then you can overlay them, detach Garnet to send Gem-Knight Lazuli to your graveyard, and then add Garnet back to your hand. Then you can banish Lazuli to add Gem-Knight Fusion to your hand. Should you open with Summoner Monk and no Gem-Knight Fusion you can simply make Lavalval Chain and mill the Gem-Knight Fusion. It's not the greatest play in the world but sometimes you just really need to get a combo enabler going.

If you can resolve Rescue Rabbit you pretty much win. It not only gets rid of two potential dead draws but it's also an instant Rank 4 for free. If you go second and your opponent made any sort of gain in card advantage you can use Evilswarm Exciton Knight to blow up the field, followed by some Fusion Summons. Sure, you can't do damage the turn you Exciton, but you can set up Rank 7's!

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Yes, that's right, this deck churns out Rank 7's. Gem-Knight Citrine and Gem-Knight Prismaura are both Level 7, and there's no reason not to use that to your advantage. Taking out 4000+ Life Points with Citrine and Prismaura only to follow it up with a Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack is just brutal. Honestly I've won so many games by just doing that combo I can't even begin to praise it enough. Dracossack and Number 11: Big Eye are both problem solvers, and help some of the issues that previous Gem-Knight decks suffered from.

Then Again…
…Gem-Knights inherently have some issues that are impossible to escape. The majority of their plays require Gem-Knight Fusion, a Normal Monster, and an Effect Monster in hand at the same time. While there are definitely plays you can make with just two Normal Monsters or two Effect Monsters, the best ones require both. That sucks, because it puts the deck builder in a situation where they have to put in the right balance of cards to make the deck as consistent as possible. Drawing hands with multiple Normal Monsters can cost you games and matches, but not drawing any forces you to sit around and wait. I've included lots of draw and search power for that reason, but it's really hard to avoid those shortcomings when you've kind of got to play five or six Normal Monsters.

I also don't know if this is the right format for Gem-Knights to be successful, despite feeling that the card pool is perfect. Dealing with a lot of back row is sometimes really hard, and you've only got so many Trap Stuns. Where Gem-Knights can thrive right now is at local tournaments without Bujin players. I also wouldn't put it past someone to take it to Regional Qualifier success. Probably not to a Top 8 finish but possibly to earn an invite.

What do you think of Gem-Knights? Is there some secret tech I missed? Let me know in the Comment section below.

-Doug Zeeff
Article Aftermath #41