A month ago I won my Yu-Gi-Oh! Day tournament with a Spirit and Blue-Eyes White Dragon combination. You can read about it here. Since then I've spent countless hours perfecting Spirits, starting with completely dropping the Blue-Eyes engine. There are way too many individual cards and engines that I've put in and taken out over the past weeks, but eventually I settled on a build for the Livonia, MI Regionals. Unfortunately I ended up losing on the bubble, mostly due to accidently siding in the wrong half of my Side Deck.

Needless to say, opening up two Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror against Harpies isn't exactly a game in my favor.

Anyway, I was able to take down several top strategies like Fire Fist, Atlantean Mermail, and Bujins fairly easily, and because of that I wanted to share my deck list with you guys. I'm attending another Regional this coming weekend and my build's going to change a few cards, but in general I feel that this is one of the stronger Spirit lists out there today. Here's what I played last weekend:

DECKID=99698There are basically three different versions of competitive Spirits going around right now, and I feel that this one's definitely the most competitive. One build focuses on Mystic Piper and Kinka-Byo, abusing not only Rank 4's but Rank 1's, too. Is it bad? Hardly, but it tends to draw awkward hands more often than I'm comfortable. Mismatched openings of Level 1's without Kinka-Byo, Battle Faders without Hino-Kagu-Tsuchi, or Nikitama without anything else happen on a regular basis, forcing you to suffer losses due to unplayable hands. The other big build floating around is the Herald of Perfection version. Nikitama's a Fairy, and discarding it with Herald while another Spirit is face up nets you a free draw. In addition, Aratama can search out more Fairies, granting you a huge supply of Herald fodder. The problem? It doesn't have a coherent win condition, and once again you can draw some truly terrible openings.

This Rank 4-centric build I ran is consistent, it's good in all stages of the game, and it has a good matchup against almost every top strategy right now. Outside of personal biases and preferences I just feel like there's no reason not to run this version if you're going to run Spirits.

The Basics: What Are Spirit Monsters, Anyways?
A lot of the reasons to play a Spirit deck are actually centered around the fundamental card interactions. Once you start putting together how the monsters work not only by themselves but also with one or more others you'll really get a feel for why this strategy's so successful throughout the game. All Spirit monsters share these lines of text:

"Cannot be Special Summoned. During the End Phase of the turn this card is Normal Summoned or flipped face-up: Return it to the hand."

Okay, so neither of those seem that great at first. I'll be the first to admit that the "no Special Summoning" part is pretty annoying. No Summoner Monking Spirits for quick Rank 4's, and no Call Of The Haunted to bring back fallen monsters. The second effect's not only less of a drawback than it might appear, but it's actually extremely relevant, and it's a huge reason that this deck even works at all. Take a gander at the three important Spirits I'm playing: Aratama, Nikitama, and Izanami. What do they all have in common? 1800 DEF. Why is that relevant? Neither Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear nor Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Gorilla can run over them, even with a 100 ATK boost from a Fire Formation.

As we'll talk about later on, the major power plays of the deck rely on you getting three Spirit monsters on board at the same time. This seems a bit challenging, but crashing into an 1800 DEF Spirit monster the first time usually prevents any further attempts. Opponent's aren't willing to repeatedly give you Spirit effects only to keep three off the field, largely due to the fact that they have no idea you want three of them on the field. Setting a Spirit monster, getting attacked, and having it survive is basically allowing you to get two effects in the span of one of your turns. Set Aratama, search Nikitama, and then next turn follow it up with another search and a Rank 4. This play doesn't seem a lot on its own, but having it happen turn after turn really secures easy wins.

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Aratama's obviously one of the main monsters in the deck; it searches everything you could want to search for. The more Aratama effects you can get off per game the more likely you are to win, it's that's important. Opening with a set Aratama and having it not get attacked is almost a guaranteed win, no joke.

Nikitama's the second most important Spirit monster, granting you an extra Normal Summon every turn. It's worded like Evilswarm Castor, meaning that even if Nikitama leaves the field you'll still get the extra Summon. It also means that everything barring a preemptive Skill Drain doesn't stop it, including Fiendish Chain and Effect Veiler. Nikitama's other effect is that whenever it's sent to the graveyard you get to draw a card as long as you have another Spirit monster. Not only can Nikitama not miss timing it also doesn't care where it's sent to the graveyard from, so detaching it from Xyz Monsters gives you an extra draw.

Yeah, it's a little nutty.

Izanami's your Monster Reincarnation for Spirits. On the surface this is already cool because you can recycle fallen Aratamas and Nikitamas. That alone makes it worth playing. But the real benefit is cycling Nikitamas every single turn to get an extra draw. An in-hand Nikitama and an in-grave Nikitama means you've got one additional draw for as long as you want. Izanami gets Veilered? You still get a draw, maintaining your +1 in the process.

Spell and trap removal is hugely important this format. Mystical Space Typhoon's a staple at three in almost every single deck. It takes down a variety of threats for no cost, and has a wide range of applications. Yaksha's your on-theme back row hate. While Mystical Space Typhoon's better against Continuous Spells and Traps, as well as Field Spells, Yaksha's good against everything else. It's very similar to Breaker the Magical Warrior and Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress in that it baits Effect Veilers and Fiendish Chains left and right.

The Not-So-Basics: Too Many Pluses For One Man
Aratama delivers your basic +1's, but Nikitama's really what makes this particular deck amazing. The pinpoint search of any Spirit monster is good, but the ability to draw multiple traps every turn to protect your set-up with Nikitama is too good to pass up. This deck has four big combos that push you towards victory with ease, and as I mentioned before three of them require you to have more than two Spirits on the board at one time. The fourth one requires a bit more setup on both sides of the field, but has the biggest payoff.

But how do you even get three Spirits on the field at one time? The only way to do that is to have a set Spirit survive to your next turn, and then either have Nikitama and another Spirit or have an Aratama set with another Spirit in hand. Threatening Roar and Fiendish Chain both stop attacks, and Divine Wrath, Solemn Warning, and Bottomless Trap Hole all indirectly stop attacks by removing monsters. Another way this happens is when your opponent doesn't even Summon a monster, such as when they set Geargiarmor or Mermail Abysslinde.

Once you have the potential to get out three Spirits with at least one Nikitama in there you're all set. First and foremost: Fairy Cheer Girl. This overlooked card's insane when you pair it with Nikitama: you're detaching to instantly draw two cards. Not enough for you? You probably had an Aratama search to put three Spirits on board anyway, meaning the -1 you took to Xyz Summon Fairy Cheer Girl was completely overridden. This is the first of the main combos I wanted to highlight. A double draw like that is such a tempo swing that it has to be seen to be believed.

I remember sitting at locals one time and joking with Loukas about how it would be super awesome if you could detach Nikitama with Lavalval Chain to top deck Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning and then immediately draw it. "That'd be totally broken" I bantered. Well, turns out that that's how it actually works, and I'm just not good with understanding how chains work. Naturally, the second big combo here is giving you a search for literally any monster. Want to end the game with BLS? You can! Saw your opponent search for Madolche Hootcake? Add Veiler to your hand! Expect to get OTK'd next turn? Simply search a Gorz the Emissary of Darkness. It's honestly stupid that this works like it does, but I'm completely okay with taking full advantage of it.

Evilswarm Exciton Knight is a great card. I shouldn't have to tell you that, but if you need a refresher I did happen to explain why it's so powerful last week. You know what's even cooler? Blowing the field with Exciton Knight, and then Summoning Aratama or Izanami with your extra Normal Summon from Nikitama ten seconds after the field was cleared. You go from being down in card economy, to ahead in card economy, to your opponent crying about how much card advantage you have. This third play doesn't come up as often, but it's always a valid option should the situation arise.

The fourth combo doesn't require three Spirits on the field, but does demand three in hand including at least one Nikitama, preferably two. Basically, you drop Tragoedia when your opponent attacks with a Level 4 monster. Next turn you Nikitama into another Spirit, and discard Nikitama to draw a card and take control of their monster. From there you can overlay their monster and your Nikitama for any Rank 4, and then detach Nikitama to draw another card. I literally haven't lost a single game where this gets off, and it happens more often than you'd think. I've also had opponent's try and play around this by just not attacking, and you can then just Summon two monsters, crash Nikitama to drop Tragoedia and draw a card, and then take their monster in Main Phase 2.

I think they call that a fatality.

Something I haven't even factored in is when you're doing these combos with even more collateral pluses. Throwing Izanami discarding Nikitama into the equation makes all of these already powerful sequences grant you another +1. It's the same deal with Aratama, really. What's scary is the consistency that you're actually going to pull these off. One Aratama snowballs really fast, and every turn your opponent thinks it's not a real threat is one more turn closer to you winning. I've won multiple games where my opponent held Effect Veilers for Rank 4's and let me get multiple searches off Aratama, ultimately causing their defeat.

Strength In The Surprise Factor
Any time your opponent has to read a card you play because they don't know what it does puts you at an advantage. Make a deck filled with cards your opponent has to read and you're at a ridiculously strong point. You'll play games without even using Yaksha or Izanami, and then pull them out Game 2 to steal easy wins. I've won entire games without using Nikitama or Aratama and let me tell you, the look your opponent gives you when they realize the deck they just lost to also has a searcher and an additional Summoner is priceless.

I come back to another statement I made earlier: Spirits returning to the hand is a good thing. You're getting multiple uses out of each of your monsters, something that's well worth not being able to keep them on the field. It also means that your opponents have to deal with your Spirits on your turn, not theirs. Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear isn't good when the monsters it wants to pop disappear. This forces the other player to waste trap cards on your weak monsters, clearing the path for your power plays.

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Everything in this deck's a problem solver, and you'll almost never find yourself locked out of your moves when you're using Spirits. Yaksha bounces anything you don't want on the field outside of Skill Drain, nullifying the damage that Mistake, Light-Imprisoning Mirror, Deck Lockdown, and Dimensional Fissure can do to you. There's also some niche roles for Yaksha, such as bouncing Field Spells. Ridding the game of The Grand Spellbook Tower or Madolche Chateau to stop your opponent from gaining ground is key to winning the Spellbook and Madolche matchups respectively.

Also, the sheer availability of Rank 4's is critical to this deck's strength. You've got so many different outs to potential threats – something not every deck has right now. On top of that, there aren't any cards your opponent can really side against you that outright prevent you from dueling, outside of Skill Drain. An on-field Mistake can't deal with Izanami and Nikitama drawing cards, and that's something a lot of people are overlooking. Maxx "C" is worthless against you, and the increasingly popular Book of Moon and Forbidden Lance don't hurt you nearly as much as they would others.

At the end of the day the only matchup I didn't want to face was Harpies, but my Side Deck covered them fairly well. Unfortunately I had a huge slip up against them when it actually happened, forfeiting my chances of nabbing my invite. I already know the changes I have in mind after the tournament, but overall the deck is staying pretty much the same. Let me know in the Comments if you have any suggestions about the build itself, or if you prefer a different Spirit build!

-Doug Zeeff

Article Aftermath #33