Going into a brand new format's always a unique challenge. While there are always predictions about what decks are good or bad, you never really know what's going to happen until there's actually a tournament. By the time this article gets posted, the first Regional of the format will be over with, giving you a glimpse at what to expect for the next month. Right now though, that tournament's yet to start and we're left only to speculate on what decks are going to be played. The different strategies seemingly at the forefront of competition are Spellbooks, Bujin, Constellar, Atlantean Mermail, and Fire Fist. Just beyond those five are too many decks to count. Pretty much anything is viable at this point, as long as there's a good pilot behind it. And that's awesome!

The not-so-awesome part is that it means frustrating decks that couldn't function in metagames dominated by Dragon Rulers last format are now back in action. The goal today is to educate the public on a new Dark World build that's been floating around, and talk about its strengths and weaknesses. If you're entering a tournament in the next couple weeks there's a chance you'll be paired up against it, and knowledge of this new version's going to be the deciding factor between winning and losing when that happens.

The builds going around are all two or three cards different, so the deck list below is what I'd consider average.

DECKID=99270If you've never played Dark World before, or never had the privilege of sitting across from them, then allow me to explain how they work. The basic idea is to turbo through your deck abusing discard effects to make smart plays of card economy. Dark World monsters have effects that trigger when they're discarded to the graveyard by card effects, so you want a nice balance between Dark Worlds and cards that discard them so you're not drawing awkward, mismatched hands. Grapha, Dragon Lord of Dark World's pretty much your win condition. Its recursive Special Summon ability is ridiculously powerful, netting you not only a 3000 ATK body but a quick +1 by reviving itself from the graveyard for free, too.

The real strength of your arsenal is the control aspect of your Dark World deck. Grapha's free every single turn, and that puts a lot of pressure on your opponent. Not only that, but you practically use no on-field monster effects, making Skill Drain an obvious pick. Skill Drain's always good when you're heading into a wide field of strategies, and it's perfect for these first few weeks of the new format.

The hand manipulation of Dragged Down into the Grave, Eradicator Epidemic Virus, and Deck Devastation Virus is unmatched in this day in age. There's also a slight chance you'll be paired up against the "Virus Control" variant of Dark world, which packs a full playset of Mind Crush just to really mess with you.

Things Are Different This Time Around
When Structure Deck: Gates of the Underworld was first released it was severely hyped. But between the heavy side decking done against Dark Worlds as a result of those high expectations, and the lack of a well-tested standard build, the strategy was doomed from the start. The first attempt that actually went places was Michael Balan's version from YCS Long Beach in 2012. Balan blazed through his deck with a plethora of draw spells and traps, something that not many Dark World players had tried before. Dragged Down into the Grave was the centerpiece of that plan and led to a ton of wins – something this new version aims to do, too.

The biggest difference between older Dark World decks and this one is the sheer amount of draw power. Seriously, you can go through half your cards in one turn – that's crazy. Three Upstart Goblins essentially turn this into a 37 card deck, and three Into The Voids bring that number down to 34. That's six cards that thin your deck by one card each at no cost. There's even One Day of Peace, Dragged Down into the Grave, Dark World Dealings, and Trade-In. The goal is to keep digging until you've got total control over the field and both players' hands. From there Grapha just does the dirty work and pokes for 3000 damage a turn.

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Running a full suite of Malefic Stardust Dragons is something that hasn't really been seen in Dark Worlds until now. When Malefic Stardust's on the field you can't attack with Grapha, and that's a major downside. But Malefic Stardust makes Trade-In and Advance Draw usable; without it, you wouldn't have enough high-Level monsters to play either. There will be hands where you can't use Dragged Down because you're stuck with Malefic Stardust, but you'll see way more hands where it's pushing you through your deck with Trade-In and Advance Draw. In my own testing I never found Malefic Stardust Dragon to be a burden, though you may find yourself siding out a copy or two in many matches. It's the lynchpin that makes this spell lineup possible, so in the end it just makes sense to play three.

Oh yeah, and Rank 8's are way better than they once were. Hieratic Sun Dragon Overlord of Heliopolis was the only good generic Rank 8 for a very long time, but that's not the case anymore. Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand's awesome, and I'm sure many of you have seen it tearing apart your tournaments. With a versatile effect and a 2800 ATK body, Felgrand fills the role that we needed at Rank 8: it's a solid generic defensive monster. Then there's Number 22: Zombiestein, which tramples over almost any opposing monster. Grapha's 2700 ATK's fairly hard to get over anyway, but if your opponent puts something huge on the board then Zombiestein's your go-to evil zombie thing.

So How About Those Weaknesses?
Although it seems like this version of Dark World fixes many of the previous issues that have plagued the deck in the past, it's not without its faults. The phrase "Dark World's biggest weakness is themselves" is still very relevant. The easiest way for a Dark World player to lose is to just open with a bad hand. Drawing too many Dark Worlds with no discard outlet (or vice versa) is game ending. Malefic Stardust Dragon helps compensate for that, but dead draws are still a big issue. There will be times playing against this deck when your opponent simply cannot play any cards. Is that a fun game? Not really, but a win's a win.

Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror's always a good pick, too. While it won't stop Grapha's Special Summon, it still shuts down all the effects that trigger off discards, bringing the deck to a screeching halt. Banishing Grapha with Dimensional Prison, Bottomless Trap Hole, or anything else is also a solid option. If your deck already sides Macro Cosmos or Dimensional Fissure, then siding them in against Dark Worlds should be obvious. Grapha is the deck. Period. If you can stop the Grapha onslaught you can stop Dark Worlds.

I found that with this build in particular, if you can force your opponent to overextend you're in a good position. While there's no Reckless Greed to capitalize on by locking down your opponent's Draw Phases, there are a lot more draw spells in general. Letting your opponent waste a ton of cards to dig through their deck only to banish the Grapha they Summon is one of the keys to beating this strategy. Advance Draw and Trade-In speed the deck up immensely, but playing them can create more dead draws. If you can wear down your opponent's resources and keep The Gates of Dark World off the table, then winning is easy. Unlike previous builds this one doesn't run many trap cards, so most of your attacks will work.

Basically, hit hard and hit fast.

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I've never been a supporter of the Dark World strategy outside of Virus Control, and I can't exactly say this build changes my mind. At its core it's still a solitaire deck; it doesn't care too much about what the opponent's doing. Dark World strategies have always had a one track mind focusing on Grapha beatdown, and this build's no different. What this new version accomplishes, though, is that it unleashes the Grapha beatdown much faster and with greater consistency.

Even if I'm not a fan of something, I'm always happy to see a deck develop over time and create new standards. It's looking like this is the new standard for Dark Worlds, and I'm glad to see players trying new things. Still, in the end?

Friends don't let friends play Dark Worlds.

-Doug Zeeff
Article Aftermath #22