Howdy, duelists! Today I want to bring you a rundown of my experience at the December Remote Duel Extravaganza. I also want to discuss one of the big topics I've been writing on this year, using the Extravaganza as a real-life example.

If you've been following me here, or on Twitter or Youtube, you'll know that I've been playing Zoodiac a lot lately: I've been running Zoo ever since the Extravaganza back in November. The deck forces you to play more carefully than you might with other strategies; your cards are weaker in terms of efficiency and raw power, but if you pilot Zoodiac well it can be incredibly powerful, verging on downright oppressive.

Historically speaking, decks like this often have poor conversion rates in events. Lots of players are drawn to Zoo and strategies like it, but due to the unforgiving level of difficulty and the lack of cushion for misplays, very few of those competitors tend to make the Top Cut. If you think about it, it's reasonable to play an easier deck that won't lose to a stiff breeze or a singular mistake. Especially if you're competing in a longer tournament, where fatigue can become a factor.

That said, part of what makes combo decks so strong is that they can adapt, and pivot their plays really consistently if they're piloted with a high level of precision. You can often make a theoretically weaker play and be totally fine, because the play you choose is still "good enough" for the situation. I'm not trying to tout some higher level of skill on my end, nor am I looking to stroke my own ego. I just want to put it out there that playing a demanding deck can be great for your growth as a player.

Making Metagame Reads

Looking at the changes to the Forbidden & Limited List, along with recent releases and new trends, I felt the new format was going to shift competition toward a much bigger focus on tempo and micro interactions, as opposed to the much faster pace of the previous months. Decks that can dictate the pace of play, and decks that can pivot and change direction easily, may do particularly well in that kind of environment.

For that reason, cards like Divine Arsenal AA-ZEUS - Sky Thunder may have more opportunities to resolve more often, though with less impact. And I felt that whatever deck I chose for the December Extravaganza, it needed to be able to handle a True King of All Calamities, and it needed to have a competitive grind game since Eldlich was showing up more and more.

One big trend I felt was going to continue, was the decline of PSY-Framegear Gamma. With Gamma seeing less play, as well as Infinite Impermanence and Nibiru, the Primal Being declining as well, I believed "pure" Zoodiac could get away with much more powerful lines of play; game plans that were just too risky to rely on last format. Cards like Zoodiac Ratpier and Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops were cool cards when they could resolve successfully, but they were often met with interruptions that would cost you resources as you attempted plays you'd almost never accomplish. Those cards weren't popular this year, because they'd usually leave you even further behind due to the raw power of the other decks in contention.

Keeping all of those factors in mind, I went ahead and made a very bare bones spreadsheet for myself to visualize the observations I'd been making on recent competition. Compiling my thoughts in that format made it really easy to see what was deemed "correct" based on the trends available. I color coded everything to make the process even easier, because that way I could check things at a glance and get an instant understanding of "good" or "bad" on a general level. I try to avoid using such extreme mind sets when deckbuilding, but in this case, giving myself a fast resource for easy reference helped me stay focused during testing. It uses some shorthand since I wasn't planning to share it, but if you want to see what it looks like you can check it out here.

Here's the Zoo deck I ended up settling on for the Extravaganza.

Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG Deck - Zach's Pure Zoodiac Deck by Zachariah Butler

'Zach's Pure Zoodiac Deck' - constructed deck list and prices for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Zachariah Butler

Event: December Remote Duel Extravaganza

Rank:

Advanced

Market Price: $201.61

Cards

Zoodiac Boarbow

Market Price: $0.91

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/127309_200w.jpg

5 Level 4 monsters
Once per turn, you can also Xyz Summon "Zoodiac Boarbow" by using 1 "Zoodiac" monster you control with a different name as Xyz Material. (If you used an Xyz Monster, any Xyz Materials attached to it also become Xyz Materials on this card.) This card gains ATK and DEF equal to the ATK and DEF of all "Zoodiac" monsters attached to it as Materials. This card can attack your opponent directly. When this card inflicts battle damage to your opponent while it has 12 or more Xyz Materials: You can send as many cards as possible from your opponent's hand and field to the Graveyard, then change this card to Defense Position.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/127309/yugioh-raging-tempest-zoodiac-boarbow

Zoodiac Hammerkong

Market Price: $0.45

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/131164_200w.jpg

3 or more Level 4 monsters

Once per turn, you can also Xyz Summon "Zoodiac Hammerkong" by using 1 "Zoodiac" monster you control with a different name as Xyz Material. (If you used an Xyz Monster, any Xyz Materials attached to it also become Xyz Materials on this card.) This card gains ATK and DEF equal to the ATK and DEF of all "Zoodiac" monsters attached to it as Materials. While this card has Xyz Material, your opponent cannot target face-up "Zoodiac" monsters on the field with card effects, except this one. Once per turn, during the End Phase: Detach 1 Xyz Material from this card.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/131164/yugioh-maximum-crisis-zoodiac-hammerkong

Dimensional Barrier

Market Price: $0.32

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/149344_200w.jpg

Declare 1 monster card type (Ritual, Fusion, Synchro, Xyz, or Pendulum); for the rest of this turn, neither player can Special Summon monsters of the declared type, also negate the effects of all monsters of that type while they are on the field. You can only activate 1 "Dimensional Barrier" per turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/149344/yugioh-structure-deck-cyberse-link-dimensional-barrier

D.D. Crow

Market Price: $1.70

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/66681_200w.jpg

During either player's turn: You can discard this card to the Graveyard to target 1 card in your opponent's Graveyard; banish that target.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/66681/yugioh-turbo-pack-booster-three-dd-crow

Link Spider

Market Price: $3.27

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/201066_200w.jpg

1 Normal Monster

Once per turn: You can Special Summon 1 Level 4 or lower Normal Monster from your hand to your zone this card points to.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/201066/yugioh-advanced-demo-deck-extra-pack-link-spider

Enemy Controller

Market Price: $0.25

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/111678_200w.jpg

Activate 1 of these effects.

- Target 1 face-up monster your opponent controls; change that target's battle position.
- Tribute 1 monster, then target 1 face-up monster your opponent controls; take control of that target until the End Phase.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/111678/yugioh-structure-deck-emperor-of-darkness-enemy-controller

Pot of Desires

Market Price: $1.57

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/188692_200w.jpg

Banish 10 cards from the top of your Deck, face-down; draw 2 cards. You can only activate 1 "Pot of Desires" per turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/188692/yugioh-structure-deck-order-of-the-spellcasters-pot-of-desires

Harpie's Feather Duster

Market Price: $3.94

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/227465_200w.jpg

Destroy all of your opponent''s Spell and Trap Cards on the field.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/227465/yugioh-maximum-gold-harpies-feather-duster

Zoodiac Thoroughblade

Market Price: $3.02

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/141680_200w.jpg

If this card is Normal or Special Summoned: You can discard 1 "Zoodiac" card, and if you do, draw 1 card. An Xyz Monster whose original Type is Beast-Warrior and has this card as Xyz Material gains this effect.

• If this card attacks a Defense Position monster, inflict piercing battle damage to your opponent.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/141680/yugioh-2017-megatins-mega-pack-zoodiac-thoroughblade

Zoodiac Drident

Market Price: $0.30

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/227457_200w.jpg

4 Level 4 monsters

Once per turn, you can also Xyz Summon "Zoodiac Drident" by using 1 "Zoodiac" monster you control with a different name as Xyz Material. (If you used an Xyz Monster, any Xyz Materials attached to it also become Xyz Materials on this card.) This card gains ATK and DEF equal to the ATK and DEF of all "Zoodiac" monsters attached to it as Materials. Once per turn, during either player's turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card, then target 1 face-up card on the field; destroy it.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/227457/yugioh-maximum-gold-zoodiac-drident

Zoodiac Barrage

Market Price: $2.45

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/141708_200w.jpg

You can target 1 face-up card you control; destroy it, and if you do, Special Summon 1 "Zoodiac" monster from your Deck. You can only use this effect of "Zoodiac Barrage" once per turn. If this card is destroyed by a card effect and sent to the Graveyard: You can target 1 "Zoodiac" Xyz Monster you control; attach this card from your Graveyard to that Xyz Monster as Xyz Material.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/141708/yugioh-2017-megatins-mega-pack-zoodiac-barrage

Zoodiac Ramram

Market Price: $0.52

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/127272_200w.jpg

If this card is destroyed by battle or card effect: You can target 1 "Zoodiac" monster in your Graveyard, except "Zoodiac Ramram"; Special Summon it. An Xyz Monster whose original Type is Beast-Warrior and has this card as Xyz Material gains this effect.
- During either player's turn, when your opponent activates a Trap Card or effect that targets this card: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; negate the activation.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/127272/yugioh-raging-tempest-zoodiac-ramram

Book of Moon

Market Price: $0.80

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/57929_200w.jpg

Target 1 face-up monster on the field; change that target to face-down Defense Position.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/57929/yugioh-structure-deck-dragons-collide-book-of-moon

Zoodiac Combo

Market Price: $0.50

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/127327_200w.jpg

Target 1 "Zoodiac" Xyz Monster you control; attach 1 "Zoodiac" monster from your Deck to that Xyz Monster as Xyz Material. During either player's turn, except the turn this card was sent to the Graveyard: You can banish this card from your Graveyard, then target 5 "Zoodiac" cards in your Graveyard with different names; shuffle all 5 into the Deck, then draw 1 card.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/127327/yugioh-raging-tempest-zoodiac-combo

Dinowrestler Pankratops

Market Price: $0.21

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/238057_200w.jpg

If your opponent controls more monsters than you do, you can Special Summon this card (from your hand). You can only Special Summon "Dinowrestler Pankratops" once per turn this way. (Quick Effect): You can Tribute 1 "Dinowrestler" monster, then target 1 card your opponent controls; destroy it. You can only use this effect of "Dinowrestler Pankratops" once per turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/238057/yugioh-ancient-guardians-dinowrestler-pankratops

Zoodiac Whiptail

Market Price: $0.71

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/127269_200w.jpg

During either player's turn: You can target 1 Beast-Warrior-Type Xyz Monster you control; attach this card from your hand or field to it as Xyz Material. An Xyz Monster whose original Type is Beast-Warrior and has this card as Xyz Material gains this effect.
- If this card battles an opponent's monster, after damage calculation: Banish that opponent's monster.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/127269/yugioh-raging-tempest-zoodiac-whiptail

Alpha, the Master of Beasts

Market Price: $2.25

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/249000_200w.jpg

Cannot be Normal Summoned/Set. Must first be Special Summoned (from your hand) while the total ATK of all monsters your opponent controls is more than that of all monsters you control. You can target any number of Beast, Beast-Warrior, and/or Winged Beast monsters you control; return them to the hand, then, return face-up monsters your opponent controls to the hand, equal to the number of cards you returned to the hand, also for the rest of this turn, "Alpha, the Master of Beasts" you control cannot attack directly. You can only use this effect of "Alpha, the Master of Beasts" once per turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/249000/yugioh-2021-tin-of-ancient-battles-alpha-the-master-of-beasts

Skull Meister

Market Price: $0.92

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/238053_200w.jpg

When a card effect is activated in your opponent's GY (Quick Effect): You can send this card from your hand to the GY; negate that effect.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/238053/yugioh-ancient-guardians-skull-meister

Monster Reborn

Market Price: $0.48

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222782_200w.jpg

This promotional card is printed in Japanese.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/222782/yugioh-legendary-duelists-rage-of-ra-monster-reborn

Cosmic Cyclone

Market Price: $1.98

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212672_200w.jpg

Pay 1000 LP, then target 1 Spell/Trap on the field; banish it.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/212672/yugioh-structure-deck-mechanized-madness-cosmic-cyclone

Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops

Market Price: $1.34

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/220922_200w.jpg

3 Xyz Monsters

Unaffected by other monsters' effects, except those of Xyz Monsters. Cannot be destroyed by battle, except with an Xyz Monster. You can target 1 Xyz Monster in your GY and 1 card your opponent controls; Special Summon that monster from your GY, and if you do, attach that opponent's card to it as material, also for the rest of this turn, any damage your opponent takes is halved. You can only use this effect of "Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops" once per turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/220922/yugioh-2020-tin-of-lost-memories-infinitrack-fortress-megaclops

Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring

Market Price: $18.62

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199550_200w.jpg

When a card or effect is activated that includes any of these effects (Quick Effect): You can discard this card; negate that effect.

• Add a card from the Deck to the hand.
• Special Summon from the Deck.
• Send a card from the Deck to the GY.
You can only use this effect of "Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring" once per turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/199550/yugioh-duel-devastator-ash-blossom-and-joyous-spring

Divine Arsenal AA-ZEUS - Sky Thunder

Market Price: $12.96

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/248973_200w.jpg

2 Level 12 monsters

Once per turn, if an Xyz Monster battled this turn, you can also Xyz Summon "Divine Arsenal AA-ZEUS - Sky Thunder" by using 1 Xyz Monster you control as material. (Transfer its materials to this card.) (Quick Effect): You can detach 2 materials from this card; send all other cards from the field to the GY. Once per turn, if another card(s) you control is destroyed by battle or an opponent's card effect: You can attach 1 card from your hand, Deck, or Extra Deck to this card as material.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/248973/yugioh-2021-tin-of-ancient-battles-divine-arsenal-aazeus-sky-thunder

Ghost Belle & Haunted Mansion

Market Price: $4.32

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199551_200w.jpg

When a card or effect is activated that includes any of these effects (Quick Effect): You can discard this card; negate that activation.

• Add a card(s) from the GY to the hand, Deck, and/or Extra Deck.
• Special Summon a Monster Card(s) from the GY.
• Banish a card(s) from the GY.
You can only use this effect of "Ghost Belle & Haunted Mansion" once per turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/199551/yugioh-duel-devastator-ghost-belle-and-haunted-mansion

Zoodiac Ratpier

Market Price: $0.42

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/127265_200w.jpg

If this card is Normal Summoned: You can send 1 "Zoodiac" card from your Deck to your Graveyard. An Xyz Monster whose original Type is Beast-Warrior and has this card as Xyz Material gains this effect.
- Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; Special Summon 1 "Zoodiac Ratpier" from your hand or Deck.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/127265/yugioh-raging-tempest-zoodiac-ratpier

Mistaken Arrest

Market Price: $0.31

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/227506_200w.jpg

Until the end of your next turn after this card resolves, neither player can add cards from their Deck to their hand except by drawing them.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/227506/yugioh-maximum-gold-mistaken-arrest

Aussa the Earth Charmer, Immovable

Market Price: $0.16

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/254412_200w.jpg

2 monsters, including an EARTH monster

(This card is always treated as a "Familiar-Possessed" card.)
You can target 1 EARTH monster in your opponent's GY; Special Summon it to your zone this card points to. If this Link Summoned card is destroyed by battle, or is destroyed by an opponent's card effect while in its owner's Monster Zone: You can add 1 EARTH monster with 1500 or less DEF from your Deck to your hand. You can only use each effect of "Aussa the Earth Charmer, Immovable" once per turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/254412/yugioh-maximum-gold-el-dorado-aussa-the-earth-charmer-immovable

Book of Eclipse

Market Price: $0.16

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/224990_200w.jpg

Change all face-up monsters on the field to face-down Defense Position. During the End Phase of this turn, change as many face-down Defense Position monsters your opponent controls as possible to face-up Defense Position, then your opponent draws cards equal to the number of monsters changed face-up by this effect.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/224990/yugioh-structure-deck-spirit-charmers-book-of-eclipse

Drill Driver Vespenato

Market Price: $0.11

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/249107_200w.jpg

2 Level 5 monsters

Once per turn, you can also Xyz Summon "Drill Driver Vespenato" by using 1 Rank 4 Xyz Monster you control as material. (Transfer its materials to this card.) This card cannot be used as material for an Xyz Summon the turn it was Xyz Summoned. If this card attacks a Defense Position monster, inflict piercing battle damage. If this Xyz Summoned card in its owner's control is destroyed by an opponent's card: You can target 1 Level 5 or lower monster in your GY; Special Summon it. You can only use this effect of "Drill Driver Vespenato" once per turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/249107/yugioh-2021-tin-of-ancient-battles-drill-driver-vespenato

Zoodiac Chakanine

Market Price: $0.56

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/227458_200w.jpg

2 or more Level 4 monsters

Once per turn, you can also Xyz Summon "Zoodiac Chakanine" by using 1 "Zoodiac" monster you control with a different name as Xyz Material. (If you used an Xyz Monster, any Xyz Materials attached to it also become Xyz Materials on this card.) This card gains ATK and DEF equal to the ATK and DEF of all "Zoodiac" monsters attached to it as Materials. Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card, then target 1 "Zoodiac" monster in your Graveyard; Special Summon it, but for the rest of this turn, it has its effects negated, also it cannot be used as an Xyz Material for a Summon.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/227458/yugioh-maximum-gold-zoodiac-chakanine

Zoodiac Tigermortar

Market Price: $2.21

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/141703_200w.jpg

3 Level 4 monsters

Once per turn, you can also Xyz Summon "Zoodiac Tigermortar" by using 1 "Zoodiac" monster you control with a different name as Xyz Material. (If you used an Xyz Monster, any Xyz Materials attached to it also become Xyz Materials on this card.) This card gains ATK and DEF equal to the ATK and DEF of all "Zoodiac" monsters attached to it as Materials. Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card, then target 1 Xyz Monster you control and 1 "Zoodiac" monster in your Graveyard; attach that "Zoodiac" monster to that Xyz Monster as Xyz Material.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/141703/yugioh-2017-megatins-mega-pack-zoodiac-tigermortar

Knightmare Phoenix

Market Price: $0.40

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/228688_200w.jpg

2+ monsters with different names

If this card is Link Summoned: You can discard 1 card, then target 1 Spell/Trap your opponent controls; destroy it, then, if this card was co-linked when this effect was activated, you can draw 1 card. You can only use this effect of "Knightmare Phoenix" once per turn. Co-linked monsters you control cannot be destroyed by battle.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/228688/yugioh-genesis-impact-knightmare-phoenix

Fire Formation - Tenki

Market Price: $0.45

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/253966_200w.jpg

When this card is activated: You can add 1 Level 4 or lower Beast-Warrior monster from your Deck to your hand. All Beast-Warrior monsters you control gain 100 ATK. You can only activate 1 "Fire Formation - Tenki" per turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/253966/yugioh-maximum-gold-el-dorado-fire-formation-tenki

Needle Ceiling

Market Price: $3.44

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/22258_200w.jpg

You can activate this card only when there are 4 or more monsters on the field. Destroy all face-up monsters on the field.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/22258/yugioh-pharaonic-guardian-needle-ceiling

Zoodiac Bunnyblast

Market Price: $0.37

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/127267_200w.jpg

If this card is destroyed by battle or card effect: You can target 1 "Zoodiac" card in your Graveyard, except "Zoodiac Bunnyblast"; add it to your hand. An Xyz Monster whose original Type is Beast-Warrior and has this card as Xyz Material gains this effect.
- During either player's turn, when your opponent activates a Spell Card or effect that targets this card: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; negate the activation.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/127267/yugioh-raging-tempest-zoodiac-bunnyblast

Nibiru, the Primal Being

Market Price: $12.56

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/256371_200w.jpg

During the Main Phase, if your opponent Normal or Special Summoned 5 or more monsters this turn (Quick Effect): You can Tribute as many face-up monsters on the field as possible, and if you do, Special Summon this card from your hand, then Special Summon 1 "Primal Being Token" (Rock/LIGHT/Level 11/ATK ?/DEF ?) to your opponent's field. (This Token's ATK/DEF become the combined original ATK/DEF of the Tributed monsters.) You can only use this effect of "Nibiru, the Primal Being" once per turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/256371/yugioh-brothers-of-legend-nibiru-the-primal-being

I tried to keep it simple with this build: you're aiming to trade your lower value cards, like Book of Moon and your hand traps, for your opponent's higher value cards and combo pieces. At the same time, you're working to establish a simple field of Divine Arsenal AA-ZEUS - Sky Thunder to keep your opponent from building a secure field.

I ran cards like Enemy Controller so I could take a flexible, multi-faceted approach putting the deck together. Enemy Controller great here since it's both easy defense, denying an attack, and a reactive extender that steals an opposing monster. It can even help you re-raise your ceiling in the face of floodgate monsters like Vanity's Ruler; it's really handy if you were lucky enough to draw Fire Formation - Tenki and can summon Zoodiac Thoroughblade.

Unlike the Eldlich Zoodiac deck you may be familiar with, there are no actual defensive trap cards in my builld. That's intentional, as I had a string of rough losses due to the heavier reliance on trap cards at the previous Extravaganza, and in multiple testing sessions afterward. Because the format shifted toward more spell and trap cards being used for defense, I felt that it was incorrect to continue down that path. Instead, I opted to make as many of opposing cards useless as possible. That meant my defensive cards were either hand traps, or chainable cards that could become blowouts in the face of removal.

You might be confused by Dinowrestler Pankratops and Alpha, the Master of Beasts in the Main Deck. Many of my friends certainly were when they heard I was choosing to go first. But those cards were one of the deck's coolest selling points: I'd choose to go first, with the idea that I just needed to survive. A Zoodiac Drident with some hand traps isn't a game winning set-up by any means, but if you can get to your next turn, you're effectively able to play a going-second strategy. By doing so, cards like Dinowrestler Pankratops and Alpha, the Master of Beasts gain massive utility, alongside cards like Cosmic Cylone and Harpies Feather Duster to pick apart the Eldlich board.

A concept I've been pushing heavily since last format is the idea of cards being useful regardless of where you are in the game, or how many turns have passed. Looking at the hand traps I opted to run, alongside the flexible "utility" cards like Cosmic Cyclone and Book of Moon, they're all incredibly useful going first OR second, giving you a myriad of options in almost any scenario.

When you're going first, you have the twelve hand traps, the two copies of Enemy Controller, and three Book of Moon. They're all very useful, and very safe, draws. Going second? Those same cards, plus Cosmic Cyclone, Harpie's Feather Duster, Dinowrestler Pankratops, Alpha, the Master of Beasts, Monster Reborn, and several others offer similar value. Over half your deck has that level of flexibility, which means you'll always have options even if they aren't tremendously powerful.

The entire deck really leans into metagame reads made in response to the game's natural progression right now, leveraging cards that effectively read "skip your opponent's turn" when you go first. You can swap out cards like Book of Moon and Enemy Controller for Dimensional Barrier or Book Of Eclipse if needed, and Mistaken Arrest can buy you an extra turn too, allowing you to set up a Divine Arsenal AA-ZEUS - Sky Thunder to keep the pressure on your opponent. By doing so, you put yourself in the position of playing a deck that has all the versatility of other, more powerful strategies, without exposing yourself to the blowouts that often beat them.

Deciding to go all-in on a metagame read can be scary; you're basically trying to game the entire player base, instead of just going with what's established as "correct." Many times, you WILL fail to hit the Top Cut, let alone win the tournament. That's okay though, because it's valuable experience. I had hopes of topping the Extravaganza, and after losing Round 1 to Magical Musketeers, I went undefeated for a string of matches, only to make a bunch of misplays and bubble out in the end as the hours wore on.

Would I do it all over again if I could? Absolutely. It was amazingly fun, and I learned a lot as a player, and a deck builder.

If you're on Twitter, let me know what you've been doing to take advantage of the current format's trends. I'm eager to hear about it! This has been a crazy time for the game with so many awesome releases and events happening in such a short period; personally, I can't consume enough Yu-Gi-Oh media. Until next year, play on!