I've always unashamedly been a fan of Gem-Knights. It's never mattered the time frame: Gem-Knights have always been the underdog. From the moment they were released, Gem-Knights were a down and out theme and even now, with the current renaissance Fusion monsters are experiencing, they're still a virtual no-show in conversation let alone tournaments. It almost begs the question: what gives?

For me, that answer is a resounding "not much." The deck is fast, explosive, and can OTK in the blink of an eye. Sort of sounds like Nekroz, right? Don't get me wrong, I'm not recommending that you walk up to somebody and say that "Gem-Knights = Nekroz, dood" unless you're looking for a beating. What I am saying, is that it might be worth examining the merits of Gem-Knights to see how they'd fair in the current competitive environment given the similarities they share with many of the top decks right now.

Such Speed, Such Agility
The universally acclaimed aspect of the Gem-Knight deck is that it's fast. It was essentially the progenitor to our current revival of Fusion monsters. Konami designed Gem-Knights so that they can make Fusions Summons quickly, efficiently, and without tanking your card economy.

If you have the cards to Fusion Summon one Gem-Knight, chances are you have the cards to Summon one to three more. Early last year, Konami released Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazuli and it completely upped the ante for Gem-Knights across the board in a direction that the strategy really needed to move in.

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Going back to 2013, Gem-Knight Lazuli was dropped onto our unsuspecting community and for the most part, everyone marveled at its potential, but scratched their head at its immediate application. Just like Gem-Knight Obsidian, when you send Gem-Knight Lazuli to the graveyard for a Fusion Summon you'll immediately get a Normal Gem-Knight back. Whereas Obsidian Special Summoned the monster, Lazuli adds it back to your hand. This immediate application is undeniably awesome. Everybody was excited and thankful to see it stateside, but there was still a desire for something more.

Fast-forward again to 2014 and Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazuli has come to redeem our expectations! Lapis Lazuli is a Level 5 Rock-type Fusion Monster with a respectable 2400 ATK and 1000 DEF. Once per turn, you can send a Gem-Knight monster from your Main or Extra Deck to the graveyard to inflict 500 points of damage to your opponent for each Special Summoned monster on the field.

So aside from burning your opponent hardcore, Lapis Lazuli also serves as an incredibly powerful enabler for Gem-Knight Lazuli. The only downfall to it all is that you have to run another vanilla monster, Gem-Knight Lapis. That being said, I've streamlined this build accordingly so that the only Normal Monsters in the deck are the ones that are absolutely necessary and nothing more.

Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazuli pushes you even farther into OTK territory by not only getting you to that extra monster with Lazuli's effect, but also doing some preliminary work on your opponent's Life Points! You'll routinely burn your opponent for about 2000 LP every time you use Lazuli's effect but against something like Qliphorts, the thought of burning your opponent for something closer to 4000 LP isn't that outlandish. Depending on the shape of the game at any given moment, Lapis Lazuli can serve as a Gagaga Cowboy on crack.

So it's easy to see how the deck can steal wins when you'd least expect them. It can also assemble those victories quickly. So now it's a matter of building the deck to embrace its unique features as well as make it sustainable to the competitive environment now. The trick is to see if it can be kept on budget. Here's the deck list:

DECKID=101820So the biggest challenge Gem-Knights face is getting to Gem-Knight Fusion quickly enough. Normally, you'd run Lavalval Chain in the Extra Deck along with Summoner Monk in the Main Deck, but seeing as Lavalval Chain is currently the card that needs a reprint and would eat up $40 of your $100 budget, you just can't dig it here. Surprisingly enough, a pair of Gem-Turtles can make up that difference surprisingly well. Even if you draw into Gem-Knight Fusion and then draw into the Turtles, you can use them as Fusion Materials for Gem-Knight Zirconia.

It's a matter of being able to get to Gem-Knight Fusion as quick as humanly possible. The moment you hit that card is usually the moment you've got your win. At the very least, it guarantees a smooth-sailing game from there. Turn after turn, you'll make Fusion Summons and grind at your opponent until it becomes unrealistic for them to sustain that. In the grand scheme of things, running the double Gem-Turtle is worth it to save you $40.

Gem-Armadillo is Gem-Turtle's counterpart, searching your Fusion Materials as opposed to your Fusion spell. With 1700 ATK, Gem-Armadillo is also a pretty respectable attacker as well. Whenever Gem-Armadillo is Normal Summoned, you can search any of your Gem-Knight monsters to your hand. It's a simple mechanic, but a good card to have in your deck nonetheless.

After playing around with the numbers, I've found that a ratio of two copies of Gem-Armadillo to two copies of Gem-Turtle works wonders. Playing the numbers game is one of the biggest issues with Gem-Knights. You can't just throw in three of everything and call it a day. One of the big reasons Gem-Knights never became popular is the complicated nuance of structuring your card ratios.

Many Gem-Knight builds in the past have focused on abusing Volcanic Shell to Fusion Summon Gem-Knight Citrine and force through attacks without retaliation. However, Yu-Gi-Oh! as a whole is still existing in this sort of no-trap phase where many of the biggest decks in competition are only running a few floodgate traps – if even that. So the real issue then becomes breaking through your opponent's line of monsters to get to their Life Points. Citrine is great for taking a straight shot, but its 2200 ATK isn't enough to breakthrough monster walls any time soon.

So to solve this issue, you're going to redirect your attention to the Thunder-related Fusions instead of focusing on the Pyro-centric Fusion Monsters. Gem-Knight Topaz is your replacement for Citrine so to speak. Even though Topaz only has 1800 ATK, it can attack twice each Battle Phase and easily take out half of your opponent's Life Points. If you take 2000 LP with Lapis Lazuli's effect and 3600 LP with Topaz, then you'd just need a direct hit with Lapis Lazuli's 2400 ATK to finish the duel.

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When brute force isn't enough to see you through to victory, Gem-Knight Prismaura will almost always finish the job. Once per turn, you can send a Gem-Knight card from your hand to the graveyard to target a face-up card on the field and destroy it. This effect will trigger Gem-Knight Obsidian and Gem-Knight Lazuli, but it's Gem-Knight Fusion that really makes it unfair. With its ability to banish a Gem-Knight to return itself to your hand, you can essentially destroy a face-up card for free.

The use of Thunder Dragon in the Main Deck means that dropping copies of Prismaura like candy is altogether too easy. Prismaura's usually the key to really getting at your opponent's Life Points without resistance. Of course, Gem-Knight Tourmaline is your other big Thunder-type as well as the required card for Gem-Knight Topaz.

Alright, Buck! Where's The Bang!?
$85! Gem-Knights are sort of super duper cheap since they're so far off of the radar.

I suggest getting familiar with this deck once more before Absorb Fusion drops and the interest in the strategy upticks a bit. However, even right now, the deck is a cool and budget conscious alternate to the crazy fast and crazy expensive mainstream. If you're looking for a breath of fresh air, I recommend digging deep into the ground to really find it.

-Zach Buckley
Team Nofatchx