Hello, friends! I've missed you all so - but I'm back after a horrific month of wisdom tooth-fueled hell! During the course of the past month I've had plenty of time to sit back and observe the shape of the game as it stands. While many astute observers have taken the time to analyze what's been popping up around the world for the rest of us, I've happily noticed one very large absence from most competitive metagames: Evilswarms.

But why is this so very important? You see, for the first time since the release of the Evilswarm theme they haven't played an important role in the competitive landscape, and that means that for the first time since Hidden Arsenal 7, Gishkis have a shot at competitive viability.

This is something I've been waiting for, for a very long time.

You Don't Mean That Horrific Gishki OTK, Do You?
Oh God, no! I love myself too much to ever consider playing that atrocity. I'd rather play Exodia – and I'd rather die than play Exodia, so you're safe there. No my dearest friends, what I'm talking about here is the real deal. I've been very fond of the Gishki strategy as a whole since it was first announced. It's a simple and elegant engine that gets the job done with brutal efficiency. What it lacks in spontaneity, it makes up in fantastic consistency and I think that if you want to play with the big dogs right now, then consistency is what you need to aim for.

How about we take a look at the deck and see what we've got?

DECKID=99773I featured this deck many months ago but the basic premise has remained the same. Truth be told, the gist of the strategy hasn't even changed since Jason wrote about it three years ago! The reason is that Gishkis do what they do very, very well – which is to consistently churn out large monsters at a rate that your opponent can't handle. Konami found a way to make an archetype centered around Ritual Summoning that can make +1s more than it minuses – which, I mean let's face it, that's something that I would've largely considered impossible before now. Konami achieved this fabulous feat through some of the yummiest card design the game's ever seen.

When you're playing a Ritual Deck, the two things that you want to see the most of are your Ritual Monster and its accompanying Ritual Spell. If you've built your deck well, then most everythings else is focused around getting those two cards to your hand. In their design work for this theme, Konami did just that. The Gishki strategy has an on-theme Elemental Hero Stratos in the form of Gishki Abyss, allowing you to search out any of your power players at the cost of nothing but a Normal Summon; a Normal Summon that you'll find yourself seldom using due to the emphasis on Special Summons in this strategy. Gishki Shadow and Gishki Vision are two of the strongest Ritual Summoning support cards in the game. Vision searches out your Gishki Zielgigas and Shadow searches out Gishki Aquamirror. Both can be used as the entire Tribute for your Ritual Summon, too. The importance of that second effect can't be overstated, especially when your Ritual Monster of choice is a hulking Level 10 behemoth.

Oh, but how that behemoth is worth it! Gishki Zielgigas is a 3200 ATK monolith that your opponent will spend most of the duel attempting to get off of the field and out of sight – to little avail. For several years now, the benchmark for a massive beater has been 2800 ATK, and there aren't many monsters in competition today that can top that bar. Part of this strategy's appeal is that it places such a large monster on the field for such a small commitment. If that was all it had going for it though, Zielgigas wouldn't necessarily be all that spectacular. What really makes Zielgigas shine is its relatively unique and singularly powerful ability. At the cost of 1000 Life Points, you can draw a card and reveal it, and if it's a Gishki Monster you'll target one card on the field and send it back to the deck.

#####CARDID=11837#####

You'll usually use that effect aggressively by sending opposing cards deep into the recesses of your opponent's deck, forcing them to either search it back out or wait until they draw into it – by which time the duel could very well be over. Using the effect this way makes it a +2 for you at the cost of only 1000 LP, presuming you hit a Gishki Monster. Sometimes, unique opportunities will even play in which you can recycle your own stuff, like a spent Fiendish Chain. With a style of removal that's underexplored in the game, there's lots of potential left over to explore when it comes to Gishki Zielgigas.

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Is 1500 The Greatest Number Of Them All?Recursion is an important concept for this strategy. The true strength of the Gishkis lie in the fact that regardless of where they're at, your most important cards are never quite out of your reach. Strategies such as Fire Fists have made their competitive reputaton on the fact that they can get to pretty much any of their monsters at any time. Searching is powerful. What happens when you take that notion a step further? What happens when you can not only search out everything you need but regain it almost immediately when it's lost? With Gishkis, anything is possible.

The first of your powerful recursion tools is an oft-overlooked trap card from Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy: Torrential Reborn. When your opponent manages to destroy any of your face-up Water monsters, you can activate Torrential Reborn and then Special Summon from your graveyard every monster sent there at the time of activation. The real kicker? You'll burn your opponent for 500 damage for each monster Special Summoned to the field. That's great, but you've also got other, less confrontational methods of getting your cards back.

Gishki Aquamirror is one of the most powerful Ritual Spells in the game, hands down. And while there are other Gishki Ritual spells, Aquamirror is the best of the bunch for its simplicity and smart card economy. The first half of Aquamirror's text reads like any other Ritual Spell. The second half is different: it lets you bring Zielgigas back to your hand by shuffling your used Aquamirror into your deck. This nifty little piece of text lets you drop multiple Zielgigas in one turn – and given the correct conditions, OTK your opponent. How? Simple!

Summon two Gishki Zielgigas, attack with each for 6400 damage and then overlay them for Superdreadnought Rail Cannon Gustav Max. Its effect will burn away your opponent's remaining 1600 Life Points! You'd be surprised at the frequency with which that combo actually works. With the right hand, you can pull it off as early as your Turn 1. You have to go second and your opponent has to open with absolute crap, but this is Yu-Gi-Oh! and that stuff does tend to happen.

To pull off that OTK, you'll often need another card: Salvage. I genuinely believe that the entire Gishki theme was made for this spell card. No joke. Think about it? Salvage was released way back in 2004 in Invasion of Chaos and it's still not Limited. The card is an absolutely painless +1 that almost always goes off without a hitch. Do you know why it's untouched? Because Konami created nothing of merit to use with it, and when they finally realized that, Gishkis were born.

For those of you who aren't catching onto my rant, Salvage is a Normal Spell card that adds two Water monsters with 1500 ATK or less from your graveyard to your hand. The neat part? That's literally ALL of your Gishki monsters save Zielgigas – which already has its recursion strategy nailed down. This card lets you thin your deck so hard.

For real, your deck will be bald in no time. It's yummy. Salvage makes the deck.

The Beauty Of The Beast
Let's talk about Gishki Beast to bring our time together to a close today, shall we? Gishki Beast is the cherry on top of this deck. One of the biggest pitfalls when playing Gishkis is their linearity, and if you aren't skillful enough to accommodate for that, the predictable nature of the deck can cost you games. Gishki Beast however, is a nice little sucker punch that can win duels all on its own. Beast is your Wolfbark at a 100th of the price! When you Normal Summon it, Gishki Beast will Special Summon any Level 4 or lower Gishki Monster from your graveyard in Defense Position.

Gishki Beast is important because it cranks out Rank 4's and it happens to be a Water monster. That gives you access to two incredibly strong Xyz Monsters. The first of which, Bahamut Shark, is a popular pick with Mermail players because it can crank out powerful Rank 3's like Mermail Abysstrite and Number 47: Nightmare Shark –you put both to great use here. Honestly, in the late game sometimes all you need to do to win is put out a 2800 DEF wall like Abysstrite to seal the deal.

#####CARDID=11593#####

The second, and lesser known of the two options, is Snowdust Giant. This Rank 4 may seem underwhelming at first but in application it's actually quite powerful. A big part of the Gishki strategy is that you almost always have Water monsters in your hand – and usually a big hand at that, which is why this build runs Tragoedia. So when you have a Snowdust Giant on the field, you can reveal any number of Water monsters in your hand and then place that many counters on every monster on the field. All non-Water monsters lose 200 ATK for each counter on the field. For real, you can reduce the ATK of all of your opponent's monsters to 0 with relative ease using this thing. It's fast become my personal MVP in this deck and as a common it's the apotheosis of what my articles are about.

Gishki Beast is also a good avenue to use when discussing what you could do with a larger budget. If I personally had a larger pool of funds, I'd probably place at least two Number 101: Silent Honer ARK in here without question, as well as one Evilswarm Exciton Knight. This strategy could do some serious damage with those two cards alone. If you've got them, try them out and let me know!

Alright, Buck. Where's The Bang?
This one is capping you out at $100, largely because you have two $15 monsters in the Extra Deck. You can, of course, drop those monsters however you see fit to adapt the build to your spending habits. But in the meantime – enjoy!

I really, really, really like this deck. I build some crazy stuff, and having something with ruthless consistency to fall back on every now and then is just a deep pleasure. Try it out, friends. But promise you'll share your experience down in the Comments.

-Zach Buckley
Team Nofatchx