It's Structure Deck Season, yo! Easily one of my favorite times of the year: whenever Konami graces the community with a new Structure Deck, budget players like myself rejoice the world over. But this time is different. This time it's personal. For all of the jokes I make about Blackwing players and other sects of Yugidom having an intense and personal relationship with their spirit deck theme, I don't think for a moment that anybody has a more intense emotional connection to their chosen theme than HERO players.

Let's be real though: ever since Elemental HERO – Stratos wound up on the Forbidden & Limited List for being obnoxiously overpowered, the HERO-playing community has lived with a wound in their side. A wound that they gladly #hashtag about everywhere humanly possible. The interesting part, however, is the fact that the HERO theme's an umbrella category with a billion cards underneath it. I'm serious. I don't think that there's another actual theme in this entire game that has nearly as many cards.

So why are they all complaining?

Sure, you could make jokes about how those players suck or how they're selfish, but what happens when you really examine their grievances? You'll discover that there really isn't actually a good HERO monster. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about their Extra Deck monsters. I think it goes without saying that the HERO Fusions are some of the most powerful monsters in the game.

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No, I'm talking about their Main Deck monsters; the cards you build the deck around. Do you know what the best Main Deck HERO monster is right now? Elemental Hero Bubbleman. That's sort of sad. Bubbleman's okay, but, like, it's not that good. Coming in at second place is Elemental Hero Neos Alius – a vanilla. So then it stacks up that the two best monsters in all of HERO-dom are an 800 ATK Bubble-dude and a Normal Monster. When you take that into consideration on its own, it's not hard to see why HERO fans complain so much.

But that's not even the last of it. Fusion Summoning, much like Ritual Summoning, is costly. More often than not, you're going to take a -2 getting that Fusion Monster on board. For the longest time, you traded in Polymerization and two Fusion Materials in exchange for just one Fusion Monster that rarely ended up being worthwhile. For a while there after that, Super Polymerization came along and turned that -2 into a more manageable -1, but that still didn't cut it for HERO players (for two big reasons that I'll hit on later). Plus, Shaddolls ruined that for HERO players anyways. So aside from Miracle Fusion, there hasn't been a ton of viable ways to get out the big HERO monsters.

Unmasking The Hero Conundrum…
The HERO theme was thrown a curve ball when Masked Change debuted in Generation Force. It introduced a new sub-theme to the HERO archetype: the Masked HERO cards. They're Fusion Monsters you Special Summon with Mask Change, and they can't be Special Summoned by other ways; far from a problem, because Mask Change is great. It's a Quick-Play Spell that targets a face-up Hero monster you control, sending it to the graveyard and Special Summoning a Masked HERO from your Extra Deck with the same attribute.

And that's it! It's a simple and powerful card with insanely high utility. However, there were a few big factors that kept it from dominating the competitive circuit. First up was the eternal struggle of having no great Main Deck HERO monsters to use it with. Compounding that issue even further, there really weren't any good Masked HERO's either!

Konami started off by giving us Masked HERO Goka and Masked HERO Vapor; two monsters that lead the charge of the "Just Okay Brigade." It wasn't until later that Konami would release Masked HERO Dian and Masked HERO Acid, both of which are killer strong: Dian Special Summons a Level 4 or lower HERO from your deck whenever it destroys a monster by battle with its monolithic 2800 ATK and sends it to the graveyard. And Acid? It's Harpie's Feather Duster. So that one's cool. But, believe it or not, that still wasn't enough.

Out Of The Mist, An Answer Appears!
Enter into the equation the brand new HERO Strike Structure Deck. The cards in this strategy are both the HERO's this theme needs and the HERO's this theme deserves! Everybody gets a slice of cake on this day! With one Structure Deck, Konami's rectified all of the issues that've plagued HERO's for years.

First up, Konami released a good Main Deck Elemental HERO monster that furthers the Masked Hero agenda and pushes it into the future of competitive dueling. I have no doubt in my mind that that's the right way to go about this and really, Konami gave us a helluva card as the argument for it. Truth be told, I thought Elemental HERO Shadow Mist was jank at first glance, but the more I've played with it, the more I've come to appreciate it.

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It's a Level 4 Dark Warrior with 1000 ATK and 1500 DEF that has two effects – only one of which can be used on a turn. The first effect allows you to pull a "Change" card out of your deck and add it to your hand if Shadow Mist is Special Summoned. That effect's a big one. The second ability adds a HERO monster from your deck to your hand if Shadow Mist is sent to the graveyard.

Shadow Mist has a lot going for it underneath the surface. Contrary to what you may believe, there's actually a healthy number of ways to Special Summon it for its first effect to search out your Mask Change cards. Note that Shadow Mist will never miss timing. Having that coveted "if" written into its effect is an all-important factor when you consider the way cards are being thrown around in a deck like this.

The big tipping point for the Masked Hero sub-theme today is the fact that the strategy now has a full stable of potent Extra Deck monsters! Konami released three new Masked HERO cards that are all great on their respective fronts, and the biggest and baddest of the bunch is Masked HERO Dark Law. Everyone's been anticipating this card's release and it carries big implications for competitive dueling.

Dark Law's a one-sided Macro Cosmos. Any card that would be sent to your opponent's graveyard – or their Extra Deck in the case of Pendulum monsters – will be banished instead. Furthermore, once per turn when your opponent adds a card to their hand outside of the Draw Phase, Dark Law will banish a random card from their hand. It completely and utterly wrecks all current dueling trends. It's literally a meta call in monster form. Even though today's deck is built around Summoning Dark Law, I've still designed it to fight against opposing copies as well. Now that you have the complete context, let's look at the deck and pick it up on the other side…

DECKID= 101687So I think there are some weird things here that you might not have expected, as well as some things that seem missing. That's fair. But because Mask Change II doesn't require an actual HERO monster to Special Summon Masked HERO monsters from your Extra Deck, you have to be ready to see it splashed into everything. This deck has been built to try and combat some of those perceived issues. A Hero Lives got the boot because Masked HERO Koga can now steal games without any issue. It starts off at 2500 ATK and gains 500 attack points for each monster your opponent controls – dumb, I know – and it can banish a HERO monster from your graveyard to reduce an opposing monster's ATK by the attack of the banished HERO. So you have to ask yourself, is it really a good idea to give up half your Life Points? For me, the answer was no.

Sure, but why Reborn Tengu, right? Tengu, aside from being one of my favorite monsters ever, plays strongly into issues presented by Masked HERO Dark Law. Its Special Summon effect dodges Dark Law's second ability and it can help you make strong Rank 4 plays. My other big reason is the new Wind Masked HERO.

At 2700 ATK Masked HERO Divine Wind is a beater, but its effects are what make it truly great: your opponent can only attack with one monster per turn, and Divine Wind can't be destroyed by battle. Then, if Divine Wind destroys an opposing monster by battle you draw a card. It's a total game-shifter that places your opponent in a huge predicament. Stretching to accommodate it here pays dividends.

I've made this deck without focusing on single-minded OTK's. I realize that for a lot of people that seems weird, and by all means I'm not saying it's the only way to build the deck. However, I wanted a HERO Deck that could play the long game, and now with Extra Deck monsters that promote grinding for card advantage and position, it's actually possible to take that approach. This isn't Bubble Beat and I've built it to play accordingly.

Alright, Buck! Where's The Bang!?
This one cracks in at $100! Which isn't bad for a deck that I'd arguably take to my next Regional. It's a powerful strategy with a ton of powerful cards that interacts with current metagames in a ton of really powerful ways. It's just, like, powerful!

Honestly, it's great to see HERO's not only return to form, but accelerate past it to greater heights than they ever achieved before. I recommend you throw down the cash for some Structure Decks and build this craziness for yourself!

-Zach Buckley
Team Nofatchx