Normally you'd be reading a "Behind the Cards" article about the Black Luster monsters but today I wanted to share with you something different. With all the new competitive decks rampaging about this format, I wanted to bring a more casual deck into the fray, and one I'm very excited about: the new Black Luster Soldier monsters.

Of course it's not one of my articles if I don't point out some things you might've missed about the images and symbols hidden in the theme, so let's attend to that first. Black Luster Soldier has begun to distance itself from the Chaos family and play more to its origins. Beginning as the Earth Ritual monster and transforming into Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning, it was Forbidden, Limited and rose again as a SHONEN JUMP subscription promo, as Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Evening Twilight.

Noticeably polarized between Light and Dark with the right side of its body turning black and draconic, while its left half turned white and avian, Evening Twilight's appearance could be a reference to Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End. Now in Dimension of Chaos it appears to have split the "Envoy of Twilight" aspect in two, and returned to its roots as an Earth Ritual. The two elements of Chaos seen in Envoy of the Evening Twilight's art seemingly became their own entities: Beginning Knight and Evening Twilight Knight.

Interestingly enough, each of the two Knights physically resemble Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning (Beginning Knight), and Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Evening Twilight (Evening Twilight Knight). At the same time, we'll see Black Luster Soldier - Sacred Soldier released in Breakers of Shadow, where the character appears to be disconnecting itself from the Dark altogether.

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Black Luster Soldier seems to have been through a lot and its story continues. Whether or not it's the same monster in each incarnation, and how Beginning Knight and Evening Twilight Knight are related, is a mystery. Note that its chest piece begins to vary, ranging from dragon-like to bird-like as the new forms progress. One could venture that as the Sacred Soldier, its chest piece is the head of the falcon deity of Egyptian religion Horus.

As to why Gaia The Fierce Knight and Kuriboh are associated with all of this, I'm assuming it's a reference to Black Luster Soldier's first appearance in the animated series where both monsters were offered as tribute to Ritual Summon it.

Why Should YOU Take up the Mantle?
I'm sure you're wondering "Why would I build a Black Luster Soldier – Super Soldier deck when I can pick up the Master of Pendulum Structure and just wreck face with that?" The short answer is because you want to be unique and have fun, but it's also worth mentioning that not many decks exist that can banish opposing cards as often as Black Luster Soldier can. Black Luster Soldier boasts an amazing 3000 ATK too, which beats most threats you'll come up against and trades with Kozmo Dark Destroyer.

The deck has a lot in the way of surprise plays and recursion thanks to the "little" monsters that contribute to your Ritual Summons, and thanks to the surprise factor, most of your opponents will have very little idea what's going on until it's too late. By the time they have it figured out, you can switch gears and do other things entirely. Of all the recent legacy support granted to old themes, this deck received a lot of decent new stuff and will continue to get more in the future with Breakers of Shadow. In fact, this deck continues to receive support in the OCG as well with another Gaia The Fierce Knight and a Dragon Champion monster on the way for the movie, currently fanlated as Lord Gaia The Fierce Knight. The deck just continues to get more options to build on, and Chaos themes continue to grow.

Black Luster Soldier - Super Soldier does have down sides. It inflicts bonus damage to your opponent when it destroys monsters, but for that effect to work the monster you destroy must go to the graveyard. That's unfortunate against Pendulum decks but it does still punish the Xyz and Synchros you're likely to see. With 3000 ATK, there's not much the Soldier can't run over and even if it does go down in battle, you'll Special Summon any "Gaia the Fierce Knight" monster your deck or graveyard to replace it. The Super Soldier's great, but it's really just a vessel for further powers granted by the theme's support cards.

When ANY of your Black Luster Soldier Ritual Monsters are summoned using Beginning Knight or Twilight Evening Knight as tributes, they get a Supercharged boost. Both the Knights are Level 4, comprising half of your Ritual Summon. Knight of the Beginning allows the Ritual Summoned Soldier to attack twice and banishes one monster on the field, with no restrictions. That means you can banish a pesky Pendulum monster, then tear through up to two monsters on the field; or destroy one, and then make a direct attack. It's like having an even better Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning, since you can banish and attack on the same turn.

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If your Ritual Monster survives, it'll do that again next turn too. Evening Twilight Knight is spectacular as well because just like its counterpart, Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Evening Twilight, it allows your Ritual Monster to banish one card in your opponent's hand until their next End Phase, and banish a monster on the field. The restrictions to Envoy of the Evening Twilight's effects are ludicrous, but there are no such limitations here. If you use both Knights for your Ritual Summon, you'll have a Ritual that can banish two monsters on the field, banish a card in your opponent's hand, and attack twice each turn with no drawbacks.

Banishing your opponent's Pendulums is just fun to watch, and if they have a monter in attack mode, you can hit them for as much as 6000 damage out of nowhere – attacking over their monster will deal battle damage plus effect damage equal to the ATK of their monster, which means 3000 LP in most cases. A follow-up attack with the ability of Beginning Knight can deal another 3000 damage on a direct shot. That can become a game-winning 90000 damage if you banish your Beginning Knight and Evening Twilight Knight for Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning.

A 6000 damage hit early on can shut down you opponent's Performage Trick Clown, leaving them with 1000 Life Points or less while you threaten game with something as simple as Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands. Keep in mind, the Knights and Sphere Kuriboh are much better off in your hand where you can use them to their full potential.

Super Soldier Ritual's really powerful too, Summoning any Black Luster Ritual Monster. While it's in your graveyard you can banish it with a Light monster and a Dark monster to Special Summon a Black Luster Ritual Monster from your hand, ignoring its Summoning conditions. Keep in mind, that effect won't count as Ritual Summoning the monster, but it will activate the last effects of your Beginning Knight and Evening Twilight Knight; they search a Ritual Monster and Ritual Spell card from your deck.

Interestingly enough, the Knights can search any Rituals to your hand – not just Black Luster Soldier cards – so perhaps more partnered cards are on the horizon? While you can't use both effects of one Super Soldier Ritual in the same turn, you can use multiple copies. One of my favorite plays is to Summon the basic Black Luster Soldier with the two Knights as tribute, then banish a second copy of the Ritual from my graveyard for Black Luster Soldier - Super Soldier. I experimented with running the original Black Luster Ritual here too, but found that running the original Black Luster Soldier was more convenient than a very specific Ritual Spell.

Your Uniform, Private!

After everything we've discussed above, it's time to take all the Light, all the Darkness and all of the mortal air that makes up Black Luster Soldier and turn it into a 40 card deck. Here's what we have for today.

DECKID=103824The deck's main focus is Ritual Summoning monsters, and luckily all incarnations of Black Luster Soldier boast an impressive 3000 ATK. Most monsters won't compare in that department, but card effects will definitely break through its shields. While you can quickly end games with multiple attacks and flooding the field with large bodies early, the deck's surprisingly decent in the mid and late game too. It focuses a lot on making the most of cards in the graveyard to facilitate plays later on, so you can make big Summons quite often and frequently for free.

Beginning Knight and Evening Twilight Knight are invaluable. Early in the duel, let your opponent go first and either build their field or leave themselves open. As soon as your turn comes around, banish their monsters and disrupt their hand. You want to play very aggressively as soon as you get the chance. In the mid to late game, try and sit on one Super Soldier for as long as you can, keeping a Super Soldier Ritual in your graveyard or hand so you can rush a weakened field.

Lose 1 Turn's really great too, making combos with Djinn Disserere of Rituals and the original Black Luster Soldier: the Djinn will make your Super Soldier immune to trap cards, including Lose 1 Turn, and the non-effect Black Luster Soldier won't be impacted by Lose 1 Turn in any scenario. Those two cards help keep you going while your opponent stumbles about.

Stand Your Ground, Soldier!
Remember that Beginning Knight and Evening Twilight Knight will NOT grant their effects to a Ritual Monster if they're banished from the graveyard for Super Soldier Ritual's secondary effect. If those monsters are in your hand, you can tribute them for a Ritual Summon or use them to block an attack – both have a solid 2000 DEF. I can't stress just how amazing those cards are: nothing feels better than telling your opponent you're banishing two monsters, cleaving a card from their hand, and then swinging for two attacks.

Remember, if your opponent banishes the Knights from your graveyard with something like Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk to try and preempt something like Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning, you still get to search your deck with their effects. These dichotomous knights will serve a double purpose, as will Sphere Kuriboh.

Sphere Kuriboh really shines against Kozmos. It doesn't target, which is a huge plus in a deck that largely does, and will switch the giant Kozmo monsters to defense mode so you can swing in next turn with Super Soldier. That's going to deliver a minimum 2300 damage against a Kozmo Sliprider – more against the bigger space-ships. If your opponent chooses to bring out another, smaller Kozmo monster with the effect of the spaceship you destroy, they'll often have to deal with another attack from your Super Soldier courtesy of Beginning Knight.

Sphere Kuriboh's really helpful in a format where your opponent can OTK you so easily. You can also banish it from your graveyard as part of your Ritual Summon, pairing nicely with Gaia The Fierce Knight' rel=" Gaia The Fierce Knight">Charging Gaia The Fierce Knight and Awakened Gaia The Fierce Knight from Breakers of Shadow.

You'd be surprised how often you'll find yourself with a Gaia The Fierce Knight' rel=" Gaia The Fierce Knight">Charging Gaia The Fierce Knight. It's really invaluable here, and it's woven into the effects of at least two very important cards. Tributing Gaia searches for ANY Black Luster Soldier monster, letting you rush your opponent with some unexpected acceleration. Playing two copies ensures that you'll see them more often than not. I've also included two Enemy Controllers for some battle phase shenanigans, and to force Gaia The Fierce Knight' rel=" Gaia The Fierce Knight">Charging Gaia The Fierce Knight's effect. You can sub those out for something else if you want, but they get even better when Awakened Gaia The Fierce Knight rears its head.

Since Gaia's a central piece of your strategy and can be searched so easily through Gateway to Chaos and Black Luster Soldier - Super Soldier, extra Level 1's are welcome. Note that you can pair the Level 1 Djinn Disserere of Rituals with Gaia The Fierce Knight' rel=" Gaia The Fierce Knight">Charging Gaia The Fierce Knight. Unaffected by traps? Yes please! Unaffected by your own Lose 1 Turn? Even better. Both the Djinn and Sphere Kuriboh gain value from Awakened Gaia The Fierce Knight, and both monsters can be banished from the graveyard for quick, free, Ritual Summons.

Defend With Honor
Let's talk about a few smaller details. Since Super Soldier Ritual's secondary effect is a cost, you can still use it to trigger effects like those of Beginning Knight and Evening Twilight Knight if your opponent finds a way to negate it.

People are generally wary of running the original Black Luster Soldier, but it has some merits. As mentioned before, it plays around your own Lose 1 Turn. It can also swing through Fiendish Chain, even if you give it effects with Evening Twilight Knight and Beginning Knight. You can even revive it with Daigusto Emeral. Those are all pretty decent bonuses.

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I thought Gateway to Chaos was underwhelming when I first considered it, but it turned out to be extremely useful in testing. It can grab a Gaia The Fierce Knight' rel=" Gaia The Fierce Knight">Charging Gaia The Fierce Knight to make Ritual Summons with Djinn, Kuriboh, and Gaia, or it can fetch one Black Luster Soldier monster. It also accumulates Spell Counters whenever a monster's sent from either player's hand or field to the graveyard. You can remove them three at a time to search a Ritual Spell.

As far as the Extra Deck's concerned, you won't really use it much here. This deck doesn't have the capacity to Summon more than one more monster per turn unless you're activating Instant Fusion or making a Ritual Summon. That said, that Daigusto Emeral play to bring back the oldschool Black Luster Soldier has thrown many an opponent for a loop.

Dismissed and Dishonored
I did consider Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Evening Twilight at one point, but it's not very good. If you somehow Special Summon it and then activate its effect, you can't enter the Battle Phase that turn. That's awful in a deck that wants to attack quickly. That card's newer form, Evening Twilight Knight, effectively does the same job .

The same goes for Gaia, the Polar Knight; Gaia, the Mid-Knight Sun; and their trap card, Exchange of Night and Day. Those were all too slow, and didn't help with the flow of the core game plan. You just don't have the time nor the resources to make those plays happen, and their use is limited since you only have two Chaos monsters. Their sole purpose was to "quickly" summon Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Evening Twilight, and even that doesn't make it playable. Maybe I'd run them in a more dedicated Chaos build, but with Reinforcements of the Army Limited it's just too much work and far too time consuming. Exchange of Night and Day is nothing more than Mystical Space Typhoon bait.

In a format where high-level competition revolves around Pendulums and Kozmos, it's tough for the Black Luster Soldier theme to shine. Nekroz set the bar almost unfairly high for Ritual themes moving forward, and this deck is not Nekroz. But if you're looking for a fun deck for locals or even more daringly, something to shoot for your invite for at a Regional Qualifier, this deck packs a punch and can pull off some unusual tricks! With more support slated for next year, it's got some interesting potential and you can build it any number of ways to suit your tastes.

-Franco Ferrara