YCS Milan had the distinction of being the first YCS after the most recentForbidden & Limited List changes, and its outcome lays out what mightbe an interesting roadmap for the remainder of the format.

Savage Strike launches in about a month and a half, but it's difficult to make anypredictions about the upcoming changes without a solid working knowledge ofwhere we're at right now. Milan answered some questions about the state ofthe game's top decks – especially Sky Strikers and Thunder Dragons – whileraising questions about the future of Prank-Kids and Altergeists.

Analyzing any European YCS comes with a few caveats. The pool of players asa result of regional differences creates different metagames than otherterritories. Card legality issues often make extrapolating results fromEurope impossible, but luckily Summon Sorceress was legal for YCS Milan. Itwas the biggest difference maker between the two regions for months, socomparisons are much easier to make now that it's available in Europe. Itsaw play in a handful of strategies in the Top 32, including Goukis and theRhongomyniad lock.

European players never invested in Goukis at the same level as players herein North America largely due to the lack of Sorceress. While the loss ofFirewall Dragon will hurt the deck's chances in the future I don't thinkmany European players were planning on picking up the deck anyways. Topduelists were already invested in Thunder Dragons and Sky Strikers, so thepresence of both strategies in the Top 32 could be a bit inflated. It'spossible that a North American YCS before Savage Strike would seemore Gouki builds, but that's mostly just speculation on my part.

Rhongomyniad Lock & Gem-Knight FTK Live Another Day
The recent F&L List aimed to reel in some of the power of Link-spamstrategies and cripple FTKs fueled by Firewall Dragon. Unfortunately FTKsand lockdowns still exist despite Firewall Dragon's Forbidding, and theywere represented in the Top 32 of Milan. Gem-Knight FTK may once again havebecome the premiere FTK for competitive play, and its single showing in theTop 32 shows that it still has what it takes to top a major event.Loukas wrote about Vladis Baranovkis' buildin an article earlier this week that you should definitely check out: thisbuild is different from other Gem-Knight FTKs we've seen in the past.

Meanwhile, the famous Dark Warrior Rhongomyniad lock managed to take twospots in the Top 32. The strategy never used Firewall Dragon to begin with,so it escaped mostly unscathed by the F&L List. The Limit to ArmageddonKnight and Semi-Limit on Destiny HERO - Malicious slowed the deck downslightly, but it wasn't nearly enough to prevent six-material RhongomyniadSummons on Turn 1.

A small hit to the combo's consistency won't keep the deck off the toptables, and for the time being it remains a totally viableChampionship-level strategy with essentially zero poor match-ups as long asthe lockdown resolves.

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Speculators grabbed copies of Xyz Encore before the F&L List dropped tocounter Rhongomyniad, but it was hard to tell exactly how popular the deckwould be through the end of the year. YCS Milan has ended those doubts, yetXyz Encore hasn't seen much serious play lately. That could change asplayers dedicate Side Deck slots to one of the last big FTK-stylestrategies in the post-Firewall format, or it's possible that Xyz Encore istoo narrow to slot into Side Decks.

Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries is potentially just as effectiveassuming you draw it in your opening hand, and it has vastly more utilityagainst virtually every match-up in the game. Xyz Encore probably won't seemuch play unless there's a sudden surge in Rhongomyniad players, but that'ssomething you'll have to gauge on a local or regional level.

Sky Strikers & Thunder Dragons Defined Deck Choices
What's the most obvious takeaway from YCS Milan? Sky Strikers and ThunderDragons have carved out a solid spot at the top of the competitive scenethanks to their strong match-ups against nearly every other strategy inserious competition.

The loss of Firewall Dragon has crippled their hardest match-ups outside ofthe mirror, and that's worked wonders for the outlook on both decks goingforward. Sky Strikers are particularly well positioned this format and thetop pick at the Championship level. Many top players at YCS Milan commentedon the strength of the Sky Striker engine, but that's not really news foranyone that's been playing competitively in 2018.

Main Deck counters to both Thunder Dragons and Sky Strikers were incrediblypopular at YCS Milan, with multiple builds in the Top 8 prepared withShared Ride in the Main Deck. It's an appropriate tech choice given the twomost successful strategies at Milan were so heavily stacked with searcheffects, and it was extremely common in Sky Striker builds where it gaveplayers a serious edge in the mirror match. Any number of other strategiescan easily swing Shared Ride in either the Main or Side Deck, and it's ontrack to become one of the most popular tech picks of the new format.

Artifact Lancea was also insanely popular in the Top 32, but naturally itfound its home in the Side Deck. It's a workable counter to Thunder Dragonsand a fantastic out to decks that lead with Magical Mid-Breaker Fieldbefore launching a flurry of Link Summoning combos. Dark Goukis, DarkWarrior Rhongomyniad and other highly aggressive strategies will almostalways hit a roadblock against Lancea's floodgate effect. That interactionalone was enough to land Lancea in numerous Side Decks.

While a huge chunk of players went into the YCS trying to capitalize on thebest possible deck engines, other players aimed to steal Game 1 wins byavoiding the same popular tech picks we just discussed. Check outDarren Stephenson's interviewfrom YCS Milan; in it he describes the reason why he chose Altergeists forthe event: that with everyone maining counters to Sky Strikers there was anopportunity to play a deck that couldn't lose to Shared Ride. It's the samelogic that led to Prank-Kids taking 1st Place, and we'll come back to thata little later.

Altergeists Embrace The Anti-Sky Striker Role
Altergeists are perfectly suited to play the role of an anti-meta roguestrategy, but the deck's strong enough to get through enough match-ups thatto call it 'rogue' would be underselling its competitiveness.

Playing first with Altergeists is one of the strongest positions you can bein for Game 1, especially since so few players are actually running spelland trap removal in their Main Decks. Even fewer strategies are runningMain Deck outs to Secret Village of the Spellcasters, and as a resultAltergeist lists at YCS Milan prioritized spell floodgates in the absenceof Firewall-fueled Link spam strategies.

Both Altergeist lists in the Top 16 of YCS Milan ran three Main Deck copiesof Secret Village of the Spellcasters despite it being a liability in themirror match. Ultimately that didn't matter – gaining a Game 1 edge againstSky Strikers and Thunder Dragons was important enough to lean into a directcounter build at the cost of a weaker mirror match.

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Setting up with Secret Village is huge: look at any of theTop 8 Sky Striker decksif you need a reminder of how unprepared these builds are to deal with Turn1 spell floodgates. Lukas Waser ran a Main Deck Galaxy Cyclone and sidedWorld Dino Wrestling to find his generic removal faster. DinowrestlerPankratops is huge in Games 2 and 3 as an answer to various floodgates, butthat's too late to help in a crucial Game 1.

The potency of the heavily Anti-Spell Main Deck of Altergeists is a warningto other strategies: relying on a large spell line-up risks losing outrightto floodgates like Secret Village of the Spellcasters, Imperial Order, orAnti-Spell Fragrance. However, Altergeists aren't the only deck that canexist in the space between Main Deck outs to Sky Strikers and the broader,Link-heavy competitive scene.

In fact, there's one strategy that might be even better suited toChampionship-level play exclusively as a rogue strategy: Prank-Kids.

Prank-Kids May Have Real Staying Power
Dinh-Kha Bui's win at YCS Milan was A Major Upset at a time when Prank-Kidswere still relatively unexplored. The deck's excellent Sky Striker match-upis promising, and there's plenty of potential for the deck to stick aroundlong term. That said, the most likely Stumbling block for Prank-Kids goingforward is the deck's vulnerability to certain Side Deck cards. It's notnecessarily the potency of Side Deck tech, but just their presence inmetagames where Prank-Kids are seeing play could be enough to stop the deckfrom topping.

Dimensional Barrier and Retaliating "C" are fantastic against Prank-Kids,with the latter a one-card solution that robs the deck's supply line. IfPrank-Kids aren't going to the graveyard they're also not Summoning moremonsters from the deck. The theme's Extra Deck monsters are designed torecover Prank Kids from the graveyard and, as you might expect, Retaliating"C" throws a wrench in that strategy. It's incredibly disruptive, but rightnow almost nobody is siding it. That's a huge advantage for Prank-Kidsplayers assuming the trend holds, and so long as Dimensional Barrierdoesn't see an increase in play.

Prank-Kids are well-positioned against nearly every other popular Side Deckpick this format. Shared Ride, Artifact Lancea, and Ghost Reaper &Winter Cherries are either useless or have very limited effectiveness.Dinh-Kha Bui's win is partly owed to a general lack of knowledge about thetheme from his opponents, and in a much larger way his own personal skillas a player and deck builder. Repeat tops from decks that make sudden winsfrom nowhere are rare–at least on the championship level.

We'll definitely be seeing Prank-Kids at Regionals more often now that ithas a proven track record, and if it does show up in sufficient numbersit'll add an extra layer of complexity to Main and Side Deck choices.

Until next time then

-Kelly