There were a few interesting trends that emerged out of the UDSInvitational last week, but ultimately theTop 16 resultsweren't terribly surprising.

Salamangreats and Sky Strikers continue to dominate the competitive scenein the TCG thanks to their sheer consistency and numerous solutions to theThunder Dragon match-up. They are by far the most reliable decks to take totournaments and player confidence in both strategies is through the roof.Sky Strikers have an incredible track record at Championship-level events,and despite the newness of Salamangreats the deck has proved itself to beamong the top decks to beat in an extraordinarily short time.

You can check out some of the decklists in the Top 16 on ourDeck Archive. Salamangreats missed yet another opportunity to score a 1st Place finishabove the Regional level, but the deck's overall performance has beenextremely strong. The loneThunder Dragon listin in the Top 16 – piloted by Nishaad Lorengo – made it to the Top 4despite being outnumbered by Salamangreats and Sky Strikers. The deck'sstill insanely explosive, but its vulnerability to floodgates andinterruption is making it a dangerous choice for tournament play.

UDS Side Decks took lessons from YCS Dusseldorf – especially in respect toadjusting tech choices against Salamangreats. Dusseldorf was a provingground for that deck, and players in North America responded by loading upon D.D. Crow instead of Called by the Grave.

Otherwise most Side Decks have looked relatively similar since YCSDusseldorf, and this week I want to highlight a card that saw a ton of playat both events: Summon Limit. It's an incredibly strong floodgate that hasbecome a must-run for Sky Strikers, and a card you'll need to be preparedto play against in the Sky Striker match-up.

Taking Advantage Of Danger! Trends
Decks that rapidly Summon Link Monsters are extremely popular for a reason:they can play virtually any Special Summon to extend combos withoutmatching Levels or sticking to a particular theme.

Generic Link Monsters are often powerfully game-changing, and dozens ofstrategies have emerged over the last year to take advantage of the growingLink toolbox. Indiscriminate Special Summons are widely available, butcounters to mass Summons have somewhat declined since cards like Maxx "C"and Vanity's Emptiness hit the Forbidden List. Instead Fantastical DragonPhantazmay, Gozen Match, Rivalry of Warlords, and There Can Be Only One actas an indirect counters while other hand traps attempt to fill the voidleft by Maxx "C".

Summon Limit answers the demand for a hard counter to decks that are loadedwith Special Summon effects. Flipping Summon Limit after your opponent hasSummoned twice in a turn will prevent them from Summoning another monsterfor their remainder of that turn. It's obscenely strong against any deckthat's attempting to Summon an Xyz, Synchro, or a Link-2 or higher LinkMonster.

Summon Limit both stops your opponent from converting their monsters intoan Extra Deck monster and leaves them with would-be Link Materialsstuck on the field. Those monsters usually don't have the stats to hold outon their own, so Summon Limit typically sets up the conditions for an OTKif your opponent happens to end their turn with low-ATK monsters.

Unlike other floodgates like Gozen Match or There Can Be Only One it'snearly impossible for most decks to play out from underneath Summon Limit.Salamangreats have a single Link-1 at their disposal and it's hardly suitedto defense. In fact, Summon Limit works exceptionally well against decksthat Summon Link-1 monsters as part of their combos. Since those monstershave low ATK and cannot be Summoned in Defense Position they're primetargets for your Battle Phase. That's especially true for Salamangreats,but keep in mind that decks like Sky Strikers can and will stop Summoningafter their Link-1 hits the field.

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Sky Strikers are perfectly suited to play Summon Limit for a few reasons,and it's chiefly their ability to play aggressively while only Summoningtwice per turn. The deck can operate under Summon Limit better than anyother strategy, and more importantly, it's among the only floodgates SkyStrikers want to play. Gozen Match and Rivalry of Warlords reallyaren't options for Sky Strikers, and There Can Be Only One is a bit of atoss-up. The deck can play under it for a time, but Summon Limit has almostnone of the drawbacks that other floodgates have. More importantly SummonLimit stops Thunder Dragon players from reaching Thunder Dragon Colossus,which isn't guaranteed with other traps.

Summon Limit makes Sky Striker Mecha - Widow Anchor even stronger, andother types of removal have a bigger impact when your opponent can'treplace their monsters. Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit is an excellentpairing with Summon Limit, and any theme with Quick Effect removal mightfind Summon Limit useful provided they can play around it after the firstturn.

Going first is a necessity with Summon Limit, but loading up on hand trapsto support your floodgate is ideal. Players at the UDS repeatedly mentionedthat starting the duel with Summon Limit and a hand trap won them numerousgames, although admittedly the same could be said for nearly any floodgatethis format.

Weighing Alternatives
Summon Limit doesn't necessarily have the same stopping power as otherfloodgates. Your opponent can still Summon twice, and that could make adifference depending on when you activate it. Drawing Summon Limit later inthe game is much worse than Gozen Match, Rivalry of Warlords, or There CanBe Only One: its effect won't eat your opponent's Summons retroactively.Meanwhile, other competing floodgates will actually Shrink your opponent'sfield while locking them out of future Summons. Summon Limit's typically aworse card against an established field unless you can pair it with anotherform of removal.

The dangers of drawing Summon Limit against an established field make it anexclusively going-first floodgate, and arguably the top choice for SkyStrikers against nearly every match-up outside of the mirror. But whatabout non-Sky Striker strategies?

Subterrors could easily trade out Main Deck copies of There Can Be OnlyOne, but I think it's more likely that Subterror players themselves willprobably stick to their current line-up of floodgates. Altergeists aren'tlikely to play it either, which mostly just leaves Sky Strikers at themoment. For everyone else there are plenty of other floodgates to play,including a handful that are chronically underplayed at the moment.Vanity's Fiend and Majesty's Fiend can instantly win games, but they barelyshow up in Side Decks these days despite plentiful tribute fodder.

Summon Limit's rising in play right alongside Artifact Sanctum and ArtifactScythe: a pairing that shuts players out of their Extra Deck entirely forthe duration of their turn. Scythe is a temporary floodgate, but it lastslong enough to stop your opponent from making any kind of headway duringtheir turn. It takes advantage of the trend towards Effect Veiler and awayfrom Infinite Impermanence, and in Game 1 there are surprisingly fewcounters to a Turn 1 Scythe activation.

Salamangreats wouldn't play Summon Limit anyways, but even non-Salamangreatdecks should consider the Artifact engine first.

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Backrow removal and trap negation are increasingly important as morefloodgates and traps enter the competitive scene. Solemn Warning, SolemnStrike, and Solemn Judgment are seeing play again after a long hiatus, andSalamangreat traps are also pushing players to tech Red Reboot and HeavyStorm Duster more often. Twin Twisters is an excellent pick againstanything that's not Salamangreat Roar or a fully resolved Imperial Order,and Heavy Storm Duster is practically a Side Deck staple at this point.They're all equally capable of dispatching Summon Limit, and both TwinTwisters and Heavy Storm Duster will destroy a Sky Striker Mecha Modules -Multirole or Sky Striker Airspace - Area Zero as a bonus.

You probably don't need another reason to play Dinowrestler Pankratops, butit also happens to be an excellent choice against virtually every backrowfloodgate being played right now. As long as you Summon Pankratopsfirst you'll be fully insured against Summon Limit or anotherfloodgate that might be chained to your second Summon.

Pankratops' utility is nearly unmatched and I can't imagine a format whereit won't be competitively viable. Right now it's among the best solutionsto backrow in the game, and it only ever flops against the Artifact engine,or temporary floodgates activated from the hand. Pankratops can't solveevery problem, but it does solve a huge majority of those that exist in thebackrow.

Summon Limit is at its best when most of the competitive field can't followits critical combo paths without Summoning more than twice per turn.Today's top strategies are either tightly bundled themes like Sky Strikersor Salamangreats, or descendants of monster mash strategies from years ago.Thunder Dragons – particularly those playing Danger! Monsters – have builtthemselves up to be more vulnerable to floodgates like SummonLimit, and that's turned out to be an advantage that Sky Striker playersare gleefully exploiting.

Until next time then

-Kelly


Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​​​​gamer and writer. You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​ ​​​​​​Twitter​​​​​​for more updates ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​. He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University