There's plenty of theme diversity this format – a highly desired situationfor much of the community – but most decks lean into astonishingly similarplaystyles. Overwhelming the field with Link Monsters is by far the fastestway to OTK or lock your opponent out of the duel, and as a result Goukishave remained one of the most-represented decks at YCS and Regional events.
Floodgates are largely responsible for giving rogue strategies a fightingchance this format. Nearly all of the top decks are short on actual spelland trap removal: Goukis have virtually zero themed answers to spells andtraps, and Sky Strikers need specific conditions to resolve their removaleffects.
Yes, Sky Striker Maneuver - Afterburners! exists, but it's mostly uselessagainst a floodgate that's keeping spells out of the graveyard. Both decksneed to rely on unsearchable removal while Thunder Dragons and Altergeistsat least have access to searchable backrow destruction that's easy to play.
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Slowing your opponent down makes many of this format's hardest match-upssignificantly more manageable. Too many decks can outplay singleinterruptions from hand traps or Counter Traps like Solemn Warning, sofloodgate effects are sometimes the only way to even the playing field.
Cards like Magical Mid-Breaker Field make hand traps harder to play, butit's no defense against a non-targeting continuous effect that doesn'tdestroy monsters. Most Gouki lists don't run Game 1 outs to floodgates;players just bet on winning the dice roll. It's both an opportunity forthose who are willing to Main Deck floodgates, and a statement about thepower of playing first this format.
Choosing the right floodgates can make all the difference in Games 2 and 3,and winning the duel off the back of a single floodgate is certainly notunheard of. Rogue strategies live and die by smart Side Deck choices, andthere are few decisions more important than selecting the cards you'll useto slow your opponent's strategy to a more manageable level. This weekwe're going to review the most popular floodgates of the format and build aconsensus on the ideal choices to play against the game's best strategies.
Sky Strikers & Pendulums
Spells are obviously important to Sky Strikers and Pendulum themes. Infact, the dependence on spells is so extreme that cards like Anti-SpellFragrance and Imperial Order are effectively must-plays in decks that cansupport them.
You won't find too many Pendulum decks at the highest levels of competitionbut you will run into plenty of Sky Striker players. As a result, ImperialOrder – which is noticeably stronger than Anti-Spell in the Sky Strikermatch-up – is easily the more popular floodgate for countering spell-heavythemes. Even other spell-driven strategies like Trickstars and ThunderDragons will side Imperial Order to help defend their set-ups from variousforms of mass removal, or to shield themselves from combo starters thatcould snowball into huge chains of Link Summons.
That said, the biggest advantage of Imperial Order over Anti-SpellFragrance is its ability to chain to a spell card and shut it down. Atworst, Imperial Order will be destroyed by a chained Twin Twisters, butassuming it fully resolves it will almost always cost your opponent a card.In fact, there will be plenty of times where you can chain it to aTwin Twisters, and from there you'll often take a commanding lead in theduel.
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Of course, Imperial Order's also simply the better option in a longer game:all your opponent needs to do is set Twin Twisters and wait a turn to playaround Anti-Spell Fragrance. That's not an option for them once ImperialOrder fully resolves.
It's worth noting which cards are absent from the Top Cut these days:Naturia Beast and Secret Village of the Spellcasters are nowhere to befound. I had high hopes for both cards this format, but Beast is probablytoo specific in the Link era and Secret Village was a bit of a long shotanyways.
Both cards are now easily outed by Dinowrestler Pankratops too, and thatcould also explain why they're seeing so little play.
Thunder Dragons & Goukis
Choosing floodgates to counter spell-heavy themes is astonishingly easy –we've been doing it for years since Spellbooks emerged as a top competitorin 2013. Graveyard-dependent themes have just as many answers, if not more,but they're competing for space against cards that directly answer ExtraDeck Summons.
Thunder Dragons have plenty to lose from Soul Drain and Mind Drain, butthey're just as easily countered by Dimensional Barrier or Artifact Scythe.The deck can also play through Rivalry of Warlords and generally fight backagainst Gozen Match. Even Macro Cosmos, Dimensional Fissure, and DifferentDimension Ground play into the Thunder Dragon strategy well enough thatsiding them isn't optimal.
There Can Be Only One is a much more challenging floodgate for ThunderDragons to play around. Chaining it to Thunder Dragon Fusion can bedevastating, although it won't specifically keep your opponent from theirFusion Monsters. Zombie World can shut down much of the Thunder Dragonstrategy and disable their easiest pathways to their Fusions, but therearen't many decks that can effectively leverage that Field Spell at themoment. That might change with the newly released Zombie support inStructure Deck: Zombie Horde, so keep an eye out for a suddensurge of sided Zombie Worlds at upcoming events.
Like Thunder Dragons many of the outs to the Main Deck Gouki engine couldbe replaced by cards that shut down their Extra Deck Summoning. Anythingthat restricts searching, graveyard effects, or Special Summons is probablyuseful. Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries is at its strongest here: Goukisrely immensely on a few key Extra Deck cards and they have almost no answerto a Turn 1 Ghost Reaper. Other decks like Sky Strikers and Thunder Dragonscan and will play through it, but Goukis are at the mercy of its banisheffect.
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Gozen Match, Rivalry of Warlords, and There Can Be Only One are fantastichere and all fully playable depending on your choice of strategy. You canalso break the Gouki and Dark engines by shutting off the graveyard. MacroCosmos, Dimensional Fissure, and Different Dimension Ground offercontinuous and temporary solution dozens of graveyard-activated cards.Chaining a blanket banishing effect to an Armageddon Knight will probablywin you the game right then and there.
If you're worried about Red Reboot, and you should be given how popular itis, then Forbidden Graveyard might be worth a look. It operates much likeDifferent Dimension Ground, but it's a Quick-Play Spell. Immunity to RedReboot and Twin Twisters is insane,and players are slowly cluing into its potential.
Altergeists & Paleozoics
Trap-heavy themes leverage the potency of floodgates right back againstyou. For the most part these decks are best answered by backrow removal andcards that lock up backrow, like Denko Sekka or Holding Legs.
Denko's remained incredibly popular over the years for good reason: it'sperhaps the single best answer to backrow-heavy strategies in any deck thatcan afford to burn their Normal Summon. Denko Sekka is a floodgatein a sense, but it's more aggressive and designed more like Cold Wave thanRoyal Decree. It has a lot in common with the kind of temporary floodgatesyou'd play on your own turn than the defensive cards that let you coast tovictory over a handful of turns.
Gozen Match is a strong pick against Altergeists, but Paleozics are betteranswered by There Can Be Only One. Since Altergeists are clearly the moresuccessful strategy this format we're seeing more of Gozen Match, butultimately match-up utility favors Denko Sekka most of the time anyways.It's a stronger counter side that forces out floodgates prematurely andmakes targeting your actual backrow removal much easier. These decks arealready struggling to deal with Dinowrestler Pankratops as offensiveremoval's incredibly powerful at nearly any point in the duel.
Other strategies like Danger! Dark World FTK and the Rhongomyniad Lock willfalter against the same floodgates used to counter Goukis provided you getthe chance to actually play the game. Artifact Lancea and Droll & LockBird are some of the only temporary floodgates you can activate before yourfirst turn, but they can be incredibly useful certain FTK strategies. Inparticular Artifact Lancea halts Destiny HERO - Malicious spam and preventsThe Phantom Knights of Ancient Cloak from activating its search effect.Lancea has limited utility against Thunder Dragons too, but it's a bitriskier there. It won't prevent Thunder Dragon Colossus from hitting thefield most of the time.
The reprints of Gozen Match and Rivalry of Warlords inHidden Summoners isn't a coincidence: both cards are in a greatplace and have deserved a foil printing for a long time. They're central tothe success of numerous themes, includingAltergeists,Cyber Dragons,True Dracos, andPaleozoics. Throughout the year we've seen these floodgates carry even more uncommonstrategies, likeMetaphys, to Regional success. Today's top decks are consistent and can launch FTKor OTK combos with just one or two cards, but they're also fragile enoughto lose to individual floodgates.
There's an opportunity for rogue decks to succeed by avoiding the mostpopular floodgates while leveraging their own, but that line of thinkingcan be overshadowed by chasing the next big Link-spam build. I can't say Iblame anyone for doing so: huddling behind an effect that stops youropponent from playing that game is only marginally less interesting thancomboing into a field that stops your opponent from playing the game.
Until next time then
Kelly Locke is a West Michigangamer and writer. In addition to writing onTCGplayer, Kelly writes a personal blog covering Yu-Gi-Oh!, Destiny, andother hobbies. You can follow him onTwitter and check out his Youtube channel. He also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.