When the Forbidden & Limited List hit last week I went searching fornew Side Deck cards that might fit into the new format. Thanks to theprevalence of Zoodiacs, Side Decks haven't changed much sinceMaximum Crisis. The last major shift in Side Deck choices was theresult of True Dracos, which encouraged more players to run Kaijus, CosmicCyclone, and Ash Blossom & Winter Cherries.

Otherwise most Side Decks have remained relatively the same all Summer;nearly everyone ran some combination of mass removal, Kaijus, hand traps,and backrow removal. In the majority of Top Cuts there wasn't even muchvariation between the removal cards and hand traps that were played.

The latest F&L changed the game by taking one specific deck out of thecompetition and making a couple of key adjustments to popular tech cards.Zoodiacs were demolished, so the the biggest target for Side Deck tech isnow out of serious competition. That has huge implications going forwardthrough the release of Circuit Break, and the most immediateimpact is that players who were siding strictly anti-Zoodiac cards can nowfree up space for high-utility choices.

The first deck lists of the new format from Regionals and the UltimateDuelist Series Invitational should give us a much better picture of themake-up of the competitive scene. We'll talk about those Side Decks nextweek, but for this week I want to focus on a new personal favorite that'sbeen testing very well for me.

Search Effects Are Everywhere
Last format's top decks heavily relied on search effects, but decksearching disruption never caught on outside of Ash Blossom & JoyousSpring and a Little Droll & Lock Bird.

Anti-search floodgates like Mistake and Thunder King Rai-Oh were exceedinglyrare. There's a good reason why those floodgates never caught on: the topdecks could easily play around them. Zoodiacs didn't need to add cards fromtheir deck to their hand with Fire Formation - Tenki or Zoodiac Broadbullto make their plays, because Zoodiac Barrage and Zoodiac Ratpier gave themaccess to the floodgate-busting Zoodiac Drident – effectively skirting thedisruption laid out for them.

Dinosaurs also had plenty of Special Summons from the deck. SouleatingOviraptor could send a Dinosaur to the graveyard even with Mistake on thefield, so only Fossil Dig and Dragonic Diagram were really stopped.Likewise, True Dracos typically set spells and traps from their deck ratherthan adding them directly to the hand. Dragonic Diagram was the only cardstopped by an anti-search floodgate.

Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring became the go-to deck search disruption inall of those match-ups because it could stop more than just effects thatadded cards to the hand. Its utility made it viable in a format where somany strategies could Special Summon or activate cards directly from thedeck. But the top strategies of last format aren't nearly as powerful asthey once were. Don't get me wrong: Ash Blossom's still an outstanding pickthis format, but I think there's a new opportunity to play other stuff inits place.

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Ash Blossom isn't the be-all end-all solution it once was. With Zoodiacsout of the picture and Dinosaurs and True Dracos weakened there are fewereffects that Special Summon from the deck in competition. The decks rushingto fill the power vacuum include things like Pendulum Magicians,Trickstars, and ABC's. All of them rely on direct card search rather thansending cards to the graveyard or Special Summoning them from the deck.Those strategies are in a unique position where anti-search floodgates arejust as effective as Ash Blossom.

The sheer volume of search effects makes a huge difference in thecompetitive viability of Mistake, Droll & Lock Bird, and Thunder KingRai-Oh. Pendulum Magicians are stocked with search effects and often openwith three or four deck-searching cards. Disrupting all of those searcheswould require multiple Ash Blossoms over several turns, and that's anunreasonable approach. You could mix Ash Blossom with other anti-Pendulumsides like Anti-Spell Fragrance and Dimensional Barrier. That's more valid.

But you can also disrupt an entire search-heavy strategy with ananti-search floodgate. Flipping Mistake near the beginning of youropponent's turn is incredibly powerful; you can essentially block a firstturn Pendulum Summon by preventing your opponent from searching PendulumMonsters to build their Pendulum Scale. Chaining Mistake to DuelistAlliance is a One for One in card economy at worst, and unlike Ash Blossomyou're not at the mercy of the remainder of your opponent's search effects.

Ash Blossom & Joyous Springs tends to be more effective when youropponent's resolving a single, crucial search effect. When your opponentneeds their search effect to resolve and can't replace it, there'sjust no better card than Ash Blossom for the job. When that isn't the case,as with Dragonic Diagram when your opponent holds two copies in their hand,you might end up wishing you had a longer lasting solution.

Still The King Of Stun
Lately I've been having success with a pair of sided Thunder King Rai-Oh invarious strategies. Its continuous effect prevents search-heavy strategiesfrom reaching their best cards, and unlike hand trap alternatives itdoesn't let up at any point in the turn. Ash Blossom negates just a singlecard, and Droll & Lock Bird has to let a draw or search effect resolvefirst before activating. If your opponent's holding a Dragonic Diagram anda Terraforming there's very little you can do with Ash Blossom besidesforcing them to burn a Field Spell; your opponent can make a choice betweenactivating a second copy of Diagram or waiting until next turn to resolveits effect.

Pendulum Magicians are one match-up where negating a single search effectoften isn't enough. The deck plays dozens of search cards and all of them,with perhaps one exception, are equally powerful; Pendulum Call's the only'must-negate' of the bunch. Single card disruption isn't nearly aseffective as a floodgate in this match-up. Dimensional Barrier, Anti-SpellFragrance, and anti-search floodgates are in a better position to make youropponent's opening hand mostly irrelevant.

These two examples – Dragonic Diagram and the Pendulum Magician match-up –highlight Thunder King Rai-Oh's advantages over Ash Blossom. Singlenegation effects can't handle a high volume of effects with roughly equalimportance. That said, Thunder King and most other floodgates are not handtraps, and therefore useless on your opponent's first turn when you'replaying second. On the other hand, floodgates are obviously strong when youcan field them Turn 1. Thunder King Rai-Oh defended by multiple backrowswas once a terrifying and all-too-common Turn 1 set-up. It's still just asgood this format with the right support.

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Beyond Pendulum Magicians and Dragonic Diagram-fueled strategies,anti-search floodgates put in serious work against Invoked Windwitch,Trickstars, ABC's, and the Spellbook engine. Invoked decks lose access toMagical Meltdown and Aleister the Invoker's search effect. Without analready-developed hand, Rai-Oh's a devastating opening.

Again, Ash Blossom is inconsistent here. There's too much redundantsearching in the deck with Terraforming, Magical Meltdown, and Aleister theInvoker.

Trickstars make a more difficult argument. The deck's win conditions can beset up on Turn 1, so a hand trap's a necessity. You can absolutely bring inThunder King Rai-Oh if you're playing first, but if you're going secondyou're likely to lose Rai-Oh to Trickstar Reincarnation before you have achance to use it. Still, Rai-Oh does stop multiple Trickstar Light Stagesfrom resolving, as well as multiple Trickstar Candina searches. One of thereasons why I like siding Droll & Lock Bird in this match-up is becausethere are so many extra search effects, and letting a Terraforming or LightStage through often doesn't matter.

Monster Removal Declining
The one-per-deck Limit on Dark Hole and Interrupted Kaiju Slumber hasreduced the number of threats to floodgate monsters. There are two fewerboard wipes at your opponent's disposal, so even with Raigeki, Dark Hole,Interrupted Kaiju Slumber, and Kaijus themselves there's a fair chance thatyour opponent won't have an easy way to destroy a Turn 1 Thunder KingRai-Oh. The same can't be said for spell or trap-based floodgates, althoughincreased play of Heavy Storm Duster might give your floodgates anotherturn on the field. The fewer immediate outs your opponent has to yourfloodgates, the better.

Thunder King Rai-Oh isn't indestructible, but it is resilient. With 1900ATK it easily climbs over the majority of Normal Summons among the game'smost popular strategies. Its biggest threats are True Dracos andestablished boards; not bad odds for a Side Deck card. Honest is a problemin the Trickstar match-up, yet your opponent will need to sacrifice apotential search effect or give up a Trickstar Candina Summon to putTrickstar Lycoris on the field. That is, again, without the help ofTrickstar Light Stage.

Stun is all about forcing your opponent to make suboptimal choices. ThunderKing Rai-Oh used to be the king of Stun strategies with its two disruptiveeffects and high ATK. Thinking about destroying Rai-Oh by battle? Goinginto your Extra Deck will likely land your Synchro, Xyz, or Link monster inthe graveyard. Pendulum Summoning one monster is also dangerous. TheWindwitch engine can bait out Thunder King, but your opponent's giving up aCrystal Wing Synchro Dragon to turn their search effects back on. That'sall assuming you didn't back up your Rai-Oh with at least one SolemnStrike.

Pairing Thunder King Rai-Oh with a healthy amount of backrow is the mosteffective way to make sure its continuous effect makes a long-term impacton the duel. That's always been the optimal way to play Rai-Oh, and if youtoss it into a deck with no support you'll see poor outcomes no matter howeffective it is in a given match-up.

One Mistake I see from players when siding floodgate monsters is attemptingto fit them into decks that don't run many backrow cards. Go all out onfloodgate and negation monsters by protecting them with traps andrecovering your fallen monsters with Call Of The Haunted and Back to theFront. Challenge your opponent to destroy Rai-Oh or Naturia Beast twice insingle turn, and mop up on the following turn after they've spent theirresources.

It's Thunder King Rai-Oh's double-edge effect that makes it hard to sell.It's positioned as a budget alternative to Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring,but it's not playable everywhere. You need to be able to Normal Summon itwithout slowing down your own strategy. Failing that, you should have a wayto Special Summon it. Rai-Oh's typing isn't particularly helpful in thatregard. It's well-suited for Pendulum strategies though, and I think itcould find a home in Pendulum Magician mirror matches.

Let me know what you think, and if you've given this card a shot yourself!

Until next time then

-Kelly

Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​​​​gamer and writer.​​​ ​​​​​​ ​​​In​​​ ​​​addition​​​ ​​​to​​​​​​writing​​​ ​​​on TCGplayer,​​​ ​​​Kelly​​​ ​​​writes​​​ a ​​​​​​personal​​​ ​​​blog​​​​​​ ​​​covering​​​ ​​​Yugioh,​​​ ​​​Destiny,​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​other​​​​​​hobbies.​​​ ​​​You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​ ​​​​​​Twitter​​​​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​.​​​ ​​​​​​ ​​​He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western MichiganUniversity.