There are a lot of factors contributing to the return of large backrows anda shift away from the "hand trap or bust" logic that dominated the previousformat. Solemn Judgment's helping to keep set-ups safe from Evenly Matched,Twin Twisters sees sparse play in favor of Cosmic Cyclone, and we now havemore counters to hand traps like Called by the Grave, Amano-Iwato, and thefreshly-reprinted PSY-Framegear Gamma. Traps are uniquely positionedagainst negation bodies and floodgate monsters like Invoked Mechaba andNaturia Beast.
Themed traps, the Solemn line-up, and floodgates make up the vast majorityof traps seeing play in Regionals and YCS-topping builds. There's reallynot much to say about the first two groups of traps, but floodgates areespecially interesting this format because they're seeing so much Main Deckplay in True Dracos.
Cards like Rivalry of Warlords, Skill Drain, Imperial Order, Anti-SpellFragrance, and The Monarchs Erupt are very relevant in Game 1. Many of themhave been format defining cards in the past, so seeing a deck leveragingall of them at once is both surprising and important to understanding thestate of the game.
The True Draco Rivalry
Rivalry of Warlords has crept into True Draco and Trickstar Main Decks toshut down 60-card strategies, Pendulums, and even other True Draco players.Both strategies can play perfectly fine with only a single monster Type onthe field, but the same can't be said for other popular decks. LinkSummoning in particular has made Rivalry of Warlords even stronger: manypopular Links are Cyberse, and there just aren't any competitive Cybersethemes in the game yet. Even non-Cyberse Links are often off-Type, like thePsychic Type Heavymetalfoes Elecrumite which sees play primarily in theSpellcaster-heavy Pendulum Magician theme.
60-card strategies are hard to pin down, but outside of Infernoids, mostbuilds are playing a huge number of monsters with various types.Ayinde Ross' 60-card Zombie Dinosaursmade the Top 4 at YCS Salt Lake City with at least seven Main Deck monsterTypes, and he had even more diversity in his Extra Deck. Rivalry ofWarlords breaks many of the deck's basic combos, or at worst it can act asmass removal to sweep away one or two cards with mismatching Types. Perhapsmost importantly, Rivalry of Warlords will often keep Fairy Tail - Snowstuck in the graveyard, and when siding Rivalry yourself you'll have a bitof control over when your opponent can activate it.
In the True Draco mirror match, and even outside of it, Rivalry of Warlordscounters Amano-Iwato by locking down your opponent's Summons during theturn they put a Rock on the field. As long as Amano is face-up they can'tSummon a Wyrm to the field, and since Cards of Demise and Amano resolveduring the End Phase your opponent won't have any True Draco monsters toTribute Summon on your turn. It's a dangerous vulnerability that TrueDracos have exposed themselves to in an attempt to beat hand traps. Thattrade-off is obviously still worth making for the time being.
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True Dracos have access to two more important floodgates: Skill Drain andThe Monarchs Erupt. Both cards address the threat of Zaphion, the Timelordand most other monster-based backrow removal, and challenge players to findtrap-based solutions to floodgates. They're devastating when combined withAnti-Spell Fragrance or Imperial Order, and the totality of the floodgatesbeing played in True Dracos makes a strong case for Typhoon and Trap Eater– two cards we'll talk about more later on.
Meanwhile, Anti-Spell Fragrance can be just as devastating for spell-heavystrategies and of course Pendulums. Dimensional Barrier was still popularat YCS Salt Lake City but the sheer number of strategies using Links andexceptionally powerful Main Deck monsters has made Anti-Spell worth runningin Game 1 – especially in True Dracos. Slowing the pace of the duel against60-card variants is tremendously helpful, and with so many Field Spellsrunning around Anti-Spell has insane utility this format.
Zaphion, the Timelord was mostly absent from the YCS Top 32, but it's beenmaking regular showings at recent Regionals. It's perhaps the single bestway to follow up on Anti-Spell Fragrance: attack with Zaphion after youropponent has set their spells and you shuffle them back into their deck.It's a game-winning combination with two cards that are each excellentchoices on their own this format, and you can also pull off a similar trickwith Heavy Storm Duster or another mass removal effect.
Lastly, Imperial Iron Wall remains popular as an alternative to ArtifactLancea when playing first. Lancea runs the risk of being negated byPSY-Framegear Gamma and Called by the Grave, and Iron Wall's a littlestronger in the long-term anyways. It's a great pick for decks that aregrinding out card advantage while maintaining a large field presence. TrueDracos get the most use out of a continuous floodgates anyways, and it's akey part of their defense against Evenly Matched, Trickstar Reincarnation,and Cosmic Cyclone.
New And Old Counters To Backrow Emerge
Floodgate trends didn't go unnoticed at YCS Salt Lake City, and playerswent in prepared to deal with numerous Continuous Traps throughout theevent. Let's jump back toAyide Ross' 3rd Place buildfor a bit. He sided Twin Twisters as you'd expect, but he also ran twocopies of Trap Eater – a long time favorite of mine and an outstandingchoice for a deck that wants to Summon PSY-Framelord Omega as early aspossible. Trap Eater's Level and Tuner aspect gives it a ton of flexibilityas floodgate disposal and as Synchro, Xyz, and Link material.
Ross could follow up on Trap Eater with an Xyz Summon for Tornado Dragon totarget another backrow or floodgate – swiftly knocking out two cards andclearing the path for more plays. It's far from a perfect strategy though:almost all of Ross' outs to floodgates are unsearchable, and a well-timedRivalry of Warlords prevents Trap Eater from being Summoned at all. TornadoDragon also falls flat against a face-up Rivalry unless you're playingLevel 4 Wyrms. Getting counters on the field ahead of Rivalry's important,but sometimes it's just not an option when you lose the dice roll.
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Other players at YCS Salt Lake City experimented with trap-based floodgateremoval. Tamir Brown made the Top 8 with a60-card Kaiju Burning Phantom Knightsbuild with sided copies of Magical Spring and Heavy Storm Duster alongsideMain Deck techs like Typhoon and Phoenix Wing Wind Blast. His Main Deckcould handle Game 1 copies of Anti-Spell Fragrance and cards protected byhis own Game 1 Magical Spring, and in Games 2 and 3 he could double down onMagical Spring or Heavy Storm Duster to further knock down backrow.
It's important to remember that 60-card builds have the added challenge ofactually finding their outs to floodgates. Draw power helps, butwhen it's tied to spells you run the risk of losing to Anti-SpellFragrance. Magical Spring's something of an exception since it can bechained to Anti-Spell's activation prior to your Main Phase.
Heavy Storm Duster's finally in a great place as traps become more relevantand as the top match-ups shift to wars of attrition over blowout fields.True Dracos and Trickstars can slow down the game to make cards like HeavyStorm Duster, Scapegoat, and even Blazing Mirror Force extremely powerful.
Check outLogan Johnson's Top 8 Trickstarsonce again from YCS Salt Lake City. He played a massive trap line-up that'sa stark change from the popular near-zero trap builds from earlier thisyear. Not only was he playing Rivalry of Warlords, but he also ran threecopies of Heavy Storm Duster in his Main Deck.
Outliers Still Exist
Not every deck is jumping aboard the Continuous Trap floodgate train andstocking their Side Decks full of Trap Cards. Dimensional Barrier and handtraps are sometimes the most you can expect to see in Pendulums and 60-cardstrategies, which makes sense given that these strategies aren't worriedabout long grind games. Pendulums need a turn to defend their set-up, and60-card strategies just need to be able to blow through backrow as cleanlyas possible. There's little reason to spend time establishing floodgateswhen a hand trap will suffice.
True Dracos have definitely shaken up the competitive scene by returningtraps and floodgates back to their former glory, and I think it's likely tostay that way so long as Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King and afloodgate are enough to win games. Even a single floodgate and a Scapegoatcan swing the duel in your favor.
The top strategies this format have numerous Main Deck answers to backrow,but as the YCS results show they're still losing to cards like Rivalry ofWarlords, Anti-Spell Fragrance, and Skill Drain whenever they can't findPurple Poison Magician, Cosmic Cyclone, or Twin Twisters. Your Side Deck isinvaluable this format for staying in the game against these brutalContinuous Traps.
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.