YCS Melbourne was the first YCS of 2018and one of the final events before the release of Extreme Force inearly February. Despite being the first YCS anywhere in over amonth, the top cut looked pretty much identical to what we've seenelsewhere: SPYRALS have a clear leg up on the competition with Trickstarsand Pendulum Magicians trailing in their wake. The competitive scene hasn'tchanged much since the last Forbidden & Limited List in November, andwithout knowing the full set list for Extreme Force it's hard totell how much that will change next month.

In the meantime players have been experimenting with Side Deck tech togiven them an edge in highly competitive match-ups.

Recent Regionals have cemented Chaos Hunter and Mind Crush as top-levelpicks, and both Solemn Strike and Solemn Warning are still seeing theirusual amount of play. Kaijus, hand traps, and of course Evenly Matched sawtheir fair share of action, but there were other choices at Melbourne thatdeserve a second look.The Artifact engineappeared in the Top 8 after declining in play months ago, and ForbiddenChalicecracked the Top 4.

There's a lot to talk about just in the1st Place deck list by Ryan Levine. His Side Deck contains four of the cards I want to to discuss this week:Bottomless Trap Hole, Floodgate Trap Hole, Magical Spring, and GhostrickJackfrost.

Trap Holes Return Without Rafflesia
Traptrix Rafflesia was an unfortunate victim of the Link era with theintroduction of the Extra Monster Zone, and since then it's been outpacedby better defensive Xyz Monsters like Toadally Awesome and Number 41:Bagooska the Terribly Tired Tapir. It's hard to make a case for Rafflesiathese days, but that doesn't mean Trap Hole cards aren't playable. In fact,many players at YCS Melbourne avoided Solemns altogether and sidedFloodgate Trap Hole and Bottomless Trap Hole instead.

These cards have seen plenty of competitive play in the past, but there's avery specific reason they're showing up now: you want to avoid sendingTrickstars and SPYRALs to the graveyard whenever possible, and both TrapHoles accomplish that goal while the Solemns fail to do so.

Trap cards this format outside of Evenly Matched are all about halting LinkSummons, and while Solemn Warning and Solemn Strike accomplish that goalthey unfortunately allow your opponent to make follow-up plays. Negatingand destroying a SPYRAL Super Agent sets up SPYRAL GEAR - Big Red andSPYRAL MISSION - Rescue to immediately return Agent to the field. Ideallyyou'd wait for your opponent to Link Summon SPYRAL Double Helix beforeflipping your Summon negation, but Super Agent's spell and trap removaleffect makes that plan far too risky.

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The best option to answer Super Agent plays is either some sort offloodgate – which SPYRALs can easily navigate around – or a trap that dealswith Super Agent without sending it to the graveyard. That's whereFloodgate Trap Hole and Bottomless Trap Hole become invaluable.

Their non-targeting effects make a Link Summon with Super Agent as amaterial impossible, and by keeping it out of the graveyard your opponent'srecovery options become unplayable. Both effects of SPYRAL MISSION - Rescueand the maintenance cost of SPYRAL Resort require a SPYRAL monster to be inthe graveyard, making a well-timed Trap Hole deceptively disastrous to youropponent's early game strategy.

Fool Me Once, Can't Get Fooled Again
I've noticed a trend among players at my local gaming shop where long-timefans of Madolches inevitably picked up Ghostricks, then much later beganplaying Trickstars. If I had to guess I'd say it has something to do withthe art styles in each theme.

As a result I thought it was incredibly fitting to see Ghostrick Jackfrostshow up at the championship-level as a Side Deck pick against Trickstars:one tricky theme facing off against another. Jackfrost has seen competitiveplay in the past as a defensive hand trap in a number of match-ups. Itsnon-targeting effect made it an excellent choice against Bujins, and todayyou can use it to flip monsters like SPYRAL Sleeper face-down.

That said, Ghostrick Jackfrost was sided almost exclusively for theTrickstar match-up. It comes into play when your opponent's attempting todeal damage through direct attacks with Trickstar Candina. You'll typicallysee the first attack come through with Candina, then your opponent willactivate Trickstar Lycoris by targeting Candina to return it to the hand.With multiple copies it's possible to get OTK'd here, especially if you'vealready taken burn damage.

But Jackfrost can halt the first attack and defend against the second. Ifyour opponent tries to bounce their Candina out of the way to stopJackfrost's Summon you can simply activate Jackfrost on the next attack.Either way you're likely to avoid taking any Battle Damage that turn.

Ghostrick Jackfrost isn't a high-impact Side Deck pick, but it's a greatway to stall out a bit longer in the match-up. You'll be safe as long asyour opponent isn't loading up on a huge field filled with Link Monsterssince Jackfrost is powerless against them. But because Jackfrost is so easyto play around it's worth asking whether it'll be viable in the future.Even Ryan Levine commented that he'd be unlikely to play it going forward.

This trick may have only worked once at a Championship-level environment,but I suspect we'll see Jackfrost at smaller – even local-level – eventsmoving forward.

Prohibition Beats Everything
Prohibition may be the single-most versatile card in the game next toPsi-Blocker, and now both cards are returning to the competitive scene in abig way to counter hand traps, SPYRALs, and Evenly Matched.

Nearly every strategy can use Prohibition to declare a hand trap beforethey make their opening play, and while it's risky to do so it's notunreasonable. Calling Droll & Lock Bird after seeing it in Game 1 cansave you from having to deal with a punishing temporary floodgate thatturn, leaving your opponent with a dead card as they head into Turn 2. Ifyour opponent has Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring instead you'll still needto play through it, but if you're more afraid of Droll than Ash there'slittle reason not to try and blow out your opponent's defensespreemptively.

More commonly Prohibition's used to shut down SPYRAL Super Agent in theSPYRAL match-up – a move that keeps Prohibition safe from Super Agent'seffect. In addition, SPYRAL Tough also becomes useless when it hits thefield, sparing Prohibition from yet another piece of themed removal. Thatleaves Twin Twisters and SPYRAL Sleeper as potential outs, and those cardsare much more difficult to use compared to SPYRAL Super Agent and SPYRALTough.

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There's still plenty of risk associated with siding Prohibition orPsi-Blocker against SPYRALs. Your opponent could be holding a One for One,Twin Twisters, or Evenly Matched in their opening hand. SPYRALs are stillvery difficult to pin down with floodgates, and Prohibition will almostalways end up switched with Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries when sidingfor playing second.

While going first you can also use Prohibition to prevent the mostdangerous Turn 2 cards from hitting the table: Evenly Matched, MagicalSpring, and even Raigeki are worth considering. You might not make thatchoice often if you only draw into one Prohibition, but with two it's avalid choice.

Making The Most Of Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries
Dane Neilwas the only Pendulum Magician player to make the Top 32 at YCS Melbourne,and much like Trickstar players he was also siding Prohibition to preempthis opponent's hand traps. In the right match-up Prohibition also halts bigSPYRAL plays, shuts down Magical Spring, or simply prevents Evenly Matchedfrom hitting the field. It's easily supported by Mist Valley Apex Avian,and it's exactly what the deck needs to keep its field safe from the game'sbiggest mass removal cards.

Neil did something in his Side Deck that wasn't particularly new, but it'sworth pointing out: in addition to siding three copies of Ghost Reaper& Winter Cherries Neil was also siding two Eater of Millions. Since hisExtra Deck is already loaded with Winter Cherries targets he can't Summonthere's no reason not to banish them for Eater of Millions. Neil wasn'tgoing to be Summoning Toadally Awesome against SPYRALs, or playing SPYRALDouble Helix against Paleozoics or Frog hybrids. What better way to makeuse of these dead cards than to banish them for Eater of Millions?

It's a very minor element of siding strategy that pays off nicely. Ifyou're trying to add a bit more efficiency to your Side Deck it'sdefinitely one way to cleanly integrate two cards that stress your ExtraDeck without severely reducing your Xyz, Link, and Synchro Summoningoptions. That's hugely important for the highly-versatile Pendulum ExtraDeck, and Eater of Millions itself is an awesome pick for this strategy. Itplays around Dimensional Barrier and Anti-Spell Fragrance, and it alsobaits out Solemn Strike and Solemn Warning so your Pendulum Summon is safe.

With Pendulums having such a weak showing in the Top 32 I'm starting towonder how successful they'll be post-Extreme Force without a newForbidden & Limited List. In Games 2 and 3 the resilience of SPYRALsmakes them an immensely challenging match-up, and meanwhile Pendulums willremain as vulnerable as ever without drastically changing their builds toaccommodate more outs to Magical Spring and Evenly Matched.

Until next time then

-Kelly


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