Firewall Dragon's once again at the center of a new FTK strategy withserious competitive merit.

Jeff JonesandDirk Wagnerlaunched a firestorm of discussion when they took Danger! Dark World FTK toYCS Niagara, andYCS Londonreflected the community consensus on the deck just a week later. As itturns out this particular FTK's really, really good. It was themost represented deck in the Top 32 at YCS London, and again that's justseven days after it took only two spots in the Top 8 of YCS Niagara. Theskyrocketing popularity of the FTK's also evident in Single Purchases hereon tcgplayeras illustrated by last week's Market Watch.

FTKs have a reputation for being quickly swatted down by the F&L List,but the next update won't be sooner than November 20th, and there areplenty of Regionals and a YCS between now and then. If you're headed into acompetitive event you'll need to be prepared for the FTK match-up or hopethe dice roll's on your side. You could get lucky and pull off a Game 1 and3 win, or maybe draw into the right Main Deck hand trap to end youropponent's turn early. Or alternatively, you might end up like so manyduelists at YCS London who were totally caught off-guard by the newstrategy.

The trick to preparing for an FTK is to figure out which cards are leastlikely to be countered by your opponent's tech choices. You'll need toanswer a few questions: which hand traps have the most impact? Whatgoing-first cards can I play to increase my odds? How will my opponentattempt to shut down my interruption?

You can't ignore the FTK Side Deck either –FTK players will be countersiding lots of cards to get ahead of the most common outs to their wincondition. Some duelists even implemented back-up win conditions in theevent their FTK was stopped, adding another layer of complexity to thematch-up.

Nobody wants to lose the duel before they even have a chance to play. It'snot fun or competitive, but it's the reality we're stuck with until atleast November 20th. That date isn't too far off, just about two weeks, soif you're really not feeling this competitive scene you can try towait it out in the hopes that Konami will announce an immediate update.

But that might not happen, and we might end up waiting until December orperhaps even later for a solution. There are eight Regionals in the USbetween now and the 20th, so navigating a field of FTKs may be the onlyoption for players with limited opportunities to score their invites.

You Better Bring A Burn Heal!
The core loop of this FTK involves – of course – Firewall Dragon. As ifthere weren't enough reasons to put Firewall on the Forbidden List already.The loop's established by Summoning Firewall Dragon and a Dark Worldmonster while Grapha, Dragon Lord of Dark World's in the graveyard.

Grapha's Special Summon effect just requires you to return a Dark Worldmonster from your field to your hand, and since Firewall Dragon SpecialSummons monsters from the hand any number of times per turn you can plainlysee how this interaction creates an unlimited number of Special Summons.Each time Grapha leaves the field through, say, Cannon Soldier, thenFirewall Dragon's effect will kick in and Special Summon the Dark Worldmonster you just returned to your hand.

You can use this loop to build more Link Summons, but for the FTK all youreally need to do is find a Cannon Soldier and play it alongside FirewallDragon. You'll see FTK players launching into lengthy chains of Links toset up their graveyard with Armageddon Knight before using Firewall Dragonto add the proper combo pieces back to their hand.

Following Firewall's effect those monsters, including Cannon Soldier andrelevant Dark World cards, can be Special Summoned from the hand tocomplete the win condition. Assuming the opponent has no response thegame's effectively over, and Cannon Soldier will chip away at their LifePoints until the duel ends.

The combination of Danger! and Dark World monsters adds incredibleSummoning power and excellent flexibility for a Link spam strategy. Thefortunate synergy between the two themes is perfect, especially sincefinding Grapha is so essential to the FTK. Each build varies slightly, withplayers at YCS London loading up on more Danger! Monsters and doubling downon different ways to win the game if the FTK doesn't pan out. That saidthis FTK's shockingly consistent, and breaking it requires a good openinghand and a careful consideration of floodgates.

Hope You Have A Backup Plan
Stopping the FTK before you get a chance to Summon monsters, activatespells, or set traps is a challenge that only a select number of hand trapsstand a chance of answering. One-time interruption from Ash Blossom &Joyous Spring, Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, Infinite Impermanence, EffectVeiler, Skull Meister, PSY-Framegear Gamma, and D.D. Crow all have thepotential to halt your opponent's plays if their hand is weak enough. Itdoesn't happen often, but a single piece of interruption can makecontinuing plays impossible. You won't have much of a choice if you're inGame 1 and elected to not play any hand traps for this specific match-up,but you should definitely look into more effective options heading intoGames 2 and 3.

Any hand trap that requires careful timing runs the risk of becoming atotally dead card after Outer Entity Azathot is Xyz Summoned. Azathot canbe Xyz Summoned over the more easily-Summoned Outer Entity Nyarla, and itseffect will prevent you from using monster effects for the remainder of theturn. FTK players will often lead with Azathot before launching into therest of their combos, which means only preemptively activated hand trapsand Infinite Impermanence are guaranteed to work. This match-up stressesthe importance of Impermanence this format, and despite its weakness in acouple of key match-ups I think we'll see more of it going forward as theFTK continues to solidify itself as the deck to beat.

Floodgate hand traps or floodgate-like cards are ideal Side Deck picksagainst this FTK. Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries is at the top of themust-play list for the match-up as banishing Firewall Dragon guarantees theFTK will fail. You can activate it as soon as your opponent commits asingle monster to the field and easily dodge Azathot, but there's anargument to be made that holding it for a short while as your opponentbuilds bigger combos can also pay off. Once they've committed to a linethat assumes you don't have Ghost Reaper you can surprise them by droppingit just before they Xyz Summon Firewall Dragon to throw them off theirgame.

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Should you use Ghost Reaper earlier in the turn? Banishing a copy of SummonSorceress or a well-timed Levair removal is tempting, but those monstersall have substitutes in a pinch that can still keep the FTK live, or atleast let your opponent end on Topologic Gumblar Dragon Summon.

Banishing Firewall isn't even a game-winner itself – any opponent that'sinvested enough time to learn the deck's other win conditions won't simplyscoop up their cards when Ghost Reaper resolves. Gumblar exists, of course,and loading up the field with Link Monsters can win games against opponentswho open up poorly outside of their one hand trap.

Joshua Schmidthad an interesting approach to the problem of FTK interruption at YCSLondon. His Top 32 Danger! Dark World FTK build included a sided copy ofKnightmare Gryphon and a handful of targets for Gryphon's effect like MindDrain, Imperial Order, and Eradicator Epidemic Virus. If Schmidt couldn'tachieve the FTK for whatever reason he could instead shift gears to SummonCurious, the Lightsworn Dominion, send a floodgate to the graveyard, andthen Summon Gryphon to set that card on the field.

Between a floodgate or Eradicator Epidemic Virus and Gryphon's own effectthere's was a good chance Schmidt could use his Link spam engine to pushfor a game win despite his opponent's best efforts. It paid off with a Top32 finish, and I'd expect to see more players picking up this strategy as abackup plan in Games 2 and 3.

While Ghost Reaper and Infinite Impermanence should be your top choicesagainst Danger! Dark World they're hardly your only options. ArtifactLancea and Hanewata can be applied before Azathot hits the field to eitherbreak part of your opponent's engine or to avoid burn damage for an entireturn.

Artifact Lancea's entirely underplayed this format with solid match-uputility and a Quick Effect that can be activated at any time during youropponent's turn. The Danger! Dark World deck is stacked withbanish effects, including three copies each of Allure of Darkness and TheBeginning of the End. Is it viable here? Possibly, given that Levair theSea Dragon's a frequent Summon during combos to benefit from the deck'sdraw power. On the other hand builds at London avoided Destiny HERO -Malicious, so one of the biggest reasons to play Lancea could be totallyabsent from any given build of the strategy that you might face.

Going first in Game 2 or 3 means you'll be dealing with your opponent'scounter sides and Main Deck removal like Shaddoll Dragon, Danger! Bigfoot!,Danger! Thunderbird! Grapha, Dragon Lord of Dark World, The Winged Dragonof Ra - Sphere Mode, Twin Twisters, and Dinowestler Prankratops. Temporaryfloodgates like Forbidden Graveyard and Different Dimension Ground willshut down most of your opponent's cards for a full turn, while continuousfloodgates like Soul Drain or Mind Drain are worthwhile because they canstay relatively safe from Danger! effects.

I can't imagine Danger! Dark World will last in its current state beyondthe end of the year, and I suspect Konami will announce some action againstthe deck this month with the next F&L update. Unfortunately this is thesecond incident this year where a popular and consistent FTK has dominatedthe competitive scene. While it hasn't won a YCS yet the deck's come closeenough to warrant some kind of response from the TCG-side of Konami.

This format is far from unwinnable for non-FTK strategies – this is no timeto lose hope if you have a Regional coming up. For everyone else: winter,and hopefully a meaningful F&L List update, is coming.

Until next time then

-Kelly