Back in January I was preparing to enter a Regional Qualifier with, believe it or not, Mecha Phantom Beasts. After the Forbidden and Limited List crushed my go-to tournament deck I was left with a handful of casual themes to play. I figured I'd be the only one playing Phantoms, so I'd at least have a little fun while getting stomped on by Fire Fist, Mermail, and Karakuri Geargia. I even included Machine Duplication and a full set of Mecha Phantom Beast Stealth-Ray so I could summon Number 92: Heart-eartH Dragon. I told myself that if I beat at least one person with it I'd be happy for the rest of the day. But, I was still a bit upset about my lack of options. After making an off-handed comment about how I'd play Harpies if I had the chance, one of my friends decided to spot me their entire deck for the event.

I wrote about Harpies last month too, but at the time I was discussing how to side with the deck, not against it. After seeing the deck perform at a the Regional level first hand and also witnessing several other players achieve success with their builds, I was certain we'd be seeing a whole lot more of Harpies this format. And we did: Harpies have had a lot of success in tournaments over the last two months. Of course, they're nowhere near the level of Fire Fist, or even Mermail, but the deck is still being played and – in my opinion – very much worth playing at the local and Regional level.

The biggest challenge facing Harpies is their lack of consistency. Outside of Hysteric Sign and Harpie Queen, there aren't a whole lot of ways to search the deck for key cards like Harpie Channeler. At the Championship level these weaknesses are exaggerated over the course of nearly a dozen rounds. Still, Harpies are definitely not a match-up you'll want to face unprepared.

Feathery Foes
Harpies are often referred to as a 'reactive' strategy. Unlike other decks it isn't focused on establishing field positions. Instead, Harpies make their best plays after the opponent commits cards to the field. Harpies' Hunting Ground is the a prime example of this strategy. Its backrow destruction effect is easily exploited by Harpie Dancer and Harpie Channeler, but without targets on the opponent's side of the field Hunting Ground may end up destroying itself. There's a certain requirement for most of the plays you generally want to make with this deck.

Few decks can tear apart fields as well as Harpies. While Hunting Ground eats backrow, Lightning Chidori, Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack, and Number 11: Big Eye spin, destroy, and steal opposing monsters. Each of these Xyz can be made with Channeler without any sort of set-up. Capitalizing on exposed or unprotected cards is what Harpies do best. Icarus Attack's another helpful tech choice that further punishes the opponent for putting cards on the field. Bluffing against Harpies is a laughably poor tactic that will almost always leave you losing your card to Hunting Ground, or drawing it again next turn thanks to Chidori.

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Hysteric Sign makes the Harpie deck viable by providing a means to search Harpie Queen, Channeler, and Dancer. Sign's activation conditions are a bit different from what you might expect: it triggers when sent to the graveyard from the field or hand. This means it can be discarded as an activation cost and still grab three Harpies during the End Phase. What it can't do is add an Elegant Egotist to your hand then activate to search cards during the End Phase. Only one of its two effects can be used per turn. That means if you chain Mystical Space Typhoon to Sign in response to its first effect, your opponent will miss out on its second effect.

Harpies can make big swings in momentum after resolving a Hysteric Sign, but that's not the only card you'll want to keep an eye out for. Hysteric Party can put as many as five monsters on the field at the cost of a single card; it can turn an empty field into three Xyz and generally signals an OTK. Thanks to new generic Rank 4's like Evilswarm Exciton Knight and Number 101: Silent Honor ARK, the Harpie Extra Deck contains even more ways to eliminate opposing cards and threaten established field positions. Exciton Knight's particularly interesting because it can destroy Hysteric Sign. By clearing the field and triggering Sign, you can overcome a disparity in card advantage very quickly.

The Harpie Side Deck features plenty of effective, high-utility counters to major strategies. Gozen Match, Rivalry of Warlords, Soul Drain, Mistake, Dimensional Fissure, and DNA Surgery are easily sided here. Even cards like Skill Drain are worth playing because they can be shut off by Hunting Ground or Trap Stun. In fact, between the Field Spell, Typhoon, and Icarus Attack, almost any continuous effect that's sided against Harpies can be destroyed easily. It's something you'll want to keep in mind when choosing cards to side for this match-up. Harpies won't let you sit behind Continuous Traps for long.

Clipping Wings
Stopping your opponent's momentum is the key to winning this match-up. Harpies are generally restricted to making plays off their Normal Summon. Without it they're severely limited on what sort of plays they can make. Cards that respond to Summons are great, and cards that negate Summons are even better. Unfortunately outside of Horn of Heaven there aren't a whole lot of ways to negate Normal Summons, but there are plenty of cards that respond to them. Take Trap Hole, for example. All of the commonly played Harpie monsters are each over 1000 ATK and, usually, they'll need to be Normal summoned before your opponent can make any plays. It's worth noting that Elegant Egotist needs an on-field Harpie to activate. After Trap Hole resolves Egotist becomes yet another dead card in your opponent's hand.

Black Horn of Heaven has become very popular lately as a means of countering Rank 4 Xyz, particularly Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Tiger King. Negating Extra Deck Summons would be great against Harpies too...if Hunting Ground didn't exist. Black Horn just isn't a viable option in this match-up because it gets destroyed by Hunting Ground's effect too often. Unfortunately siding both Horn and Trap Hole eats up a lot of space in the Side Deck. Fiendish Chain's also vulnerable to Hunting Ground, making it a poor choice as well. If you absolutely must play these cards, you're going to have to find a way to deal with the Field Spell.

Mystical Space Typhoon, Twister, and Dust Tornado are solid Side Deck cards for this match-up, especially if you're looking for a way to destroy Hunting Ground early and often. Closed Forest also counters Field Spells, but Spell and Trap removal has the added benefit of destroying Hysteric Sign and Party. You'll never want to blindly destroy backrow when playing against Harpies: prioritizing your removal for freshly-activated Hysteric cards is the best way to play your removal. Again: destroying Sign after its first effect has activated won't trigger its second effect. Similarly to how players chain Typhoon to Fire Formation - Tenki, you can use this to tactic to disrupt your opponent's ability to search their deck for important cards.

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Taking out Hunting Ground goes a long way towards keeping your cards safe, but you might find that changing your tech choices is an equally viable option. Fiendish Chain's easily replaced by Effect Veiler, a card that Harpies have few ways to counter outside of Debunk and Skill Prisoner. Veiler isn't played on the field, so Hunting Ground, Chidori, and Ice Beast Zerofyne have no impact on it. It's also just as effective, if not more effective, than traps that carry a similar effect. Negating a Channeler or Summoner Monk leaves your opponent down a card and often brings their momentum to a grinding halt. Veiler's also strong against Extra Deck monsters like Lightning Chidori, Number 101: Silent Honor ARK, Evilswarm Exciton Knight, Number 11: Big Eye, and Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack. Overall it's a powerful piece of negation for this match-up; I highly recommend it.

The next card we'll look at is – like Effect Veiler – an already popular Side Deck card: Overworked. Because Hunting Ground provides an ATK boost to Winged-Beast monsters you can respond with Overworked any time your opponent activates the Field Spell's effect. Like Trap Hole this card's very effective at nullifying momentum and preventing any further plays that turn. What makes Overworked especially exciting is that you can use it to counter a variety of plays beyond what Trap Hole is capable of. Against an opponent playing Harpie Lady 1, all Wind monsters will receive an ATK increase. That means Overworked can destroy cards like Lightning Chidori and Mecha Phantom Beast least when it doesn't have tokens available. Otherwise it's a counter to Hysteric Party plays, which is a pretty good incentive to side it in over Trap Hole.

Closing Thoughts
As far as utility goes, Effect Veiler and Overworked are probably your two best choices when siding against Harpies. Both cards are already run in large numbers to counter Fire Fists, so unless you can't play them yourself I wouldn't pass them up. At any rate, Harpies stand to gain a lot next format if Fire Formation - Tenki or Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear are Limited. It's a very capable strategy that can side into a number of powerful cards, and it's also packing enough counters to demolish opposing Side Decks.

I find that players are often very surprised when they learn just how effective Ice Beast Zerofyne is, and how easily Harpies are able to summon it. It might not be able to compete with Tenki-based strategies right now, but if that changes you'll definitely want to be siding for this match-up.

Until next time then