Salamangreats entered a crowded competitive field earlier this week withthe release of Structure Deck: Soul Burner.

The Structure Deck introduced a handful of new cards for the theme thatinstantly elevated it from a casual strategy post-Savage Strike toarguably the best deck in the game. At the very least its accessibility hasmade it the most common deck on the tournament scene. While must-ownThunder Dragons and Sky Strikers can cost over $100 for a single playsetthere's no mandatory three-of card in the Salamangreat deck valued over$12.

Basic siding strategy dictates that most of your Side Deck space should bededicated to your worst and most common match-ups. Ideally the same deckwon't occupy both spaces, however, if that's the case you've unfortunatelypicked the wrong deck to play. Pinning your tournament hopes to a strategythat struggles immensely against Thunder Dragons, Sky Strikers, orSalamangreats is a disaster waiting to happen. Luckily there are plenty ofcompetitive choices this format despite the massive popularity of the bigthree.

Siding for Salamangreats is a necessity, but adding anothermatch-up to your Side Deck's utility is easier said than done. The format'sincredibly diverse at the moment with numerous championship-levelstrategies available. Overlooking a deck like Crusadia, Altergeist, TrueDraco, Orcust, or Subterrors can cost you matches you otherwise might havewon.

Match-up utility is king right now, and fortunately the best Side Deck techagainst Salamangreats happen to be useful in numerous other match-ups. Butbefore we cover those cards let's take some time to outline the strengthsof the Salamangreat strategy.

What Makes Salamangreats Great
The Salamangreat theme is packed with Special Summons, huge card economyand an abundance of search effects.

It's a finely-tuned engine that can pump out Link Monsters, Rank 3 and Rank4 Xyz, and even Fusions if you build for it. The builds that are currentlyfinding the most success – such asFrancisco Alcaraz's 1st Place listfrom ARG Circuit Series Las Vegas – are largely sticking to Links and Xyz.It's a frighteningly consistent strategy, but one that's vulnerable todisruption as it begins its combos.

The deck's starting monsters are primarily focused on getting SalamangreatSpinny in play. Salamangreat Gazelle immediately sends Spinny to thegraveyard where it can be quickly Special Summoned. Meanwhile, Lady Debugadds Spinny to the hand and acts as Link Material for SalamangreatBalelynx. Salamangreat Circle also searches either Gazelle or Spinny asneeded, and bumps up the number of Turn 1 starters to roughly twelve cards.

There are so many ways to get the ball rolling for Salamangreats,especially with the sheer number of on-theme Special Summon effects thatare crammed into the deck. Salamangreats have excellent Rank 3 access andplenty of ways to reach Rank 4s, including Abyss Dweller which is fantasticin the mirror match.

#####CARDID= 24861#####

Most of the Salamangreat deck is built for aggression and recovery. Thedeck's two on-theme traps are about the only defensive options that arebuilt into the theme, so Salamangreat players have leaned on Solemns, handtraps, and off-theme Links to interrupt plays. That's totally fine:Salamangreat Roar's searchable and one of the best themed Counter Traps inthe game. There's no much else the Salamangreat theme needs, but extraspace in the deck is usually converted into eight or nine hand traps.

Meanwhile the aggressive power of Salamangreats creates enough OTKopportunities for the strategy to be competitively viable. Just LinkSummoning up to Salamangreat Heatleo using Slamangreat Miragestalliocleaves a path of destruction through your opponent's field. You can bump amonster they control to the hand, send a spell or trap back to the deck,and reduce an opponent's monster's ATK while searching your traps.

End-board Extra Deck Monsters like Triple Burst Dragon or Abyss Dweller areoften backed up by a handful of interruption effects, although some playerslean a bit more into offense by including Slamanagreat Violet Chimera towin Battle Phases decisively and deal out absurdly high damage.

Turning An Advantage Against Your Opponent
In the past I've greatly valued themes with a consistent Attribute or Typefor the simple reason that they're prime candidates to run Gozen Match andRivalry of Warlords. Both cards are among the best floodgates in game, andexcellent calls for today's competitive scene.

But the ability to play those cards is no longer the boon it once was:There Can Only Be One is the perfect counter to decks like Salamangreatsthat rely on a single Type of monster. It's an especially worthy floodgatehere since the deck's on-theme spell and trap removal is reliant can't beSummoned from the graveyard while your opponent controls a Cyberse monster.Salamangreat Foxy is still an out if your opponent doesn't control aCyberse already, but carefully timing There Can Be Only One will keep itsafe from Foxy's removal.

You'll need to make the same calculation for every spell or trap-basedfloodgate in this match-up: will Salamangreat Foxy be able to destroy it?Soul Drain, Macro Cosmos, and Dimensional Fissure disrupt Salamangreats tosome extent, and for the most part they can avoid being destroyed by Foxy.They're not safe from Dinowrestler Pankratops or Twin Twisters though, andyou'll notice that Salamangreat players are siding playsets of both cardsto survive Games 2 and 3.

Called by the Grave is arguably the best Side Deck pick for this match-upbecause it addresses the huge number of hand traps being played in the deckand individual Salamangreat monsters that activate in thegraveyard. Lots of Salamangreat lists are playing upwards of nine handtraps alongside a healthy line-up of actual trap cards – including thesearchable Salamangreat Roar – but when you're playing first you'll onlyhave hand traps to contend with. The extreme card economy in Salamangreatsmakes large hand trap line-ups possible, and Fantastical Dragon Phantazmayeasily fits into the Main Deck.

Speaking of Phantazmay: it's easily one of the best tech choices for thismatch-up. The existence of the Salamangreat deck in competition is anexcellent argument for playing Phantazmay in the Main Deck. It's a nearlyperfect fit against Salamangreats thanks to its negation effect, andSummoning it on your opponent's first turn lets you dig for answers tobackrow before Salamangreat Roar is live.

#####CARDID= 24832#####

Phantazmay's already a must-play for the Salamangreat mirror, and it'srapidly approaching staple status among the broader competitive crowd. It'sunquestionably an excellent card here, and its targeting negation is usefulagainst Salamangreat Rage.

Red Reboot, Twin Twisters, and Denko Sekka help you break set-ups defendedby backrow, and Salamangreats have plenty of backrow to go around. SolemnStrike, Solemn Warning, and Solemn Judgment are especially popular amongtopping builds because they help establish near-unbreakable fields whencombined with Salamangreat Roar.

Remember that the Salamangreats lack themed defensive options outside oftheir traps, so kicking away their backrow should be your first priority ifyou're committing more than one card towards a Special Summon.Interestingly, Twin Twisters is also a hugely popular pick inSalamangreats because the deck can leverage the discard outlet intoadditional card advantage so effectively.

Aside from backrow removal and Called by the Grave you can also usePSY-Framegear Gamma to help force your way through your opponent's Turn 1set-up. Gamma is, of course, a perfectly fine pick for simple effectnegation, but it's also a great counter to Droll & Lock Bird, ArtifactLancea, and Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring. Negating a Salamangreat Linkmonster is devastating to your opponent–especially Salamangreat SunlightWolf. Negating Salamangreat Miragestallio will also bring your opponent'splays to a stop slightly more effectively than Ash Blossom, Effect Veiler,or Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit.

Throwing a wrench into your opponent's strategy is astonishingly simple. Alot of things have to go right for your opponent to even searchSalamangreat Roar: Salamangreat Gazelle has to send it to the graveyard,and a Slamangreat Sunlight Wolf must either add it back to the hand orRoar's own effect in the graveyard must be met. Effect negation at almostany point in that combo is a significant setback, and while a Salamangreatplayer won't lose immediately they'll certainly need to reconsider theirapproach. There aren't as many extenders available in their early gameeither – most of the Salamangreat engine doesn't come online until amonster or two hits the graveyard.

Desite the apparent weaknesses of Salamangreats I fully expect this deck tobe the most popular strategy on the competitive for the next few months.It's simply too affordable to pass up, even if near-staples like Phantazmayare inaccessible to budget players.

The rest of the deck is extremely easy to pick up and play with arespectable amount of investment into cards like Salamangreat Sunlight Wolfand Lady Debug. They're necessary to play the deck effectively at the locallevel, but if you're heading to a Regional or higher event you'll be at adisadvantage without Phantazmay. There's no getting around it right now:nearly every deck can and will play Phantazmay if given the choice.Otherwise Salamangreats are an excellent addition to the formatbecause they're so affordable, and the long-overdue printing ofAsh Blossom & Joyous Spring reason enough to pick up the StructureDeck.

Until next time then

-Kelly


Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​​​​gamer and writer. You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​ ​​​​​​Twitter​​​​​​for more updates ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​. He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University