Thunder Dragons exploded onto the competitive scene atYCS Niagarajust one day after their debut in Soul Fusion – beatingexpectations and setting the tone for the post-SOFU format.Gabriel Vargas won the event with Danger! Goukis, but much of the discussion about Niagara revolved around Thunder Dragonsand their competitiveness at Regional and Championship-level events.

Danger! drew its own discussion, butthe FTK piloted by Jeff Joneswas probably the most important deck in the Top 32 given its implications.YCS Londonalready appears to be saturated with FTK builds, and Thunder Dragons saw asevere drop in Top 32 representation.

One popular theory for the explosive success of Thunder Dragons was ageneral lack of preparedness among players at Niagara. With many duelistsbetting that Thunder Dragons would flop at the YCS it's possible they mayhave elected to not properly learn the match-up. Of course, given thatThunder Dragons had debuted the day before it's totally possible that someplayers had their first ever match against the deck that Saturday.

Preparedness aside there's no doubt that the strategy is highlycompetitive, but is it the deck to beat this format? YCS London doesn'tinspire confidence that the deck will overtake Sky Strikers.

Thunder Dragons will be a relevant and popular match-up going forwardregardless of whether or not it becomes the deck to beat. Combatingunpreparedness is largely the goal of my Side Deck column, and while I'm alittle late for YCS Niagara and YCS London there's still plenty of time tocover the deck before the next big round of Regionals.

And You Thought Thunder King Rai-Oh Was Annoying
The Thunder Dragon win condition consists of landing two Fusion Monsters onthe board to shut down your opponent's search effects and disrupt attemptsto break your set-up.

The centerpiece of this strategy is Thunder Dragon Colossus: a one-sidedMistake or Thunder King Rai-Oh that shuts down opposing search effects andstops your opponent from adding cards from their deck to the hand except bydrawing. It's an extremely powerful floodgate effect in a format that'ssaturated with search effects, and it's especially good against Trickstars,Goukis, and Sky Strikers. Altergeists are on a short list of strategiesthat can play around Colossus effectively; most other decks will struggleagainst a Turn 1 Thunder Dragon board.

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Thunder Dragon Colossus has significantly more staying power thantraditional anti-search floodgates. It can save itself from destruction bybanishing a Thunder monster in the graveyard any number of times per turn,and it'll trigger Thunder Dragon monster effects in the process. Colossushas just enough ATK to avoid Mekk-Knights and Cyber Dragons, but thanks toits protection effect it's not enough to field a stronger monster anyways.

Any answer to Thunder Dragon Colossus needs to either bounce it back to theExtra Deckm or less ideally banish it. Even temporarily flipping Colossusface-down can give some decks enough time to come up with an answer.Finally, taking control of Colossus to either send it to the graveyardthrough a Link Summon, or to turn it against your opponent can also beeffective.

Thunder Dragon Titan throws a wrench into your plans to topple the Colossusby adding a destruction Quick Effect to your opponent's arsenal. You'lloften need to manage the floodgate effect of Colossus, the fast destructionof Titan, and the built-in protection effects of both monsters to breakyour opponent's field. When playing first you'll have a bit less to worryabout, but the aggressive power of the Thunder Dragon engine's still strongenough to fight back against all but the strongest set-ups. Grind gamesagainst Altergeists are a nightmare for Thunder Dragons, but the deck cancompete very well against the majority of match-ups this format.

Freeing Up Your Search Effects
Going second against Thunder Dragons can be an uphill battle if yourstarting hand is loaded with search effects. Thunder Dragon Colossus isvery good at neutralizing multiple cards in the opponent's hand, and unlessyou're playing an unusually low number of search effects you'll probablyend up with at least one dead card. Luckily Colossus doesn't stop draweffects, so Pot of Desires is still a solid pick for the match-up providedyou don't end up on the receiving end of an Ash Blossom & JoyousSpring.

At YCS Niagara two popular tech picks emerged to deal with Turn 1 ThunderDragon set-ups: Metaion, the Timelord and Book of Eclipse. The formerquickly became the ideal Side Deck pick for the match-up; Metaionsingle-handedly solves the most common Thunder Dragon boards while avoidinginterruption from Thunder Dragon Titan and most hand traps. It wastes yourBattle Phase, but your opponent's unlikely to recover after resolvingMetaion anyways.

Bouncing their field eliminates future fodder for Thunder Dragon Fusion andkicks any Links back to the Extra Deck along with their Fusion Monsters.Metaion's a huge threat to your opponent's investment and heavily punishesthem for commiting to the field. Infinite Impermanence and Effect Veilercan certainly counter it too, but Veiler needs to be played before theBattle Phase and Impermanence must be set first.

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Book of Eclipse is a more aggressive option that keeps your Main Phase 1and Battle Phase free, but you'll still need a way to deal with youropponent's set Fusion Monsters. Attacking them while face-down isn't aviable strategy, but destroying them is possible while face-down.I think the appeal of Book of Eclipse was fleeting – there are very fewdecks can manage to dedicate two effects to breaking a field of monsterswhen Metaion offers one-card solution. Unless your deck's already loadedwith destruction effects I'd skip Book of Eclipse or similar cards in favorof Metaion, Kaijus, or a control-changing card like Mind Control.

There will be times when your oppponent Summons two Thunder Dragon Colossusto make doubly sure your search effects are useless, but when your opponentonly controls one Colossus you can try temporarily freeing yourself bytaking control of it. Mind Control's an excellent proactive solution thatpulls Colossus to your side of the field, momentarily disables youropponent's search effects, and gives you a monster to Link Summon withlater during your turn. Alternatively you can take control of a ThunderDragon Titan to remove one potential piece of interruption from youropponent's field.

Anti-Fusion Tech Is Relevant Again
You have many, many options against any banish-focusedFusion-based strategy. Thunder Dragons fall cleanly into two both bucketsand there's a lot of Side Deck tech to choose from.

Dimensional Barrier, Artifact Scythe and Artifact Lancea, Imperial IronWall, Soul Drain, and Imperial Order are all fantastic going-firstfloodgates that break key components of the Thunder Dragon engine. Youcould even play Koa'ki Meiru Drago to halt all of your opponent's SpecialSummons, or side Inspector Boarder to cripple the many monster effects thatactivate in your opponent's hand and Banish Zone.

Most of the non-Fusion game-ending cards in the Thunder Dragon deck need tobanish from the graveyard to be effective. Cards like Black Luster Soldier- Envoy of the Beginning are at the mercy of effects that stop banishing,like Artifact Lancea and Imperial Iron Wall. Necrovalley and blanketbanishing effects can either lock down your opponent's graveyard or leaveit empty, but keep in mind that floodgates like Macro Cosmos or DimensionalFissure will trigger the effects of Thunder Dragon monsters and won't stopColossus from hitting the field.

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There Can Be Only One addresses the most basic Thunder Dragon plays bykeeping your opponent from controlling more than one Thunder monster.Flipping it after your opponent has established their field can bea great play, but you might need to bait Thunder Dragon Titan to pull thatoff. For the most part any Continuous Spell or Trap floodgates fare wellagainst Thunder Dragons since the deck lacks a readily-available spell andtrap removal. In fact, the entire Main Deck segment of the theme is missingremoval effects.

Shared Ride is a fantastic pick that acts as a stand-in for Maxx "C" herein the TCG. Drawing cards is still fine under Thunder Dragon Colossus'effect, so it's never at risk of not being live. Thunder Dragons add cardsfrom their deck and graveyard to the hand frequently, which means SharedRide will either stop your opponent from playing or give you enough cardsto shrug off Colossus' floodgate effect during the next turn. Sky Strikerplayers at YCS London even ran Shared Ride in their Main Decks to gain aGame 1 advantage in the mirror match and against Thunder Dragons.

With Thunder Dragons now sitting comfortably among the top competitivestrategies this format there's yet another match-up your Side Deck willneed to be prepared to handle. I think the existence of Thunder Dragonswill push more Ghost Belle & Haunted Mansion and Ash Blossom &Joyous Spring into Main Decks, while Droll & Lock Bird and EffectVeiler will continue to fall off in play.

Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries is an odd one – Thunder Dragons canrecover their banished Extra Deck monsters, but it's not exactly fun. It'scertainly an option if you're looking for another hand trap and yourreally hate Colossus for its floodgate effect. Personally I don'tblame you; I rather like my search effects, and I'd prefer to resolve themunobstructed by Thunder King Rai-Oh's spirit animal.

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.