Ever since Duelist Alliance hit, the reigning Big Three have presented two major challenges to rogue strategies. The first is sheer power: the overall consistency, control, and damage output of Shaddolls, Burning Abyss, Qliphorts, and even Satellarknights has just been a bit higher than everything that came before them. The gap isn't as big as it may seem, but it definitely exists. At some point the size of the power differential m stops mattering: better is better.

The other thing rogue players have had to contend with is the sheer variety between the core functions of the three most popular decks over the past half year. When there's one top deck, all you have to do as a rogue player is beat that strategy. Tough, but often doable. When there are two or more top decks, a rogue duelist tries to find common play patterns or dependencies shared by all of them and then strives to exploit them, treating them as opportunities to create weaknesses.

But in the wake of Duelist Alliance the three strategies that were taking up 95% of top cuts didn't have enough in common to make that approach viable: Burning Abyss, Satellarknights, and Shaddolls were very different strategies. When Burning Abyss and Shaddolls bumped Satellarknights down a notch and slowed the format, speed became a viable approach, at least to some degree – we saw decks like Mermails and Karakuri score some modest Regional success for a couple weeks. But it didn't stick, and when Qliphorts arrived to usurp Satellarknights, the deck was so different that no good rogue approach was evident.

Fast forward to now and while the strategies on top haven't changed in name, some of the trends they exhibit have. Triple Mystical Space Typhoon is wildly popular again. Book of Moon is on its way to becoming huge, while numerous players are latching onto Enemy Controller. The latest Advanced Format loosened the restrictions on certain power spells, too, and while two of the three top decks never were trap-heavy, the one holdout seems to be playing fewer and fewer trap cards as well. All of a sudden, spell cards became the order of the day.

Why should we care about that? Because it means that on some basic level, any deck that can stop spell cards consistently and early can suddenly have a fighting chance. And that means any deck that can play Naturia Beast could have an edge against the most popular decks.

Breaking It Down, Deck By Deck
Let's get down to brass tacks and talk about specific cards: namely the spell-based support that fuel the top strategies. Qliphorts rely on Summoner's Art and Saqlifice to search their key cards and they need to resolve Pendulum Spells to get those cards into action. Shaddolls depend on Shaddoll Fusion, El Shaddoll Fusion, and the new Nephe Shaddoll Fusion. We're even seeing new builds of Burning Abyss that run as few as six trap cards in favor of more spells. Cards like Soul Charge and Book of Moon are hugely popular everywhere, while Allure of Darkness, Foolish Burial, The Beginning of the End, and Forbidden Chalice are defining components of certain builds.

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At their very core, Qliphorts, Shaddolls, and to some lesser-but-widening extent Burning Abyss, are all inherently weak to anything that could stop their spells from the early game onward. Each deck has on-theme answers to Naturia Beast that can potentially function without spell cards, but getting to them becomes more difficult when Naturia Beast's on the field: threats like Skill Drain and Shaddoll Dragon can be circumvented, and I feel like Burning Abyss is the only deck with a threatening volume of answers. There's definite potential here just at first glance.

Moving along to the non-themed cards those decks tend to run, the last two F&L Lists have made Dark Hole, Raigeki, and Snatch Steal popular power-cards in current competition. Naturia Beast shuts them all down, turning them into dead draws. Triple Mystical Space Typhoon is tremendously popular even with traps potentially on their way out, and even Night Beam continues to see play.

To make life even tougher, Upstart Goblin's hugely popular in both Qliphorts and Burning Abyss. The idea of making your deck more consistent by reducing it to a 37-card build is hugely attractive, and players are used to getting that acceleration reliably. But if you rip an Upstart Goblin and your opponent controls Naturia Beast? You basically just drew nothing. Upstart Goblin's suddenly doing precisely the opposite of what you intended, reducing your options instead of getting you to your best plays.

Naturia Beast has the potential to be really awesome right now. The problem? Getting it into play in the first place.

Siding Emergency Teleport In Big Decks
Since Naturia Beast requires Earth attribute Materials, the composition of your Main Deck largely determines whether or not you can run it; and if so, how easily and consistently. We don't see it very often, but it's already been topping notable tournaments for weeks: it made the Top 16 in not one, but two decks at ARGCS Raleigh all the way back in the beginning of November.

Justin Russell and Michael Casey Barbee both made the Top 16 of that event with Qliphorts. To run Naturia Beast, they sided three copies of Emergency Teleport with one Re-Cover – the only available Level 1 Psychic Tuner, which conveniently happens to be an Earth monster. Since most of the Qliphorts become Level 4 when they're Special Summoned or Normal Summoned without Tribute, and since all of them are Earth monsters, that meant a single Qliphort plus Emergency Teleport would deliver Naturia Beast. While it might conflict with Skill Drain, it was a powerful enough idea to dominate the Qliphort mirror match, where you'd generally side out Skill Drain anyways.

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And that was cool. But at the time Qliphorts still hadn't won a YCS; that victory was still a month away at YCS Milan. And while Qliphorts continued to see heavy play, Shaddolls were still split between Artifact Shaddoll builds – which were relatively trap heavy – plus Chaos Shaddolls and emerging Denko Sekka Shaddoll variants. Trap counts were higher in those decks, so spell counts were lower. Burning Abyss was still playing six discard-costed traps like Phoenix Wing Wind Blast, Karma Cut, and even Raigeki Break, as well as triple Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss and more traps beyond those. Spells just weren't as important across the board then as they are now. Russell and Barbee's ingenious Side Deck concept fell by the wayside.

Today the conditions are far different, and while Qliphorts are just as good at Side Decking Teleport and Re-Cover, other strategies might be able to do it as well. Mathematician is starting to see way more play in both Burning Abyss and Shaddolls, and Shaddolls will have the new Attribute-warping Nephe Shaddoll Fusion in just a couple days. Is that enough to make a sided Naturia Beast strategy viable in those strategies? Probably not. But it's interesting to consider and I'm not willing to close the door on it entirely – the possibility could pave the way for variants with other Earth monsters.

Running It Rogue
All that said, the biggest opportunities might lie in rogue decks. The faster you can establish Naturia Beast on the field with adequate protection to keep it there, the easier it'll be to keep your opponent from using Fusion Spells, building their Pendulum Scale, or drawing into what they need with Upstart Goblin. And a lot of rogue decks can do that on Turn 1 with surprising consistency. I don't want to talk about every Rogue strategy that happens to run Earth monsters, but a few do spring to mind. You can shout out your faves down in the Comments.

Coming off the discussion of Emergency Teleport, I think we have to start with Psychics. Dedicated Psychic strategies can ward off attacks with strings of self-replacing defenders like Serene Psychic Witch and Esper Girl. The deck's been tournament-proven to make an impact with Grandsoil the Elemental Lord, and they make awesome Synchro plays with Emergency Teleport. Re-Cover at Level 1; Psychic Jumper and Esper Girl at Level 2; and Psychic Commander at Level 3 are all Earth Tuners that can lead into Naturia Beast in different situations.

Too out there for you? How about a deck that used to win Championships? Madolches pack tons of Earth non-Tuners as a matter of routine: Madolche Magileine's prime Synchro fodder since it replaces itself with another card the moment it hits the field. Between Madolche Messengelato, Madolche Hootcake, and Madolche Anjelly you generate tons of free card presence. The deck usually has quite a few free card slots and lots of room for Side Decking, so the idea of sided or mained Emergency Teleports… or even alternative Tuners like Glow-Up Bulb and T.G. Striker… isn't outlandish.

Raccoons are awesome at making Level 5 Synchros. Obedience Schooled made Raccoons a Regional-topping sleeper hit the moment it dropped in Legacy of the Valiant almost a year ago, delivering first turn Naturia Beast + Number 64: Ronin Raccoon Sandayu plays off the back of Elephun. Regional-topping Raccoon duelists wold play Elephun just because it was a Level 2 Beast Earth Tuner; they'd ignore its effect. But now, with the introduction of Valerifawn, Mystical Beast of the Forest from The New Challengers, the deck's even better. It's just a better Level 2 Beast Earth Tuner, acting a lot like Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner and bringing back Kalantosa, Mystical Beast of the Forest for cheap spot removal and free +1's.

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If you open with any Level 2 Beast, just Obedience Schooled for three more. So long as one of them is Valerifawn to serve as a Tuner, you can Normal Summon your fourth Beast from your hand; overlay two of them for Ronin Raccoon leaving Valerifawn on the field; use Ronin Racoon's effect to Special Summon a Kagemusha Raccoon Token at Level 1; and then Tune the Token with Valerifawn and your remaining Level 2 Earth non-Tuner for Naturia Beast. Naturia Beast will even protect Sandayu thanks to Sandayu's effect, ensuring another free Kagemusha Raccoon Token next turn. If you go first with just five cards, a build running twelve Level 2 Earth Beasts could flop that opening Turn 1 in 30% of your games.

Karakuris can open with Naturia Beast as a 1-for-1 play going first on Turn 1 about 11% of the time, courtesy of Karakuri Komachi mdl 224 "Ninishi" and Karakuri Merchant mdl 177 "Inashichi". The percentage chance of making that play skyrockets as you thin your deck and start using search effects that are generally inaccessible on Turn 1. Machina Gadgets offer a stream of free Level 4 Earth non-Tuners that could easily combo with Emergency Teleport and Re-Cover, or you could play Deskbot 001 for more combo potential. And since I'm standing in for Beau Butler today, I'd be remiss if I failed to mention Six Samurai's easy access to Naturia Beast. Kagemusha of the Six Samurai and Elder of the Six Samurai make it happen, with help from Asceticism of the Six Samurai.

There are a ton of possibilities here, and while any sort of rogue strategy is a tough sell right now, this is an idea I really want to explore myself. What do you think? Does Naturia Beast have potential? Tell me where you'd run it, down in the Comments.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer