Anyone who was playing Yu-Gi-Oh! in 2009 can tell you about the golden days of Blackwings: a time when Crow's Winged-Beasts dominated the competitive scene. Their initial debut in Crimson Crisis showed their potential as a theme, and when Raging Battle was released Blackwings ascended to even greater heights. Over the summer, including the 2009 World Championship, Blackwings only had Cat Synchro to compete with. Even after Blackwing - Gale the Whirlwind was Limited and Dark Strike Fighter was Forbidden, Blackwings got a new toy to play with: Blackwing - Vayu the Emblem of Honor.

Repeated hits to Blackwings pushed them out of the competitive spotlight for years. Black Whirlwind, Blackwing - Kalut the Moon Shadow, Blackwing - Blizzard the Far North, and Icarus Attack were all on the Forbidden & Limited List at some point. Burial from the Different Dimension and Allure of Darkness were Limited on the same List partially in response to Blackwings. Weak support over the remainder of the 5D's era did nothing to help the theme return to their former glory. Their wings, weakened from being clipped for so long, weren't enough to get them off the ground even as their cards began to slide off the Forbidden & Limited List.

But Blackwing support never really stopped coming, and the last year has brought us the first decent cards for the theme since 2009. Crow made a few manga appearances in the last couple of years, and his current presence in the anime is bringing new Blackwings to the game. Earlier this year Premium Gold 2: Return of the Bling imported several new Blackwings, and just a few weeks ago Dimension of Chaos added two new Assault Blackwings.

Are Blackwings on track for a revival? The strategy itself is noticeably outdated, but I think the deck's more capable than ever thanks to Assault Blackwing - Raikiri the Rain Shower.

Looking Back At The Blackwing Extra Deck
The old-school Blackwing Synchros aren't competitive anymore. Blackwing - Armor Master was released at a time when Smashing Ground and Mirror Force were still Limited, and Bottomless Trap Hole was running around in threes. Proactive removal was harder to come by those days, so being immune to destruction by battle was a big deal back then. That's obviously not the case anymore. Armor Master's barely worth acknowledging in a format with Dark Hole, Raigeki, and dozens of other searchable monster removal effects.

Blackwing - Armor Master was an oddity even in the context of the post-TeleDAD format. Blackwings are a highly aggressive strategy built to dish out huge amounts of damage with Blackwing - Sirocco the Dawn, Blackwing - Bora the Spear, and Blackwing - Kalut the Moon Shadow. Blackwing - Armed Wing reflects this with piercing damage and its built-in ATK boost, but Armor Master is seemingly misplaced in the theme. Its ATK-lowering effect is too slow for a theme that's already playing Gale the Whirlwind. Armor Master's only aggressive use was to force out opposing copies of Kalut or Honest.

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Thankfully Blackwings now have several new Synchros that are more in line with their aggressive playstyle. Blackwing - Nothung the Starlight deals direct damage, lowers the ATK of a targeted monster, and gives its controller a second Normal Summon for a Blackwing monster. It's a key component of Turn 1 plays that let you double up on Black Whirlwind searches. For example:

-If you control Black Whirlwind: Normal Summon Blackwing - Pinaki the Waxing Moon.

-Search Blackwing - Gladius the Midnight Sun with Whirlwind.

-Special Summon Gladius and Synchro Summon Nothung.

-Normal Summon another Blackwing from your hand and search another card.

-At the End Phase, search a Blackwing with Pinaki's effect.

This play is a lot better when you have multiple Black Whirlwinds, but it's arguably one of the best starts the deck has. You can open the duel with Nothung and a Rank 4, or set yourself up for a big push on Turn 3 since you're searching two Blackwings in that play. It's repeatable thanks to Blackwing Tamer - Obsidian Hawk Joe, which can Special Summon Nothung, or any Blackwing Synchro for that matter, from the graveyard. Obsidian Hawk Joe's great for recycling Synchros and some of the bigger Blackwing monsters, and it can even Summon Dark Simorgh or Mist Valley Apex Avian.

With Obsidian Hawk Joe, Blackwings finally had a decent Level 7 Synchro that they could use to push for huge amounts of damage. So how does Raikiri the Rainshower fit into an Extra Deck that's already crammed with Synchros and Rank 4's? First, it does so by providing something that's not available with other Blackwing Synchros: card removal.

Leading The Assault
Assault Blackwing - Raikiri The Rainshower is the first generic, Level 7 Synchro for the Blackwing theme. Unlike Armor Master or Obsidian Hawk Joe, you can Synchro Summon Raikiri with any materials. The only catch is that at least one material needs to be a Blackwing monster if you're looking to use Raikiri's first effect. Its second effect – and the reason you're playing it in the first place – limits its usefulness to dedicated Blackwing strategies. It's really not worth discussing outside of that context.

Okay, so, the good stuff. Once per turn you can target a number of cards your opponent controls up to the number of other Blackwings you control, and destroy them. There are a few things to keep in mind there: first, Raikiri doesn't count itself, so you can't activate its effect if it's the only Blackwing you have. Second, Raikiri does in fact target, so it's not an out to targeting-immune monsters like Kozmo Dark Destroyer. Finally, those cards are targeted at activation, so you'll still destroy the same number of cards even if the number of Blackwings on your field changes between activation and resolution. That's different from Ritual Beast Steeds, so it's worth pointing out.

The real selling point of Raikiri is, of course, the card removal that's packaged with a 2600 ATK Dark Winged-Beast. For a Level 7 Synchro it's a bit on the weak side, although other options like Armor Master, Clear Wing Synchro Dragon, and Black Rose Moonlight Dragon are weaker yet. That said, Raikiri's role is to end the game that turn if possible. Its ATK against other monsters should be irrelevant when you're going for the kill. Even when ATK matters, Kalut and Gale are usually enough to make up for Raikiri's low attack points. Monsters that can't be destroyed by battle lose to its destruction effect, and monsters that resist removal or targeting are often still vulnerable to attacks.

There's a limit to the number of cards you can destroy with Raikiri, but thankfully you can beef up that number before you activate it. Because its ability's an ignition effect, you don't have to activate it immediately after a successful Summon. Although that makes Raikiri vulnerable to various Trap Hole cards, it lets you field two more Blackwings before you start destroying stuff. Hitting four cards with Raikiri's effect is huge, and should win you the game unless the majority of those cards are replace themselves immediately. Thanks to the extra Summoning power from Blackwing - Kris the Crack of Dawn and Nothung, putting four monsters on the field is surprisingly easy to do.

That "once per turn" clause comes in handy when you want to use Raikiri's effect multiple times...even during the same turn. You can Special Summon Raikiri from the graveyard with Obsidian Hawk Joe and activate it on a later turn, or for the second time in the same turn. Synchro Summon it, destroy cards, tribute it for Icarus Attack, destroy more cards, then Special Summon it again with Obsidian Hawk Joe to finish clearing the field. When it resolves cleanly it's a deadly blow against your opponent, but things won't always be that simple.

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Raikiri the Rainshower's the go-to solution for removing Pendulum Scales when Icarus Attack isn't available. The Blackwing strategy changes dramatically against Pendulum themes when you factor in Raikiri. The gameplan is to repeatedly deny your opponent the cards they need to establish a Pendulum Scale, either with Raikiri or Icarus Attack. Knocking out Pendulum Spells turn after turn can break down your opponent's strategy and leave them vulnerable to OTKs. Pendulum Call and Sky Iris make Magician Pendulums are the hardest deck to beat this way, but it's definitely not impossible to win against them regardless.

Initially I wasn't all that impressed with Raikiri's effect – mostly because I couldn't Summon it consistently. I was hesitant to consolidate two monsters for a Synchro that needed more monsters to use its effect. For all the praise I've heaped on Raikiri so far it's important to remember that Blackwings are a little outdated. That said, the theme's gained a lot of ground over the last year. Besides the direct support in the form of Blackwing Synchros, a few new tech choices have given Blackwings a fighting chance. Elder Entity Norden and Instant Fusion have also helped this strategy – among many others – hold their own against the latest decks on the competitive scene.

Instant Fusion becomes a one-card Synchro or Xyz Summon with the proper graveyard set-up. Targeting Pinaki the Waxing Moon is obviously ideal, since sending it to the graveyard for a Synchro Summon will trigger its End Phase search effect. Again: Raikiri has generic material requirements, so that Level 7 Synchro Summon can be used to put Raikiri on the field without using a Normal Summon. From there you can Summon your other Blackwings, destroy a handful of your opponent's cards, and push for damage. If you use Pinaki you'll be set to make follow-up plays on the next turn, especially if you have another Instant Fusion in hand. I think Instant Fusion is a must-play for Blackwings now that Raikiri is available.

Supporting Blackwings with solid cards that push the aggressive nature of the deck's strategy is the right move to revive this fan-favorite theme. There's a new card coming in Breakers of Shadow, but I don't know exactly what to expect from it. At the very least we can be reasonably sure that Blackwings are, for now, better than Raid Raptors, though that speaks more about the sorry state of that theme and it's incredibly slow release schedule than the competitiveness of Blackwings. All of these birds could use some love.

Until next time then

-Kelly


Kelly Locke is a West Michigan gamer, writer, and college student with too much free time on his hands. Besides playing Yugioh, Kelly posts Let's Play videos of Minecraft on his Youtube channel and plays a possibly unhealthy amount of Destiny. He is currently studying marketing at Western Michigan University, and hopes to graduate before Dragon Ravine is Unlimited.