Over the years, some decks have slowly received new support to keep them relevant in the ever-changing landscape of competition. Some theme have even seen total makeovers that have reshaped them entirely: some started out with humble beginnings like Summoned Skull and Axe of Despair, transitioned to a weird chess-conglomeration thing, and eventually arrived at something completely different today.

If you can remember back to the chess reference from the card set Dark Crisis, then you'll know I'm talking about Archfiends. If not, let me introduce you to one of the least cohesive archetypes in the history of the game. I mean, at least Iron Chains agreed on what they were trying to do, right?

DECKID=100565If I give you the name of a deck or an archtype, chances are good that you'll be capable of telling me what the overall game plan was, or at least a central card or game mechanic associated with the strategy. Archfiends, on the other hand, literally have nothing that bind them together except their name stamp. Sure, you can squeeze Archfiend Heiress and Archfiend's Roar into Infernities thanks to their synergy with Infernity Archfiend, but you'd be lying to yourself if you tried to fit Axe of Despair, Lesser Fiend and Desrook Archfiend into one coherent strategy.

Doug Zeeff tried that once, and now he's homeless.

When It Began, I Can't Begin To Know When
Outside of the fact that they have virtually no cohesion whatsoever, Archfiends are still pretty good thanks to the strength of some of their individual cards. Thomas Lippman nearly made the Top 32 cut at YCS Atlanta not too long ago, with an Archfiend deck featuring Battle Faders and Trance Archfiends. I imagine that Lippman had problems both before and after the event, similar to the struggles of both Doug Zeeff and myself: no one was playing an under the radar deck, and thus there wasn't a soul to bounce ideas off of.

Unlike Geargia in the April 2014 Format or Fire Fists in the January 2014 format, Archfiends have had virtually no representation at the YCS and Regional Qualifying level, and without any big-name stars piloting the deck, there hasn't been much collaboration or testing going on. I have to admit, I felt like every time I dueled with Archfiends I'd find another niche series of plays with the deck, and I'm excited to see just how far Archfiends can go in the future. Maybe we'll get more support cards like Archfiend Commander to bolster the deck's power.

So yeah: I can't really tell you what this theme is supposed to do from a design standpoint. But in my version, I can tell you that you'll find explosive and cheap ways to make powerful Rank 3, Rank 4 and Rank 6 monsters with the occasional ability to pop out a Scrap Dragon or blow up the field with Black Rose Dragon! The three main Archfiend cards in my version are Archfiend Heiress, Archfiend Calvary and Archfiend Commander, and their relationship is symbiotic. Without bouncing all over the place, I thought I'd try to keep things simple with this trio of Archfiend cards to make powerful Xyz Monsters at every turn.

ROTA: Reinforcement of the Archfiends
Archfiend Heiress, for lack of a better phrase, is the greatest because it's a constant source of search power. Whenever it gets sent to the graveyard by a card effect, search your deck for any Archfiend card. That's right ladies and gentlemen, any Archfiend card. We've seen a few Infernity decks tool around with Armageddon Knight and Heiress to search an on-theme revival spell, Archfiend's Roar, but in a dedicated Archfiend deck your Level 3 Heiress gets everything.

Ok, technically I lied. You can't search Heiress with Heiress, but searching carbon copies of your searcher would be a bucket of wasted time anyways. The only case in which you'd ever want to do that would be when you're trying to bleed out your deck with something like Toon Table of Contents. If you're doing that, you're probably playing some stupid FTK or Exodia deck, and I'm inclined to care as little as possible.

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Additionally, Heiress can be destroyed by battle and get its search effect. That makes up for the fact that you can't pitch it to the graveyard for a cost and claim the search. Cards like Foolish Burial and Number 49: Fortune Tune trigger your Heiress, but Number 30: Leviathan Dragon leaves Heiress out to dry. It's a definite distinction, but very rarely will that come back to bite you. Furthermore, Heiress is the perfect target for Tour Guide From the Underworld, meaning your Tour Guide now searches a searcher.

And that's exactly how Yu-Gi-Oh! has progressed. Name one top deck from the last few formats that doesn't thrive thanks to specific and repeatable on-theme search actions. Archfiend's Heiress is really the backbone of the deck, and I'll gladly play Tour Guide to bring my Heiress to the field. Meanwhile everyone's favorite Tuner, Masked Chameleon, harmoniously plays along here since Heiress has a whopping 0 DEF. Ancient Fairy Dragon and Black Rose Dragon work phenomenally therein. Ancient Fairy Dragon can search out your Archfiend Panlabyrinth and who doesn't like a good ol' fashioned Black Rose board wipe?

Archfiend Calvary is nothing like Heiress, but it's a Level 4 with an impressive ATK that lets it run over a lot of monsters in battle, sans Thunder King Rai-Oh and Geargiarmor. When Calvary dies by a card effect, you can revive any fallen Archfiend. Not bad, right? Sadly it's not a game changer like Heiress, but with a big ATK and 0 DEF it can stand its own while being a great target for Masked Chameleon – your Rank 4 and Level 8 Synchro backbone. In half of your games you'll never trigger Calvary's effect, but it's beefy enough to warrant use anyways.

To cap off the Archfiend family we have my favorite: Archfiend Commander. It took me five months too long to get my little fingers on a playset of this thing, and the deck's virtually unplayable without it. Commander gives you much-needed muscle and allows for those key Rank 6 plays. A Tour Guide From the Underworld, Archfiend Palabyrinth and Commander gets you to the all-powerful Constellar Ptolemy M7.

How? It's a pretty standard play for the veteran Archfiend duelist. Thanks to Archfiend Palabyrinth, you get an ATK boost to your Archfiends plus you'll trade out one Fiend monster for another from your hand, deck or graveyard. Palabyrinth lets you banish an on-field Fiend to Special Summon an Archfiend from almost anywhere, as long as you start with an Archfiend on the table first. Of course, Tour Guide makes the process easier because it gets you both an Archfiend on the field and an extra Fiend for Palabyrinth.

But where does Commander come in? Simple. While you control your Heiress and Tour Guide, Special Summon Commander from your hand and then use Commander's effect to blow up Heiress. If you were paying attention earlier, I said you needed a Palabyrinth, but I didn't say you needed to actually start with the card in your opening hand!

I mentioned before that Calvary rarely gets its effect off, and while that's not entirely untrue, you'll be getting so many Heiress searches that Calvary just winds up feeling like a complementary prize. Of course, Calvary also triggers off Commander and makes a Rank 6 that way. I have to mention that Commander has its own revival ability for other Archfiends, but it requires a Tribute Summon.

What, did you think we were playing Monarchs? Good luck consistently getting that last one.

Shout Out To My Supporting Cast
In addition, Archfiends have some really neat-o support cards that round out the strategy. Falling Down's a Snatch Steal that works as long as you control an Archfined, so if your opponent has a Level 3, 4 or 6 monster, it's a painless Xyz Summon. Archfiend's Roar is a theme stamped Call Of The Haunted, so your big Extra Deck plays are even easier to make than they would be otherwise. We're not going to go the Geargia route and play three Wiretap and two Seven Tools of the Bandit, but my trap lineup looks pretty beefy. It's not only the Archfiend monsters pulling the weight around here.

Lastly I have to touch on two things: Secret Sect Druid Dru and Archfiend Emperor, the First Lord of Horror. Ok, fine, Druid Dru's probably self-explanatory. It's another Masked Chameleon, but it only makes Rank 4's; just another typical day in the neighborhood.

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On the omission side of things the biggest offender is Archfiend Emperor, a card I've seen in almost every – scratch that, every – Archfiend deck I've seen to date. Why, dear reader? Please tell me why this card is good, because I haven't figured it out. If you're going the Skill Drain route with Archfiends, then you've severed all ties with the best power plays the deck has: Masked Chameleon and Archfiend Commander. Sure, your Archfiend Emperor can stick around with 3000 ATK, but at the end of the day it's just a giant, glorified Exiled Force.

You can Normal Summon Emperor without Tributing and get its effect off once, but then it dies. I guess you can use Skill Drain after you pop a card on the field, but I'm going to steer clear from Skill Drain when it hurts me just as much as it would hurt my opponent. I'd rather play the cooler cards anyway, right?

Just remember, beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson