They say consistency is key. I have no idea who "they" are, but it's a good rule to follow. Look all the top decks right now, and you'll see the heart of each strategy is usually searchable. Where would Fire Fists be without Fire Formation - Tenki? Would Geargia survive without Geargiarmor? Or Ice Barriers without Medallion of the Ice Barrier? I'm partial to Spellbooks, partially because the deck's eerily consistent, and partially because 'Books are the best way to annoy Doug Zeeff. I play them as payback for all the Cheerios he stole from me over the summer.

Whether you call the deck "Mermails," "Water" or "Squiggly Wiggly Fish Men," the deck's a well-known factor in the competitive scene and has been for a year and a half since the release of Abyss Rising. For all the hate Spellbooks and Dragon Rulers got for their reign of supremacy over the summer, people seem to have forgotten that Mermail decks dominated competitive play for 9 months. That's the same length of time it takes to create a human being. Sure, the September 2013 format with Dragon Ruler's dominance felt strangely familiar to the Tele-Dad format of 2008, but the Water deck won an astounding six YCS events and comprised more than half of the Top 32 decks for months in major events. How did they do it?

Let's take a look at Billy Brake's 3rd place finish at YCS Miami in February 2013 with "Mono Mermail" – the first deck to popularize the Cozmo Blazer cards Mermail Abyssteus and Mermail Abyssleed. Excluding cards Limited to one, 27 of the 35 remaining Main Deck slots were cards played in triplicate, and six of the remaining eight were played in pairs. Yes, cards like Mermail Abyssmegalo and Abyss-squall were powerhouses in their own right, but the deck could blaze through cards with amazing search power and play beyond one hit wonders. Whether Billy needed to pump out an OTK, counter the mirror with Abyss Dweller or control the game with Synchros rooted in Deep Sea Diva, virtually any combination of cards in the opening hand could achieve the desired outcome.

Therein, you have plenty of options. The OTK threat isn't as prevalent nowadays, since it's tougher to pressure you opponent with the now-Limited Atlantean Dragoons and Deep Sea Diva, but if you've never picked up this deck before, you'll be overwhelmed by the variety of options. Add in a few copies of Mystic Box and Creature Swap, and you can transform this strategy into my favorite Mermail variant of all time, the mighty morphing Golem Swap Mermails.

DECKID= 99775 Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction is by far my favorite Xyz of all time. Sure, Constellar Ptolemy M7, Downerd Magician and Norito the Moral Leader are all great, but every Xyz pales in comparison to the mighty Acid Golem in my eyes. Short history lesson: The Trojan Horse was giant present from the Greeks to the Trojans appearing to be a symbol of surrender after a fruitless decade-long stalemate of war. Secretly, Greek forces were waiting in the wooden horse's belly and sprang out inside the Trojans' walls after they foolishly accepted the gift; it played a huge part in their victory. Acid Golem is like The Trojan Horse, but there's no disguising this tool of destruction. If The Trojan Horse was on fire and rigged with cartoonish bombs hanging in plain sight for the enemy to see, the comparison would hold up better, but bear with me here.

The point of this deck is to Summon an Acid Golem and give this modern day Trojan Horse to your opponent. Why? Because for all its awesomeness, Acid Golem has a huge downside for the controller, and you can abuse its drawbacks. During each of your Standby Phases in which you control Acid Golem, you have to detach an Xyz Material from it or take 2000 damage. Sure, Golem's 3000 ATK will impress for awhile, but it's a ticking time bomb with a very short fuse. I've seen many brave yet desperate duelists Summon this card in hopes of ending the game quickly, but wind up losing to four turns of self-inflicted burn instead. Ouch. You can avoid losing 2000 Life Points per turn by detaching an Xyz Material, but your resources for that are limited, and Acid Golem can't attack once it's out of Materials.

If life wasn't hard enough for Acid Golem's controller, you can't Special Summon when you have it on your field. No attacking, no Special Summoning, and losing 2000 Life Points a turn sounds like a rotten deal, right? That's exactly why you'll be planting your Golem on your opponent's side of the table. If you can give your opponent an Acid Golem with no materials, you stick them with the laundry list of downsides and a useless rock with 3000 ATK. Once Acid Golem' no longer under your control, you can Special Summon all you want or just wait four turns and burn your opponent to death.Let's take a look at one of the more popular strategies right now, the shameless "+1 Fire First Deck" that made its YCS debut in Atlanta.

Joe Bogli popularized the +1 Fire First variant and smashed the competition, coming in first after the Swiss rounds with an undefeated 11-0 record. If you happened to play him and put an Acid Golem on his field first turn, he would probably lose four turns later because the +1 Fire Fist deck has very few outs. Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear could sacrifice a face up Fire Formation Card to pop it, but that would leave the Bear exposed against a presumable army of your monsters and counter measures. Book of Moon could flip Golem facedown to save your opponent from damage, but that would only last for one turn if you forced Acid Golem face up with an attack. A self-inflicted Torrential Tribute or Fiendish Chain could stop it, but the only out the Fire Fist deck has that isn't a hardcore minus of card economy is Dark Hole, despite all its deck thinning. Four turns can easily mean victory for you, and you barely have to lift a finger.

This all brings me back to the issue of consistency. What's the fastest, most reliable, economically efficient way to make Acid Golem? Mermails churning out Bahamut Shark, of course! With all the recursive Level 4 monsters in the Mermail pantheon it's really easy to make Bahamut Shark, and you know the saying: where there's sharks there's golems. The only part left to chance will be getting Creature Swap or Mystic Box to your hand, but with six copies of those swapping spells in the Main Deck, you'll generally open with one in four out of every five games.

Sea Serpents, Aqua and Fish! Oh My!
I'm surprised Mermail decks are still as popular and powerful as they are. At YCS Berlin a week ago, two Mermail decks actually played out the finals. With high consistency and the addition of Evilswarm Exciton Knight and Number 101: Silent Honor ARK to the Extra Deck, the Mermail strategy's evolved and become a Rank 4 powerhouse. It hasn't abandoned its previous strengths either, and can play the Rank 4 game in addition to generating Rank 7 Xyz or brilliant and sudden OTK's.

My concoction goes one step further and concentrates even more on Rank 4 Xyz because that's the best and fastest way to make an Acid Golem. Bahamut Shark's a Rank 4 that merely takes two Water monsters to make. Detach a Material and Summon a Rank 3 Acid Golem and gift it to your opponent with Creature Swap or Mystic Box. If you're without a swap spell, you can simply make Mermail Abysstrite with a huge 2800 DEF, which has been the default play for more conventional Mermail builds up until now anyways. When Abysstrite dies, you bring back a Mermail and get your combos going again.

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If you're unfamiliar with the Mermail archetype, let me emphasize just how easy it is to play Bahamut Shark. Upon Summon, the Level 4 Mermail Abysspike pitches a Water monster from your hand to search a Level 3 Water from your deck, whether you want to snag the destroyer of sets, Atlantean Marksman or a Monster Reborn on legs, Mermail Abyssgunde. Pike isn't the only Mermail that turns Water monsters into your hand into free cards from your deck, either. The Level 7 Mermail Abyssteus and Mermail Abyssmegalo work just as well: Abyssteus nets a Level 4 or lower Mermail and 'megalo gets you an Abyss-sphere, which in turn Summons any Mermail from your deck. If you Summon Mermail Abysslinde, you get to Summon another Mermail from your deck when it's destroyed. It gets a little ridiculous when a third of your cards act as searchers that also trigger effects, to reviving and destroying cards.

Mermail Abyssgunde really makes Rank 4 plays so easily, especially with Mermail Abysslinde and Abyss-sphere. Your clown fish girl living in her clown fish world revives any Mermail when you pitch it for the activation of Abyssmegalo, Abyssteus, Abysspike or Abyssturge's effect. Thanks to Abyssgunde you can make Xyz monsters without losing any card presence. "Costs" for your Mermails' effects quickly turn into free Monster Reborns.

Even without Abyssgunde on your first turn, you can still make some pushes for board control. Normal Summon Mermail Abysspike and pitch any Water – hopefully Atlantean Marksman to destroy a set card your opponent controls – and you can search Mermail Abyssgunde with Abysspike's effect, then finish by setting an Abyss-sphere. During your opponent's turn, if your Abysspike dies, just bring out an Abysslinde with Abyss-sphere; it'll net you Abysspike when your Level 3 Abysslinde dies, so you can use Abysspike's effect to pitch Abyssgunde to Summon your first Abysspike back to the field. Of course, your second Abysspike will get you another Level 3 Water from your deck. At the end of your opponent's turn, despite the fact that you've activated a total of six card effects, you haven't lost any field or hand presence. You've set up for a Rank 4 play without even trying.

I think Mermail Abyssturge is my favorite card in this build, because it can recycle your Water monsters from your graveyard. Abyssturge, and more importantly Abyssgunde, really shine past your first Abysspike play. After all, Abyssgunde is, to some great extent, the heart and soul of this deck, and Abyssturge allows you to recycle it for infinite Special Summons. Be careful; I've seen many players get greedy and forget about Abyssturge's big downside: whatever monster you pitch must stay in a public zone (like the graveyard) to get its effect. You can't Normal Summon Abyssturge and pitch Abyssgunde to reborn Abysspike for a Rank 4 play if you return Abyssgunde with Turge's ability.

Turn that combo around, however, and it works just as well. Normal Summon Abysspike and pitch Abyssgunde to revive Abyssturge and search a Level 3 like Atlantean Marksman. You can then use Abyssturge's effect to discard the newly-searched Marksman to pop a set card and return your Abyssgunde to your hand. Combos like that are so cool and inexpensive because you have lost no card advantage in hand or on field while destroying a set card, paving the road for a Rank 4.

Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming
Aqua Spirit is the tipping point for the Rank 4 Mermail strategy, especially when you're trying to gift an Acid Golem to your opponent. You can't always rely on your Mermails surviving a turn or Abyssgunde allowing a play, so I maxed out on Aqua Spirit. Since you can't search it, three copies was important for consistency. You don't have to worry about it clogging your draws, because you'll always have food in the graveyard to keep it alive, whether you play it as as an Xyz Material or a standalone beater.

The focus on Rank 4's in Mermail decks has been steadily rising since YCS Toronto last September, but you can never count out the Level 7 threats. Mermail Abyssteus and Mermail Abyssmegalo are, in short, Level 7 versions of Mermail Abysspike. Both are huge threats that can act alone as attackers, while thinning your deck and pitching Mermail Abyssgunde, but they also let you make Rank 7 plays. Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls is perfect as a Level 7 Xyz Material because it lets you get a Rank 7 into the game with just one Level 7 Mermail. Number 11: Big Eye and Mecha Phantom Dracossack are only ever a Tidal away.

Of course, I'd rather just Golem Swap my opponent into defeat every game, but you can't rely on that combo to bring home the gold a hundred percent of the time. Fortunately, the Mermail strategy's incredibly consistent, powerful, and versatile, so you may snag victory before you even hit a Creature Swap or Mystic Box!

Just remember, beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson