A few weeks ago I discussed some of the earliest archetypes in the history of the game, and I concluded that Harpie Lady was the oldest named theme dating all the way back to Metal Raiders. Doug Zeeff, resident jerk and card miser of my team, was quick to point out that the Harpie Ladies weren't a true archetype because the femme fatale family of monsters was so few in number with nothing in common besides the name "Harpie." More Harpie cards hit the game with support from Rise of Destiny, Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy and Legendary Collection 4: Joey's World, but in the beginning, it was just Harpie Lady, Elegant Egotist and Harpie Lady Sisters.

If you require a true archetype to have something in common besides just a monster type or part of a name, then look no further than Pharaonic Guardian. That set brought us some busted cards like Ring of Destruction, Mirage of Nightmare, Trap Dustshoot and Metamorphosis, but it also gave us the Gravekeeper family. If you know anything about Egyptian rituals and customs, then the term "family" makes even more sense. All the Gravekeeper monsters probably belonged to the same clan and had the sacred duty of protecting deceased Pharaohs' final resting places for the afterlife. You can see what we presume to be the Pyramid of Giza in the background of some of the card art; a mausoleum for Pharaonic royalty.

Necrovalley, the Gravekeepers' Field Spell, is based off of a real place in Egypt called the "Valley of the Kings," where Egyptian royalty and nobility were buried. At least the really important ones. The Pyramid of Giza and the successive pyramids that surrounded it actually turned out to be a poor deterrent to Graverobbers. The popular place to bury one's honored dead was actually a more discreet location – tombs in the Valley of the Kings were buried into the landscape instead. Yet still, there was ample booty plundering and body snatching, and you can't really blame the ones in charge of keeping the tombs safe because they all died out over the generations.

Back to Yu-Gi-Oh! Necrovalley's the heart and soul the Gravekeeper deck. Your Field Spell boosts all your Gravekeepers by 500 ATK and unlocks the abilities of Gravekeeper's Assailant and Gravekeeper's Shaman. Some cards, like Royal Tribute and Necrovalley' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Imperial Tombs of Necrovalley">Imperial Tombs of Necrovalley, require you to keep your Field Spell intact. Dragon Rulers could manage without Dragon Ravine and Harpies can get by without Harpies' Hunting Ground, but Gravekeepers fall apart without their precious spell. The mirror match is the one exception, when most Gravekeeper players in the past would side out their Necrovalleys. But that previous standard is challenged with the new Legacy of the Valiant support.

Necrovalley also has a defensive effect, and it goes along perfectly with the lore: cards can't be removed from the Graveyard except by their own effects. So you can't banish for Dragon Rulers; Inzektors can't equip Inzektor Hornet from the graveyard; and Lavalval's will have to make do without Rekindling. Wolfbark' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Coach Soldier Wolfbark">Coach Soldier Wolfbark can't Special Summon anything, and Mermail Abyssturge can't use its recursive effect. On the bright side, Treeborn Frog can still come out to play.

DECKID=99697The original Gravekeepers had the sacred duty of protecting tombs; both the inhabitants and the material possessions within. With Necrovalley, the ATK boost helped keep the family alive to fulfill their lifelong task. Unfortunately, the Gravekeepers from Pharaonic Guardian did a paltry job, partly because Necrovalley was so darn easy to destroy. Gravekeepers were actually downright mediocre until Frazier Smith and Company showed the world the strength of Gravekeeper's Recruiter at YCS Atlanta in 2010 by figuratively murdering the competition. Gravekeepers finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd at that event, and I wouldn't be surprised if Frazier and his friends were the only three running the deck at a tournament that was dominated by Plant Synchro.

It bears repeating: Necrovalley's the core of the Gravekeeper strategy. It beefs up your Spellcasters while hurting a lot of the big decks that are popular in competition today. It's not as important to stopping your opponent's plays as it was during Dragon Rulers' reign, but locking most every card in the graveyard is no laughing matter. Wolfbark' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Coach Soldier Wolfbark">Coach Soldier Wolfbark, Spellbook of Fate, and Bujingi Hare are just a few popular cards that are all but useless when Necrovalley's face-up on the field.

Gravekeeper's Commandant is an on-theme on-legs Terraforming for your Necrovalley. Simply pitch it to get a Necrovalley from your deck, or use your Commandant as a beater if you already have your Field Spell. Up until Force of the Breaker there wasn't a good way to get Necrovalley to your hand early. With Gravekeeper's Recruiter from Starstrike Blast, a monster that recruits Commandant to search your Field Spell was phenomenal. Unlike Terraforming, the Commandant's not dead once you've pulled all your Necrovalleys from your deck. You can also retrieve it with Gravekeeper's Stele, revive it for XYZ plays with Rite of Spirit, and it's even an Earth monster, so it dodges a popular Side Deck choice – Shadow Imprisoning Mirror.

However, actually keeping Necrovalley on the table was a difficult chore. Once you depleted your supply of fields, you and your strategy were buried. Finally, thanks to Legacy of the Valiant there's a good way to keep your Necrovalley alive or retrieve it once it's destroyed. LVALbrought us two new monsters, one to recycle Necrovalley and the other to protect it. Gravekeeper's Ambusher is the weaker of the two and needs to be flipped face-up to trigger its effect. When it gets sent to the graveyard post-flip, Ambusher's death nets you a Necrovalley. Unfortunately it's got a piddly 0 DEF and its effect to return a card from your opponent's yard to the deck is hardly worth mentioning. It seems a little too weak for my taste.

Instead, I prefer the proactive way to keep your Necrovalley on the field. Gravekeeper's Shaman is unfortunately Level 6, but your all-star Gravekeeper Spy can solve this problem and gets you a free Shaman from your deck when it flips. Not only is Shaman's artwork beautiful, but it has a built in Closed Forest effect: while it remains face-up, the Shaman not only protects Necrovalley from destruction, but it also keeps your opponent from activating any Field Spells on top of it.

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Ever since Field Spells actually became a thing, stacking your own field was the best way to wipe out an opposing Necrovalley. You know I'm an avid Spellbook player, and my number one priority against this Egyptian archetype is always to replace their trump card with The Grand Spellbook Tower. The matchup's a cake walk from there. With that in mind, Shaman solves some of the biggest problems Gravekeepers have suffered for ages. Shaman also gets an additional 200 DEF boost for every Gravekeeper in your graveyard, making it very hard to kill. And did I mention that Necrovalley makes running Shaman over even harder with an extra 500 DEF?

Going On A Mission
I'm impressed I've typed so many words about a Gravekeeper deck and hardly mentioned the best one: Gravekeeper's Spy. You can't really call it a speedy card because it requires a turn of face-up until you'll achieve its full power. But when Spy's flipped, you get to bring out a monster with 1500 ATK or less from your deck. If you're in a defensive position, you can bring out Graekeeper's Recruiter which will save your Life Points and net you another Gravekeeper when it goes down. If you're confident that your new monster will survive, then you can Special Summon Gravekeeper's Descendent to go on the aggressive during your next turn. I'll stress again here that Spy can Summon Shaman from the deck.

With an astounding 2500 DEF under Necrovalley, most everything will fail against Spy in battle. In fact, nine out of ten players will juse refuse to attack anything you set unless they're certain they can destroy a face-down Spy. They'll force you to manually flip your Spy to trigger its ability, safely out of the Damage Step where your opponent could have Fiendish Chain, Torrential Tribute, Effect Veiler or Breakthrough Skill to stop your play.

That brings me to Gravekeeper's Nobleman, the support card I thought would finally bring some much-needed speed to the table. Nobleman's Level 3, which is sadly an immediate strike against it. In any other worst case scenario you can usually consolidate your monsters into Rank 4's, but Nobleman decided it wanted to be difficult. When it's destroyed in battle you get to Special Summon a Gravekeeper facedown from your deck, meaning your Gravekeeper's Guard and Spy are ready to trigger immediately. The only problem is that Disciple needs to be destroyed by an attacking monster. Unlike Giant Rat, Mermail Abysslinde, XX Saber Emmersblade and literally every other good recruiter ever, you have to wait until your opponent attacks.

Normally, this wouldn't be such a bad deal, but you're playing Gravekeepers. As I said earlier, ain't nobody going to be attacking your Spy unless they're going for lethal damage that turn or have a handy-dandy Solemn Warning waiting. I was excited to see Nobleman in action, but every time I set it, my monster sat there… and sat there… and sat there some more. If Nobleman's suicide could result in a set Spy I'd play three in this deck, but you'll probably win the lottery more often than you'll trigger Nobleman's effect. I'd prefer to stick with three Spies and three Recruiters to net me extra Gravekeepers from the deck instead of Spy.

The Wal-Mart Brand Of Solemn Judgment
Legacy of the Valiant brought us more than just subpar to decent monster support for Gravekeepers. We also got on-theme versions of several Forbidden cards. Necrovalley' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Hidden Temples of Necrovalley">Hidden Temples of Necrovalley prevents any Special Summoning for you and your opponent except Gravekeeper monsters, but it requires you to have a Gravekeeper and Necrovalley on the field to activate. If either piece is missing Hidden Temples blows up, which means you're more prone to losing your cards quickly. An errant Mystical Space Typhoon would destroy both your Field Spell and your subpar Royal Oppression. Honestly, I'd rather use Vanity's Emptiness than this Continuous Spell but omitted both from my build. It's too hard to keep alive and not relevant enough in competition right now to warrant inclusion here.

Imperial Tombs of Necrovalley is actually useful. When your opponent activates an effect while you have a Gravekeeper and Necrovalley on the field, you get to negate the effect. Simple, right? It's a Counter Trap and can stop anything ranging from Fire Formation - Tenki to Honest. Unfortunately, there's no good way to search this trap unless you're feeling very adventurous. In good faith I couldn't tell you to run A Cat of Ill Omen, but I'm really tempted to include that the feline and other support cards like Baby Raccoon Ponpoko.

As I'm typing this I'm using everything in my power not to create a mashup with Obedience Schooled.

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Imperial Tombs has steep activation restrictions, but saying "nah, you can't do that" to effects tends to be pretty good. I included a pseudo-support card for Imperial Tombs, the revival trap Rite of Spirits, something I haven't thought about in years for the Gravekeeper deck. Normally, I wouldn't bother with this trap but keeping Necrovalley alive is priority number one not only for activation requirements and attack boosts but to put your opponent from touching the graveyard. You can revive a Gravekeeper's Descendent to blast through tough fields, Spy for defense or Recruiter for searches from your deck, but it's best to revive Shaman. Better yet, if your opponent tries to pop Necrovalley with Brotherhood of the Fire Fire Gorrilla, Full House or Mystcial Space Typhoon, you can chain Rite of Spirits for Shaman! It makes your opponent waste a card, and you now have a way to keep your Field Spell alive.

I have to explain a few things in my Extra Deck to save myself from awkward questions. Evolzar Laggia and Evolzar Dolkka probably aren't that surprising, though. DNA Surgery is a card you can seamlessly side into Gravekeeper's, and you might as well call Dinosaur-type with that anti Bujin/Spellbook/Geargia/Everything trap. Alchemic Magician, however, is downright horrible but I still think deserves a spot in any deck that plays Royal Tribute. Yes, this card eats your resources like my friend John eats fish 'n chips, but it can fetch you Royal Tribute from your deck. Gravekeeper's has a wide open Extra Deck, and I promise you you'll play Exodia or Chain Burn if you don't keep this card handy.

Just remember, beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson