The January 2014 Forbidden and Limited List is now in full swing, and while the new List didn't fulfill all my Christmas wishes, I'm still excited to try new decks at the start of the year. There's hype surrounding virtually every archetype right now, but only time will tell what's viable and what's not. That's not to say rogue and hybrid decks won't surprise opponents and steal victories, but I can't make any promises that certain decks, especially those I feature, will transform you into the next Billy Brake.

Continuing with my trend of mashups to usher in the new year, I want to capitalize on Mezuki's return to full power. I actually bet a friend money three years ago that Mezuki would never be unrestricted again, because I was so sure that we would never see the return of Zombies. The Zombie deck hasn't returned to full power, but now I owe Kyle $26.17 and a McChicken.

For the health of the game, Burial from a Different Dimension will always be Limited and Card of Safe Return will always be Forbidden, so I don't see Zombies ever being as dominant as they once were. However, that doesn't mean you should ignore the power of the undead.

DECKID=99271Despite Card of Safe Return and Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier's Forbidden statuses, Zombies still have the tools necessary to swarm the field with little input from the hand. Simply put, Zombies just won't die! For better or worse, you'll see that trend with Gustos as well.

The Bird Is The Word
Most duelists have probably never touched, interacted with, or in some cases even heard of the Gusto family. Hailing chiefly from Hidden Arsenal, the Gustos revolves around… ok, they don't really revolve around much, aside from Special Summons. The Synchros and a few of the higher-Level Gustos have destruction and spot removal effects, but most of the smaller Gustos merely bring out another one when they're discarded, destroyed or removed from the field.

With all those Special Summon effects, there's a field-clogging string of plays in this deck that's six Gustos long; it can start with any of three components. For example, Gusto Egul is a Level 1 Tuner with subpar stats, and while it's cute, I don't collect this card. That may come as a shocker to you. When it's destroyed in battle, you get to bring out Winda, Priestess of Gusto from your deck. Its stats are hardly more impressive than Egul, but it does have some extra uses by virtue of its being a Psychic-type monster… just not in this deck. I opted out of Emergency Teleport, but many Gusto variants include a bit of Psychic support. When Winda's destroyed by battle, you're granted the third of the Gusto recruiters, Gusto Gulldo. It's a Level 3 Tuner with paltry stats just like Winda and Egul. As you probably guessed, it's replaced by Gusto Egul when it falls on the battlefield. These three Gustos aren't flashy, but it'll take your opponent quite some time to knock down your Gusto wall, while you feed your graveyard and prepare for a counterstrike.

Of course, you're not limited to just those three monsters; technically, Gusto Gulldo can Summon either Egul or Winda from your deck, and Egul's not limited to only fetching Winda. The best Gusto's probably Caam, Serenity of Gusto, and its price tag matches the worth of its impressive effect. Your Level 1 Egul can bring Caam out, and it's a Level 4 Psychic that acts as a miniature Pot of Avarice: once a turn, you can recycle two Gustos from your graveyard to draw a card before using your Caam as Xyz or Synchro fodder.

The Gustos don't stop there. Gusto Griffin can also be used to bring out a Gusto from your deck, but to do so you need to pitch it from your hand instead of letting it go down in battle. Fortunately, Griffin's an "If you can…" effect, so pitching it for Zombie Master won't cause you to miss the timing on Griffin's effect. The cards I mentioned previously only really act as shields to protect your Life Points, but once you introduce this interaction between Griffin and Zombie Master, the pieces of the strategy start to fit together. You'll finally be able to do something besides shielding yourself from damage.

Mezuki, Mezuki, The Girl Who's Hard To Get
That's exactly where the Zombies come in. Zombie Master's the focal point of this deck, a Level 4 that turns any monster from your hand into a Monster Reborn for the Zombies in your graveyard. Goblin Zombie can search Zombie Master when it's destroyed on the field, while Pyramid Turtle Special Summons Zombie Master directly from your deck; it's a pretty easy card to get to, and consistency won't be a problem. Of course, Zombie Master's not the only way to launch an onslaught of Special Summons. You can finally dust off your three copies of Mezuki for Zombie Gustos. While Mezuki's in the graveyard, you can banish it to Special Summon any Zombie from your hard; whether you need defense with Pyramid Turtle, or an aggressive force with Zombie Master, Mezuki makes it happen. Plaguespreader Zombie can revive itself from graveyard with its own ability at the risk of being banished, or you can bring it out via Mezuki and Zombie Master.

Where you go from there is entirely up to you. After the first few turns, unless your opponent refuses to attack you, you'll have a stocked graveyard full of Gustos and Zombies to combo together for big pushes. I'll refrain from griping too much, but I will note that Extra Deck space is awfully tight here, and my nature is to fill an Extra Deck with a variety of monsters for every situation rather than over-fill specific niches. For example, I previously had Miracle Synchro Fusion and Ultimate Axon Kicker in preparation for whatever my opponent threw at me, but I found it hard to consistently create the ultimate Psychic Fusion. Ultimate Axon Kicker requires two Psychic Monsters, one being a Synchro. The two best Gusto Synchros, Daigusto Gulldos and Daigusto Sphreez, are hard enough to make in a hybrid deck because they require non-Tuner Gustos, and I didn't want to dedicate too much space in the Extra or Main Deck to situational cards.

You can bring out Daigusto Gulldos with a Winda and a Gulldo, which isn't impossible to achieve but takes a lot of effort. Once per turn, you can use Daigusto Gulldos to recycle two Gusto monsters from your graveyard to destroy an opposing face-up monster, and cheap spot removal is always a plus. Sure, Bujingi Turtle kicks Gulldos in the teeth, but that destruction effect coupled with 2200 ATK is nothing to laugh at. Daigusto Sphreez is slightly easier to bring about because it's Level 6, and Plaguespreader Zombie's the best Tuner for it; easy enough, since roughly a fourth of your deck can revive it. Sphreez actually opens up OTK's.

If you can Summon Sphreez and Gulldo, all you need is for your opponent to have a big monster on the field for you to ram into. Daigusto Sphreez takes all the damage you'd receive and hurls it at your opponent in one giant punch of effect damage. If your opponent's at full health and can't respond to your attacks, you can deal nearly lethal damage in one turn. Ram Gulldo into a monster to damage them with Sphreez and just repeat the process with Egul and then Winda. You won't trigger Winda's effect because Winda has to be destroyed by an attacking monster, but anything larger than a Scrap Dragon means victory for you anyways.

And We Dueled All Night With The Best Deck Ever
There are a lot of fun plays here to chip away at your opponent, but the Zombie Master and Gusto Griffin interaction's my favorite. You won't lose any field or hand presence, and you'll actually wind up in the green in terms of card economy. With a Zombie Master on the field, pitch Gusto Griffin to revive Goblin Zombie or Pyramid Turtle and trigger Griffin's effect to summon Gusto Gulldo from your deck. Stack the Zombies for Wolf' rel=" Dire Wolf">Diamond Dire Wolf and actually use its effect to target something besides itself for once. Your poor Wolf no longer has to go negative just to eliminate a threat on the field, and its ability will actually trigger Gulldos' effect to summon Egul or Winda. At the cost of your Normal Summon and a Griffin in hand, you'll eliminate a threat and produce a Wolf' rel=" Dire Wolf">Diamond Dire Wolf plus a defensive wall.


Of course, Griffin isn't limited to just Summoning the birds from your deck. Zombie Master must stay face-up on the field to activate and resolve its Special Summon, and while Solemn Warning and Book of Moon still exist, that condition won't be your only hurdle. Sadly, I think Effect Veiler will be very big this format, which is bad news for Zombie Master. But don't despair just yet; even if Zombie Master's effect is negated, Griffin can still trigger and bring out a Level 1 Tuner, a Level 3 Tuner, or Caam at Level 4. You can follow that up with a Level 5 or Level 7 Synchro Summon, or a Rank 4 Xyz.

All that said, this deck can be pretty slow in the early game. While it has the power to make explosive plays with a dozen Special Summons in one turn, you'll need a bit of preparation before you can fill your graveyard and capitalize. I opted to play both Mystical Space Typhoon and Seven Tools of the Bandit, because they each serve a different purpose in this strategy. Mystical Space Typhoon can never truly be replaced, because it's the definition of generic spell and trap removal; it's just remarkably flexible and easy to use. But I'm favoring Seven Tools of the Bandit over Trap Stun for Zombie Gustos, because your opponent can't chain another trap in response to Seven Tools like they could with Trap Stun. Disruption in the form of Phoenix Wing Wind Blast is beyond brutal for this deck, and it can turn a favorable board position into a lost battle.

Just remember, beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson

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