Okay! One more Raccoon deck, and then I promise I'm done.

It's no secret: all the cool kids are making Raccoon decks. Here on TCGplayer, Beau Butler introduced Obedience Schooled as his first highlight pick from Legacy of the Valiant in his Specifically Speaking column. He talked about a lot of different ways he was testing the card, and then days later Doug Zeeff shared his build in a Low Key article that got a big, enthusiastic response from readers. I shared my build elsewhere, which much like Doug's focused on The Earth – Hex-Sealed Fusion to make Naturia Exterio, while YCS winner Rob Boyajian created a build that OTK'd off Madolche Hootcake. Meanwhile we saw our first-ever Raccoon Regional Top 8 last weekend, when a mystery duelist piloted the deck to a successful finish at the Darmouth Regional Qualifier in Nova Scotia, Canada.

So you'd think with at least four professionally written articles on Raccoon decks, plus a Regional Top 8 and countless Yugitube videos, we'd have seen everything Raccoons can do, right? Well, not quite. There's one more option that's been touched on before, but not really emphasized as much as I think it could be.

By now you probably know that Obedience Schooled gives easy access to Naturia Beast and Number 64: Ronin Raccoon Sandayu. You're also familiar with the fact that on their own, Baby Raccoon Ponpoko and Baby Raccoon Tantan can make fast Rank 2 plays, and that Tantan can combo with the new Kalantosa, Mystical Beast of the Forest to destroy any opposing card for free. Junk Synchron's clutch too, reviving any of your countless Level 2 Beasts for a quick Level 5 Synchro Summon; it even makes combos with Number 64: Ronin Raccoon Sandayu that can add up to an OTK. We've seen those options featured heavily in all of these decks.

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However, one of my favorite Obedience combo cards wasn't as common – Beast King Barbaros. In my previous builds I ran Barbaros as a simple 1900 ATK beatstick, an answer to Skill Drain, and a powerful combo with Obedience Schooled: Special Summon three Beasts, Tribute them all off for Barbaros, and you get a 3000 ATK behemoth that demolishes your opponent with a one-sided Black Rose Dragon effect. However, my build only ran Key Mouse as its Tuner. That kept me from using one of the coolest combos and one of the biggest payoff cards for this strategy – if you run a Level 2 Beast Tuner, you can Special Summon 6 Levels of Beasts with Obedience Schooled, Normal Summon Barbaros at Level 8, and then make Leo, the Keeper of the Sacred Tree along with Ronin Raccoon Sandayu and a 3100 ATK Kagemusha Raccoon Token.

Today's contributor is a friend of mine, and his build is optimized in part to make Leo, the Keeper of the Sacred Tree. And for good reason! Leo's a huge beatstick in a format where the handful of cards that can beat it in battle, like Star Eater, just aren't seeing much play. Meanwhile, monster effects have become some of the most important means of removal for the most popular competitive strategies: Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear is the heart and soul of the Fire Fist deck; Atlantean Heavy Infantry's still very popular in most Mermail builds; and Geargia rely on their position-shifting abilities to overcome big threats. The catch? Most of those effects target. That gives you a huge opportunity when you're playing Raccoons, because you can just drop Leo, Keeper of the Sacred Tree to the field and watch your opponent throw their hands up in the air, completely devoid of answers.

Once Leo hits the field and sticks, mass removal like Dark Hole, Torrential Tribute, and Mirror Force are often your opponent's only answers. Evilswarm Exciton Knight can best it, but only in the right situations. Typical problem-solving Xyz like Number 101: Silent Honor ARK and Wolf' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Diamond Dire Wolf">Diamond Dire Wolf can't touch it. Gagaga Cowboy's too small to take it on even with its ability. Fire Fists usually have to make awkward plays with Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Tiger King's negation trick, or waste a Fiendish Chain or Book of Moon, plus at least one other card to actually destroy Leo. Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Cardinal targets, so it can't touch it. Mermails can't target Leo with Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack or Number 11: Big Eye. Geargia has tremendous problems and likely has to take minuses, using their traps in strange ways.

Spellbooks can banish Leo with Spellbook of Fate since it doesn't target… but you'd never Summon Leo there anyways, since Naturia Beast locks out the entire deck and it's easier to Summon. Buijns could Bujingi Crane over Leo, but not without telegraphing their intent and giving you plenty of warning. Meanwhile, you have an alternate play that's almost as frustrating: if Leo's not quite the right fit, you can always play Obedience Schooled for three Level 2 Beasts, Normal Summon another one, and then make two Sandayus. They're more vulnerable to targeted removal, but they'll protect eachother from destruction and create an army of Kagemusha Raccoon Tokens to plow through stuff like, oh say, Bujin Yamato. Bujingi Crane's restriction to one battle per activation never hurt so bad; each crashed Raccoon Token is a straight minus for your opponent.

So there's the potential here to make not just amazing Turn 1 Naturia Beast plays, but for at least two other moves that clog the field with big bodies packing protection effects: the double Sandayu set-up, and Leo, the Keeper of the Sacred Tree (with or without a Sandayu backing it up). Today's contributor is David H, and I like his Raccoon Obedience build because it plays all the cards you need to make that Leo opening. With a little bit of tweaking we can open up with those two big first-turn plays more frequently, and make this deck tougher for the big strategies. Here's what David had to say about his build:

Hello Jason,

Originally, I played Raccoons for their versatility and the infinite fodder they seemed to offer for Plants and Debris Dragon, but with the new changes, neither engine seemed appropriate. This version of the deck is true to its roots with strong first-turn plays offering many +1's of card economy. Baby Raccoon Ponpoko can either set up for Ronin Raccoon thanks to Tantan, or just set up Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter. Ronin Raccoon's of course the heart and soul of the deck, leading to huge swings, and if you bring it out with the Ponpoko set-up, it gives your opponent few ways to get around it. Finally, Closed Forest guarantees that your Kagemusha Raccoon Token will always be bigger than whatever it copied.

The deck's really explosive, but seems to have a bit of a lackluster firefist matchup. In general, you want to draw School as early and as often as possible. To that end, I'm running triple upstart. Also, I've noticed the insane power of barbaros, both to push through a Skill Drain as well as a follow-up play for Obedience, leading to my joke that the deck is running "Raigeki Duster." Also, if you draw Obedience and Barbaros, you get to make Leo, Ronin Raccoon, and a 3100 ATK token. Finally, Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand's a huge powerhouse, so I'm running two Mythic Water Dragon, also giving me fodder for Trade-In, speeding up the deck.

I managed to take this to a second place finish at Yu-Gi-Oh! Day, beating out Evilswarm, Bujins, Blackwings, and finally losing to Dragons.... yet the deck just seems to need some oomph or tweaking to actually make it truly competitive. I'd love to fit Dark Hole, and another Mirror Force and Fiendish Chain. Thanks in advance!

-David H. ~ San Francisco, California

David's spent a lot of time testing and developing this strategy, to the point where he could even provide some guidance as to which spells and traps he felt would be useful. That's great, and I largely agree: Mirror Force and Fiendish Chain help shield your set Tantans from attacks, and help you recover when you need to set a bluffed dead draw like a Kalantosa to try and make a Rank 2. However, the fact that Fire Fists are a troublesome match-up strikes me as a little off: with the double Sandayu play and Leo at his finger tips, that should actually be one of David's better matchups. I think we just need to make the deck more consistent, remove some of the dead draws, and help him hit those big openings more often.

Here's what David's deck looked like to start:

DECKID=99632You can probably see what I'm talking about: cards like Grandsoil the Elemental Lord and Closed Forest can certainly be useful, but only in specific situations. Draw Grandsoil on Turn 1 and it's a dead card. Closed Forest is fairly weak in the early game, and though it ramps up over time it's generally played just to boost up Kagemusha Raccoon Tokens. Frankly, you get those tokens for free; when I play Raccoons, I generally don't run extra cards to make the tokens more durable. I just want to get my +1 for Summoning my free Raccoon, then slam it into an opposing monster to make a 1-for-1 in my favor. That, or I want to use them in tandem with Junk Warrior for OTK's. Either way, the tokens are a free bonus. Buffing them for longevity isn't a priority.

Beyond that, I love some of the creative ideas going on here, but I think they're contributing to the problem of dead cards. Plus, there are some unique opportunities here because this deck doesn't play for Naturia Exterio as hard as other Raccoon decks: that's going to let us make some more efficient choices. What am I talking about? Let's drop some cards and I'll explain as we go.

Some Curious Cuts…
Right off the bat, Grandsoil's gone. I need to make sure this deck gets to the mid-game in the first place, which means cutting anything that poses big early game risks for questionable mid-game rewards. This deck yards Earth monsters with shocking speed: that makes David's Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders a prime pick, but means he'll often have a frustratingly narrow window in which to play Grandsoil. It's an easy drop.

Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter's a cute play that's never as clever as anyone playing Ryko actually thinks it is. This is an instant drop for me whenever someone asks for my input on their Raccoon deck. Kalantosa, Mystical Beast of the Forest fits the play patterns better, being an Earth monster instead of a Light, and having better synergy with Baby Raccoon Tantan. Like, you don't want to Summon Baby Raccoon Ponpoko and set Ryko. You want to Summon Ponpoko, Set Tantan, and then flip it for Kalantosa later, giving you the opportunity at another +1; a plus that instantly creates more opportunities for Synchros and Xyz by giving you more on-field Materials.

Not to mention the fact that milling cards you need feels awful, which happens here since you need to keep Level 2 Beasts in your deck for Obedience Schooled.

Next up I'm going to do something that may seem counterintuitive: I'm dropping Key Mouse and The Fabled Cerburrel. While Key Mouse gets you to a guaranteed Naturia Beast off Obedience Schooled, that's not quite as important here as it would be to an Exterio build. The Fabled Cerburrel is what lets this deck get to Leo, the Keeper of the Sacred Trees, but basically there's a card David could be playing to fill both of these roles and I want to be playing that instead. You'll find out what it is when we start adding cards.

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Moving along, the idea of playing Mythic Water Dragon to pair it with Beast King Barbaros for Rank 8 plays is really cool. I've never seen that before – at least not in a Raccoon deck – so I applaud the creativity. The problem? Without Barbaros, Water Dragon's basically useless. So David tried to alleviate that by running Trade-In, and that just creates more dead cards and eats your copies of Barbaros, which you'd rather be using for, like, the actual plays you're running it for. This is a sequence of broken choices that hurt consistency. The good news is that the solution's simple: we just need to drop Mythic Water Dragon and Trade-In.

I've already said my bit about how Closed Forest is only useful when you're already winning, so that's an immediate bump to the Side Deck. Note that Closed Forest is great in any strategy as a sided answer to The Grand Spellbook Tower, Necrovalley, or Harpies' Hunting Ground, so it's especially good here where it'll buff your monsters. But it's just not Main Deck worth in today's metagames. I'm dropping Forbidden Lance because some of the changes I want to make are going to make it less important, and I'm dropping both copies of Waboku, because so many of your set-ups protect themselves from battle anyways. There are better cards for those two slots, and ironically David called them out in his e-mail.

Lucky Thirteen!
That's how many card slots we have to work with, and we're starting with a third Baby Raccoon Ponpoko. Again, to reiterate: you want to draw this card. You want to draw it, Summon it, score a free Tantan, and then protect both of them and use that Tantan to get Kalantosa, Mystical Beast of the Forest to blow something up. Playing a third Ponpoko boosts your chance of drawing it, and ensures that even when you activate Obedience Schooled, you won't run out. Speaking of Kalantosa, we direly need that card as well. It's just better than Ryko, since it destroys stuff faster without milling anything, and its another Earth Beast to fit your Naturia plays. Drawing one can be a little rough, but you can set it as a bluff to work towards a Rank 2; Summon it when you play Obedience Schooled for your double Sandayu play; or pitch it for Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders. David's deck is perfectly calibrated to take advantage of this card. Not running it makes no sense, so in go two copies.

Remember how I lifted all the Tuners from the original build? That's because I want to run two Elephun instead. An Earth Level 2 instead of a Light Level 2 like Cerburrel, Elephun can get you to Leo, the Keeper of the Sacred Tree just as easily, but it opens up the option of playing Naturia Barkion off a successful Raccoon set-up as well. While you can't Obedience Schooled into two Level 2 non-Tuners plus Elephun to make Naturia Beast – a play you could make with Key Mouse – you can bring those Beasts to the field, overlay for Sandayu, and Special Summon a Kagemusha Raccoon Token at Level 1. From there you can Normal Summon any of your ten other Level 2 Beasts and Tune Elephun, your Normal Summon, and the Kagemusha Raccoon Token together to Summon Naturia Beast. That's a little more effort, but the combo's not tough to make since a full 25% of the revised deck is now Level 2 Earths. The only real concern is that your opponent may negate Sandayu's effect. Still, the risk is worth it to create more plays and make everything smoother and more synergetic.

One Giant Rat's going to work nicely with the two Kalantosas, and as a Level 4 Earth it combos with Obedience Schooled to make Leo, or an Elephun for Naturia Barkion. A lot of people have been asking me why I don't run Giant Rat in my previous Raccoon decks, and the answer is that I think it belongs only in Leo builds. Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear is a thing, and it eats a set Giant Rat for breakfast. That said, the Rat's solid here because it opens up so many combo opportunities. We only have room for one copy, but that happens to be the number I'd want to run anyways.

Speaking of simple removal effects, David mentioned that Fire Fists kept brutalizing him. Since he's not playing Effect Veiler that seems quite credible. Two copies are an auto-run for me, and I'm adding that third Fiendish Chain he mentioned. That takes this deck from two monster effect negation cards to five, which should create a big difference in that matchup.

A second Mirror Force protects your Tantan plays and clears the way for your attackers, while Compulsory Evacuation Device serves as spot removal that keeps threats like Evilswarm Exciton Knight and Number 101: Silent Honor ARK from ruining your life. Lastly, I'm taking a page out of that Nova Scotian duelist's playbook and adding two copies of Mistake to the Main Deck. While Mistake's a bit pricy right now, I know David plays this deck seriously and having Mistake to shut down Geargia, Spellbooks, and individual cards like Mermail Abyssteus and Fire Formation – Tenki is going to be a huge asset. Any deck that can main Mistake right now should, and this is one of those few, shining strategies.

Over in the Extra Deck, Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand and Hieratic Sun Dragon Overlord of Heliopolis have to go because we no longer have sufficient Rank 8 materials. I always find Frozen Fitzgerald an underwhelming card in Raccoon strategies, since you have better ways to wall up and better plays off Junk Synchron, so that's gone too. Finally, Mist Bird Clausolas gets the axe for being too niche when there are other monsters I'd rather play.

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Naturia Barkion takes a slot automatically, since Elephun makes it possible. Big, trap-heavy backrows remain the order of the day for most competitive decks, and Barkion stomps them into the ground. Herald of Pure Light gives you another answer to dead draws, putting stuff like Kalantosa back into your deck and retrieving more useful stuff. Downerd Magician converts a used Sandayu into a bigger beatstick, and Ally of Justice Catastor preempts cards like Fire Formation – Tensen and Bujingi Crane. This strategy's got a really amazing Extra Deck that does a ton of stuff other strategies just can't do, so I'm really happy with how it turned out.

And with that, we are finished! Check out a recap of the changes we made:

-1 Grandsoil the Elemental Lord
-1 Key Mouse
-1 Ryko Lightsworn Hunter
-1 The Fabled Cerburrel
-2 Mythic Water Dragon
-2 Trade-In
-1 Closed Forest
-2 Waboku
-2 Forbidden Lance

+1 Baby Raccoon Ponpoko
+2 Elephun
+2 Kalantosa, Mystical Beast of the Forest
+1 Giant Rat
+2 Effect Veiler
+1 Fiendish Chain
+1 Mirror Force
+1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
+2 Mistake

-1 Frozen Fitzgerald
-1 Mist Bird Clausolas
-1 Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand
-1 Hieratic Sun Dragon Overlord of Heliopolis
+1 Herald of Pure Light
+1 Naturia Barkion
+1 Downerd Magician
+1 Ally of Justice Catastor

Here's the final redux of David's deck!DECKID=99633I'm really pleased with how this turned out. Consistency was the big priority here, and I think we achieved that, while also broadening the range of plays David can make with his key cards. Cutting high-risk liabilities was one part of the puzzle, but at the same time we also tackled the consistency issue from the opposite angle: creating more uses for cards the deck already wanted to play, ensuring that they'd be dead draws less frequently. Playing harder into the Obedience Schooled moves that use a Normal Summoned Level 2 Beast was one example of that – it makes Kalantosa easier to run. Note that those same moves also offer a bigger payoff for cards you don't mind drawing, like Baby Raccoon Ponpoko and Wind-Up Kitten. Since both offer powerful one-shot effects you usually claim the moment they hit the table, they're an awesome fourth when you're looking to make a double Sandayu combo or a Naturia Beast + Sandayu set-up.

I will say that while it was necessary, I do feel bittersweet dropping Mythic Water Dragon. You could actually Normal Summon Elephun, Special Summon Mythic Water Dragon since Elephun's an Earth monster, and then Tune them together to make Leo that way. It was an idea I toyed with, but at the end of the day I just felt it stretched Beast King Barbaros and Elephun too far; it detracted from more important plays and presented those dead draws we wanted to avoid. Still! It's a neat little combo that might have some potential, and David might find pleasant results adapting it to work in another build. I'm skeptical, but at the same time I'd certainly like to see the idea work, somehow.

Mistake, you guys. Mistake. I just want to take a moment to emphasize how good that card is, especially with Mermails and Bujins getting a bit of a bump in popularity since YCS Atlanta, as well as the Regional Qualifiers and bigger independent tournaments held since. Mistake really just keeps getting better this format, and I feel like the last four weeks of this competitive season is going to see it creep into more Main Decks over time. If you can run it, and you can find copies of it in the first place, you should definitely be playing it.

That's it for this week! Big thanks to David for submitting his deck, and the conversations we had about Obedience Raccoons in general. I loved working on this strategy, and I'm glad so many readers are so into these cards. I've had a ton of fun working with Obedience Schooled. I won't be writing another Raccoon deck for a while though, so expect something completely different next Friday.

See you then!

-Jason Grabher-Meyer







Want a deck fix from yours truly, and see your strategy featured in a "What The Fix?" here on TCGPlayer? Just send the following to fixmydeckjason (at) gmail (dot) com to be considered:

-Your Main and Extra Deck list. (No Side Deck needed, but please send a written deck list, not a screencap.) Remember, your deck should be TCG legal!

-Your name and city.

-Remember - please use full card names! Abbreviations and mis-spellings make Jason's life sad.

-A paragraph or two describing your deck: what it does, why you're playing it, and its strengths and weaknesses.

And don't forget, the cooler your deck is the more I'll want to fix it, so don't be afraid to get creative! New stuff takes priority, because I'm not bored of it yet! -JDG