In Part 1, we discussed a few strengths and
weaknesses of the Lightsworn and Blackwing decks.
I’ll go more into depth about each archetype in the
“Why X Wins” series on my blog . Here’s a sample of
some Cat analysis:
And here is a brief summary of Part 1
Blackwings: The most versatile of the top
decks and impossible to “tech” against because of
the presence of immense amounts of monster and spell
or trap removal. Blackwings also suffer the least,
relative to the other decks, from Skill Drain and
Royal Oppression (the latter moreso if the BW player
is aware it is being played).
The main weakness of Blackwings is their
susceptibility to being blown out in one turn.
But in match-ups versus rogue and anti-meta decks
that don’t have explosive OTK potential, Blackwing
players can simply hold and conserve cards while
trying to draw Black Whirlwind. Once the swarm
occurs, the game is quite certain to be over.
So 3 or more out of 10 matches at a Shonen Jump,
your deck will be faced with an archetype that will:
1. Out card-advantage you if you don’t finish
them off within a few turns.
2. Likely kill you in one turn if they have
enough turns to draw a combo (I’m talking like 3-4
draw phases, not 10).
3. Be impervious to Skill Drain in
particular, and play around Oppression to the point
where it likely doesn’t affect them much.
4. Have more back-field removal and mass
removal than you.
Lightsworn: The most resilient of the top
decks while drawing to the best mid and late game
answers (Celestia and Judgment Dragon). Lightsworn,
if allowed to have a middle and late game, are by
far the strongest deck. Celestia is one of the best
normal summoned monsters in the game while Judgment
Dragon simply breaks the back of most fields. Throw
in free Wulfs and Necro Gardnas, and it’s pretty
clear once the engine gets going it can’t be
The weaknesses of Lightsworn are bad draws and a
vulnerability to the side-deck and Skill Drain main
decks. So while you could theoretically main-deck
Skill Drain like Jeff Jones and win most match-ups.
Unfortunately, any time Lightsworn draws extremely
well it is extremely difficult to win, especially if
the deck picks up game 1 and can begin game 3.
So 2 or more out of 10 matches at a Shonen Jump,
you will face a deck that will:
1. Destroy all of your non-Skill Drain traps
with Lyla and Celestia
2. Have no back-field itself rendering the
cards you would want to tech against the other big
decks that set 2-3 backfield at a time useless (Dust
Tornado, Decree and such)
3. Simply win a few games by virtue of
milling extremely well and putting multiple free
cards into the graveyard and on the field.
4. Force you to use a Skill-Drain variant or
one of the explosive big 5 to stand a chance.
Now that we’re done summarizing the first two slices
of the pie, let’s take a look at the remaining three
Cat Synchro: The Most Explosive Deck
Beats everything except expert-Lightsworn
Unfortunately for the purposes of determining the
viability of anti-meta and original strategies, this
can mark where the article ends. There is no deck
that can consistently beat Blackwing and Cat Synchro,
since you would have to play Skill Drain to have a
chance against Cat Synchro. And Skill Drain does
very little to Blackwing builds.
Cat Synchro is simply the best deck against
everything but Lightsworn. It has proven this time
and time again. It’s also better versus every other
match-up Lightsworn has problems with and is more
versatile and adaptable. A typical deck that does
not fit into the big five slices of pie simply
cannot cope with the advantage generated by Cat
Synchro (which is summarized here):
About 3 out of 10 matches in a tournament, you
will face a deck that:
1. Makes all of your non chainable Traps
2. Out card advantages you and is by far the
most explosive deck in the game
3. Wins certain games just by drawing certain
Gladiator Beasts: The Most Control-Based Deck
Requires a good mix of spell/traps
and Monsters to last ten rounds
While Gladiator Beasts have always been an extremely
powerful archetype, I must admit I was a bit puzzled
by the success of the Gladiator Beast builds at U.S.
Nationals. All of the top players I talked to agreed
that standard GB were a touch too unstable to be run
at the biggest tournament of the year.
GB requires an even mix of spell and trap cards. If
you open monster locked or spell/trap locked, it
means nearly instant death to a skilled opponent. In
addition, you are frequently forced to “play the
math” by setting two cards such as War Chariot and
Book of Moon to protect your monster. If they have
Heavy Storm or Cold Wave, you lose two or more
cards. These types of situations put you in a tough
spot unless you are experienced.
And thus, several big name players went with their
gut and chose Gladiator Beast’s anyways. Michael
Kohanim finished as runner-up at the toughest
tournament of the year with a build using one
Airbellum while Michel Gruner and Claudio Kirchmair
across the sea watched Michel make day 2 with a
Summoner Monk-focused build.
And Dale Bellido, while being interviewed for go-YGO.com,
revealed he feels GB is the deck of choice for
advanced players at Indy due to its control options.
So if you want maximum control over the game and
like to take a little risk, GB is the deck for you.
For anti-meta purposes, GB basically dominate all
non-Skill Drain or non-Oppression decks. GB’s suffer
from decks that put a large amount of powerful
beat-sticks on the field. But against decks that
cannot create such a threat, expect to see multiple
Gyzarus + Heraklinos set-ups where Chariot/Solemn
effectively nullify all other options. Unless you
main Skill Drain.
Dark Variants: Anything you Want!
A bit underpowered compared to the
other big four
Dark Variants, from Skill Drain builds like Jeff
Jones’s to the build that Mario Matheu and Hugo
Adame used (later adapted by Adam Corn) have always
been a factor in any metagame. At the moment I am
rather unsold as to whether the classic Stratos/D-Hero
engine and other Dark engines can really hang with
Cat Synchro builds and the rest of the big four.
I’m guessing not. So at the moment, I would not
really recommend using a Dark Variant unless you are
skilled enough to maximize the output of your cards.
There are multiple variants of DARK decks however,
from Skill Drain builds to new OCG-inspired builds
that feature multiple Necro Gardna and Burial.
With such decks, you can expect to see multiple
Synchro monsters hit the board with a Skill Drain or
Solemn Judgment backing the field up. The DARK decks
then generate immense card advantage while
delivering the coup de grace with cards like Black
Salvo, Dark Armed Dragon, or Mind Control.
Concluding Thoughts for Part 2
This concludes part 2. After looking at the big five
decks, it’s not hard to see why it is extremely
difficult to take a deck outside of these strategies
to success at a premier event. Blackswing and
Lightsworn alone cover each other’s weaknesses and
make certain optimal choices against one deck
unusable because of their uselessness against the
You might want to play a card like Skill Drain. It’s
definitely good. However, you’ll likely have a bad
match-up against Blackwing anyway. And while you may
want to play a card like Royal Oppression to stop
Gladiator Beasts and Cat Synchro, your deck suffers
from Cold Wave, Lyla, Celestia, and other cards
while also suffering from the inconsistency of
drawing multiple continuous traps.
In short, to summarize parts 1 and 2, I would
strongly urge you to play one of the big meta decks
at your next Regionals or Shonen Jump Championship.
It takes a very, very experienced duelist to go with
something else. And I think it is rather telling
that every professional player, even those who are
known to innovate, ended up bringing something
standard to Nationals.
If my take on the metagame interests you, it’s not
over yet! There is an updated post on my blog (that
references this entry) goes more into depth with an
actual Pie Chart and a summary of what happens when
the big five pieces squeeze the other decks out. I’m
sure it’s useful and it can be viewed here:
Have fun and happy dueling.