A bit over a year ago I started working on a new way to play Gravekeeper’s in Goat Format. I approached this deck much differently than I had all my other decks. I tried something different, and on the whole it worked, so i wrote an article about it. It was a great big behemoth of an article and all over the place, but the information was solid. You can read it here.
This article is going to be much the same, though not nearly as long. But I still want to cover the changes I made to my v1.1 build, why I made them, and also talk about how v2.0 it fared at a recent tournament.
Revisiting Gravekeeper’s v1.1
Reflections on Gravekeeper’s v1.1
To be fair to myself, the v1.1 main ran well, and though the deck has undergone a variety of changes since that article was posted the core has remained virtually untouched. A Gravekeeper/Warrior hybrid deck, it wants to force the opponent to play suboptimally while making them think they are playing correctly. This suboptimal play costs them field presence, which costs them card advantage, which leads to a loss. It plays passive-aggressively, meaning that it can easily switch from a passive, control-oriented playstyle to a more aggressive, winner-take-all playstyle. This is the deck’s core identity.
After the v1.1 build was published I immediately started making changes. To start, I dropped Dekoichi and Zaborg fairly early as I didn’t really find them useful. Dekoichi ran counter to what I was trying to do, and while Zaborg is a great side-deck card it is not good in the main. It doesn’t clog, it just doesn’t see much play. I think two in the side deck is viable.
I tried different ratios of the Warrior Toolbox before settling on the one you’ll see below. Notably I tested various ratios of Reinforcement of the Army, Mystic Swordsman LV2 and even debated dropping D.D. Warrior Lady. I also tested the deck without Solemn Judgment, which is not a good idea.
Between v1.1 and v2.0 there are just seven changes to the main. Most changes happened in the side deck, which isn’t surprising considering that the side deck is used to counter whatever you think you’ll play against. I recommend fiddling around with the side deck yourself to tailor it to whatever you think you will play.
I will say that Enemy Controller, Smashing Ground and Bottomless Trap Hole were unnecessary in the v1.1 side deck. The deck doesn’t need four tributes either. This side felt like it would work well against my local meta, and to be fair everything in that side is able to counter decks I was likely to see. They just didn’t really compliment the main deck. More often than not, siding ended up turning the deck into a passive, trap-oriented deck, which runs counter to the deck’s identity. As such I felt the side deck really needed to be reworked.
With the way that a lot of my matches had gone in testing, I realized that I was focusing too much on the swarm aspect of the deck and overcompensating for when Necrovalley wasn’t up. I think v2.0 fixes that. Really, v1.1 was not wholly true to the identity that is Gravekeeper’s. I was trying to avoid having to wall up if Necrovalley wasn’t on board because I wanted to stay aggressive. But walling up is actually one of the deck’s core strengths. By focusing too much on playing aggressively I was ignoring the fact that Gravekeeper’s passive nature allows them to pressure via field presence. You don’t have to attack every turn so long as you have the bigger board; Gravekeeper monsters are aggressive even if they’re in defense position. That revelation led me to realizing the strength of Gravekeeper’s Guard. With the v1.2 build I bumped my Guard count to two and saw a lot of success with it, which led me to seeing that three copies is what the deck needs.
Let’s jump into v2.0 now. Just below you’ll find the decklist, and below that you’ll see a list of every change I made and why I made it, then I’ll spend some time detailing some of the basic strategies and ways to approach playing this particular build successfully.
Anteaus’ Gravekeeper’s v2.0
1x D.D. Assailant
1x D.D. Warrior Lady
1x Exiled Force
2x Gravekeeper’s Assailant
3x Gravekeeper’s Guard
2x Gravekeeper’s Spear Soldier
3x Gravekeeper’s Spy
1x Mystic Swordsman LV2
3x Book of Moon
1x Graceful Charity
1x Heavy Storm
3x My Body as a Shield
2x Nobleman of Crossout
1x Pot of Greed
1x Reinforcement of the Army
1x Mirror Force
2x Rite of Spirit
2x Solemn Judgment
1x Torrential Tribute
Side Deck: 15
1x Breaker the Magical Warrior
1x D.D. Assailant
1x Mystic Swordsman LV2
1x Zaborg the Thunder Monarch
1x Mystical Space Typhoon
1x Reinforcement of the Army
2x Compulsory Evacuation Device
2x Dust Tornado
1x Ring of Destruction
2x Royal Decree
1x Solemn Judgment
Anteaus’ Gravekeeper’s v2.0 Explained
What Went Out
-1x D.D. Assailant
With triple Guard you wall up more than in previous versions of the build. D.D. Assailant is good, but like the rest of the Warrior Toolbox it eats the normal summon. Switching to triple Guard still maintains field presence but it gives your normal summon more power because Guard is better at helping you stay up on the summon. This makes cutting D.D. Assailant down to one less detrimental.
-2x Dekoichi the Battlechanted Locomotive
Dekoichi is a decent card against decks like Chaos and Zoo and other aggressive builds. However, its power is diluted by the fact that this deck plays Gravekeeper’s Spy and Gravekeeper’s Guard. Why do Gravekeeper’s need a 1400/1000 monster that isn’t a Gravekeeper, sucks up Book of Moon and Tsukuyomi targets, and doesn’t contribute to board presence?
-1x Gravekeeper’s Assailant
Gravekeeper’s Assailant is one of the best Gravekeeper beaters. Its stats make it a good set to bait Nobleman especially if Necrovalley is live. But when Necrovalley isn’t up it’s just a 1500/1500 vanilla monster. That’s it.
Assailant isn’t a card you want to draw into – it’s a card you want to summon off of Spy. If you do draw it, the best play is to either to bait out a Nobleman or normal summon it under Necrovalley or alongside a Spy->Spear Soldier play. At three its power gets diluted because it clogs the hand but at one it’s a one-shot card and he’s too good for that. Two is a good middle ground.
-1x Mystic Swordsman LV2
During testing, every time I played one Mystic Swordsman LV2 I never saw it enough. But whenever I would bump it up to two I found that I took a lot of damage from whatever monsters my opponent used to out them. As LP is important in this particular Gravekeeper’s build, that was a problem.
As what is essentially another copy of Nobleman of Crossout he is a prime addition to the Warrior Toolbox, so a second copy is good in the side. If I’m facing a deck without a lot of Flips chances are one copy will be fine. If the deck has a lot of Flips I can easily side in a second copy. Once I started testing this ratio I quickly realized that the deck only needs one but with a second copy in the side.
-1x Mystical Space Typhoon
Of all my choices, omitting Typhoon, Breaker and Dust Tornado gets the most flak. And don’t get me wrong; Spell/Trap destruction is good. Prenegation can go a long way in winning a duel. But here’s the thing: this deck doesn’t need to pop backrow, it needs to play through it. While triple My Body as a Shield and double Solemn Judgment are fantastic at protecting Spy and Guard from Nobleman, they also let you play through backrow.
Spell/Trap destruction cards don’t let you do that, and they’re really weak to bluffs. If you pop a bluff with one of your four Spell/Trap removal cards, you just wasted one. You didn’t get rid of the Torrential Tribute or the Mirror Force. You got rid of something that likely didn’t matter. You wasted your removal, instead of forcing your opponent to waste theirs. This will ultimately impact your ability to swarm in the mid game and make it harder for you to win quickly.
-1x Ring of Destruction
Before you stop reading let me remind you that the deck mains triple My Body as a Shield and double Solemn Judgement. That’s a lot of LP to pay to maintain aggression. Couple that with battle damage and an opposing Ring of Destruction and you’re sitting dangerously low on LP.
Your LP count is so important that you can’t afford to take many hits from monsters or from Ring of Destruction and you can’t afford to pay LP costs outside of My Body and Solemn. As an aside, this is another reason for three copies of Gravekeeper’s Guard and the omission of Delinquent Duo.
Lots of damage means you can’t commit to My Body as a Shield, which means you can’t maintain your aggression. Solemn gets riskier to play too. Because of this, Ring is always the biggest threat you face especially in the late game. You have to take into consideration your opponent’s Ring before playing your own, and when you have numerous outs to monsters already you start to see that Ring isn’t necessary.
However, I did leave my copy of it in the side deck because Ring is one of the best outs to Thousand-Eyes Restrict. After some testing I found that while Book of Moon and Tsukuyomi are great outs to it, still having Ring ready to go in case your opponent is relying too heavily on Thousand-Eyes is important. I would not suggest cutting it from the side deck.
What Went In
+2x Gravekeeper’s Guard
At first glance it seems like triple Guard would clash with this kind of deck, but by the time v1.1 was published I had already thrown in a second copy. It was during those subsequent builds that I saw that Guard is one of the MVP’s of the Gravekeeper’s arsenal, and credit to Kris Perovic for pointing out just how good Guard is to me.
In Goat Format you want to commit as few resources to the board as possible. Guard forces your opponent to commit more resources to the field than you. You have to commit just two cards to a Guard lock, but they often have to commit more cards to the field than you to out it, which leaves them sparse in terms of follow up plays, giving you the advantage.
A Guard lock cannot win games by itself, though, so you need to be able to change gears and go into swarm mode easily. After a point it becomes clear they have to out the guard in order to play, so if they had the out they’d use it. Most players won’t just keep setting monsters against a Guard lock. So how they respond gives you options, and you can always turn the lock off to set a Spy and start the swarm. The lock is often best when they have already played a Nobleman because then you know you can set the Spy. Even if they do draw a second Nobleman they usually hit the Guard anyway because it’s the known threat, which also protects your Spy.
+1x Exiled Force
Exiled Force is a great out to a lot of problem cards, even if it does eat your normal summon. It clears the way for your Gravekeeper monsters to attack if you can’t get the Guard lock going and it allows you to bait out cards like Torrential Tribute and Mirror Force.
My main issue with Exiled Force is that it’s situational. To get the most out of Exiled Force you have to already have some form of field presence so you can open up shots for game damage. Dropping it by himself, without anyone else on board, just to out a problem is certainly viable. But leaving yourself open to attacks is risky which is why it’s best to play it after you’ve managed to keep a monster on the board.
The inclusion of two more copies of Guard prompted me to play triple Tsukuyomi. Tsuk is a true Swiss army knife in this deck. It has combo potential with Spy and Guard, it outs Thousand Eyes Restrict, it overpowers Monarchs, it can stand up to an Exarion Universe at 1400 ATK, it can bait a Nobleman. It can extend plays. The more I thought about it the more it made sense to play it at three copies. The biggest issue is clogging, but in my testing so far it has yet to do that thanks to its many, many applications.
+2x Nobleman of Crossout
I build these decks for IRL play, and in IRL play the Spy engine was quite prevalent last year, so it made sense to not include Nobleman then because banishing their Spy means banishing yours. But the meta has shifted away from the Spy engine in the main so I think it’s safe to play Nobleman now. At worst you can side it out if you suspect a sided Spy engine, but that seems to be rare nowadays.
Ceasefire was the card that replaced Ring of Destruction. It deals damage like Ring of Destruction, it’s chainable like Ring of Destruction, it can put more damage in than Ring of Destruction. It is another way to protect your flips from Nobleman and Mystic Swordsman LV2, it’s a good game-ending card especially in complex game states and there’s no risk to your own LP which makes it safe to play alongside My Body as a Shield and Solemn Judgement. In testing I have yet to draw Ceasefire and wish it had been something else enough to warrant replacing it.
Anteaus’ Gravekeeper’s – Strategies, Tips and Tricks
You can’t approach this deck with the same mindset you approach the Goat Control mirror match – it’s not that simple. It still is built on many of the fundamentals that define the format, but it’s designed to bend those rules a bit due to the more constricted nature of Gravekeeper’s. Let’s look at some of the fundamentals that govern this particular build.
Always Bait the Nobleman
In today’s environment a lot of players are simply playing Nobleman of Crossout on the first face-down monster they see. It’s not surprising and with the explosion in popularity of the format you oftentimes don’t know how skilled your opponent is, so playing it immediately is rarely a bad play.
In regards to Nobleman, your main task is figuring out whether or not they have it because you need to know whether or not your Spy or your Guard is safe to set. Until you figure that out, you have to play around Nobleman. The best way to do that is often via a set Gravekeeper’s Assailant or a D.D. monster. Setting one alongside a face-up Necrovalley is usually a strong play because you get to suss out the Nobleman and also bait out Spell/Trap removal. Of course, this is assuming you can protect that Necrovalley, which I’ll discuss below.
Good players, especially if they know you’re playing Gravekeeper’s, will anticipate bait and play around it. This is why setting Gravekeeper’s Assailant or one of the D.D. monsters under Necrovalley is good – if they think it’s a Spy and hit it with Nobleman, you protect your Spy. If they don’t, they walk right into a high-DEF monster and you stay up on the summon.
The worst-case scenario is they summon a Breaker and pop your Necrovalley to kill your Assailant. This is a) partly why I was playing two copies of D.D. Assailant, b) why I advocate not playing Necrovalley immediately unless you have a second copy in hand, and c) why this play is best with Book of Moon set.
What you’re trying to do is represent that initial set as a Spy or a Guard to see how your opponent reacts to it. Do they react passively, merely setting against it, or do they summon and attack it? You have to anticipate the worst case scenario, of course, and prepare accordingly.
Always Have a Follow-up
I cannot stress how important it is to not play complacently with this build. Walling up is easy to do and it’s a good way to grind for cards, and there’s an itch to just draw-pass-go when you’re walled up behind a couple of Guards and a Spy. But you have to always anticipate the worst case scenario and make sure that you are still able to follow up to that. Sometimes there’s no way to do that – every card you and your opponent play dictates how you approach additional turns. But you have to have contingency plans.
Take a look at that example above. If you have the Book of Moon set when they summon Breaker to pop your Necrovalley, you head the Breaker off at the pass. You use one card to save your Necrovalley and you also force your opponent to play the Nobleman because they don’t want to end up behind on the summon. So they drop the Nobleman if they have it, only to reveal it’s not a Spy.
Now comes your follow-up play. You draw into a My Body as a Shield and you have a Spy, a Spear Soldier and a D.D. Warrior Lady in hand. What do you do?
A passive play is probably best here – your opponent played Nobleman of Crossout, removing Gravekeeper’s Assailant from the game, but you have to remember that he’s not wanting to let you get up on the summon – at least, that should be his thinking, because behind on the summon is a bad position to be in when you’re playing against Gravekeeper’s, especially if Necrovalley is active. So chances are that the set backrow is an early game Torrential Tribute or Mirror Force or Bottomless Trap Hole, all of which can be negated by My Body as a Shield.
So if you play passive, you’re setting up for a Spy->Assailant->Normal Summon play, whether that normal summon is another Assailant, a D.D. monster or a Tsukuyomi. If you take the passive route you save your My Body as a Shield for a later turn. That set card is likely one you can out when you have three or four monsters you can save in one shot. In that way you make the loss of that battle trap so much more devastating.
If you take the aggressive route you put more pressure on your opponent early but you run the risk of blowing out your hand. The best aggressive play is to summon D.D. Warrior Lady, but playing D.D. Warrior Lady leaves you exposed if they have an out to it. Besides, you’ll likely end up having to play the Spy anyway in subsequent turns, which makes it better to play Spy the turn after a Nobleman of Crossout drops because the chances of them having a second one are low and the odds of a Spy or Guard going off increase. Playing D.D. Warrior Lady as a follow-up instead of Spy leaves you without any other play the subsequent turn except setting Spy, so you may as well set Spy and use D.D. Warrior Lady as a follow up to a Spy flip.
Always have a follow-up.
Remove key pieces early in the game
The best way to win with Gravekeeper’s is to force your opponent to use more resources to out your cards than the resources you spend to play them. This is what makes Gravekeeper’s Guard so good – it takes more than just one card to out it. That’s forcing your opponent to use more resources than you put in.
Baiting is a great way to do this. So long as you have a followup play it’s usually okay to walk a monster into a trap like Sakuretsu Armor or Mirror Force. This is especially true if you have a Book of Moon on hand; flipping that in response to a Sakuretsu Armor makes them waste a removal trap early and opens up shots for you later on.
The other key pieces you want to remove are Dust Tornado, Mystical Space Typhoon and Breaker the Magical Warrior. Baiting those is an important strategy but it’s important to know what to use to bait them out.
Before I get to using Necrovalley as bait I want to talk about what cards are viable bait options. Solemn Judgment is a good one – if they pop it early, you protect Necrovalley, which is really the whole reason Solemn Judgment is in there at all. If they pop a Judgment early you save your Necrovalley, half your LP, and your opponent wastes a resource. My Body as a Shield is a good one if you’ve already used one to negate a Nobleman. Book of Moon is great chainable bait especially if you have a face-up Flip monster. Ceasefire is another good option especially in the midgame when there’s three or four or five monsters on the board. Setting a Terraforming isn’t bad, especially if you have Necrovalley on board and a second in hand – but not if you don’t have that one in hand, because you need to be able to get that second copy on board as soon as possible.
I mentioned how people tend to pop backrow more so than Necrovalley with their Spell/Trap removal. That’s not a hard and fast rule – it’s merely a tendency I’ve seen through dozens of matches. As such, using a copy of My Body as a Shield or Solemn Judgment as bait is usually okay because it lets them think they got rid of a valuable card when in reality you’ve just protected your Necrovalley for another turn or five. But you never want to use Necrovalley as bait if it’s the only copy you have on hand, which leads me to my next point…
Protect Necrovalley at (almost) all costs
Necrovalley not only locks down the Graveyard; it also allows you to be aggressive early. But you can’t simply play Necrovalley as soon as you draw it unless you have another copy in hand. Losing Necrovalley without being able to replace it limits your aggression, but if you open two, or a Necrovalley and Terraforming, you can safely play one knowing that they’ll either target it with spell/trap removal or wait to pop it later. Either way, it’s safe.
With that strategy you get to drop 2000 ATK monsters with ease and you also get to wall up behind high-DEF monsters. Necrovalley help you to maintain board presence by making your monsters a lot harder to get over.
You have to be wary that they’ll pop it in response to an attack, but that’s usually fine because when they use their removal on Necrovalley it protects your backrow. This can also work when you’re trying to setup a pro Heavy play, which is one of the strongest plays in the Goat Format Gravekeeper’s arsenal.
The Pro Heavy in Gravekeeper’s
People don’t expect you to play Heavy Storm while Necrovalley is live. Why would a Gravekeeper player purposely destroy their own Necrovalley? That limited thinking makes people think that their backrow is safe from Heavy Storm because you have backrow alongside Necrovalley, which means they usually commit additional backrow to the board to handle the multiple threats that Gravekeeper’s will throw at them.
To be fair to them a set backrow with Necrovalley up and a set monster is a powerful board for Gravekeeper’s. To prevent losing field presence or getting even further behind on the summon they’ll often set multiple backrow to cover their bases. They usually will have a combination of mass removal, single monster removal, and/or Scapegoat or recursion cards. Maybe Dust Tornado too. They’re thinking that they can use Sakuretsu Armor to bait My Body as a Shield or a piece of Spell/Trap removal and they don’t have to fear Heavy.
Except they should fear it, because when you play the pro Heavy, you plus, you open up shots, you gain more presence and you remove valuable cards from your opponent. It’s important, though, to understand when the pro Heavy play is going to net you that big plus. For starters, playing the pro Heavy without Necrovalley up is ballsy because they’ll assume it’s a removal trap or a negation card, which means it’s a target for Dust Tornado/Mystical Space Typhoon/Breaker the Magical Warrior. You want to avoid that.
Oftentimes the pro Heavy doesn’t come around until the midgame when you’ve already baited out a piece of Spell/Trap removal or two. It also shouldn’t happen unless you have a second copy of Necrovalley ready to go. The pro Heavy play in Gravekeeper’s requires you to be able to replace your Necrovalley and also swarm, otherwise it’s wasted.
This ties in well with my next point, too.
The importance of reading backrow
Reading and recognizing backrow is easier in Gravekeeper’s because you’re able to shut down cards with Necrovalley and My Body as a Shield. My Body lets you play through major threats but it won’t always be at your disposal. This is why reading backrow is still important.
I’ve seen a lot of people set Premature Burial and Call of the Haunted under Necrovalley. That’s not a bad play – it allows them to prepare for Necrovalley’s removal and helps them get back up on the summon quickly once it’s gone.
But most times if Necrovalley stays up multiple backrow signifies a bluff. If they have three backrow set and they don’t flip any of them when you attack with a Spy, a Spear Soldier and an Assailant, you know those cards are either bluffs or recursion cards. You can safely rule out both battle traps and Spell/Trap removal cards. Why? Because that’s too much LP damage to justify not flipping a battle trap or popping Necrovalley.
Most of the strategies in this deck are ones that have been in the format since it was live. There’s nothing new here – just a different compilation of cards. Ultimately, predictable play is the death of this deck, as well as bad draws. But that’s true with any deck you play. Make sure to always have a follow-up play to whatever you do, suss out Nobleman as quickly as you can and use your Guards, Tsukuyomis and Spies to maintain field presence and maintain pressure and you should come out ahead.
That’s (finally) it for this time. If you have questions or comments or criticisms don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and keep coming back for the latest and greatest in all things Goat Format.