After my experiences at Nationals playing Lightsworn
(details of my trip can be found at my blog
www.go-YGO.com), I’ve gotten around to thinking
about a certain concept that is difficult to
As we all know, this format is unprecedented due to
the variety of decks at the top tier. Blackwings,
Lightsworn, Synchro Cat, Dark variants, and
Gladiator Beasts were all represented well in the
top 64 of U.S Nationals. It would appear that this
type of diversity is great for the game.
However, the wonderful diversity has created an
unusual side-effect. I call this the Pie effect.
Imagine a pie. Apple, strawberry, or even rhubarb if
you’re feeling old and frumpy. Now cut it into five
equal slices representing the five strongest
archetypes in Yu-Gi-Oh! monsters. Doesn’t leave much
room for anything else, right?
Basically the unique characteristics of the top five
slices of the game have made it very, very difficult
for any outsiders to squeeze into the picture. If
you’ll remember decks like Hugo Adame’s stunning
Macro Cosmos/Dimensional Fissure anti-meta in the
Perfect Circle format or Matt Peddle’s Machine
beatdown in a format filled with targeting effects,
they point to a different time period. While
anti-meta success in prior formats was attainable
before, the task is almost impossible now.
WHY? Blame the Pie
The top five decks have effectively assembled
together to squeeze out every original tactic
possible save two cards (hint: they are continuous
traps). The reasons for this are many. The most
important reason is:
All of the top tier decks can end the game in one
1) Blackwings can end the game in one
explosive turn by simply dealing 8000 damage. The
percentage of this happening after about five turns
has passed is not ridiculously high, but it is still
2) Lightsworn can end the game in one
explosive turn with certain set-ups. However this is
very rare. But through card advantage principles,
Lightsworn can effectively end the game in one
series of great milling by dumping cards like Necro
Gardna and drawing multiple cards with Garoth.
3) Gladiator Beasts can set up a Heraklinos/War
Chariot or Solemn lock that effectively ends the
game as well.
4) Synchro Cats are the most explosive deck
and easily find multiple combinations to deal 8000
damage in one turn.
5) Dark decks are the least explosive of the
five, but can still end the game in one turn. They
often also revolve around cards like Skill Drain and
Royal Oppression, so anti-meta does not work as well
I will break down each slice of pie into key
strengths and weaknesses you should use to
identify which deck fits your playstyle best when
playing your next big Regionals or Shonen Jump.
Blackwings: The Most Adaptable, Most Popular, and
Most Cost-Effective Deck
But vulnerable to the OTK
Blackwings almost single-handedly make original
decks bite the dust. There are two reasons for this:
1) Blackwings are at the top tier of decks,
but have not attained complete dominance due to one
factor. Blackwings are very susceptible to one turn
kills. In a vacuum, the correct way to play
Blackwings involves holding your Blackwing monsters
while waiting to set up a Black Whirlwind (otherwise
they’re just 1700 and 2000 attack normal monsters).
However the looming threat of an OTK is always
The problem with original decks and anti-meta decks
is that they don’t have the explosive powers of the
top five slices of pie. In addition, Skill-Drain
based decks barely dent Blackwings and Royal
Oppression (while painful) is not really sustainable
on the field with multiple Solemns and Icarus
Attacks played by Blackwing. Which leads me to 2.
2) Blackwings are far too versatile,
especially when factoring in the side, to tie down
with an original or anti-meta deck. A typical
Blackwing player may end up siding into two
additional copies of Delta Crow and a third Icarus
Attack. This puts spell/trap removal options at 6 or
7 with three copies of Solemn
Judgment. Factor in the fact that BW will get more
card advantage and be more explosive and it’s a
long, tough road for any anti-meta or original
Lightsworn: The Most Resilient Deck
But vulnerable to bad hands
Ironically in a split-purpose of sorts, Lightsworn
is generally played by the worst players (in skill)
and the very best players as well. Middle ground is
usually rare. I personally chose Lightsworn for
Nationals because it is the most resilient of the
A properly built Lightsworn deck is nearly
impossible to take out in one turn. In fact over 17
matches at Nationals and the Last Chance Qualifiers,
I was never taken out in one turn in any single
The combination of Necro Gardna, Threatening Roar,
and Aurkus the Lightsworn Druid makes Lightsworn the
most resilient deck by far and the weapon of choice
for those top players who find themselves unlucky
(in terms of getting OTKed) quite frequently.
1) I generally feel the resilience of
Lightsworn makes them the best deck of the format.
2) The weakness of Lightsworn is their
susceptibility to bad hands. All of my losses at
Nationals came to incredibly bad hands that are just
a natural and mathematically determined result of
playing such an explosive deck.
Unfortunately for you, Lightsworn are always just
one Charge of the Light Brigade or Solar Recharge
topdeck away from suddenly having an unbeatable
power hand. And while the other decks in the big
five can either establish immediate dominance or
control the game easily by then, your anti-meta or
original deck does not have the speed or
explosiveness to do such a thing. So Lightsworn will
draw more cards, extend the game state, then start
dropping the heavy hitters to victory.
This concludes part one of the article. Part two
will be produced within a few days!
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