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Jae Kim: Theory and Practice
JK18: Pies Part 2

July 24, 2009

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 stopped.


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 decks.


Cat Synchro: The Most Explosive Deck    

            Beats everything except expert-Lightsworn consistently

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 irrelevant

2. Out card advantages you and is by far the most explosive deck in the game

3. Wins certain games just by drawing certain hand combinations


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 other.


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.





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