Gravekeeper’s Sweep YCS Atlanta!

Matt Peddle

12/13/2010 9:45:00 AM

Well I promised I'd be taking a look at my Machina Gadget deck this week, but something has happened since I wrote that last article that I simply can't ignore. YCS Atlanta has come and gone, and the results could not have been more surprising. Gravekeepers won the event. But they didn't just come first, oh no. The same Gravekeeper deck swept the top 3.

To be able to sweep the top three of any tournament is difficult enough. My friends and I have trouble taking the top three spots at our local tournaments. But to be able to do this at a YCS tournament, the biggest tournament on the circuit besides World's, is nothing short of spectacular. The deck has to completely dependable in terms of it's consistency and power. The duelists have to be on top of their game, because a single mistake could result in one of them finishing out of the top 3. But most importantly the deck has to be that much better than or completely counter everyone else's deck. There's no other way you dominate a tournament that hard.

Gravekeepers have been around for a long time and have never won a YCS tournament before. Heck, they've never even been part of the discussion for “best deck this format.” So what changed to make them such a powerhouse all of a sudden? The answer is twofold. First, Gravekeeper's got a the final piece of the puzzle in Gravekeeper's Recruiter. Released just recently in Starstrike Blast, Gravekeeper's Recruiter adds the consistency this deck needed. Secondly, the metagame has become more vulnerable to Necrovalley.

As many of you already know Gravekeeper's rely on having Necrovalley on the field. Necrovalley is a field spell that makes all your Gravekeeper's stronger by 500 attack and defense. Most Gravekeeper's have around 1500 attack and defense, so the subtle boost turns them from mediocre four star monsters into gigantic four star monsters. Gravekeeper's Spy's already troublesome 2000 defense turns to 2500 defense, which very few monsters can attack over. A monster like Gravekeeper's Assailant also gains an additional effect as well as the stats boost when Necrovalley is on the field.

But even more importantly is what Necrovalley does to other decks. When Necrovalley is on the field neither player can remove cards in the graveyard from the game or target any card in either player's graveyard. Duelists often get confused about what Necrovalley stops and doesn't stop. Obviously any effect that would remove a card in the graveyard from the game can't be activated. Monsters like Bazoo the Soul Eater or Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer could not activate their effects to remove monsters from the graveyard from the game. Also a monster like Destiny Hero - Malicious could not activate it's own effect because the cost is to remove it from play while it's in the graveyard.

The second effect is a little more tricky. Players cannot target cards in the graveyard. This means you cannot play Call Of The Haunted, Monster Reborn or activate the effect of Mask of Darkness while Necrovalley is on the field. However cards may still activate in the graveyard. For example, Mystic Tomato, which activates once it's been destroyed by battle and is sent to the graveyard, would still get it's effect even with Necrovalley on the field. This is because it's activating in the graveyard, which Necrovalley doesn't prevent, not targeting anything in the graveyard. Also a card like Treeborn Frog can still activate it's effect to special summon itself from the graveyard while the opponent has Necrovalley on the field. (If you have Necrovalley on the field you can't special summon Treeborn Frog from your own graveyard because you have a spell card on your side of the field.) The general rule of thumb is that any card that would take another card out of the graveyard or remove it from play from the graveyard is prevented by Necrovalley.

Clever duelists will already have realized how many decks this hinders. Some of the top decks right now include X-Sabers, Plant Synchro and Scraps. Necrovalley hurts them a lot, especially the last two. Let's take a look at the decklist these Gravekeeper players used, and see what exactly makes it so good.

    Gravekeepers Frazier Smith    
  Location:  2010 Championship Series - Atlanta - 1st Place
Main Deck
Side Deck
2 Gravekeeper's Assailant
3 Gravekeeper's Commandant
3 Gravekeeper's Descendant
3 Gravekeeper's Recruiter
3 Gravekeeper's Spy
Monsters [14]
1 Allure of Darkness
3 Book of Moon
1 Dark Hole
2 Gravekeeper's Stele
2 Necrovalley
3 Pot of Duality
3 Royal Tribute
Spells [15]
2 Bottomless Trap Hole
1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
2 Dimensional Prison
1 Mirror Force
1 Solemn Judgment
2 Solemn Warning
2 Starlight Road
Traps [11]
Deck Total [40]
1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
2 Cyber Dragon
2 Effect Veiler
2 Malefic Stardust Dragon
2 Mystical Space Typhoon
1 Necrovalley
2 Nobleman of Crossout
1 Royal Oppression
2 Smashing Ground
Side Deck [15]


1 Ally of Justice Catastor
1 Arcanite Magician
1 Armory Arm
1 Black Rose Dragon
1 Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier
2 Chimeratech Fortress Dragon
1 Colossal Fighter
1 Goyo Guardian
1 Magical Android
1 Mist Wurm
1 Scrap Dragon
3 Stardust Dragon
Extra Deck [15]

The decklist is very simple. The idea is to try and do the same thing every duel, as evidenced by the fact that there are only five one-of cards in the deck. Three of those are staple power cards this format. Dark Hole, Mirror Force and Solemn Judgment should be in almost every deck right now. They are strong, unique cards that provide you the safety and consistency you'll need in a major tournament. The next single copy card is Allure of Darkness. In any deck dominated by DARK monsters you'll want to play Allure. It speeds up your deck and helps smooth out all-monster hands or turn a useless DARK monster into something helpful.

The final single copy is a tech card. A tech card is a often unused card that players will include to help combat the metagame, a bad match-up or to give them a leg-up somehow. In this case it's Compulsory Evacuation Device. Usually best known for sharing the initials CED with a slightly better card in Chaos Emperor Dragon, Envoy of the End, Compulsory Evacuation Device has begun to see more play ever since players started depending on their extra decks more. CEDevice is probably the easiest way to get rid of Synchro or Fusion monsters. These cards can't exist in a player's hand, so when you use CEDevice to bounce them, they'll instead be banished back to the extra deck (or the Shadow Realm, if you'd prefer.)

I should mention how good this card is against Scrap Dragon. One of the biggest problems Scrap Dragon gives you is that once you destroy it, you still have to destroy another Scrap monster. Do that incorrectly and you'll give your opponent Scrap Chimera back, and you'll soon be staring down another Scrap Dragon. CEDevice is a simple answer that shuts down the Scrap Dragon engine completely with the flip of a single trap card. It's also good in this deck because of Gravekeeper's Spy. Once you've used the Spy to search out another Gravekeeper monster, you can return the Spy to your hand and set it again, searching out another monster. It's not a spectacular play, but it's a possibility, and if you can chain the CEDevice to your opponent trying to get rid of your Spy it can become a great play. You can also use Spy + CEDevice to search and return Gravekeeper's Commandant to your hand, allowing you to discard it for a quick Necrovalley. You might not ever do this because you could search Gravekeeper's Recruiter instead, who will get you the Commandant to your hand once it's sent to the Graveyard, but the option is always there if you need the Necrovalley immediately.

Gravekeeper's Recruiter is the card this deck needed to become tier 1. Having this card available gives you much easier access to Necrovalley. Previously the only real ways to get Necrovalley were Gravekeeper's Commandant and Terraforming. Some players even resorted to using Gold Sarcophagus to search these cards. The problem with Terraforming is that it doesn't do anything else. Once you've got Necrovalley out, extra copies of Terraforming are completely dead. This is not the case with Gravekeeper's Recruiter. The Recruiter can search out Necrovalley by searching out Gravekeeper's Commandant. However once you've got Necrovalley you can still use the Recruiter, and search other good cards. Recruiter's effect is also not optional. This is really important because it means you don't have to worry about missing the timing. This means you can tribute it to Gravekeeper's Descendant and still get the search effect. That sets up some big potential plays with Gravekeeper's Spy and Gravekeeper's Descendant. Imagine setting Spy and searching Descendant when it's attacked. Next turn you summon Gravekeeper's Recruiter and sacrifice it to destroy your opponent's spell or trap card with Descendant. That lets you search out Necrovalley, which you can play to pump your Spy to 2500 defense and your Descendant to 2000 attack. Now you're free to attack over your opponent's monster and you've got potential Descendant plays next turn. With only 2 cards you've set up a dominating scenario. You're opponent is facing 2 big monsters, can't use their graveyard as a resource, and could potentially lose anything they play to Descendant's effect. Throw in some support cards like Solemn Warning and Gravekeeper's Stele, and you can begin to see how this deck was able to dominate the tournament so thoroughly.

The other thing Gravekeeper's can do that most decks can't is play Royal Tribute. You need to have Necrovalley up, so the unless you're trying some crazy tech you'll only get to play it in Gravekeeper's. This card is a game-winner though, and is one of the reasons you'll want to play this deck. Going first and opening with Commandant, Royal Tribute, Gravekeeper's Spy and a couple supporting spell/trap cards is like winning the game. Your opponent won't get to start with any monsters, which is enough of an advantage. When an opponent doesn't draw any monsters they're usually hard-pressed to win the duel, even with six spell or trap cards to defend with until they get a creature. But when you're discarding all their monsters they'll have even fewer defensive cards. They might never get a chance to come back in the duel once you play Royal Tribute. Meanwhile you're going to Multiply that one spy into a second monster, probably a Recruiter, and you're ready to search for a third monster once that one goes down.

Gravekeeper's Stele is another amazing Gravekeeper support card. You get to grab two Gravekeeper monsters from the graveyard and put them into your hand. Normally this would be prevented by Necrovalley, but like Rite of Spirit it says it's unaffected by Necrovalley. This card lets you get two Gravekeeper monsters with just one card, and there are no restrictions in terms of what kind of Gravekeeper monsters you can get. So this card can get any two monsters you play from the graveyard. It does have to be two, which can sometimes be a drawback. But considering you play Gravekeeper's Spy and Gravekeeper's Recruiter, who both search out more Gravekeeper monsters, you probably won't find yourself stuck with Stele and only one Gravekeeper monster in the bin.

You can also use Gravekeeper's Stele to get another Necrovalley. Should your Necrovalley be destroyed you'll want to get another one up as soon as possible. You probably pitched a Commandant to get that first one, so the Commandant will be waiting in the graveyard for further use. Just grab it as one of your two Gravekeeper monsters and use it to search Necrovalley. With just one card you can get Necrovalley and Gravekeeper's Spy, instantly setting yourself up to start making things happen.

The last monster in the deck that hasn't been mentioned is Gravekeeper's Assailant. This is easily the most underrated card in the deck. Gravekeeper's Assailant not only boasts a respectful 2000/2000 with Necrovalley up, but it also gains an amazing effect with that field spell on board. There are some monsters you'll be able to take down via battle only with Gravekeeper's Assailant. Monsters like Caius the Shadow Monarch, Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier and Colossal Fighter can all be taken down by Gravekeeper's Assailant in battle. These monsters usually take multiple resources to play in the form of tributes or Synchro material, so taking them out at no cost is very beneficial. The Assailant also adds another dimension of pain to Plant Synchro players. Already frustrated at being unable to use the effects of Debris Dragon, Monster Reborn, Call Of The Haunted and Drill Warrior, these duelists will also now have to watch as Gravekeeper's Assailant pushes through 2000 damage every time it attacks a fluff token. Being able to switch smaller monsters to attack mode can put life point pressure on the opponent in a hurry. This also lets you switch opposing Gravekeeper's Spies into attack mode. Your Necrovalley pumps them up to 2500 defense too, meaning Gravekeeper's Assailant is the only card that can take them out in battle.

The support cards chosen for this deck were perfect. Book of Moon and Solemn Warning are the staple support cards of this format. They can prevent opponents from being able to Synchro summon, they can stun opponents or they can set up your next turn. They're just two incredibly versatile cards. Book of Moon is especially advantageous because you play three copies of Gravekeeper's Spy. Not only does this let you reuse your Spies, but it lets you dodge Effect Veiler at the same time. Once your opponent knows you're playing Gravekeeper's they'll probably try to negate your Spies with Effect Veiler. Book of Moon lets you turn the Spy down so it's no longer affected by Veiler, so you get your search and another free search because the Spy is face-down again.

I love Starlight Road in this deck. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I thought Starlight Road was going back in the shoeboxes this format. Without Heavy Storm it seemed there wasn't enough left to negate with Starlight Road, even with Dark Hole coming back. However because Heavy Storm was banned the game has slowed down significantly and players are putting a lot more on the field at one time. Because of these trends duelists are trying to make the most of their cards like Torrential Tribute, Dark Hole and Black Rose Dragon, trying to destroy as many cards as possible. Starlight Road punishes them for trying to do this, preventing them from closing the flood gates and adding a free Stardust Dragon to the mix. This deck puts a lot on the field very quickly. You want to have Necrovalley out at all times, and Graveekeeper's Spy gets you two monsters on the field very quickly. Because of this you're very susceptible to big Black Rose Dragon or Torrential Tribute plays. If you thought the scenarios I've brought up before seemed good, add a Stardust Dragon and take away an opposing card. Get a Starlight Road off in this deck and you'll probably win, and it's very easy to activate it when playing Gravekeeper's.

This tournament could not possibly have been a fluke. Sweeping the top three demands attention, and I'm sure duelists everywhere are taking note. With so many cards that can stun the opponent and so many cards that can give you a tremendous advantage just by activating them, the Gravekeeper deck is for real. Next week I'll discuss the match-ups these Gravekeeper duelists might have faced and break down why this deck can dominate each and every match-up.

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