Side Deck Theory: Fire Fist

Kelly Locke

2/12/2013 11:45:00 AM
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Now that Cosmo Blazer is out in circulation it's finally time for Rescue Rabbit to make its comeback! Oh, you're saying it never left? Well...more Rabbit is always good, right? Just think of all the fun we'll have when Evilswarm Ophion is released!

If you're anything like me, you're probably tired of seeing that furry little devil's face, hat, and cellphone hit the field. Underneath its cute exterior is a killer rabbit whose prowess is such that even brave knights have no choice to but run away (Monty Python couldn't have designed the card better themselves). But enough with the jokes; let's get down to the serious business of building a Side Deck to counter the new Fire Fist archetype. It's not an easy deck to side against, especially since players haven't fully committed to a standardized build. We can probably expect a lot of variation in YCS Miami this week, but I'd like to cover as many of the basics as I can.

For reference, you can check out Joe Soto's article on two highly successful builds from a recent YGOverdose tournament. These decks are roughly what I'm working off, and what I primarily expect to see at Miami. Fire Fists are commonly described as being linear, short on space, and fairly well developed thanks to their popularity in the OCG. I'll probably end up talking about this deck again after March, but right now it couldn't be more relevant with its debut YCS coming up this weekend.

UnBearable Heat
The Fire Fist strategy has a major emphasis on the Fire Formation Spell and Trap cards. Fire Formation - Tenki lets a player add a Level 4 or lower Beast-Warrior from their deck to their hand, while Fire Formation - Tensu provides an extra Normal Summon for Beast-Warriors. Both cards give 100 ATK to (you guessed it) Beast-Warriors, and both are pretty cool as just generic support for that Monster type. Fire Formation - Tensen is purely a means of boosting ATK, but its ability to put a full 1000 points on a monster during Damage Calculation makes it well worth using. Where Tenki provides a straight plus one, Tensu and Tensen provide extra options and ways to use the deck's monsters. The Formations are great, but they're outright amazing when you consider the effects of the Fire Fist monsters. These cards form half of the current Fire Fist decks, with the other half dedicated to the Rescue Rabbit engine. Before we jump over to that, we need to look at the Fire Fist monsters themselves.

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Mid
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 Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear
$9.00
$2.45
$1.81
Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear
Set Cosmo Blazer
Number CBLZ-EN024
Level 4
Type Effect Monster
Monster Beast-Warrior
Attribute FIRE 
A / D 1600 / 1200
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Once per turn, when this card inflicts battle damage to your opponent: You can Set 1 "Fire Formation" Spell Card directly from your Deck. Once per turn: You can send 1 face-up "Fire Formation" Spell/Trap Card you control to the Graveyard to target 1 monster on the field; destroy that target.


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Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear, Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Gorilla, and Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Dragon are the most popular Fire Fist cards and the best options for the Rabbit-based build. Each of these cards can grab Fire Formation cards from the deck to boost their ATK or search out more Beast-Warriors. Additionally, both Bear and Gorilla can use face-up Fire Formation cards to activate their effects. Bear's effect destroys Monster cards...whether they're face-up or face-down. It's a very powerful effect that draws comparisons to Atlantean Heavy Infantry and Inzektor Hornet. Speaking of Atlanteans and Inzektors, Gorilla's effect which destroys spells and traps represents Hornet's other half and Atlantean Marksman's ability. Like other pre-made themes, Fire Fists are packing strong, consistent removal cards backed by great deck searching. Bear and Gorilla present most of the issues when it comes to siding, though Rescue Rabbit brings along its fair share of difficulties.

The Normal Monsters that Fire Fist players are packing, Gene-Warped Warwolf and Vorse Raider, have a ton of ATK before considering the boosts they're likely to receive from the Fire Formations. Normally this wouldn't be of much concern, but the sheer volume of strong monsters in this deck present an issue when building a side to beat it. It's definitely worrisome when a deck has half a dozen outs to your best counters...and can Normal Summon them. While these guys are only here to make Rescue Rabbit work, they do offer a bit of pressure and Xyz Materials when combined with Fire Formation - Tensu.

Rabbit offers the deck 1-card Rank 4 Xyz access and quick means to Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Tiger King. Tiger is great, but the Rank 4 Summons are dangerous on their own. Diamond Dire Wolf works very well here, and your general assortment of cards from the Extra Deck let Fire Fists solve nearly any situation presented to them. Strong versatility, threat assessment, deck searching, removal, and dangerous amounts of pressure throughout the entirety of the game make this strategy tough to counter, especially when it possesses the constant threat of Rescue Rabbit plays. Very few cards escape the removal of Gorilla and Bear; those that do can often fall prey to monsters boosted by Fire Formation cards. There are so many cards I'd like to suggest which directly counter certain parts of the deck, but lose out to others.

Fighting Fire With Inflammables
Fire Fists certainly have their fair share of faults despite their strengths. Wind-Ups are probably their best match-up, partly because of their constant stream of strong monsters, and partly because of their Side Deck. Rivalry of Warlords and Deck Devastation Virus are incredibly potent cards for games two and three, both capable of putting a quick stop to a large number of popular decks. Where Fire Fists have trouble are with decks that can either match their self-replacing monsters (think Madolche or Machina) or decks that aren't threatened by attacks baring Gagaga Cowboy and Tensen (Chaos Dragons, Agents). Other decks have your usual match-ups, like Mermails and Dino Rabbit. It's really Wind-Ups that struggle the most, and other decks that seek to play a grind game.

Royal Decree, despite Fire Fist's heavy use of monster effects and spells, is a very useful Side Deck card for more aggressive strategies. The majority of Fire Fist decks are running fairly high trap counts, a trend I don't think will change for Miami. Decree disables the defensive cards that players will be running, leaving you only to contend with hand traps like Effect Veiler and Maxx "C".

Fire Fists can't support Gorz, and commit too much to the field to bother with Tragoedia. The key to the Fire Fist match-up is to realize that the deck is built to play a grind game, somewhat similarly to anti-monster strategies. The trade-off between consistency and explosiveness is very apparent here, so without the help of Rescue Rabbit you'll likely find yourself able survive a good number of turns even with Decree face-up. Of course, you can also chain it to the activation of any non-Solemn trap and force Gorilla to respond. Flipping it preemptively when predicting a Tensen play can pay off in a big way, potentially costing the opponent a card during their own battle phase. Trap Stun might work just as well in some decks, or even better given that it's not as susceptible to Mystical Space Typhoon or Gorilla. You'll definitely want to look into either of these cards if Rivalry of Warlords or other sided Game 2 traps are going to be a problem for you.

ATK modification is a major theme of the Fire Fist strategy and a few different cards can exploit that. Forbidden Lance can play the same role as Royal Decree and keep your monsters safe from the opponent's set cards, but it can also be used to change the ATK of opposing Fire Fist monsters. When targeted by Lance, Beast-Warrior will no longer be affected by Fire Formation cards, and lose another 800 ATK. Bear and Gorilla both drop to 800 regardless of how many Formations there are on the field. Given that both cards need to make successful attacks to search out extra Formations, it's definitely in your best interests to keep them as weak as possible. Bear only needs to make a direct attack, but Gorilla needs to actually destroy a monster by battle. This isn't too difficult to accomplish with Formation support, but Lance stops that plan before it can get off the ground. Where Forbidden Lance really shines is as a counter to Tensen, an otherwise problematic card.

Because searching plays such a key role in the deck, Thunder King Rai-Oh would seem to be an obvious counter. It is...to some extent. Rai-Oh is tricky to make work because, like so many other Side Deck cards I'd like to suggest, it faces a number of threats in the Fire Fist Main Deck. Both Vorse Raider and Gene-Warped Warwolf can either exchange or destroy Rai-Oh in battle without a Fire Formation spell. This is the same issue that Banisher of the Radiance faces, but even Banisher is a bit more useful since it prevents Bear and Gorilla from activating their effects. Still, it's just too weak to be played without some serious protection. Rai-Oh is no different, but it's a bit better against potential Rescue Rabbit plays...though once again, only with protection. Warwolf can easily take down anything with less than 2100 ATK, and it'll usually have no problem against things up to 3000 ATK (thanks to Tensen). Rai-Oh is great, but it needs support if your deck doesn't already offer it.

There are a number of ways to support your cards if you're having difficulty fending off attacks and the card removal of Bear and Gorilla. Effect Veiler slows down Rescue Rabbit while remaining safe from Gorilla. It's useless against the Normal monsters, but those cards should be falling prey to your usual assortment of back row. Dimensional Prison, Mirror Force, Bottomless Trap Hole, and even good-ol' regular Trap Hole can keep your opponent's Fire Fists at bay and give your counters time to do their job. Forbidden Lance helps out here too, and even Scapegoat can buy you time to build your set-up. Lastly, you can fall back on Threatening Roar if your deck just doesn't let you commit to the field. Hieratics and Inzektors in particular might find that card to be invaluable in this match-up.

The Fire Formation cards can be dealt with directly via Mystical Space Typhoon, but there are some other nice options to consider before you burn precious spell and trap removal on cards that a Fire Fist duelist can search out so easily. Malevolent Catastrophe is a great way to punish greedy players who attempt to attack with Bear directly. This trap version of Heavy Storm can catch your opponent off guard and take out several cards during their battle phase - potentially a major setback. However, Bear will still be able to resolve in this situation, so destroying as many cards as possible is vital. Spell Shattering Arrow and Fairy Wind are cool, but might find themselves negated by Starlight Road a bit too frequently.

 Dark Simorgh
$0.99
Dark Simorgh
Set 2011 Collectors Tins
Number CT08-EN006
Level 7
Type Effect Monster
Monster Winged Beast
Attribute DARK 
A / D 2700 / 1000
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

While face-up on the field, this card is also WIND-Attribute. You can banish 1 DARK monster and 1 WIND monster from your Graveyard; Special Summon this card from your hand. You can banish 1 DARK monster and 1 WIND monster from your hand; Special Summon this card from your Graveyard. Your opponent cannot Set any cards on the field.


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Rounding out the list of counters are Macro Cosmos, Skill Drain, and Dark Simorgh. These cards are very specific and only work in a handful of decks, but they're worth mentioning so I don't get comments about why I didn't include them here. Dark Simorgh gets a special mention because of how effective it is at disabling a strategy that's so very much based around setting spell and trap cards. For once, Simorgh has a really strong match-up that actually makes it worth playing...not that many are outside of certain Dragunity and Ninja variants.

Closing Thoughts
Fire Fists are strong, competitive, and have solid match-ups against some of the best decks in the game. They do, of course, have their own set of strengths and weaknesses to make them well balanced through the last few weeks of the format. YCS Miami is closing in and working on this match-up will be well worth it in the long run.

I wouldn't say that this deck is any better than the other, highly popular decks being played right now. The strength of Fire Fists stems from their great Wind-Up match-up and their Side Deck. The game 2 and 3 version of this strategy should give anyone pause to consider how they'll deal with a deck that can side Dimensional Fissure, Rivalry of Warlords, Soul Drain, and Deck Devastation Virus. If you're looking for a strategy that can really capitalize on current Side Deck trends, Fire Fists might be for you.

Until next time then.
-Kelly

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