How Did YCS Toronto Affect Competition?

Mike Steinman

9/4/2015 11:00:00 AM

There were a few surprises to come out of YCS that took place in Toronto this past weekend. Top 4 consisted of three Burning Abyss decks and only one Nekroz, Infernoids topped, and we even saw Dale Bellido return to Top Cut action!

The Top 32 was absolutely star-studded and I want to congratulate everyone that made it. There are some key things to take away from the tournament results that will be essential in preparing for the next event you plan to attend. Let's start with the big one.

Is Burning Abyss the Best Deck?
Burning Abyss had an impressive showing this weekend, beating out a ton of skilled Nekroz players. I think Burning Abyss is a great strategy in its own right, but I feel like it did especially well in Toronto because people either underestimated it or chose to ignore it altogether.

Historically speaking, most Nekroz players have usually opted to omit rogue cards from their builds in favor of cards that help them interact in the mirror match; they've played stuff like Shared Ride, hoping to still beat rogue strategies through Side Decking. Nekroz players do that to get an edge in Game 1 in the Top Cut, where you'd inevitably play more mirror matches than rogue matches. That used to be a fine strategy and I totally did it at YCS Chicago and the North American WCQ when I played Nekroz myself, but it doesn't work when the rogue decks are actually hard match-ups for you.

Decks like Burning Abyss and Ritual Beast have a favorable matchup against Nekroz, which is going to make winning almost impossible if you as a Nekroz player throw away Game 1 by drawing into off-match-up cards like Shared Ride. I was aware of that risk at the NAWCQ but I didn't know how many other people would be, so I felt forced to Main Deck for the mirror anyways. As a result I mained Nekroz of Decisive Armor and sided nine cards for Burning Abyss, plus ten cards for Ritual Beast, and just hoped and prayed that people slept on Burning Abyss. That obviously wasn't the case, as the deck singlehandedly sent half of our World Championship competitors to Japan.

The Mistakes Players Made in Their Deck Building
For YCS Toronto there was no excuse. Burning Abyss was known as a top deck and it got even stronger with the addition of Mistaken Arrest and the new Forbidden & Limited list. Second place finisher Marcus Carisse decided to main for the mirror regardless of those facts and inevitably lost to Burning Abyss in the Finals; he just couldn't do anything about it. If you make that kind of Mistake yourself, you're essentially saying you're okay with losing to Burning Abyss and getting knocked out of Top Cut if you play against it, and that's just not how you win a tournament. You need to and can find cards that overlap and work in both match-ups . Cards like Maxx "C" still have a chance at winning you the mirror match in Game 1 while not totally destroying you in your rogue match-ups.

 Number 104: Masquerade
Number 104: Masquerade70853
Set Judgment of the Light
Number JOTL-EN055
Level 4
Type Xyz Effect Monster
Monster Spellcaster
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 2700 / 1200
Rarity Rare
Card Text

3 level 4 monsters // During either player's Battle Phase, when an opponent's monster effect is activated: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; negate the activation, and if you do, inflict 800 damage to your opponent. Once per turn: You can send the top card of your opponent's Deck to the Graveyard.

Our Best Prices: [View ALL Prices]
Store Condition Qty Avail Price  
Pastimes Unlimited - Lightly Played 2 $0.36
Clarksons Unlimited - Near Mint 13 $0.39
RunoftheMillgames 1st Edition - Lightly Played 9 $0.43
PhantasmGaming 1st Edition - Lightly Played 2 $0.43
The Wizards Duel 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $0.45
PhantasmGaming Unlimited - Near Mint 5 $0.49 allows you to buy cards from any of our vendors, all at the same time, in a simple checkout experience. Shop, Compare & Save with! - [Store FAQ]

The Performage engine was another big factor. The Nekroz players that chose to run the Performage engine got to take advantage of a paradox presented by Nekroz of Trishula and Number 104: Masquerade. If your opponent leaves cards on the field you can hit them with Trishula and basically win the game, but if they clear their field with Nekroz of Valkyrus and end with another in their hand, you can easily OTK them by powering through the Valkrus with Masquerade's effect anyways.

The Performages were viewed as being very good against rogue too, because they make it easier for the Nekroz deck to crank out important Rank 4's like Evilswarm Exciton Knight and Abyss Dweller. That's just the thing, though. If you already played near-useless cards like Shared Ride with cards like Maxx "C", you were already in a great position for the Burning Abyss match-up anyways. The Performage engine's just giving you more power in the grind game department. What you really need are answers to the handful of cards that let Burning Abyss beat you when they can't grind you out namely Vanity's Emptiness, Skill Drain, and Crush Card Virus.

You can't really stop CCV, but the other two floodgates are weak to removal on the chain. The Performage engine might make it easier to leverage Extra Deck removal like Diamond Dire Wolf and Castel, the Skyblaster Muskateer, but when you can't get to them or can't resolve their effects, they're pretty useless. If you aren't running Mystical Space Typhoon in addition to cards that enhance your grind game with Burning Abyss, those cards will almost always fail you. Your opponent will stall long enough to hit one of those trap cards eventually, and then you'll lose no matter how far ahead you were.

That's what I've been seeing from a few of the Top 32 deck lists that were released so far. Carisse played to two extremes by using both Shared Ride and Mystical Space Typhoon, in hopes that he'd draw the right card in the right match-up; or if he drew both, that the impact of the correct card would outweigh the other one. Top 16 finisher Tom Morran just played three MST and conceded Game 1 in the mirror match altogether. Frazier Smith played 2 Maxx "C" and the Performage engine, but no Mystical Space Typhoons. I don't know the specifics of how those players got knocked out, and I'm sure they had their own well-considered theories driving their card choices, but these are just the conclusions I came to from seeing how things panned out.

I really don't think it's likely that the majority of your match-ups will be Nekroz in any competitive tournament these days, and in my opinion you'd have to be pretty lucky to run into 50% in my opinion. I just don't see the point in maining so hard for the mirror match. Nekroz might be the best deck, but it isn't the best if it's drawing tech cards everywhere but the mirror match. I used to be a huge advocate of maining for the mirror, but now I'd rather play Burning Abyss if my chief goal was to win Game 1's against Nekroz. If you're going to play Nekroz you need to make sure you make choices to strengthen your rogue match-ups; cover their floodgates, and try to play cards that give you a chance to steal Game 1's in the mirror without actually being overly specific. This is the deck I would've played at YCS Toronto.

    What Mike Would've Played Mike Steinman    
Main Deck
Side Deck
1 D.D. Crow
1 Exa, Enforcer of the Nekroz
1 Gishki Chain
1 Great Sorcerer of the Nekroz
3 Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands
3 Maxx "C"
2 Nekroz of Brionac
2 Nekroz of Clausolas
1 Nekroz of Decisive Armor
1 Nekroz of Gungnir
1 Nekroz of Trishula
3 Nekroz of Unicore
3 Nekroz of Valkyrus
3 Senju of the Thousand Hands
1 Shurit, Strategist of the Nekroz
Monsters [27]
1 Book of Moon
2 Mystical Space Typhoon
2 Nekroz Cycle
2 Nekroz Kaleidoscope
2 Nekroz Mirror
1 Preparation of Rites
3 Reinforcement of the Army
Spells [13]
Deck Total [40]
1 Denko Sekka
1 Mystical Space Typhoon
1 Raigeki
2 Royal Decree
3 Shared Ride
1 Summoner Monk
1 Thunder King Rai-Oh
1 Torrential Tribute
3 Typhoon
1 Vanity's Emptiness
Side Deck [15]


1 Abyss Dweller
1 Artifact Durendal
1 Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer
1 Daigusto Emeral
1 Diamond Dire Wolf
1 Evilswarm Exciton Knight
1 Gagaga Cowboy
2 Herald of the Arc Light
1 Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk
1 Shooting Quasar Dragon
1 Star Eater
1 Steelswarm Roach
1 Stellarknight Constellar Diamond
1 Tellarknight Ptolemaeus
Extra Deck [15]

This deck list addresses the challenge of Nekroz's weak grind game aganst Burning Abyss by replacing mirror match cards with stuff like Maxx "C and D.D. Crow. It also plays Gishki Chain, acting as a seventh Manju or Senju, while covering floodgates with two Mystical Space Typhoons. All those cards can also catch your opponent with a field for you to rip apart with Trishula. It's a lot harder to play around Maxx "C" now that Shurit, Strategist of the Nekroz is Limited, and if your opponent pushes through Maxx "C" and gives you cards, there's a good chance you can just win the game with Nekroz of Gungnir next turn.

D.D. Crow can mess up a Ritual Summon and keep your opponent from using Valkyrus to clear their board away. One of the big problems I had with D.D. Crow last format was that it was useless if your opponent had two Shurits in their graveyard. Now you can catch their Nekroz Mirror by banishing their only copy, or even hit them on their Nekroz of Unicore effect when they try to grab Shurit back from their graveyard.

I think Effect Veiler's really powerful now, too. It lets you bypass the Trishula / Masquerade paradox without making yourself weak to MST a problem when you're trying to solve that situation with Breakthrough Skill. I chose to pass on cards like Breakthrough, Torrential Tribute, Vanity's Emptiness, and Enemy Controller in the Main Deck once I started seeing how many people chose to run MST this format. Hand traps just seemed so much safer in Game 1.

I still fully believe Nekroz to be the best deck in competition as long as you're aware of what's going on and adapt correctly. Elder Entity Norden will be legal for YCS Dallas and that only helps Nekroz by giving it more Rank 4 access, and the ability to revive Herald of the Arc Light and Shurit. In the mean time, stay tuned, because next week we'll take a break from talking about Nekroz, and instead discuss the correct mindframe you should have when you're playing in a tournament. Until then, guys!

-Mike Steinman

Join our Newsletters

Subscribe to get the latest information on your favorite games.


All original content herein is Copyright 2016 Ascension Gaming Network, Inc. TCGplayer® and MaxPoint® are trademarks of Ascension Gaming Network, Inc.
No portion of this web site may be used without expressed written consent. All rights reserved.
Magic the Gathering and its respective properties are copyright Wizards of the Coast
Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service