Competitive Corner: Zachariah Butlerís Awesome Zombie Lightsworn

Doug Zeeff

12/15/2016 11:02:00 AM

I almost never talk about price when building decks, but that's impossible to ignore when dealing with Minerva, the Exalted Lightsworn.

Over the past couple months we've seen repeated tops from a variety of Lightsworn variants using Minerva. As you probably know, Minerva, the Exalted Lightsworn is a crazy Rank 4 that also happens to be a YCS Prize Card, so it's largely inaccessible to the general dueling public. Not even counting the rest of the Main, Side, and Extra Deck, Minerva's going to set you back about a grand. Some players even argue that you need two copies to play the deck, but we've seen Regional tops from plenty of players with just one which counter that particular argument.

While a steep cost might alienate a lot of players, I actually think it's great for developing the strategy over several months. Most rogue decks are played once when the format is right, and then switched out for another rogue deck to combat a new environment. But because a Lightsworn player will be dropping well over a thousand dollars on their deck, it's not surprising when they want to play that strategy for as many events as possible. That's one of the big reasons decks with Minerva, the Exalted Lightsworn have evolved so well and so readily, adapting to new challenges.

Today I want to look at Zachariah Butler's Top 8 Awesome Zombie Lightsworn deck from the Bismarck, North Dakota Regional Qualifier a couple weeks ago. It's a stark contrast to Johnny Nguyen's 50-Card Lightsworns from late September, which eventually became the standard for that month well into October, though usually trimmed closer to 40 cards.

    Awesome Zombie Lightsworn Zachariah Butler    
  Location:  Regional - 2016-12-03 Bismarck North Dakota - 5th - 8th Place
Main Deck
Side Deck
3 Fairy Tail - Snow
1 Gem-Knight Garnet
1 Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner
1 Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress
2 Maxx "C"
2 Mezuki
1 Performage Trick Clown
2 Photon Thrasher
3 Raiden, Hand of the Lightsworn
3 Tin Goldfish
2 Uni-Zombie
3 Wulf, Lightsworn Beast
Monsters [24]
3 Brilliant Fusion
2 Charge of the Light Brigade
1 Foolish Burial
3 Instant Fusion
1 Reinforcement of the Army
3 Solar Recharge
1 Soul Charge
2 Twin Twisters
Spells [16]
1 The Phantom Knights of Shade Brigandine
Traps [1]
Deck Total [41]
2 Anti-Spell Fragrance
2 Book of Eclipse
1 Crimson Blader
2 Denko Sekka
2 Gameciel, the Sea Turtle Kaiju
1 Raigeki
1 Stardust Spark Dragon
2 System Down
1 Twin Twisters
1 Vanity's Emptiness
Side Deck [15]


1 Abyss Dweller
1 Bahamut Shark
1 Bujinki Amaterasu
1 Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer
1 Daigusto Emeral
1 Diamond Dire Wolf
1 Elder Entity Norden
1 Gem-Knight Seraphinite
1 Michael, the Arch-Lightsworn
1 Minerva, the Exalted Lightsworn (Ultra Rare)
3 PSY-Framelord Omega
1 Scarlight Red Dragon Archfiend
1 Toadally Awesome
Extra Deck [15]

Congrats and thanks to Zachariah Butler, who sent us his deck list through the facebook!

I don't think there's a standard Lightsworn list right now, but Butler's decks encompasses almost all of the new tactics that we've seen. Right off the bat, one of the biggest differences between newer lists is that there's not a ton of actual Lightsworn monsters. Raiden, Hand of the Lightsworn and Wulf, Lightsworn Beast are three-of's, followed by individual copies of Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner and Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress.

I realize that some people might be bothered that the deck is still called Lightsworns. I remember a few weeks ago someone said that Lightsworns without Judgment Dragon shouldn't be considered Lightsworns, which is ironic considering Judgment Dragon isn't theme stamped to begin with. Naming conventions aside, cutting fringe monsters like Garoth, Lightsworn Warrior, Felis, Lightsworn Archer, and Jain, Lightsworn Paladin opens up a ton of deck space and makes your hands way more consistent.

The tradeoff is that Minerva, the Exalted Lightsworn is less impactful. Both of its effects work better when you mill Lightsworns, the first one letting you draw extra cards, and the second destroying cards when it dies. By losing some of Minerva's explosiveness, your deck is actually gaining more generic combos and stronger hands. It's not unlike the cycle we saw with Phantom Knights, where competitors originally maxed out on all three different trap cards to optimize their mills. Eventually decks like these focus more on combos that don't require your mills to be outstanding, which makes the times when you do hit Lightsworns even crazier.

Expanding Options: Zombies and Toadally Awesome
The two biggest structural changes are the use of Zombies and the focus on Water monsters to make Bahamut Shark. People played around with Zombies back in September, too, but they've really come into their own just recently. Uni-Zombie can send a Mezuki from your deck to the graveyard to make itself Level 4, and then you can pair it with any other Level 4 to make PSY-Framelord Omega or Minerva. That's obviously a strong play, especially since you can make both of those monsters if you can get Uni-Zombie and two Level 4's on the field at the same time.

Uni-Zombie also pairs nicely with Brilliant Fusion, which I've based many decks on myself. Making PSY-Framelord Omega in Lightsworns is insane because you can reload your graveyard with Mezuki and other cards to banish for Fairy Tail - Snow, which is widely regarded as one of the most important monsters in the deck.

But I think the coolest change is the Water monsters, and the new methods that players are using to field free Level 4's. While old versions used Goblindbergh to get Lightsworns out of their hand, Butler used Tin Goldfish and Photon Thrasher, as well as The Phantom Knights of Shade Brigandine. Photon Thrasher and Shade Brigandine are both fantastic because they don't take up your Normal Summon, opening up your first turn to even bigger boards. Obviously you have to summon Thrasher at the start of your turn since you need an open board, but you can set Shade Brigandine and then activate it any time you don't have traps in your graveyard. There are no other traps in Butler's Main Deck, so it's always a one-time Level 4 monster whenever you draw it.

 Bahamut Shark
Bahamut Shark115854
Set Premium Gold: Infinite Gold
Number PGL3-EN069
Level 4
Type Xyz/Effect Monster
Monster Sea Serpent
Attribute WATER 
A / D 2600 / 2100
Rarity Gold Rare
Card Text

2 Level 4 WATER monsters
Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; Special Summon 1 Rank 3 or lower WATER Xyz Monster from your Extra Deck. This card cannot attack for the rest of this turn.

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Tin Goldfish is almost a strict upgrade from Goblindbergh. You can't search it with Reinforcement of the Army, but I don't think that's a huge factor since Photon Thrasher's searchable. What's important about Tin Goldfish is that it's a Water monster, which means you can pair it with Instant Fusion and bring it back with Elder Entity Norden. That lets you make Bahamut Shark and then Toadally Awesome, securing a defensive lock against your opponent.

Butler's deck was streamlined to make those massive openings fairly regularly, especially because there's so many different combinations of cards that end with gigantic fields, often with three PSY-Framelord Omegas.

Other Advancements
Butler also ran Bujinki Amaterasu to leverage all that combo potential. It takes three Level 4's to Xyz Summon, but pretty much win the game if you can get it out. Amaterasu wouldn't have been as effective in previous versions of Lightsworns, and I'm happy to see Butler recognized its potential.

One of the more controversial factors was the lack of Pot of Desires. I think it's a safe bet that this wasn't a financial decision since Butler had Minerva, Toadally Awesome, and PSY-Framelord Omega, so it was almost certainly deliberate. While a lot of the Lightsworn cards are interchangeable enough that you won't mind if you banish a few of them, Butler's decision to skip Pot of Desires let him get away with a few choices that other builds wouldn't risk.

For example, he's not afraid of banishing singleton Lightsworns like Lumina and Lyla, nor Performage Trick Clown or Gem-Knight Garnet. Not running them saved deck space and dodged the threat of dead cards and awkward hands. He got the deck down to 41 cards, letting him see his combo pieces more reliably even without Pot's draw power. I'm not entirely sure that skipping Pot was the right choice, but it's interesting to see someone find legitimate benefit in that decision.

So where do Lightsworn players go from here? Personally, I'm surprised that we haven't seen any tops with Shiranui Solitaire. It's weak to backrow cards, but if you go first it gets you to PSY-Framelord Omega that much faster, with only a one-card investment. You can even Special Summon it with Tin Goldfish to make PSY-Framelord Omega, Bahamut Shark, and Toadally Awesome fields much more consistently. I'm curious about D.D.R. - Different Dimension Reincarnation too, since it extends your plays even further, especially combined with Fairy Tail - Snow.

Butler's list takes a lot of the lessons Lightsworn players have learned over the last couple months and puts them all to work in one deck. I think that this could become a standard build heading forward, and if you want to try out one of the most explosive decks of the years, it's a great place to start.

-Doug Zeeff

Doug Zeeff hails from Michigan and is currently an English major in college. When he's not found emailing Konami about why there's not a single walrus card in all of Yu-Gi-Oh! you can find him regularly posting unorthodox, unfiltered semi-Yu-Gi-Oh! related content on his Youtube channel, Dzeeff. In his spare time he enjoys eating cheese, Overwatch, and, of course, playing Yu-Gi-Oh.
Click here to follow him and his adventures on Facebook!

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