Competitive Corner: William Reye’s Ninja Paleozoic Frogs

Doug Zeeff

12/19/2016 11:00:00 AM

Today's deck is a great example of how just a few changes to a deck list, can drastically alter the dynamic of an established strategy. And that thinking outside the box is a good way to score top cuts.

Paleozoic Frogs have been one of the deadliest decks since the release of Invasion: Vengeance, maintaining their position as one of the top three strategies of this format, right next to ABC-Buster Dragon and Majespecter Metalfoes. While we've seen some variation with different ratios of Paleozoics, recent builds have been fairly standardized. Once in a while someone will Main Deck Barrier Statue of the Torrent or Gameciel, the Sea Turtle Kaiju, but outside of that there's not a ton of innovation on larger scales.

Or at least there wasn't until William Reye made Top 8 at the recent Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Regional Qualifier with triple Upstart Golden Ninja!

I can count the number of times that Upstart Golden Ninja's topped events on one hand, and usually it's only a one-of in rogue Ninja lists. But William Reye opted to play a full set in his Paleozoic Frogs, making a way crazier Turn 1 if he could see a single copy of it. Upstart Golden Ninja plays off of Paleozoics' strengths in some very specific ways that I'll delve into shortly, but first let's talk about what makes the standard Paleozoic Frog deck so good in the first place.

Trap Monsters 2: Electric Boogaloo
In the past, trap monsters have been a tough mechanic from a standpoint of basic design. I remember older cards like Embodiment of Apophis basically being inferior Normal Monsters; they were so awkward that nobody really played them. Eventually better trap monsters were released, and by the time that Statue of Anguish Pattern and Abyss Stungray came out I was hooked. The basic idea was that you could activate the trap to Special Summon it as a monster, which came with its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

The major benefit was that you could protect those cards with stuff like Imperial Custom because they were treated as a monster and as a trap. That could made them impossible to deal with, especially when you could back them up with cards like Necrovalley and Starlight Road. The usual approach was to go anti-meta and stun your opponent while Statue of Anguish Pattern picked apart their cards for free. Then you could summon The Calculator at ridiculous ATK and quickly defeat your opponent in one or two battles.

The downside was that your monsters could be destroyed by backrow removal like Mystical Space Typhoon, Twin Twisters, and Cosmic Cyclone. Amplifying that issue the trap monsters took up two zones and tended to clog your field really fast. That complicated draw power like Card of Demise, so it was tough to make up the missing speed.

 Twin Twisters
Twin Twisters122518
Set 2016 Mega-Tins Mega Pack
Number MP16-EN221
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

Discard 1 card, then target up to 2 Spell/Trap Cards on the field; destroy them.

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But Paleozoics changed the formula entirely in a few important ways. All of them can Special Summon themselves as monsters from the graveyard whenever a trap card is activated. They come out at 1200 ATK as 0 DEF Water Aquas, and they're unaffected by monster effects. Also, they're banished when they leave the field. That's great, because it means that they only hit the field as monsters, not traps. It frees up your backrow for actual traps which is often just more Paleozoics. While conventional trap monsters only had a few good effects, there are several Paleozoics that have fantastic ones.

The most notable are definitely Paleozoic Dinomischus, a Karma Cut; Paleozoic Olenoides, a Dust Tornado; and Paleozoic Canadia, a Book of Moon. All three are useful for disrupting your opponent, and then you can revive them with their own effects from the graveyard right afterwards. That one-two punch of activating powerful traps and then Special Summoning them means Paleozoics have some of the cleanest card economy we've seen in a while. They can even trigger off of your opponent's traps, forcing your opponent to think before they flip up their Metalfoes Combination, Dimensional Barrier, or Waboku.

Because they're Level 2 Aquas, you can use them for a number of Rank 2's, namely Toadally Awesome and Paleozoic Opabinia. Both have effects that can easily turn the tide of the duel, and they quickly Weed Out rogue decks that don't have enough stopping power to deal with that many effects at once.

Triple Swap Frog, triple Dupe Frog, and double Ronintoadin flesh out the Paleozoic engine by potentially setting up first turn Xyz Summons. If you have Swap Frog and any other Water you can make whichever Rank 2 you choose, and if it's Toadally Awesome you'll immediately recover your -1 by Special Summoning Dupe Frog during your opponent's Standby Phase. The only downside is when you draw Dupe Frog or Ronintoadin without Swap Frog, or when you just draw a single Swap Frog with no Waters.

The standard Paleozoic Frogs deck is obviously a contender, but it lacks in consistent Turn 1 boards outside of setting four backrow and passing. Let's take a look at why that drove Reye to play Upstart Golden Ninja, and how it could affect the strategy going forward.

    Ninja Paleozoic Frogs William Reye    
  Location:  Regional - 2016-12-10 Philadelphia Pennsylvania - 5th - 8th Place
Main Deck
Side Deck
3 Dupe Frog
2 Ronintoadin
3 Swap Frog
3 Upstart Golden Ninja
Monsters [11]
3 Pot of Desires
Spells [3]
1 Breakthrough Skill
1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
3 Dimensional Barrier
3 Paleozoic Canadia
3 Paleozoic Dinomischus
2 Paleozoic Hallucigenia
1 Paleozoic Marrella
3 Paleozoic Olenoides
2 Paleozoic Pikaia
3 Reckless Greed
3 Solemn Strike
1 Solemn Warning
2 Storming Mirror Force
3 Waboku
Traps [31]
Deck Total [45]
3 Anti-Spell Fragrance
2 Cosmic Cyclone
2 Dark Hole
2 Gameciel, the Sea Turtle Kaiju
2 Maxx "C"
1 Raigeki
3 System Down
Side Deck [15]


1 Bujintei Tsukuyomi
1 Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer
1 Cat Shark
1 Daigusto Phoenix
1 Downerd Magician
1 Number 45: Crumble Logos the Prophet of Demolition
1 Number F0: Utopic Future
2 Paleozoic Anomalocaris
2 Paleozoic Opabinia
1 Sky Cavalry Centaurea
3 Toadally Awesome
Extra Deck [15]

Upstart Golden Ninja's incredibly simple: once per turn, you can discard a trap to Special Summon another Ninja from your deck in defense position. In Paleozoics, Reye's would have used it to get his first Paleozoic in the graveyard while setting up for a Rank 4 in the process.

That first Paleozoic is actually crucial to momentum in the early turns. We've seen players time and time again use Paleozoic Marrella on Turn 1 just to get rid of the other Paleozoic Marrella from their deck. It's worth pointing out that with Upstart Golden Ninja in the mix, Reye only played a single Marrella because it wasn't as necessary.

Once Reye boarded two Ninjas the main Rank 4 he'd be making would be Bujintei Tsukuyomi. A staple in ABC-Buster Dragon decks, Bujintei Tsukuyomi's great for accelerating graveyard strategies and digging towards more combo cards. In Paleozoic Frogs, Reye could use it to not only pitch extra Paleozoics in his hand that he didn't need, but also to draw into his best cards. Swap Frog, Dimensional Barrier, and Solemn Strike all would have been top picks for his draws, but in reality any traps he drew would have been fantastic. Reckless Greed, Storming Mirror Force, and Wabuko would have provided unique bonuses to his established field, and often would have been enough to outpace his opponent when you factor in the discarded trap.

If he drew Upstart Golden Ninja going second, he could use it to make Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer. Paleozoic Frogs can run into some difficulty finding instant spot removal, so Castel was a worthwhile inclusion for when he needed to get rid of a Pendulum Scale or problematic face-up card, such as Denko Sekka or Jinzo.

In other words, Upstart Golden Ninja solves a lot of problems, especially on Turn 1. Bujintei Tsukuyomi's incredible in a deck that generally wants a ton of cards in the grave, and it also evens out worse hands with awkward Paleozoics or Ronintoadin. It's a tech choice that virtually nobody was playing, and Reye used it to dominate a Regional Qualifier full of Metalfoes, Paleozoic Frogs, and ABC-Buster Dragon.

 Upstart Golden Ninja
Upstart Golden Ninja57721
Set Order of Chaos
Number ORCS-EN031
Level 4
Type Effect Monster
Monster Warrior
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 500 / 1000
Rarity Common
Card Text

Once per turn: You can send 1 Trap Card from your hand to the Graveyard; Special Summon 1 Level 4 or lower "Ninja" monster from your Deck in face-up Defense Position or face-down Defense Position.

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Going forward, I think Reye's success shows that Paleozoic Frogs still have room to grow. To my knowledge, there hasn't been another top cut finish with Upstart Golden Ninja in this strategy, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a repeat in the coming weeks. Small, three-card engines like this can often work wonders to raise the performance ceiling of an acknowledged strategy, and that's important for a deck that's so much slower than the rest of the competition. Having access to Castel so you can out would-be problem monsters like Denko Sekka is huge, too, and at the very least I could see it Side Decked for that reason.

Reye's achievement was unique and interesting, and I can't wait to see how players use this in coming Regional Qualifiers!

-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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