Siding For: Zoodiacs Part 1

Kelly Locke

2/14/2017 11:02:00 AM

Raging Tempest debuted in the OCG four months ago, introducing Zoodiacs to players for the first time. Since then Zoodiacs have remained the undisputed deck to beat in the OCG, crushing virtually every competing strategy along the way. D/D/D's, ABC's, Metalfoes, and Infernoids, even at their maximum strength, fell short of the overwhelming card advantage generated by the Zoodiac engine.

Currently the OCG is experiencing a format that's looking an awful lot like the days of Performage Performapals, Nekroz, or even Dragon Rulers and Spellbooks. There's one engine, everyone plays it, and rogue strategies are highly unlikely to see much success. Not every build is the same, but there are enough commonalities that it can seem as though you're playing against the same deck for the majority of your matches. I won't bother arguing the merits or criticism of a single-deck format. Love it or hate it, this is the situation we find ourselves in now.

Raging Tempest arrived in the TCG last week and gave players here there first glimpse at the new competitive landscape. They're definitely the highlight of RATE alongside That Grass Looks Greener. The market price of Zoodiac Barrage and Zoodiac Drident indicate enormous demand from players. YCS Seattle is this weekend so it's no surprise that players are trying to build Zoodiacs as quickly as possible.

This week we're tackling the Zoodiac match-up in two parts. This article will cover the deck itself, how it plays, what cards are important, and where its vulnerabilities are. In the next article we'll check out the best Side Deck cards to exploit those vulnerabilities.

Welcome To The Jungle
The Zoodiac mechanic combines the “Xyz Evolution” mechanic – first introduced with Number C39: Utopia Ray – with the effects of Digital Bugs, Star Seraphs, and other monsters that grant Xyz Monsters special effects when used as Xyz Materials. Each of the four Zoodiac Xyz in Raging Tempest, as well as the two in Maximum Crisis, can be Summoned once per turn using any Zoodiac with a different name as the only Xyz Material. Each Zoodiac Main Deck and Extra Deck monster can be traded for another Zoodiac Xyz in addition to those monster's normal Xyz Summoning requirements.

Outside of Zoodiac Broadbull the remaining Zoodiac Xyz are difficult to Summon normally. Zoodiac Tigermnortar, Zoodiac Drident, and Zoodiac Boarbow require three, four, and five Level 4 monsters respectively. That's a little extreme, so you can usually bet on your opponent sticking to Broadbull when they can't evolve a Zoodiac. That brings us to the strategy's first vulnerability: they typically can't Xyz Summon their key monsters more than once per turn. It would take some serious work to put a second Drident on the field, so if you can stop the first one it's unlikely you'll have to stop a second copy in the same turn.

The Main Deck monsters are the core of the Zoodiac engine, particularly Zoodiac Ratpier. Ratpier is the MVP of the theme with its second ability: it gives a Beast-Warrior Xyz an extra effect, allowing it to Summon another Ratpier from the deck by detaching an Xyz Material. Keep in mind that this is an additional ability, so the Xyz Monster still retains its printed effect. Once you've Summoned and overlaid a monster on Ratpier you can detach a material, Summon another copy, and repeat the process. You can easily Summon three Ratpier in a single turn, turning them into three Zoodiac Xyz.

The deck's reliance on Zoodiac Ratpier is another point of vulnerability. The theme is much slower without Ratpier, requiring Zoodiac Barrage to double up on Summons. There are still great plays to make, but Ratpier's effect is the primary appeal. If you take Ratpier out of the game you'll weaken the engine severely. Not necessarily enough to cripple it, but it does make certain openings and combos unplayable.

 Zoodiac Drident
Zoodiac Drident127308
Set Raging Tempest
Number RATE-EN053
Level 4
Type Xyz/Effect Monster
Monster Beast-Warrior
Attribute EARTH 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

4 Level 4 monsters
Once per turn, you can also Xyz Summon "Zoodiac Drident" by using 1 "Zoodiac" monster you control with a different name as Xyz Material. (If you used an Xyz Monster, any Xyz Materials attached to it also become Xyz Materials on this card.) This card gains ATK and DEF equal to the ATK and DEF of all "Zoodiac" monsters attached to it as Materials. Once per turn, during either player's turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card, then target 1 face-up card on the field; destroy it.

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Any competent Zoodiac player will use the best combos to load their field with Xyz, and eventually end with Zoodiac Drident, Daigusto Emeral, and other monsters depending on whether the player is going first or second, what the match-up is, and what the field currently looks like. There are a lot of solid options to end on, and since the engine is so easily kickstarted you can see why it's so appealing. However, there's yet another vulnerability in the lengthy combos involved with the Xyz Monsters and the repeated Summoning of Zoodiac Ratpier: the combos are fragile and require a huge number of Special Summons.

The end field is mostly protected by Zoodiac Drident, which is like a slightly weaker but more cost effective version of ABC-Dragon Buster. Drident can destroy any face-up card by detaching during either player's turn, but since it both targets and destroys it's considerably less scary than Dragon Buster. Its ATK is also relatively low, depending on which cards are attached to it. Zoodiac Whiptail is commonly attached via its effect to add 1200 ATK to Drident, and if Drident's attacked Whiptail's imparted effect will banish whatever it battles. Still, Drident doesn't have any built-in protections to Dark Hole, Raigeki, or most other forms of monster removal that Dragon Buster can dodge.

The fragility of the ending Zoodiac field is yet another vulnerable point, but keep in mind that the investment required to build that field is minimal. In fact, it only takes one card. Every other card can be put into defensive options like hand traps, Solemns, Dimensional Barrier, or even a hard counter to mass removal like Starlight Road to prevent blowouts. More likely than not your opponent will be playing enough Zoodiacs that two or three of their five-card starting hand will be themed monsters. Ideal hands will have a solid ratio of reactive and proactive tech, plus just enough Zoodiacs to make the engine work.

Looking At OCG Builds
At the time of writing I don't know exactly what TCG builds of Zoodiacs will look like. Adding to the mystery is the capacity of Zoodiacs to act as an engine for existing strategies. There are so many combinations out there, like Zoodiac Metalfoes, Zoodiac ABCs, Zoodiac Infernoids, Zoodiac...everything. There are so few decks in the game that can't play the engine that it's usually easier to list those instead of listing the decks that can.

If you've been paying attention to the OCG you've seen many of those hybrids not just being played, but winning events regularly too. Any deck that wants to destroy its own cards can get immediate value from Zoodiac Barrage, which might replace Metalfoes in a number of hybrid strategies. Think Zoodiac Subterrors with Subterror Nemesis Archer, Zoodiac Yang Zings, or Zoodiac Shaddolls.

The OCG format features weakened D/D/D and ABC decks, stronger Infernoid builds, Harpie's Feather Duster, no Majespecter Unicorn - Kirin, one Speedroid Terrortop, and Imperial Order. Terrortop's Limit in the OCG is extremely relevant for Zoodiacs because of M-X-Saber Invoker, and Fire Formation - Tenki further reduces the odds of seeing Zoodiac Ratpier on Turn 1. While other match-ups are a bit stronger here keep in mind that both Terrortop and Tenki are unlimited. Zoodiacs will be much more consistent, and without Ghost Ash & Spring Flowers from Maximum Crisis there are fewer hand traps to counter them.

 Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit115837
Set Premium Gold: Infinite Gold
Number PGL3-EN052
Level 3
Type Tuner/Effect Monster
Monster Psychic
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 0 / 1800
Rarity Gold Rare
Card Text

During either player's turn, when a monster on the field activates its effect, or when a Spell/Trap Card that is already face-up on the field activates its effect: You can send this card from your hand or your side of the field to the Graveyard; destroy that card on the field. You can only use this effect of "Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit" once per turn.

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Pure Zoodiacs are playing over ten hand traps in the Main Deck, including Maxx “C”, Flying “C”, Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, and Ghost Ash & Spring Flowers. The last time we saw a deck playing this many hand traps was Dragon Rulers. It's yet another parallel between the two obnoxiously overpowered themes. The engine's consistency and minimal card count leaves plenty of extra space for hand traps, Kaijus, or another theme altogether. Kaiju Zoodiacs are popular in the OCG in response to a post-Maximum Crisis build called Master Peace Zoodiacs, which relies on Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King.

OCG tournament results reveal that Zoodiacs are dominating the field, representing the overwhelming majority of decks scoring top finishes at major events. It's no surprise that OCG builds are geared specifically towards the mirror match, but it might not be quite so easy here in the TCG. The deck's hardest match-ups won't be against other variations of itself, but against the hugely explosive strategies that can easily overcome its defensive set-ups. While D/D/D's and ABC's lose to Zoodiac Drident and Ghost Ogre, other decks like Infernoids, Mermails, and Metalfoes might have better odds.

Zoodiacs win games by effortlessly cranking out Xyz with the absolute minimum card investment. Even if you can knock out their field you've only destroyed a set-up that cost them a single card, and most likely you'll still have to contend with everything else they drew into. That's an extremely difficult position to win out of, and it's yet another reason why going first is so important these days. You have to be able to out-card your opponent by neutralizing their field with as few cards as possible, or simply overwhelm them with your own card advantage. That's what makes Infernoids and Pendulums so strong here, and it's also a big reason behind the appeal of Zoodiacs in general. If your opponent's playing them, running the engine yourself at least puts you on equal footing.

If you're not playing a deck with an strong match-up against Zoodiacs, fear not. In Part 2 we'll talk about the specific cards you can side, or play in your Main Deck, to push the match-up in your favor. There's are a lot of options to consider, and we'll cover as many as we can.

Until next time then


Kelly​​ ​​Locke​​ ​​is​​ ​​a​​ ​​West​​ ​​Michigan​​ ​​gamer,​​ ​​writer,​​ ​​and​​ ​​college​​ ​​student.​​ ​​​​ ​​In​​ ​​addition​​ ​​to​​ ​​writing​​ ​​on TCGplayer,​​ ​​Kelly​​ ​​writes​​ ​​​​personal​​ ​​blog​​​​ ​​covering​​ ​​Yugioh,​​ ​​Destiny,​​ ​​and​​ ​​other​​ ​​hobbies.​​ ​​You​​ ​​can follow​​ ​​him​​ ​​on​​ ​​​​Twitter​​​​ ​​and​​ ​​check​​ ​​out​​ ​​his​​ ​​​​Youtube​​ ​​channel​​.​​ ​​​​ ​​He​​ ​'s​​ ​​currently​​ ​​studying​​ ​​marketing​​ ​​at Western​​ ​​Michigan​​ ​​University,​​ ​​and​​ ​​hopes​​ ​​to​​ ​​graduate​​ ​​before​​ ​​​​Dragon​​ ​​Ravine​​​​ ​​is​​ ​​Unlimited.

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