Side Deck Theory: YCS Seattle Review

Kelly Locke

2/28/2017 11:00:00 AM

YCS Seattle dispelled every remaining doubt that Zoodiacs have become the new deck-to-beat. Coincidentally Performage Performapals were tearing up the competitive scene almost exactly a year ago. Nekroz were dominating the game in a similar way just two years ago.

If Performage Performapals and Nekroz are any indication, we might see a balance pass on Zoodiacs earlier rather than later. But for now there's no word from Konami on whether or not the Forbidden & Limited List will be updated, which means we have plenty of time to talk about how we're going to continue adapting to a Zoodiac-infested environment.

YCS Seattle's Top 32 looks slightly more diverse on the Event Coverage blog than it actually was. The ten “different” decks listed were mostly Zoodiac-heavy strategies with various degrees of outside tech. According to a quote from the event live stream thirty of the Top 32 decks played Zoodiac Ratpier.

It's clear that the Zoodiac engine is nearly a must for Championship-level play. In the past I've talked about the effect entry numbers has on the odds of a deck appearing in the Top 32, and why we need to take skeptical view of top cut analysis. We don't know how many players entered the tournament with Zoodiacs, or more importantly, how many players entered with non-Zoodiac versions of ABC or Metalfoes.

The two most successful decks in the TCG before Raging Tempest were ABC's and Metalfoes. Only one Metalfoes list appeared in the Top 32, and of course it was packing a handful of Zoodiacs. ABC's were nowhere to be seen following the top cut, and the deck's top cut appearances following the release of RATE have become few and far between. Its two poor match-ups against Zoodiacs and Infernoids have left the deck in a much weaker position than a month ago. ABC's aren't dead, and they're far from unplayable, but they're certainly on the verge of being left behind.

Speaking of being left behind, D/D's have all but vanished from competitive play. They aren't topping Regionals or Championship-level events despite being heavily played earlier this month. They're yet another victim to the power creep in RATE, and were unfortunately badly positioned to compete in a Zoodiac-heavy format. D/D's rely heavily on cards that are easily countered by common Side Deck tech against Zoodiacs – especially Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit.

 Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit122297
Set 2016 Mega-Tins
Number CT13-EN012
Level 3
Type Tuner/Effect Monster
Monster Psychic
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 0 / 1800
Rarity Super 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 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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D/D's and ABC's were hardly the only decks suddenly absent from the Top 32. Yang Zings, particularly Metalfoes Yang Zing, were a serious threat prior to RATE. These days the deck suffers, mostly due to an inability to play against Turn 1 Zoodiac boards. Zoodiac Drident is tricky to navigate around, and that's just the first of any number of obstacles between the Yang Zing player and their successful Synchro Summon.

Paleozoics were highly successful in the past, but only one duelist cracked the Top 32 with it in Seattle. Regional tops for Paleozoics have been on the decline too, although it's hard to tell if that's due to poor match-ups or just a drop in player counts. Either way its seems like the competitive environment is gaining more traps than its losing. Zoodiac strategies and hybrid builds are often running full sets of Solemn Strike and Dimensional Barrier. Trap Holes are finding their way back into decks as Traptrix Rafflesia starts to see play again. Backrow removal will probably be sticking around for a while yet.

Kozmos showed up in the Top 32 through a Zoodiac variant piloted by Mason Blake. The competitive community moved on from Kozmos a long time ago, but the deck has strong match-ups against Infernoids and Zoodiacs right now. Kozmos aren't afraid of destruction effects, aren't bothered by Zoodiac Drident,and Kozmo Dark Destroyer's a surprisingly difficult card to deal with. We're starting to see renewed interest in the deck, and we'll see even more players switching back to Kozmos as time goes on.

Making Side Deck Adjustments
It's tempting to start making more room for Zoodiac and Infernoid Side Deck cards by dropping sides for other decks that are trending down. I think it's a bit early to stop siding for ABC, but that doesn't mean we can't make adjustments. Currently, every Side Deck needs to address the following threats:

1. Solving a Turn 1 Zoodiac field, backrow, and hand. Otherwise, preventing that field from forming.

2. Have enough floodgates to shut out Infernoids.

3. Play cards that keep you from losing to Interrupted Kaiju Slumber, Twin Twisters, or other mass removal cards.

4. Continue siding for rogue match-ups, and places where the Zoodiac engine might not even show up.

I already covered the first two points in my previous three articles on siding for Zoodiacs and siding for Infernoids. I'll hit point three in a future article, which leaves us with point four: which cards do we leave in, and which cards do we take out after assessing YCS Seattle and recent Regional Qualifiers?

The first cards on the chopping block are dedicated sides to ABC's and D/D's. Light-Imprisoning Mirror and Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror have low match-up utility compared to other options. Imperial Iron Wall covers both ABC's and Infernoids, so it's an obvious replacement. Imperial Iron Wall also hits Kozmos, so it's not a bad card to pick up right now in case Kozmos suddenly spike in play. For D/D's, Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit is a great pick, and Forbidden Chalice can help force through a spell or trap. Ghost Ogre's great in several key match-ups, including Zoodiacs, and Chalice has similarly high match-up utility.

 Imperial Iron Wall
Imperial Iron Wall71695
Set Legendary Collection 4: Joey's World
Number LCJW-EN298
Type Trap Card
Monster Trap
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Cards cannot be banished.

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Artifact Lancea and Artifact Scythe both hit several different match-ups each. Lancea takes aim at Infernoids and Kozmos, while Scythe hits Zoodiacs, Metalfoes, Paleozoics, and every other Extra Deck-heavy theme. The Artifact engine's massive match-up utility explains part of its sudden resurgence as Main and Side Deck tech. Lancea has come back from time to time, but it's been a very long time since Artifact Sanctum and Artifact Ignition saw play alongside it. Scythe is extremely dangerous this format and completely shuts down the Zoodiac engine for a turn, so it's no surprise it's popular again. It's perhaps slightly more surprising considering that we already have Dimensional Barrier, which counters the exact same mechanics.

Metalfoes Zoodiac is still performing well at Regionals, so I'd recommend maintaining a strong siding strategy for the match-up. Still, you want to save as much space as possible when building a Side Deck. Anti-Spell Fragrance hits Infernoids by delaying their spells, and works as expected against Metalfoes. Kaijus eat up Majespecter Unicorn - Kirin, Cyber Dragon Infinity, the usual Zoodiac Xyz. Ghost Ogre once again finds home against this match-up. It's almost as if Ghost Ogre is one of the most flexible hand traps in the game…

None of these Side Deck adjustments are made in a vacuum. Players are responding to Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit with My Body as a Shield, answering Artifacts with Forbidden Chalice, and routing anti-Special Summon floodgates with Book of Eclipse and Swords of Concealing Light.

Is There Room At The Top?
Deck diversity is a concern for casual and hardcore players alike, but for different reasons. Some duelists want to see more decks competing and a wider set of options when going into a competitive setting. It's largely a fun-based perspective. Others care about diversity purely from a competitive perspective, and want information about the comparative strengths of decks to help them construct a better Side Deck and choose the best Main Deck tech.

Zoodiacs and their ability to fit anywhere and everywhere has led to a number of decks finding their way back into the competitive scene. Kozmos and Infernoids, for example, owe at least part of their competitiveness to Zoodiacs. If the engine wasn't so splashable the outcome of YCS Seattle would have been twenty or more pure builds, as opposed to a mixture of pure and hybrid builds.

Going forward there's a looming questions of what else can breach top cuts. We're already witnessing experimentation with Zoodiac-infused themes, like Zoodiac Shaddolls. Siding against these variants is tough – each build covers the weakness of Zoodiacs in different ways. Kozmos are strong against pure Zoodiacs because their biggest monsters can't be targeted, but Kaiju-heavy versions stand a better chance.

Zoodiac players have a unique opportunity to explore variants that dodge popular Main and Side Deck tech. Unexpected builds using Zoodiacs have the advantage of potentially making your opponent's tech irrelevant, and the surprise factor alone can easily win games.

It's easy to look at the format and think, “If I don't have Zoodiacs, can I even compete?” Even without Zoodiacs you can find Regional-level success, but the odds do look bleak at the Championship-level. Of course, if you can't beat them, you can always join them in the most minimal way possible. The Zoodiac engine doesn't necessarily need Zoodiac Barrage or a complete Extra Deck to function at a competitive level. Plenty of players are getting away with Fire Formation - Tenki, Zoodiac Ratpier, and one copy of each Zoodiac Xyz.

The post-RATE format is just getting started. There's still plenty of time to innovate.

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​​ ​​is​​ ​​currently​​ ​​studying​​ ​​marketing​​ ​​at Western​​ ​​Michigan​​ ​​University,​​ ​​and​​ ​​hopes​​ ​​to​​ ​​graduate​​ ​​before​​ ​​​​Dragon​​ ​​Ravine​​​​ ​​is​​ ​​Unlimited.

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