Competitive Corner: Top Cut Kozmos?!

Jason Grabher-Meyer

3/3/2017 11:02:00 AM
 Comments

Kozmos have been topping repeatedly since New Year's, and it's about time we take a look at that.

Previously one of the best-loved strategies in the game, Kozmos debuted in Clash of Rebellions at a less than auspicious time: competition had been dominated by Nekroz for months, and players were feeling choked out by the lack of strategies that could tackle it. The deck was on its way out, debuting in February of 2015 and having guided competition all summer long, but it was still huge when CORE hit in August.

Marking the start of a new cycle of World Premiere themes in the TCG, Kozmos were still in their infancy; nobody really thought they'd be an immediate competitor since the theme only had five cards.

But the deck was competitive. Like, immediately. Some subtle details of the strategy gave it surprisingly good positioning against Nekroz right out of the gates, as clever early adopters realized they could make favorable trades against Nekroz monsters with their self-replacing space ships due to the specific ATK numbers involved. Making opportunistic attacks with Kozmo Farmgirl to push more damage than expected, and dodging effects with slick tag-outs, the deck stole a surprising number of Regional Top 8's even with just a handful of cards.

And people ate it up. Even the players running Nekroz themselves were largely tired of the deck by August, and everyone was already pretty jazzed to see that the latest WP theme was a bizarre mashup of Star Wars and Wizard of Oz. The fact that Kozmos could actually throw down meant an already-well-received theme was suddenly championed as a fan-favorite. And when Dimension of Chaos brought Kozmo Dark Destroyer into the picture three months later and the strategy really took off, Kozmos became one of the biggest decks in competition.

For a time. Breakers of Shadow boosted the strategy even more, but it wasn't long before power creepkicked in and the Forbidden & Limited List curbed Dark Destroyer, and suddenly the Kozmo dream was dead.

…Or at least on hold, because it seems Kozmos are clawing their way back into the tournament scene in a few different forms. While Kozmos suffer from the popularity of a number of commonly-played cards currently played to stop other decks entirely – stuff like System Down and Imperial Iron Wall – they actually make superior use of a few cards other decks are playing too, including some new releases. It's a double-edged sword.

The deck can run into problems with stuff like Kaijus, but it's also resilient to mass removal since it has lots of self-replacing effects, and it's great against Dimensional Barrier since it doesn't care about the Extra Deck or Pendulum Summoning. The result is a quirky competitive outlier that has unique interactions with some of the biggest strategies going, and it plays a number of cards that act a bit differently in Kozmos.

Are we on the verge of a Kozmo comeback? That's debatable. But what's not up for argument is that after several weeks of Top Cut appearances that started late last year, business appears to be picking up.

    Zoodiac Kozmos Mason Blake    
  Location:  YCS - 2017-02-19 Seattle Washington - 17th - 32nd Place
Main Deck
Side Deck
1 Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
1 Kozmo Dark Destroyer
1 Kozmo Dark Eclipser
2 Kozmo Farmgirl
1 Kozmo Forerunner
1 Kozmo Landwalker
2 Kozmo Sliprider
1 Kozmo Soartroopers
1 Kozmo Strawman
3 Kozmo Tincan
1 Kozmoll Dark Lady
2 Maxx "C"
1 Performapal King Bear
1 Speedroid Taketomborg
3 Speedroid Terrortop
3 Zoodiac Ratpier
Monsters [25]
1 Emergency Teleport
3 Kozmotown
1 One for One
1 Raigeki
3 Terraforming
3 Zoodiac Barrage
Spells [12]
3 Dimensional Barrier
1 Kozmojo
1 Vanity's Emptiness
Traps [5]
Deck Total [42]
3 Anti-Spell Fragrance
2 Book of Eclipse
2 Cosmic Cyclone
2 Dark Hole
3 Different Dimension Ground
2 Starlight Road
1 Zoodiac Whiptail
Side Deck [15]

EXTRA DECK

1 Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer
1 Daigusto Emeral
1 Leviair the Sea Dragon
1 M-X-Saber Invoker
1 Number 39: Utopia
1 Number S39: Utopia the Lightning
1 Stardust Dragon
1 The Phantom Knights of Break Sword
1 Totem Bird
1 Zoodiac Boarbow
2 Zoodiac Broadbull
2 Zoodiac Drident
1 Zoodiac Tigermortar
Extra Deck [15]
Notes:


Mason Blake Top 32'd YCS Seattle with this build, and it grabbed my attention because it does so much to innovate the core Kozmo strategy. When we last saw Kozmos reliably topping, the deck came in two flavors: a Card of Demise variant that went trap-heavy to play a quick grind game, and a Fire King Island version that aimed to set up with control-oriented monsters on Turn 1, weather the storm, and then press for a win.

This deck doesn't take either of those approaches. There's no Card of Demise, nor is there the related focus on card advantage and grinding defense. It only plays five traps so I can't even attempt that playstyle – there's no Call Of The Haunted or Oasis of Dragon Souls for that long war of attrition, abusing Kozmo Tincan. At the same time it doesn't play Cyber Dragon Infinity nor the Fire King Island and Fire King Avatar Garunix that made Infinity so possible in Kozmos, and it only runs one Kozmoll Dark Lady.

Instead, the deck's an extremely focused build that aims for consistency instead of card advantage or big set-ups. It doesn't do a ton of crazy stuff by today's standards, though it can kick out a respectable Turn 1 about as well as any deck that runs Zoodiac Ratpier. What's cool is that while Zoodiacs are appearing everywhere as a Rank 4 toolbox for big opening turns, Blake had an ulterior motive in using them. You'll notice that while Blake runs all the Rank 3's and Rank 4's you'd expect to see in a deck playing Speedroids and Zoodiacs, one Main Deck monster is missing: Zoodiac Whiptail.

The typical Zoodiac Combo sees you kick things off with Zoodiac Ratpier, and then play through a sequence of Zoodiac Xyz to end with a field of Zoodiac Drident and another Rank 4 (often Daigusto Emeral to recycle your Ratpiers). Along the way, Zoodiac Broadbull searches Zoodiac Whiptail, adding 1200 ATK to a potential attack with a Zoodiac Xyz and offering a powerful banishing effect. But Blake didn't play Whiptail because he planned to search something else: Performapal King Bear.

 Kozmo Tincan
$9.99
$8.95
$7.20
Kozmo Tincan111181
Set Breakers of Shadow
Number BOSH-EN082
Level 1
Type Effect Monster
Monster Psychic
Attribute LIGHT 
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

During either player's turn: You can banish this card; Special Summon 1 Level 2 or higher "Kozmo" monster from your hand. You can only use this effect of "Kozmo Tincan" once per turn. Once per turn, during the End Phase: You can pay 500 LP; reveal 3 "Kozmo" cards with different names from your Deck, your opponent randomly picks 1 for you to add to your hand, and you send the rest to the Graveyard.


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When you activate King Bear as a Pendulum Spell, you can destroy it in the End Phase to get a Level 7 or higher monster from your graveyard or Extra Deck, back to your hand. So Blake's plan was to search it by going off with a Zoodiac Combo, fielding his Drident and another Rank 4, and then Summon Kozmo Tincan. He'd use Tincan's effect for three different spaceships: almost always Kozmo Dark Destroyer and two others. That's typical for Kozmos, but previous versions of the deck would've relied on Call Of The Haunted or Oasis of Dragon Souls to revive Kozmo Dark Destroyer if Kozmo Tincan didn't deliver it to your hand.

Blake's deck played differently: if he failed to grab Dark Destroyer off Tincan, he could throw down Performapal King Bear, pop it in the End Phase, and get it that way. And while that combo requires two Summons – you have to field Zoodiac Ratpier and Kozmo Tincan – the ability to start the Zoodiac plays with Speedroid Terrortop, or get to Tincan with Emergency Teleport, meant he could fudge a sort of Double Summon arrangement as needed.

And that made the Kozmo strategy more consistent. But it wasn't the only search effect that was putting in more work to get Blake to precisely whatever cards he needed. Kozmotown's long been acknowledged as one of the best Field Spells in the game, in large part for its self-replacing text: if it's destroyed from your Field Zone by a card effect, you can search your deck for any “Kozmo” card and add it to your hand. In the past we've seen Kozmo players go so far as to run Mystical Space Typhoon and just blow away their own Kozmotown to make that happen in a pinch.

Zoodiac Barrage meant Blake wouldn't have had to resort to such extreme measures. Barrage is great almost anywhere: you can activate it, destroy it with its effect, and immediately Special Summon Zoodiac Ratpier from your deck. Conventional Zoodiac strategies abuse it with Fire Formation – Tenki; activate Tenki for a free plus, then blow it away with Zoodiac Barrage for a free Special Summon. And that's awesome. That play is shaping competition right now, don't get me wrong. But it might be even better in Kozmos.

Blake could activate Kozmotown, use its effect, and pay Life Points to get back a banished Kozmo as a +1 of card economy. From there he could activate Zoodiac Barrage and destroy Kozmotown to Special Summon Ratpier, triggering Kozmotown's search in the process. It's a two-card combo that delivers an immediate +2 and searches both Zoodiac Ratpier for your Zoodiac plays, as well as whatever Kozmo card you need to follow up. It leaves Zoodiac Barrage on the field for further abuse, and even if you make the play too early to get back any banished cards, it effectively sets up that Performapal King Bear combo by fielding the Zoodiacs without eating your Normal Summon, and getting you Kozmo Tincan.

That makes Kozmos faster and more consistent, while fielding Rank 4's that can cause disruption on your opponent's turn. It's a strong reinvention of the core Kozmo strategy, and it's got real competitive merit. Like so many Kozmo decks before it, the deck has a lower power ceiling than other strategies, but it's still high enough to win the game. Daniel Contreras topped the Atlanta Regional a week later with a Kaiju Zoodiac Kozmo deck, but I really like Blake's focus on consistency over the higher power ceiling of Kaijus. At some point, when power creep gets out of control, consistency becomes the most meaningful aspect of competition.

Meanwhile one week before YCS Seattle, Jarod Anderson played a different build to a Top 8 finish at the Regional Qualifier in Lubbock Texas.

    Artifact Demise Kozmos Jarod Anderson    
  Location:  Regional - 2017-02-11 Lubbock Texas - 5th - 8th Place
Main Deck
Side Deck
1 Artifact Beagalltach
1 Artifact Moralltach
2 Artifact Scythe
1 Kozmo Dark Destroyer
1 Kozmo Dark Eclipser
2 Kozmo Farmgirl
1 Kozmo Forerunner
3 Kozmo Sliprider
1 Kozmo Strawman
3 Kozmo Tincan
1 Kozmoll Dark Lady
Monsters [17]
2 Artifact Ignition
3 Card of Demise
1 Emergency Teleport
3 Kozmotown
3 Pot of Duality
Spells [12]
3 Artifact Sanctum
3 Call of the Haunted
2 Kozmojo
2 Oasis of Dragon Souls
3 Solemn Strike
1 Solemn Warning
Traps [14]
Deck Total [43]
2 Anti-Spell Fragrance
2 Artifact Lancea
1 Gadarla, the Mystery Dust Kaiju
1 Gameciel, the Sea Turtle Kaiju
3 Interrupted Kaiju Slumber
1 Kumongous, the Sticky String Kaiju
2 Maxx "C"
1 Radian, the Multidimensional Kaiju
1 Raigeki
1 Torrential Tribute
Side Deck [15]

EXTRA DECK

1 Artifact Durendal
1 Chimeratech Rampage Dragon
3 Constellar Pleiades
1 Constellar Ptolemy M7
2 Cyber Dragon Infinity
1 Cyber Dragon Nova
2 Gaia Dragon, the Thunder Charger
1 Number 61: Volcasaurus
1 Shark Fortress
1 Wind-Up Arsenal Zenmaioh
1 Wind-Up Zenmaines
Extra Deck [15]
Notes:


This deck looks a lot more like earlier builds from times gone by. There's no Zoodiac engine nor are there any Kaijus, as Anderson played for a more grindy approach with Card of Demise and a bigger trap lineup. Triple Call Of The Haunted and double Oasis of Dragon Souls let him recycle Kozmo Tincan and big spaceships, but they also offered a ton of synergy with Artifacts. With five revival cards plus triple Artifact Sanctum, the deck had a ton of chainable cards that could outplay opposing monster removal as well as spell and trap hate. He could kick out a lot of different effects on his opponent's turn.

Artifact Scythe is tremendous right now, and I'm surprised that Artifacts aren't even more popular than they are. The ability to shut down your opponent's Extra Deck is huge, and the chance to do it again and again by reviving Artifact Scythe is tremendous. I've heard Artifact Sanctum and Scythe dismissed as an inferior Dimensional Barrier, and I don't think that's really an accurate comparison.

Beyond the Artifacts, the option to make recursive plays with Kozmos stops Call Of The Haunted and Oasis of Dragon Souls from being redundant in the mid-game, or worse yet, dead in the early game. Anderson's build is reaching a bit further than Blake's more focused take on the strategy, but he's weaving together a lot of synergy to hold everything together and keep it all reliable.

The one thing I'm surprised we haven't seen yet is that signature Hanko Chow tech most people seem to have ignored entirely: Number 59 Crooked Cook. Chow played it in his Artifact Kaiju Zoodiacs to a Top 8 finish a couple weeks ago, running it to cut his opponents off from Kaiju Slumber.

 Interrupted Kaiju Slumber
$12.00
$3.39
$1.80
Interrupted Kaiju Slumber111188
Set Breakers of Shadow
Number BOSH-EN089
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

Destroy as many monsters on the field as possible, then Special Summon in Attack Position, 2 "Kaiju" monsters with different names from your Deck (1 on each side), but they cannot change their battle positions, and must attack, if able. During your Main Phase, except the turn this card was sent to the Graveyard: You can banish this card from your Graveyard; add 1 "Kaiju" monster from your Deck to your hand. You can only activate 1 "Interrupted Kaiju Slumber" per turn.


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If you're not familiar, the quick recap is this: you Zoodiac into Drident, and instead of finishing the combo with Daigusto Emeral or another conventional Rank 4, you Xyz Summon Crooked Cook. Its effect lets you detach one of its Xyz Materials to destroy all of your other cards, and then Crooked Cook gets +300 ATK until the end of the turn for each card you destroyed.

That reads as one of the worst effects of all time, but it works on either player's turn, and it combos with Crooked Cook's other ability: when you control nothing but Crooked Cook it's unaffected by other cards' effects. Chow used that to null Interrupted Kaiju Slumber. If his opponent activated Slumber he could chain Crooked Cook's ability to blow away all his cards, and suddenly Slumber wouldn't destroy any monsters. If Slumber doesn't destroy any monsters it can't Special Summon anything.

Chow used that ability in conjunction with a set Artifact Scythe whenever possible, ensuring that his opponent couldn't Special Summon something big enough to get over the now-boosted Crooked Cook. It would buy him the time and opportunity to go off next turn for a win, and I'm not sure why everybody and their mother isn't playing the card as a result. But that trick is especially cool in Kozmos, because even if you don't run Artifacts, you can use Crooked Cook to pop your own Kozmo spaceships and trigger their Special Summon abilities.

When you do, your Kozmos will be cleared from the field before Interrupted Kaiju Slumber can destroy them, and their self-replacing effects will form a new chain, giving you an instant field for next turn. Roll a destroyed Kozmotown into the deal and you've got a really strong play opponents won't see coming. Anderson's deck can't make great use of that due to his lack of Rank 4 potential, but Crooked Cook could add another layer to Blake's already-impressive deck.

Kozmos are more competitive than they look. The factors that would appear to hold them back aren't as problematic as you might think, and their subtle advantages over major trends are more important than many assume. Combined with synergies that make already-popular cards even more dangerous, there's a ton of potential here.

Big congrats to Contreras, Anderson, and Blake for seeing that opportunity and innovating to meet it.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer


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