Side Deck Theory: Ghost Reaper Flirts With A Comeback

Kelly Locke

6/28/2017 11:00:00 AM

Last week Jason noted a significant jump in online purchases of Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries. The trend was kicked off by the ARGCS in Atlanta Georgia, where Ghost Reaper found its way into numerous decks in the Top 16 and the entirety of the Top 4. That was enough to get player's attention and led to it being the most-sold card on TCGplayer. For a time the lowest available copies were $20, but since then it's fallen to roughly $15-17.

Did the excitement around Ghost Reaper dry up in just a few days, or are there other factors involved? As Jason mentioned, there's a bit of speculation going around that Ghost Reaper won't be in the 2017 Mega-Packs. Reprints from Shining Victories are confirmed for those tins, but in the past we've seen desirable Secret Rares mysteriously not show up in them. Remember Qliphort Monolith? Personally I don't find those theories to really be worth much consideration, but if you want to stock up, now might be the time.

ARG events are fascinating because they're regularly attended by groups of dedicated players who are networked together online and through longstanding friendships. A lot of these players talk and share tech choices with each other, and if you've ever attended a large Yu-Gi-Oh! event you've probably heard rumors about the cards high-profile players are planning to run. Beyond optimal builds there's another reason why so many duelists enter events with near-identical deck lists: many of them are working together, collaborating on their deck lists and approaches to competition.

 Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries
Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries117933
Set Shining Victories
Number SHVI-EN040
Level 3
Type Tuner/Effect Monster
Monster Zombie
Attribute DARK 
A / D 0 / 1800
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

During either player's turn, if your opponent controls more monsters than you do: You can discard this card; reveal 1 card in your Extra Deck, then look at your opponent's Extra Deck, also banish all cards in their Extra Deck with the same name as that revealed card. You can only use this effect of "Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries" once per turn.

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As a result ARGCS events are difficult to decipher. They're not as widely attended as YCS events, but they often carry similar influence. The cards that end up in the Top Cut receive extra attention and that's not always warranted. Check out the Top 16 from the ARGCS. Anything stand out to you? The sixteen Zoodiac variants in the Top 16 let us make a quick guess about the entry numbers and deck representation at the start of the tournament: it was probably an overwhelming number of Zoodiac builds.

There's no guarantee that the North American World Championship Qualifier will have the same proportions of representation. ARG events are influential, but not always indicative of larger trends in the game. That said, while they don't always tell us where the game was going, they do have an effect on where it will be going. This new direction, if it hasn't already faded away, leads us to a Ghost Reaper-heavy format.

Reaping The Zoo At Atlanta & Chicago
The are two factors to Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries' competitive success. First, you need decks that can manage hand traps, that must be played at a loss in card advantage. Zoodiacs are the ultimate in managing hand traps thanks to their extremely high return on investment and the strength of their one-card play sequences.

Second, Ghost Reaper relies on the impact that eliminating an Extra Deck card can create. There's no reason to run it if banishing a particular monster is only a minor inconvenience for your opponent. Ghost Reaper is effective against Zoodiacs because they lose much of their combo potential when they lose a key Xyz. Winning without Zoodiac Broadbull or Drident can be rough, and banishing Zoodaic Tigermortar can stop plays in their tracks.

If you can find a match-up that's vulnerable to Ghost Reaper, and there are decks that can effectively play it, you're guaranteed to see Reaper show up in at least some builds. Its popularity is largely tied to the prevalence of its most effective match-ups and the availability of alternatives like Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring. Right now the conditions are great for Ghost Reaper, and the ARGCS was an especially good event for it due to the concentration of Zoodiacs.

Another thing contributing to Ghost Reaper's popularity is the prospect of using it as a counter side against other Ghost Reapers. If you banish your opponent's cards before they can banish yours they'll have nothing to reveal for Ghost Reaper's effect. At an event loaded with Zoodiac players many of whom were running Ghost Reaper themselves resolving your own copy before they could resolve theirs could save you a lot of trouble.

There's an actual advantage to going second in a mirror match where both players have Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries. Normally you'd want to go first regardless of hand traps being sided in, but Ghost Reaper's activation condition favors the player making the first move. In a battle of hand traps you don't want to be the one to meet the activation condition before your opponent. Essentially it helps to even out the advantage of going first, and gives you a fighting chance in games that might have been decided by the dice roll otherwise.

 Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring131153
Set Maximum Crisis
Number MACR-EN036
Level 3
Type Tuner/Effect Monster
Monster Zombie
Attribute FIRE 
A / D 0 / 1800
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

During either player's turn, when a card or effect is activated that includes any of these effects: You can discard this card; negate that effect.
- Add a card from the Deck to the hand.
- Special Summon from the Deck.
- Send a card from the Deck to the Graveyard.
You can only use this effect of "Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring" once per turn.

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It's tough to translate the ARG results into predictions for the North American WCQ; Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries was sided as a direct response to the high volume of Zoodiac variants expected at the event. Zoodiac players Main Decking Ghost Reaper might end up with dead cards in Game 1 against Pendulums, Lightsworns, and Demise True Draco. Those decks are all serious contenders this year even if the rest of the field is loaded with Zoodiac variants.

Siding Ghost Reaper might be the best strategy moving forward. It's still going to be extremely effective in the majority of your match-ups, and Pendulum players are likely running both Zoodiac Broadbull and Drident anyways. Likewise, if you're a Zoodiac player you can expect to have Ghost Reaper sided against you, and the best counter to that is to have your own copy. 2017 is certainly shaping up to be the year of the hand traps.

Beyond The WCQ
The next format is just on the horizon, and new game rules are headed our way next month with the debut of Link Summoning in Starter Deck: Link Strike. There's a new set of Extra Deck monsters debuting called Link Monsters, and they're all valid targets for Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries. At launch there are only three Link Monsters available, and then we'll see at least another ten a couple weeks later in Code of the Duelist. Many of the Link Monsters are theme-specific, and it's likely most players will end up running only one or two generic monsters to open up Extra Deck access for older strategies. Those cards might end up being Ghost Reaper's best targets yet.

Losing access to Link Monsters isn't the End of the World, but it can slow down Link themes. Ghost Reaper may see heavy play against Link strategies that abuse a particular Link monster as a play starter, combo enabler, or boss monster. Legacy decks from this format that survive the rule change will try to use Links to keep their old combos going. I think that's where Ghost Reaper will find its home: banishing Links from decks like Zoodiacs and Dinosaurs, keeping them from opening up their Monster Zones.

Anything that interacts with the Extra Deck has enormous potential going forward. It's increasingly clear that Konami's method of innovating the game boils down to adding more monsters that either start or end in the Extra Deck, and Ghost Reaper has a shocking amount of long-term appeal. But like other hand traps its popularity will shift dramatically over time. It's well-positioned right now and remains strong well into next year. But by that time we'll have a much larger arsenal of Link Monsters. It'll be harder for Ghost Reaper to hit cards outside of mirror matches, and even then a bit of Link diversity will let players shrug it off.

Hand trap relevance changes under the Link Summoning rules for another reason: it's now easier than ever to trigger Sangan. Searching out a particular hand trap on your first turn is amazingly powerful, and Sangan shows up in OCG Side Decks alongside hand traps for exactly that reason. You can Summon it either with a Normal Summon or with Tour Guide From the Underworld then send it to the graveyard as a material for a Link Summon. That instantly activates Sangan's effect and searches you Maxx C, Ash Blossom & Joyous Springs, or Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries.

I think Ghost Reaper will end up being a format-shaping card over the next three or four months. At some point it's going to drop off in play, but until then it's easily one of the best hand traps in the game. High relevance, extreme effectiveness, and surprising accessibility compared to Ash Blossom should help boost Ghost Reaper's popularity as we approach the WCQ. I've seen plenty of deck profiles where players described their Ghost Reapers as budget alternatives to Ash Blossom, and I think there's a lot of merit to finding options that fit your budget. We all want to play the most expensive and most valuable cards, but sometimes that just isn't possible.

We'll find out if Ghost Reaper's popularity continues early next month at the final pre-Link WCQ, or if its showing at the ARG was exclusive to that event.

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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