Side Deck Theory: WCQ Roundup

Kelly Locke

7/3/2017 11:00:00 AM

The end of the competitive season is here! The final World Championship Qualifier of the season is this week in Chicago. It's the biggest dueling weekend of the year, and not just because of the massive main event. There are plenty of Side Events to take part in over the weekend. I've always enjoyed The Atmosphere at the North American WCQs as competitors, friends, content makers, vendors, Konami officials, and even voice actors get the chance to meet one another. It's like a giant yearly meet-up for the Yu-Gi-Oh! community.

That said, this event is as serious as it gets for most North American players. Scoring an invite to the World Championship is a lofty goal, but it's worth chasing. Winners see themselves promoted to stars in the community - if they weren't there already - and representing North America at the World Championship is a dream come true for thousands of aspiring duelists. Of course, the bragging rights are nice too.

This week we're zeroing in on the NA WCQ by analyzing the WCQ events in Europe and Central America. Both events give us a bit of foresight into what our competitive environment should look like. There's no way to predict surprising and successful rogue strategies, but we can try to pin down as many likely outcomes as possible. The best way to increase your consistency and your chance at tournament success is to be as prepared as possible while reducing the random chance that's inherent in the game.

Deck Representation & Success
There's a school of thought in Yu-Gi-Oh! strategy that says you should always attempt to find and play ‘the best deck'. Konami's balancing is such that, most of the time, there's one strategy that stands among the rest. It's the deck to beat and the standard against which decks should be measured. For now that deck is Zoodiacs, and so far it's absolutely dominated the WCQs.

Europe had 1,319 players in total, and 377 – more than one quarter – were playing pure Zoodiacs. That's not even counting close variants, like True Draco Zodiacs and Kaiju Zoodiacs. Both hybrids are differentiated by less than ten cards, so it's almost unfair to separate them when they're largely the same strategy. Combined, they account for 620 players, or 47% of all decks at the event.

When nearly half of the decks at a WCQ are essentially the same deck it gives us a pretty clear indication as to what's going to happen at the NA event. Zoodiacs will be by far the most represented strategy at Chicago, but is it ‘the best deck'? That might seem like a strange question, especially considering the Top 16 at Europe was represented entirely by Zoodiacs. No other strategy was able to crack the Top 16 despite a few good attempts in the Top 32.

Still, a format with low diversity offer opportunities for innovative players who are willing to take risks with decks outside of Zoodiacs and True Dracos. The best deck might not be the deck that everyone's playing. Instead, it could be a deck that can sweep in an win that match-up consistently enough to steal the event.

Demise True Dracos were the second-most represented deck at the European WCQ. They accounted for just under 18% of the total entrants with 235 players. On paper the deck has a great Zoodiac match-up and solid match-ups elsewhere, but its power ceiling is so much lower than Zoodiacs. Busted Turn 1 set-ups are rarer in True Dracos where many of the deck's key spells and traps are unsearchable. Zoodiacs are just more consistent overall, and that makes a huge difference over the course of a long event.

 Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King
Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King131141
Set Maximum Crisis
Number MACR-EN024
Level 8
Type Effect Monster
Monster Wyrm
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 2950 / 2950
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

To Tribute Summon this card face-up, you can Tribute Continuous Spell/Trap Card(s) you control, as well as monsters. Unaffected by the effects of cards with the same card type (Monster, Spell, and/or Trap) as the original card type of the cards Tributed for its Tribute Summon. Once per turn, during either player's turn, if you control this Tribute Summoned monster: You can banish 1 Continuous Spell/Trap Card from your Graveyard, then target 1 other card on the field; destroy it.

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Invoked Windwitch clocked in third behind Zoodiacs, True Dracos, and True Draco Zoodiacs. From a North American perspective it's an odd choice: Invoked Windwitch hasn't performed well in a major event here yet. However, it did make a showing at an event in Europe. Joel Ramershoven won the German Nationals with Invoked Windwitch and set off a new wave of excitement for the deck. Players have been desperate to find any deck that could give them an edge against Zoodiacs, and for a week Invoked looked like it could be that deck. Unfortunately only one player, Mikael Westlund, made the Top 32 with Windwitches. I'd guess that Invoked will still be underrepresented at the NA WCQ, but they'll definitely have a stronger showing thanks to the German Nationals.

Next, let's talk about True King Dinosaurs. They were represented fifth overall, but none of them made the Top 32. Just three made Day 2, and that's led many players to question their viability for the NA WCQ. Doug has been working hard to make the deck as competitive as possible, but overall I'd expect to see an even smaller proportion of players running the deck this weekend. There are some new opportunities that North American players have access to that will make Dinosaurs a less attractive option. Speaking of which, let's talk about two strategies that should be more effective here than they were in Europe or Central America.

Pendulums are back thanks to Pendulum Evolution, but European players only had a couple of days to build their decks. They had very little time to do meaningful testing, and almost no tournament experience with the new strategy. We've had a lot more time to experiment and tournament results in Europe to gain insights from.

Magician Pendulums are a potential contender this time around, but it also made serious showings at the European WCQ. Marvin Schmidt made the Top 64 with his build, which included the Zoodiac engine to quickly access multiple Rank 4s like Zoodiac Drident, Daigusto Emeral, and Tornado Dragon. We'll talk more about this deck in another article this week.

Lightsworns are the other deck to watch for this event. Minerva, the Exalted Lightsworn will have a mass release on Friday in Battles of Legend: Light's Revenge. Players who have been looking to run Lightsworns, but haven't been able to get their hands on Minerva, will finally be able to pick it up the Rank 4 Xyz and take it to a major event. We'll probably see a spike in Lightsworn play, however, I'm not sure how effective the deck will be at the event.

Late Trends In Zoodiacs
Players at the WCQs in Europe and Central America showed off some end-of-season techs for Zoodiacs. Not all of these cards are new, but they're all worth noting whether you're considering playing them yourself or picking counter techs for your own strategy. My Body as a Shield was hugely popular among top Zoodaic players at the Europe WCQ and was maxed out in many builds. The 1st Place finisher Marcello Barberi ran three alongside a pair of Pot of Desires, Shuffle Reborn, Enemy Controller, and one copy each of Book of Moon, Soul Charge, and Forbidden Chalice. It's a fascinating build that encapsulates a lot of what the mirror match-centric Zoodiac strategy attempts to accomplish.

None of these cards are particularly ‘new' to Zoodiacs. My Body as a Shield lost a bit of popularity when players discovered they couldn't negate True King's Return, but it might be more popular now than it ever was in the past. It presents an interesting opportunity for True Draco variants to leverage spell-immune Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King and True King's Return to destroy monsters without being negated by My Body as a Shield, effectively leaving your opponent with two or three dead cards in Game 1.

Shuffle Reborn is the Zoodiac answer to opposing Zoodiac Dridents and Master Peace. Destruction as a form of interruption is useless if your opponent can simply restart their combos with Shuffle Reborn. Barberi could, thanks to My Body as a Shield and Shuffle Reborn, force his way through interruption from Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit and other forms of chainable monster removal. Zoodiacs already have inherent advantages when going first, so Barberi rightfully focused his deck on being able to play second when he lost the dice roll. Book of Moon and Soul Charge also contributed to this strategy by flipping Drident, Master Peace, or a floodgate monster face-down, while Soul Charge acted as another copy of Shuffle Reborn.

 Appointer of the Red Lotus
Appointer of the Red Lotus33717
Set Stardust Overdrive
Number SOVR-EN080
Type Trap Card
Monster Trap
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Common
Card Text

Activate by paying 2000 Life Points, and revealing all cards in your hand to your opponent. Look in your opponent's hand and select 1 card. Until your opponent's next End Phase, the selected card is removed from play.

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In 2nd Place Michael Forner played a full three copies of Enemy Controller and three Forbidden Apocrypha. This gave him tremendous control of the field if he was willing to sacrifice his own monsters, which he often was. What got everyone talking over the weekend was the three Appointer of the Red Lotus in his Side Deck. Lotus ends up being talked about whenever Mind Crush is popular, but this might be the first time it's been played while Mind Crush is out of the question. Forner could flip it to see his opponent's hand, rip away a key card, and then know exactly when to use his hand traps and Drident for the rest of the turn. You could also chain it to a True King or True Draco spell or trap to eliminate a monster. True Dracos run extra light on monsters to begin with, so Appointer of the Red Lotus can keep them out of the duel for a turn.

Meanwhile, Pedro Benhumea finished first at the Central America WCQ with Pure Zoodiacs and a Main Deck copy of Unending Nightmare. It's an increasingly popular pick in Zoodiacs for shutting down Zoodiac Barrage, Fire Formation – Tenki, and Dragonic Diagram. Unending Nightmare will only get better as players make the move from True Draco variants to pure Zoodiacs. The resounding success of pure Zoodiacs is fueling that trend, and it might even encourage more counters to Unending Nightmare. Extra copies of Twin Twister in the Main Deck is a likely outcome.

Zoodiacs are among the most versatile strategies the game has ever seen. It's impossible to pin down every last-minute tech, or what secret builds emerge on the Friday before the event. There's a new set dropping the same day and many more practiced Pendulum Magician players attending this time. Still, I don't think anyone will be surprised if Zoodiacs take it again. Here's hoping for some interesting match-ups and duels.

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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