Side Deck Theory: Breaking Down The Final WCQs

Kelly Locke

7/19/2017 11:00:00 AM
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The 2016-2017 competitive season is mostly finished, and next month the World Championship will take place in Tokyo, Japan and bring an end to the pre-Links era of the game.

But before we get there I want to take one last look at the final major event of the season: the North American World Championship Qualifier.

Zoodiacs, True Draco, And Not Much Else
To absolutely no one's surprise, Zoodiacs and True Draco Zoodiacs dominated the WCQs this year. They're indisputably the best decks of the format. Unfortunately event coverage here in North America is less detailed than Europe's data-driven coverage, so we don't have deck representation info outside of the top cuts. But that said, we can make at least one easy assumption: Zoodiacs and True Dracos were almost certainly the most-played decks at the event.

Deck representation at the beginning of an event isn't a perfect forecast of the outcome, but even at the highest levels of competition, a relationship exists between entry numbers and top cut representation. At the start of a format or immediately after a new set release it's possible for a less-competitive strategy to win more often simply because it's played more. That deck tops more often, sees more play with each event, and becomes the ‘deck to beat' despite the comparative strength of competing strategies.

By the end of a format the ‘best deck' is usually well-defined. Any illusions about other strategies fade away, and the community collectively decides that Zoodiacs or Nekroz or Dragon Rulers are the only decks worth playing. We knew right from Raging Tempest that Zoodiacs would be the deck to beat all the way up to, and possibly beyond, the WCQ. That's a terribly boring format if you're not a fan of Zoodiacs, but there are a couple of interesting aspects about this past format that are worth talking about.

The dynamic between Zoodiac variants – specifically pure Zoodiacs, True Draco Zoodiacs, and Kaiju Zoodiacs – was spelled out for us in OCG competition. By the time the final WCQ events came around only the pure and True Draco variants remained in any serious numbers. The finals of the North American WCQ came down to a match-up between Roland Fang's pure Zoodiacs and Chester Henson's True Draco Zoodiacs. Henson claimed 1st Place – an amazing feat and player accomplishment on its own – which did little to answer the question of whether the pure or True Draco variant is better overall. I'd leave it at a toss-up.

 Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King
$26.00
$17.23
$14.92
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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Let's dig into that match-up a bit more. The major competitive difference between the two decks is Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King. It's the defining card of the True Draco engine and a serious obstacle for Zoodiac builds to overcome. Unlike the Zoodiac engine, True Dracos are completely untouched by rule changes in the new Starter Deck: Link Strike. There's more competitive potential for the True Draco variant going forward, and free Summons off True King's Return can even act as fodder for Link Monsters to unleash more Zoodiac Xyz Summons. Popular Side Deck picks against Master Peace will continue to be played well past Code of the Duelist, so My Body as a Shield and Kaijus won't be going anywhere for a while.

From a design perspective it's hard to see what Konami was trying to accomplish with Zoodiacs. The day of their reveal, it was clear that they'd be an incredibly powerful strategy, largely because they circumvented the major drawback of Xyz Summoning. The cost of an Xyz Summon should be a loss of card economy, or at least require a developed graveyard or other cards available to make 1-card Xyz Summons. Zoodiacs throw that out the window with incredible 1-card combos, a dozen ways to make that combo, wit almost no take loss of cards required to build up a massive amount of card advantage.

Zoodiacs have dominated the competitive scene for over six months, and it's unsurprising that players are having some fatigue talking about it. I'm not a fan of discussing the same deck for months on end, especially since the go-to Side Deck choices for the match-up remain the same for long periods of time. With any luck this will be one of the last times we'll have to talk about Zoodiacs and their variants as ‘the only match-up that matters.' Zoodiacs still function under the Link rules, but combined with a solid Forbidden & Limited List there's a chance we might finally see a more level playing field.

Dimensional Barrier Main Deck Punished Pendulums, Helped True Dracos
Two weeks ago I made my best guess at the potential for Pendulum Magicians at the WCQ. The deck was brand new, but it had new support fresh out of Battles of Legend: Light's Revenge. Pendulum Magicians could catch opponent's off-guard if they spent all of their time preparing for other match-ups. It was always a long shot, however, and ultimately the deck didn't make it past the Top 32. The reason? Besides entry numbers there was a noticeable spike in play of Dimensional Barrier; exactly the situation I described in my earlier article.

Unfortunately Pendulum Magicians were only ever going to win the event if Dimensional Barrier trended down, not up. With a huge number of players maining three copies of Barrier there was almost no chance for Pendulums to make it through Day 1.

It was disappointing to see Pendulums failing to meet the competitive level of an Xyz strategy at the end of the ARC-V series. It's a testament to how fragile Pendulums are by comparison to other strategies. No other Summoning mechanic is as negatively impacted by Solemn Strike and Dimensional Barrier.

 Dimensional Barrier
$65.99
$10.91
$7.25
Dimensional Barrier124795
Set Invasion: Vengeance
Number INOV-EN078
Type Normal Trap Card
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

Declare 1 monster card type (Ritual, Fusion, Synchro, Xyz, or Pendulum); for the rest of this turn, neither player can Special Summon monsters of the declared type, also negate the effects of all monsters of that type while they are on the field. You can only activate 1 "Dimensional Barrier" per turn.


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Zoodiac True Draco players and Demise True Dracos enjoyed easier Game 1s against decks maining multiple copies of Dimensional Barrier. True Dracos are unfazed by Barrier's effect, and by playing it Zoodiac players traded other, more useful traps that could destroy Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King.

As a result Master Peace could hit the field more often while monster and spell-immune. That let it dodge My Body as a Shield, Enemy Controller, and Book of Moon, as well as common mass removal like Raigeki and Dark Hole. True Draco players preferred spell immunity for this event anyways, and Dimensional Barrier made that decision even easier.

Macro Cosmos Makes An Early Appearance
The South American WCQ took place just a week prior to the North American WCQ. I wasn't able to discuss it two weeks ago but I don't want you to overlook the 1st Place finisher's Side Deck. Rafael Jose Rodrigues won the WCQ with a fairly usual build of pure Zoodiacs. His Side Deck caught my eye for a seemingly out of place tech choice: Macro Cosmos. Earlier last month Yaowei Zhang made the Top 8 of the Oceanic WCQ with a copy sided in his Demise True Dracos. It's a popular pick in the OCG right now but astonishingly underplayed here.

There are some excellent reasons to give Macro Cosmos a shot right now. First, it interrupts Zoodiac Combos by banishing detached Xyz Materials, Xyz Monsters, and anything sent to the graveyard by Zoodiac Thoroughblade or Zoodaic Ratpier. Targets for Zoodiac Ramram, Shuffle Reborn, and Soul Charge will be banished, and Zodiac Combo's graveyard effect is useless when your opponent can't establish a graveyard.

Yes, it's easily answered by Zoodiac Drident, but starting the duel with Macro Cosmos is immensely helpful. In a pinch Rodrigues could destroy his own floodgate access graveyard effects, though most of the time he wouldn't have to. Macro Cosmos is strong enough to hold back his opponents, or at least bait out a Drident while banishing its materials.

 Macro Cosmos
$5.26
$2.14
$1.42
Macro Cosmos56916
Set Legendary Collection 2
Number LCGX-EN218
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Ultra Rare

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True Dracos have a lot to lose to Macro Comsos. Their spells and traps will end up banished, preventing their effects from activating. For a deck that often relies on sending spells to the graveyard for spell and trap removal this is a huge vulnerability. An empty graveyard offers no targets for True King's Return or Disciples of the True Dracophoenix. True Draco Heritage won't provide draw power if True Draco and True King cards are skipping the graveyard altogether.

Macro Cosmos is big in the OCG as an answer to numerous strategies, although much of its play has been driven by the new Metaphys theme. It's highly effective against Dinosaurs, Lightsworns, and Infernoids. Most importantly: Macro Cosmos and Dimensional Fissure are unlimited in the OCG. That's a stark contrast from the TCG, where they've been Limited since 2013. Both cards could return in an effort to push Metaphys, but the TCG tends to view these cards very negatively. As far as one-of floodgates go Macro Cosmos is among the best, and it's a little surprising that more players haven't given it a shot.

Paleozoics, Pendulum Magicians, and Lightsworns did crack the Top 64 of the North American WCQ, but none of them could change the eventual Zoodiac outcome. In fact, both Pendulums and Lightsworns were playing Zoodiacs anyways. This format has been defined by a single engine for so long that all discussion, from the Main to the Side Deck, has been centered around how to play with or against Zoodiacs. I'll be happy to have a change of pace this month with the Link mechanic, even if we still end up talking about Zoodaics months from now.

Until next time then

-Kelly


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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