Side Deck Theory: Thunder King Rai-Oh

Kelly Locke

9/27/2017 11:00:00 AM

When the Forbidden & Limited List hit last week I went searching for new Side Deck cards that might fit into the new format. Thanks to the prevalence of Zoodiacs, Side Decks haven't changed much since Maximum Crisis. The last major shift in Side Deck choices was the result of True Dracos, which encouraged more players to run Kaijus, Cosmic Cyclone, and Ash Blossom & Winter Cherries.

Otherwise most Side Decks have remained relatively the same all Summer; nearly everyone ran some combination of mass removal, Kaijus, hand traps, and backrow removal. In the majority of Top Cuts there wasn't even much variation between the removal cards and hand traps that were played.

The latest F&L changed the game by taking one specific deck out of the competition and making a couple of key adjustments to popular tech cards. Zoodiacs were demolished, so the the biggest target for Side Deck tech is now out of serious competition. That has huge implications going forward through the release of Circuit Break, and the most immediate impact is that players who were siding strictly anti-Zoodiac cards can now free up space for high-utility choices.

The first deck lists of the new format from Regionals and the Ultimate Duelist Series Invitational should give us a much better picture of the make-up of the competitive scene. We'll talk about those Side Decks next week, but for this week I want to focus on a new personal favorite that's been testing very well for me.

Search Effects Are Everywhere
Last format's top decks heavily relied on search effects, but deck searching disruption never caught on outside of Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring and a Little Droll & Lock Bird.

Anti-search floodgates like Mistake and Thunder King Rai-Oh were exceedingly rare. There's a good reason why those floodgates never caught on: the top decks could easily play around them. Zoodiacs didn't need to add cards from their deck to their hand with Fire Formation - Tenki or Zoodiac Broadbull to make their plays, because Zoodiac Barrage and Zoodiac Ratpier gave them access to the floodgate-busting Zoodiac Drident effectively skirting the disruption laid out for them.

Dinosaurs also had plenty of Special Summons from the deck. Souleating Oviraptor could send a Dinosaur to the graveyard even with Mistake on the field, so only Fossil Dig and Dragonic Diagram were really stopped. Likewise, True Dracos typically set spells and traps from their deck rather than adding them directly to the hand. Dragonic Diagram was the only card stopped by an anti-search floodgate.

Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring became the go-to deck search disruption in all of those match-ups because it could stop more than just effects that added cards to the hand. Its utility made it viable in a format where so many strategies could Special Summon or activate cards directly from the deck. But the top strategies of last format aren't nearly as powerful as they once were. Don't get me wrong: Ash Blossom's still an outstanding pick this format, but I think there's a new opportunity to play other stuff in its place.

 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.

Store Condition Qty Avail Price  
Cardmonstergamez Unlimited - Lightly Played 1 $41.69
WG Pro Unlimited - Lightly Played 1 $41.69
The Deck Box Unlimited - Near Mint 1 $43.41
Pink Bunny Games Unlimited - Lightly Played 1 $44.17
Dice Addiction Pro Unlimited - Lightly Played 1 $44.43
Dabbers Unlimited - Near Mint 1 $47.97
Blue Ox Games 1st Edition - Lightly Played 3 $48.05
Alter Reality Games Unlimited - Near Mint 1 $48.96
Famous Decks 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $49.25
Game Nut Unlimited - Near Mint 1 $49.99

Ash Blossom isn't the be-all end-all solution it once was. With Zoodiacs out of the picture and Dinosaurs and True Dracos weakened there are fewer effects that Special Summon from the deck in competition. The decks rushing to fill the power vacuum include things like Pendulum Magicians, Trickstars, and ABC's. All of them rely on direct card search rather than sending cards to the graveyard or Special Summoning them from the deck. Those strategies are in a unique position where anti-search floodgates are just as effective as Ash Blossom.

The sheer volume of search effects makes a huge difference in the competitive viability of Mistake, Droll & Lock Bird, and Thunder King Rai-Oh. Pendulum Magicians are stocked with search effects and often open with three or four deck-searching cards. Disrupting all of those searches would require multiple Ash Blossoms over several turns, and that's an unreasonable approach. You could mix Ash Blossom with other anti-Pendulum sides like Anti-Spell Fragrance and Dimensional Barrier. That's more valid.

But you can also disrupt an entire search-heavy strategy with an anti-search floodgate. Flipping Mistake near the beginning of your opponent's turn is incredibly powerful; you can essentially block a first turn Pendulum Summon by preventing your opponent from searching Pendulum Monsters to build their Pendulum Scale. Chaining Mistake to Duelist Alliance is a One for One in card economy at worst, and unlike Ash Blossom you're not at the mercy of the remainder of your opponent's search effects.

Ash Blossom & Joyous Springs tends to be more effective when your opponent's resolving a single, crucial search effect. When your opponent needs their search effect to resolve and can't replace it, there's just no better card than Ash Blossom for the job. When that isn't the case, as with Dragonic Diagram when your opponent holds two copies in their hand, you might end up wishing you had a longer lasting solution.

Still The King Of Stun
Lately I've been having success with a pair of sided Thunder King Rai-Oh in various strategies. Its continuous effect prevents search-heavy strategies from reaching their best cards, and unlike hand trap alternatives it doesn't let up at any point in the turn. Ash Blossom negates just a single card, and Droll & Lock Bird has to let a draw or search effect resolve first before activating. If your opponent's holding a Dragonic Diagram and a Terraforming there's very little you can do with Ash Blossom besides forcing them to burn a Field Spell; your opponent can make a choice between activating a second copy of Diagram or waiting until next turn to resolve its effect.

Pendulum Magicians are one match-up where negating a single search effect often isn't enough. The deck plays dozens of search cards and all of them, with perhaps one exception, are equally powerful; Pendulum Call's the only must-negate' of the bunch. Single card disruption isn't nearly as effective as a floodgate in this match-up. Dimensional Barrier, Anti-Spell Fragrance, and anti-search floodgates are in a better position to make your opponent's opening hand mostly irrelevant.

These two examples Dragonic Diagram and the Pendulum Magician match-up highlight Thunder King Rai-Oh's advantages over Ash Blossom. Single negation effects can't handle a high volume of effects with roughly equal importance. That said, Thunder King and most other floodgates are not hand traps, and therefore useless on your opponent's first turn when you're playing second. On the other hand, floodgates are obviously strong when you can field them Turn 1. Thunder King Rai-Oh defended by multiple backrows was once a terrifying and all-too-common Turn 1 set-up. It's still just as good this format with the right support.

Set Fusion Enforcers
Number FUEN-EN035
Type Normal Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

Fusion Summon 1 Fusion Monster from your Extra Deck, using monsters from your hand as Fusion Materials. If Summoning an "Invoked" Fusion Monster this way, you can also banish monsters from your field and/or either player's Graveyard as Fusion Materials. If this card is in your Graveyard: You can target 1 of your banished "Aleister the Invoker"; shuffle this card into the Deck, and if you do, add that card to your hand. You can only use this effect of "Invocation" once per turn.

Store Condition Qty Avail Price  
fanzone 1st Edition - Moderately Played 1 $10.91
The Raticate Nest 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $14.00
CamCom Enterprises 1st Edition - Lightly Played 1 $14.62
Clutch Gaming 1st Edition - Lightly Played 1 $14.95
deneb search altair 1st Edition - Near Mint 2 $15.01
Artisan Gamecraft 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $15.02
DeckedOutBox 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $16.00
Kstamps 1st Edition - Near Mint 10 $16.19
lumina 1st Edition - Near Mint 5 $16.99
Kitchen Table Games 1st Edition - Lightly Played 1 $17.49

Beyond Pendulum Magicians and Dragonic Diagram-fueled strategies, anti-search floodgates put in serious work against Invoked Windwitch, Trickstars, ABC's, and the Spellbook engine. Invoked decks lose access to Magical Meltdown and Aleister the Invoker's search effect. Without an already-developed hand, Rai-Oh's a devastating opening.

Again, Ash Blossom is inconsistent here. There's too much redundant searching in the deck with Terraforming, Magical Meltdown, and Aleister the Invoker.

Trickstars make a more difficult argument. The deck's win conditions can be set up on Turn 1, so a hand trap's a necessity. You can absolutely bring in Thunder King Rai-Oh if you're playing first, but if you're going second you're likely to lose Rai-Oh to Trickstar Reincarnation before you have a chance to use it. Still, Rai-Oh does stop multiple Trickstar Light Stages from resolving, as well as multiple Trickstar Candina searches. One of the reasons why I like siding Droll & Lock Bird in this match-up is because there are so many extra search effects, and letting a Terraforming or Light Stage through often doesn't matter.

Monster Removal Declining
The one-per-deck Limit on Dark Hole and Interrupted Kaiju Slumber has reduced the number of threats to floodgate monsters. There are two fewer board wipes at your opponent's disposal, so even with Raigeki, Dark Hole, Interrupted Kaiju Slumber, and Kaijus themselves there's a fair chance that your opponent won't have an easy way to destroy a Turn 1 Thunder King Rai-Oh. The same can't be said for spell or trap-based floodgates, although increased play of Heavy Storm Duster might give your floodgates another turn on the field. The fewer immediate outs your opponent has to your floodgates, the better.

Thunder King Rai-Oh isn't indestructible, but it is resilient. With 1900 ATK it easily climbs over the majority of Normal Summons among the game's most popular strategies. Its biggest threats are True Dracos and established boards; not bad odds for a Side Deck card. Honest is a problem in the Trickstar match-up, yet your opponent will need to sacrifice a potential search effect or give up a Trickstar Candina Summon to put Trickstar Lycoris on the field. That is, again, without the help of Trickstar Light Stage.

Stun is all about forcing your opponent to make suboptimal choices. Thunder King Rai-Oh used to be the king of Stun strategies with its two disruptive effects and high ATK. Thinking about destroying Rai-Oh by battle? Going into your Extra Deck will likely land your Synchro, Xyz, or Link monster in the graveyard. Pendulum Summoning one monster is also dangerous. The Windwitch engine can bait out Thunder King, but your opponent's giving up a Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon to turn their search effects back on. That's all assuming you didn't back up your Rai-Oh with at least one Solemn Strike.

Pairing Thunder King Rai-Oh with a healthy amount of backrow is the most effective way to make sure its continuous effect makes a long-term impact on the duel. That's always been the optimal way to play Rai-Oh, and if you toss it into a deck with no support you'll see poor outcomes no matter how effective it is in a given match-up.

One Mistake I see from players when siding floodgate monsters is attempting to fit them into decks that don't run many backrow cards. Go all out on floodgate and negation monsters by protecting them with traps and recovering your fallen monsters with Call Of The Haunted and Back to the Front. Challenge your opponent to destroy Rai-Oh or Naturia Beast twice in single turn, and mop up on the following turn after they've spent their resources.

It's Thunder King Rai-Oh's double-edge effect that makes it hard to sell. It's positioned as a budget alternative to Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, but it's not playable everywhere. You need to be able to Normal Summon it without slowing down your own strategy. Failing that, you should have a way to Special Summon it. Rai-Oh's typing isn't particularly helpful in that regard. It's well-suited for Pendulum strategies though, and I think it could find a home in Pendulum Magician mirror matches.

Let me know what you think, and if you've given this card a shot yourself!

Until next time then


Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​ ​​​gamer and writer.​​​ ​​​​​​ ​​​In​​​ ​​​addition​​​ ​​​to​​​ ​​​writing​​​ ​​​on TCGplayer,​​​ ​​​Kelly​​​ ​​​writes​​​ a ​​​​​​ personal​​​ ​​​blog​​​ ​​​ ​​​covering​​​ ​​​Yugioh,​​​ ​​​Destiny,​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​other​​​ ​​​hobbies.​​​ ​​​You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​ ​​​​​​ Twitter​​​ ​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​ Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​ .​​​ ​​​​​​ ​​​He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.

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