Competitive Corner: Max Reynolds' Orbital Burning Abyss

Doug Zeeff

10/10/2017 11:00:00 AM

Burning Abyss: the theme that never disappears completely.

In recent history, the only strategy that's managed to hold its popularity for some many years in so many different eras of Yu-Gi-Oh! would have to be Atlantean Mermails, but Burning Abyss is on a whole new level.

When you think about it, it's not very surprising that Burning Abyss has been relevant for so long. Even when they were restricted by the Forbidden & Limited List, Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss and Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss were incredibly powerful for getting you to, and recycling, your best cards. Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss keeps up the pressure, nabbing free searches in the End Phase. And of course, Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal will always be one of the most versatile Xyz Monsters in the game.

But Link Summoning wrecks a good portion of the Burning Abyss strategy, so most players have shied away from trying it out. All of the Burning Abyss Level 3 monsters blow up if you control a monster that doesn't have the BA name stamp, and because there aren't any Burning Abyss Link Monsters (yet), you can only summon one Extra Deck monster at a time if you want to have Burning Abyss monsters on the field.

While that makes things sound pretty dire, I feel like a lot of people are ignoring just how little work is needed to actually summon Burning Abyss monsters once you get to Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal. After that, you're pretty much just using Cir to revive Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss over and over again. Not to mention that you can use two Burning Abyss monsters for a Link Summon, which triggers their effects!

The Deck
To say I was surprised when Max Reynolds told me he was playing Phantom Knight Burning Abyss at the Garden City Regional Qualifier last weekend would be an understatement. Reynolds is a seasoned competitor with multiple tops under his belt, so I was taken aback when I learned he was going to be piloting such an old deck at a Regional.

When I asked him if he had any tech, he told me he was running Master Peace. That didn't make any sense to me because it seemed like Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King had zero synergy with the other themes. But when the day finally came, I realized Max wasn't playingthe Master Peace: he was playing a Master Peace.

Specifically, he played Orbital Hydralander, a card that's seen no competitive success since it was released as a common in Code of the Duelist. It has a lot of text, so check it out below and then let's break down the key points of its two effects.

 Orbital Hydralander
Orbital Hydralander139199
Set Code of the Duelist
Number COTD-EN035
Level 8
Type Effect Monster
Monster Machine
Attribute DARK 
A / D 3000 / 1500
Rarity Common
Card Text

Cannot be Normal Summoned/Set. Must be Special Summoned (from your hand) by having 5 or more monsters in your GY, and no monsters in your GY with the same name. Once per turn (Quick Effect): You can send the top 3 cards of your Deck to the GY; destroy 1 card on the field. You must have at least 2 monsters in your GY, and no monsters with the same name, to activate and to resolve this effect.

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First, you need five different monsters in your graveyard to be able to summon Orbital Hydralander, and none of them can be duplicates. That sort of requirement pops up frequently in some of the best cards in another popular TCG Hearthstone but most Yu-Gi-Oh! cards don't care whether you have duplicates, such as Judgment Dragon. That's pretty straightforward, but you can obviously get an idea for how that would demand certain deck building choices.

Second, Orbital Hydralander can mill the top three cards of your deck to pop a card on the field without targeting, but you need at least two different monsters in your graveyard to activate and resolve that ability. It can get a little tricky because you can't reliably stack your deck three cards deep to manipulate your mills. Reynolds was able to make that effect consistent by playing one Fairy Tail - Snow. Because Snow's milling is a cost, you can use it to banish any duplicates from your graveyard before it resolves if you get unlucky.

Reynolds didn't score a Top 8 with this list, but he did at the very least get an invite to next year's WCQ. Let's take a look at his deck:

    Orbital Phantom Burning Abyss Max Reynolds    
Main Deck
Side Deck
1 Alich, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
3 Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
2 Barbar, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
1 Calcab, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
1 Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
2 Droll & Lock Bird
1 Fairy Tail - Snow
2 Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
2 Fiendish Rhino Warrior
1 Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
2 Libic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
1 Maxx "C"
2 Orbital Hydralander
1 Rubic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
3 Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
2 The Phantom Knights of Ancient Cloak
1 The Phantom Knights of Ragged Gloves
3 The Phantom Knights of Silent Boots
1 Tour Guide From the Underworld
Monsters [32]
1 Foolish Burial
1 Reinforcement of the Army
3 Twin Twisters
Spells [5]
3 Phantom Knights' Fog Blade
Traps [3]
Deck Total [40]
3 Anti-Spell Fragrance
2 Cosmic Cyclone
1 Dark Hole
3 Dimensional Barrier
1 Dogoran, the Mad Flame Kaiju
1 Gameciel, the Sea Turtle Kaiju
1 Interrupted Kaiju Slumber
1 Kumongous, the Sticky String Kaiju
1 Raigeki
1 Solemn Warning
Side Deck [15]


1 Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal
1 Dante, Pilgrim of the Burning Abyss
3 Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss
1 Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon
1 Decode Talker
1 Gaia Saber, the Lightning Shadow
1 Leviair the Sea Dragon
1 Number 47: Nightmare Shark
1 Proxy Dragon
1 Super Quantal Mech Beast Grampulse
2 The Phantom Knights of Break Sword
1 Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss
Extra Deck [15]

Immediately you're going to notice that there aren't a lot of three-of's in the monster lineup, so that you can almost always summon Orbital Hydralander when you draw it.

The only monsters played in triplicate are Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring; Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss; and The Phantom Knights of Silent Boots. Boots can remove itself from the graveyard with its own effect so that barely counts, and you can use Barbar, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss to get rid of a useless Scarm. You can see Reynolds heavily relying on Barbar to the point where he's playing two copies, which is virtually unheard of in any standard Burning Abyss deck.

Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring is a bit trickier. The only way to remove it from the graveyard is Fairy Tail - Snow, which makes getting Snow to the graveyard crucial. In his post-event deck profile, Reynolds said he just couldn't forgo three Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring because it's so strong.

The ideal board for this deck is going to be Orbital Hydralander; Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal; and Phantom Knights' Fog Blade. That's actually not too difficult to get to, and it's tough for even the best decks to deal with. Orbital Hydralander and Beatrice are some of the best tempo cards out right now, since they get you free card advantage every single turn they survive. Phantom Knights' Fog Blade might not be as impactful as it was in times past, but it's still great against Performapal Skullcrobat Joker, Aleister the Invoker, and Spellbook Magician of Prophecy.

Aside from the clear deck building decisions to make the most of Orbital Hydralander, Reynolds' strategy is quite similar to the standard Phantom Knight Burning Abyss decks of last year. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but rather a testament to how fantastic the original lineup really was. The Phantom Knights are a critical part of this deck, maybe more so than before, just because they don't blow up when you have a Link Monster.

Believe it or not, even all these years later, there are few decks that can make the same number of plays that Burning Abyss can in a single turn. I watched Reynolds have insane turns throughout the Regional Qualifier where he'd cycle through a variety of Xyz and Link Monsters, using Fairy Tail - Snow and The Phantom Knights of Break Sword multiple times to rip apart fields. Tack on a non-Extra Deck threat like Orbital Hydralander and you get one extremely deadly strategy, even if parts of it do appear to be a bit outdated.

Burning Abyss are going to have a tough future against SPYRALS in a few short weeks, but definitely keep it on the radar for when Burning Abyss gets their alleged Link Monster.

-Doug Zeeff

Doug Zeeff hails from Michigan and is currently an English major in college. When he's not found emailing Konami about why there's not a single walrus card in all of Yu-Gi-Oh! you can find him regularly posting unorthodox, unfiltered Yu-Gi-Oh! content on his Youtube channel, Dzeeff. In his spare time he enjoys eating cheese, Overwatch, and, of course, playing Yu-Gi-Oh. Click here to follow him and his adventures on Facebook!

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