Top Cut Rogues: Dinos, Dante, Mechaba, and Musketeers
1/3/2018 11:00:00 AM
December was kind of a jawdropping month for rogue decks, and I'm not sure
if everyone noticed.
With the slower winter schedule for Regional Qualifiers and all the holiday
hubbub, it's easy to get caught up in life and lose track of
what's new in the Deck Archive
. This format has a definite sunset feeling: SPYRALs and Trickstars are
both very refined at this point, and the current F&L List was only
guaranteed to remain in effect until this month. Most players aren't really
expecting significant shakeups in the competitive scene, and it's only
natural to take a little time off to hibernate.
But that's exactly why I want to discuss a few different decks today: all
four of them were blink-and-you'll-miss-them success stories, but they were
all rooted in strong fundamentals. The majority of them even topped
multiple events, but they were easy to lose track of with competitive
discussion revolving around more established strategies.
None of these decks made Top Cuts consistently they're all experimental
and underplayed. But as we sit and wait for the announcement of a new
format, now's a great time to look at strategies that were good enough to
take wins off the top contenders; decks that can Top 8 Regionals and big
tournaments, but at the same time won't be on the chopping block when the
next List drops.
We're not going to go super in-depth on any of these four strategies,
because each could probably support an article all on their own. But I want
to give you an overview of their most important moves and advantages
basically give you a quick idea of their competitive merit and how they
work and then point you in the direction of further successes for each so
you can explore them yourself.
Let's start with a fan-favorite that's really easy to build: Dinosaurs.
Daniel Maguire played this self-declared budget build of Kaiju Dinosaurs to
a Top 8 finish at the December Regional in Dublin, Ireland. That was a
smaller event, but
Georg Sherer actually played something similar to a Top 8 at the
Regional Qualifier in Shreveport Louisiana, too
. There were some differences, but both decks had a lot in common and the
core concepts were nearly identical.
True King Dinosaur decks saw a bit of success in 2017, but they never lived
up to the massive hype that surrounded the debut of Dinosmasher's Fury. Those decks suffer two major problems in
current competition: True King Lithosagym, the Disaster is now Forbidden,
and Dragonic Diagram's still pretty expensive at around 25 bucks.
Instead of focusing on True Kings, this deck plays more to the dedicated
Dino theme and revolves around two cards the True King builds didn't use:
Lost World and Survival's End. Lost World has four effects and really
anchors the strategy:
-First up, every monster on the field that isn't a Dinosaur loses 500 ATK
and DEF. That's nice to push damage and get your monsters over bigger ones,
but what's really great is that it makes everything a target for Number
103: Ragnazero. Maguire played two Ragnazero because Lost World basically
turns it into Zoodiac Drident, popping a monster once per turn on either
player's turn. (Sherer felt one Ragnazero was enough.)
-Next, once per turn if a Dinosaur's Normal or Special Summoned, you can
stick your opponent with a 0 ATK / 0 DEF Token' rel="/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Jurraegg Token">Jurraegg Token in defense mode.
That might not sound awesome, but there are several ways to make it awesome, and Souleating Oviraptor's the
biggie: it can eat one of those Tokens once per turn to revive a Dinosaur
from your graveyard, turning Lost World into a hard repeatable plus.
-As a bonus, your opponent can't target any monsters but Token Monsters if
they control a Token. That works with Token' rel="/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Jurraegg Token">Jurraegg Tokens, but it also makes
things a bit awkward for Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow and Scapegoat.
-Finally, if one or more Normal Monsters on the field would be destroyed,
you can destroy the same number of Dinos from your hand or deck instead.
Maguire and Sherer both played a searchable copy of Megalosmasher X to take
advantage of that; when their opponents would try to destroy it or run it
down, they could pop copies of Babycerasaurus from the deck instead to make
free Special Summons. (Neither of them played Petiteranodon, since without
the True Kings and Diagrams, they didn't need more than three babies.)
Lost World puts in a ton of work here; Maguire and Sherer would want to
open Lost World and Souleating Oviraptor, play them to Special Summon a
Jurragg Token and get a search or send with Oviraptor, then pop the Token
with Oviraptor for a Special Summon. They could set up with cards like
Ragnazero, Evolzar Laggia, and Evolzar Dolkka, or they could go for fast
OTK's with Level 4's and Ultimate Conductor Tyranno, conveniently Special
Summoned with Double Evolution Pill.
The deck does a great job taking full advantage of Jurrac Aeolo, making
easy Summons of Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, and perhaps most
importantly, quickly going into Hi-Speedroid Chanbara. That card's better
than it might look, because its effect makes it an OTK with Ultimate
Conductor Tyranno. You just need to keep the field clear for your direct
attacks, which is why Maguire ran Dark Hole, Raigeki, and the full Kaiju
suite. One-card combos like Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow, and Gold
Sarcophagus played for Giant Rex, field more Summoning Materials and make
Survival's End is the finishing touch, again leveraging those Jurraegg
Tokens while punishing Scapegoat and Gofu. Its graveyard effect makes more
combo opportunities for Babycerasaurus, and helps clear the way for your
attacks at the same time. Sherer ran triple Foolish Burial Goods to
capitalize on it, and Maguire ran Twin Twisters for a different approach.
Both of these decks would probably be better off with Ash Blossom &
Joyous Spring, but even as budget builds they've got tremendous potential
and now they've got a competitive track record too.
Next up, a gem from the latest ARG Circuit Series down in Orlando.
ARGCS - 2017-12-16 - Orlando Florida - 5th - 8th Place
1 Alich, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
3 Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
1 Barbar, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
1 Calcab, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
1 Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
1 Crane Crane
1 Fairy Tail - Snow
3 Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
3 Fiendish Rhino Warrior
3 Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
1 Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
1 Libic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
1 Maxx "C"
1 Rubic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
3 Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
1 Tour Guide From the Underworld
3 Cosmic Cyclone
1 Dark Hole
1 Foolish Burial
3 Pot of Desires
3 Twin Twisters
3 Anti-Spell Fragrance
1 Skill Drain
Deck Total 
3 Evenly Matched
3 Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries
2 Lava Golem
1 Shaddoll Dragon
3 Solemn Scolding
3 Vanity's Fiend
Side Deck 
1 ABC-Dragon Buster
1 Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal
1 Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon
1 Dante, Pilgrim of the Burning Abyss
2 Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss
1 Decode Talker
1 Downerd Magician
1 Mechquipped Angineer
1 Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction
1 Number 47: Nightmare Shark
1 SPYRAL Double Helix
1 Super Quantal Mech Beast Grampulse
1 The Phantom Knights of Break Sword
1 Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss
Extra Deck 
Stevie Moon Top 8'd with this Burning Abyss deck, basically just leveraging
classic Burning Abyss techniques to create a consistent, precise strategy
with lots of removal and fast damage. Because he was playing Burning Abyss
he could run floodgate trap cards that hose SPYRALs, Trickstars, and
Pendulum Magicians cards the top decks can't run themselves.
We've seen True Draco players dismantle more popular decks in the last two
formats by playing Skill Drain and The Monarchs Erupt, but Moon played
Skill Drain and triple Anti-Spell Fragrance, preserving a greater range of
options. It's a bit more reactive, a bit less dependent on a specific range
of plays, and it holds up against hand traps better than most True Draco
And while few players expected to see Burning Abyss topping events again,
long before the TCG release of
Cherubini, Black Angel of the Burning Abyss
, Moon's success wasn't a fluke. We've seen decks like this putting in
impressive finishes in the latter part of 2017,
including Emanuele Berthoud's Top 8 at the Lucera Regional Qualifier
just one week before
Berthoud's monster lineup was almost identical, but he played two Black
Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginnings and a Gameciel, the Sea Turtle
Kaiju to hit 29 monsters total instead of Moon's 26. Moon maxed out on
Cosmic Cyclones and Pot of Desires, while Berthoud mained Evenly Matched
(Moon sided his). Berthoud Main Decked Mistake over Anti-Spell Fragrance
too, but he sided Fragrances. It's worth noting that post-event, Moon
remarked that Fragrance and Skill Drain were basically auto-wins whenever
he drew them.
There's definitely a working recipe for a winning deck here.
Moving on, we've seen a few different variants of the once-mighty True
Draco deck topping tournaments here and there this format, but the standout
in December was a small group of True Draco Invoked builds. The deck above
was played by Antonio Giangiacomo at the Genzano di Roma Regional Qualifier
but Saul Hernandez topped the Shreveport Regional with a more teched
out version that played Spellbooks and more one-ofs
Both players ran a minimal core of True Draco monsters and the necessary
support to field Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King. Giangiacomo
played a more conventional lineup of smaller True Dracos, while Hernandez
went big with Dreiath III, the True Dracocavalry General and Mariamne, the
True Dracophoenix. The Invoked engine then gave them access to a wealth of
niche options, as well as the additional negation power of Invoked Mechaba,
and the game-ending damage potential of Invoked Purgatrio.
The double-header of Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King and Invoked
Mechaba makes for a really strong control element it's even more vicious
than conventional True Draco decks, and most of us probably know how
annoying Master Peace can be all on its own. Add in the problem-solving
talents of Invoked Raidjin, the brickwall defense of Invoked Caliga and
Invoked Cocytus, and the sheer bulk of Invoked Magellanica, and you've got
a bunch of different options backed by some notable graveyard disruption.
True Dracos rake in a lot of free cards thanks to stuff like True Draco
Heritage and Master Peace, and combined with the smart card economy of the
Invoked engine, you wind up with a strategy that's fast, controlling, and
really good on resources. In the end,
a more varied build like Hernandez's
may be the way to go it's a bit more refined and has the potential to
cover more bases, especially since it runs a few more hand traps. But
Giangiacomo's build is a great blueprint to build off of.
And finally, I want to look at a deck that as far as I know was only
successful at one event, but compensates with sheer coolness factor.
Yes, that IS a Magical Musketeer deck, and yes, it DID Top 8 a Regional.
Sure it wasn't a big Regional, but if you actually see Mark Solomon being
interviewed post-event, you can see he really knows what he's talking
about. He's played Magical Musketeers a lot and has a game plan in mind to
make the most of their strengths, and compensate in turn for their
If you're not familiar with Magical Musketeers, the gist is that all of
their monsters get you free cards in one form or another when a spell or
trap's activated in their column. At the same time, they also let you play
Magical Musket spells and traps straight from your hand on either player's
turn. Basically, as long as you can get Magical Musketeers onto the field
and keep them there, you can grind out your opponent with incremental card
advantage and leverage a whole bunch of theme-specific hand traps to
counter your opponent's moves.
But that's the challenge Solomon needed to overcome: getting Magical
Musketeers onto the table, and then keeping them there long enough to win.
The more Magical Musketeers you control the tougher it is for your opponent
to work around them, the more damage you'll deal, and the more free cards
you'll rake in. But if you can't keep your monsters safe or can't get them
out in the first place, you're boned right out of the gates.
To solve the first problem, Solomon ran two copies of Double Summon and
three Ties of the Brethren. Together, Kidbrave, Doc, and Caspar make Ties
possible in this strategy. Solomon remarked that Ties was so good, he'd often
just try to bait out Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring with Pot of Desires to
make sure Ties would resolve.
From there he needed to protect his field, first and foremost from mass
removal. So he ran three Magical Musket Last Stand and one copy of
Magical Musket Fiendish Deal. Last Stand's a free Dark Bribe that can
negate threats like Raigeki, Dark Hole, and Interrupted Kaiju Slumber,
while Fiendish Deal is blanket protection from card effects.
Three copies of Magical Musket Cross Domination fend off monster effects
and attackers, while Magical Musket Desperado fills a similar role,
offering flexible monster destruction playable at Spell Speed 2 straight
from your hand. Like Number 103: Ragnazero in the Dinosaur decks from
earlier, it has a Zoodiac Drident type quality to it that helps secure your
From there the rest of the theme-stamped cards are niche tech picks: one
copy each of Magical Musket Steady Hands and Magical Musket Dancing
Needle. Triple Solemn Strike rounds out the defenses and buys the time you
need to dig in and start grinding.
Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring's definitely a threat to this strategy, but
really, it's great against almost everything. The trick here is to play
around it enough to get the ball rolling. Once you do that, the strategy
quickly snowballs and rewards your knowledge of the top decks as you pick
them apart piece by piece.
The new F&L List could drop any day, or it could be weeks before we see
a change to the Advanced Format. Regardless of when that change comes,
these four strategies are proven underdogs that have all put in admirable
work. Give them a shot yourself and let me know how it works out down in