Top Cut Rogues: Dinos, Dante, Mechaba, and Musketeers

Jason Grabher-Meyer

1/3/2018 11:00:00 AM
 Comments

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.

    Kaiju Dinosaurs Daniel Maguire    
  Location:  Regional - 2017-12-09 Dublin Ireland - 5th - 8th Place
Main Deck
Side Deck
3 Babycerasaurus
1 Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow
1 Dogoran, the Mad Flame Kaiju
1 Gameciel, the Sea Turtle Kaiju
3 Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
1 Giant Rex
1 Jurrac Aeolo
1 Kumongous, the Sticky String Kaiju
1 Maxx "C"
1 Megalosmasher X
1 Miscellaneousaurus
3 Souleating Oviraptor
2 Ultimate Conductor Tyranno
Monsters [20]
1 Dark Hole
2 Double Evolution Pill
3 Fossil Dig
1 Gold Sarcophagus
1 Interrupted Kaiju Slumber
3 Lost World
1 Raigeki
3 Terraforming
2 Twin Twisters
Spells [17]
3 Survival's End
Traps [3]
Deck Total [40]
2 Cosmic Cyclone
2 D.D. Crow
1 D.D.R. - Different Dimension Reincarnation
3 Droll & Lock Bird
1 PSY-Frame Driver
3 PSY-Framegear Epsilon
3 Zaphion, the Timelord
Side Deck [15]

EXTRA DECK

1 Abyss Dweller
1 Akashic Magician
1 Bujinki Amaterasu
1 Decode Talker
1 Evolzar Dolkka
1 Evolzar Laggia
1 Hi-Speedroid Chanbara
2 Link Spider
2 Number 103: Ragnazero
1 Number 41: Bagooska the Terribly Tired Tapir
1 PSY-Framelord Omega
1 Tornado Dragon
1 Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier
Extra Deck [15]
Notes:


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 more damage.

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.

    Burning Abyss Stevie Moon    
  Location:  ARGCS - 2017-12-16 - Orlando Florida - 5th - 8th Place
Main Deck
Side Deck
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
Monsters [26]
3 Cosmic Cyclone
1 Dark Hole
1 Foolish Burial
3 Pot of Desires
1 Raigeki
3 Twin Twisters
Spells [12]
3 Anti-Spell Fragrance
1 Skill Drain
Traps [4]
Deck Total [42]
3 Evenly Matched
3 Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries
2 Lava Golem
1 Shaddoll Dragon
3 Solemn Scolding
3 Vanity's Fiend
Side Deck [15]

EXTRA 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 [15]
Notes:


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 variants.

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.

    True Draco Invoked Antonio Giangiacomo    
  Location:  Regional - 2017-12-03 Genzano di Roma Italy - 5th - 8th Place
Main Deck
Side Deck
3 Aleister the Invoker
3 Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
3 Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
1 Ignis Heat, the True Dracowarrior
3 Majesty Maiden, the True Dracocaster
2 Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King
1 Maxx "C"
Monsters [16]
2 Disciples of the True Dracophoenix
3 Dragonic Diagram
2 Invocation
1 Magical Meltdown
3 Pot of Desires
3 Terraforming
1 The Monarchs Stormforth
3 True Draco Heritage
Spells [18]
2 Evenly Matched
3 True Draco Apocalypse
1 True King's Return
Traps [6]
Deck Total [40]
3 Cosmic Cyclone
3 Dimensional Barrier
3 Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries
3 Imperial Iron Wall
1 Imperial Order
2 Unending Nightmare
Side Deck [15]

EXTRA DECK

1 ABC-Dragon Buster
1 Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss
1 Invoked Caliga
1 Invoked Cocytus
2 Invoked Magellanica
2 Invoked Mechaba
2 Invoked Purgatrio
2 Invoked Raidjin
1 PSY-Framelord Omega
1 SPYRAL Double Helix
1 Toadally Awesome
Extra Deck [15]
Notes:


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 in Italy, 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.

    Magical Musketeers Mark Solomon    
  Location:  Regional - 2017-12-09 Dublin Ireland - 5th - 8th Place
Main Deck
Side Deck
3 Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
1 Magical Musketeer Calamity
3 Magical Musketeer Caspar
2 Magical Musketeer Doc
3 Magical Musketeer Kidbrave
3 Magical Musketeer Starfire
1 Maxx "C"
Monsters [16]
2 Double Summon
3 Magical Musket - Cross-Domination
1 Magical Musket - Steady Hands
3 Pot of Desires
3 Ties of the Brethren
1 Upstart Goblin
Spells [13]
1 Magical Musket - Dancing Needle
3 Magical Musket - Desperado
1 Magical Musket - Fiendish Deal
3 Magical Musket - Last Stand
3 Solemn Strike
Traps [11]
Deck Total [40]
3 Chaos Trap Hole
3 Cosmic Cyclone
3 Evenly Matched
2 Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
3 Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries
1 Raigeki
Side Deck [15]

EXTRA DECK

1 ABC-Dragon Buster
1 Abyss Dweller
1 Constellar Hyades
1 Constellar Ptolemy M7
1 Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss
1 Decode Talker
1 Firewall Dragon
1 Number 39: Utopia
1 Number 41: Bagooska the Terribly Tired Tapir
1 Number 47: Nightmare Shark
1 Number S39: Utopia the Lightning
1 PSY-Framelord Omega
1 SPYRAL Double Helix
1 The Phantom Knights of Break Sword
1 Toadally Awesome
Extra Deck [15]
Notes:


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 weaknesses.

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 board.

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 the comments.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer


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