Competitive Corner: Gem-Knights

Loukas Peterson

3/14/2018 11:00:00 AM

If we're going to be extremely technical, the largest umbrella for classifying decks that end the game in one turn is “OTK” - an acronym for “one turn kill.” It comes across as pedantic to explain that, but keep in mind that the umbrella's extremely wide and branches off in half a dozen ways. Today's deck has Regional Qualifying merit to be classified as all types of OTK, including a First Turn Kill - an FTK.

Some OTK decks are engineered to delay the game as their main win condition, stalling long enough to gather needed cards and then finishing the duel with a massive combo sequence. A good example of that type of OTK is the Quillbolt Hedgehog OTK, which sought to tribute off the Hedgehog again and again. But that sort of approach takes setup. Some OTK decks rely on a backup plan involving plenty of trap cards that let them grind through opposing strategies; the Wind-Up builds of 2013 are one example, winning both through trade-based play as well as the ability to play Wind-Up Magician and Wind-Up Shark for more than 8000 damage against an open field.

FTK's are different in that they're engineered to end the game before your opponent can ever play their cards. They don't try to stall, and they don't try to interact with the opponent. Dark World Exoida and Exchange of the Spirit decks prior to that card's errata are two historic examples. And don't get me wrong, those strategies are scary in their own right.

But what happens when a deck can be classified as every type of OTK at once? We basically found out when a duelist named Leo, uncredited with a last name in his Top 8 finish at last month's Regional Qualifier in Lenexa Kansas, proved that Gem-Knights have a new lease on life in competition.

    Gem-Knight FTK Duelist Unknown    
  Location:  Regional - 2018-02-10 Lenexa Kansas - 5th - 8th Place
Main Deck
Side Deck
2 Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
2 Block Dragon
2 Crystal Rose
3 Gem-Armadillo
3 Gem-Knight Lapis
3 Gem-Knight Lazuli
3 Gem-Knight Obsidian
1 Gem-Knight Tourmaline
3 Rescue Rabbit
Monsters [22]
3 Brilliant Fusion
3 Dragged Down into the Grave
1 Foolish Burial
3 Gem-Knight Fusion
2 Pot of Desires
1 Soul Charge
2 Unexpected Dai
Spells [15]
3 Solemn Strike
Traps [3]
Deck Total [40]
1 Cosmic Cyclone
1 Dogoran, the Mad Flame Kaiju
3 Evenly Matched
1 Gadarla, the Mystery Dust Kaiju
1 Kumongous, the Sticky String Kaiju
1 Monster Reborn
1 Raigeki
3 System Down
3 Twin Twisters
Side Deck [15]


1 Gem-Knight Lady Brilliant Diamond
3 Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazuli
3 Gem-Knight Master Diamond
2 Gem-Knight Phantom Quartz
1 Gem-Knight Prismaura
1 Gem-Knight Seraphinite
1 Gem-Knight Zirconia
1 Missus Radiant
1 Phantom Fortress Enterblathnir
1 True King of All Calamities
Extra Deck [15]

Gem-Knights have been a glass cannon ever since the deck became moderately viable. It was explosive, brittle, and not something most people wanted to bother with, kinda like 12-year-old me when I made fireworks in my dad's garage.

But Gem-Knight Phantom Quartz, the Link monster from Extreme Force , was exactly what Gem-Knights needed moving forward to keep competitive. It requires two Gem monsters to make, but since all of the Gem-Knights are Earth, you'd historically use Missus Radiant to flood the field with Gem-Knight Fusions.

Gem-Armadillo searches a free Gem-Knight, and Gem-Knight Lazuli and Gem-Knight Obsidian mitigate your costs as well by paying it forward, but it was hard to field enough damage for an OTK when Missus Radiant did nothing besides offer a wee boost to your attack. That ATK boost does come in handy when you're winning through the Battle Phase, but it just wasn't enough to make Gem-Knights consistent in the Link era.

Gem-Knight Phantom Quartz is the lynchpin to winning with that Battle Phase approach, but more importantly it's played to ensure that you can win before your opponent gets a turn. Not only do you get to search any Gem-Knight from your deck when you play it, but Quartz also acts as a way to Fusion Summon a Gem-Knight monster without using any additional resources. Just field two Gem monsters, summon Gem-Knight Phantom Quartz, search a Gem-Knight monster or Gem-Knight Fusion, then return the Gem monsters from your graveyard to your deck for a Fusion Summon at the cost of just 1000 Life Points.

Even though the new monster can't attack that turn, you're free to use any and all of its effects. Gem-Knight Prismaura can pop a card, while Gem-Knight Seraphinite gets an Extra Normal Summon. Worst case scenario, you can use that new Gem-Knight monster as fodder for another Gem-Knight Fusion, but the real potential comes from Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazuli.

Though you can only Summon one Lady Lapis per turn - a restriction you can't circumvent - there are ways to use its effect multiple times to deal 8000 damage in increments of 500 per Special Summoned monster on the field. The strategy effectively devolves into an algebra problem, and I think Leo found a good balance with his build. If anyone one besides my math teacher friend Chris is still reading, let me continue.

Each time you use Lapis Lazuli's effect it burns your opponent for the number of Special Summoned monsters times 500. Basically you go “Special Summons” x 500 x “Lazuli iterations” and hope that number is bigger than 8000. It might seem a Little Daunting, but it's surprisingly easy once you get the hang of it.

The hard part is getting Lazuli's effect off multiple times. Whether you're using Brilliant Fusion, Phantom Quartz, Gem-Knight Fusion, or Gem-Knight Lady Brilliant Diamond, you can only field one Lapis Lazuli per turn. But Gem-Knight Master Diamond gives you a chance to trigger Lady Lapis Lazuli's effect by banishing another copy, and therein lies the trick.

Back to the calculations: if you trigger three Lady Lapis effects total, you'll need six monsters on the field at least once. But Leo didn't stop there, realizing that you could also trigger four Lady Lapis Lazuli's effects by way of three Gem-Knight Master Diamonds and only need four monsters on the field each time to deal 8000. Since you'll typically Summon Gem-Knight Phantom Quartz and then Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazuli, you'll only need two more monsters on the table if you use Lady Lapis' effect four times.

 Block Dragon
Block Dragon141446
Set 2017 Mega-Tins Mega Pack
Number MP17-EN085
Level 8
Type Effect Monster
Monster Rock
Attribute EARTH 
A / D 2500 / 3000
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Cannot be Normal Summoned/Set. Must be Special Summoned (from your hand or Graveyard) by banishing 3 EARTH monsters from your hand and/or Graveyard, and cannot be Special Summoned by other ways. Rock-Type monsters you control cannot be destroyed, except by battle. If this card is sent from the field to the Graveyard: You can add up to 3 Rock-Type monsters from your Deck to your hand, whose total Levels equal 8. You can only use this effect of "Block Dragon" once per turn.

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Crystal Rose and Block Dragon are hugely helpful toward that end. Not only are they compatible with Brilliant Fusion, but you can revive both for an extra 500 burn damage. Furthermore, they're both strong on card economy and help ensure you can make enough Master Diamonds. Of course, that number may be three OR four depending on your other resources. You can't start every duel with Brilliant Fusion, so Leo built his deck to win no matter what variables you plug into the equation.

Keep in mind that Gem-Knight Phantom Quartz can recycle Gem-Knights, so you often make a seemingly endless river of Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazulis. That said, you usually won't have to rely on such extreme outlier cases to clinch victory.

What's Missing?
You can devolve any justification for card choices into a simple yes or no answer: “Does having this card in my deck get me close to winning the game?” There are lots of permutations, match-ups, and caveats to think about, but when it comes to spicy tech cards or personal preference, Leo certainly thought about some of the more interesting options.

Leo didn't win every match 2-0 in his 8 round Regional; he ran into some complications along the way, but that's the norm for every FTK on the market. He admitted that sometimes he had to finish with a True King of All Calamities if he'd fall short of burning for 8000 damage, and with a mandate for defense in the Extra Deck, cards like Absorb Fusion didn't make the cut. It doesn't do that much to boost your chances of making an FTK; or at least not enough to justify saying “no thanks” to any non-Gem Knights from your Extra Deck.

The same philosophy extends to cards like Pot of Desires and Unexpected Dai - having too many copies of those cards will stall your strategy when you start drawing extra copies. Unexpected Dai gets you to Gem-Knight Lapis and thus Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazuli, but you'd rather see the actual card you need than a searcher when your main goal is “burn your opponent to death this turn.”

Unlike the days of old where you might play Emergency Teleports to fetch one Psychic monster, Desires and Unexpected Dai mandate inverted ratios. Your main cards are of the highest importance, but having deadweight is unacceptable in an FTK deck. After all, it's just a math problem, and you can't have too many unknown variables.

In terms of tech choices, the most notable one here was Dragged Down Into The Grave. I discussed the validity of the card in this Fabled article back in November, but it works like... eleven-teen million times better in Gem-Knights thanks to what you can summon in the end. Since you can pitch Gem-Knight Lazuli and Gem-Knight Obsidian from your hand and maintain your card economy, Dragged Down into the Grave helps you demolish your opponent's hand traps; cards that would stop you from winning otherwise.

Gem-Knight Obsidian fields a Special Summon too, but that's icing on the cake. In the end, Dragged Down into the Grave fulfills three purposes: it thins your deck, Summons extra monsters, and stops your opponent from coyly smirking while activating Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring.

 Brilliant Fusion
Brilliant Fusion122379
Set 2016 Mega-Tins Mega Pack
Number MP16-EN082
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

When this card is activated: Fusion Summon 1 "Gem-Knight" Fusion Monster from your Extra Deck, using monsters from your Deck as Fusion Materials, but change its ATK and DEF to 0. If this card leaves the field, destroy that monster. Once per turn: You can discard 1 Spell Card; the monster Special Summoned by this card's effect gains ATK and DEF equal to its original ATK and DEF, until the end of your opponent's turn. You can only activate 1 "Brilliant Fusion" per turn.

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The list of cards Leo needed to start his combos is actually surprisingly short. The best 2-card combo you could open with is a “Gem” monster and Brilliant Fusion, but as long as you have access to the Normal Monster Gem-Knight Lazuli and Gem-Knight Fusion, chances are you'll be doing a lot of burn damage. Leo admitted in some rounds he didn't even know what his opponent was playing because he burned them out too quickly!

Beyond that, Leo played as many cards as possible that could deliver big results off single plays. Rescue Rabbit? Sweet, two monsters for the price of one. Block Dragon? It's free Summons, a way to search Crystal Rose, and fodder for Gem-Knight Phantom Quartz. Gem-Armadillo? Search a Gem-Knight and it's still fodder for a Fusion Summon. The deck manages to be consistent enough to compete, in part because it runs so many cards offering tremendous value and flexibility.

Always Looking To Improve
I talked about the algebraic formula for calculating 8000 burn damage, but there are other variables that net the same goal. I highly doubt you'll live long enough to cycle back your banished Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazulis and burn eight times for 1000 damage each. Obviously, you might have different numbers of monsters on the field depending on how the game is going and if your opponent got to play a turn, but I think there's merit in exploring other options in the Extra Deck outside of the math game.

Before I suggest changes, it's obvious Leo was smart with his Extra Deck choices. The single Gem-Knight Tourmaline is always at arm's reach, and sometimes you need Gem-Knight Prismaura to deal with a problem card. Phantom Fortress Enterblathnir follows the same thought, “I gotta pop this threat!”

Sometimes Gem-Knight Master Diamond just can't get the job done and you need to nuke a card; Enterblathnir is there. But since Leo mentioned he never actually used it, there are other options! Don't go too crazy, though, since about twelve of your Extra Deck monsters are non-negotiable.

In terms of burn damage that doesn't rely on your opponent, Gagaga Cowboy and Submersible Carrier Aero Shark come to mind. With only one Level 4 Normal monster, Gagaga Cowboy isn't easy to summon after a long combo. You'd basically need to make Gem-Knight Seraphinite or draw Soul Charge.

However, Submersible Carrier Aero Shark can wind up being fairly easy depending on how you use Gem-Knight Obsidian. The card hasn't been used competitively since 2012 when it was played as an out to Spirit Reaper, but it's probably the easiest way to pop your opponent's last few Life Points. With Gem-Knight Fusion and Block Dragon, it's pretty easy to banish ten monsters, meaning that victory is within reach even if you can only manage 7000 burn damage.

Other cards could be valid choices too - Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand and Number 38: Hope Harbinger Titanic Galaxy act as a Rank 8 version of True King of All Calamities, and if you somehow fielded three Level 8 monsters, you could play Coach King Giantrainer and burn for some damage that way too. Other options like Red-Eyes Metal Flare Dragon or Number 61: Volcasaurus either rely on awkwardly finishing with certain Levels or your opponent having cards; not great, but not entirely off the table either.

Just remember: beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson

Loukas Peterson lives in Nashville, Tennessee where it's warmer than warm, whatever that means. When he's not submitting ideas for Fabled support and a Fabled Link monster, you can find making “attempts” at “art” and playing his ukulele terribly, or on Wednesday nights, hanging out with the local mice. Hailed as the only person capable of cooking Minute Rice in 56 seconds, Loukas is always looking at expanding his apartment to house every dog in the world.

Do you love winning with unconventional strategies? Do you love creating mash-ups? Does your deck need an injection of crazy? Send the following to to have your deck featured in the “Re-Routing” deck fix column!

-Your Main and Extra Deck list. (No Side Deck needed, but please send a written deck list, not a screencap; screencapped deck lists will be filed and then burned in the furnace accordingly… and your deck should be TCG legal).

-Your name and city.

-Remember, please use full card names! Abbrevs and mis-sipllngs make Loukas' life sad. Try your darndest to get the TCG name on there.

-A paragraph or two describing your deck: what it does, why you're playing it, and its strengths and weaknesses. “Winning” is not a strategy per se, and neither is “beating your opponents before they beat you.”

-Your favorite card from the build and why – make me fall in love with the deck! The cooler your strategy the more I'll want to fix it, and if you throw in funny jokes, that'll surely get my attention too; be warned, unfunny jokes will push your deck to the back of the stack. Don't be afraid to get creative! New stuff takes priority, because I'm not bored of it yet! –LJP

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