Side Deck Theory: Top Continuous Trap Floodgates

Kelly Locke

4/10/2018 11:00:00 AM

The role of traps in competitive Yu-Gi-Oh! has shifted wildly over the last couple of months. In January I wrote an article asking whether Main Deck traps were worth playing in an era of hand traps and Evenly Matched, and at the time the answer was mostly yes. Today traps are resurgent in both dedicated high-trap strategies like Demise True Dracos and teched in strategies that dropped them last format. Trickstars have picked up bigger backrows in addition to making Trickstar Reincarnation a staple again, after it moved to the Side Deck earlier this year.

There are a lot of factors contributing to the return of large backrows and a shift away from the “hand trap or bust” logic that dominated the previous format. Solemn Judgment's helping to keep set-ups safe from Evenly Matched, Twin Twisters sees sparse play in favor of Cosmic Cyclone, and we now have more counters to hand traps like Called by the Grave, Amano-Iwato, and the freshly-reprinted PSY-Framegear Gamma. Traps are uniquely positioned against negation bodies and floodgate monsters like Invoked Mechaba and Naturia Beast.

Themed traps, the Solemn line-up, and floodgates make up the vast majority of traps seeing play in Regionals and YCS-topping builds. There's really not much to say about the first two groups of traps, but floodgates are especially interesting this format because they're seeing so much Main Deck play in True Dracos.

Cards like Rivalry of Warlords, Skill Drain, Imperial Order, Anti-Spell Fragrance, and The Monarchs Erupt are very relevant in Game 1. Many of them have been format defining cards in the past, so seeing a deck leveraging all of them at once is both surprising and important to understanding the state of the game.

The True Draco Rivalry
Rivalry of Warlords has crept into True Draco and Trickstar Main Decks to shut down 60-card strategies, Pendulums, and even other True Draco players. Both strategies can play perfectly fine with only a single monster Type on the field, but the same can't be said for other popular decks. Link Summoning in particular has made Rivalry of Warlords even stronger: many popular Links are Cyberse, and there just aren't any competitive Cyberse themes in the game yet. Even non-Cyberse Links are often off-Type, like the Psychic Type Heavymetalfoes Elecrumite which sees play primarily in the Spellcaster-heavy Pendulum Magician theme.

60-card strategies are hard to pin down, but outside of Infernoids, most builds are playing a huge number of monsters with various types. Ayinde Ross' 60-card Zombie Dinosaurs made the Top 4 at YCS Salt Lake City with at least seven Main Deck monster Types, and he had even more diversity in his Extra Deck. Rivalry of Warlords breaks many of the deck's basic combos, or at worst it can act as mass removal to sweep away one or two cards with mismatching Types. Perhaps most importantly, Rivalry of Warlords will often keep Fairy Tail - Snow stuck in the graveyard, and when siding Rivalry yourself you'll have a bit of control over when your opponent can activate it.

In the True Draco mirror match, and even outside of it, Rivalry of Warlords counters Amano-Iwato by locking down your opponent's Summons during the turn they put a Rock on the field. As long as Amano is face-up they can't Summon a Wyrm to the field, and since Cards of Demise and Amano resolve during the End Phase your opponent won't have any True Draco monsters to Tribute Summon on your turn. It's a dangerous vulnerability that True Dracos have exposed themselves to in an attempt to beat hand traps. That trade-off is obviously still worth making for the time being.

 Card of Demise
Card of Demise161955
Set Legendary Collection Kaiba
Number LCKC-EN029
Type Normal Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

Draw until you have 3 cards in your hand, also for the rest of this turn after this card resolves, your opponent takes no damage. During the End Phase of this turn, send your entire hand to the Graveyard. You can only activate 1 "Card of Demise" per turn. You cannot Special Summon during the turn you activate this card.

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simplyugi 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $16.01
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Eddies Games 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $17.20
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True Dracos have access to two more important floodgates: Skill Drain and The Monarchs Erupt. Both cards address the threat of Zaphion, the Timelord and most other monster-based backrow removal, and challenge players to find trap-based solutions to floodgates. They're devastating when combined with Anti-Spell Fragrance or Imperial Order, and the totality of the floodgates being played in True Dracos makes a strong case for Typhoon and Trap Eater – two cards we'll talk about more later on.

Meanwhile, Anti-Spell Fragrance can be just as devastating for spell-heavy strategies and of course Pendulums. Dimensional Barrier was still popular at YCS Salt Lake City but the sheer number of strategies using Links and exceptionally powerful Main Deck monsters has made Anti-Spell worth running in Game 1 – especially in True Dracos. Slowing the pace of the duel against 60-card variants is tremendously helpful, and with so many Field Spells running around Anti-Spell has insane utility this format.

Zaphion, the Timelord was mostly absent from the YCS Top 32, but it's been making regular showings at recent Regionals. It's perhaps the single best way to follow up on Anti-Spell Fragrance: attack with Zaphion after your opponent has set their spells and you shuffle them back into their deck. It's a game-winning combination with two cards that are each excellent choices on their own this format, and you can also pull off a similar trick with Heavy Storm Duster or another mass removal effect.

Lastly, Imperial Iron Wall remains popular as an alternative to Artifact Lancea when playing first. Lancea runs the risk of being negated by PSY-Framegear Gamma and Called by the Grave, and Iron Wall's a little stronger in the long-term anyways. It's a great pick for decks that are grinding out card advantage while maintaining a large field presence. True Dracos get the most use out of a continuous floodgates anyways, and it's a key part of their defense against Evenly Matched, Trickstar Reincarnation, and Cosmic Cyclone.

New And Old Counters To Backrow Emerge
Floodgate trends didn't go unnoticed at YCS Salt Lake City, and players went in prepared to deal with numerous Continuous Traps throughout the event. Let's jump back to Ayide Ross' 3rd Place build for a bit. He sided Twin Twisters as you'd expect, but he also ran two copies of Trap Eater – a long time favorite of mine and an outstanding choice for a deck that wants to Summon PSY-Framelord Omega as early as possible. Trap Eater's Level and Tuner aspect gives it a ton of flexibility as floodgate disposal and as Synchro, Xyz, and Link material.

Ross could follow up on Trap Eater with an Xyz Summon for Tornado Dragon to target another backrow or floodgate – swiftly knocking out two cards and clearing the path for more plays. It's far from a perfect strategy though: almost all of Ross' outs to floodgates are unsearchable, and a well-timed Rivalry of Warlords prevents Trap Eater from being Summoned at all. Tornado Dragon also falls flat against a face-up Rivalry unless you're playing Level 4 Wyrms. Getting counters on the field ahead of Rivalry's important, but sometimes it's just not an option when you lose the dice roll.

 Tornado Dragon
Tornado Dragon131198
Set Maximum Crisis
Number MACR-EN081
Level 4
Type Xyz/Effect Monster
Monster Wyrm
Attribute WIND 
A / D 2100 / 2000
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

2 Level 4 monsters
Once per turn, during either player’s turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card, then target 1 Spell/Trap Card on the field; destroy it.

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Other players at YCS Salt Lake City experimented with trap-based floodgate removal. Tamir Brown made the Top 8 with a 60-card Kaiju Burning Phantom Knights build with sided copies of Magical Spring and Heavy Storm Duster alongside Main Deck techs like Typhoon and Phoenix Wing Wind Blast. His Main Deck could handle Game 1 copies of Anti-Spell Fragrance and cards protected by his own Game 1 Magical Spring, and in Games 2 and 3 he could double down on Magical Spring or Heavy Storm Duster to further knock down backrow.

It's important to remember that 60-card builds have the added challenge of actually finding their outs to floodgates. Draw power helps, but when it's tied to spells you run the risk of losing to Anti-Spell Fragrance. Magical Spring's something of an exception since it can be chained to Anti-Spell's activation prior to your Main Phase.

Heavy Storm Duster's finally in a great place as traps become more relevant and as the top match-ups shift to wars of attrition over blowout fields. True Dracos and Trickstars can slow down the game to make cards like Heavy Storm Duster, Scapegoat, and even Blazing Mirror Force extremely powerful.

Check out Logan Johnson's Top 8 Trickstars once again from YCS Salt Lake City. He played a massive trap line-up that's a stark change from the popular near-zero trap builds from earlier this year. Not only was he playing Rivalry of Warlords, but he also ran three copies of Heavy Storm Duster in his Main Deck.

Outliers Still Exist
Not every deck is jumping aboard the Continuous Trap floodgate train and stocking their Side Decks full of Trap Cards. Dimensional Barrier and hand traps are sometimes the most you can expect to see in Pendulums and 60-card strategies, which makes sense given that these strategies aren't worried about long grind games. Pendulums need a turn to defend their set-up, and 60-card strategies just need to be able to blow through backrow as cleanly as possible. There's little reason to spend time establishing floodgates when a hand trap will suffice.

True Dracos have definitely shaken up the competitive scene by returning traps and floodgates back to their former glory, and I think it's likely to stay that way so long as Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King and a floodgate are enough to win games. Even a single floodgate and a Scapegoat can swing the duel in your favor.

The top strategies this format have numerous Main Deck answers to backrow, but as the YCS results show they're still losing to cards like Rivalry of Warlords, Anti-Spell Fragrance, and Skill Drain whenever they can't find Purple Poison Magician, Cosmic Cyclone, or Twin Twisters. Your Side Deck is invaluable this format for staying in the game against these brutal Continuous Traps.

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​​​ ​​​Yu-Gi-Oh!,​​​ ​​​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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