How To Play! Your Guide To Magical Musketeers

Loukas Peterson

3/17/2020 11:00:00 AM

If you're stuck in your house for a few days and really want to learn about card lore, maybe I can persuade you to check out some clips of the German opera Der Freischutz. Why? Well, that opera was what inspired the Magical Musketeers and the names of all their monsters. If you're curious you should be able to find clips and maybe even full recordings on Youtube, but I can neither confirm nor deny if I'm listening to it in the background while I'm writing this right now. If clips aren't available in your country let me at least give you the gist: don't make a deal with the devil for magical bullets that the devil himself controls.

Basically the story of my life in 2018, but that's a different tale for a different day.

Thankfully, the Magical Musketeers are all pretty straightforward; you don't need to know German opera to understand the deck's playstyle. The monsters themselves all let you play on-theme spells and traps straight from your hand on either player's turn, and each of those cards has an added bonus whenever you play it in a Magical Musketeer's column. They'll get you card advantage, fetch cards from your graveyard, and even summon new monsters at no cost!

Why is that mechanic so good? Well, there's no great way for your opponent to counter it outside of just removing the Magical Musketeer from the field before stuff starts up. Since the Magical Musketeers don't need to set any traps or quick-play spells, Lightning Storm and Twin Twisters are largely useless and your opponent never really knows how many responses you have in your hand; it's a total mystery, and that makes you very difficult to approach.

The best way for your opponent to counter the deck is through intimate knowledge of the Magical Musket cards. Since the Magical Musket spells and traps are all limited to one use per turn, it's as simple as counting cards in your opponent's hand and preparing for the worst. It's similar to playing against a deck that's more than 50% hand traps: brace for the worst case scenario and go from there. But if your opponent doesn't know the theme? Well that becomes a lot harder, and it gives you as the Magical Musketeer duelist a big advantage in a big percentage of your games.

Building the deck'll run you more than a few pennies, but only a handful cards in the actual Musketeer core command more than chump change on the secondary market. And with Duel Overload making Magical Musketeer Caspar and Magical Musketeer Starfire so cheap, assembling the core's about as affordable as grabbing a few Structure Decks. Nick Burgess got Top 8 at a Regional Qualifier a couple weeks ago with the build below, and it gives you a good idea of which Magical Musket cards are must-haves for your own version.

    Magical Musketeers Nick Burgess    
  Location:  Regional - 2020-02-29 Portsmouth England - 5th - 8th Place
Main Deck
Side Deck
3 Magical Musketeer Caspar
2 Magical Musketeer Doc
3 Magical Musketeer Kidbrave
3 Magical Musketeer Starfire
Monsters [11]
3 Cosmic Cyclone
3 Dark Ruler No More
2 Instant Fusion
3 Magical Musket - Cross-Domination
2 Mind Control
3 Pot of Desires
1 Upstart Goblin
Spells [17]
3 Evenly Matched
1 Magical Musket - Crooked Crown
2 Magical Musket - Dancing Needle
3 Magical Musket - Desperado
3 Magical Musket - Last Stand
Traps [12]
Deck Total [40]
2 Anti-Spell Fragrance
3 Called by the Grave
1 Dinowrestler Pankratops
3 Gozen Match
3 Nibiru, the Primal Being
1 Red Reboot
2 Spell Shattering Arrow
Side Deck [15]


1 Akashic Magician
1 Apollousa, Bow of the Goddess
1 Borrelsword Dragon
1 Cross-Sheep
1 Knightmare Cerberus
1 Knightmare Phoenix
1 Knightmare Unicorn
1 Linkuriboh
3 Magical Musketeer Max
1 Millennium-Eyes Restrict
1 Ningirsu the World Chalice Warrior
1 Thousand-Eyes Restrict
1 Topologic Trisbaena
Extra Deck [15]

Remember how I said the deck was cheap? I meant the theme core specifically, not the add-ons that so often find their way to the Main and Extra Deck. If you're really excited about the strategy, don't let Evenly Matched get you down – you can play this deck without it!

It's like Pot of Extravagance now or Pot of Desires in 2017. The deck can still function without the pricy tech cards, so don't let them be a barrier to your new favorite deck. We probably won't be going to tournaments for a few weeks anyways, so now's a great time to get familiar with a new theme even without the high-value splashables.

It's Like Pinball Wizard, But With The Devil
Feel free to branch out from Burgess' list, but there are definitely some non-negotiable monsters when it comes to building Magical Musketeers.

Magical Musketeer Caspar, the Magical Musket replacing monster, and Magical Musketeer Starfire are your biggest stars, providing the necessary fuel to keep you from running out of cards. If you remember back when dinosaurs ruled the earth and rainbows were in black and white, Magical Musketeers operate on a principle that's similar to the one that led Gadgets to domination in their heyday.

As long as you had more Sakuretsu Armors and Fissures than your opponent, your Red Gadget, Yellow Gadget, and Green Gadget would accrue damage very, very quickly by making direct attacks in a simplified game where your opponent just didn't have any cards. And if you flash forward to today, you can squint a bit and the decks look almost the same.

Magical Musketeer Starfire and Magical Musketeer Caspar are like Gadgets, but made for 2020. When you play a Magical Musket card in the right column you'll net another Magical Musket card in the process - whether it be a spell or trap card or a monster summoned straight from your deck.

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Sure, there's fewer stoplight Machine-types here and more devil opera, but if your Magical Musket cards are trading resources against your opponent - whether through targeted destruction or negation - you'll simplify the game really quickly and win on sheer resources. So seeing those Magical Musketeers as soon as possible is of the utmost importance; you've gotta get that grind started early.

I'd argue that most cards in the Extra Deck are flex spots outside the ones that are there to solve simple problems your Magical Musket cards can't out on their own; those challenges often exist because each can only be played once per turn. The Extra Deck monster that ties it all together is Magical Musketeer Max.

Depending on what your opponent has, Max nets you Magical Musket spells and traps, or places Magical Musketeer monsters on the field. So whether you're going first or second, you'll have the option to establish a defense or come roaring back with aggressive cards!

So… First Or Second?
While it's not optimal to go first, Magical Musketeers can function well enough on the play because they have a handful of answers they can establish early. Even subpar hands, something like Magical Musketeer Doc with a few random Magical Musket cards, can produce a good enough Turn 1 to survive.

Magical Musket - Cross-Domination and Magical Musket - Desperado might be a big enough catalyst to start you out on the right foot. Should you aim to go first? Obviously against an FTK deck or a deck that's virtually guaranteed to setup an impossibly big board, going first is optimal. But all other things equal, going second should be your regular go-to.

The reason is Magical Musketeer Max, ensuring that some of your most subpar hands turn into useful ones. I'm not trying to bury the lede, but Max is the best way to get to specific Magical Musketeers early. As long as you see at least one Magical Musketeer and one Magical Musket card and your opponent simply has cards on the field, you can tailor your response to your own comfort level.

Consider opening with Magical Musketeer Doc and Magical Musket - Dancing Needle when you're going second. Doc won't have anything to get back from the graveyard, and Dancing Needle's better suited to function as an on-theme D.D. Crow, offering disruption. In that case you can still get a benefit by summoning Magical Musketeer Doc turning it into Magical Musketeer Max, and if your opponent has multiple spells and traps: boom, you'll send two free Magical Musketeers to the graveyard! Summon Caspar and Starfire, and that Magical Needle becomes the catalyst to trigger Caspar's effect and search another Magical Musket card from your deck!

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Searching Magical Musket - Desperado means popping a card on your opponent's side of the field and triggering Starfire to summon another Magical Musket from the deck, then you'll finish with an Apollousa, Bow of the Goddess. Obviously that's a cookie cutter example barring any nuance from your opponent's side, but with Magical Musketeer Max and its ability to turn “useless” cards into overwhelming advantage, I'd give the deck a passing grade.

Beyond the obvious implications with Max, think back about my Gadget example - more cards means more 1-for-1 exchanges, so you'll eventually have a small army of Magical Musketeers cards while your opponent drops resources one by one. Adding more cards that directly facilitate that style of play is the reason the deck can succeed.

Pot of Desires, Cosmic Cyclone, Evenly Matched, Mind Control, Instant Fusion… Burgess built his deck to go second more often and stocked it with cards that either bait negation, trade resources in a 1-for-1 Parry, or exist for the sole purpose of increasing your card economy. It's a blunt strategy, but it's a time-tested approach that's as old as Yu-Gi-Oh! itself.

We Were On The Verge Of Greatness; We Were This Close
I'll sing Magical Musketeer's praises to high heaven but if you've been following along with me, you might have noticed two glaring weaknesses to the deck. The first should be pretty obvious if you're used to seeing hand traps everywhere.

Unlike the last time I featured Magical Musketeers with this deck list , Burgess declined to run any hand traps in his version – there's no Effect Veiler, no Droll & Lock Bird, not even Infinite Impermanence. If you play against one of those decks where their first turn takes 20 minutes and produces a field with 4+ negates, Magical Musketeers will have a hard time getting over it. Ideally Mind Control, Instant Fusion, Evenly Matched and other soft counters will float to the top of your deck and appear early, but that's banking on drawing unsearchable off-theme cards. That's always risky.

Second, any deck that runs Solemn Warning or instant spot removal is going to be a tough Mountain to climb. Paleozoic, Altergeists, and even Salamangreats can all nerf the Normal Summon of a Magical Musketeer and stop your turn right then and there. Again, it'd be swell to always have some way to ensure your Normal Summon happens, but it's not a guarantee.

Ironically the mirror match is relatively painful, because the almighty plan of going second can Backfire so easily. It's sort of like playing a game of chicken when it comes to who plays what card first, but what exactly can you do if your opponent opens with Magical Musketeer Caspar and Magical Musket - Desperado? Your Normal Summon will get shot down while your opponent reloads on another Magical Musket card. Variance becomes a big factor there and on some levels, it's impossible to mitigate.

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Will we see Magical Musketeers more often in competitive play? Yes: the format truly is the Wild West right now and we've seen lots of different decks punch their ticket to the Top 8 in various Regional Qualifiers. The introduction of Master Rule 5 April 1st will widen that field even more, and the reprints of Magical Musketeer Caspar and Magical Musketeer Starfire in Duel Overload make the deck that much easier to build. There's every reason to think the deck could gain more of a foothold, especially in this lull period where competition's on hiatus and people are more likely to try new strategies.

In the meantime, this is a deck that makes your opponents respect it, threatening them with a barrage of Magical Musket - Desperado and Magical - Musket Last Stand while they sit in the corner and cry. Magical Musketeers are no joke, and if you're looking for a new strategy to explore right now, give this one a shot.

Just remember: beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson

Loukas Peterson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, hoping one day to run in 5th Congressional District on the platform of “Fabled Link Monsters for Everyone.” You can find him on Twitter or building a bonfire in his backyard to attract the local wildlife for an audience with his ukulele.

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