As another Shonen Jump Championship Columbus passes us, yet another Dark Armed Return strategy prevails. The game has not slowed down an inch since Costa Mesa. In fact, I’d contend that it has gotten faster, especially with the success of Diamond Dude Turbo strategies and Dark Armed Return decks featuring the use of not just Allure of Darkness and Destiny Draw, but Trade-In as well. Add to that the explosive and quick-fueling abilities of Dark Grepher and you have a strategy that effectively balances speed with consistency. Dark Armed Return is proving to be overwhelmingly stable, not a hit-or-miss strategy like the Magical Explosion OTK.
For this article I would like to analyze a few card choices that I feel compliment Dark Armed return at a more optimal level than the cards I addressed last time around. I have to ignore the sense of potential redundancy covering Dark Armed Return two months in a row. When a deck like this one impacts a tournament environment to the extraordinary levels it has, you can’t ignore it. If we wish to better our chances at a Jump we must understand how Dark Armed works, and from there figure out how to stop it. Such knowledge leads us to alternate card choices that can better equip us for the mirror match as well as matches against other decks. Our goal is to maximize efficiency against Dark Armed Return while still staying cohesive and effective against other strategies likely to be seen in tournaments.
The first card I want to look at is Necro Gardna. Many of us first encountered this card at Costa Mesa. I ran it at Columbus and it came up big round after round. It can be searched out with Reinforcement of the Army, and it can be used in combination with Crush Card Virus. It can ideally be dropped into the graveyard safely with Armageddon Knight, and it does an absolutely tremendous job of manipulating your graveyard to help fuel Dark Armed Dragon. However, that’s just the surface of what Gardna can do. Its effect completely negates an attack that your opponent throws your way, and can prevent the heavy doses of damage that Dark Armed decks generate. It can also let a monster you previously summoned survive battle, providing tribute for what might have otherwise been a dead card stuck in your hand. Necro Gardna is easily dumped into the graveyard and its versatility makes it a prime tech choice for the current tournament scene.
The next card on my agenda may come as a surprise to some, but to many others it may seem completely intuitive: Royal Decree. It’s an interesting addition to a deck defined by a trap-driven win condition, but make no mistake: Royal Decree shuts down a lot of decks. It allows you to gain a lot of ground through battle while also allowing for easy use of cards like Dark Armed Dragon and Dimension Fusion, turning risky situations into definite wins. Stepping back from the mirror match, Royal Decree can make short work of Magical Explosion strategies. Decree successfully shuts down a lot of common win conditions and gives huge opportunities in the battle phase—opportunities that can quickly transition into winning scenarios. It puts pressure on your opponent’s hand, limits play options, and can render many cards useless, whether they’re on the opponent’s field, in his or her hand, or still in the deck. For these reasons Royal Decree is a heavily anti-meta tech choice that deserves consideration from any duelist attending tournaments regularly.
Lastly I want to look at Card Trooper. After talking with many players over the course of the Columbus weekend I got some mixed reactions, but strangely enough more people seemed disenchanted with the card in Dark Armed Return. I didn’t quite understand why. It serves as ideal fuel for the Dark Armed engine and can dump monsters like Necro Gardna and Destiny Hero - Dasher. It can also set up big plays with Premature Burial and Monster Reborn. However, despite all of these neat synergies, I feel that one of its most prominent uses lies in its boosted 1900 ATK. With that kind of offensive power, Card Trooper can run over one of the biggest early threats in the format: Elemental Hero Stratos. Its ability to push for 1900 damage or run over Stratos and Armageddon Knight makes it very synergetic with this strategy. When it’s destroyed, it replaces itself with another draw (a crucial asset, especially when you’re digging for outs after Dark Armed Dragon has been summoned). Card Trooper is a solid 1900 body. Monsters that can serve as beat sticks and stop early-game threats, fuel recursion, and dump monsters that serve you best in the graveyard are ideal for the Dark Armed Return strategy. Card Trooper falls into all three of those categories, and because of that it should definitely be considered for a slot in Dark Armed decks.
Card Trooper, Royal Decree, and Necro Gardna allow for speed and control against decks such as Magical Explosion and Dark Armed Return. They allow controlling players to dictate phases of the game, primarily the battle phase. All three can be teched in Dark Armed Return and serve a player who uses them in the mirror match well. Hopefully, some readers may adopt these pieces of tech or delve into their own card pool to find suitable answers to dominant strategies. Well-considered innovation will bring you success.