It’s been a while since we’ve had the standard four-card tech update here on Metagame. What can I say — sometimes there just isn’t that much tech floating around. Innovations the last several months usually came on the deepest strategic levels — namely complete decklists more than individual pieces of tech — so pickings were slim for this kind of coverage. Not so, yesterday! Players pulled out all the stops to pull ahead of the competition, and four individual cards definitely stood out.
Phoenix Wing Wind Blast:
Wind Blast has been on my to-watch list for weeks, but it’s been there because of what it can do in the post-Light of Destruction environment, not in the current one. Despite that fact, the slower pace at today’s event and the higher degree of emphasis on graveyard management has made Wind Blast viable yet again, and the composition of the metagame has played in this card’s favor.
Two cards are especially weak to Wind Blast, and both have seen far more play this weekend than predicted. Zombie Master has been a sleeper hit, with the Zombie / Card of Safe Return deck exploding over night due to the new format changes. Its presence isn’t heavy here, but the deck definitely saw play yesterday at some of the top tables. More significant though, is the huge influx of Light and Darkness Dragon. Top players predicted that Light and Darkness Dragon would see more play this weekend after Mario Matheu’s strong showing at Shonen Jump Championship Minneapolis, but with the format changes last week giving players more turns in which to draw the monochromatic behemoth (and more time to gather tributes), Light and Darkness Dragon is far easier to play here than it was at Minneapolis. If I had to make a call, I’d guess that more Dark Armed Dragon players are running Light and Darkness Dragon than not.
Wind Blast interrupts Zombie Master’s effect and rids the field of Light and Darkness Dragon by chaining to its effect — in the latter case it even creates a nasty dead draw. But it’s noteworthy for its generally high utility, too: there isn’t a single matchup save Macro Cosmos where the card is actually bad, and by some strange twist of fate there’s virtually no Macro in this tournament. If it was here at some time, it’s sunk off the top tables.
In the future, Wind Blast will be great for keeping Lightsworn out of the graveyard, spinning Gladiator Beast Gyzarus back to the Fusion deck (where Monster Reborn and Premature Burial can’t bring it back), and even doing horrible things to Destiny End Dragoon. For now though, it seems like a very popular pick granting graveyard management, flexible disruption, and answers to some of the format’s biggest threats. With seven of the Top 16 players running it, Wind Blast was definitely a successful piece of tech.
Samurai, Zombies, and Plasma Control saw more play yesterday than ever before in this format, and without the option of swarming the field with Return from the Different Dimension or Dimension Fusion, players were building their fields the old fashioned way: one monster at a time. That created a metagame where multiple face-up monsters were a common sight, and the result is an event where many fields were just waiting to be devastated by mass-removal.
Armageddon Knight is seeing very little play for several reasons, and while Dark Grepher is being run in multiples in several decks, players are scrabbling for every piece of graveyard management they can get. If it gives the option of pitching a Dark monster and getting you one turn closer to Dark Armed Dragon, players are running it hoping to be a little bit faster than the opposition.
Of course, Lightning Vortex saw play in other decks too. Zombies benefit from the ability to ditch a Zombie to bring back for Card of Safe Return. Gladiator Beasts can turn Gladiator Beast Darius into a live play, and even decks that don’t have particular synergies with Vortex like Six Samurai are playing it anyway, strictly to improve their Plasma Control matchup. Four players brought it to Day 2 today. With the Lightsworn bringing even more swarm power to top tables over the coming weeks, Vortex won’t be short-lived tech.
Caius the Shadow Monarch:
A lot of competitors traded in their Dark Armed Return decks this weekend for Dark Armed decks packing Caius instead. The latest Monarch is also widely played in Plasma Control variants here this weekend, which can use the same Doomsday Tokens the deck relies on to bring out Destiny Hero – Plasma as tributes for Caius.
The success of Caius wasn’t clear yesterday: most duelists playing Dark Armed Dragon with Light and Darkness Dragon weren’t playing Caius, and I hadn’t seen Caius at the top tables in the last rounds. Now that we’re in Day 2, I can compare the numbers and see that five players qualified for Day 2 with Caius — the same number that did so with Light and Darkness Dragon. That’s impressive, since Caius was practically invisible at recent Shonen Jump Championships and has seen infinitely more use this weekend. The reason is pretty obvious: Return from the Different Dimension and Dimension Fusion kept Caius from seeing play in the past, because anything he removed could just become one more monster flooding the field when Return or Dimension Fusion was flipped. The threat of Escape from the Dark Dimension and D.D.R. - Different Dimension Reincarnation still remains, but it’s just not nearly as big of a problem as the mass special summoning. It’s going to be interesting today to see the final placing of the Caius duelists versus the Light and Darkness Dragon players.
Magic Drain didn’t make it here to Day 2, but that didn’t stop it from appearing in a vast number of decks yesterday, contributing to the landscape of the Top 16. Negation as a whole was way up, with even more players than usual running Solemn Judgment. Magic Drain is excellent against draw cards like Destiny Draw and Trade-In, slowing down the opposition in the early game. Later in the mid-game and late game periods, where your opponent may not have a spell to discard, Magic Drain becomes an incredible card-for-card trade that shuts down a huge number of game-breaking moves. For free.
That’s not just impressive because of its immediate face value — it’s also good because easy spell negation means a player can hold his or her Solemns for bigger threats, or confine them to problematic monsters and traps. I think there’s a big future for a splashable negation suite of three Solemn Judgment and three Magic Drain, especially with Judgment Dragon and Gladiator Beast Gyzarus making Solemn an even better main decked choice mere days from today. Magic Drain as it was played this weekend simply seemed ahead of its time — as part of a bigger negation suite in the upcoming premier environment it’ll be right at home.
All four of these cards seem to have strong futures in this summer’s metagame. Three of the four were successful in taking multiple competitors to Day 2 this weekend, and each deserves some serious attention from the average deckbuilder.
We’re still waiting for Day 2 to begin, but deck checks are in progress and we are waiting on our first feature match. Dark Armed Dragon is certainly the no-brainer pick for victory, but a lot of questions remain. Will it be Caius or Light and Darkness Dragon that takes the top spot? Will Phoenix Wing Wind Blast make it to the finals? And if Monarchs should beat the fearsome Dragon, what does that mean for the North American premier metagame? Four rounds from now, we’ll have all the answers.