The release of Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal really shook stuff up. While we only ever have partial results from any given week’s Regional Qualifiers, Burning Abyss variants were by far the most reported decks from the Top 8’s we saw. Last weekend’s Regional Qualifier in Tulsa Oklahoma offered us a rare perspective, in fact, since the complete Top 8 was logged and accounted for. And that was a revealing event, because five of the Top 8 decks were Burning Abyss. Of the remaining three seats in the Top 8, one each went to Monarchs, Draco Performapals, and Speedroid Phantom Knights. Elsewhere we saw Draco Pals continue to take a significant number of Top 8 showings, and a couple more tops from Phantom Knights and Monarchs.
The big loser as Burning Abyss gains more ground might turn out to be Kozmos, which made at least one confirmed Top 8 but hasn’t really seen much innovation lately outside of that build I highlighted last week. Brilliant Kozmos sadly didn’t seem to make a repeat performance. But Monarchs, Draco Pals, and Burning Abyss variants continued to evolve in some very significant ways, and since some of them are less than obvious I wanted to take a quick look at some of the shifts we saw over the weekend.
Armageddon Knight was favored on and off for several weeks leading up to YCS Vegas, as the lynchpin to the fringe “Dark Pendulum” concept. When the Adjusted List robbed Pendulum players of their easy Rank 4 fodder in the form of Performage Plushfire, a number of them turned to a suite of Armageddon Knights, Blackwing – Zephyros the Elite, and Shaddoll Dragon. Yarding Zephyros meant free Rank 4 Material, Shaddoll Dragon popped pesky backrows, and the fact that you could trigger Armageddon’s effect off a Normal Summon or a Pendulum Summon made it a flexible pick.
It was back in force this weekend to make a surprise showing as an alternate to Guiding Ariadne. Ever since YCS Vegas the combo of Ariadne and Archfiend Eccentrick has been so popular that we’ve seen lots of Top Cut finishers run three of each; they’re both great cards on their own, but together they quickly fill your back row with multiple Counter Traps. That said, the rise of Burning Abyss has seen way more floodgates in competition, especially Anti-Spell Fragrance. Easy access to Shaddoll Dragon’s destruction effect led some competitors to value an answer to Fragrance more than a hyper-secure back row of Solemn cards.
Armageddon Knight even appeared in a rogueish Pendulum Magician deck. The key combo there was to establish a Pendulum Scale of Magicians, Normal Summon Armageddon Kngiht to yard Blackwing – Zephyros the Elite, and then bounce Armageddon Knight to revive Zephyros. From there you’d Pendulum Summon Armageddon to yard Tuning Magician, then use Tuning Magician’s ability to revive it. Tune it with Armageddon Knight and Zephyros and you score a free Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier.
Mischief of the Gnomes was also played in reaction to the sudden reappearance of Burning Abyss. That deck relies entirely on making Rank 3 Xyz Summons and it doesn’t run any Rank 2’s, so shifting all of their in-hand monsters to Level 2 stuns them into inaction for an entire turn. Since you get to use a similar effect by banishing Mischief of the Gnomes from your graveyard, it can lock down a Burning Abyss player for two turns in sequence to virtually guarantee your win. And while lots of different strategies can use Mischief, it’s especially good in Burning Abyss itself, where you could mill it for free or send it to the graveyard with Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal.
While most banish-me-from-the-graveyard cards can’t be banished for their effects on the same turn they land in the yard, Mischief of the Gnomes carries no such restriction. So what’s better than Summoning Beatrice Turn 1 in the mirror match? Summoning Beatrice Turn 1 in the mirror match, and then stopping your opponent from Summoning their own.
Remember, we saw Mischief back in October, played by Erik Christensen to win YCS Dallas with Infernoids. He played it to beat Nekroz, keeping them off their Ritual Summons, but the card’s even better here against Burning Abyss and Phantom Knights. I bring that up solely because two weeks ago we saw Jordian Foster win the Monroeville Regional Qualifier right outside Pittsburgh, with an innovated Infernoid build.
Intriguingly enough, Top Cut Monarch players continue to rely on Thestalos the Mega Monarch more and more, which seems like a poor choice when you can logically expect to play against Burning Abyss; discarding their cards is usually a bad idea. But since Mega Thestalos lets you pick and choose what you discard, it offers an element of precision that the original Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch could never give you; you can, at least in theory, play around your opponent’s Burning Abyss monsters. Combined with Erebus the Underworld Monarch, which disrupts your opponent’s hand by shuffling a card away instead of landing it in the graveyard, hand control’s surprisingly alive and well right now.
With Burning Abyss reborn anew, it’s no surprise that the biggest advancements of the week rested largely in that strategy. Mask Change II was one of the most dramatic tech picks, sending a Dark monster to the graveyard to Special Summon Masked HERO Dark Law. Since Mask Change II has a discard cost and it consumes a monster from your field it’s normally a -2 of card economy, but if you’re pitching Malebranches and Phantom Knights with graveyard effects, you’re often making it as a cost-free 1-for-1.
From there Masked HERO Dark Law twists the game into something most opponents won’t be prepared for, establishing a one-sided Macro Cosmos effect. It banishes Pendulum Monsters instead of sending them back to the Extra Deck; it keeps an opposing Burning Abyss or Phantom Knights player from using their graveyard effects; and it even stops key cards that rely on the graveyard in the Kozmo and Monarch match-ups. While protecting Dark Law can be tough, Beatrice can fend off attackers with Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, and higher Leveled strategies running Mask Change II can hide Dark Law behind Number 38: Hope Harbinger Dragon Titanic Galaxy. Watch for Mask Change II and Masked HERO Dark Law to pop up wherever players can make it fit, at least for a few weeks.
Dark Law’s hand control effect is often underrated, too, and while it’s useful against virtually all the top decks right now since they all do some degree of searching from the deck, it’s once again especially good against Burning Abyss since it’s another banishing effect. Some of the best tech against Burning Abyss right now is anchored deeply in the mirror match, which could create some interesting situations if this competitive landscape is largely maintained into the WCQ season.
Fiend Griefing was a big pick in Burning Abyss when it first debuted in Crossed Souls, but it fell out of favor when Pendulums rose to power and graveyard control was suddenly irrelevant. Now it’s a prominent choice again, largely for many of the same reasons that made Dark Law relevant: it robs Monarchs and Phantom Knights of cards they’d want to play from their graveyard; it chains to recursion effects to shut down revival plays in Kozmos; and it can even stop recursive effects like Cir, Dante, and Dinoster Power, the Mighty Dracoslayer.
Since Griefing also yards a Fiend from your deck it complements Beatrice by making the most of your reactive Malebranches, like Alich, Calcab, and Farfa, and helps advance your strategy with recursion and Special Summons when you’re building your field. Most of those cards will offer a free plus in that process, making Fiend Griefing effectively free once it’s been set for a turn and you can activate it. It’s flexible, it’s high in utility, and it can kill big plays long enough to steal wins. I’m surprised we didn’t see more of it in Beatrice’s first weekend out, but it was really big in the latest round of Regionals.
Booby Trap E rounds out our discussion today, as inarguably the coolest piece of tech we saw all week. By now you might know the deal since it caught a lot of hype already, but if not, the gist is that Booby Trap E combos with Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal to search Continuous Traps… namely floodgates. Set Booby Trap E, make Beatrice, and as soon as you move into your opponent’s turn activate its effect to send whatever floodgate you want to your graveyard. From there you can Booby Trap it to the field and activate it immediately.
Normally you’d only have a 33% chance to see any floodgate in your opening hand of five cards if you run three copies, but with three Booby Trap E’s in the mix, you’ll see one of those six cards about 57% of the time instead. That’s a big jump when you’re talking about cards that often win you the game singlehandedly.
While Booby Trap E has a discard cost, it’s negligible if you’re discarding Burning Abyss or Phantom Knight monsters. Anti-Spell Fragrance auto-wins the Pendulum match-up; Imperial Iron Wall devastates Kozmos and Phantom Knights; Monarchs hate seeing Mask of Restrict; and you could even make an argument for Mistake. None of those cards really hurt Burning Abyss, so suddenly the BA strategy can play to a very control-oriented perspective with unprecedented access to game-shaping cards.
This tech pick only appeared in one logged Regional Top 8 deck – Taylor Wallace’s Speedroid Burning Abyss from Oklahoma – so there’s every chance we’ll never see this technique again. But it’s so smart and so effective that I really think it’ll make an impact moving forward, potentially redefining Burning Abyss in the process.
That’s it! Everything that caught my eye from Regionals this week. What do you think? Is Mischief of the Gnomes the Burning Abyss problem-solver we’ve been looking for? Will Dark Draco Pals come to rival builds with Guiding Ariadne? And will Booby Trap E turn Burning Abyss into an all new beast moving forward? Let me know what you think, down in the comments.