Analyzing Options: Building Nekroz

With the release of Secret Forces, Nekroz is looking to not only be the front runner of the format, but also the handsdown deck to beat. I’d argue that it’s probably the third best deck of all time if you’re excluding FTK strategies, right behind Dragon Ruler and Prophecy respectively. Regardless, building the deck’s quite interesting. Much like Dragon Ruler there’s a pretty large core of must-play cards, but from there you’re free to fill the rest of the deck with whatever removal, support, or tech picks you’d like.

What’s important to keep in mind is that multiple cards can search others, so you want to make the most of cards that toolbox and thin your deck. For example, Nekroz of Brionac’s probably the best monster in the strategy because it can search basically any other Nekroz card; it can even grab Ritual Spells by searching Nekroz of Clausolas which will then search whichever Nekroz Ritual Spell you’re looking for.

Preparation of Rites, Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands, and Senju of the Thousand Hands can all search Nekroz of Brionac, so they can essentially search any Nekroz card as well. I’m sure you see where I’m going with this: all of these cards are staples at three, plain and simple. Nekroz of Unicore is also very important because it let you make Rank 4’s; it combos with Nekroz Kaleidoscope; and it recurs any Nekroz card back to your hand, so it’s also a three-of.

Let’s take a look at the core of the Nekroz deck:

Nekroz Core: 30 Cards
Monsters: 21
300px-StarEater-JOTL-EN-ScR-1E1 Djinn Releaser of Rituals
3 Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands
3 Senju of the Thousand Hands
2 Shurit, Strategist of the Nekroz
3 Nekroz of Brionac
1 Nekroz of Clausolas
1 Nekroz of Decisive Armor
1 Nekroz of Gungnir
1 Nekroz of Trishula
3 Nekroz of Unicore
2 Nekroz of Valkyrus

Spells: 9
2 Nekroz Cycle
2 Nekroz Kaleidoscope
2 Nekroz Mirror
3 Preparation of Rites

Extra Deck: 5
1 Shooting Quasar Dragon
1 Star Eater
2 Herald of the Arc Light
1 Lavalval Chain

Monsters like Nekroz of Decisive Armor, Nekroz of Gungnir, and Nekroz of Trishula have effects that are very powerful, but they don’t help your game plan proactively. You can’t Trishula your opponent unless they have a card in their hand, grave, and field, so it’s not what you’re looking to do first turn. Gungnir’s a little more impressive but you can’t just plop it into play, and Decisive Armor is really there chiefly for a couple of OTK combos and some other utility. They’re all important, but you don’t want to see them until you need them. I like to play as few of each as I can.

Nekroz of Clausolas is a bit interesting because while it does provide you with an effect to grab any Ritual Spell from your deck, you really don’t need more than two copies max. One is probably enough and that was the most popular choice among the top OCG lists Nekroz was dominating Asia. I wouldn’t be opposed to playing two copies, but three seems like way too many. Shurit, Strategist of Nekroz and Nekroz of Valkyrus are both powerful and more proactive, but only in certain scenarios. They’re strong enough that you’ll want a couple of copies, but I wouldn’t run three of either unless I was maxing out on both, because they’re strong together.

Djinn Releaser of Rituals is an obvious pick because it lets you combo off on your first turn and summon a Ritual Monster using the Djinn as Tribute. You typically do that with Lavalval Chain sending the Djinn to the graveyard, then banishing it for the Ritual Summon. That’s easily achieved by overlaying either Manju or Senju with Unicore, often Summoned with Nekroz Kaleidoscope by using Herald of the Arc Light to get Nekroz of Clausolas, letting you Summon Lavalval Chain to set up. You then discard the searched Clausolas for a copy of Nekroz Cycle to Special Summon the Clausolas back, banishing the Djinn.

The most popular way to run the Ritual Spells is to play two of each, but there could be an argument for a third copy of Nekroz Kaleidoscope over your second Nekroz Cycle. You want to open with Kaleidoscope so that you can combo off, while Cycle’s used primarily for the Djinn combo as well as some less important OTK’s . Which way is better? We’ll have to see, because while the OCG stayed pretty consistent with two of each spell, this could be just another Sacred Sword of Seven Stars scenario where Kaleidoscope’s severely underrated upon its debut.

The most important cards from the Extra Deck were the ones I listed. The rest is typically filled in by an abundance of Rank 4 options. Shooting Quasar Dragon can be substituted for any Level 12 Extra Deck monster, but I’m a fan of Quasar because of a combo involving Inzektor Exa-Beetle. You don’t really need to play the combo to gain advantage out of Quasar; just having it will make your opponent think you have access to the combo, so even if you don’t you’re planting false information which is a good thing.

Star Eater’s used for a similar reason: just being a Level 11 Extra Deck monster for Nekroz Kaleidoscope. Keep in mind that Kaleidoscope can Summon multiple monsters, so that’s why these big baddies are important. Herald of the Arc Light is for all of the Nekroz of Unicore plus Kaleidoscope combos; free cards are always nice.

Building From There
One important thing I want to touch on is that you could very easily build a Nekroz deck with more than 40 cards. The average number of cards played by the top OCG Nekroz duelists was 42.5, which implies that in addition to the core outlined above, there’s still a lot of things you want access to. Uf you follow my articles you know I’m far from opposed to going over the 40 card count when necessary. To make sure you don’t lose consistency, I also suggest playing additional copies of core cards or at least other stuff to make sure your hands aren’t lacking proactive cards.

Mystical Space Typhoon’s probably a staple for the time being, but it was cut by a lot of Nekroz duelists in the OCG because it’s simply not good in the mirror. Burning Abyss has recently started playing fewer and fewer traps, so even there the timeless staple is losing power. Mystical Space Typhoon’s only really important against strategies like Qliphorts, which rely on traps like Vanity’s Emptiness or Skill Drain. For that reason though, I think it’s still worth playing at this stage in the format.

300px-Raigeki-LCJW-EN-ScR-1EThe next cards to consider are removal, specifically outs to opposing Djinn Releaser of Ritual plays. Book of Moon’s solid all around, and while it can be stopped by Nekroz of Trishula, I think it’s worthwhile. From there, Raigeki’s probably the best option even though Nekroz of Gungnir can stop it. Both cards are strong outside of this one scenario, and that’s why I think they’re musts. Dark Hole’s also worth the consideration because much like Raigeki, it can clear the way while remaining useful in other match ups. The issue with Dark Hole is that you can’t use it when your board is established; luckily, if you have an established board one of your monsters has probably been Djinned anyway so your opponent won’t have much going on.

The last card to consider is Book of Eclipse, one of the few options that can’t be stopped by any of the Nekroz cards. Turning off the Djinn so that you can go off is huge, and usually keeps your opponent from even getting cards off Eclipse’s drawback. How many copies you want to play is up to you, and while it might not be very many now, I can see a real increase in the future.

Maxx “C” and Effect Veiler are both strong against Nekroz and Burning Abyss, so playing them to give yourself an edge against the two best decks seems like a pretty good idea. Maxx “C” is typically better against Burning Abyss while being decent against Nekroz, and Effect Veiler’s kind of the opposite. It may be tough to decide which to run in the beginning: you could even argue that Shared Ride is better than either if your metagame is chiefly made up of Qliphorts and Nekroz. The one card I’d suggest avoiding is Vanity’s Emptiness. While it seems tempting, it’s really hard to turn off when you need to, and the Djinn Releaser of Rituals provides you with a better effect that’s one-sided.

Other Things to Consider
There’s still a lot worth discussion: in fact you could easily just build a 60 card Nekroz deck because so many cards are playable. Gishki Chain, Tour Guide from the Underworld, Mathematician, and even Armageddon Knight provide more ways to do what you want. Gishki Chain can act as additional copies of Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands and Senju of the Thousand Hands, and even in bigger decks its effect has an extremely high success rate. You can use Tour Guide from the Underworld to find the Djinn Releaser of Rituals, making an instant combo and even creating Rank 3 plays. Mathematician and Armageddon Knight offer a few more interesting options, so I’m going to go a little more in depth on those.

Mathematician sending Djinn Releaser of Rituals to the graveyard is similar to Tour Guide from the Underworld, but forces you to banish the Djinn for the initial use. The upside is that you get to draw a card from Mathematician when it’s destroyed, and there are some pretty cool alternative plays sending other cards to the graveyard. Anytime you have Mathematician and Nekroz of Clausolas, or any way to search it, you can set up a Djinn Clausolas right there by searching Nekroz Cycle and reviving it, banishing the Djinn.

You can use Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss to get around an opposing Djinn or a problem monster like Spell Canceller or Vanity’s Fiend, so that’s pretty neat. Shaddoll Dragon can blow away Vanity’s Emptiness, or preferably another spell or trap which would then force Emptiness to destroy itself; important when you want to go off. That said I prefer Tackle Crusader; it’s got a similar effect but has the upside of being a single card, so you don’t have to devote additional deck space.

300px-ArmageddonKnight-TU01-EN-R-UEArmageddon Knight does basically the same thing as Mathematician, but you can’t use Tackle Crusader with it. The major upside is that you can play Reinforcement of the Army to search it, and Reinforcement’s already pretty decent searching either Shurit, Strategist of the Nekroz or Nekroz of Clausolas. Armageddon Knight can help you make combos by sending the Djinn to the graveyard, and you can follow up by using it for a Rank 4 with Nekroz of Unicore. That lets you have super strong Turn 1’s like Cairngorgon, Antiluminescent Knight and a Djinned Clausolas.

Blackwing – Zephyros the Elite is also a cool option with Armageddon Knight; it’s a little better with Knight than Mathematician because you want to use Zephyros to make Rank 4’s. You can even combo it with cards like Anti-Spell Fragrance, leaving it active during your opponent’s turn and then bouncing it to your hand so it won’t restrict your plays.

Both Dance Princess of the Nekroz and Archmage of the Nekroz provide more ways to make combos, as well as outs to scary things like Spell Canceller or Vanity’s Fiend. Searching a Level 4 with Nekroz of Brionac is nice just to give you more ways to go off. Searching Dance Princess or Archmage off of Brionac and then searching Nekroz of Decisive Armor so you can pair it with the Normal Summon and clear away a threat like Spell Canceller or Vanity’s Fiend is a lot of extra utility for just one more card. I’ve also seen quite a few players try to take advantage of Secret Village of the Spellcasters in Burning Abyss and Shaddolls, so searching a Spellcaster to to get around that is helpful too.

The Nekroz format has just begun, and I for one am welcoming our new Ritual overlords. I think the deck has a very high learning curve and because of that, playing the deck takes a bit more skill than spamming the field with a few copies of Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss or resolving a Qliphort Scout. The mirror match is also very interesting and feels very similar to the Dragon Ruler mirror, so I’m excited about that. What do you think of Nekroz? Will it become the best deck this format? Are there any cool techs you’re using? I want to hear your answers in the comments!

-Robert Boyajian

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