Analyzing Options: Building Zoodiacs

Zoodiacs are by far the best splashable engine in the game today. The core Zoodiac combo can take as little as one card to pull off, so many players choose to play Zoodiacs just because they offer you so much for such little investment.

Zoodiac Ratpier’s the key to all of it, turning a single monster into a Zoodiac Drident plus another Rank 4 of your choice. The disruption of Zoodiac Drident’s effect is huge, and that other Rank 4 can be anything from Daigusto Emeral to recycle your combo pieces and draw you a card, to Bujintei Kagutsuchi to fuel your graveyard.

ZoodiacRatpier-RATE-EN-SR-1EThe fact that you can search Zoodiac Ratpier so easily is another big factor that makes the Zoodiac engine so good. Between Fire Formation – Tenki, Zoodiac Barrage, and M-X-Saber Invoker, you have a ton of different ways to get Zoodiac Ratpier onto the field and get everything going.

Because the combo takes so few cards to pull off, it’s very tempting to play Zoodiacs as an addition to another strategy rather than the main focus of your deck. Both Zoodiac Infernoids and Zoodiac Metalfoes are strong options. The former takes advantage of huge power cards like Void Vanishment and That Grass Looks Greener; the latter was previously the deck-to-beat, and can play very well around Dimensional Barrier, one of the best cards in the format.

Speedroid Terrortop’s also just one of the strongest standalone cards we have right now, and the fact that it can start a Zoodiac combo thanks to M-X-Saber Invoker really pushes it over the top. You have other strong options like The Phantom Knights of Break Sword and Totem Bird too, with fringe choices like Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss and Super Quantal Mech Grampulse.

While there are lots of ways to build Zoodiacs, I think that the pure builds are likely the best. I want as big of a Zoodiac engine as possible in anything I play, and just building the strategy straight promises maximum consistency by letting you run cards that directly support your central goals.

ZoodiacBarrage-RATE-EN-ScR-1EIn terms of a full Zoodiac engine, I think this is the best place to start.

Monsters: 11
3 Zoodiac Ratpier
3 Zoodiac Whiptail
1 Zoodiac Thoroughblade
3 Speedroid Terrotop
1 Speedroid Taketomborg

Spells: 8
3 Fire Formation – Tenki
3 Zoodiac Barrage
2 Instant Fusion

Traps: 1
1 Zoodiac Combo

The biggest thing you get out of running a pure variant is the ability to play Zoodiac Combo and Fire Formation – Tenki, along with more Zoodiac monster. I think Zoodiac Combo’s one of the most important cards in the Zoodiac mirror. You really want to Normal Summon Zoodiac Ratpier just to get Zoodiac Combo to the graveyard, because shuffling back all of your combo cards with Combo and Daigusto Emeral means that you can go off again on your next turn. That makes it easy to snowball your momentum, disrupting your opponent with Zoodiac Drident and a trap card on Turn 1, then vying for an OTK on your following turn since you kept your opponent from establishing a field.

Many strategies really don’t want to play Fire Formation – Tenki because it can only search Zoodiac Ratpier; it suffers diminishing returns later in the game if you’ve already gone off. But in the pure variant, you can search Zoodiac Whiptail or Zoodiac Thoroughblade and you get more utility even after you combo off. Zoodiac Whiptail makes attacking into Zoodiac Drident much tougher, and giving your Zoodiac Xyz Monsters more ATK with both Whiptail and Thoroughblade’s a very big deal for your OTK sequences.

You can use Zoodiac Thouroughblade to dig for a trap if you didn’t open with one, which is very important in the mirror. That’s all in addition to the fact that you want to be Normal Summoning Zoodiac Ratpier to make sure Zoodiac Combo’s in the grave. Fire Formation – Tenki might be too narrow for splashed Zoodiac strategies, but it’s absolutely absurd in pure builds.

While Instant Fusion isn’t absolutely necessary for the engine, nor is it a starter or an extender for your combo unless you’re doing something really crazy, if you have the room for it I think you should definitely run it. Instant Fusion lets you push through an opposing trap by reviving Zoodiac Ratpier with Elder Entity Norden and leading into whatever Xyz you need to continue your combo. It’s also a big OTK enabler when you’re trying to end the game, which is great for those Turn 2 win scenarios or whenever you’re trying to do something extra to break your opponent’s field.

With that we have a total of 20 cards, which is half of the deck. So what’s up next?

Twenty card slots is a lot to fill, but that flexibility is part of what makes the pure Zoodiac build so good. It only takes one card to start your combo, and most of your OTK’s only need two cards, even when you’re going second. You have a total of twelve ways to get everything going thanks to Zoodiac Ratpier, Speedroid Terrortop, Fire Formation – Tenki, and Zoodiac Barrage, a solid 30% of your deck. Opening with just one of those cards is enough to win the game on its own, so you want to dedicate the rest of your strategy to stuff that can stop your opponent from developing their own game position, or stuff that beats whatever your opponent establishes.

Maxx “C” is the best play-stopping card we have. Format after format, it’s been an absolute all-star and I don’t think that will change anytime soon. Your opponent can’t push into a Maxx “C” because doing so gives you a ton of free resources, and the fact that you can use it even if you’re going second and haven’t had a turn yet makes it especially powerful.

GhostOgreSnowRabbit-CROS-EN-ScR-1ESimilarly, Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit is the second best hand trap available. It stops some of the most powerful cards in the format, including Zoodiac Barrage and Void Vanishment, and you can draw into it off of Maxx “C” to stop an OTK. It also lines up well against Metalfoes and ABC-Dragon Buster, so anytime you draw Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit it should be useful.

While traps have fallen out of favor in the modern era because they can’t help you beat an established field, Dimensional Barrier’s just the best trap right now by miles. A single Dimensional Barrier can shut off everything your opponent wants to do, giving you a full turn of disruption so you can end the game on the turn following. Vanity’s Emptiness is susceptible to spell and trap removal, making it far worse than Barrier because you only really need that one turn of disruption to win the duel anyways.

The Artifact engine can replicate that sort of impact and effectively give you more copies of Dimensional Barrier. Artifact Scythe does a pretty good Barrier impression, and sometimes it’s even better. The Artifacts take up a notable number of card slots, but it could be the way to go. The downside is that the Artifacts aren’t very good against Infernoids and don’t line up well against Cosmic Cyclone.

As for other traps, Torrential Tribute’s actually fantastic right now. You want your traps to have a big impact, just like Dimensional Barrier and Artifact Scythe, and Torrential can reset the field at any point. I’m a bit iffier on Solemn Strike, just because it doesn’t do as much. That said though, Solemn Warning and Strike are still just some of the best traps we have since they have such high utility. Even if they aren’t as powerful as Dimensional Barrier or Torrential Tribute in the mirror, their strength in other matchups make them very worthwhile.

There are three directions I can see pure Zoodiacs going. I already mentioned Artifacts, and the possibility of just not running any additional themes is obvious, but the Kaiju engine was very popular in the OCG as well.

You probably already know how strong the Kaiju are. They solve whatever problem your opponent’s presenting, in a way they typically can’t respond to, and they get around some of the most resilient threats in the game. Interrupted Kaiju Slumber is just a house too, not only serving as a Dark Hole but searching a Kaiju later for additional value. It’s actually the basis for an OTK combo in Zoodiacs as well; even if you give your opponent a Kaiju, you can blow it away with Zoodiac Drident. That turns Interrupted Kaiju Slumber into a Dark Hole plus a huge monster, effectively clearing their defenses and giving you more damage.

InterruptedKaijuSlumber-BOSH-EN-SR-1EThe problem with Kaiju is that they take up a lot of space. I’d want at least seven card slots for four different Kaiju along with three copies of Interrupted Kaiju Slumber. If you play fewer cards than that, you’re just not getting the full benefit of everything the engine can offer. But running that many Kaiju can make for dead draws, which is my biggest concern. Dark Hole effects are great in Zoodiacs because you can OTK so easily, and they’re great against Zoodiacs as well, because clearing away Zoodiac Drident and a Daigusto Emeral not only means you can potentially kill your opponent, but it also deprives them of their disruption and staying power. I think that Dark Holes and Raigeki are enough removal alone, but the Kaiju give you a very powerful way to set up OTK’s and clear fields.

Cosmic Cyclone’s basically the best spell and trap removal because it’s just an upgraded Mystical Space Typhoon. Twin Twisters has its advantages in certain scenarios, but using Cyclone to disrupt your opponent’s Zoodiac Barrage or Void Vanishment on Turn 1 is much stronger than discarding an additional card to do the same thing.

You don’t want to be using Cosmic Cyclone blind since you could wind up targeting a chained Dimensional Barrier, so even if your opponent has two set cards, Twin Twisters isn’t that great. You can just wind up using two cards to force a Barrier and destroy one card. Cosmic Cyclone also has boosted utility against Pendulum strategies, ABC-Dragon Buster, and Paleozoics, which means you can gear your list a little bit more to focus on the mirror match, simply because you already have an extra advantage against other decks.

The last card I want to talk about doesn’t exactly fall into the categories of core engine, stopper, or removal, but I still think it’s pretty important. My Body as a Shield was used quite a lot in the OCG, and I think it’s exactly the type of card I want this early in the format. My Body as a Shield is great against both Kaiju Zoodiacs and hard removal in genera, but it really shines against Zoodiac Drident and Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit. Both cards play a big role in the mirror match, and if you aren’t sleeving up Kaiju yourself then I think you do want Shields simply as additional outs to Zoodiac Drident.

I think it would be silly not to play a full set of Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit right now, and My Body as A Shield does a great job at beating it. You can’t stop your opponent from Snow Rabbiting your Zoodiac Barrage, but I think it’s huge in every other scenario.

With all that in mind, this is what I’d play if I was competing at YCS Seattle:

ZoodiacWhiptail-RATE-EN-SR-1EZoodiacs – 40 Cards
Monsters: 16

3 Zoodiac Ratpier
3 Zoodiac Whiptail
1 Zoodiac Thoroughblade
3 Speedroid Terrortop
1 Speedroid Taketomborg
3 Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
2 Maxx “C”

Spells: 16
3 Zoodiac Barrage
3 Fire Formation – Tenki
3 Cosmic Cyclone
2 My Body as a Shield
2 Instant Fusion
2 Dark Hole
1 Raigeki

Traps: 8
3 Dimensional Barrier
2 Solemn Strike
1 Solemn Warning
1 Torrential Tribute
1 Zoodiac Combo

ZoodiacDrident-RATE-EN-ScR-1EExtra Deck: 15
3 Zoodiac Broadbull
3 Zoodiac Drident
2 Zoodiac Tigermortar
1 Zoodiac Boarbow
2 Daigusto Emeral
1 Gagaga Samurai
1 M-X-Saber Invoker
1 Totem Bird
1 Elder Entity Norden

I think the Extra Deck is solid, but you could definitely change it around a bit. I don’t think the third Zoodiac Drident or Zoodiac Broadbull are absolutely necessary, but they seem good enough to where I’d want extra copies. Having extras means you can do more without shuffling stuff back into your deck, and that’s important for the mirror match in the same way as Zoodiac Combo. But I definitely think you can get away with two copies.

Some lists run two Zoodiac Boarbow, which could ultimately be better than the third Drident or Broadbull, but for right now I’d rather prioritize the more powerful cards. Daigusto Emeral’s an absolute staple at two and I don’t want to run any fewer, simply because it’s involved in your Turn 1 combo and it plays a role similar to Zoodiac Combo. Gagaga Samurai has been an all-star in the OCG for a long time, and it’s just the best Rank 4 for generating damage in your OTK combos. Totem Bird’s great when you open with Speedroid Terrortop but don’t need it for your combo, lending another layer of protection to your field.

I think that Zoodiacs are definitely going to win YCS Seattle, but the bigger question is which variant’s going to do it. Let me know what you think down in the comments!

-Robert Boyajian

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