Comparing YCS Toronto and YCS Madrid: Side Deck Tech For The New Format?

Though YCS Toronto and YCS Madrid took place on the same weekend, and both tournaments were won by Shaddolls, the two tournaments were actually hugely different. While the Top 4 of YCS Madrid was pure Shaddolls, they were all acknowledged versions of the deck: Artifact Shaddolls took three top spots and Dragon Shaddolls took the remaining seat. Toronto was different: Satellarknights took a Top 4 slot, while the three remaining Top 4 spots went to Combo Shaddolls (Marc Carisse), Outstanding Dog Shaddolls (Rou Chen Mo), and Dragon Lightsworn Shaddolls (winner Patrick Hoban). There was a lot of innovation going on there, making for a much more interesting spread of Shaddoll variants.

That said, while the entire top 32 at YCS Toronto consisted solely of Shaddolls, Burning Abyss and Satellarknights, Madrid saw rogue tops from Mermails, Infernities, Burn, Spellbooks, and even a bizarrely awesome Fire Fist Geargia Stun strategy piloted by Nicolas Probst. Paolo Pacchiana made Top 8 with a 54-card Burning Abyss Shaddoll match-up, and Fabio Polito made Top 16 with Burning Abyss that didn’t run [ccProd]Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force[/ccProd]. That’s a really different spread from the top cut in Toronto.

All those big points stated, I think the most interesting dichotomy between the two events – and the most valuable one as we wait to see what the new Advanced Format’s going to look like – is the giant set of differences in Side Decking trends. While YCS Toronto was largely all over the place with a ton of different cards seeing play, YCS Madrid was a different story; not only did we see a bunch of cards run in Madrid that were absent or tremendously underplayed from the documented decks in Toronto, they were played in quantities that could be characterized as actual trends. By comparison there was only one standout Side Deck card at YCS Toronto that didn’t appears in the YCS Madrid Top 32.

We’re in a really cool position to discuss this, because YCS Toronto and YCS Madrid happen to be two of the best-documented YCS Top 32’s in recent years. We have twenty Top 32 decks from Toronto, which is higher than average. But we’ve got a stunning 31 deck lists from the top cut in Madrid, which is virtually unprecedented. That lets us get a really clear picture of the trends and success stories of the weekend. As we count down the days to a format that’s likely to be similar to the current one, understanding all those Side Deck options could give you a huge leg up on competition come October. Especially if you’re planning to play at YCS Dallas just four days in.

Today I want to take some time to discuss six different Side Deck picks: one unique to YCS Toronto that was missed in Madrid, and five more from the Spanish YCS that were a non-factor in Canada. All of these cards are under-acknowledged right now to varying degrees, and while some of them rely on a surprise factor, I think their underexposure makes them all powerful picks for YCS Dallas and early Regional Qualifiers. First up? The biggest standout of the bunch from Spain.

Different Dimension Ground
Played in six of the documented Top 32 decks in Madrid, [ccProd]Different Dimension Ground[/ccProd] was a standout in the Top 4 Artifact Shaddoll deck played by Eugen Heidt, as well as Joshua Schmidt’s winning build of the same strategy. It’s been said that the biggest factor restricting the use of certain floodgate cards in this format – Continuous cards that restrict players from making broad ranges of action like [ccProd]Gozen Match[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Soul Drain[/ccProd] – is that so many of them would limit your own strategy just as much as they’d limit your opponent.

That hasn’t kept [ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd] completely out of competition, but it’s certainly kept them from being as common as in previous formats. If you’re a Shaddoll player you’d love to keep other Shaddoll duelists from sending their Shaddolls to the graveyard to trigger their abilities. You’d also like to restrict their use of [ccProd]Mathematician[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Armageddon Knight[/ccProd]; keep them from having stuff to banish for Chaos monsters; and deprive them of targets for recursive effects like [ccProd]Soul Charge[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Shaddoll Falco[/ccProd]. But if you were to use a typical floodgate to accomplish that, you’d lose all of your own stuff as well.

[ccProd]Different Dimension Ground[/ccProd] is the answer to that problem, banishing monsters that would hit the graveyard otherwise. Since Dimension Ground’s effect only lasts one turn it won’t usually restrict your own moves: you’ll generally play it on your opponent’s turn, and while it can make an effective stun trick as a -1, it’s best when you’re chaining it to the activation of something that costs your opponent card presence. Blocking a key move when your opponent tries to play [ccProd]Armageddon Knight[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Mathematician[/ccProd] is solid. Stopping [ccProd]Foolish Burial[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Sinister Shadow Games[/ccProd] is even better. Allowing your opponent to activate [ccProd]Shaddoll Fusion[/ccProd], then banishing the two Fusion Materials they were relying on to generate 1-for-1 trades is a crippling +1 that leaves them scrambling to build their graveyard. Top 16 finisher Wang Cram even mentioned that he’d make a particular trick play on his opponent’s turn by activating Dimension Ground, then chaining his own Super [ccProd]Polymerization[/ccProd] to lock up the field and leaving his opponent to either do nothing for the turn, or trying to fight back at a devastating cost.

Dimension Ground’s a great card, and while it was played almost solely for the Shaddoll mirror, it seems to have potential in just about any other strategy as Shaddoll tech. It’s got a lot of potential as a -1 stun trick to keep your opponent off balance in numerous other match-ups as well, though that’s certainly not ideal. While it was hugely popular and successful in Madrid it saw no play in Toronto at all, so it still has a big surprise factor headed into YCS Dallas.

Full House
Speaking of surprise factor, [ccProd]Full House[/ccProd] was back in force at YCS Madrid! While only one player in the Top 32 of Toronto is on record as having run it – that was Giulio Navarroli running Artifact Satellarknights – seven competitors sided it in Spain. It was an especially good choice for Navarroli’s Artifact-teched strategy in Toronto, where he could use it to trigger the abilities of his Artifact monsters while performing its more central functions, but it was played in all three of the big DUEA decks in Madrid and it showed up in the tournament’s one Top 32 Infernity build as well.

Why play [ccProd]Full House[/ccProd] when decks like Fire Fists and Madolches rarely appear at the top tables? The answer is floodgates. While banishing floodgates and Summon-stop floodgates aren’t terribly popular right now, we’re seeing substantial use of [ccProd]Light-Imprisoning Mirror[/ccProd], [ccProd]Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror[/ccProd], [ccProd]Stygian Dirge[/ccProd], and a couple others. Vanity’s Emptiness is one of the defining cards of the format too, getting you halfway to that “two face-up spell or trap card” requisite needed to activate [ccProd]Full House[/ccProd]. If your opponent controls a floodgate and three face-down backrows, all you have to do is activate something like [ccProd]Upstart Goblin[/ccProd], [ccProd]Pot of Duality[/ccProd], [ccProd]Reinforcement of the Army[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Shaddoll Fusion[/ccProd] and chain your [ccProd]Full House[/ccProd]. Target your own face-up plus your opponent’s, and you can clear their floodgate plus their entire backrow. Alternatively you can always target your opponent’s face-up Normal Spell or trap card when it’s activated, making [ccProd]Full House[/ccProd] even easier to play.

While it’s unlikely that you’d side in [ccProd]Full House[/ccProd] for a match against Shaddolls or Burning Abyss, it’s a huge pick against the trap-heavy Sattellarknight deck and could explain the lower success that strategy saw in Madrid. [ccProd]Full House[/ccProd] is one of those tricky cards where if you know it’s out there, it shapes the way you play and becomes less effective. But since virtually no one played it at YCS Toronto it may slip under the radar in Dallas, making it an effective choice so long as Satellarknights survive the new F&L List. Which they probably will.

Moving from the risky to what perhaps should’ve been a given, there was actually a surprising lack of [ccProd]De-Fusion[/ccProd] in Side Decks at YCS Toronto. There are only three competitors logged as having played it in the Top 32: two Shaddoll players and one Satellarknight duelist. Meanwhile in Madrid it featured heavily in both strategies as well as in the single Infernity build, across a total nine decks of the 31 documented lists. That was surprising situation to me. De-Fusion’s an amazing card in the Shaddoll match-up, where it’s as an easy out to [ccProd]El Shaddoll Winda[/ccProd] and [ccProd]El Shaddoll Construct[/ccProd], as well as an incredible trump to one of the strategy’s nastiest spell cards.

De-Fusion’s a Quick-Play Spell that targets a [ccProd]Fusion Monster[/ccProd] – yours or your opponent’s – and then shuffles it back into the Extra Deck when it resolves. It then revives all the Fusion Materials to your side of the field… if they’re in your graveyard, and if they’re all still there to Summon. If one of the monsters is missing it’s just [ccProd]Compulsory Evacuation Device[/ccProd] for [ccProd]Fusion Monsters[/ccProd]. If your opponent Fused their own monsters, meaning the Fusion Materials are in their graveyard instead of yours, it’s just [ccProd]Compulsory Evacuation Device[/ccProd] for [ccProd]Fusion Monsters[/ccProd]. Being a faster version of one of the best trap cards in the game today isn’t a bad thing: De-Fusion’s an instant out to some of the most disruptive, frustrating monster’s in competition.

And that’s good for decks that don’t make Fusion Summons themselves. It’s even better in the Shaddoll mirror match, where you can [ccProd]De-Fusion[/ccProd] your own Winda or Construct to Special Summon back two monsters in the middle of the Battle Phase and make two more attacks. You can also use it to get your [ccProd]Fusion Monster[/ccProd] off the field and keep your opponent from using Fusion Materials from their deck with [ccProd]Shaddoll Fusion[/ccProd]. Best of all, you can play [ccProd]De-Fusion[/ccProd] when your opponent controls a [ccProd]Fusion Monster[/ccProd] made with your monsters off of Super [ccProd]Polymerization[/ccProd].

That last point’s huge, and I think it’s only going to get more important over time: Shaddoll strategies of all types are undergoing a bit of a renaissance right now – players are starting to realize that Super [ccProd]Polymerization[/ccProd] is even better than most originally understood. Super Poly makes wins in all sorts of ways, rewarding skilled play, careful management of card economy, and punishing over-extensions. It can make big swings in tempo, steal control of the duel, and it even nets pluses really easily thanks to common Shaddoll play patterns. So if Super [ccProd]Polymerization[/ccProd] gets more and more popular over the coming weeks, which I’m currently betting it will, [ccProd]De-Fusion[/ccProd] could become even more useful.

Provided trends continue in their current directions through to the next format, I think [ccProd]De-Fusion[/ccProd] will finally see the play it deserves in Dallas. I’m still baffled as to why it wasn’t popular in Toronto, and can only really chalk it up to metagame reads that predicted lower representation for Shaddolls in the wake of the big showings from Satellarknight and Burning Abyss that led up to the YCS.

Lyla And Ryko
At YCS Toronto, Patrick Hoban’s Main Deck use of double [ccProd]Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress[/ccProd] with triple [ccProd]Raiden, Hand of the Lightsworn[/ccProd] was a tournament-winning tech decision. But beyond him, it looks like only one more competitor played Lyla in the Top 32: Hoban’s teammate Desmond Johnson sided one in his Shaddoll build, along with a [ccProd]Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter[/ccProd]. Hoban sided two Ryko himself. That gave the two of them several advantages, the biggest of which were more backrow hate against Satellarknights, more outs to Vanity’s Emptiness, and more spot-destruction in Games 2 and 3 against floodgate cards.

Over in Madrid it was a totally different story: three players mained copies of Lyla, while a whopping seven more Side Decked one or more Lylas in Shaddolls. While the mained suite of Lyla and Raiden was exclusive to Hoban’s performance in Toronto, Lyla was a tremendous Side Deck choice at the Spanish YCS. It’s another Light monster for [ccProd]El Shaddoll Construct[/ccProd], a solid beatstick, another source of graveyard-filling power, a Level 4 for Rank 4’s and Synchro Summons, and an answer to a variety of problematic backrow cards; it’s a great choice right now.

Provided floodgate cards remain a deciding factor in the next format, and at least one backrow-heavy strategy like Satellarknights survives, Lyla will likely be an obvious choice for future tournaments.

Fire Hand And Ice Hand
I’m not totally sure what was up with these. While [ccProd]Fire Hand[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Ice Hand[/ccProd] saw virtually no play in Toronto and were absent from the Top 32, four players from the top cut in Madrid Side Decked it, and it played a Main Deck role in Nicolas Probst’s Stun variant. Of the four players that sided it, the Hands appeared in Majesty Artifacts, Burning Abyss, Shaddolls, and Satellarknights.

And frankly they seem like a bad call. As strong as these cards were last format, and as tempting as it could be to try and bluff a Hand in something like Shaddolls (where set monsters can be kind of common), there are just so many pitfalls for Hands right now. [ccProd]El Shaddoll Winda[/ccProd] can’t be destroyed by [ccProd]Fire Hand[/ccProd]. Banishing effects strip them of their abilities. Satellarknights make a variety of Rank 4 answers. Burning Abyss can bounce a set card or a face-up Hand with [ccProd]Constellar Pleiades[/ccProd], spin a Hand off the field with [ccProd]Phoenix Wing Wind Blast[/ccProd], or simply absorb the losses with self-replacing monsters.

If it sounds like I’m leaving out a bunch of answers to [ccProd]Fire Hand[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Ice Hand[/ccProd] that’s only because I am; the list could go on and on. To return to Top 16 finisher Wang Cram and his post-event comments, he was quick to express his displeasure running two of each Hand monster: “This is why I lost,” he remarked. “I wasted four spaces of my Side Deck. It was not good.” Cram was quoted as saying he played the Hand suite for Evilswarm and a few other threats, none of which seemed to materialize in Madrid.

If you’ve hit up the Madrid lists and were considering running Hands yourself in the new format, definitely think very carefully before committing. The new format could offer new opportunities, but this isn’t something you want to approach blindly. Test extensively before making your decision.

Meanwhile, In The Mysterious Land Of Toronto Canada…
While none of the above cards played a determining role at YCS Toronto, one card was a big deal in the [ccProd]Great White[/ccProd] North while having no impact at YCS Madrid: [ccProd]And the Band Played On[/ccProd]. Three top cut Shaddoll duelists ran it –Claude Stevens Doiron, Ali Yassine, and Ruo Chen Mo each Side Decked two – while Wassime Yassine sided a full three copies in Artifact Satellarknights. Though [ccProd]Stygian Dirge[/ccProd] saw significant play in both YCS events, The Band was virtually a Toronto exclusive.

This thing wreaks havoc in the Burning Abyss match-up, keeping your opponent from using their best Tour Guide from the Underworld moves and often alienating them from big plays with their Malebranches. It also deprives them of the ability to field multiple Rank 3’s at once, trapping them on one Dante at a time and fending off plays that would lead to supplementary Rank 5’s like [ccProd]Number 61: Volcasaurus[/ccProd]. In the Satellarknight match-up it rolls [ccProd]Satellarknight Altair[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Satellarknight Vega[/ccProd] by denying them their Special Summon abilities. Note that Yassine could run [ccProd]And the Band Played On[/ccProd] in his own Satellarknight deck because he could still play his Artifact monsters in conjunction with toned down Satellarknight moves to put forth a game-winning offense, while his more conventional Satellarknight opponents would have a more limited range of actions.

[ccProd]And the Band Played On[/ccProd] draws immediate comparisons to [ccProd]Stygian Dirge[/ccProd], a trap that affects only your opponent’s cards and leaves you free to do as you please. The key difference? Well, there are several possibilities but my favorite is that The Band isn’t vulnerable to what’s fast becoming a standard answer to Dirge: [ccProd]Wind-Up Zenmaines[/ccProd]. If your Satellarknight opponent is under Dirge and all of their Rank 4 plays suddenly become Rank 3’s, it’s becoming common for the Satellarknight player to make Zenmaines and ram it into another monster to pop Dirge and swiftly move on with life. And The Band Played On is tougher to answer, even if it’s arguably less effective and limits your plays as well.

The future for The Band’s certainly hazy, as its efficacy still seems up for debate. That said, two of the players running it in Toronto made the Top 8 and Top 4, Yassine and Chen Mo respectively. It definitely seems underrated given the low level of discussion it’s drawing.

So what do you think? Do you believe that the next format will look a lot like this one? If so, do you think the cards we discussed today could make an impact at YCS Dallas and beyond? I’m eager to see your opinions down in the Comments.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer

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