Slaying the Monster – Beating Dragon Ruler

Dragon Rulers have been dominating the OCG for the past couple months, and it’s pretty easy to see why. The deck hinges on a ton of card redundancy which makes all of its games look very similar to the last, but don’t confuse this redundancy with linearity, because that’s hardly what’s going on. Dragon Rulers can grind you out, take your best monsters, and play the control role while being totally proactive. Not only can the strategy as a whole be played in different ways, but every card in the deck usually has multiple purposes: Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos can be removal, but at the same time it can be a huge monster. Every hand trap they play – Droll & Lock Bird, Effect Veiler, Maxx “C” – can also be discard fodder for a smaller Dragon Ruler, or simply in some cases played as a Tuner. The deck’s really flexible, so stopping it is no easy feat.

The real power behind Dragon Ruler is its ability to use their graveyard as a sort of second hand. The bigger Dragons can be Special Summoned from the graveyard, and if they’re banished they just give you another Dragon. The smaller Dragons get big ones from your deck while putting more monsters into your graveyard, so you can see what a viciouscycle that becomes. Regardless of how many cards they use, they can often do just about the same on the following turn, on top of whatever Xyz Summon they made the turn before. When that Xyz is something hard to deal with like Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack, you can see how things can get bad really quickly.

The first strategy I attempted to beat Dragon Rulers without bringing cards in from the Side Deck, was to grind out their Dracossacks. I figured that if they had so much access to monsters from their Main Deck, then I might be able to fight them on a different front. This actually works against most inexperienced players because they don’t know how to do much more than the default Dracossack grind, but once you start playing more experienced players it gets a little tougher. Grinding out Dracossacks is fine, but you lose cards in the process; once you’re done with that you still have a ton of regular Dragon Rulers to deal with plus whatever else your opponent’s Extra Deck has in store for you. Nothing feels as bad as grinding through a playset of Dracossack to then see a Number 7: Lucky Straight role a couple sevens on you. So if a general strategy isn’t going to be good enough to beat Dragon Rulers, what else do we have?

We have hate.

Picking Your Tech
Hate cards are getting better and better: as the game advances, these are the kinds of cards that completely shut down certain strategies by stopping a certain mechanic or a particular type of card. Jinzo and Vanity’s Fiends are good examples of this, brick walling a particular type of card so that you can break through a strategy that would normally rely on that card to win. While Jinzo or Vanity’s Fiend might not be too relevant anymore, cards like Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer and Jowgen the Spiritualist definitely are. Prophecy has adapted to the Dragon deck by playing both of these powerful Spellcasters to stop the key things that Dragons want to do.

Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer is a splashable anti-meta monster that has a big enough body while doing relevant things. If your opponent can’t banish monsters from their graveyard, they’ll have to jump through a few hoops to get going. That usually means having several smaller Dragon Rulers to make sure that they aren’t really losing any advantage.

The problem with Kycoo? You need to protect it. Reactan, the Dragon Ruler of Pebbles is big enough to crash with it, and it falls to cards like Breakthrough Skill. Chaos Hunter is very similar; it can just beat a Dragon strategy outright if their hand isn’t good enough. Once your opponent pitches their first smaller Dragon to get a bigger guy from their deck, you slam Chaos Hunter down. Your opponent has to have another smaller Dragon in their hand, or their turn comes to a halt right there. Pretty cool. It’s also good because it’s more of a surprise than other cards.

All praise for Kycoo aside, my favorite anti-banish option has to be Imperial Iron Wall. Why? Because it doesn’t lose to cards like Breakthrough Skill, nor can your opponent destroy it with an attack. The only way your opponent is getting rid of Iron Wall is through spell and trap destruction, and if they don’t play Mystical Space Typhoon that gets even harder. Your opponent has to rely on Blaster or Dracossack to destroy it, and both cards are pretty hard to play while Iron Wall’s face-up.

But what’s the best thing about all three of these cards? Kycoo, Iron Wall, and Jowgen also give you a ton of points in the Prophecy matchup, because they stop Spellbook of Fate and High Priestess of Prophecy. Hitting one deck hard is good, but hitting the two best seems fantastic.Maxx “C” and Number 16: Shock Master are popular answers too. Maxx “C” can slow your opponent down, or make them push to give you a ton of cards, which will in turn buy you more time to find specific answers or get your big moves online before your opponent can make a win. Keep in mind that you can choose where and how to play Maxx “C” depending on what your hand looks like. Sometimes, chaining Maxx “C” to the effect of the first little Dragon Ruler isn’t going to be as good as when your opponent tries to Special Summon the second one. Holding Maxx “C” until the second activation puts them in a position where they can either Xyz Summon to give you another card, or just pass and risk losing both Dragons. Best case scenario, the Dragons are at least going to bounce back to their hand.

Shock Master can lock down your opponent completely if you can resolve its ability calling monsters: the entire Dragon Ruler deck relies on the Dragons’ effects, so once they’re turned off they should be easy pickings. Shock Master also gives you additional points in the Prophecy matchup if you can pull it off: they play about as many spells as Dragon Rulers play monsters, so you can see why it’s so good there.

While Dragon Rulers are very good, they’re hardly the be-all end-all of the game. The key thing to remember is you want to play cards that deal with the Dragon Rulers, while keeping a strong front in other matchups. You don’t want to be drawing too many Imperial Iron Walls against a deck like Fire Fist or Mermail. Finding the right balance is key, but we’ll see how much you really have to worry about everything in the future. What are your plans to deal with Dragon Ruler? Make sure to tell us in the Comments!

-Robert Boyajian

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