They Just Don’t Die – The Future of Dragon Rulers

We’ve seen a lot of resilient decks in the past. List after list, when all players assumed an era was over, those decks managed to find a way back into competition. And now it’s happened again.

Before the Dragon Rulers dropped in Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy, there was a debate about what kind of impact they’d make – whether they’d be a competitive success. In Asia’s OCG, ‘baby’ incarnates of the Level 7 beaters were released in Exclusive Packs, and many of us here in the TCG believed we absolutely needed them in order for their parent counterparts to work. When those supposed determining factors were finally announced as imports for our TCG release of Tachyon Galaxy, well… that was all she wrote.

In terms of speed, versatility and consistency, the Dragon Ruler deck excelled in all fields. And after it tore up tournaments all Summer, everyone knew it would be addressed on the next F&L list on September 1st. But when it was, and [ccProd]Gold Sarcophagus[/ccProd] was put to 1 and all the Level 4 and Level 3 Rulers were Forbidden, a lot of players assumed Dragon Rulers were done for. The conclusion spun out of the previous assumption that the low-Level Dragon Rulers were what truly broke the high-Level ones; it was a surprisingly common theory at the time.

And as you probably know, it would prove to be completely wrong. At YCS Toronto, the first YCS of the September 1st format and the event at which players would debut their new deck lists , Dragons ended up dominating the Top 32, and that paved the road for a format that was pretty reminiscent of the one that preceded it.

History Repeats Itself
I habitually make the statement that Dragons are a lot like Plants were in that respect; it took multiple hits on the F&L list for Plant Synchro variants to finally retire from competition. Now, for Dragon Rulers, the December F&L List is the second attempt at putting them to rest. At first glance, considering the sheer amount of cards that were scooped out of the deck, it would be reasonable to assume that the dedicated Dragon Ruler strategy is finally gone. I mean, having [ccProd]Gold Sarcophagus[/ccProd] at 1; [ccProd]Sacred Sword of Seven Stars[/ccProd] at 1; The ‘Baby Rulers’ Forbidden; [ccProd]Return[/ccProd] from the Different Dimension gone; and the very core for the concept: Blaster, Tidal, Tempest and Redox all Limited… surely there couldn’t possibly be anything else for this concept to do that could allow it to remain a functioning deck. That was my immediate thought within the first few minutes of seeing the new F&L list on Friday; I even considered that the huge hit dealt to Dragon Rulers might have been overkill, and a vast amount of players agreed.

And that would be wrong, again.

Dragons as a Type alone have received an immense amount of general support over the past few years, and those cards can be integrated into different Dragon strategies in various ways. This time, we’re looking at the tremendously synergistic and consistent “Dragon Draw” engine, which has existed for a while, but in recent months more cards have been released that crack the potential wide open.

Immediately after the F&L list was posted, I began putting together a few different Dragon-oriented decks in preparation for the new season of gameplay, and realization slowly crept over me. I went from a Maiden Prophecy deck, to a much faster Maiden Dragon Draw, to Lightsworn-Chaos-Dragon-Draw, and finally back to… Dragons= Rulers.

So I’m deskbound, around 3 o’clock in the morning on Dueling Network, throwing all of the appropriate draw cards I could possibly think of into a new build and making a deck frame that at first looks like a troll Exodia build… except instead of five pieces of the Forbidden One, there’s four Dragon Rulers. And it worked. To an almost frightening extent, in fact; it was pleasingly fast and consistent, at least to the sleep-deprived me. This morning, with a much clearer mind, I got to testing it some more, and it’s convinced me: Dragon Rulers are far from dead.

January 1st Dragon Rulers – 40 Cards
Monsters: 18
3 [ccProd]The White Stone of Legend[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Blue-Eyes White Dragon[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Flamvell Guard[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Mythic Tree Dragon[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Mythic Water Dragon[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Maxx C[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Dragunity Corsesca[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos[/ccProd]

Spells: 17
3 [ccProd]Upstart Goblin[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Trade-In[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Cards of Consonance[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Dragon Shrine[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]D.D.R. Different Dimension Reincarnation[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Burial from a Different Dimension[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Gold Sarcophagus[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Sacred Sword of Seven Stars[/ccProd]

Traps: 5
3 [ccProd]Reckless Greed[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Call of the Haunted[/ccProd]

Extra: 15
2 [ccProd]Azure-Eyes Silver Dragon[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Number 11: Big Eye[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Gaia Dragon, the Thunder Charger[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Crimson Blader[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Karakuri Shogun mdl 00 Burei[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Stardust Spark Dragon[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Thought Ruler Archfiend[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Colossal Fighter[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Scrap Dragon[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Armades, Keeper of Boundaries[/ccProd]

For the most part, the list is self-explanatory and highly reminiscent of concepts we’ve seen before. It revolves around pulling virtually every monster needed straight from the deck and into the graveyard in the early game; within the first turn if possible. The synergy between these powerful draw cards and the Dragon-type is practically a time-honored tradition, especially the familiar [ccProd]Cards of Consonance[/ccProd] played in combination with [ccProd]The White Stone of Legend[/ccProd], setting up [ccProd]Trade-In[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Blue-Eyes White Dragon[/ccProd] plays. That suite of cards was widely known as the bread-and-butter “Dragon Draw” engine for many years.

A few months ago we received [ccProd]Dragon Shrine[/ccProd], further strengthening the concept… but still lacking purpose on its own. Mythic Wood Dragon and [ccProd]Mythic Water Dragon[/ccProd] fill this gap as a sort of missing link that ties Dragon Draw to Dragon Rulers so well, that it’s as if it was always meant to be. You’re already familiar with how strong [ccProd]Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand[/ccProd] can be, and it’s especially good when you can Summon it so easily with the Mythic Dragons, both of which are searchable via Dragon Rulers. Imagine power-drawing through your deck and bringing out a field of [ccProd]Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack[/ccProd] and Felgrand in one turn; that’s a powerful field on its own, but the kicker is that such a set-up guarantees you the ability to make that field a second time. And you can make that play in a practical and consistent manner.

Test a few hands with the deck and you’ll see what I mean. [ccProd]Dragon Shrine[/ccProd] gives you immediate access to [ccProd]Blue-Eyes White Dragon[/ccProd] via [ccProd]The White Stone of Legend[/ccProd], making [ccProd]Trade-In[/ccProd] perpetually live. [ccProd]Cards of Consonance[/ccProd] has multiple discards, including the searchable Dragunity Corseca or [ccProd]Flamvell Guard[/ccProd], both searchable via their aligned Dragon Rulers. Reckless [ccProd]Greed[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Upstart Goblin[/ccProd] let you dig through your deck, as your primary set-up goal is essentially the same as an Exodia strategy – you want to thin your deck as much as possible.

The only difference here is that the win condition is no gimmick – the graveyard set-up is an easy snowball to roll, and once it’s finished, you can lock the field by bringing out either any Dragon Rulers from your graveyard or hand to make a [ccProd]Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack[/ccProd], or the Mythics from your hand to make a Felgrand. Or do both at once. To overcome a field like that takes a vast number of resources, and requires multiple solutions to Felgrand’s effect that must be playable in the same turn, since Felgrand can protect itself (or Dracossack) from one threat by default. And even if or when your opponent can deal with that Dracossack + Felgrand set-up, you have the resources to make the exact same field again.

How Serious of a Threat is This?
The shortcoming of this concept is the same as any turbo-based engine: it burns out. It burns out fast, in fact. If your opponent has the ability to get over that field set-up more than once, you run out of options almost entirely. With only one of each Dragon Ruler, your resources are more precious than ever before. [ccProd]Call of the Haunted[/ccProd], [ccProd]D.D.R. Different Dimension Reincarnation[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Burial From a Different Dimension[/ccProd] can mitigate that problem slightly, but they in no way erase the fact that you no longer have the seemingly endless string of assets that Dragon Rulers have had in the past.

Despite that flaw, Dragon Rulers still function together as a viable strategy, and knowing that is going to be really important to your tournament performance in January. Awareness is the first step towards preparing for the inevitability of seeing Dragon Rulers in events.

What are your thoughts on post-December Dragons? Do you think Chaos variants are more promising Dragon-based alternatives? Let me know in the Comment section below!

-Amanda

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