For those of you who don’t know Joshua Schmidt, he’s practically a legend in Europe.
With a massive 13 YCS tops, 4 German National tops, 4 European WCQ tops, and even a World Championship 3rd Place in 2012, his resume is absurd to say the least. He has to be the best player from Europe right now bar none, and if you managed to miss the finals of YCS Bochum where he faced Billy Brake then it’s something you should really check out. Regardless, Schmidt’s probably the most consistent player out there today, and with an undefeated showing up until the finals of YCS Bochum, he definitely cemented Paleozoic Frogs as a certified deck-to-beat.
YCS Anaheim gave us the first big taste of that strategy, with two Paleozoic Frog players placing in the Top 4. It flipped the competitive landscape on its head. No one expected the trap Frog strategy to perform so well, and yet two ended up in the Top 4, narrowly losing in the finals to an unlucky Pot of Desires. It was just crazy.
Joshua Schmidt finished YCS Bochum nearly undefeated, so there has to be something to it. While it seems very similar to other trap-heavy strategies we’ve seen in the past, Schmidt noted in a post-match interview that it plays nothing like the trap-heavy decks we’ve known before. I think that’s the key to Paleozoic Frog’s success thus far, as many duelists might have written it off as not being proactive enough to compete.
So what makes Paleozoic Frogs so different from every other trap strategy before it? I think it really has to do with two things. First, it interacts with the opponent really well going second. The Paleozoic traps are surprisingly good at disrupting established fields, particularly Paleozoic Dinomischus, effectively Karma Cut for any face-up card on the field. Regardless of the timing you can throw a wrench into your opponent’s plans. Paleozoic Canadia is similar with its Book of Moon type effect, though it’s a little weaker when you don’t have an established field yourself. With both of traps at work on top of the rest of your disruption, it’s easier to control situations that other trap decks would struggle with. But the real key to the deck’s success has to do with its powerful Xyz Monsters.
Toadally Awesome is insane, and the number of themes it’s rocketed into the spotlight is testament to that fact. It builds momentum by giving you more Frogs every turn, while also disrupting your opponent at a profit of card economy by stealing whatever you negate. When combined with traps, Toadally Awesome’s just way too difficult to deal with efficiently. If it remains on the field for a whole turn cycle, it produces enough card advantage to replace itself and much more, all without even counting the negation effect.
That’s a big reason why Paleozoics are so successful; they’re simply the best at Xyz Summoning Toadally Awesome the hard way, overlaying two Level 2’s, and they synergize with the Awesome game plan so well that you can hardly believe they were designed independently. But while Toadally Awesome is probably the strongest monster in the Paleozoic Extra Deck, both Paleozoic Xyz are great too.
Paleozoic Anomalocaris looks a little tough to Xyz Summon, but once you get the ball rolling you’ll have a graveyard full of fuel thanks to your Paleozoics and Ronintoadins. Once Anomalocaris hits the table it’s especially hard to deal with because its impervious to monster effects, and the disruption of destroying a card during either player’s turn is obviously great for any strategy, let alone one that centers around disruption.
Paleozoic Opabinia’s also unaffected by monster abilities, but its other effects make it especially strong. Not needing to commit your Paleozoic traps to the field is really powerful since you don’t have to worry about removal, and it plays a big role in combatting Denko Sekka. Searching for whatever trap you need is especially good; a key Paleozoic Dinomischus can turn a game on its head.
When coupled with the right traps, Toadally Awesome and the Paleozoic Xyz can take over the game even when you’re going second. That’s huge for a trap strategy; they’re so favored going first that having such a strong game going second is crazy. Let’s take a look at Schmidt’s list to see just why he did so well.
3 Pot of Desires
3 Paleozoic Canadia
3 Paleozoic Dinomischus
3 Paleozoic Olenoides
2 Paleozoic Marrella
1 Paleozoic Leanchoilia
1 Paleozoic Pikaia
3 Dimensional Barrier
3 Reckless Greed
3 Solemn Strike
1 Breakthrough Skill
1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
Extra Deck: 15
1 ABC-Dragon Buster
1 Cat Shark
1 Daigusto Phoenix
1 Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss
1 Downerd Magician
1 Number 45: Crumble Logos the Prophet of Demolition
1 Number F0: Utopic Future
2 Paleozoic Anomalocaris
2 Paleozoic Opabinia
1 Sky Cavalry Centaurea
3 Toadally Awesome
Side Deck: 15
3 Cosmic Cyclone
2 Dark Hole
3 Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries
1 Mischief of the Gnomes
1 Paleozoic Marrella
1 Solemn Warning
3 System Down
I think the biggest thing we can take away from Schmidt’s list is the emphasis on consistency. By maxing out on all of his best stuff and staying at 40 cards total, he ensured that he’d execute his game plan as often as possible. Much like how the Malebranches in Burning let you have high redundancy that in turn lets you consistently summon Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss, Paleozoic Frogs offer similar reliability; all of their Paleozoic Traps are Xyz Materials for Toadally Awesome. As soon as you have a single Toadally Awesome on the table, the game should go the exact same way every time, as you snowball out of control with Swap Frog effects and ultimately create a huge disparity of card economy.
To further showcase just how powerful that is, the Paleozoic Traps double as disruption on the front end. You don’t really need to invest resources in Xyz Summoning because your traps have already traded for something to get you value, so your Xyz Materials are effectively free. That makes the pluses and 1-for-1 trades with Toadally Awesome even more absurd. Obviously if you can manage to stick a Toadally Awesome on Turn 1 instead of Turn 2, it’s going to be a night and day difference. Drawing Swap Frog is huge in this deck as your chance of summoning Toadally Awesome immediately spikes when you do, but even a Dupe Frog is strong enough to get the ball rolling a lot of the time.
The maxed Solemn Strikes and Dimensional Barriers is another big reason why this deck is so good. On top of all the unique tools you get with the Paleozoics, packing your deck with a dense collection of the best traps in the game is a very big deal. While many strategies can’t afford to play a high number of traps because they want a consistently proactive game plan, Paleozoic Frogs function on a different axis since they want to run as many traps as they can. Dimensional Barrier also plays a very unique role; a trap card you can use at any point in the duel, which is key for your Paleozoic summons. For the same reason, it’s very common to see cards like Waboku and Reckless Greed because you can flip them just to get a Paleozoic onto the field.
Compulsory Evacuation Device and Breakthrough Skill can also be used that way, but they both have more value outside of that context. Compulsory used to see a lot of play, but it had fallen pretty far off the map. It’s unconditional removal that’s great against Extra Deck threats, so that, coupled with its ability to just accelerate a Paleozoic onto the field is pretty nice. Breakthrough Skill’s big value with Paleozoic Marrella; having a way to negate effects is always nice when you get a bit more bang for your buck. Playing a single copy of Breakthrough Skill effectively gave Schmidt three copies because of Marrella, and he had even more access to it if you consider Paleozoic Opabinia.
While the vast majority of Schmidt’s list is super standard because of the streamlined game plan, the one card I want to take away from this is something from the Side Deck: Cosmic Cyclone. Running a full three copies, it’s clear that Schmidt thinks this card is the place to be for the mirror match as it’s not only a chainable threat to keep your opponent from triggering their Paleozoic, but also banishes your target completely so you don’t have to worry about it later. Paleozoics already have a solid Pendulum matchup thanks to Paleozoic Olenoides, but I could see Cosmic Cyclone coming in sometimes against Pendulum decks as well.
I think the best three strategies in the format are pretty cemented right now. Metalfoes, Paleozoic Frogs, and ABC-Dragon Buster seem to be a solid notch above the rest, and while we don’t see much talk about ABC’s right now, I think that it could easily be built to take advantage of whatever environment it is in which is the true strength of the strategy. However, perhaps ABC’s are too similar to Paleozoic Frogs that the latter could just be a strict upgrade. What do you think?