YCS Denver 2nd Place: Leo Anaya’s 60-Card Zoodiacs

Out of all the decks we saw at YCS Denver, one Top Cut list looked much better to me than the rest. While not the most exciting, you can’t deny that Zoodiacs are the driving force behind the current competitive environment.

ThatGrassLooksGreener-RATE-EN-ScR-1EZoodiac Ratpier just does so much for so little, and while it was hit on the Forbidden & Limited List, two is still definitely enough. Some of the bigger combos require a bit more effort now, but as long as you can get an extra Level 4 into play, the world is your oyster. That gives more dedicated Zoodiac strategies an edge over the other decks that just try to use a small engine focused on Ratpier, because they get the benefit of more Zoodiacs and complements like Zoodiac Combo to recycle resources.

Dealing with That Grass Looks Greener is another big part of this format, and many duelists have decided to play up to 60 cards in strategies that don’t even want to use Greener just to outplay it. Pushing Zoodiacs all the way to 60 cards seems a bit iffy at first, but starting the game with any Zoodiac will get you a Zoodiac Broadbull to search Zoodiac Ratpier, and then a Zoodiac Drident to defend yourself.

That start is a bit slower than what you might want, but if your plan is to just stun your opponent with Zoodiac Drident and trap cards, then exploding on Turn 2 is more than fine if you can end the duel. Not all of your openings are that slow anyways; you can still draw your fast starters plus whatever else you’re running to speed things up.

Let’s take a look at the Denver list that impressed me the most.

300px-SummonerMonk-LCYW-EN-UR-1ELeo Anaya’s 60-Card Zoodiacs – 60 Cards
YCS Denver, April 9th, 2017

Monsters: 25

3 D.D. Crow
3 Denko Sekka
1 Gem-Knight Garnet
2 Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
1 Lunalight Black Sheep
1 Maxx “C”
1 Performage Trick Clown
3 Retaliating “C”
1 Speedroid Taketomborg
3 Speedroid Terrortop
2 Summoner Monk
1 Zoodiac Ramram
2 Zoodiac Ratpier
1 Zoodiac Thoroughblade
3 Zoodiac Whiptail

Spells: 28
1 Book of Moon
3 Brilliant Fusion
2 Dark Hole
3 Fire Formation – Tenki
2 Forbidden Chalice
2 Fusion Substitute
3 Instant Fusion
2 My Body as a Shield
1 Raigeki
3 Twin Twisters
3 Zoodiac Barrage

ElderEntityNorden-CT12-EN-SR-LETraps: 7
3 Dimensional Barrier
3 Solemn Strike
1 Zoodiac Combo

Extra Deck: 15
2 Daigusto Emeral
1 Elder Entity Norden
1 Gagaga Samurai
1 Gem-Knight Seraphinite
1 M-X-Saber Invoker
1 Totem Bird
2 Zoodiac Boarbow
2 Zoodiac Broadbull
2 Zoodiac Drident
2 Zoodiac Tigermortar

Side Deck: 15
1 D/D/D Duo-Dawn King Kali Yuga
1 Gameciel, the Sea Turtle Kaiju
1 Imperial Order
2 Interrupted Kaiju Slumber
1 Jizukiru, the Star Destroying Kaiju
2 Necrovalley
1 Red-Eyes Flare Metal Dragon
3 Royal Decree
3 Xyz Universe

This list is interesting for a ton of reasons. We’ve seen a couple of bigger pure Zoodiacs in the past, like the one played by Brenden Beckmann to the Top Cut of YCS Seattle, YCS Atlanta, YCS Denver, and the UDS Invitational Las Vegas, but no one’s taken it as far as Anaya.

I think the best way to analyze the list is to look at what Anaya ran to push the strategy to 60 cards, because those extra 20 cards are the obvious difference between this variant and other builds. I already touched on the advantage a 60-card deck gives you in That Grass Looks Greener matchups, but I just want to emphasize how important that is again. From YCS Prague onward, 60-card strategies soared in popularity. Many of those lists – including Anderson Tsang’s Infernoids that actually won YCS Denver – dedicate extra slots to cards like Left Arm Offering just to find Greener. If you can cut off the one card your opponent’s whole strategy is built around, you get a lot of free wins that could’ve been instant losses otherwise.

First up, the Brilliant Fusion engine. Getting an extra Level 4 Xyz Material with Performage Trick Clown and an extra Normal Summon thanks to Gem-Knight Seraphinite means you can accelerate a ton of monsters into play. That helps solve the Semi-Limiting of Zoodiac Ratpier, since you always have an extra Xyz Material. Meanwhile that Extra Normal Summon is especially good in Anaya’s deck. Sending Zoodiac Combo to the graveyard should always be a priority, and the extra Normal Summon helps you do that. But that said, the biggest advantage Anaya gets out of this is the ability to spend his Normal Summon on Denko Sekka.

300px-DenkoSekka-NECH-EN-UR-1EDenko Sekka’s a one-card win condition against Paleozoics, and since that deck won YCS Atlanta, YCS Prague, and nearly took the UDS Invitational Las Vegas as well, everyone wanted to be prepared for it. Maining Denko Sekka just means more free wins against one of the most popular strategies in the room. Having Brilliant Fusion and Denko Sekka together lets you Normal Summon the Denko to cut your opponent off from their disruption, and then you can follow it up with Brilliant Fusion so you can still Normal Summon Zoodiac Ratpier. That one-two punch is also quite powerful against any strategy that uses traps like Dimensional Barrier, as long as your opponent doesn’t have Zoodiac Drident up to stop Denko.

The use of Summoner Monk also gave Anaya more Rank 4 potential, and he could even use his first copy to Special Summon another if he really needed Xyz Materials. With a whopping 28 Spells, Anaya would always have a discard. With Lunalight Blacksheep thrown into the mix, his Zoodiac Broadbull could also search Fusion Substitute, so in worst case scenarios any Zoodiac will also get him the spell he needs. With so many ways to make explosive starts, it’s clear why Anaya could make big Turn 1 plays so reliably, even playing 60 cards.

I really liked the number of hand traps Anaya played as well. A whopping three D.D Crow, three Retaliating “C”, and a pair of Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit take advantage of some of the most popular trends right now, especially the Fusion Substitute combo. If you haven’t played against it, the Fusion Substitute combo gives you a bunch of draws by looping Daigusto Emeral, and can put you at a huge disadvantage if you face it going second. Hand traps are more important than ever because of it, and with Maxx “C” Limited, there’s a deficit of good options in competition.

D.D. Crow saw some play in recent events before Denver, but it was chiefly a Side Deck choice; now it’s being pushed to the Main Deck. It’s great against the graveyard based 60-card strategies, Paleozoics, and anything using Zoodiac Ratpier. It’s awesome against the Fusion Substitute combo as well because you can hit whatever your opponent tries to revive with Elder Entity Norden, stopping your opponent cold and denying them a draw off of Fusion Substitute for at least a turn.

RetaliatingC-CORE-EN-SP-1ERetaliating “C” is a bit more targeted at the Fusion Substitute combo. Banishing key cards like Zoodiac Ratpier is big, and stopping your opponent from drawing with Fusion Substitute is just icing on the cake. And what really pushes Retaliating “C” over the top is that it can still be used as a Level 4 Xyz Material once it’s into play. Not only are you disrupting your opponent’s combo, but you’ve set up for your plays on the following turn.

That extra material is especially important with only two copies of Zoodiac Ratpier, so the fact that Retaliating “C” can act as both a hand trap and a combo extender is great. If you don’t need the extra material, you can destroy your own Retaliating “C” with Zoodiac Drident or Zoodiac Barrage, triggering its effect to search Maxx “C” to your hand! If the first Retaliating “C” wasn’t enough to break open the game, that Maxx “C” will definitely seal the deal.

With the release of Maximum Crisis, Zoodiacs get even more tools to help them lengthen their combos. In combination with Zoodiac Ramram and a destruction enabler like Zoodiac Drident or Zoodiac Barrage, Zoodiac Chakanine totally compensates for the third Zoodiac Ratpier,. Normal Summoning Ratpier will yard Ramram, and with Ramram in the graveyard you can Special Summon it back with Chakanine and destroy it with the Drident you stack on top of Chakanine, giving you a way to revive Ratpier. That Ratpier isn’t restricted by Chakanine’s downside, so you can stack right on top of it and keep going.

Will that be enough for Zodiacs to thrive once Maximum Crisis is legal? I think so, but we might see Zoodiacs played more as a supporting engine rather than as an entire dedicated strategy. The True Kings and True Dracos are both definitely going to shake things up, and with the release of Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring That Grass Looks Greener will see less play.

Will Zoodiacs fall to a role of mere minions for the True Kings? Or will they continue to thrive as their own independent strategy? We’ll have to find out over the coming weeks.

-Robert Boyajian

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