The March 17th weekend was huge. We had a YCS in Prague as well as Guatemala, plus a UDS Invitational in Las Vegas, each with some pretty crazy storylines.
After Paleozoic Frogs took down YCS Atlanta in a format dominated by Zoodiacs, suddenly there was a lot to figure out; Paleozoic Frogs were one of the few strategies that didn’t use Zoodiac Ratpier in any way. The same strategy almost won the UDS Invitational before getting blown out in Game 3 of the Finals by Denko Sekka and Speedroid Terrortop. But the biggest story was Billy Brake and Joshua Schmidt facing down for their second consecutive YCS finals in Europe. This time around, Joshua Schmidt bested Billy Brake in a 2-0 victory with a 60-Card Paleozoic Frog deck unlike anything we’ve seen before.
The biggest argument between 40 and 60 card Paleozoic Frog builds is consistency. Swap Frog’s the best starter for Paleozoics because it sets up Toadally Awesome much quicker than would otherwise be possible. You can keep using it over consecutive turns, filling your graveyard with fuel for your Rank 2 Xyz. From there you can use your traps to disrupt your opponent as Toadally Awesome begins to snowball out of control and take over the game.
Drawing Swap Frog typically means you’re in the driver’s seat for the majority of the game, which is really what any control strategy wants. It’s hard to lose once you’re ahead with Paleozoic Frogs, and Swap Frog gets you that leading position as early as Turn 1. But European legend Joshua Schmidt chose to run a bigger version of Paleozoic Frogs at YCS Prague.
We can’t deny how powerful That Grass Looks Greener is, and running a bigger deck lets you take advantage of one of the strongest cards in the format. Milling roughly 20 cards just isn’t fair when you’re playing a graveyard-centric strategy like Paleozoic Frogs, and if Swap Frog’s power is rooted in its ability to supply you with resources, Greener probably blows Swap Frog out of the water. Schmidt’s deck had a bunch of interesting tech and use a key monster that we haven’t seen much of before, so let’s get to his list and see why his strategy may be the best way to run Paleozoic Frogs.
3 Card of Demise
1 Foolish Burial
3 Pot of Desires
3 That Grass Looks Greener
1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
3 Dimensional Barrier
3 Fiend Griefing
2 Forbidden Apocrypha
3 Lost Wind
2 Mirror Force
3 Paleozoic Canadia
3 Paleozoic Dinomischus
2 Paleozoic Leanchoilia
3 Paleozoic Marrella
3 Paleozoic Olenoides
3 Quaking Mirror Force
3 Reckless Greed
3 Solemn Strike
1 Torrential Tribute
Extra Deck: 15
1 Cat Shark
1 Daigusto Phoenix
1 Downerd Magician
1 Number 45: Crumble Logos the Prophet of Demolition
1 Number F0: Utopic Future
1 Paleozoic Anomalocaris
2 Paleozoic Opabinia
2 Sky Cavalry Centaurea
3 Toadally Awesome
1 Zoodiac Boarbow
1 Zoodiac Drident
Side Deck: 15
3 Anti-Spell Fragrance
1 Breakthrough Skill
2 Dark Hole
1 Forbidden Apocrypha
1 Solemn Warning
3 Twin Twisters
Absolute King Back Jack doesn’t look that powerful on the surface, but it’s great in this strategy. When Back Jack’s in the grave you can banish it to excavate the top card of your deck, and if it’s a Normal Trap, you can set it. Normally you’d have to wait a turn to activate that trap, but Back Jack’s effect lets you use it immediately.
That gives you another big hit off of That Grass Looks Greener, making every copy of Back Jack you send to the grave effectively a draw for a trap card. Because Schmidt’s deck is basically 60% traps, you’re very likely to hit with its effect, but even in a worst case scenario you’ll send anything else to the grave, which might be beneficial if you’re yarding a Frog.
The second effect of Back Jack is actually much better than it seems. Arranging your draws for the next three turns means you can plan out exactly how you’re going to win the game, knowing what reactive options you have and what you’ll find in the following turns. You can make decisions based on much more information than you’d normally have, letting you play your traps accordingly and make better decisions.
Because Back Jack is so strong, Schmidt played more cards to send it to the graveyard. Mathematician and Foolish Burial aren’t too crazy; they’re some of the strongest effects we have for sending specific cards to the grave. But Fiend Griefing is really interesting, a card we haven’t seen since the Burning Abyss era. Fiend Griefing’s used simply to get Back Jack to the graveyard, and while the disruption effect is great, you really play Griefing to set up Back Jack more than anything else. That doesn’t mean it won’t set you up for some major blowouts against Infernoids and Paleozoic Frogs – it definitely will – but it’s important to note that you’re really using Fiend Griefing as an enabler rather than disruption.
One big part of what makes Back Jack so strong in this deck is how many power spells Schmidt ran. In addition to three That Grass Looks Greener, he also played a full set of Pot of Desires and Card of Demise. Draw power’s traditionally the most powerful force in Yu-Gi-Oh! because there’s no resource system keeping you from playing your cards; you can immediately take advantage of whatever you get. Pot of Desires was an absolute staple at one point, but in the era of Zoodiac Ratpier, you never want to banish your pieces of your core combo just for an extra card. Card of Demise has a much steeper requirement; it only really works in control strategies that don’t need to Special Summon often and can quickly play everything from the hand. Setting traps is the best way to do that without Special Summoning, so Card of Demise is great in a deck running 38 traps.
For example, Card of Demise is a big reason why this deck is so good. After disrupting your opponent, even losing out economically in a couple transactions, you can gas back up with Card of Demise and take over the game from there. But once you establish Toadally Awesome it gets difficult to resolve Card of Demise because you can’t Special Summon in the same turn. Planning out when you want your draw effects is huge, but making sure that you can find those powerful spells like Card of Demise or That Grass Looks Greener in the first place is what makes Back Jack so great.
Schmidt also used a bunch of mass destruction effects to take advantage of the Paleozoic Frog game plan. No Main Deck copies of Raigeki and Dark Hole seems a little weird, but stuff like Mirror Force, Quaking Mirror Force, and Forbidden Apocrypha are good going first or second, which is why Schmidt chose them. They can also trigger your Paleozoics, so when you have the option to include a card for that type of synergy it’s definitely worthwhile.
That’s another reason why Fiend Griefing is especially strong here: Absolute King Back Jack will replace your trap card, rearrange the top of your deck, disrupt your opponent’s grave, and trigger a Paleozoic all for one card.
To me, the cards Schmidt didn’t run are just as interesting as what he did run. With 60 cards, you’d expect he’d play nearly every format staple just to flesh out his build, but that wasn’t the case.
As I mentioned, Dark Hole and Raigeki aren’t here; Schmidt would rather have them only going second when they’re at their best. He pushed Solemn Warning to the Side Deck as well, which is interesting to me because it seems like it would be one of the most powerful traps you could have. All of those cards are great at answering Denko Sekka, which we saw Main Decked at the UDS Invitational in Las Vegas. But the most interesting omission of all is a monster so powerful that it was Limited on the new F&L List: Maxx “C”.
Maxx “C” was considered the most powerful reactive tool of the past format. It could define a game regardless if you were going first or second, which says a lot in a competitive landscape that was considered to be very dependent on the die roll. If one player had Maxx “C” and the other didn’t, that player was typically much further ahead; they could stifle their opponent without losing any cards. Not using Maxx “C” could be a nod towards the possibility of the mirror match, but I’d think Maxx “C” is still fine there, since it can either draw you a card or disrupt a Paleozoic summon.
Maxx “C” and mass removal tools like Dark Hole and Raigeki are great going second, which I think would be the biggest disadvantage for Paleozoic Frogs as a trap strategy. But Joshua Schmidt’s success shows how prioritizing cards that are good at any point in the game may be the best way to play the deck.
With the recent Forbidden & Limited List changes, Paleozoic Frogs are stronger than ever. The strategies that depend on Zoodiac Ratpier are much weaker now, but Paleozoic Frogs will now have to deal with Diamond Dust from Duelist Saga. Will the Frog deck continue to succeed with such a strong new answer in the mix? We’ll have to wait until YCS Denver to see!