Exchange of the Spirit. These four simple words can inspire a gripping fear from across the table. The deck centred around this single card exemplifies perfectly that which the Traditional Format is all about: amazing speed, unrivalled power and unstoppable consistency. For anybody playing in a serious Traditional Format tournament, one should expect to see many, many Exchange of the Spirit decks. Thankfully, however (and, needless to say, rather startlingly), many people I have found lack the necessary skill-set to play the deck with any manner of triumphant authority. The deck (and indeed any kind of First-Turn-Knockout deck, for that matter) requires a theoretically precise understanding of deck architecture and a flawlessly disciplined and steadfast concentration with which to succeed, more so than battle-oriented strategies. Ergo, in this essay, I will be analysing my personal build of Exchange of the Spirit, as well as offering some small insights into the related game-play, in the hope that some players can gain a higher understanding of this deck.
The win condition of the Exchange of the Spirit deck is to draw through the deck until one has at least fifteen cards in the Graveyard (that is, the minimum requirement to activate the eponymous card), and then use Exchange of the Spirit to swap the opponent’s Graveyard with their deck. The opponent will have zero cards in their Graveyard at the time the swap takes place, and so, after such, their deck will then contain zero cards; since the opponent is unable to daw a card during their subsequent draw phase, one will be declared the winner. This all happens on one’s first turn. The strategy commonly uses a central draw engine based around the Monster Card Makyura the Destructor, which, in addition to allowing the use of drawing Trap Cards immediately from the hand for the turn in question, also allows for the direct use of Exchange of the Spirit. The result is a deck that is immensely consistent and nigh impossible to counter.
The Monsters: 8
3 Armageddon Knight
3 Broww, Huntsman of Dark World
1 Makyura the Destructor
1 Summoner Monk
The Monster line-up is, as one can see, immensely slim: a grand total of only eight cards. However, each one is absolutely essential. To begin with, three copies of Armageddon Knight are included as the primary way to send Makyura the Destructor to the Graveyard. The single allowed copy of Summoner Monk is also included as a way to search for and summon a copy of Armageddon Knight.
Next, I have included a complete set of Broww, Huntsman of Dark World. Now, Dark World Dealings is a universally played Spell Card in First-Turn-Knockout decks, but, for the most part, the accompanying Monster is omitted. The general consensus is that it spawns dead hands, but I must diffuse this misconception immediately. Not only does Broww, Huntsman of Dark World nullify the negative one when discarded for Dark World Dealings, its effect is also triggered when discarded for Card Destruction and Graceful Charity (both of which will be included in the following Spell line-up). The extra draws that Broww, Huntsman of Dark World creates are a highly valuable asset.
Lastly, the single copy of Makyura the Destructor is obviously included. Without the ability to use Traps on the first turn, the strategy will more often than not fail miserably, so sending Makyura the Destructor to the Graveyard is the most fundamental principle to playing (and succeeding with) this deck. For this reason, the deck will consist of high number of effects to not only place it in the Graveyard, but also to search for such cards.
The Spells: 22
3 Dark World Dealings
3 Hand Destruction
3 Upstart Goblin
3 Into the Void
1 Pot of Greed
1 Graceful Charity
1 Allure of Darkness
1 Card Destruction
1 Painful Choice
1 Reinforcement of the Army
1 Temple of the Kings
1 Foolish Burial
1 Harpie’s Feather Duster
1 Soul Release
As aforementioned, three copies of Dark World Dealings are included; they give the strategy much needed draws, especially when combined with the copies of Broww, Huntsman of Dark World in the Monster line-up, and also stand out as a way to discard Makyura the Destructor if the need should arise. Hand Destruction is also included at three copies for similar reasons: dead cards, such as extra copies of Armageddon Knight or unneeded search cards, and of course a drawn Makyura the Destructor, can be discarded for Hand Destruction, effectively giving these cards uses while also powering through the deck toward a win.
Next, both Upstart Goblin and Into the Void are included at a full three copies each; these two Spell Cards allow the drawing of a single card, advancing the strategy further and accelerating the win condition (also note that their respective drawbacks, the opponent gaining Life Points and being forced to discard one’s hand at the end of the turn, are inconsequential here). From there, Pot of Greed, Graceful Charity, Allure of Darkness and Card Destruction are all included as more drawing power. Graceful Charity and Card Destruction also have the extra uses of interacting with Broww, Huntsman of Dark World and being able to discard a drawn Makyura the Destructor to the Graveyard.
Painful Choice, possibly the single most powerful card in the game, clearly recognises a high potential here as it does in all other strategies: it can be used early in the turn to search for cards to send Makyura the Destructor to the Graveyard (for example, one might choose two Armageddon Knights, Reinforcement of the Army, Summoner Monk and Foolish Burial as the five cards, creating a situation in which any card the opponent decides to add to the hand will result in sending the Monster Card to the Graveyard), or one may simply use it later in the turn to remove from the deck cards that will be functionally useless if drawn (for example, one may choose the exact same five cards as in the previous example – or something similar – but this time, it matters not which card the opponent adds to the hand for one his already able to use Trap Cards). Either scenario simply depends on the precise situation at hand.
From there, I have included the single allotted copies of each Reinforcement of the Army, Temple of the Kings and Foolish Burial: the first is used to search for a copy of Armageddon Knight, which will then in turn be used to send the Makyura the Destructor to the Graveyard; the second, on the other hand, bypasses the necessity of sending Makyura to the Graveyard by allowing the use of Traps Cards on the same turn they are set, effectively mimicking the key Monster without having to go through any great trouble; and the third is used as another simple Makyura the Destructor deposit. With the decision to incorporate these three cards, there are a total of seven hits that will allow the use of Trap Cards on the first turn (three Armageddon Knight, one Summoner Monk, one Reinforcement of the Army, one Temple of the Kings, and one Foolish Burial), giving the best possible chance of achieving such.
One might say however, that having so many cards for a single purpose may create dead draws: through testing, though, I have found this argument to be moot. The unneeded copies of Armageddon Knight and Summoner Monk can be removed for Allure of Darkness or discarded for one of the many Spells that require discards, and this latter point also applies to the unneeded Spell Cards, so, in this way, the extra copies of things are never dead. Furthermore, if one uses one of the Spell Cards which in their way facilitate the use of Traps, one can summon an Armageddon Knight to remove another or even the Summoner Monk from the deck before it becomes a dead draw.
Lastly, as a precaution if one finds oneself playing second in Game One, I have decided to include Harpie’s Feather Duster to clear the way of any defences the opponent may have set. Also, if one finds the opponent to have cards in their Graveyard prior to the activation of Exchange of the Spirit (either if they went first or they placed them their through one’s own use of Dark World Dealings or Hand Destruction), a single copy of Soul Release has also been included. More copies could be played, for it is true that an opponent may amass quite a large Graveyard (again either if they went first or they placed cards in there by one’s own use of Dark World Dealings and Hand Destruction), but I have found that, in these instances, it is much more effective to force them to draw those remaining cards with Dark World Dealings and Hand Destruction. More copies of Soul Release could also be Side-Decked if desired.
The Traps: 10
3 Reckless Greed
3 Jar of Greed
3 Good Goblin Housekeeping
1 Exchange of the Spirit
Due to Makyura the Destructor allowing the use of Trap Cards on the first turn (effectively morphing them into red Spell Cards), the addition of Trap Cards that draw extra cards is made. A full three copies each of Reckless Greed, Jar of Greed and Good Goblin Housekeeping have been included. The first and second of these are simple draw two and draw one cards, respectively, but the third requires some explaining, I think – especially since I personally have omitted Legacy of Yata-Garasu, another simple draw one card (and arguably a better choice), for it: I have gone this way because, while the first copy is usually a negative one in card presence, the ability this card offers to draw two or even three cards is something that I just could not ignore. I find it to be better in the long run.
To round out the decklist, the single copy of Exchange of the Spirit is obviously included. It is highly unusual for a strategy to have only a single win condition, and even rarer for said win condition to not be a Monster Card of some description, but lo and behold! this one does: it is undoubtedly, by its very nature, one of the strongest win conditions ever printed, and assembling a deck that exists for the sole purpose of abusing it is a logical objective.
Love them or hate them, First-Turn-Knockout decks are a part of this great game, and are indeed a relatively large part of the modern competitive Traditional Format. The one I have presented here, certainly, is one of the most powerful, and yet, as was aforementioned, I have seen so many people fall short of its awesome potential. Whether they make errors of judgment in the designing and construction stages, or they make small misplays based on unsound tactics in the middle of a match, the blunders have been far-reaching and embarrassing, to say the least. I sincerely hope that I have done my part, in this essay, to clear up some or even all of these problems, for only through the progression and rectifying of ideas can the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game advance into a new age with strength enough to live on for many, many years to come.