Within the Traditional Format, there is, due to the vastly increased number of options permissible by additional cards unavailable in Advanced, some strategies which, while fallen out of favour in this latter format, are still very much alive and well – this is true, and is something I have noted many times. However, not only do specific, famous decks become playable, but individual engines also discover extra potential here; and, with Magician of Faith being not only a legal card, but also a highly playable card in the Traditional Format (a format governed, for all intensive purposes, by Spell Cards, to which the Magician extends its ever useful recursion effect), Apprentice Magician is no doubt one such engine. Wishing to explore, as I do, this amazing format in the greatest depth possible, I have come to this facet as my next port of call, so to speak, following classical conventions to reconstruct a deck which has not, to the best of my knowledge, seen the light of day for quite some years now: I am talking, of course, about the Apprentice Monarch deck.
I must first declare that it was, of course, by no vast stretch of the imagination that I arrived at Monarchs as a suitable win condition to pair with the Apprentice Magician engine. However, I was very quickly clued in to the fact that there was also the potential for the addition of an extra, supplementary set of powerful Monsters; this possibility struck me from almost the very first instance, when I no less noticed, in the very early stages of testing, that Apprentice Magician, a DARK Attribute Monster, searches the deck for Magician of Faith, a LIGHT Attribute Monster. It was then that more and still more support for the inclusion of Chaos Monsters began to reveal itself to me, and that I continued to postulate not only the distinct opportunity to create a deck playing two synergistic win conditions, but moreover the distinct opportunity to run two immensely powerful win conditions within one immensely synergistic deck. Through the utilization of a free Monster generating engine that comprises both LIGHT and DARK Attribute Monsters, as well as the addition of the oft-forgotten Zaborg the Thunder Monarch, the two disparate themes merge flawlessly to create something that I had hitherto not considered.
The Monsters: 20
3 Caius the Shadow Monarch
2 Zaborg the Thunder Monarch
2 Raiza the Storm Monarch
2 Cyber Dragon
2 Apprentice Magician
1 Magician of Faith
1 Crystal Seer
1 Old Vindictive Magician
1 Gorz the Emissary of Darkness
1 Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning
1 Chaos Emperor Dragon – Envoy of the End
1 Dark Magician of Chaos
1 Destiny Hero – Disk Commander
1 Treeborn Frog
Now, while I would never declare (and would never attempt to deceive people thus) that Monarchs are a viable deck type in a large-scale, professional-level tournament, I have found, through not only playing them multiple times, but also writing about them multiple times, that they are more than capable of holding their own, and, in the hands of a skilled player, very capable of winning, at the local-level of competition. Furthermore, the Monarch deck also presents to us, from the academic point of view, the extraordinary prospect of studying governing theories, both in terms of deck architecture and in-game decision making. That kind of tool, and especially when it be attached to such a practiced deck, is invaluable.
I shall begin by discussing the Monarch Monsters, which are, by and large, the central win conditions (the Chaos Monsters, while obviously extremely powerful, shan’t be drawn each and every game). In the past, I have taken the approach of reducing the line-up of Monarchs in favour of either extra acceleration or extra Trap cards; here, I have done no such thing, instead choosing to embrace the established principle, in classical architectural educations, to play seven Monarchs. Without the aforementioned extensive support in other areas of the deck, this number (which has been proven time and time again throughout history, most notably by Adam Corn’s victory at the 2007 United States National Championships) is both achievable and welcome.
A note on the decisions behind individual Monarchs: for mostly obvious reasons, Caius the Shadow Monarch has been included at a full three copies; not only does it boast by far the greatest of the Monarch effects, being able to completely remove a threat from the opponent’s side of field, no matter what type of card it might be, but it also holds one of the two needed Attributes that facilitate the proper functioning of this deck; furthermore, while not being immensely powerful, the possible burn damage is still worthy of note, especially in regards to a format during which Life Points are exchanged at such an alarmingly fast rate. Thence, Zaborg the Thunder Monarch has been included as the primary thread which ties the two themes together; in addition to this aspect of being of the other needed Attribute, however, Zaborg, of course, stands upon its own two feet with its destruction effect, which, while clearly not as powerful as that of Caius, is still exceptionally strong, warranting two copies. Finally, the ensemble of Monarch Monsters is rounded out by the addition of two copies of Raiza the Storm Monarch, which steps in either when the previous two are unavailable or contraindicated by the game-state; on occasion, the spinning effect of Raiza can be far more the powerful option than the removal effect of Caius or the destruction of Zaborg – for example, if one were to return an opposing Chaos Monster to the top of the deck at a time in which the opponent cannot summon it again, causing them to draw it dead.
I should now like to discuss the Apprentice Magician engine, the driving force behind the deck – the very foundations upon which the remainder of the deck was constructed. Firstly, two copies of the engine’s namesake, Apprentice Magician, have been included; one would only generally find two copies, as opposed to three, necessary, due to the fact that search targets will not always be available, having been drawn or searched already, creating dead draws; in addition, there is simply not enough room to run three, should such a thing be so desired. Next, the three search targets have all been included at a single copy each, owing to the allowance to only play one or the necessity in keeping the spread of effects as versatile as possible: Magician of Faith, the central reason for playing this engine in the first place, allows the retrieval of Spell Cards from the Graveyard, and (as aforementioned), in a format defined by its extensive list of powerful Spells, is very welcome; Old Vindictive Magician, which is another DARK Attribute Monster, brings with it the distinct opportunity to search for Monster destruction, being thus able to deal with two Monsters at once when followed by the summon of a Monarch; and, last but by no means least, Crystal Seer is included as a searchable form of drawing power, granting access to an extra card when flipped, which is, all in all, a potent option should the previous search targets not be desirable. Each of these is also, of course, useful when drawn by themselves.
To further enhance this suite of tribute-generating Monsters, two copies of Cyber Dragon and the ever-important Treeborn Frog have then been included. The former, while setting up for the instant summon of a Monarch, as it always does in such strategies, also stands out as being one of the necessary two Attributes, creating yet another synergistic support for both win conditions. The latter, on the other hand, boasts no such feat; however, what it loses there it more than makes up for with what it does do, by acting as constantly revivable tribute fodder for the seven Monarchs. Only the single Treeborn Frog is permissible, for the deck neither needs nor has the support for more copies.
The list of Monster Cards is completed with what one might rightfully term general additions: that is, Dark Magician of Chaos, Destiny Hero – Disk Commander and Gorz the Emissary of Darkness. As they have been doing in almost all strategies in the Traditional Format, Dark Magician of Chaos and Destiny Hero – Disk Commander present the opportunity to turn Monster Revival into extra cards; while this effect is discovered to its fullest extent in combo-oriented decks, instead here they propose the distinct advantage of then being subsequent tributes for the summon of a Monarch. Dark Magician of Chaos itself can also be Tribute Summoned quite easily, owing to the large amount of tribute support herein. Finally, although I generally omit the card in faster strategies, owing to the fact that it disrupts the flow of such decks, Gorz the Emissary of Darkness finds no such detriment here, and is, of course, very useful for preventing large attacking turns. The fee token is also simple tribute fodder.
The Spells: 15
1 Pot of Greed
1 Graceful Charity
1 Allure of Darkness
1 Painful Choice
1 Foolish Burial
1 Monster Reborn
1 Premature Burial
1 Dimension Fusion
1 Dark Hole
1 Heavy Storm
1 Harpie’s Feather Duster
1 Change of Heart
1 Snatch Steal
1 Brain Control
With the deck very much focused, as it is, with the Monster Cards, there is very little in the way of interesting Spells (and even Traps, for that matter) to be discoursed on. Everything here, barring only a few minor tweaks for the specific strategy, would be found in almost any competitively constructed Traditional Format deck. To begin with, Pot of Greed, Graceful Charity and Painful Choice have been included for their acceleration through the deck, and, in the latter two cases, their ability to set up an ideal Graveyard. Allure of Darkness, one of the stated few, also comes in as extra acceleration with the large amount of DARK Attribute Monsters present, and Foolish Burial, being another, also helps to set up the Graveyard.
From there, Monster Reborn, Premature Burial and Dimension Fusion have all been included, for the obvious reasons of Special Summoning more Monsters to either be tributed for a Monarch, or to simply create more points with which to attack. The latter, however, needs possibly some discussion, I think: with the deck playing Caius the Shadow Monarch in triplicate, and said Monarch’s effect frequently aimed at Monster Cards, one will often find an opponent with Monsters in their Removed from Play area; ergo, one will need to exercise caution when activating Dimension Fusion. I did indeed consider dropping the card entirely, but, with Dark Magician of Chaos, Allure of Darkness and both Chaos Monsters Removing cards from Play (or, of course, being Removed from Play itself in the Dark Magician’s case), it was simply too tantalizing as a possible alternate win condition.
To conclude this section of the discussion, one shall find a full set of Traditional Format field control options: namely, Heavy Storm and Harpie’s Feather Duster for destruction of the opponent’s back row; Raigeki and Dark Hole for the destruction of the opponent’s front row; and Change of Heart and Snatch Steal for the ability to remove a threat from the opponent while creating one for oneself. These latter two cards, while by no means unique to the Monarch strategy, do bring with them some extra dialogue: this is for the distinct reason that each also acts as a producer of tribute fodder – a simple and free way of obtaining a Monster to then be tributed for a Monarch. It is an effect well worth noting, and the single allowed copy of Brain Control also finds its way here as a result (with, in addition to that, the higher number of Monarchs present).
The Traps: 5
1 Mirror Force
1 Crush Card Virus
1 Torrential Tribute
1 Ring of Destruction
1 Imperial Order
Continuing with the subject of universal, uninteresting support, we are now come to the list of Trap Cards. While I do use the adjectives ‘universal’ and ‘uninteresting’ to describe the Spells and Traps that I am running here, I do not mean such terms in a derogatory manner: each and every card is essential, creating a highly stable, versatile deck, but I digress. Mirror Force, Crush Card Virus (permitted by the high number of suitable tribute targets), Torrential Tribute, Ring of Destruction and Imperial Order have been included as the most generally powerful Trap Cards in the game. All have wide-ranging effects over a duel, with the only possible exception being Ring of Destruction (although, as well known by many a player, the card can, on occasion, end a game on the spot), presenting the pilot with immense control over what an opponent can do – nothing more and nothing less.
In conclusion, I should like to reiterate, if I may, that it is unfortunately not possible to consider the Monarch deck one to be placed, for the Traditional Format, into the list of Top Tier strategies for premier competition. There is no doubt that this is true, but there is also no doubt that Monarchs are exceptionally powerful at smaller, local tournaments, during which one should not come up against many turbo-based decks, thus allowing one the time necessary to build infrastructure and gain control of a duel. I also think it is true that in order to gain a complete understanding (or, in the very least, something resembling a complete understanding) of this wonderful format, it is essential to study every possible contender for the top spot, even if it be only at the lower levels – such deserves our respect, no matter where they sit, and doing so opens the mind to previously unconsidered ideas. Here I have shown one such idea, which came about simply by noticing the massive potential the Apprentice Magician engine holds in the Traditional Format, and building upwards. The result is a powerful, consistent, versatile strategy, and one which I personally would definitely consider when playing in such competitions. In all, a little bit of lateral thinking, backed up by sound techniques and decision making, goes a long way.