When considering the vast realm of obscure yet highly promising decks in the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game (which I myself, quite clearly, am very fond of doing), there is no doubt that the one known simply as Norleras Control is the strategy just hanging on the fringe of being competitively viable. It is, indeed, the one deck which, time after time, rears its head at mostly random intervals on internet forums and local tournament floors. To the best of my knowledge, however, only a single premier-level Day Two showing can be attributed to its name, that made by James Laurent at the 2009 Shonen Jump Championship in Orlando; and yet, despite this somewhat troubling fact, it boasts one of the most powerful effects known to almost any similar card game, is capable of utilizing one of the fastest and most consistent engines imaginable, and can easily and swiftly create one of the most difficult gamestates to come back from. Without further ado, I shall, in this analysis, spend the time to revisit, reconstruct and discuss this seemingly long-lost strategy, transporting its simple, strict structure and burgeoning potential into the Traditional Format where it will, as is always the case, realise its full power.
If one reading this should be unaware of the single win condition that the Norleras Control deck attempts to create, I will find it necessary to now describe it: through using a number of cards intended to send the eponymous Monster, Sky Scourge Norleras, to the Graveyard without involving the single allotted Normal Summon for the turn, one then Normal Summons a copy of Phantom of Chaos, subsequently activating its effect to mimic the aforementioned Sky Scourge Norleras and send every card on the field and in both players hands to the Graveyard. Since the player who accomplishes this plan of attack draws one card upon completely resolving the borrowed effect, that player thus finds him- or herself in a state of card advantage, and, with the remainder of the deck designed with the express purpose of forming desirable top-decks, said player is able to execute manoeuvres which, while in a complicated gamestate would be considered weak, are instead here extremely powerful – eventually game winning. Now, there have been numerous attempts, I am well aware, to formulate decks which employ other, supplementary strategies once the field and hands have been wiped clean (those being Graveyard-based, such as Zombies or ones centred on Blackwing – Vayu the Emblem of Honour), but I find that such alterations, while undoubtedly impressive when they work, only decrease consistency. I will, therefore, be running with the proven skeleton of the deck, forgoing any fancy tricks to create a build of Norleras Control which is fast, consistent and precise.
The Monsters: 22
3 Phantom of Chaos
3 The Dark Creator
3 Dark Grepher
3 Sky Scourge Norleras
2 Dark Nephthys
2 Destiny Hero – Malicious
1 Plaguespreader Zombie
1 Dark Magician of Chaos
1 Destiny Hero – Disk Commander
1 Dark Armed Dragon
1 Sinister Serpent
One will find the Monster line-up (and, indeed, the entire decklist) to be a delicate balance between cards which aid in achieving the desired gamestate, and cards which function within said gamestate. To begin with, I will discuss the former, the set of options which, in one way or another, create the set-up that the strategy thrives on.
There is, of course, the distinct requirement for cards that can send the needed copy of Sky Scourge Norleras to the Graveyard. I have, in order to accomplish this goal, made the inclusion of a full three copies of Dark Grepher. I have chosen this over Armageddon Knight for two reasons, one vastly imperative, the other not so much: firstly (and most importantly), it does not, when utilized correctly – that is, when activating its Special Summon effect, which I should note can be done very easily here, owing to the large amount of Level 5 or higher DARK Attribute Monsters – use up the single allowed Normal Summon for the turn; and secondly, it also has the ability to send, through both of its effects in unison, a total of three needed Monster Cards to the Graveyard, as opposed to the mere single that Armageddon Knight allows. One is able, in this way, to search for other cards (notes of which will be given presently) required to create combos once the field and hands have been cleared.
From there, a full three copies of Phantom of Chaos, the Monster that allows the pilot to execute Norleras’ effect once it has been sent whither it needs to be, have been included, followed then by the obvious set of Sky Scourge Norleras itself. Three copies is quite essential, for there are some troublesome situations to warrant such a concentrated addition of an otherwise dead draw: for example, the opponent may Removes from Play one’s Norleras before it can be used; or a second or even a third use may be required if an opponent is able to re-establish control of the game after the first. I was, in conjunction with these reasons, very keen, early in my testing, to include also the single allowed copy of Chaos Emperor Dragon – Envoy of the End, but I was simply unable to find the room. While it would indeed have been a welcome inclusion, functioning, in this instance, as a pseudo-Norleras, I could not discover any reason for justifying the removal of another card for it, and thought that, under the circumstances, any position where it would be required would be far too rare. It is, while a nice idea, not necessarily crucial to success here, and was thus easily omitted.
Next, we come to the group of cards which function within the created gamestate – that is, the Monsters which become, for all intensive purposes, one’s line of attack once the effect of Sky Scourge Norleras has successfully resolved. To begin with, we find a full set of The Dark Creator; with the fact that every Monster already included is of the DARK Attribute, and the ease with which one can load them into the Graveyard, The Dark Creator becomes an easy fit here while also boasting large ATK and DEF points and an immensely powerful effect in a simplified gamestate. It can also be discarded for the Special Summon of a Dark Grepher. From there, a pair of Dark Nephthys comes in as another excellent top-deck with its effect, size and ease of summon; it is possible, of course, to also activate its effect prior to clearing the field and the hands. Furthermore, it can also be discarded for the Special Summon of a Dark Grepher. We find then a pair of Destiny Hero – Malicious, for it can easily be discarded with a Dark Grepher (either through the cost for its second effect or, as with the previous two Monsters, to Special Summon it) or any of the Spell Cards to be annotated later on, and can provide some free field presence. The single allowed copy of Plaguespreader Zombie also finds its way here, both for its simple ability of coming back from the Graveyard and the additional use of placing a combo card back onto the top of the deck prior to activating the effect of Norleras, thereby creating an optimal draw with which to create card presence.
Finally, this section is completed as Dark Armed Dragon and Yata-Garasu fall into line each in their allotted single copies, being so amazing as they are as top-decks in the first place but, here, functioning even better as such in the desired drastically simplified gamestate. The former, of course, can also be discarded for the Special Summon of a Dark Grepher if drawn before one has executed the win condition.
The full list of Monsters Cards is rounded out by the three options which cross the proverbial border into both components of the strategy. Dark Magician of Chaos, Sinister Serpent and Destiny Hero – Disk Commander all, in their way, either aid in the setting up of the win condition or, alternately, as a way of boosting one’s card presence (and also, in the case of the first, one’s attacking potential) after the effect of Norleras has been achieved.
The Spells: 18
3 Upstart Goblin
3 Hand Destruction
1 Pot of Greed
1 Allure of Darkness
1 Graceful Charity
1 Card Destruction
1 Painful Choice
1 Foolish Burial
1 Reinforcement of the Army
1 Monster Reborn
1 Premature Burial
1 Dimension Fusion
1 Snatch Steal
We will find again, here, no doubt, the distinct feature of the deck being split into two almost completely separate categories – that is, pre-Norleras and post-Norleras. In terms of the Spell Card line-up, one can see that both Hand Destruction and Upstart Goblin have been included at their highest possible amount, three copies. The former grants the ability of not only drawing more cards, but also that of placing required into the Graveyard to facilitate combos; I have chosen Hand Destruction for this purpose for the simple reason that, while generally constituting a minus one (-1) in card presence, it allows the pilot to discard other, needed Monster Cards (such as Disk Commander and Sinister Serpent) that it would be otherwise impossible to accomplish (such as with, for example, Trade-in, the other most logical choice given the sheer number of Level 8 Monsters). It can also, furthermore, turn dead, unneeded cards into live ones, and the minus becomes moot upon resolving Sky Scourge Norleras, anyway. The latter (Upstart Goblin) provides a single draw, plain and simple, making it a fantastic card during either gamestate by either drawing one towards more set-up cards or towards more attacking cards.
From there, the remainder of the cards within this category are what we might indeed term the ‘obvious inclusions’: namely, Pot of Greed, Graceful Charity, Allure of Darkness and Card Destruction to draw (and discard) more cards, and Painful Choice, Reinforcement of the Army and Foolish Burial to search, in their own individual way, for Monster Cards for future use in combos.
I should say, before I go any further, that I dearly would have liked to include Trade-in, even though I did seemingly disregard it earlier. With a total of nine Level 8 Monsters, there is no doubt in my mind that it would have been incredibly consistent, although only prior to executing the win condition; it would only prove, therefore, to be a dead draw once the effect of Sky Scourge Norleras had successfully been resolved, which would, in this way, decrease consistency in the second half of the gameplan. For this reason, as well as the fact that, through testing, I found that the deck functioned well enough without it, in most instances, I decided it would be better if the card was omitted.
With that taken care of, the second grouping is begun and concluded by the addition of Monster Reborn, Premature Burial and Dimension Fusion for Special Summoning Monsters, and Snatch Steal and Raigeki for preventing an opponent from fighting back. Although the first three cards can, of course, be used to initiate or facilitate the summon of the Magician or the Disk Commander to draw more cards, or a Phantom of Chaos in order to execute the win condition, the last two are effectively the only Spell Cards that function solely in the simplified gamestate; they are undoubtedly amazing top-decks, either instantly destroying any field an opponent may be lucky enough to produce from their reduced card presence, or, alternatively (and superiorly), stealing that field for one’s own use.
Note for me, please, the absence of Harpie’s Feather Duster. I had been running this card in many of the preliminary versions of the strategy, but it was one of the very first cards to be removed on the way to the above completed decklist. I will admit that it is a welcome draw in the early game (that is, before one has cleared the field and the hands) should one be playing second, in order to destroy any counters to the strategy in Spell or Trap form, but I find it is too much of a dead top-deck in the post-Norleras gamestate. There is already enough possibility of that happening without inciting it further, so I ultimately decided it was better off in the Side Deck, and its Main Deck slot used for something more synergistic in the long run.
I can find but one simple reason not to play this deck at a high-level tournament: and that is the fact that it is so easily countered in the current position of the game. With the heavy reliance the deck possesses on the Graveyard and the use of a face-up Monster (to the point where the strategy is literally unable to do anything at all if the single win condition is prevented), a timely Effect Veiler or D.D. Crow, both of which are very common choices in triplicate in Traditional Format Side Decks, denotes the most horrible doom ever imaginable – which is, basically, an instant loss. Having said that, however, I would in no way decry the Norleras Control strategy as a useless oddity, for, despite this flaw (which I will admit, nonetheless, is rather a large one), it is extremely fast and extremely consistent, and, once the field and hands have been wiped clean through the effect of Sky Scourge Norleras, a very difficult deck to combat against. I feel the need to disclose its weakness, as I do with every similar deck, only for the reason of a disclaimer, so that readers will not think that I am declaring the deck herein to be a flawless, premier tournament winner, but instead a continuation of my journey through this amazing format. In the science of Yu-Gi-Oh! (or, indeed, any card game), there is always – always – something new to be seen, different to be considered, or old to be reanalysed, and, although that thing might not prove to be the most amazing thing ever accomplished, it is still worth the time and effort to explore.