Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deck Essay #7: Salvo Chaos

Games in the Traditional Format, as a general rule, do not last much longer than the fourth turn of the Duel – this is true. With the abundance of possible One-Turn-Knockout and First-Turn-Knockout decks, along with the fact that many of the control-oriented decks (such as Chaos Control, for example) are still capable of claiming victory within just a couple of turns, there is little potential for slower decks to compete in the modern Traditional Format. However, there is a deck, I have discovered, that has exactly this ability; through a series of small plays over the course of anywhere up to four or five single turns, along with an almost unfaltering resistance to One-Turn-Knockouts, the deck I will present to you today is one very surprising, but also very powerful, example of what one can do if one simply analyses the format properly and builds accordingly. I am talking, of course, about the Black Salvo deck.

There exist a number (a small number, I might add) of strategies that have the ability to convert tempo[i] into a win condition – Salvo is one of such decks. Whereas many decks will attempt to defeat the opponent through the use of brute force (which is, I will say before I go any further so there is no misunderstanding, quite an acceptable way of playing this game), the Salvo deck will make many small plays based around stealing cards from the opponent and gaining cards for oneself, while at the same time fending off big attacking turns, until the opponent is short enough on cards that one may be able to execute one’s own big attacking turn unhindered. However, the deck is far more versatile than simply this single game plan: if the opponent decides to play conservatively, committing few cards to the field at once in an effort to combat one’s central win condition, one is still able to take advantage of this situation with an explosion of Special Summons to claim victory. This fact makes the Salvo deck a particularly challenging one to play against.

The Monsters: 19

3 Black Salvo
3 Dekoichi, the Battlechanted Locomotive
3 Battle Fader
3 Cyber Valley
2 Cyber Dragon
1 Dark Armed Dragon
1 Chaos Emperor Dragon – Envoy of the End
1 Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning
1 Dark Magician of Chaos
1 Destiny Hero – Disk Commander

The above list begins, as one might expect, with three copies of Black Salvo. Playing the maximum number of copies allowed means of course that one will be able to draw it as fast as possible. Multiple copies may also need to be used. There is, however, the question of which Level Four DARK Machine-Type Monster to use for the effect of Black Salvo: Dekoichi, the Battlechanted Locomotive is the conventionally accepted target, and I have not wandered away from this, for Dekoichi is indeed the best option, offering up a perfect first-turn set and acceleration through the deck. As with Black Salvo, and taking into account the general lack of drawing Spells this deck has access to, three copies of Dekoichi have also been included.

Now, generally speaking, one will wait until the opponent has committed many cards to their field while committing few cards to one’s own field; once this game-state has been accomplished, Black Salvo will be Summoned, who will Special Summon Dekoichi, the Battlechanted Locomotive, and one will Synchro Summon Black Rose Dragon to destroy their field and punish their overextension. Thus, a massive gap in card advantage is gained and the opponent will have little options left to fight back with. However, patience is essential when awaiting this situation, for haste will surely be detrimental to one’s game position: if one acts too early, the opponent may be able to prevent your game winning attacks and re-establish their field.

Next, we come to three copies each of Cyber Valley and Battle Fader. The chief use of these two Monster Cards is to ward off the opponent’s inevitable battle-based One-Turn-Knockout by shutting down their Battle Phase (a well-constructed Side Deck will handle First-Turn-Knockouts). However, each brings with it another application to the strategy: Cyber Valley adds more much needed draw acceleration in the forms of its first and second effects, and, when needed, a recycling ability in the form its third; and Battle Fader, since it Special Summons itself for free to the field after ending the Battle Phase, can add an extra Level to a Synchro Summon. This means that if the above mentioned course of action is not the correct play, one can then add Battle Fader to the Synchro Summon in order to produce a Level Eight Synchro Monster.

Two copies of Cyber Dragon have been included for two reasons: the first is that, looking to take the most advantage possible of a successful Black Rose Dragon summon (and subsequent clearing of the field), I knew I wanted to include both Chaos Monsters, for they would simply be summoned to the open field with little trouble; and second, following on from this, Cyber Dragon’s Level Five status would have synergy with Black Salvo by allowing an easy summon of a Level Eight Synchro Monster.

From there, the remainder of the Monsters were easy picks: Dark Magician of Chaos and Destiny Hero – Disk Commander are standard Traditional Format inclusions for their ability to turn Monster revival into draw cards, as well as the Magician’s facility to reuse other combo pieces; Dark Armed Dragon is easily summonable here due to the ease with which this deck can not only put many DARK Monster into the Graveyard, but control that number as well; and, as aforementioned, both Chaos Emperor Dragon – Envoy of the End and Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning were included as the perfect follow-up to a cleared field.

The Spells: 18

2 Gold Sarcophagus
2 Machine Duplication
1 Pot of Greed
1 Graceful Charity
1 Allure of Darkness
1 Painful Choice
1 Raigeki
1 Dark Hole
1 Harpie’s Feather Duster
1 Heavy Storm
1 Monster Reborn
1 Premature Burial
1 Dimension Fusion
1 Last Will
1 Change of Heart
1 Snatch Steal

The Spell Card line-up features two copies of a card I would never otherwise include in a Traditional Format deck, owing to the fact that it would be too slow: Gold Sarcophagus. However, due to the very nature and central win condition of this deck, I felt it was well justified. Furthermore, the amount of searchable cards makes it not only a surprising inclusion, but an essential one as well: one can realistically use Gold Sarcophagus to search for Black Salvo, Dark Armed Dragon, either of the two Chaos Monsters, Monster Reborn, Premature Burial, Dimension Fusion, or Last Will to create follow-up plays after a Black Rose Dragon summon, or Pot of Greed, Graceful Charity or Painful Choice to set up for said game-winning turn. Either course of action is perfectly legitimate, and merely depends on one’s opening hand.

Another very strategy-specific inclusion is the two copies of Machine Duplication. There are two targets for the effect of this card, Black Salvo and Cyber Valley, and the use of it on either one will result in many powerful combos. For example, one can summon many Synchro Monsters in a single turn by summoning multiple Black Salvos, and one can also use the recycling combo that three on-field Cyber Valleys create, as well as simple draw acceleration. Machine Duplication is a generally overlooked card in the Salvo deck, for it is often deemed to be too inconsistent, but I find the payoffs to be worth the risk.

Pot of Greed, Graceful Charity, Allure of Darkness, and Painful Choice are included for their draw acceleration and, especially in the case of the latter, overwhelming set-up possibilities; with Painful Choice, one will be able to search for all remaining copies of Dekoichi, the Battlechanted Locomotive, along with Destiny Hero – Disk Commander, Dark Magician of Chaos and a Cyber Dragon or two, and place them exactly where they need to be. It is almost always the best opening possible.

Monster Reborn and Premature Burial where included as not only ways to move the deck along in the setting-up phase (by summoning either Destiny Hero – Disk Commander or Dark Magician of Chaos to continue drawing), but also for their ability to summon a Monster after the field has been cleared with Black Rose Dragon. Dimension Fusion is here for this same reason, except that it can create many, many combos with Monsters such as Cyber Valley, Battle Fader and Dark Magician of Chaos, all of which remove themselves from play once they leave the field, or with Monsters removed from play by the summon of a Chaos Monster. Finally, Last Will was included as one last way to summon a Monster after a Black Rose Dragon summon, most usually bringing to the field a Dekoichi with which to a little damage (of course, it can also be used at other points in a game that a Synchro Summon has been performed).

From there, we are come to an immensely simple, although immensely important, section of the Spell line-up: Raigeki and Dark Hole are included to destroy an opponent’s front row; Heavy Storm and Harpie’s Feather Duster are here to destroy an opponent’s back row; and Snatch Steal and Change of Heart are to steal Monsters from the opponent, giving you a card while taking one from your opponent. These Monster Cards can either be used as Synchro Material or removed for the second effect of Cyber Valley to see more cards. Here is where this deck differs from most: while all of these cards may be considered ‘staples’, it is rare to see a deck playing every single one; the Salvo deck, however, has the room, resulting in a highly versatile, very controlling strategy, two key points to its survival in this format.

The Traps: 3

1 Imperial Order
1 Crush Card Virus
1 Ring of Destruction

Decks in the Traditional Format generally do not play many Trap Cards, but the Black Salvo deck should play even fewer than normal (most players will still include at least Mirror Force and Torrential Tribute on top of the above list). The reasons for this are two-fold: firstly, this deck’s defence comes from its Monster Cards, namely the three copies of Cyber Valley and the three copies of Battle Fader; and secondly, this deck’s disruption comes from its many controlling Spell Cards in conjunction with easy Synchro Summons. Ergo, many Trap Cards are not needed, and only the most powerful have been included here: Imperial Order, Crush Card Virus and Ring of Destruction.

The Extra Deck: 15

3 Black Rose Dragon
1 Stardust Dragon
1 Dark Strike Fighter
1 Colossal Fighter
1 Dark End Dragon
1 Goyo Guardian
1 Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier
1 Thousand Eyes Restrict
1 Cyber Twin Dragon
1 Cyber End Dragon
1 Dark Balter the Terrible
1 Dark Blade the Dragon Knight
1 Ryu Senshi

A well constructed Extra Deck is essential to the success of a Synchro-based strategy, and it simply baffles me how little time is spent perfecting such. Here, Level Seven Synchro Monsters are without doubt the most important, due to the effect of our Tuner Monster, Black Salvo: because of this, I have included a full set of Black Rose Dragon, which one will be summoning most often (and often times multiples, hence the inclusion of so many copies), and also the ever-important Dark Strike Fighter, another Monster this deck has an easy access to. Other Level Seven Synchro Monsters may well have been used, such as Scrap Archfiend or Ancient Fairy Dragon, but I felt that such inclusions were unnecessary and would only end up being dead weight, taking up slots that could be used for other options.

From there, a set of the most important Level Eight and Level Six Synchro Monsters was included, consisting of one copy each of Stardust Dragon, Dark End Dragon, Colossal Fighter, Goyo Guardian, and Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier. The Level Eight Synchros are really quite essential to the strategy, for, with the amount of Level manipulation through Battle Fader and Cyber Dragon, it is quite easy for Black Salvo to summon one: the Level Six Synchros, on the other hand, were a personal choice to continue with the overall theme of versatility, for one may be able to steal a Level Three Monster from the opponent with which to summon either one, but they may very well be omitted in order to use other Level Seven or Eight options instead.

Lastly, I decided to include a toolbox of Fusion Monster Cards; I did this because, with the relatively high amount of Spell Cards this deck wields that can take an opponent’s Monster (three in total, Monster Reborn, Change of Heart and Snatch Steal), the opportunity to steal a Magical Scientist or a Cyber-Stein from the opponent and use it against them was simply too enticing to pass up (these two Monsters could, I think, easily be added to the Main Deck itself, but I was unable to find room even had I wanted to). As has been stated before, versatility and control are key elements to this deck’s success, and this toolbox, I feel, continues along those lines. It does so, most importantly, without impacting any great deal on the central win condition, so it was a simple decision.

It is my firm belief that, while Black Salvo may be a slow, control-oriented strategy, it is a strategy nonetheless which has an immense potential in today’s competitive Traditional Format; despite the overall speed and power, and the generally accepted mindset that these two factors are the be-all end-all, this deck has proven, to myself at least, that there is in fact another way to go about playing in the Traditional Format. Through a finesse which is almost unparalleled in this game, the Salvo player can sit back and watch as the opponent overextends to the point of no return, and then get punished a perfectly timed summon of Black Rose Dragon, or a series of smaller, less obvious yet dominating plays, to take complete control of the game and gradually grind the opponent into nothingness. The axiom ‘between a rock and a hard place’ springs to mind.

[i] For a full description of the term ‘tempo’, see my Monarch essay: “Deck Essay #4: DARK Monarchs”.

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