It is, quite simply, astonishing how this great game has changed over the years. For example, for the subject of this essay I will be winding the clock all the way back to the year 2003: this was a time when the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game was still a rather simple entertainment, and in addition, to be completely honest, a rather primitive one. However, it was during this time (this highly unlikely point in our history) that innovation trumped the orthodox playing style of the era to take the World Championship by storm. Needless to say, the deck dominated the subsequent metagame for quite some time after that event, all the while gradually gaining power from each additional Booster Set released. That is, though, until the Set Invasion of Chaos came out, and the face of the game changed yet again. The strategy in question was forgotten. However, for the purposes of exploring the Traditional Format in as greater depth as possible, I have retrieved and studied as much data as I could find to recreate this innovative deck for the modern Traditional Format. I am talking about the Yata-Garasu deck.
As the simple name of the deck might imply, this strategy aims to create a situation in which the eponymous card, Yata-Garasu, by use of its effect, becomes a win condition; it does so through the use of a series of cards that control the opponent’s hand (and, in this modern version, their Draw Phase), up until the point in which attacking directly with one’s Yata-Garasu will lock the opponent out of the game. Of course, there have been many powerful additions to the game since the aforementioned early days, and some have a huge impact on this deck: Phoenix Wing Wind Blast and Raiza the Storm Monarch, for example, will give the player more dominant ways to control the opponent’s moves while also controlling their draws, as well as more direct hand control in the form of Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch. The result is a Monarch-based strategy designed to control the opponent’s every move from the very instant they draw their first five cards, while at the same time maintaining Yata-Garasu as the primary win condition.
The Monsters: 17
3 Raiza the Storm Monarch
3 Gravekeeper’s Spy
2 Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch
1 Gravekeeper’s Guard
1 Destiny Hero – Disk Commander
1 Dark Magician of Chaos
1 Treeborn Frog
1 Sinister Serpent
1 Spirit Reaper
1 Witch of the Black Forest
I will begin, if I may, by discussing the Monarchs. It would be unviable and foolhardy, to say the least, to expect the drawing of Yata-Garasu in every single game (that is, even with the draw and search power which will be included), and so these Monster Cards are, for the most part, the core of the deck. Unfortunately however, due to the immense number of cards which needed to be included for the central strategy, as well as support for such, I was only able to include a total of five: I have included a full three copies of Raiza the Storm Monarch, which is used not only as a way to control the hand (indirectly by controlling the draws) but also as a way to control the field, something I discovered the strategy was lacking in the early stages of testing. Lastly, two copies of Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch were included to control the opponent’s hand directly. This was the most heartbreaking decision when constructing this deck, for the third copy would indeed be a welcome inclusion, but I was, quite simply, unable to find room for it.
Now, my very first thought as to the support engine for the Monarch Monsters was Destiny Heroes; for not only would they have provided the necessary free Monster Cards for Tribute Summoning Monarchs, they would also have provided additional daw power in the form of Destiny Draw, allowing a quicker and more consistent access to the primary win condition. However, with Destiny Draw still sitting at one-copy-per-deck, and, to some extent, with Destiny Hero – Malicious still at two, this idea was doomed to fail. For this reason, I have included instead a tribute generating engine of Gravekeeper’s Monsters: three copies of Gravekeeper’s Spy followed by a single Gravekeeper’s Guard. When the Spy is flipped face-up, it will allow the Special Summon of a second Gravekeeper’s Monster from the deck, providing the strategy with plenty of free tribute fodder (although more will be included). Also, Guard was chosen over Descendent due to Crush Card Virus: it was obvious to me that this Trap Card was to be included, and Gravekeeper’s Guard functions as a searchable target for its Tribute cost. It was an easy decision to make.
To further compliment the line-up of Monarchs, Treeborn Frog and Spirit Reaper were both included: the former, at only the single necessary copy to allow for a more versatile range of options, has the amazing ability of Special Summoning itself for free every turn, thus allowing constant fodder for Tribute Summons; and the latter because not only can it survive a turn in order to be tributed for a Monarch on the following, it can also serve the overall goal of the deck by discarding a card from the opponent’s hand upon inflicting battle damage.
From there, Destiny Hero – Disk Commander and Dark Magician of Chaos were included for their universal usefulness in the Traditional Format. Both can easily be Special Summoned from the Graveyard to activate their effects, either drawing more cards or retrieving a needed Spell Card from the Graveyard, and each also boasts the additional functionality of being able to then be tributed for a Monarch. Dark Magician of Chaos can also be Tribute Summoned itself quite easily. Next, Sangan and Witch of the Black Forest are included for the searching capabilities they provide (either one can search for Yata-Garasu, and Witch of the Black Forest has the additional use of being able to search for a Monarch), and Sinister Serpent is included for its ability to act as reusable discard fodder (this will become clear when the Trap Cards are discussed).
Finally, the little fiendish bird, Yata-Garasu, is obviously included as the primary win condition. The deck is capable of destroying an opponent’s hand as quickly as the pilot’s second turn, and, while this feat does not generally constitute a victory merely on its own, summoning Yata-Garasu and poking them to trigger its Draw Phase-skipping effect does. If the opponent is unable to add any new cards to their hand, one can continue attacking them with Yata-Garasu the lock them out of the game. Furthermore, the majority of the hand control cards in the deck will allow the observing of the opponent’s hand; ergo, one can easily discard their most useful cards so that Yata-Garasu will have a clear path.
The Spells: 14
1 Pot of Greed
1 Graceful Charity
1 Painful Choice
1 Monster Reborn
1 Premature Burial
1 Snatch Steal
1 Change of Heart
1 The Forceful Sentry
1 Delinquent Duo
1 Harpie’s Feather Duster
1 Heavy Storm
1 Dark Hole
This section of the deck was, to be completely honest, undeniably simply: there are no flashy tricks that this deck has (or even needs, for that matter) access to, and so every card hither is an obvious inclusion. Firstly, Pot of Greed and Graceful Charity are included to aid in consistency and speed, and Graceful Charity carries the added benefit of being to discard needed Monster Cards to the Graveyard (Destiny Hero – Disk Commander or Treeborn Frog, for example). And this last point brings me quite nicely to Painful Choice: with so many Monsters that have a Graveyard-based effect, it seemed like a crime to omit it; one can realistically search for Dark Magician of Chaos, Destiny Hero – Disk Commander, Treeborn Frog and Sinister Serpent all at once, with the last spot belonging to a possible dead card or a piece to a combo. As is almost always the case, Painful Choice is the best card to open the game with.
Next, Monster Reborn and Premature Burial are included to Special Summon Monster Cards from the Graveyard in order to create tribute fodder: Destiny Hero – Disk Commander or Dark Magician of Chaos are without a doubt the best choices for such, for either will reward the player with extra options, but Sangan or Witch of the Black Forest are exceptional targets, as well. In fact, I myself have revived Sangan many times, tributed it for a Monarch and then search the deck for Yata-Garasu to use during the next turn.
From there, both Snatch Steal and Change of Heart are included for their ability to create further tribute fodder, only this time removing a Monster from the opponent’s field in the process. Being able to remove a threat and create one at the same time has long been one of the most powerful effects in the game (and rightfully banned by Konami in the Advanced Format), but tributing the stolen Monster Card for a Monarch makes these cards even more potent, if that were possible. It did cross my mind to include Brain Control in addition to Snatch Steal and Change of Heart; however, with five Monarchs, and plenty of other easily generated tribute fodder, I deemed its inclusion unnecessary.
The full complement of hand control Spell Cards is clearly included: The Forceful Sentry, Delinquent Duo and Confiscation. It is impossible to construct a deck using this strategy without these three cards. With them however, one has the option of which card to discard; it is of immense importance that one choose the correct one, for an incorrect choice will surely spell doom. I suggest practicing this skill at home before taking the deck to a tournament: simply shuffle any well-constructed deck, draw an opening hand, and then play it out to see which cards had the most influence over the outcome of the game. These are the cards that must be discarded when the opportunity arises.
To round out the list of Spell Cards, the four options with the most wide reaching effects over the game have been included: Harpie’s Feather Duster and Heavy Storm provide the player with the necessary Spell and Trap Card clearance, while Raigeki and Dark Hole provide the same for Monster Cards. The inclusion of these four cards is almost guaranteed.
The Traps: 9
3 Phoenix Wing Wind Blast
1 Crush Card Virus
1 Trap Dustshoot
1 Mind Crush
1 Time Seal
1 Imperial Order
1 Ring of Destruction
Being that this is a control oriented strategy, there is a far greater need for Trap Cards than there is in most other Traditional Format decks. The list begins with a full three copies of Phoenix Wing Wind Blast; this card presents the player with yet another way to control the opponent’s hand indirectly by preventing them from drawing cards, but it also provides additional control over the opponent’s field. While the discard cost is generally considered a down-side, the deck makes up for this detriment by the inclusion of Monsters that need to be in the Graveyard, as well as the reusable discard fodder provided by Sinister Serpent. In the majority of given hands, there will be a useful card to use as payment for the discard cost of one’s Phoenix Wing Wind Blasts.
From there, a retinue of additional hand control Trap Cards have been included in the form of Crush Card Virus, Trap Dustshoot, Mind Crush and Time Seal: Crush Card Virus is undoubtedly the most powerful hand control card present in the game, owing to its ability to remove multiple cards from the opponent’s hand over the course of the its three turn duration – with four targets for its tribute cost, and one of them being searchable by three other Monsters, one should have little problem activating the Trap Card; Trap Dustshoot, while seemingly slightly underpowered due to the fact that Spells are generally the most powerful options in an opponent’s hand, sees play for its ability to cut off draw Spells like Destiny Draw and Trade-in by removing their discard targets; with so many Spell and Trap Cards that grant the opportunity to look at the opponent’s hand, one will almost always know something to call for Mind Crush, and one will be at a distinct advantage if the opponent happens to draw multiple copies of the same card; and lastly, Time Seal simply cuts of the opponent’s Draw Phase for a single turn, preventing them from adding another option to their hand.
The last two slots in the deck have been filled with what I would consider to be the two staple Trap Cards in the Traditional Format: Imperial Order and Ring of Destruction. The former, due to the reliance on Spell Cards in the Traditional Format, can shut down an opponent’s entire turn. Also note that, due to the relative lack of Spell Cards within this deck, it is quite feasible to prolong the maintenance of Imperial Order past the generally accepted single turn, continuing to lock the opponent out of the use of their Spell Cards. Finally, Ring of Destruction is included for its simple removal of any Monster, and also its possibility of ending a game on the spot. On occasion, the Trap Card can also force a draw from an unwinnable situation.
There is but one single problem I can foresee with playing this strategy at any kind of competitive event: and that is the prospect of going second. The Traditional Format is, by definition, an immensely aggressive format, and any opponent that goes first will most likely commit many cards to the field on that first turn. An occurrence alike to this will unfortunately render one’s hand control almost completely useless. However, for just this instance I have, as one may likely have noticed, included many field control cards alongside the hand control contingent. While this can sometimes create unbalanced hands split between the two sets of options, this is nevertheless rare and should not, to my mind, be a deciding factor for determining the deck’s validity in the modern Traditional Format. It is immensely powerful; with an amazing hand, it has the ability to lock the opponent out of the game as early as the pilot’s second turn, and, on occasions with only an ordinary hand, will still not fail to do so much longer past the third. With further testing and refining of the deck’s architecture, I honestly believe that this strategy can be a serious contender.