Friday, August 26, 2011

Deck Essay #16: Dark Armed Control

If I were to meditate upon the many guiding aspects of the Traditional Format, there is a single prevailing characteristic, I think, which far outweighs the others: and that is the speed of the game – the overall short period of time during which one has the opportunity to claim victory. Whereas in, by comparison, the Advanced Format, whither one has numerous turns to not only claim victory but also change a losing situation into the opposite, there is simply no such luxury in this format. With the amount of set-up possible in only a single turn, most of which is achievable on the very first turn, a strategy must be able to win, essentially, by this time, or else not win at all. By this statement I do not mean simply taking the game on the first turn; nay: while it is the position of some decks to accomplish this, it is by no means the only course of action. A strategy which can set up a win condition to then be carried out a turn, or even two, later is still quite able to compete in the modern Traditional Format. With that said, I will be using this essay to take a close look at a Dark Armed Dragon-centred control deck designed to answer the opponent’s moves with necessary speed, but, in this case, a form of such I have little explored thus far.

It can be thought, by processes not altogether unimaginable, that it is not only drawing extra cards which constitutes speed, but also the general usefulness of individual cards across a large number of situations, therefore balancing hands and allowing better overall draws, can be considered a form of speed. The dedicated DARK deck has a superior access to many of the most powerful single cards in the game, and, while some of them have been abused to a great extent hitherto, some others have been left by the wayside – but no more! While the drawing capabilities have been thoroughly explored by myself, I feel it must be said that any exploration of the DARK School of Duelling would be grossly incomplete without showcasing, to something resembling its fullest extent, at least one example of the theme’s immense potential for versatility. The deck presented herein will do such, effectively remedying, at least to some degree, the situation. Following is a strategy which not only boasts the obvious power and card drawing of Traditional, but also illustrates the relatively untapped potential of versatility as a form of speed in this format.

The Monsters: 16

3 Armageddon Knight
2 Caius the Shadow Monarch
1 Elemental Hero Stratos
1 Destiny Hero – Fear Monger
1 Destiny Hero – Disk Commander
1 Destiny Hero – Plasma
1 Tsukuyomi
1 Magical Scientist
1 Sinister Serpent
1 Necro Gardna
1 Dark Armed Dragon
1 Dark Magician of Chaos
1 Witch of the Black Forest

With the deck primarily constructed for versatility, one will clearly find the inclusion of individually useful tech cards; furthermore, with a large number of such cards occupying a Limited status, single cards will undoubtedly be a recurring, dominant presence. In fact, only a grand total of four cards are played in multiples. While this fact is something that is, for the most part, quite common in the Traditional Format, it is something worth mentioning during discussion of a strategy such as this; for, with the deck diversified across its range of options as much as possible, versatility, in and of itself, also contains within it an inherent inclination towards unpredictability. Premier-level Duellists have the ability to predict plays their opponent will execute two, three or even more turns in advance, and then prepare accordingly. A deck such as this looks to deny this opportunity, and, in the hands of a skilled player, can be a highly dangerous weapon.

To begin with, I shall discuss the large Monsters with which one will primarily be claiming victory. While the win condition of the strategy is controlling (either by preventing or by answering) the opponent’s plays, it is still necessary to include a retinue of high-ATK Monsters, all of which also boast some sort of synergistic effect. Firstly, the namesake of the deck, Dark Armed Dragon, has been included at its allowed single copy. While some would argue that to construct a deck primarily around a single card is foolish, I would counter with the following reasoning: the plethora of drawing effects to be herein included will give a fast and reliable access to the one copy of Dark Armed Dragon, thus allowing, combined with the relatively low DARK Monster count and the exceptional regulation of already in-Graveyard DARK Attributes, a consistent Summon of the Dragon. Its effect – that of destroying cards for free – perfectly fits the control theme, for it allows a simple elimination of an opponent’s developed field, although I will stress that one must show due caution before committing it to play; in this instance, Dark Armed Dragon should only be Summoned when doing so will turn the game directly into one’s own favour, and not when the opponent should still have a chance of a come-back.

Next, to directly support the eponymous card, a pair of Caius the Shadow Monarch has been included, along with a single Destiny Hero – Plasma and the ever-important Dark Magician of Chaos. Each boasts the high ATK necessary to become a problem for an opponent, but thence also brings something specific to the control strategy: the former, upon being Tribute Summoned, instantly removes a card from the opponent’s field, simply and easily dealing with any threat; the middle is an option made possible by the utilization of a Destiny Hero drawing engine (about which I shall talk in greater depth later), and brings not only a form of removal for any troublesome Monster, but also negation of any and all face-up Monster effects the opponent may have been hoping to use; and, finally, the latter is included in almost every Traditional Format deck, with only a very few exceptions, for its ability to retrieve a Spell Card from the Graveyard, finding its use here to reuse a controlling Spell Card – there will be, of course, a diverse toolbox to choose from, and a second use of any one will most often make game. All Monsters are also, of course, of the DARK Attribute.

From there, a group of small control-based Monsters is included, for various reasons: Tsukuyomi brings with it the ability to turn any troublesome Monster Card into its vulnerable DEF Position, at which stage one can simple declare an Attack over it – it can also combine with Destiny HERO – Plasma at times, turning the Monster face-down to then be re-Summoned to take a second Monster with its effect; Magical Scientist, a card which has been Forbidden in the Advanced Format for quite some time now, makes a showing here in order to Special Summon Fusion Monsters from the Extra Deck, which will then be used to exercise control over the opponent – Thousand-Eyes Restrict can act as a quasi-Plasma, removing an opponent’s Monster from their field; Ryu Senshi can negate Trap Cards should one fear such; Dark Blade the Dragon Knight can eliminate Monsters with Graveyard-based effects (up to three at a time) from the opponent’s Graveyard; and one can simply Summon a number of a Fusion Monster to then Tributed for the Summon of Destiny Hero – Plasma; lastly, Necro Gardna has been included to negate one Attack, and is easily fed into the Graveyard through discard effects in the Spell and Trap line-ups. All of these are, yet again, DARK.

The final section of the Monster Card list is a series of cards designed to power the deck through its game-plan. As has been aforementioned, a draw engine of Destiny Heroes has been included, which is principally centred on repeated Special Summon of Destiny Hero – Disk Commander; I shall discuss this individually: firstly, a full set of Armageddon Knights is used to give the most consistent access possible to the copy of Destiny Hero – Disk Commander, instantly sending it to the Graveyard whither it can be revived for extra cards – the Armageddon Knights also, should one draw copies after Disk Commander has been used, have extra targets (for example, the Necro Gardna, the Dark Magician of Chaos, or simply a DARK for the Summon of Dark Armed Dragon); the single allowed copy of Elemental Hero Stratos has also been included, allowing the search of any needed Hero at any given time; a single Destiny Hero – Fear Monger has then been included as not only a potential extra Special Summon of the Disk Commander, but also a second discard for the Destiny Draw; finally, Destiny Hero – Plasma has already been mentioned, and acts as a third discard for the draw Spell.

Last, but by no means least, the engine is completed as Witch of the Black Forest and Sinister Serpent find their way into the strategy: the former has the distinct ability of searching the deck for any needed Monster at any given time (save only Dark Magician of Chaos, but this is of no consequence), creating an almost flawless toolbox of control effects; and the latter stands out as a way to replenish the hand from the discarding the deck needs to do, acting as an endlessly retrievable fodder for such effects.

The Spells: 13

1 Destiny Draw
1 Allure of Darkness
1 Pot of Greed
1 Graceful Charity
1 Painful Choice
1 Reinforcement of the Army
1 Monster Reborn
1 Premature Burial
1 Snatch Steal
1 Raigeki
1 Harpie’s Feather Duster
1 Scapegoat
1 Metamorphosis

I shall begin the discussion of the Spell Card list by simply stating that many cards, although fitting the theme of control perfectly, do not require any special exposition or justification. Snatch Steal, Raigeki and Harpie’s Feather Duster are all obvious inclusions in a deck such as this (and, indeed, any battle-based deck in the Traditional Format), and it is indeed no surprise to observe them in this line-up. The only facet of importance to a Deck Essay they may have, if any at all, is a brief note upon the distinct possibility of using the effect of Dark Magician of Chaos to retrieve them in order to continue the domination of the Duel, instead of retrieving draw Spells to continue the stream of cards, as is the norm in the generally accepted meta decks of the Traditional Format. Monster Reborn and Premature Burial fall into a similar category, having previously know uses while also functioning, in this strategy, to Summon a control-based Monster. The intricacies to this deck come from the Monster line-up and the Trap line-up, with only a few interesting cards to be found here – I will, of course, discuss these.

The first is Metamorphosis, which grants, in a similar vein to Magical Scientist, access to the Extra Deck as a toolbox of versatile effects: combined with Destiny Hero – Disk Commander, Sinister Serpent, or the Scapegoat, one can again unleash Thousand-Eyes Restrict, the uses of which have already been expounded upon; combined with a copy of Caius the Shadow Monarch, one can Summon Ryu Senshi or Dark Blade the Dragon Knight, the uses of each having also already been mentioned; and, combined with Dark Magician of Chaos, one can Summon Cyber Twin Dragon which one can use to destroy two Monsters at once. The second is Scapegoat, a card included for its primary use of acting as fodder for the Summon of Destiny Hero – Plasma, but does find extra utility, as aforementioned, and also as a simple Attack blocker. The last few interesting cards from the Spell line-up make up the draw and search suite. While there is no surprise to find Pot of Greed and Graceful Charity in a Traditional Format deck, it is also nice to note the synergy the latter has in a Graveyard-based strategy; Painful Choice is also an obvious inclusion for this very same reason. Thence, Allure of Darkness adds an extra level of card drawing thanks to the DARK Attribute theme, and, finally, Destiny Draw and Reinforcement of the Army round out the Destiny Hero draw engine by drawing even more cards and searching for a Destiny Hero, respectively.

The Traps: 11

3 Limit Reverse
3 Phoenix Wing Wind Blast
1 Call of the Haunted
1 Imperial Order
1 Crush Card Virus
1 Ring of Destruction
1 Solemn Judgment

This deck makes use of a large line-up of Trap Cards, which is something, for the most part, entirely unheard of (and oft-maligned) in the Traditional Format. However, from my extensive studies I have discovered that, contrary to the popular stigma about this format, Trap Cards do indeed have their place within the correct strategy. Here, the opportunity is rife, and begs for a versatile group of cards usable during the opponent’s turn in order to disrupt their plays. We have, therefore, the obvious inclusions of generic control cards like Imperial Order, Solemn Judgment and Ring of Destruction, backed up by four strategy-specific options: the first is Crush Card Virus, which, due to the fast and reliable access to Destiny Hero – Disk Commander, a DARK Attribute Monster of 1000 ATK or less (and, of course, boasting a rather high number of other suitable Tributes), is a simple inclusion; the last three of such cards are a set of Phoenix Wing Wind Blasts, which present the pilot with an amazing opportunity to interrupt and upset almost any given play the opponent would be likely to make, and finds many appropriate discards here including one – the Sinister Serpent – which is retrievable. There is very little to discuss in terms of essay content about these cards, but their importance to the deck cannot (and should not) be understated.

We are come now to the very end of the discussion, at which point the draw engine is completed and the decklist finalised. In order to ameliorate the drawing capabilities offered by the already included Spell Cards, four Trap Cards, all granting the Special Summon of Destiny Hero – Disk Commander, have been added: they are the single allowed copy of Call of the Haunted, and a full set of Limit Reverse. Each, while primarily being included for their abilities to draw cards through the Summon of Destiny Hero – Disk Commander, also maintains the general theme of versatility present throughout – and, of course, versatility within the DARK Attribute – by giving access to fallen control-based Monsters: Call of the Haunted, in the same vein as the staple inclusions of Monster Reborn and Premature Burial, can revive any of such Monsters, whereas the scope of Limit Reverse is slightly narrowed to the smaller Monsters.

I had within my mind, while designing this deck and composing this essay, a hypothesis to the effect of versatility being not only an underexplored facet of the Traditional Format (and I would never feign myself innocent of such), but also as a form of speed appropriate to the modern format. This concept is something well understood in the Advanced Format, and has been since the beginning of the game, but, for some reason or another, has failed to correspond into this aspect of Yu-Gi-Oh!. Players I have seen, on message boards or in person, seem to imagine that including all six forms of Spell-based field control constitutes a versatile line-up, but have failed to take into account the essential ability of a control deck to execute its ideal upon the opponent’s turn. (They have also unanticipated the problematic outcome of dead draws, but I digress.) However, by implementing the necessary extensive Trap Card line-up, and a spread of flexible, multipurpose Monsters, a deck such as this can have an untold, relentless grip over a game without ever relinquishing a single opportunity for supremacy. There are primarily two ways of playing this game (or indeed, perhaps, any card game): control, and aggressive. The Traditional Format, by its very nature, lends itself very well to the latter, but, in this essay, I have revealed an excellent example of the former.


  1. Sir you have just opened my eyes to the combination of aggression and control. I've never heard of a deck that is a Dark Armed Dragon Control Deck and never have I seen such an unorthodox lineup. You also have made the perfect counter to all the OTK's that run around in this format. You are truly a great deck builder and analyzer. I would also love to learn a little more about this deck and know the extra deck lineup.

  2. I can't thank you enough fot the kind words - I am nothing without my work, and it means everything to me that it is appreciated.

    As for the Extra Deck for this particular build, I must confess I don't have an up-to-date one designed. However, it would, in addition to the Fusion Monsters mentioned in the essay, contain Level 4 (and possibly Level 3) Fusions in order to access the good Xyz - Steelswarm Roach and Utopia spring to mind as instant inclusions.