Evaluation of the Meta | The Irish Duelist

Evaluation of the Meta

Morning Duelists, today I've got another article by John Patrick Boring (aka JPB or InfusionsCap). He's put together a few articles here on The Irish Duelist and is back for another, check it out:

Hello again. I have been plotting and planning to write this article for a while now, but I wanted to wait until now so I could get as much testing in as possible before doing so, thereby making the information in it as accurate as possible based on what I have seen and done within the format so far. This article will hopefully stimulate a lot of healthy debate because the point of it is to discuss the various decks in the game right now, evaluate some strengths and weaknesses they have, and talk about what I (and anyone else who is interested in getting involved in the discussion) think will be good choices to take to YCS Charlotte.

We had a couple of threads like this last format that gave general overviews of the different decks and their combos/win conditions, but I want to go a little more in depth with this article, covering the interactions between some of the decks, evaluating them based off MY OPINION of how strong they are at the moment, and giving some of my predictions for what we can expect to see have a strong showing at YCS Charlotte.

This is a rough example of the "rating scale" I will use for each of the decks in this article...

  • 0.0-Insane tier. Ridiculously strong, there should be no reason to play any other deck. Very rare that this is seen in YGO.

  • 0.5-Above the top tier. Basically seen in "mono" formats. This is the type of deck that really only loses to itself (mirror match) and has no other bad matchups, especially after side decking.

  • 1.0-Top tier. Very strong consideration for high level competition.

  • 1.5-Near top tier. Still a strong choice with a solid build and a solid side deck.

  • 2.0-Mid tier. Not a terrible deck at all, but one or more of the top tier decks are a very tough matchup for it. Not a safe choice in my opinion, but not a bad choice either with the correct build and a vast knowledge of the meta.

  • 2.5-Lower mid tier. Getting into the range where it is probably not a great deck to play. Many top tier decks have naturally good matchups against it, and even with a great build and side deck some games are very close to un-winnable.

  • 3.0-Bottom tier. Avoiding these decks is probably a smart move. They lose consistently because of bad matchups or the deck itself is simply not there, i.e. inconsistent draws, etc. Many bad matchups and the luck factor is quite high an you usually need to to swing your way to have success with this deck in a 10-11 round premier level event.

  • 3.5-Bottom floor. Do not play these kind of decks. They are very inconsistent, and it would take divine intervention for them to make the top cut at a YCS.

  • Alright, now that the forethought is out of the way for the most part, let me add that in this particular meta I do not personally feel that there is a clear cut best deck. There are several that are in the top tier (1.0) area, but nothing in my opinion falls into the category of 0.0 or even 0.5 tier. Conversely, there are always "fun" decks running around that fall into the 3.5 category, but none of them will be evaluated in this particular article as they do not make up any percentage of the meta you actually need to look at, nor should you ever side additional cards for such decks, especially since things you have in the side will probably hit it anyway.

    Alright, let's get down to it...

    This deck is really good. The only thing this deck lost to the banned/restricted list is the same two copies of Book of Moon that basically everything else lost as well. Trap Stun is a solid card in this meta, and this deck has the capabilities to use it to the fullest of it's potential. The ability this deck has to "switch gears" between aggressive and passive play is uncanny. Not many decks in the game can do that, and even less can do it to the degree in which X-Sabers can. Darksoul is still an insane card, and add to the advantage you get off of it to follow up a swarm with another swarm and you put your opponent on a pretty fast clock.

    Sabers can also side deck very well, having a wide variety of options in front of them. I don't feel like they have any matchups that are "auto loss" situations. Samurai's seem to be one of the tougher matchups for them, but it's close to coin toss if anything. I rate this deck pretty high, and I doubt anyone will tell me I am incorrectly doing so.

    My rating-1.0

    I was fortunate enough to get a lot of testing in against this deck this weekend. It is actually quite good. The deck is very fast and quite consistent as well. The ability to produce Stardust Dragon turn one is very valuable, as it is in my opinion one of the best synchro monsters in the game, valued so highly for its disruption and the element of control it brings to the table.

    The flaw with this deck comes with how one dimensional it can be. A high reliance on the graveyard can be an easy weakness to exploit depending on what it gets matched up with. D.D. Crow poses a pretty big threat to this deck, as does Thunder King Rai-Oh. A single copy of Dimensional Fissure early in the game can spell disaster for this deck if the are unable to answer it (MST, Icarus Attack.) The entire strategy of the deck can be compromised.

    Overall I like this deck and think it is good. The speed it has is hard to match. The weakness of it is that the entire deck can get "turned off" by a few pieces of tech. All in all I think it's a solid deck, but would be better in a more streamlined, defined meta where you can better expect your matchups and use more of your side deck to anticipate the hate they are putting in for you. Not a bad deck at all, but in my opinion there are still a couple of better choices.

    My rating-1.5

    What can I say that has not already been said? This deck is still very strong, even after it lost two copies of Gateway of the Six to the March 2011 B/R list. Legendary Six Samurai Shi-en is an extremely powerful card, and it's even stronger when it has to be answered on the first turn. Six Samurai United is amazing as well, allowing you to draw cards for doing something the deck was going to do anyway, making your swarms essentially plusses instead of even breaks (cards in hand in exchange for field presence.)

    Four copies of Reinforcement of the Army (1 ROTA, 3 Shien's Smoke Signal) add a frightening element of consistency to the deck that is rivaled only by a few others in the game right now. The Red and Blue loop (Mizuho and Shinai) made popular by Billy Brake at YCS Dallas a few months ago is still possible, just a little more difficult to execute with only one Gateway in the deck. Side deck options for this are pretty good as well, as they have at their disposal good cards for the mirror, as well as disruptive cards for more widespread matchups (Rivalry of Warlords comes to mind,) and everything in between.

    Across the board the matchups for this are not too terrible. I have not played with this deck as much as I have played against it, but it is my understanding from several people who have that the mirror match and the Monarch matchup are among the more difficult games. Gravekeeper's struggle with this deck a good bit. Royal Tribute is not quite as powerful against it. That is a big advantage for sure. Very strong deck, and once again I rate it pretty highly and doubt that anyone would disagree with me doing so.

    My rating-1.0

    I'm a big fan of this deck and have played it pretty regularly for the last two formats. That being said, the deck has lost its luster. It got hit pretty hard on the last B/R list. Losing two Book of Moon, and Icarus Attack, and two copies of Kalut the Moon Shadow was a huge hit to the amount of control this deck could usually produce. There are less combat tricks you can play with this now.

    I understand that many Vayu turbo variations of the deck are popping up and seeing success elsewhere, but I'm honestly not that comfortable with taking that route with this deck. Gravekeeper's are still seeing a tremendous amount of play and Necrovalley is a huge issue for the Vayu turbo variation. Additionally, Dragunities coming into the picture will probably lead to more "graveyard hate" and removal cards seeing play. This is another issue for the Vayu turbo deck.

    The advantage Blackwing decks have though is the ability to side just about any card in the game effectively. Nearly every option imaginable is open to them. However, in a meta that is still wide open that is hardly enough to carry the deck simply because the best side deck options have not been revealed yet. The meta needs to streamline a bit more before this deck can pick back up and reclaim its former glory and a top tier spot in my opinion. There are honestly just safer options for you to play right now.

    My rating-2.0

    Frog/Formula Monarchs
    This is one of the better control decks in the meta right now. Swap Frog is crazy good like always. Monarchs are just advantage on a stick. Light and Darkness Dragon can be a very difficult card to answer and will always cost at least two resources to take care of (in anything other than the mirror match.) The OTK prevention this deck has is insane. Three Battle Fader is nice, stopping attacks and leaving tribute fodder on the field. This deck also have access to the deadly Gorz which is probably one of, if not the best card in the game right now. Formula Synchron to set up big plays with no cost to your advantage is amazing. What more could you ask for?

    The matchups are pretty good for this one. Many main deck S/T destruction cards (MST, Trap Stun) are total blanks against it which further solidifies the advantage this deck is designed to generate. The Samurai matchup is pretty good, and the Gravekeeper's matchup is quite good as well unless they manage to crack a turn one Royal Tribute off on you. All in all I think this is a sweet deck and a pretty solid choice for anyone who likes a control strategy.

    My rating-1.0

    Fish OTK
    Many similarities to the Frog Monarch deck. This variation is simply more aggressive. LaDD still sees play, but in exchange for the control offered by Monarchs, a more aggressive spin is put on the deck, using Superancient Deepsea King Colecanth to swarm out a lot of field presence and produce a massive amount of synchro monsters in one turn, including the possibility of the Colossal Fighter/Armory Arm OTK. The nice thing about this deck is can win even if that OTK does not happen, which means the deck is not one dimensional.

    Side deck options are pretty good for this one. One of the better (but more annoying) side deck choices I have seen for this one is Malevolent Catastrophe, an underrated and often forgotten card that can lead to absolute blowouts when you trigger it for a plus three. Matchups are pretty good as this deck has enough speed capabilities to hang with just about anything. Once again, it's pretty strong against Gravekeeper's outside of a Royal Tribute play and anyone will agree that's a big advantage for a deck to have right now.

    My rating-1.0

    I got to play against one of these at a regional this past Saturday and it was pretty lack-luster. It's a little too slow to keep up with the faster aggressive decks and not quite fast enough to outspeed the better control decks barring a really good hand. Infernity Barrier is still an amazing card, but that alone can not carry the entire deck. Massive amounts of RFG (remove from game) things like D-Fissure and Banisher of the Radiance are huge issue for the deck, as are Royal Oppression and Necrovalley. There are not really any favorable matchups for this deck in the top tier and too many things to stop it. Not much to say, all in all I think whether you want an aggressive deck or a control deck there are better options for you either way.

    My rating-2.0

    Another very solid deck. Royal Tribute is an insane card. Necrovalley and Royal Oppression can win games on their own. Side decking is good for this deck. There are a lot of options out in front of them to counter the toughest matchups or put the nail in the coffin in favorable ones as well. Just about every card in this deck is live off the draw, and the utility rating is extremely high. Matchups are pretty good across the board. Samurai's are pretty tough and Frog Monarchs can be difficult due to the fact that they can "outgrind" the deck barring an early Royal Tribute play and even that does not always secure the victory. Not too much to talk about here, everyone knows GK's are a strong choice and why that is the case.

    My rating-1.0

    Personally, I don't see the appeal to this deck. I think it's probably the most inconsistent deck that continues to see play. The loss of another Honest on the March B/R list gives them another shot to their effectiveness as it's the loss of another combat trick. Judgment Dragon is an always will be an amazing card but I think there is a lot working against this deck. Like a couple of other decks I have mentioned massive RFG cards like Dimensional Fissure for example an pose quite a threat to this deck.

    My personal belief is that you have to play it as a Twilight variant now which can lead to more dead hands than before. The biggest advantage this deck has is the ability to side deck Royal Decree which in my opinion is very underrated right now. My personal bias may be getting in the way but in spite of the fact that one of these decks always seem to sneak their way into the top cut I really don't value it that high. There are several other aggressive decks that are just as fast if not faster and way more consistent to boot. I simply think there are better options but again, that's just my opinion.

    My rating-2.0-2.5

    Another deck that should probably be seeing a little more play than it is. This deck can kill pretty quickly and the new B/R list really only helped it out from what I can tell. The variation of the deck that uses the Karakuri monsters adds a little stability to it and I think it makes it better. The downside to this deck though in my opinion is all the heavy backfields and disruption running around. It seems like it's pretty important to get a Trunade/Trap Stun play in before going in for the kill or the deck can be disrupted too easily.

    The other tragic flaw is that basically everything has three Cyber Dragon in it between the main deck and side deck which poses a threat to this deck because not only will a successful summon of a Cyber Dragon equal a large Chimeratech Fortress Dragon, but also the fact that you lose your monsters on the field when this happens to you. Again, the Karakuri stuff makes this deck a little less one dimensional, but again I think there are just better option to be honest. The deck isn't terrible or anything, I just don't think it's the safest choice. Again though, that is just my opinion on it.

    My rating-1.5

    I think Plants were safely in the top tier last format. Since then they have lost a Debris Dragon and a Dandylion to the list. Add to that the loss of two Book of Moon and a Solemn Warning and you see a hit to the control this deck had, even though everything else lost those cards as well. The deck is not particularly fast. Many of the plays this deck goes for are "punishment plays." Outside of Debris Dragon plays and getting into Tytannial quickly the deck is a little too reactive for the current meta in my opinion.

    Chaos Sorcerer does however bring something to the table for it. Although Sorcerer is typically used in a reactive way, it can still be played aggressively. The downside once again though is cards that focus on removing cards from play. This deck needs the graveyard, it is almost totally dependent on it.

    Ryko gives you a way to handle things like that but it's still a slow card (as it's a flip effect monster) and you can almost guarantee that two to three copies of Nobleman of Crossout will come in against this deck. Sorcerer is solid and helps in the Samurai matchup (among other things) but it also makes this deck lose even harder to Gravekeeper's. It's not a terrible deck, but it's not overly fast and honestly just a little underwhelming. A good build in the hands of a skilled player could still have a strong showing, but I would not expect to see a ton of these in the top cut a Charlotte.

    My rating-1.5

    I'm hearing a lot of talk about Demise decks having a pretty good shot again. Megamorph to two helps sure, but the deck is still pretty inconsistent. The Rock variation with Valkyrion the Magna Warrior as an addition Trade-In target is probably about as solid as it gets, as it also opens up access to Evil Hero Dark Gaia summons. However, the deck is still really prone to getting bad hands and there are many options that a lot of decks are siding right now that make it even harder to get into the key combo pieces needed for the deck. Thunder King Rai-Oh is a prime example. I think it's easily disrupted and the hands can be really clunky and awkward. Not that safe of a choice in my opinion.

    My rating-2.5

    Another deck that I think is really underused. Although they have been accessible for quite some time now, this entire archtype seems unexplored for the most part. The deck is quite consistent, the ability to main deck Royal Decree is something that very few decks can get away with right now. Since it isn't played very much you get a little bit of a surprise factor when using it, and can sometimes win games simply because your opponent has no idea how to get around your combos.

    I think the weaknesses of it are cards that interrupt the looping of the Scrap monsters, such as Necrovalley, D.D. Crow, and Dimensional Fissure. Once again, I am expecting mass RFG removal to see a spike in play as it punishes many things, including the Dragunity deck that is the new "hotness." All in all the deck is pretty solid, and I don't think I would be over valuing it to give it a 2.0.

    My rating-2.0

    Absolute Zero
    Elemental Hero The Shining gives this deck a boost, as does an increase to the number of Chaos Sorcerer you are allowed to play. However, the deck is still missing something. It just lacks something. It's not as fast as Samurai's or other aggressive decks (nine times out of ten) and usually has little gas left in the tank after a big explosion is disrupted or diffused. I think the version with E-Hero's/D-Hero's for a nice LIGHT and DARK mix is optimal right now, because that gives access to Shining and Chaos Sorcerer (of course Diva is still played in this build along with the usual WATER monster lineup.)

    This is just another deck though that is heavily affected by RFG cards, Necrovalley, and anything like Royal Oppression that stops massive amounts of Special Summoning. The big advantage to this deck is the flexibility you have when side decking. Many things in the deck are "flavor," meaning very little of it is actually required for the core strategy. You can variate the deck many different ways depending on what you need to do for the particular matchup, and many solid side deck cards like Thunder King, Cyber Dragon, Mobius the Frost Monarch, and Spirit Reaper already mesh will with the overall plan of the deck.

    All in all this is another deck that is not terrible, but there are honestly just better, safer options. If you want a fast deck there are faster decks and if you want a control deck there are control decks that actually control the game better and are harder to disrupt. A solid 2.0 is probably a safe estimate for this deck, and since it's one of my personal favorite decks to play I kind of hope I get proven wrong in Charlotte and one of these goes the distance.

    My rating-2.0

    Gladiator Beasts
    Another deck I am a huge fan of. Unfortunately, this deck did not make quite the impact on me I was hoping for. I jumped on the GB bandwagon at the beginning of the format just like I always do because I happen to like this deck a lot and I love how well it can "toolbox." There is never really a deck I feel like I auto-lose to when playing this. That being said, the deck is still a slow one of course, and massive monsters in ATK position can be a big issue for it. Stardust Dragon is the absolute worst thing to see, and Dragunites are a perfect example of a deck that can spam that all day.

    Triple Dimensional Prison seems like a pretty good way to play this deck now in my opinion. The spot removal is nice because removal is nice, and GB's desperately need something like that to protect their fields. The limitation of Book of Moon was a double edged sword for this deck. Two less Book of Moon means it's easier to protect your Prisma/Test Tiger plays, but Book of Moon was just such a solid card for this deck to have three copies of. It's almost like it was a neutral exchange.

    Forbidden Lance gives this deck a push in the right direction, but the tragic flaw is the same as always. Once this deck loses control of the game, it can be very difficult if not impossible to recover it. Side deck options are pretty good, Thunder King and Dimensional Fissure can help strengthen the control approach of the deck and that is going to be key in several matchups I believe.

    There are many skilled GB players here on DGZ and I'm always excited to see a GB deck do well at a YCS. I don't expect a lot of these to top simply because of the nature of the deck and the fact that it really is not all that popular right now from what I have seen, but just like with Absolute Zero I hope to get proven wrong about this one. Not a terrible deck, but once again there are just safer options. A solid 1.5 on this one as well.

    My rating-1.5

    Disaster Dragon
    I have not personally had a lot of experience playing with this deck, but this past weekend I saw Draigun using it and he resolved a Yamata Dragon for five new cards. That alone sparked my interest. Dragon Ravine gives this deck a huge push in the right direction. It's fast, aggressive, and has a lot of "comeback" potential if the field gets disrupted. However, it seems like the draws can still be a little sketchy. Again, this is a rough guess on this one and if you want more information on this particular deck I would recommend talking to Draigun or checking out the Dragon discussion in the Deck Discussion forums. All in all based off what I have seen I think I can give this a pretty decent rating. I certainly don't think it's a terrible deck but I do think there are safer, more consistent options.

    My rating-1.5-2.0

    And last but not least. I wouldn't be me if I didn't mention Stun decks as an option in this meta. Like I have been saying all throughout this article RFG is already good and I think it's only going to get better. A solid Stun deck right now I think would focus on Thunder King, DoomCal Knight, Banisher of the Radiance, King Tiger Wanghu, and Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo.

    Those monsters at the core of the deck could offer a lot of control. The tragic downfall of Stun decks however is how much of a 50/50 split your matchups are with the top tier decks. The mid to bottom tier decks usually struggle quite a bit with Stun. Machina and Blackwings are the exception to this as the games are usually coin tosses from my experience. The top tier is significantly more divided in its interactions with Stun. X-Sabers struggle with it quite a bit, while Gravekeeper's and Frog Monarchs have a big advantage.

    Stun has a hard time answering big defense monsters. Monarchs and Gravekeeper's can both win the advantage race pretty easily. The Samurai matchup is pretty rough for them game one, but not too bad after side decking takes place. The Fish deck is the ultimate coin toss with this one. It's basically a race of who can plant their flag first. If the Fish deck explodes before control is firmly locked in, they usually win the match. If the Stun deck can make a King Tiger, Banisher, or Fossil Dyna get to the field and stay there they end up having pretty good odds.

    Another deck that I like a lot, but it runs into really bad draws. Even if you only play 14-16 monsters in the deck you still can end up drawing too many, and Stun monsters only really stun them when they can't simply get attacked over. The balanced hands you can get with this deck are insane though, and some matchups are just auto-win (Lightsworn, Plants, and Infernities specifically.)

    Side deck options for this deck are really sweet though, you can tech in just about anything for whatever level of play (local, regional, YCS) you need to, and that will only get better and easier as time goes by and the meta gets a little more defined. I think it's probably a little early in the format for this deck to make a huge appearance, but after YCS Charlotte when the meta shapes a bit more clearly it may be worth re-visiting it again. Not a terrible approach, but I don't know for sure if it's necessary to make such an extreme effort at this time. Not to mention how tough the GK and Monarch matchups are almost make me not want to mess with this at all and I love this deck.

    My rating-1.5-2.0

    So, just to recap, I think the decks we can safely expect to see a large showing from at Charlotte are Gravekeeper's, Samurai's, X-Sabers, Frog Monarchs, and Fish. I would not be surprised in a few Plant, Machina, Dragunity, and Gladiator Beast decks manage to sneak there way in to the top cut either though.

    Alright, that about does it. Thank you to anyone who took the time to read through this. I hope that this article stimulates a lot of good discussion. Again, please remember that these are simply my opinions of things based off my experiences and play testing thus far in the format, as well as my predictions for some upcoming trends in the meta. They are in no way meant to be taken as the absolute truth, I simply want to get some good discussion and debate going off of this.

    For anyone who is heading to the YCS in Charlotte next week, good luck to you and I wish you safe travels. I will be in attendance there if anyone from DGZ is interested in meeting me. I am always interested in meeting fellow duelists and discussing some theory or what have you. I'll be one of the guys walking around in the green shirts that say TEAM INFUSION.

    Until next time, play hard and play well!