LCS 11 just wrapped up, and while it’s a bit too early in the format to make any sweeping claims about where the format will settle, the strategies that made Day 2 and Top 16 can give us a clue as to just how much the March 2021 banlist afftected the metagame. I’ll frequently be referencing the deck breakdown and the Top 16 decklists made by u/HakunaMyData so you can use these links for reference.
Let’s get started!
Part 1: The Losers
There were three major strategies demolished when it came to the banlist and they were Virtual World, Drytron and Numeron hybrids respectively. Here’s the rundown on the decks that have had to make adjustments in a post-banlist world.
Virtual World decks lost their main win condition in True King of All Calamities, and as such they have struggled to find their footing. Only nine players entered with the deck and not a single one managed to make Day 2. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the deck is completely out of the metagame as this event happened around two days after the banlist was revealed. Most players probably haven’t come up with the best line to end on or made the technical play adjustments to adjust to life without Calamities. Few if any players have decided to go the handloop route, which uses XX-Saber Gottoms and Phantom Fortress Enterblathnir to remove anywhere from 2-4 cards out of the opponent’s hand. My guess is that this is because the board doesn’t end on anything afterwards other than possibly a live Virtual World Gate – Chuche and if your opponent still has a power card like a Fossil Dig, Quick Launch or Nadir Servant, you’re certainly not going to be able to make it with one measly pop.
More players have opted to go in one of two other directions: Tzolkin setups and Shenshen control. The first build utilizes Ultimaya Tzolkin to summon a Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon to the field and then uses Muddy Mudragon to fuse itself and the Tzolkin into the omnipresent Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon. A board of Crystal Wing, Dragoon and a live Chuche seems fairly formidable and has recovery options based on hands, but it appears that this wasn’t strong enough to break through the cracks into Day 2. The second build focuses on a more control oriented playstyle, using Virtual World Kyubi – Shenshen’s Macro Cosmos-esque effect and handtraps to create difficult gamestates. Generally speaking if your hand is good you can also cycle through a Chaofeng, Phantom of the Yang Zing to search a tuner handtrap. This version is in my opinion the better move but the technical play ceiling is much higher and as such probably needs more time for pilots to find. To conclude, Virtual World still has lots of potential but currently sits on the outside of the format looking in.
The second major loser was Drytron, and they’ve certainly lost the most of any strategy. Not only was Cyber Angel Benten limited, but an even more key combo piece in Union Carrier was banned. Benten is both a hit to consistency and power as now to be able to loop Benten activations you have to summon the Benten back from the graveyard instead of being able to add a second copy using a Drytron Alpha Thuban or a Preparation of Rites. This means you’re searching less Fairy-type monsters and unless you have a strong hand it usually means less fuel for the Herald ritual monster of choice. The Benten hit was workable and while it reduced the power and consistency it wasn’t a complete wash and the deck would still be very strong.
Unfortunately for Drytron players, the banning of Union Carrier turned out to be much more detrimental.
There’s one major thing this ban did and one minor thing this ban did that messes up the deck. Firstly, there is no longer currently a way to guarantee access to a copy of Drytron Gamma Eltanin which was previously sent to the graveyard by using a Union Carrier equipped with a Dawn Knight as ritual fodder. This is no longer possible and means that you have to use way more resources to even get to the Herald ritual monster let alone have the monsters to do anything else, or get very lucky and have access to a copy in your hand. The impact of losing this line is a gut punch to most of the old combo lines, and new lines have had to be brewed really quickly as I don’t think very many players were expecting Union Carrier to get the axe on this list.
The small change that came of this is that most Drytron players have opted to switch over to Herald of Perfection instead of the previously played Herald of Ultimateness. I believe the reason for this is because the Union Carrier boosting itself to 2000 attack made it perfect for Herald of Ultimateness to be summoned by Meteonis Drytron, as Ultimateness has 2000 attack. Having to use a Drytron body often ends up being very awkward, so most builds are playing a copy of Dawn of the Herald to compensate and to get another Fairy monster for the Perfection to discard. This seems like a minor change, but Herald of Perfection not being able to negate Special Summons is very relevant. Players are starting to play more of Alpha, the Master of Beasts and Dinosaur is back in the metagame, so either Alpha or Ultimate Conductor Tyranno can simply run over Perfection with little to no resistance.
One other interesting build of Drytron is being worked on, and that’s a build which plays a Vendread engine. Vendread has largely been forgotten by most players due to being an actively mediocre Zombie-type ritual deck that never saw any competitive success. However, the engine itself is actually very resource friendly and a few experienced ritual dabblers remembered the effect of Vendread Battlelord. Battlelord when summoned can banish a Vendread card from the graveyard to declare any card type (Monster, Spell or Trap) and prevent your opponent from using the effects of that type of card for the rest of the turn. Yes, that’s right, they have an archetypal Shock Master and yes, this is the first time a meta strategy is trying to use it. While a bit of consistency is lost, the ritual spell Revendread Origin means that you don’t lose resources for summoning it. Being able to just shut off your opponent’s handtraps for the rest of the turn is extremely powerful, but it wasn’t quite powerful enough to have a single Drytron pilot make Day 2. Only 5 pilots entered playing the deck (and there was even a mirror match in Round 1) so while there is still potential to be had, players will either have to get back in the lab or wait until Drytron Mu-Beta Fafnir is released in Lightning Overdrive to make their way back into the top of the metagame.
The last major strategy to lose out was Numeron, which is now almost completely unplayable aside from being a gimmicky otk or Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops turbo. With Number S0: Utopic Zexal being banned, the major payoff for playing the Numeron package has vanished. Konami did have to ban this card as it would have become far too problematic and easy to access with upcoming ZW/Utopia support and a lot of players are happy to see it go. That said, a strategy has left the meta and has left a bit of a gap in terms of pile-style control decks.
One quick shout-out to ABC which was devastated by the loss of Union Carrier. It was actually starting to emerge as a rogue playable deck close to the end of the previous format but losing Union Carrier means that you have to hard draw Galaxy Soldier and you lose a lot of utility plays. I do hope the deck can bounce back but as of right now, it has to do some Unauthorized Reactivation.
Part 2: The Winners
While very few notable decks were directly buffed by the list, the banning of cards like Calamities and Zexal opened the door for some combo decks that had been locked out of the format for quite some time. The three major winners of the format shift were Dragon Link, Dinosaur, and Invoked Dogmatika variants. Let’s break them down.
Dragon Link ended up winning the event and taking three spots in the Top 16 while also having the most entry representation (even more than the entire “Other” category combined!). Being able to have power output going second and making strong boards with diverse forms of disruption going first make it an easy contender for the top, uh, dragon of the format. No longer having to deal with the shutdown effects of Calamities means that the deck is free to combo off and extend through other types of interruption. There are a few main branches of build, and likely the most common is the build that uses Chamber Dragonmaid as its main starter. Chamber as a normal summon is excellent because it works as a Striker Dragon play, it’s a Dark monster that can feed into a White Dragon Wyverburster, and it can search out a copy of Dragonmaid Tidying which can be an extender or interruption. I personally think this is the best way to play as it means you don’t lose to cards like Dark Ruler No More and still hold some form of disruption that can be some recovery on the turn three. Two of the three lists that made Top 16 were on this package, and notably the winning list was playing three copies of Tidying instead of two which shows a belief in the strength and versatility of the card.
All of the builds played different handtraps in the main deck and had some different tech choices (one topping list chose to play a Magnarokket Dragon and the number of Noctovision Dragon in lists seem to be a point of difference) and even different starters (the list that chose not to play Chamber was on Black Metal Dragon and a Dragoon package). Something else that builds are doing is making heavy use of Chaos Ruler, the Chaotic Magical Dragon in order to load the graveyard and search for handtraps or extenders. We’ll get into it more later but Dragon Link has a somewhat problematic matchup against Dinosaur so being able to use Chaos Ruler to dig for a copy of Artifact Lancea to add to your hand is extremely strong (notably the winner did not play this, but the two other topping lists did). Couple all of these utility slots with good recovery in the form of Hieratic Seal of the Heavenly Spheres being able to dig for another body after bouncing a card, Chaos Ruler being able to bring itself back and easy Borrelsword Dragon for game it’s hard to play into. Dragon Link is even teching Super Polymerization to play into the mirror match, with the winner playing Borreload Furious Dragon as a mirror target and Predaplant Dragostapelia as a target for Invoked Shaddoll variants.
Something to consider is that Dragon Buster Destruction Sword was returned to Unlimited status and while people have labbed combos to make use of it involving DMZ Dragon, none of the topping lists used this combo. It’s not likely to be very viable, but I’m sure there will be some players who want to use the lock so it’s something to be careful of and prepare for.
While Dragon Link didn’t actually have the highest representation in Top Cut, it certainly is going to be the defining deck of the format for the foreseeable future. As optimizations are made and format shifts occur we’re going to see just how large a slice of the pie Dragon Link can make for itself.
Dinosaur has been a deck that cycles in and out of formats, and just as in the last Dragon Link format, Dinosaur emerged as a counterpick we’ve found ourselves in the same place. Three Dinosaur players ended up making Top 16 including Ryan Yu who snagged a second place finish and did not drop a single game until Top 4. Dinosaur is again being played as a blind second powerhouse choosing to main deck haymakers like Dark Ruler No More, Lightning Storm and Mystic Mine while using the powerful Dinosaur engine to protect their plays and push out major damage. This is another deck that has mostly benefitted from two recent changes: the release of Pot of Prosperity and the banning of Calamities. Calamities had shut most Dinosaur pilots out of the format because there wasn’t a very clean in-engine way to handle it and you had to rely on other cards to beat Virtual World. Now that this isn’t the case, Dinosaur is free to use its incredible monster utility to the fullest. As a Dinosaur player myself, I couldn’t be happier to see this.
Pot of Prosperity is the other major change to lists, and it offers unbelievable utility in Dinosaur. Dinosaur lives on its two card combos, but it can have inherent consistency issues because some of the two card combinations don’t work very well together (seeing Souleating Oviraptor and Animadorned Archosaur for example does little except provide access to Ultimate Conductor Tyranno). Prosperity fixes all of this! If you only have an Oviraptor, you are almost guaranteed to find a Fossil Dig, Miscellaneousaurus or Babycerasaurus through a Prosperity. If you have an Archosaur, you’re very likely to see a Fossil Dig, Baby, or Petiteranodon to complete the set. If you already have your pieces, you can dig for a blowout like Storm, Dark Ruler, or Mine as an alternate win condition. Mystic Mine is playable again because Chuche is out of the format, and while Dragon Link can have a main deck out in Tidying it can still buy enough time to make lethal damage.
Ryan Yu did an excellent explainer on the deck choices (he and Arjun Radhakrishnan who made Top 16 played almost exactly the same decklist and labbed it together) and you can find that here on Team Bortle’s channel.
One of the Top 16 lists made some very different choices and opted to play Giant Rex, Dogoran, the Mad Flame Kaiju and Pot of Extravagance instead of Prosperity. They also chose to play Triple Tactics Talent in the main deck instead of Mystic Mine, and while I’m not personally convinced that this is the best approach it was clearly strong enough to make for an excellent finish (people who don’t want to shell out the dough for Prosperity for remote duels will be happy to see this!). I’ll be really interested to see which version ends up catching on! As the format develops it’s likely that people will be preparing more for Dinosaur as it can have a weakness to the commonly played Artifact Lancea and if that starts being played more in the Main Deck we’re going to be in for some interesting metagaming.
Invoked? Shaddoll? Dogmatika? All of them????
Near the beginning of new formats people sometimes will make safer choices going into events and in general Invoked hybrids are unchanged from the previous format. That said, I’m not sure anybody expected that the decks would perform as well as they did with Aleister the Invoker present in seven of the Top 16 decklists. There was definitely some variance in what was being paired with the deck. Three players opted for a heavier Shaddoll package which utilizes the power of Shaddoll Fusion (more viable in the format now that Calamities is gone) and the utility of the Shaddoll main deck monsters (Naelshaddoll Ariel is an absurd card) to generate advantage and have more consistent access to El Shaddoll Winda to lock players out of special summoning. Five players opted to use the Dogmatika package but there were some pretty major differences in how it was played; two played the Dogmatika Maximus package, two players used the Dragoon package, one player even cut Dogmatika Fleurdelis, the Knighted entirely and played only one copy of Dogmatika Ecclesia, the Virtuous! Three of the Invoked variants chose to play Dragoon and one lone player picked up the Mekk-Knights for some classic column dancing. It seems that right now nobody can quite agree on which version of the deck is best, but everybody seems to agree that normal summoning Aleister for another year is the way to go. Of note is that the lone Top 4 finisher representing this, um, soup bowl of decks did not play the Dogmatika engine and instead leaned harder than anybody into the Shaddoll side of the deck.
What will be the most interesting to see looking forward is if the Invoked strategy will be able to hang around in the metagame. While it saw a lot of success, generally speaking, it always sees success at the start of formats. While I think some might see this format as more of the same, I disagree. There are going to be some very cool changes in deckbuilding as the format evolves and I’m very excited to see where they lead, especially for this pile of engines.
Part 3: The Undecided (and some general FOrmat Notes)
There are definitely still some unanswered questions about where the format will go and while the top contenders are largely decided, there are still a lot of gaps to fill. Eldlich variants were heavily represented in the event overall but failed to have a strong conversion, with only two of the 40 Eldlich Pilots (18 Zoodiac and 22 others) managing to make Top Cut, both of which were playing Zoodiac engines. This isn’t necessarily a shock as Eldlich has been ever-present in the last format but never felt oppressive, and this feels like an extension of that. According to some players, it also has a somewhat bad matchup going second into Dragon Link boards, so a frequent swiss matchup likely pushed a lot of pilots out of top cut. Maybe the most interesting bit here is that Leonardo Sacchetti who made Top 4 with Zoodiac Eldlich opted to play the new fusion package that summons Eldlich the Mad Golden Lord, which has seen almost no competitive play until now. This could mean it may pop up a bit more so players will need to be prepared to see the angry golden bungus come right from El Dorado and into the metagame. Sacchetti also played one copy of Zoodiac Kataroost in order to play well into the mirror match, which is hilarious.
One player snagged a top 8 finish with Prank-Kids, and if Discord reports of the decks that made Day Two are to be believed, there were two other Prank-Kids players who ended up on the 6-2 bubble and missed out on top cut due to tiebreakers. If the breakers had shifted a different way we could have seen three Pranks players out of only six entrants in top 16, and that would have been an incredible conversion rate (it already is even with only one player in top cut!). This could mean that players will have to prepare for the matchup and that Prank-Kids might be a legitimate Tier 2 contender as the format develops. Something else very strange about their decklist is that they were siding three copies of Psychic Eraser Laser which has seen almost zero play since its recent release. As far as I’m aware, the Prank-Kids player hasn’t had a deck profile uploaded but I do hope we get to see the reasoning for playing this card because I would love to know!
Some format notes worth talking about are a few shifts in handtrap trends. Fantastical Dragon Phantazmay, which had found itself completely out of competitive play for a very long time now has made its way back into decks because of the prevalence of Dragon Link. Being able to not only fix hands but also negate something like a Dragonmaid Tidying or a Rokket Tracer is very powerful disruption to have to stop or hinder a turn. While it hasn’t been too present, Infinite Impermanence is also sneaking its way into the format again for a few reasons. The first has to do with the banlist, as previously Impermanence was very bad against Calamities because players could either hold the effect until Impermanence could not be used or simply pop their own Calamities with Chuche to avoid the effect negation. With Calamities gone, Imperm makes more sense to include. As well, a lot of decks are now opting to play Triple Tactics Talent as a way to break boards or dig for extenders after being interrupted and Infinite Impermanence is the best way to interrupt your opponent without turning on their copy of Tactics.
To conclude, the decks that exist in the meta are mostly locked in, but the ordering is far from concluded after the banlist. Decks are going to shift, handtraps will change, tools for going second are more diverse and difficult to pick than ever and even some decks that could enter the meta are still not solved! While some players might be tired of seeing the same overall cards being played, the differences in strategy between different builds of decks and the possibility for a constantly shifting metagame should make for a very fun format to play.
Give me a shout in the comments if you have any thoughts! There could definitely be some things I’ve missed in breaking down the results and if there are any decks I missed talking about that could break into the meta or there was some tech at the LCS being played that I missed leave a comment so that others can get that information. You can also check out this article by Senoric45 and see if their predictions lined up with the results. That will be all from me for now, but expect some more of Remote Duels Across America and a few very interesting deck profiles coming your way soon. Catch y’all later!