Continuing my trend of covering strategies that gained a massive boost due to the recent release of LVAL in the OCG territories, it’s time to introduce the possible champion of a new era for some decks, a paladin that will set a high bar for future releases. Without further ado, let’s jump on board the Photon Dragon!
Ritual decks have taken many forms over their many years of existence. Unfortunately, these Blue-trimmed beauties left much to be desired, using massive amounts of hand advantage to summon a monster, normally having a sub-par or lack of an effect. Then, a new era dawned with the release of the Ruin, Queen of Oblivion and Demise, King of Armageddon in Shadow of Infinity. For the first time, there were ritual monsters that made serious impacts upon the field, offering immense power to offset hefty tribute requirements. Strike of Neos brought a brand new style to define ritual summoning; pairing the two least used card colors together with a wave of powerful support cards and Ritual Monsters that benefited from using Normal Monsters.
This was the debut of the first and only ritual spell to hit the banlist: Advanced Ritual Art. This spell pushed rituals as a competitive option, choosing to run the powerful Demise with a suite of Level 4 Insect-Type Normal Monsters. The combo was simple: Ritual Summon Demise, sending 2 Insect Knights to the Graveyard, field goes boom with his effect, Special Summon Doom Dozer using the 2 Insect Knights, and finish off the combo by equipping it with Megamorph to get 8000 damage in. While this sort of deck seems trivial and highly combo reliant to us now, it was a valid option when the game was a lot slower than today. Having Manju, Sonic Bird and Senju to search out Ritual components was amazing, something that wasn’t introduced to every archtype at the time.
Then, following the demise of the Advanced Ritual Art strategies attributed to the banlist, Stardust Overdrive introduced a series of new tactics in an attempt to bring Rituals back into the competitive scene. The Djinn of Rituals were only part of the new mechanics, as the pack also introduced additional effects on Ritual Spell Cards. Ritual of Grace, the Ritual Spell for the brand new Ritual Monster of the set, features an effect that allows it to be banished to make any Ritual Monster you control un-targetable for the turn. It may not seem powerful now, but it was a start for greater things. Also, in the same pack which began the Revival of the Rituals, there was one card that was hailed as being required for any Ritual-Based strategy to come: Preparation of Rites.
And then, The Shining Darkness took those concepts to the next level, by introducing the ever-loved Herald of Perfection. Cue the angelic trumpets, because this was a momentous occasion. Not only was a powerful Ritual Monster released that would begin to star in its own control deck right away, but also a Ritual Spell card (Dawn of the Herald) was granted a powerful effect: adding one of the tributed monsters right back to the hand! Don’t forget that Herald is a Level 6 Ritual, fitting the conditions for the catch-all Ritual Monster search spell! (To read more about a modern approach to a Herald of Perfection deck, click read to see my previous article.)
And we definitely cannot discuss Ritual Monsters without touching the Gishki archetype, the epitomy of Ritual toolboxing that uses Ritual Summoning as the core mechanic by having recyclable Ritual Spells and Ritual Monsters that granted immediate advantage to offset summoning costs! The Gishki were the first step in proving that there is no issues with creating easily searchable boss monsters that regain the advantage utilized for their summoning in a turn or two. And now, it’s time for the newest Ritual Monster/Ritual Spell combo to make its glorious appearance!
First off, you may be wondering why I am choosing to write an article about a Ritual Monster clearly connected to the larger Photon and Galaxy archetypes: I apologize in advance that I will not touch upon his first effect at all. It simply does not pertain to the point I wish to convey about card advantage, therefore I hope that you can forgive me in time if you love Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon that much.
For those of you who are unaware of the parallels drawn between Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon and Blue-Eyes White Dragon, it is time to illuminate your perception of the two themes. Both are used by one of the main characters in the show, both are 3000/2500 level 8 LIGHT dragons, and now both have their corresponding level 4 Ritual tutor! Now there is an important difference between the two level 4 tutors, because Paladin of Photon Dragon easily can offset the cost of its Ritual Summoning in a turn or two max, in comparison to Paladin of White Dragon, who needs to destroy multiple monsters with its effect before it becomes worth the investment. Also, the Ritual Spells themselves offer key distinctions that need to be noted: White Dragon Ritual has the only effect to Tribute a monster whose level equals 4 or more, while Light Dragon Ritual offers more utility for less flexibility. With its ability to be used to Ritual Summon from the Graveyard, it can be put to great use for summoning multiple Paladins during the same turn if the need arises!
But again, why choose to run a puny Level 4 Ritual Monster with only 1900 ATK and the effect to draw a card when it destroys an opponent’s monster in battle? Because it’s that simple effect to draw that let’s the controller obtain massive amounts of card advantage every single turn. This brand new strategy straight off the presses is a lesson in card advantage, a concept and mechanic pivotal to the game of Yu-Gi-Oh as we know it today. Heck, I even advise combining some of the Djinn of Rituals to assist in his dirty work! If you used Presider, you get an additional card each time you run over an opponents monster, a shift of +3 EVERY TIME in card economy that you manage to do so! These shifts are what makes decks competitive, plays that simply outpace the opponent while pushing them further behind.
But also, there has been a push towards more cards that help non-Xyz or Synchro strategies, such as Grisaille Prison! A deck centered around making cheap and quick Level 4 Ritual Summons can easily use this to lock out opposing decks from making big plays. Chained to the effect of a Dracossack, or activated when your opponent lays out the necessary components for a Synchro Summon, you have the ability to make an immense impact on the opponent’s plays each turn that you keep the threat of Grisaille alive with your Ritual face-up! Smart use of the Prison also ensures that your opponent can’t retaliate on his next turn as well! This is enough strategy, let’s talk about some concrete options here.
Core Lineup for any Paladin of Photon Dragon Advantage-Driven Variant:
2|3 indicates that 2 or 3 copies should be considered.
- 3 Paladin of Photon Dragon
- 1 Honest
- 3 Djinn Presider of Rituals
- 0|3 Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands
- 1 Reinforcement of the Army
- 2|3 Preparation of Rites
- 3 Light Dragon Ritual
- 2 Forbidden Lance
- 2|3 Grisaille Prison
Yes, I do believe that this could be the shortest core lineup for a deck article I have done yet, and that is what makes this strategy so enticing! When was the last time you could run a deck with 7 monsters, rely upon them for advantage, and fill the rest of the deck with supporting or controlling spells or traps? The only thing I can think of is the HERO decks that recently got removed from TCG regions due to the banning of Elemental HERO Stratos! The options are open, they are meant to be! With a mere 17 card core if you take the minimum, you can truly take the deck where you want. As a result of this openness or versatility of a strategy like this, I will opt to replace the “Possible Tech Choices” with a “Possible Variant Choices”, since that is the power of such a strategy!
Possible Variant Choices:
I am fully aware that I am not an expert on Paladin of Photon Dragon variants, so treat the following as example decklists. I know they are not the best builds in the world, but they can serve as a baseline for your deck construction in the future.
Trap-Centric Control: This variant definitely puts a new spin on a Trap-heavy deck. Featuring space to run an enormous amount of traps, a duelist using this variant really doesn’t have to worry about having responses to their opponent’s actions. The main combination of Presider and Paladin work wonders in here, as the two together can next near guarantee an endless stream of extra resources to refill the backrow. Try to save the summoning of Paladin until you are positive that you can defeat an opponent’s monster in battle right away!
Djinn of Ritual Chaos Control: In comparison to the previous variant, this one looks to capitalize on the combination of the 2 interference djinn of rituals: Releaser and Dissere. Do pay attention that you need to Ritual Summon with EXACTLY 4 levels, which is why both are run at 3 so that you have the best chance of having both available when you need to ritual summon. The combination of Mystic Tomato and Creature Swap also makes an appearance here, because swapping a tomato for a stronger monster is always useful, especially when you can get a draw on top of everything else!
Paladin of Chaos Dragon: Last but not least, Paladin doesn’t have to use the Djinn at all! This variant capitalizes on the ‘floater’ status of the mini LIGHT and DARK Chaos Dragons recently imported to the TCG through Shadow Specters. These little dragons can fuel Ritual Summons and Xyz Summons if needed, so this build is probably the most flexible, and probably the best of the three. Do not count out the pure controlling potential of a Djinn backed Ritual monster!
What makes Paladin so Special? What new does he offer that previous low-leveled Rituals could not?
First, you should note that there are only six Level 4 or below Ritual monsters! First off, we have already discussed how Paladin of Photon Dragon rises above Paladin of White Dragon. Elemental Mistress Doriado certainly can be seen as a cool an interesting combo card; however, she really doesn’t have much use outside of acting as great multi-attribute support. She also has no ways to increase card advantage on her own, as her 1200 ATK will not be winning many battles. Lastly, her Ritual Spell is useless after summoning her. It does not have that second ability that I have grown to love in Herald and Paladin centric strategies. Next on the chopping block is Cú Chulainn the Awakened, a really weak Ritual that can be powered-up using its effect, just it requires a steady stream of Normal Monsters, not necessarily the most competitive of options. Penultimately, Gishki Psychelone has its merits as being so searchable due to the nature of the Gishki archetype; however, her effect is based on luck and your ability to guess the correct Attribute and type for the chance that you hit a monster. She does have the most original ATK out of any low-Leveled Ritual, so she does win in that regard, she just doesn’t play as well as others except in dedicated Gishki variants.
Last but not least, we have the Ritual that started it all, Relinquished. I will not lie to you, I have been trying for a long, long time to get a Djinn-Reli control deck to work out. It seems that the odds just are never in my favor, or I can’t settle on a specific working strategy. In comparison of raw advantage potential, Relinquished will absorb a monster right after being Summoned which offsets the cost of its Ritual Spell. If it lives long enough to wreck havoc using your opponent’s monsters, yes it theoretically can perform better than Paladin in some situations and against certain decks. The other side of the coin is that Paladin is better supported by Attribute and Type. Yes, DARK is awesome with the suite of DARK cards that have ruled the game for ages, but the DARK Attribute has little to no ways of helping monsters stay on the field. LIGHT on the other hand has multiple ways to boost ATK when needed, and do we really even need to talk about the awesomeness that is Warrior-type support (ROTA), but I must admit that having access to Secret Village of the Spellcasters in a control Reli deck can be awesome.
As a result, it is my belief that Paladin is simply the right Ritual at the right time. Many rising decks, including but not limited to Ghostrick, Plant, Shinra, Chronomaly, and Heraldic, run many weaker monsters that can easily be turned into immense advantage for a Paladin duelist. The draws each turn also help you replenish dwindling trap supplies and help you to draw into your counters or key disruptive tools!
I hope that this article hoped to brighten your perceptions of the Ritual class. It is about time that they managed to do something in the competitive world, it’s your turn now! Let’s make Rituals dominate the endless waves of generic Synchro and Xyz spam decks that are rising to the challenge of the meta! Champion the coming of a new era, embrace the light, and may you never fall off of your purple dragon (Which is SO much more amazing that the boring light-blue of the White Dragon).
Just remember, it never hurts to let creativity take its turn in the saddle! Isn’t that always how the ‘Next New Thing’ gets discovered?