Let’s bring the game’s original archetype up to speed for the modern game!
Primer to my Approach:
Before we dig into their tombs, let me give you a disclaimer up front – this is not just an article on bringing a standard control Gravekeeper deck to 2020 standards. With this article, I’m taking a unique approach to the deck, building them in a turbo fashion that only relies on Necrovalley as an additional disruption element rather than as the lynchpin for the strategy, reducing the over-reliance on a single field spell that has plagued the deck for years. My goal when approaching this request via Discord was to take a modern approach to a well-analyzed strategy, trying to leverage its unique capabilities into a successful rogue option. So please take that into account and provide feedback if you like this style – I’d be happy to do so again with another archetype if requested. With that, let’s dive into the tombs.
Keeping the Graveyard as a Permanent Burial Ground:
The Gravekeeper archetype debuted as the first to receive archetype support all the way back in Pharonic Guardian, and since then, the archetype has remained infamous for its control elements. The defining strength of the Gravekeeper archetype is its ability to influence the GY, represented best through its Field Spell Necrovalley. Necrovalley negates any effect that would move a card out of the GY, it prevents cards from being banished from the GY, and it negates any effect that changes types or attributes in the GY. Since just about every competitive deck has some element of recovery or interaction with the GY, this can have a major effect in stopping the opponent from conducting any of their major plays. Take Spyral for example: they can’t use any SPYRAL MISSION effects in GY, they can’t summon back Quik-Fix, they can’t use Big Red, they can’t summon Sleeper… Thus, this immediately gives Gravekeeper a niche space to work in, especially since it can significantly inhibit what is arguably the top deck of the format rather easily.
Besides their field spell, the Gravekeeper archetype have some awesome support cards and boss monsters. Gravekeeper’s Supernaturalist is an in-theme Fusion monster with two worthwhile effects. First, neither it nor Necrovalley can be destroyed by card effects while it is on the field. Secondly, you can activate its ignition effect to get a delayed search of any ‘Necrovalley’ card or Gravekeeper’s monster during the End Phase. The primary search target for this effect is normally Necrovalley Temple, a tutor for any Gravekeeper monster that can instead be used to immediately Normal Summon a Gravekeeper. Thus, it is a versatile searcher for the theme. While Temple cannot directly search out a new copy of Necrovalley if you need one, you can always choose to grab Gravekeeper’s Commandant instead, which can discard itself from the hand to search a copy of Necrovalley! Thus, you should always have access to your key field spell!
Rounding out the essential archetype members for today’s article are two of the lower leveled Gravekeepers. Gravekeeper’s Spiritualist serves as the Fusion-enabler for the archetype, as it has an effect to Fusion Summon any Spellcaster Fusion using monsters from your hand or field while Necrovalley is on the field. This should be used as your main way of accessing Supernaturalist, especially early in the duel. The second essential monster is Gravekeeper’s Headman, a monster that Special Summons a Level 4 Gravekeeper from your GY when it is summoned. As expected, this effect is unaffected by Necrovalley, so it serves as a great way to rebuild field presence for Link Summons when necessary. Now that we’ve covered an introduction to the important players in the theme, let’s talk about the core turbo engine that’s going to give this archetype the boost into the modern era it needs!
Magicians’ Souls again?
That’s right – when trying to modernize a deck for success, money should be no object! So just empty out your entire savings for 3 Magicians’ Souls because this deck LOVES it. Simply send any Level 6 or higher Spellcaster from the Deck, can you get a free Level 1 monster to the field that can send up to 2 Spells or Traps from hand or field to the GY to draw the same number of cards. This ties in well here because historically, Gravekeeper has always run as a monster-light strategy. By minimizing the monster count, one can reduce the chances of opening entirely monsters which conflicts with the theme’s most powerful spell card – Royal Tribute. This spell card makes both players discard all of the monsters in their hand to the GY, as long as you control Necrovalley. Since all the cards sent to the GY are virtually irretrievable due to Necrovalley, you can consider a successful resolution of Tribute to be a win condition! So we have Souls to speed up the chances of getting Tribute, but how do we get to souls?
Magicians’ Souls has seen play across a variety of decks, but Spyral has arguably had the best access to it due to them also running a key search card – Where Arf Thou? By controlling any Level 1 monster, you can activate Arf to add a copy of Souls to the hand, only at the small cost of a delayed 2000 effect damage. In support of this, we also need some additional Level 1 monsters, so I always suggest looking at Jester Confit, a Level 1 monster that can special summon itself from the hand inherently. As a plus, Jester has no significant conditions for this summon, outside of the fact that you can only control 1 of them. He is also a Spellcaster, which is important to take note of for later. Rounding out our Arf options, the last Level 1 to run in this style of turbo variant is Sky Striker Mecha – Hornet Drones. This option has an additional distinct advantage of letting you go into Sky Striker Ace – Kagari and recycle your copy of Drones as one of your future discards with Soul!
An Alternative Win Condition:
Outside of relying on just a solid Royal Tribute purge, Gravekeeper’s can rely on one other primary win condition to secure duels – Fusion Summoning. While Supernaturalist is a great in-theme fusion option for maintaining card advantage and protecting Necrovalley, there is definitely a hole that can be provided by another new Spellcaster Fusion monster… The Dark Magicians. Fusion summoned in this build using Dark Magician and any other Spellcaster, you can easily get to your copy of Souls. Then, since this boss monster lets you draw the first time a Spell/Trap or its effect is activated each turn, you can turbo through your deck even faster. Sure, if you end up drawing the legendary wizard you can just Fusion him away with Spiritualist (who can Fusion Summon ANY Spellcaster Fusion), but you’ll definitely want to be using this alternative option – Magicalized Fusion.
Magicalized Fusion is a generic ‘Miracle Fusion‘ option for Fusion Summoning Spellcaster Fusion-type monsters by banishing materials from your Field or GY. So, if you go through your normal playchain of summoning Souls (by sending Dark Magician), then linking away Souls for something like Linkuriboh, you already have all the material you need in your GY for the Fusion Summon of The Dark Magicians. Later in the duel, you can also bring out a surprise boss monster to wipe the field and go for game via battle damage in the form of Quintet Magician. Simply Fusion Summon this powerful magician with 5 Spellcasters with different names, and you can destroy all cards your opponent controls! This is definitely a card that defies expectations for an ancient variation of Gravekeeper that has existed for
centuries… decades… If you are keeping up, you may be wondering how we are going to resolve Magicalized so let’s address that Necrovalley-sized elephant in the room!
HINT: It’s solved by one of the oldest cards in the archetype – Gravekeeper’s Chief. This Level 5 monster can Special Summon any other Gravekeeeper’s monster from your GY when he is Tribute Summoned, but his first effect is continuous – Your GY is unaffected by “Necrovalley“. Chief also pairs well with the previously mentioned Gravekeeper’s Headman, which also triggers when it is Special Summoned. So make full use of Chief before Fusion Summoning: simply Tribute Summon Chief, bring back Headman, then use Headman to bring back another Gravekeeper. Next, Link Summon Cross-Sheep with Headman and your other Gravekeeper. Thus, when you Fusion Summon to a zone Sheep points to, you can also get another free Special Summon from your GY, which can be used to make Borrelsword Dragon to go for an OTK. Again, this is not the Gravekeeper deck that you are used to – this is a modern era turbo build. But enough talking about it, let’s look at my proposed list!
Proposed TCG Decklist:
Ensuring a Lean, Mean Turbo Machine:
This build is all about full speed ahead at all costs, which may come at a slight shock considering how many copies of certain Spell cards I choose to run in the proposed list. First, I intended to design this build around an initial goal of resolving Royal Tribute turn 1. So let’s talk a bit of numbers. For any unsearchable card that you run 3 copies of, you have a 33.76% chance of opening at least 1 copy in a standard 40-card deck. However, you must also have Necrovalley to properly resolve Tribute, so that brings our chance of opening both to 21.20%. This factors in Commandant and Temple as well, since both are the equivalent of a copy of Necrovalley. Next, note all of the drawing options. The Allures and Upstart get you the first step of the way, but also factor in Souls, which converts any other spells into the equivalent of an Upstart Goblin.
Long story short – few Gravekeeper decks builds have had this consistency to getting to the Royal Tribute combo turn 1, so you need to maximize that as your primary win condition. But your secondary win condition is OTKing through abusing all of your free summons from Chief, Headman, and Cross-Sheep. It makes it quite easy to go for a Borrelsword OTK over an opponent’s weakened board!
Alternate Tech Options:
- More Gravekeeper’s
- Gravekeeper’s Recruiter – The best searcher for the theme, Recruiter has stood the test of time for its effect; however, it is difficult to use properly because you would rather use Throne to search another Gravekeeper monster rather than getting an extra Normal Summon. But once you get a recruiter into the GY, Headman or Chief plays become that much more advantage-positive for you.
- Gravekeeper’s Watcher – The forgotten handtrap, Watcher is a searchable counter to cards that discard for its effect. Things like Danger monsters, the disruptive Shaddoll Fusions, Shaddoll Beast, Omni Dragon Brotaur, Paleozoic Dinomischus, Uni-Zombie, and the list goes on.
- Hidden Temples of Necrovalley – The in-theme option to prevent Special Summoning, this can be excellent when you are guaranteed to be going first and want to stop your opponent in their tracks. Downside? This is very fragile. Also, a modern build requires more monsters and more special summoning, so there could be a bit of conflict with your own strategy.
- Imperial Tombs of Necrovalley – Another Necrovalley support card if you are going first, this time it is their counter trap. The downside is that most decks need to be able to play through a single negate, but that may be less important here when Necrovalley is locking down their options.
- Necrovalley Temple – The backup option in case everything goes wrong. If your opponent gets rid of your field spell, you need a backup option and this trap can immediately get another copy to the field. Great for win you’re winning at stopping an opponent’s comeback, but bad in other situations.
- More Turbo
- Pot of Extravagance – There are multiple reasons why I chose not to include this in my initial list, the first of which is cost. But in a deck with so much inherent draw power, do you really want to lock down draws just to get an easy +1? This would also require running multiple of your essential Fusions like Quintet to preserve that win condition, so there is a lot more at stake here than you may have immediately thought.
- Pot of Desires – The other common Pot option is super risky for Modern Gravekeeper. First, you could banish all your copies of Necrovalley and be in a terrible mood. Second, you could banish just one copy of your prized field spell and then have less options to send with Souls for extra draws when you need it the most. Third, you could just banish your only Souls Spellcasters, giving you very little hope.
- Fantastical Dragon Phantazmay – This is an AMAZING option for this deck, especially when going second. Phantazmay is great at solving brick hands, and its targeting protection comes in handy when you need help protecting your prized field spell. It also is an Allure target, so definitely worth a second look.
- Celestial Observatory – More of a situational draw spell, this is designed to function alongside Shaman. Since Shaman is your prime Gravekeeper Souls target, you always want her in deck. If you draw her, just return her to deck with Observatory! But the hidden benefit here is that even if you get Souls first, Shaman is easy to recycle. Whether it is using Stele or Chief, you can get that copy back in the deck for another go at Souls. This is an especially good option if you do not like the sole copy of Dark Magician in the main deck.
- Spellbook Magician of Prophecy – Another option to replace your copy of Wisdom, this finishes the Crowley, the First Propheseer triumverate at ensuring you get Knowledge for 2 draws. The downside here is that blueboy takes away your Normal Summon, preventing Chief or Shaman summons.
- Wonder Wand – An unsearchable version of Spellbook of Knowledge, but draw power is draw power when you have easily summon-able Spellcasters like Souls and Confit.
- More Disruption
- Deck Devastation Virus/Eradicator Epidemic Virus – These are easily used by tributing your Gravekeeper monsters boosted by Necrovalley and can serve as an alternative win condition to Royal Tribute. Combine the two and your opponent might just immediately flip the table.
- Secret Village of the Spellcasters – Want to really mess with your opponent? Drop Royal Tribute to get rid of their monsters, then follow it up with Village to lock down their spells! That’s quite the combo to ensure hilarious levels of disruption.
- Witchcrafter Golem Aruru – A recurring handtrap for Spellcaster archetypes that can spin away your opponent’s cards. It also serves as another option to send with Souls in a pinch.
- Magicians Defense – This continuous trap may be terrible at first glance, but it can protect you from unforeseen OTK pushes, as well as comboing brilliantly with Souls for a free summon!
Closing the Tomb:
I think Gravekeeper is a theme that people are sleeping right now – its ability to win the duel simply by resolving Royal Tribute is close to unparalleled by the current meta. The one major downside? So many Shaddoll monsters trigger when sent to the GY by a card effect. That is where Gravekeeper’s Shaman comes in for additional support, swooping in to truly lock down the GY beyond the abilities of Necrovalley. So get out there and try a build like this – you may find that a modern approach to an old theme is your style. Or you can just continue to abuse Souls in Spyral, Lunalight, or whatever else you can get your hands on, hoping to build an impressive turn 1 board that is impossible to break. I personally prefer removing the option of a comeback entirely by sealing away their monsters to the GY, rather than just letting them try to burst through a negation board. Hopefully my article will catch your eye next time whenever I dive into the Banished Zone… or is that just a Decoy for what’s to come?
Reminder, I also take suggestions for future CDS articles! I really want to see some input from you! If you wish to see a CDS article about the archetype, theme, or strategy you love, feel free to private message me on the YGOrg Discord server, the YGOrganization Forums, or just post a comment in response to this article on our Facebook page with your ideas to keep under consideration! On most YGO-related communities my username is Quincymccoy, so feel free to reach out. As of now, I have a couple of outstanding requests that I am looking at: Ballpark Insect/Battlewasp, Cyberse, Shaddoll, and Speedroid.