Let’s talk about Ritual Summoning and how the mechanic shines in today’s game. Extenders for days anyone?
Blaze your Path Forward:
Before I begin and walk through the card design of Ritual monsters, let’s take a second to talk about the theme that this article intends to spotlight and showcase – the Nephthys. The forgotten archetype from our last Deck Build Pack is very unique, a Ritual-centric theme that employs Link monsters and lots of destructive capabilities. However, since basically all of the archetype members need to be destroyed and then wait until your next Standby Phase to activate their effects, it is seen by many to be way to slow. The original phoenix, Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys, still blazes as the shining star of the deck, wiping the backrow each turn before you begin your Ritual plays, but is it enough? Is this theme really as slow as duelists have categorized the theme? Before we can tackle these looming questions and since this archetype does not work optimally when played pure, let’s discuss how Ritual monsters have evolved over the years and how we get to the card design of the Nephthys monsters today.
History of Ritual Monster Design:
If you are interested in just jumping to the deckbuild and strategy of Nephthys/Impcantations, you can skip this entire spoilered section. Otherwise, feel free to enjoy the history as we build up to how Ritual monsters are designed today, since that clearly has influenced the direction of the current options available to our build.
What can the Nephthys do:
The Nephthys are a series of WIND/Spellcasters and FIRE/Winged Beasts that change self-destruction into advantage in a similar fashion to the Fire King or Scrap archetypes that have come previously. Most similar to Fire Kings, this advantage is typically delayed by a turn in order to provide the opponent a chance to respond and provide you with more cards to destroy on the subsequent turn. This delay that is intrinsic to just about every Nephthys monster can make the theme unappetizing to some duelists, but its true power is how it can open a duel in stride, applying pressure through sitting on a Link monster that can generate immense amounts of card advantage. So, before talking about any of the Ritual capabilities, let’s talk about the Link capabilities of the Nephthys.
First up will be the most important Link monster of the theme, Nephthys, the Sacred Preserver. If Preserver was Link Summoned, once per turn, you get to add a Level 8 Winged Beast from the deck and a Ritual Spell from the GY to the hand. This may not seem all too exciting to begin with, but Preserver takes most of the focus of your opponent’s removal to get off the field as soon as possible. You might be asking, how would a Ritual theme get a Link Monster onto the field, since most Ritual themes are not known for flooding the field with monsters? Well the simple answer lies in their first ritual, Devotee of Nephthys. Whenever this Level 2 Ritual is Ritual Summoned, you get to Special Summon 1 Nephthys from the deck. Since that satisfies the requirements of 2 Nephthys monsters, you automatically have your first Link summon ready to go. But let’s consider the card economy side of this play. Tribute + Ritual Spell + Devotee, so a -3 in initial card advantage, only to get out a Link that adds a two cards to the hand. In total, it is a net neutral trade. But you also just got out a Link with 2 down arrows for nothing! And, if you added a Nephthys monster to the hand with the Link, you can destroy it to bring back Devotee from the GY. This may be an initial even trade in card advantage, but it can quickly spiral out of control, turning any Normal Summon into having all the pieces for a Knightmare Link Summon to gain advantage and continue your combo. At the end of the day, this is the initial goal of Nephthys – make an initial Ritual Summon to then provide the materials for a Link Summon which then prepares the hand for a second Ritual Summon or a second Link Summon. The other link of the theme, Nephthys, the Sacred Flame, can appear in all of its glory at the seemingly high cost of using at least 1 Ritual as part of a Link 3 Link Summon. However, if you go above and beyond and use 3 Ritual monsters for its summon, you get a boss monster that can’t be destroyed by battle, card effects, or targeted on a 4800 ATK monster. Unfortunately it can still be outed by any Kaiju or a Borreload Dragon, but you take what you can get.
Sure the Link Monsters may be the symbolic heart and soul of the deck, but Nephthys would not exist without the original bird and its reliance upon the cycle of destruction. Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys gets to bring itself back from the ashes during your Standby Phase after it was destroyed by a card effect, and when it does, it gets to destroy all Spells or Traps on the field. Now at first this seems like a relic of the past, but just consider the scenario above, but where Devotee returns itself to the field by destroying a Sacred Phoenix in the hand. As you are setting up your initial Link board, you are also simultaneously setting up a counterpush for your following turn that will begin with an opponent devoid of backrow. Now in today’s game, there are plenty of disruption tools that don’t need to be face-down to affect your board, but don’t let that take away from this delayed boost of card advantage when you might need it.
Alongside the Phoenix is a set of WIND Spellcaster monsters that all thrive around destruction. While a pure Nephthys build takes advantage of both destruction effects of each, today’s article will only focus on the best two – Disciple of Nephthys and Hand of Nephthys. For her part, Disciple lets you destroy a card in your hand to search any other Nephthys monster to your hand, and does this make the deck so much better. Return back to our original combo off of a Ritual Summon of Devotee. If you bring out a Disciple with the effect of Devotee, you can then trade any card in your hand for a Sacred Phoenix, ensuring that you have one in your hand to destroy with Devotee to bring it back from the GY. And if you had a Sacred Phoenix to begin with, then you just get two of your firebirds ready to rise from the ashes to start your next turn! As for the other Handmaiden, Hand of Nephthys, she comes in handy when you really need to bring out a Sacred Phoenix from the hand or clear away one of the other monsters on your board. We will return to this point later.
So where does that leave us? We have a nifty opening play to shoot for, delayed card advantage that is easily rolled into more plays, and a ‘boss’ that clears the way for a counterattack, but we still don’t have a clear win condition. That’s where the other Ritual monster of the theme comes in, Cerulean Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys. Clocking in as another Level 8 Winged Beast, Cerulean lets you wipe away your opponents monsters by destruction by destroying a couple of Nephthys monsters in your possession. That want to be destroyed. In the short term, it is a break-even effect in terms of card advantage, but once your next Standby rolls around, you get all of that lost advantage back. Cycle of destruction, said it before and will continue to loop back to that phrase. Cerulean also rises back from the ashes if destroyed, even if you destroy him with its own effect! But beyond all other benefits as described above for using the Nephthys monsters, you also have a Ritual Spell that allows for some thrifty plays. For one, Rebirth of Nephthys mentions both of our themed Ritual monsters in its text, unlocking use of Pre-Preparation of Rites. Secondly, it allows you to snipe an opponent’s card away while giving the impression you were just Ritual Summoning, as long as you use one of the Nephthys Rituals as tribute for the Ritual Summon. Since this destruction occurs during the Ritual Summon, your opponent cannot respond to the destruction once you are given permission to continue and perform your Ritual Summon! All in all, this just ties into the theme of endless destruction that the Nephthys truly embody, at least as much as their shrouds of flame.
A Destructive Impcantation:
While the archetype might not be fully complete with the imminent release of Savage Strike to the TCG, the Impcantation archetype brings a ton of power to any Ritual strategy, but it especially works well here. Drawing an Imp with its corresponding Ritual component unleashes an immediate +2 in card advantage. The only problem with this card advantage is that the Imps inherently eliminate the possibility of using that advantage for a Link Summon, so you have to get creative with it! I hope it is clear by this point that you always want to open turn 1 with a Devotee summon, so that’s what the Imps do. In tandem with Pre-Preparation of Rites, Preparation of Rites, and more, you can intelligently construct a competitive Nephthys Ritual deck where over 80% of the deck includes an effect to search or Special Summon from the deck. This lets you dig straight to that Devotee or Ritual Spell you need, even if you don’t happen to open either one of them.
The other benefit that the Impcantation archetype brings is the unique qualities debuting with the two cards in SAST – Impcantation Chalislime and Impcantation Inception. The first is a Ritual monster that can reveal itself in the hand to Special one of your other Imps directly from the deck while discarding a card from your hand. This effect lets you simulate ANY card in your hand as an Impcantation, bringing out Impcantation Talismandra to then search a Ritual monster or Impcantation Candoll to then search a Ritual Spell. If you just need material to tribute for a Ritual Summon, you can even be cheeky and discard Chalice itself to summon Impcantation Pencilplume from the deck, only to use its effect to immediately return Chalislime to the hand. More free card advantage is a big yes. As for the in-theme Ritual Spell, it is time to introduce you to the first Ritual Spell that can bring out ANYTHING since Advanced Ritual Art. This is still a crazy powerful characteristic, the only downside being that you have to tribute Imps if you Ritual Summon… which you want to do… so it isn’t really much of a restriction. Also, similarly to the Nekroz Ritual Spells that let you get a new Ritual Spell to hand if it is in the GY, Inception can also bring itself back to the hand at the small cost of trading an Imp in your hand or field for another Imp Special Summoned from the deck… which then lets you add another Ritual component resulting in, you guessed it, more card advantage.
You might be thinking to yourself: “All of the card advantage in the world does not equal a solid win condition, how does Nephthys expect to really be able to win even with these Imps?” You would have a valid point if you were, because I haven’t spent enough time discussing that until now. You see, everything that we described can mesh with just about any Ritual theme ever released. Some themes better than others, but just about everything is fair game. You want to use Gishki? Great, Impcantations can search what you want and Nephthys can provide a backup plan if your initial Ritual loops don’t spiral too far off the ground. You want to use Nekroz? Aside from the obvious synergy between the Impcantations and Nekroz of Valkyrus, they have always been a theme that has a reliance on just opening a Nekroz of Unicore and/or Nekroz of Clausolas and hoping you disrupt the opponent enough to get enough time to counterattack with a Trishula. Throwing in the Nephthys gives you that same potential, just with the additional chance of opening a flashy Nephthys play and adding a Sacred Phoenix or two to your counterattack. Run a couple of the Blue-Eyes Rituals, and you can make a Chaos Form/Advanced Ritual Art OTK deck that actually has a turn 1 to stand on. Or of course, take the path less traveled by and build a Dark Magician Ritual deck with them! Spellcasters unite after all. This combination of themes even opens up a deckbuilder to considering the Shinobaron Rituals, since you don’t need to commit to a large Spirit engine now that Impcantations provide a Ritual Spell to summon them AND Nephthys, the Sacred Preserver can search either straight from the deck! Each of these themes I mentioned have solid win conditions and that is the key to using Nephthys. Take the win condition of other Ritual themes, add it to the consistency and opening plays that Nephthys brings and the advantage offered by the Impcantations, and you create a powerful, multi-faceted Ritual Strategy. If you still aren’t on board with the strategy I’m pitching, check out the deck build and see for yourself.
Since the Nephthys archetype works best when combined with others, I have provided a main core deck build and then three engines that can be added to the core to provide various ritual strategies. These are just some examples of how to use the deck, but each build brings its own specialty. As implied in the last paragraph, there are many other ways to finish out the deck – try some of your own!
|| Disciple of Nephthys
| Hand of Nephthys
||| Impcantation Bookstone
||| Impcantation Candoll
||| Impcantation Pencilplume
||| Impcantation Talismandra
||| Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys
| Cerulean Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys
||| Devotee of Nephthys
|| Impcantation Chalislime
| Impcantation Creator – Crealtar*[YGOrg Translation]
|| Impcantation Inception
|| Impcantation Secret Study*[YGOrg Translation]
||| Pre-Preparation of Rites
||| Preparation of Rites
||| Rebirth of Nephthys
| Black Luster Soldier, the Chaos Warrior*[YGOrg Translation]
| Borreload Dragon
| Borrelsword Dragon
| Knightmare Cerberus
| Knightmare Phoenix
| Knightmare Unicorn
| Knightmare Mermaid
| Nephthys, the Sacred Flame
|| Nephthys, the Sacred Preserver
| Place-N’-Erase Puzzle Polyromino*[YGOrg Translation]
| Proxy Dragon
| Summon Sorcerer
| Underclock Taker
| World Regalia Demiurgear*[YGOrg Translation]
Dark Magician Engine (+7 \ -2):
| Magician’s Rod
| Chaos Form
|| Magician of Chaos*[YGOrg Translation]
| Magician of Black Chaos MAX*[YGOrg Translation]
| Dark Magical Circle
| Impcantation Secret Study*[YGOrg Translation]
– Hand of Nepthys
– Impcantation Creator – Crealtar*[YGOrg Translation]
Engine Card Choices and their Advantages:
As stated many times in the introduction and key card walk-through, this deck, regardless of supporting Ritual engine, is all about an endless cycle of combos. So, as you’ll notice in the sample build above, everything is about searching and/or summoning the combo pieces you need. As a result, this deck has a tough time against Mistake if it cannot find a way to trigger a Sacred Phoenix to return and bomb the field, but with the meta about to go through a major shift with the rise of the low-rarity Salamangreat, a deck like this that maximizes extenders and combos on top of combos might be able to hold its own. Unlike many of the current OTK decks, Nephthys does not live or die by the Normal Summon, and even if your opponent does stop your Devotee effect, there are plenty of ways to swing that into additional advantages later in the duel. But enough about the core deck as a whole, let’s take a second to discuss the card choices in each of the Ritual engines. First up, Nekroz – and to begin, Nekroz is the best engine to match with the Impcantations, period. Since a Brionac turns into a Clausolas which turns into a Ritual Spell, holding either of these Rituals results in any other Impcantation in your hand being live. The other big benefit is that Nekroz Cycle can be used to bring out either of them after your search chain. Tributing a Pencilplume for Clausolas or a Talismandra for Brionac just feels great. I also chose to include a Valkyrus and a Nekroz Mirror, just in the case that you need a bit more draw power. So in short, the Nekroz engine adds the most speed and consistency to a Nephthys build due to the synergy with the Impcantation side of the deck..
Moving right along, let’s take a look at the Shinobaron engine. Since Nephthys, the Sacred Preserver can add any Winged Beast, you can easily search out either of these spinning bosses as part of your initial main combo. This unlocks additional removal options for the deck, which is especially helpful against decks that don’t mind destruction too much. In a couple of the test duels I conducted practicing the build, the Baron’s ability to bounce back fields of multiple Extra deck monsters was invaluable. Then the Baronness opens up the possibility of a secondary wave of backrow removal in the case that your opponent stopped your initial Sacred Phoenix wipe. Alongside these two regal Ritual monsters, I suggest running two copies of Aratama, the Spirit searcher, and one copy of Amano-Iwato. The first tech seems to be a no-brainer – you don’t use the Normal Summon in this deck, so use it for a Spirit that can add either of your Shinobarons to the hand, or to add the negator. Amano-Iwato, while seemingly contradictory in a deck built around monster effects, is in the build to ensure that you win once you commit to the field. Bringing him out after blowing away 3 cards with a Shino ritual is brutal, and as an absolute worst case, you can even use him as a way to ensure a Pre-Preparation of Rites resolves without any Ash problems, before tributing Ash away for the Ritual you had just searched. In short, the Shinobaron engine adds the most OTK power to your build, clearing away any threats to your win, while also synergizing the best with your Nephthys side of the deck.
Last but not least, I wanted to bring up a Dark Magician ritual build as a quite potent option for those of you looking ahead to the new Chaos Magician Ritual monsters. Magician of Chaos*[YGOrg Translation] is the key card of this deck as it allows for you to have some disruption options during your opponent’s turn. When a Spell/Trap or its effect is activated, you get to destroy 1 card on the field. This is great against decks that rely on Field Spells, like Trickstars. More importantly, it adds disruption to your opening play that can provide a bit of a bigger chance of keeping your Preserver alive to abuse for a second turn. The other Ritual supporting this engine is Magician of Black Chaos MAX*[YGOrg Translation], another boss monster that can also disrupt your opponent. While the ability to recycle Spell cards is great in a deck relying on Rituals, the best use of MAX is to stop the opponent in their tracks and summon it during the opponent’s turn. With Magician of Chaos‘s last effect in consideration, it is actually fairly easy to summon during the opponent’s turn as well. To round out this engine, I’m suggesting that you run 1 Magician’s Rod and two targets for it: 1 Chaos Form and 1 Dark Magical Circle. Rod falls into the same category as Aratama, a Normal Summon that benefits your card advantage, except it can add a Ritual spell instead of a Ritual monster. Also, while the odds of grabbing your one copy of Chaos Form with Circle is very low, the ability to make use of Magician of Chaos’s name change is great. Ritual Summon it while Circle is faceup and you get to banish 1 card AND then chain it’s effect to destroy another card, all for the low price of a Ritual Summon. Or if you had a Secret Study out as well, you could be destroying 2 cards and banishing 1. This is the reason for maximizing the copies of the Impcantation Field spell in this variant. All together, that’s a ton of field removal, which is bound to set back your opponent in the short term. Thus in short, the Magician engine adds disruption capabilities, both in the form of new card removal and in the form of blanket effect prevention.
Test Duel Logs:
I wanted to try something new for this article, so I’ve included the following are play-by-play examples from actual test duels. While there were (without question) a couple of duels where I was defeated, I wanted to highlight the combos available to the deck, which is why I only presented winning logs. Let’s just say Thunder Dragons were not my friend while testing. If you do choose to read this section, let me know in comments on our social media pages or in a PM on Discord if you like this format and would like to see it continued in future articles.
Duel 1 – Salamangreat:
Duel 2 – Speedroid:
Duel 1 – Danger/Shaddoll:
Duel 2 – Malefic (?):
Duel 1 – True Draco:
Alternative Tech Options:
- Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands – Search out any Ritual component on summon. This deck does not rely on the Normal Summon at all, so this is a great fit, but for the sample builds above, I just couldn’t find space to run a couple copies.
- Extra-Foolish Burial – Since you don’t set anything in this build, this is a decent option when paired with Herald of the Arc Light. The downside is the steep LP cost, especially when you are piloting a deck that lives to win on the ‘comeback’ turn after the opponent tries to defeat the initial board you stood up.
- Sauravis, the Ancient and Ascended – Extra protection for your monsters, as well as being a Ritual that returns to the hand to negate a Summon? Awesome. This would be a great monster to bring out on the opening turn if you can muster it.
- Saffira, Queen of Dragons – Want more advantage? Check this out as a way to keep up the pressure and ensure that you have an Impcantation at the ready for your second turn to follow up after the first!
- Amorphactor Pain, the Imagination Dracoverlord – As a one-off, this monster can throw a wrench into a deck that relies upon MP1 of their first turn to establish a presence. With the ease of searching due to the Impcantations, it really is possible to just run 1 and be able to dig to it as needed.
- Black Luster Solider – Envoy of the Beginning – Provides additional OTK power to the deck, especially since it is so easy to summon due to the LIGHT/DARK nature of the Impcantations.
- Awakening of Nephthys – While this is certainly a slow searcher trap, it can provide an additional jumpstart to your second turn of the duel. Combined with a primed Sacred Phoenix, you are set to Link Summon a Preserver right off the bat if you had this active first.
- Dark Nephthys – When Summoned off of Devotee, this tech offers the ability to immediately pop a Spell or Trap.
- Spellbook of Secrets, Spellbook of Knowledge, and Spellbook Magician of Prophecy – You can also choose to forgo the extra Ritual theme at the cost of power in exchange for more draw power and search power. Knowledge especially synergizes with Bookstone since it is a Spellcaster!
- Secret Village of the Spellcasters – When you have a Devotee, it is live. Then, whenever your Phoenix rises from the ashes, Village will be burned to the ground, preventing you from being locked out by your own field!
- Onslaught of the Fire Kings – Start your turn with a free Sacred Phoenix from the deck!
- Fire King High Avatar Garunix – Just like Fire Kings could run Sacred Phoenix, so can the opposite. The downside here is that you would have to waste your Preserver search on this in order to destroy it with a Devotee, but it would increase the amount of destruction available to you! The other big downside to consider is that it summons during the next Standby Phase, not during your next Standby Phase.
- Fire King Avatar Arvata – This guy can ensure that your plays go off without a hitch, and if your opponent does try to throw a hand trap in your face, you can just negate it!
- Emergency Teleport\Lonefire Blossom – The Impcantations can also be brought out by generic type support cards such as these to get a search, so this can be a good alternative to consider to use your Normal Summon on.
- Urgent Ritual Art – Since Nephthys is a deck that prefers to leave a Ritual on the field, this is relegated to the Tech section, but it can work out if you need an emergency Ritual Summon during the opponent’s turn. (And doing so could trigger Secret Study).
Build-Specific Alternative Tech Options:
- Nekroz of Unicore – The card that defined Nekroz during its time in the meta spotlight, you can always consider running this.
- Nekroz of Trishula – While slightly more difficult to summon here than in pure Nekroz/Impcantation, it is a possibility.
- Shinobird’s Calling – This Ritual Spell does not offer as many benefits as the Nekroz Rituals, but it can be searched from the deck with Pre-Preparation of Rites, which is the only reason to consider using it as well.
- Hebo, Lord of the River – This may seem like a weird tech option, but it works well with the Impcantations by returning one back to the hand in the End Phase if you have no other option due to disruption. Or it can be used as monster removal for Extra deck monsters.
- Nikitama – If you want to go a more Spirit-heavy route with your build, you can. This could work well if you included the upcoming Salamangreat Link, Salamangreat Almiraj*[YGOrg Translation]
- Magician of Dark Illusion – You can tech in this card to make use of a Magician of Chaos in the GY, bringing it back on the opponent’s turn if you trigger the eff of a Spell or Trap. Thus, you would also need to be running traps or something else to make full use of this.
Conclusion and Tying back to History:
If you’re still practicing your perfect Ritual Summon shout, congratulations on making it this far and I’m sure it’s great. If you’ve skipped down to the bottom looking for a TL;DR, sorry, but this type of article doesn’t have one of those. At the end of the day, the Nephthys theme combined with the Impcantations take advantage of just about every innovation over the years for the Ritual mechanic as a whole. Both have high search power to get to the Ritual components you need, Imps offer the ability to summon any Ritual monster with a Ritual Spell, and both have the ability to match or exceed levels. But this is just the beginning. The Nephthys combo into other monsters OR they facilitate the summoning of your bosses. The Imps offer access to a Ritual spell that brings itself back, the Nephthys introduce Ritual monsters that summon themselves back, while having just enough nostalgia to tie the theme of the cycle of destruction and rebirth all together. Nephthys can even get advantage off of tributing Rituals, and the Imp rituals have an additional effect to use when they are in the hand! But beyond everything I just mentioned, you can also include just about any other Ritual monster and still have the deck work with minimal friction. This deck showcases the true power of Ritual summoning in the current era – so the only question that remains is: Are you willing to try it?
Reminder, I also take suggestions for future CDS articles! I really want to see some input from you! While I will (hopefully) not run out of cool ideas, I do want to be writing articles about strategies you are interested in. So 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.