Well, the anime was right after all. Heart of the cards really does exist, and it doesn’t have to be because of luck.
How do you win a duel? For many decks, achieving their win condition happens after they generate enough card advantage to make a final push for game. On the other hand, there are decks like Bujin, that want to build a single boss monster then keep it on the field until you win the duel, punishing the opponent for attempting to thwart your strategy. There are even some strategies designed around punishing the opponent for over committing to the field, as well as decks that punish for not committing enough. To some duelists, winning is the ultimate goal; these duelists search for the most consistent ways to win a duel, the best archetypes to beat others in the current meta. But the strategy I will be presenting today does not specialize in any specified win condition. Rather, this CDS article is all about creating a deck containing the combos that steamroll you into a winning position for the duel, by resolving one or more of a few key power combos. Combos such as 3 Reckless Greed, Star Seraph Scepter and Star Seraph Sovereignty, or Rank-Up-Magic the Seventh One; these are the ‘luck sacks’ that can win games all on their own for many decks. Today’s article is all about making a deck that exploits this, by turning ‘lucky combos’ into almost statistical certainties. Yes, it’s time for heavy deckbuilding theory.
At the heart of every deck lies the balance of probability, risk, and reward, and if we are to build a deck reliant on specific combinations of cards, we want to ensure the greatest chance of successfully resolving one of our game-ending combos. For decks like Exodia, some duelists turn to one of a couple options. The first, is turbo-drawing. I define turbo-drawing as using many draw engines in unison to be able to sometimes draw up to 10 cards over a single turn. Think Royal Magical Library style. But the fact is that there is no way to turbo-draw successfully without seriously losing the consistency of your deck. Sure, you will get those perfect setups, but you will get many dead hands too. The second option is stalling, running tons of cards meant to simply drag out a duel until you get what you need. However, this form of strategy is very easily disrupted by any sensical opponent.
So what other option is there to guarantee getting the cards you need? Glad you asked, because we are going to be calling in the services of Jack Atlas to be able to combine the good elements of turbo-drawing AND stalling, although not quite in the fashion you might expect. While he may have an over-sized ego and an arrogant perception of his dueling skills in the anime, the real life card that represents him, Absolute King Back Jack, is the perfect solution to our consistency and speed conundrum. Because whenever Jack is sent to the Graveyard, you get to rearrange the order of the top 3 cards of your deck in any order that you like. Then, during your opponent’s turn, you can banish it to excavate the top card of your deck, and set it if it is a Normal Trap Card. Now let’s pause a second, doesn’t this card seem slow? Sure, it takes a turn to fully benefit from it, and deck stacking really has never been a viable strategy. But if you are guaranteed to gain card advantage while setting yourself up for a big play, is that really too slow after all?
So to alleviate your speed concerns, we have to build an engine to successfully get him into the Graveyard, while still being small enough as not to conflict with all of the small combos in play. Here’s the fun joke: a deck based on probability and statistics actually relies heavily on cards such as Mathematician. While Math is a great way to get Back Jack straight into the Graveyard, it also lets you gain a card when it is destroyed in battle. Sadly, this monster is limited in the TCG, so you also have to rely upon Armageddon Knight, but I think you get the point. Remember, Back Jack works exceptionally well with Normal Traps, so it would be best if there happened to be a Trap Card that also sends Back Jack… and of course, there is. Fiend Griefing may be more well-known for its synergy with Burning Abyss monsters, but it is THE godsend in this deck. This card provides a bit of disruption to slow down your opponent, and this theme is sure to come back as we progress further into the strategy behind the deck.
Alright, time for a quick sidebar. I’ve continuously referred to this deck as being based in probability, statistics and deck theory. So what does all that mumbo jumbo mean? To be clear, I am not just using fancy words to make you feel inferior or to buff up my ego; this deck really is all about number crunching. If you have a high percentage of winning a duel if you succeed at resolving the Star Seraph combo, wouldn’t it make sense to maximize every potential to have that combo occur? If you open with 5 cards, the percentage of opening the Seraph combination is 9.78% (1 or 2 Sovereign and any number of Scepter). With 6 cards, that baseline percentage is 13.86%. Now consider the 5-card scenario, except you only get the Scepter, but you get Armageddon or Mathematician as well. By sending Back Jack, you get to see 3 more cards from your already reduced deck. If you open 1 Seraph combo piece and a Back Jack miller, it then becomes a 28.95% chance of completing the combo for your next turn. (27.83% if you just have to set Back Jack and let your opponent run it over in battle). Now let’s make one final comparison to prove my point: The original percentage for opening a Seraph combo was 9.78, but if you add in Back Jack, that makes the combo have a 21.17% chance of occurring in your first two turns of the duel. 1 out of every 5 duels, you will be pretty much guaranteed a victory, as long as you can get your combo to resolve properly. Remember folks, this is the math for only ONE of our big combos that can win the duel, and I haven’t even factored in the potential of opening Scepter + Compulsory Evacuation Device or Pinpoint Guard for another Turn 2 Seraph combo.
Before I get back into discussing the strategy itself, let’s recap. 1) This strategy is all about ordering your next draws to pick what you want to get in your hand. 2) Once you draw what you need, use the power combos to win the duel. This sounds simple enough, but sadly, you do not run only 20 cards in your deck. We got a lot more space to fill, and that’s where Normal Trap cards come in. Remember, Back Jack doesn’t just order the top 3 cards of your deck, but it also can be banished from your Graveyard to check the top card of your deck, and if it is a Normal Trap, it gets set to your field! So instead of setting your next draw, if Back Jack shows you a Trap card in your top 3 cards, simply put the Trap on top and THEN the card you want to draw on your next turn, so that way you get the best of both worlds. Also, your opponent won’t see the Trap coming, because they do not get to see the cards you place on the top of your deck with Back Jack. By throwing in tons of different Trap Cards, you can have a variety of effects at your disposal to respond to and then disrupt your opponent. Disruption decks can be powerful in the right hands, just look at the Majespecter or PSY-Frame archetype that have made a competitive splash in the past. Now, do you remember my fun math from the last paragraph? Those percentages will only continue to rise the longer you remain in the duel, so the more Trap Cards you run, the better chance of achieving your combos that will swing the duel to your favor and grant victory! This is the key to the deck, disrupt until you have the combos to win.
So what type of disruption can you run? For a Back Jack centric strategy like this one, you can tool all of your disruption for the current metagame. If, for example, you intend to play many duels against Blue-Eyes duelists, run more Griefings to disrupt their Graveyard toolbox. Or if you intend to duel against Pendulum duelists, run more Trap Holes, such as Time-Space Trap Hole or Bottomless Trap Hole. Typhoon can also be a great tech against decks that rely on face-up Spell or Trap cards. Fighting a particularly aggressive strategy? Run more Mirror Force Traps. If you need to Special Summon more chump blockers from the Graveyard, simply consider running Pinpoint Guard. I hope you get my point – the entire purpose of the Trap lineup is to give you the disruption you need to keep yourself in the duel until you draw into the combos and power cards that you set for yourself with Back Jack. Please let that sink into your head. This strategy is all about removing the luck element with what you draw, gain advantage by setting Traps from the top of your deck, and then disrupting your opponent so your big flashy plays get through before they can take full control. You truly are mastering the Heart of the Cards! Sound like an interesting-enough concept? Let’s check out the Key Cards in a more orderly list format.
- Absolute King Back Jack
- Now if you didn’t see this one coming… I shouldn’t need to finish that threat. Anywho, this is the card that prepares your future, gains you advantage in the form of free Normal Trap cards, and gives you something to use as great discard fodder. The strategy falls squarely upon his shoulders, please use him.
- Star Seraph Sovereignty & Star Seraph Scepter
- One of your main ‘game-ending’ combos. The number of draws, plus the destruction, plus Xyz access… just so good. The best part is being able to do it multiple times in a duel due to Jar of Avarice.
- Rank-Up-Magic – The Seventh One
- Again, potentially game-ending card that forces your opponent to throw resources to stop it. I typically run C107 AND C101 just so you have two options, one for big damage and one to remove threats. Sadly, you can only ever use 7th once, even if you shuffle it back into the deck, so only use 1 copy.
- Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning
- Sure, this isn’t some special combo card. But it is a great key card at ending duels, especially if your opponent leaves a weak monster laying around. The banishing can also come in handy too, especially vs Beatrice and other floating boss monsters. Also extremely easy to summon, and normally worth the effort.
- Reckless Greed
- The final ‘game ending combo’ that you should be Main decking. Look, I know I talked about how good resolving 3 Reckless in the same turn is. But just imagine what would happen if you resolved 5 Reckless over the course of your turn and then your opponent’s? Back Jack and Jar of Avarice make that not only a possibility, but a reality!!! Maybe not reliablely, but it’s still fun to pull off when you do.
- Fiend Griefing, Foolish Burial, Mathematician & Armageddon Knight
- Necessary mill engine to fuel Back Jack’s effect. Not much more needs to be said.
- Edge Imp Sabres
- What happens if you draw a card you don’t want to, like the Seventh One? Or if you have 6 Trap cards you desperately want to have to stop an opponent’s onslaught? Or want a Trap card ready to be pulled by Back Jack in case they Twin Twister away your other backrow? Also, Rank 3 Xyz Material is great, cause Leviair exists.
Additional Tech Options:
Alright folks. The first list of cards will be the main alternate techs to run. The second list will be all of the cool Normal Trap cards you will want to fill out your deck with. Yes, tons of card names are about to be thrown your way. DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT A CONTROL DECK. DO NOT TRY TO RUN CARD OF DEMISE. THAT CARD IS NOT DESIGNED TO SUPPORT THIS TYPE OF STRATEGY. Thank you for your understanding.
- Thunder King Rai-Oh – LIGHT monster that also functions great when you have a backrow of Trap Cards supporting him. Watch your opponent squirm as their search effects are stopped in their tracks!
- Necro Gardna – DARK monster that also functions as a non-Trap based attack negator. So it can be used as Xyz Material with Edge Imp, banished to then be summoned back by Leviair or Amaterasu, or simply re-used with Burial from a Different Dimension.
- Peropero Cerperus – See above, just this one is an EARTH, and it destroys a card instead of stopping an attack. If your opponent happens to try and sneak a Royal Decree or Dark Simorgh past you, this is the solution.
- Traptrix Myrmeleo – Need more free Trap Cards? Look no further, cause you definitely will be running multiple different versions of Trap Hole.
- Raging Flame Sprite – Want to rely on a more slow-paced victory? You have enough traps to keep it alive, so Sprite can continuously attack your opponent directly until they fall. The only problem is that it makes your opponent’s monster removal a bit more useful.
- A Cat of Ill Omen – Combine Cat and Jack and you get… any Trap Card immediately set to your deck? Not too bad of a combo, albeit a bit too slow for some duelists.
- Fiendish Rhino Warrior – Another Back Jack miller, although he only works on your opponent’s turn pretty much.
- Burial from a Different Dimension – Ready to re-use those Back Jacks? Also helps to fuel your other Graveyard-based cards as well.
- Twin Twister – There is no shame in using your opponent’s destruction effects against them. Kill their Traps so that way you can prove your Trap supremacy over the duel.
- Retort – This may function best as a side deck option, but Retort works great in a deck that runs so many different Trap Cards.
Now, let’s talk Normal Trap options:
- Raigeki Break – Destruction of any card on the field? Check. Does your deck have cards they want in the Graveyard? Check. Sounds perfect to me.
- Storming Mirror Force – Back to the hand with your opponent’s monsters! Non-targeting and non-destruction removal is great, and doesn’t have the direct attack restriction like Drowning.
- Quaking Mirror Force – Want to clog up your opponent’s field while stopping attacks? Be sure to consider this attack-stopper!
- Mirror Force – So why a third if the other two are good enough? Because this deck is all about choosing the Trap Card you want to have. Thus, run a copy of each of these, so that way you can recycle, add, or set only the ones you want.
- Blazing Mirror Force – This time, a different purpose. There are now enough burn Traps in the game that also disrupt your opponent’s monsters, so you can actually build a disruptive burn Back Jack variant. It is a ton of fun, and totally worth your while to try building yourself.
- Bottomless Trap Hole – Great Trap Card, Limited for a reason, and whenever you run Jar of Avarice, your Limited Traps aren’t so limited anymore.
- Time-Space Trap Hole – Great Trap Card against Pendulum and Extra Deck reliant strategies.
- Trap Hole of Spikes – The newest Trap Hole, this one actually activates on attack. But destruction and free damage is nothing to scoff at, especially when decks are running so many Solemn Strike. (Remember, we aren’t cause Back Jack works with Normal Trap Cards ONLY.)
- Endless Trap Hole – Coming soon in The Dark Illusion, this card is similar to Quaking Mirror Force, but in Trap Hole form. Great option, clogs field, doesn’t destroy.
- Compulsory Evacuation Device – Spins any threat back to the hand. Great against Extra Deck monsters. However, it can also be used on your own Star Seraph Scepter, so that way you get both pieces of your Seraph combo using a Trap, instead of just relying on draws!
- Torrential Tribute – There is seriously nothing better than using Torrential twice in the same duel. But this deck can do more than that, it can use Torrential twice in the same turn. Sure, many meta cards float, but this can help you swing a developed field of monsters back into a race against your unknown backrow threats.
- Ring of Destruction – Limited for a reason, you know the drill by now. Damage always helps. I really hate repeating myself, but seems to be the name of the game with Trap Cards.
- Crush Card Virus – Hey look, you’re running a DARK monster that has less than 1000 ATK and wants to be sent to the Graveyard! The best part is that you can search out this Virus faster than just drawing it! Even with the errata, this Trap springs a mighty punch.
- Dust Tornado – Normally the S/T destruction of choice since it is a Normal Trap, thus functions well with Back Jack.
- Wild Tornado – Face-up Spell or Trap destruction, works well versus Pendulums, but it also has the added bonus of being Twister or MST bait for additional destruction.
- Chain Whirlwind – Multiple-card Spell or Trap destruction, but has a limited window to activate. +1 in card advantage though.
- Bad Aim – One of the more recent Normal Trap Cards, it lets you destroy a card whenever an effect is activated. It definitely has a wacky activation timing, but free destruction of any card on the field is really powerful and always something to consider.
- Dimensional Prison – Everyone remembers this card. Great way to banish a threat, but it doesn’t work well against every single deck. Also it can only stop 1 attack.
- Magic Cylinder – While many duelists are scared of running into this for Burn decks, not too many run in fear of it today. They’ll be expecting other Trap Cards, and you could just spring this to end the duel right then and there. This is especially useful when boss monsters run rampant, specifically the Blue-Eyes and Felgrand Dragons.
- Jar of Avarice – Took enough time, but we finally got to this card I’ve mentioned so many times before. This lets you get a second shot at your game-ending combos, make them more powerful, or simply get more of the Traps you want to see for specific matchups back in the deck.
- Balance of Judgment – While not a typical draw card, it is a Trap that lets you get back into duels that you may have fallen behind. It is also best against established fields, and you need as many cards as you can get to break said fields.
- Pinpoint Guard – Instead of affecting your opponent’s monsters, this Trap Card lets you defend yourself with your own. Also, it can trigger the effects of Armageddon Knight and Star Seraph Scepter during your opponent’s turn! Lastly, Normal Trap revival.
- Needle Ceiling – Again, useful against decks that like to flood the field with monsters. Mass destruction that doesn’t target is BAE.
- Mind Crush – Control the opponent’s hand and control their destiny.
- Starlight Road – Counter your opponent’s Twister and get a free Stardust Dragon out of the deal.
- Drop Off – Troll card for actual tournaments, especially when facing duelists that shuffle their hand immediately after drawing. Just think of the poor judge that has to resolve that.
- Chain Disappearance – Despite having a tech appearance for quite some time, this card has fallen out of favor to most. But it is still a functional tech option here.
- Mirror of Oaths – Perfect counter to decks that Special Summon monsters from the Deck!
- Memory Loss – Option 1 for Monster Effect negation.
- Breakthrough Skill – Option 2 for Monster Effect negation.
- Dimension Barrier – Brand new Trap Card coming in Invasion: Vengeance. There is a reason why it is the most expensive card in the OCG set. Look it up, love it, throw it in your Back Jack deck. Watch all of your opponents cry… except for Monarchs.
Check out my sample decklist hidden in the spoiler below:
As always, the above list is just my personal build. Before you pass on trying this deck, please give it a shot. It may just be one of the most fun duels you ever will have. Also, that many Trap Cards will not make the experience as fun for your opponent, which is always a good thing. Seriously, Numbers don’t lie (both puns fully intended)! Until the next time, keep innovating and building creative decks! Most of all, just enjoy dueling for the fun that it can be!
Reminder, I also take suggestions for future CDS articles! While I will not run out of cool ideas, I do want to be writing articles about strategies you are interested in. So if you desperately 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 or the YGOrganization Forums with your ideas to keep under consideration: my username is Quincymccoy.