WCQ Potential? Gravekeepers!

Our last discussion looked at an unlikely candidate for WCQ play that happens to be a great pick, for one reason and one reason only: positioning. With the big strategies of the WCQ season now acknowledged – those being Geargia, Bujins, and Traptrix Hand Artifacts chased by Mermails, Madolches, and to a lesser extent Mythic Rulers – the real trick to winning your way to the World Championships is beating those six decks. While those strategies are where they are due to consistency and sheer power level, they’re only really setting the stage – the next-level step would be to find the rogue strategies that can beat those top decks, while still surviving early rounds where other rogue entries are more common.

That’s why I love Gravekeepers right now. Proven competitive in the recent Atlantic City Regional Qualifier just a couple weeks ago, the unique abilities of the Gravekeeper deck gives it excellent match-ups with some of the biggest decks in competition, and good to solid match-ups with the rest. Andres Alexander Pinzon Duran’s Top 8 finish was a shocker at first, but makes tremendous sense in retrospect, and could set the stage for some Gravekeeper upsets over the next three weeks of Championship competition. Here’s what he ran:

Andres Alexander Pinzon Duran’s Gravekeepers – 40 Cards
Top 8, Atlantic City Regional Qualifier, June 7th
Monsters: 15
2 [ccProd]Fire Hand[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Ice Hand[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Gravekeepers Assailant[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Gravekeepers Commandant[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Gravekeepers Descendant[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Gravekeepers Recruiter[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Gravekeepers Spy[/ccProd]

Spells: 8
1 [ccProd]Book of Moon[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Gravekeepers Stele[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Necrovalley[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Pot of Duality[/ccProd]

Traps: 17
2 [ccProd]Black Horn of Heaven[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Compulsory Evacuation Device[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Seven Tools of the Bandit[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Solemn Warning[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Wiretap[/ccProd]

Side Deck: 15
2 [ccProd]Banisher of the Radiance[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Full House[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Light-Imprisoning Mirror[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Nobleman of Crossout[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Rivalry of Warlords[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Vanitys Emptiness[/ccProd]

Extra Deck: 15
1 [ccProd]Abyss Dweller[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Diamond Dire Wolf[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Evilswarm Exciton Knight[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Evilswarm Thanatos[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Gagaga Cowboy[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Gem-Knight Pearl[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Maestroke the Symphony Djinn[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Number 101: Silent Honor ARK[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Number 103: Ragnazero[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Number 50: Blackship of Corn[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Number 66: Master Key Beetle[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Number 82: Heartlandraco[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Number 85: Crazy Box[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Wind-Up Zenmaines[/ccProd]

Pinzon Duran’s deck was shocking in part because it was such a throwback: while his Extra Deck plays lots of modern Xyz like [ccProd]Evilswarm Exciton Knight[/ccProd], [ccProd]Number 101: Silent Honor ARK[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Number 103: Ragnazero[/ccProd], his Main Deck looks like something pulled from 2011. None of the new Gravekeeper cards from Legacy of the Valiant are played here, which may be worth a bit of healthy debate. Regardless, one thing is beyond arguing: this deck is perfectly positioned to take on the decks we’d expect to see showing up in droves at WCQ tournaments.

[ccProd]Necrovalley[/ccProd] lets you practically auto-win several of your biggest match-ups. Bujins need to banish [ccProd]Bujingi Hare[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Bujingi Turtle[/ccProd] to keep [ccProd]Bujin Yamato[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Bujintei Susanowo[/ccProd] on the field. If they can’t do that, they’re almost guaranteed to lose. The fact that you can nullify [ccProd]Bujingi Crane[/ccProd] with [ccProd]Gravekeepers Assailant[/ccProd] and burn out Hare or Turtle for free with [ccProd]Gravekeepers Descendant[/ccProd] Tributing [ccProd]Gravekeepers Recruiter[/ccProd] is just icing on the cake.

Speaking of pastry, the Madolche deck does virtually nothing but kick off giant strings of combos with [ccProd]Madolche Hootcake[/ccProd]… a card that has to banish a monster from your graveyard for its effect. If you can’t do that, your Madolche deck probably doesn’t win. And it tastes so sweet to plunk [ccProd]Necrovalley[/ccProd] down over [ccProd]Madolche Chateau[/ccProd]. Mythic Rulers aren’t very impressive when you can’t banish cards to Special Summon Dragon Rulers, and while Mermails get off light by comparison, anyone not running adequate numbers of [ccProd]Atlantean Heavy Infantry[/ccProd] could lose simply because you can lock them out of [ccProd]Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls[/ccProd].

Shallower Graves
That leaves two widely-played strategies that don’t drop games left right and center to [ccProd]Necrovalley[/ccProd] right off the bat: Traptrix Hand Artifacts and Geargia. The Geargia match-up is still likely to be a favorable one for you, because [ccProd]Necrovalley[/ccProd] lets [ccProd]Gravekeepers Commandant[/ccProd], [ccProd]Gravekeepers Descendant[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Gravekeepers Assailant[/ccProd] attack over [ccProd]Geargiarmor[/ccProd]. One of the big reasons for Geargia’s success right now is the lack of Fire Fists in competitive play, which means the Geargia player doesn’t have to worry about losing a set [ccProd]Geargiarmor[/ccProd] to Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear’s destruction effect.

No such luck here, as [ccProd]Gravekeepers Descendant[/ccProd] gets the job done almost as well. Descendant brings the face-down hate this format’s been lacking, and can shred Geargia because of it. This is far from an auto-win match-up, but Gravekeepers can certainly hold their own. They’ve got some specific effects that are really useful against the Geargia monsters, and as you can see from Pinzon Duran’s build, Gravekeepers can run just as many trap cards as their clockwork rivals. Pinzon Duran even went so far as to mimic the Geargia technique of running triple [ccProd]Wiretap[/ccProd] and double [ccProd]Seven Tools of the Bandit[/ccProd], allowing for a real knockdown blow-for-blow brawl.

The Traptrix Hand Artifact match-up may be less favorable, but you still have some advantages – namely a whack-ton of defense that can fend off attacks from practically anything in the HAT’s Main Deck arsenal. You’ve got all the same trap hate Geargia would use to address that match-up, combined with the free +1’s of [ccProd]Gravekeepers Spy[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Gravekeepers Stele[/ccProd]. Very few of your cards are susceptible to [ccProd]Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare[/ccProd], and Bottomless Trap Hole’s easily navigated with free Summons off Spy. The ability to play so many monsters face-down can relegate [ccProd]Artifact Moralltach[/ccProd] to destroying nothing but your [ccProd]Necrovalleys[/ccProd], which do still serve to keep your opponent from making free Special Summons with [ccProd]Traptrix Dionaea[/ccProd].

Shake On It
Note the emphasis on beating Hands, reflected in the trap selection. Double [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd], [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Compulsory Evacuation Device[/ccProd] combine with Pinzon Duran’s own Hand monsters to create a set of play patterns that are hostile toward your opponent’s chilled and flamed appendages. That’s important for a deck that can frequently offer plenty of targets to opposing Hand effects.

We spoke last week about how the dichotomy between Hand monsters and set cards you’d rather your opponent not attack – stuff like [ccProd]Geargiarmor[/ccProd], [ccProd]Worm Yagan[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Worm Cartaros[/ccProd] – can confuse your opponent into making the wrong decisions when they’re trying to decide whether to attack or hold back. This deck’s different: you largely don’t care if your opponent attacks or not, because [ccProd]Fire Hand[/ccProd], [ccProd]Ice Hand[/ccProd], [ccProd]Gravekeepers Recruiter[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Gravekeepers Spy[/ccProd] all offer valuable effects when destroyed. Spy has so much DEF it usually won’t be destroyed by attacking monsters anyways, though it is the one monster you’d rather Flip Summon, giving you a better chance at creating a combo with [ccProd]Gravekeepers Descendant[/ccProd] for free card destruction.

Is there room for innovation here? Absolutely, and that’s kind of what I love about it: I highly doubt Pinzon Duran’s playing this same build card for card, three weeks after his Top 8. While [ccProd]Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare[/ccProd] was a good call at the time, more duelists are learning how to play around it, and something like [ccProd]Void Trap Hole[/ccProd] could wind up being a better call for your WCQ metagame. While this build didn’t chance Imperial Tombs of [ccProd]Necrovalley[/ccProd], probably because it depends on you controlling [ccProd]Necrovalley[/ccProd] and a Gravekeeper to work at a time when one of the deck’s main strengths is its ability to field nothing but face-downs, the added bonus of a Counter Trap that can stop traps like [ccProd]Wiretap[/ccProd], and shut down monster and spell effects, has gotta warrant some degree of further testing.

And while [ccProd]Gravekeepers Nobleman[/ccProd] was a weak card at its time of release due to the sheer amount of monster removal that was popular at the time, the act of attacking face-down monsters is more common now. Whether or not the threat of [ccProd]Ice Hand[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Fire Hand[/ccProd] would stave off attacks to your own detriment is debatable, but at the same time Nobleman can squeak right under [ccProd]Fire Hand[/ccProd] even with a [ccProd]Necrovalley[/ccProd] boost, acting as a proactive kamikaze that then turns into a [ccProd]Gravekeepers Spy[/ccProd]. Is there potential there? Anything that can boost consistency right now is certainly worth a shot and some rigorous experimentation when you’re trying to fight your way to Worlds.

There’s a lot to love here, right down to the little theme-specific picks in the Extra Deck – Number 66: Master Key Beetle’s awesome at protecting [ccProd]Necrovalley[/ccProd] or locking in your control by shielding a protective trap card, while [ccProd]Evilswarm Thanatos[/ccProd] is likely one of the most underrated ways to play around [ccProd]Ice Hand[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Fire Hand[/ccProd]. Both a surprise attacker and a frustrating wall, it attacks Hands from two different angles at the cost of nothing but a Flip Summoned [ccProd]Gravekeepers Spy[/ccProd]. Pretty cool.

A lot of testing and thought clearly went into this build, but with more time having passed since Pinzon Duran’s top in Atlantic City, even deadlier builds of this deck could be out there. Gravekeepers have always been an outstanding anti-meta choice when the conditions are right, and I believe they have the positioning to make an impact in WCQ’s. How about you? Do you share my enthusiasm, or do you think I’ve got it all wrong? Let me know, down in the Comments!

25 Comments

  1. Michael Holderness says:

    I would find a way to add the third Commandant. But other than that I like the deck.

  2. Adriaan Arie says:

    Bujin hare and turtle are their own effects and are not stopped by necrovalley

  3. Adriaan Arie says:

    Wow nvm don’t listen to me

  4. Matthew Cheah says:

    I’m interested to see how the meta is shaked up by the new Lightsworn Ruler deck. Against Gravekeepers specifically, watch out for lylas and rykos popping the necrovalleys before they go in for the rush kill. Although if they can’t do that because of the defense then the Lightsworn player is forced to play like pre-structure deck lightsworn with being unable to banish Eclipse Wyverns and summon dragon rulers…

  5. Thomas Chacko says:

    After losing to GK, I don’t want more people running it lol

  6. Leonard Nava says:

    Cool

  7. Mikey Aniciete says:

    One of few anitmeta decks that I acutally like.

  8. Mitch TheMap Parks says:

    No imperial tomb of necrovalley ? Why

  9. Steve Kinate says:

    One important addition: If GK Descendant tributes GK Recruiter to pop a Ice or Fire Hand, they also miss the opportunity to activate that Hand’s effect. GK Recruiter would be Chain Link 1, and Ice/Fire Hand would be Chain Link 2 using SEGOC, and thus would miss the timing.

    Pretty much, GK Descendant can pop any face-down monster and not worry about the effect, except for rogue match-ups like Zombies, Archfiends, and Heraldics. Pretty cool stuff.

  10. To “miss the timing” means “an optional Trigger effect missed its chance to activate because the event it requires wasn’t the last thing to happen in a previous sequence of events”.

    If you use GK Descendant, tribute GK Recruiter as a cost and target Ice Hand, and Descendant resolves, the last thing to happen is Ice Hand being destroyed.

    Sure, Recruiter is a mandatory Trigger effect and would pop up in a new Chain as CL1, but that doesn’t make Ice Hand miss its Trigger. The last thing that happened is still the destruction of Ice Hand, so it can still be activated. (As CL2 in this case.)

    Being activated as CL2 or higher doesn’t matter: As long as it does Trigger, it can resolve. It doesn’t matter if it’s CL2 or CL8. Card activations (as in “placing effects in the Chain”) never cause timing issues.

  11. I don’t particularly like GK builds, but this one seems really nice.

    It’s interesting to note how the Deck doesn’t need triple Commandant. (Even though it’s still an option.) Because it doesn’t have things like Royal Tribute or Imperial Tombs and runs only 1 Assailant, it’s less reliant on the field spell and more focused on the Descendant removal plays. Those usually end up searching Commandant via Recruiter anyway.

    As something I’d note, I think Deck Devastation Virus would be a really nice pick for the Side Deck instead of something like the lone copy of Emptiness or Full House. Against Geargia, Mermail and Madolche, you might score a win just by resolving the Virus, and you can play it at CL2 or higher to snipe any Ice Hands without letting them Trigger.

    Still, GK is definitely an interesting sleeper pick that messes up with pretty much anything except maybe Dark World.

  12. justo como el que ando armando u.u

  13. Roberto Cigala says:

    y te faltan las manos?

  14. Roberto Cigala si :c

  15. Adrain Jamilah says:

    The fact that this deck does counter the big decks now is just great.

  16. Andrei Faber says:

    I love gks they were the first deck I used at my first regionals went 5-2 and had to leave because at the last round it was around like midnight so. its all good though. had a great experience

  17. Steve Kinate says:

    Sho Shinjo You are correct! Sorry about that. I was thinking you could stop it by causing one of your mandatory effects to be on the chain first. Thanks for the knowledge.

    I’ll just use Soul Taker instead!!!

  18. Brandon Silva says:

    It’s nice to see GK come back.

  19. i love gravekeeper’s “obviously” but this deck and its strategies look pretty good and you are right where they really fit in this format to stop the meta decks

  20. Matt Jackson says:

    Looks sick

  21. Alexander Johnathan Earle says:

    Uuh… No. You actually explained exactly why fire hand/ice hand do not miss timing. Recruiter and hand activate simultaneously, cl1, recruiter, cl2 hand, resolve backward. The only bonus is in that situation is that you know what to search, because hand pops something first.

  22. Alexander Johnathan Earle says:

    As he said, too conditional in a set heavy deck. Basically, they’ll remove either valley or the gk, you are forced to use tomb on that, leaving other plays wide open.

  23. GK’s were always an over looked deck they were always annoying to deal with ( for me)

  24. Jeremy Hansel says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that didn’t think the new gks brought much. They look cool and are fun to use, but they aren’t necessary for the deck at all.

  25. Gravekeepers were my first competitive deck and i have always loved them. This deck is pretty nasty and extremely close to my own, but i am limited by money! he has some cards i don’t, but wish i did, like exciton knight and 101. Great deck if you got the cash to make it!

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