New format! Let’s do some cool stuff.
Did you know there’s a Quick-Play Spell that negates the effect of any opposing card – anything, whether it’s a monster spell or trap – and then draws you a card? Strike of the Monarchs is one of my favorite hidden gems from The New Challengers, and it’s pretty under the radar because despite the name stamp, it’s not very good in Monarchs.
On a broad level, Monarch decks are all about Tributing, for big monsters with abilities that control the field and instantly compensate for your Tribute. From there the monster becomes your win condition, making attacks that capitalize on the openings created by their effects. See if you can spot the problem with Strike of the Monarchs:
Strike of the Monarchs
You can Tribute 1 face-up Level 5 or higher Normal Summoned/Set monster, then target 1 face-up card on the field; negate its effect until the end of this turn, then draw 1 card. During your Main Phase, if this card is in your Graveyard: You can banish this card, then declare 1 Attribute; all face-up monsters currently on the field become that Attribute until the end of this turn.
It’s kind of a trick question because it’s a two-part answer. The first problem is that Tributing for a big monster isn’t always easy, so Strike of the Monarchs can wind up dead in your hand. The second is that when you place a Monarch on the field, you’re relying on it to attack and generate damage. Tributing it away to negate a card that you want to stop, because letting it through would compromise your field position, actually just demolishes your field position anyways. There’s no real winning there. You can’t give up your position to keep your opponent from breaking that position. That’s a painful catch 22.
The problem with Strike of the Monarchs is that it’s too costly to use in a Monarch deck. But the solution?
The Solution Is Mecha Phantom Beasts
Mecha Phantom Beasts are amazing with Strike of the Monarchs, because you Summon them without Tributing, and you don’t rely on just one Summon for all your damage. Giving up one Mecha Phantom Beast in what’s usually a 2-for-2 trade isn’t a problem, because the play’s easy to make and it doesn’t leave you with no path forward.
So wait, wind that back. How do Mecha Phantom Beasts work with a card designed to send Tribute Summons to the graveyard? Most Mecha Phantom Beasts start at Level 4 or lower, but the bulk of them have abilities that boost them into the Level 5 range or higher if you control at least one Mecha Phantom Beast Token. Strike doesn’t demand a Tribute Summoned monster; it wants a Normal Summoned monster of Level 5 or higher. Whether you Tributed or not doesn’t matter. And thanks to some recent Mecha Phantom Beast support, those Tokens are really easy to come by.
If you Normal Summon Mecha Phantom Beast Tetherwolf it’ll Special Summon its own Token, but Mecha Phantom Beast O-Lion and Void Expansion both have effects that provide Mecha Phantom Beast Tokens as well, or that make Mecha Phantom Beast Tokens easier to Summon and conserve. For instance, Summoning an Infernoid Token with Void Expansion while you control Mecha Phantom Beast Mega-Raptor will Special Summon a free Mecha Phantom Beast Token every turn. You can then Tribute away the Infernoid Token for Megaraptor’s effect instead of giving up your Mecha Phantom Beast Token to keep Megaraptor at a boosted Level. Other effects are similar, and cards like Mecha Phantom Beast Hamstrat, Mecha Phantom Beast Tetherwolf, and Mecha Phantom Beast Harrliard all make simple Token plays.
That means it’s really easy to Normal Summon a Mecha Phantom Beast at Level 5 or higher, filling the requisite for Strike of the Monarchs. Granted, giving up a Mecha Phantom Beast in a 2-for-2 trade won’t always be great card economy; doubly true if the card you’re blanking with Strike is a monster, in which case you take a minus when your opponent’s monster survives. But most of the Mecha Phantom Beasts have effects that get you free Tokens, searches, or destruction effects. With the card advantage those monsters offer, suddenly your Strikes can become positive trades.
I thought that was cool the moment I saw it back in November, and I’ve been tinkering with this idea for ages. But the problem was the classic Mecha Phantom Beast condundrum: the theme has no real way to win. Void Expansion dropped in mid January in Secrets of Eternity, solving the challenge of insufficient Tokens but still not giving the deck enough aggression to compete. It wasn’t until February that the pieces all clicked into place.
A Heroic Rescue
Mask Change II landed with a bit of a thud in the TCG, playing well in Burning Abyss and even taking a YCS, but accomplishing little else. With what’s basically a double-costed effect – you have to discard to activate it, and send a monster from your field to the graveyard – it was quickly written off as too costly to play. Giving up a discard, a monster, and a spell card just to field one Fusion Summon was a daunting task; nobody wants to take a -2, especially when the entire payoff is invested in one monster.
Burning Abyss could manage it because it mitigated those costs at both ends: the trigger effects of monsters like Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss and Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss could be activated off the discard or the send to graveyard portion of the card, turning Mask Change II into a 1-for-1. Since Burning Abyss monsters are virtually all Dark, that means easy plays for the powerful Masked HERO Dark Law. It was a great match, but that’s as far as most players took Mask Change II.
I wasn’t satisfied. Searching for other strategies that could mitigate both downsides of Mask Change II’s activation, I quickly found tons of different strategies that generate enough free cards to play it. Mecha Phantom Beasts were particularly good, since discarding Mecha Phantom Beast O-Lion or Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms wouldn’t hurt your card economy overall. On the other hand, Mecha Phantom Beast Tokens were the perfect target for Mask Change II, trading an idle Token Monster for Masked HERO Divine Wind. Add in Masked HERO Dian plays off Sheep Tokens courtesy of Scapegoat and suddenly the deck had strong options with mitigated costs.
It helped that Masked HERO Divine Wind was amazing in and of itself. While lots has been said about Dark Law over the past two months, Divine Wind is no slouch. It’s got 2700 ATK to serve as an aggressor, and it can’t be destroyed by battle when you’re on defense. It also restricts your opponent to attacking with just one monster per turn. That’s awesome when you control a Mecha Phantom Beast effect monster and at least one Mecha Phantom Beast Token; your opponent can’t destroy any of your real Mecha Phantom Beasts until they destroy the Token, and if they can only attack the Token your field is secure.
But the real attraction is Masked HERO Divine Wind’s draw effect: when it runs over a monster in battle and sends that monster to the graveyard, Divine Wind draws you a card. One successful attack can land you with a +2, immediately flipping your Mask Change II play into profitable territory immediately. There are more fortunate quirks as well, but we’ll discuss them later on.
The real clincher was the new F&L List. Vanity’s Emptiness and Skill Drain were both problems for Mecha Phantom Beasts and Mask Change II – now both are Limited. And while Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms is Forbidden, we have an updated Sinister Serpent in its place. It’s perfect with Mask Change II, covering your discard cost for free every second turn and comboing with the Foolish Burial you already run for Mecha Phantom Beast O-Lion. Here’s what my current build looks like.
Dracossack Hero Strike – 40 Cards
3 Mecha Phantom Beast Hamstrat
1 Mecha Phantom Beast Coltwing
2 Mecha Phantom Beast Harrliard
3 Mecha Phantom Beast Megaraptor
2 Mecha Phantom Beast O-Lion
3 Mecha Phantom Beast Tetherwolf
1 Sinister Serpent
1 Enemy Controller
1 Foolish Burial
3 Mask Change II
3 Mystical Space Typhoon
2 Strike of the Monarchs
3 Upstart Goblin
2 Void Expansion
3 Fiendish Chain
2 Mirror Force
1 Solemn Warning
2 Masked HERO Divine Wind
1 Masked HERO Dian
1 Masked HERO Dark Law
1 Masked HERO Acid
1 Masked HERO Anki
1 Armades, Keeper of Boundaries
1 Black Rose Dragon
1 Scrap Dragon
1 Star Eater
2 Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack
1 Number 11: Big Eye
1 Skypalace Gangaridai
1 Superdreadnought Rail Cannon Gustav Max
While the Advanced Format slows down with the new F&L List, this version Mecha Phantom Beast is the fastest I’ve built since triple Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms and triple Sacred Sword of Seven Stars were legal. Void Expansion and Mecha Phantom Beast O-Lion give you the extra Token Monsters you need to be competitive, ensuring a stronger and quicker early game. More Tokens means more searches with Mecha Phantom Beast Megaraptor; more destruction with Mecha Phantom Beast Coltwing; and more Summons with Mecha Phantom Beast Harrliard and Mecha Phantom Beast Hamstrat.
The Tokens also feed a lone copy of Enemy Controller and three Mask Change II, all of which can turn innocuous Battle Phases into wins thanks to unpredictable attacks. And with the ability to use other Tokens for effects instead of relying on your Mecha Phantom Beast Tokens, you can make Rank 10 Xyz Summons with surprising consistency to generate more damage – both Superdreadnought Rail Cannon Gustav Max and Skypalace Gangaridai have burn effects. Imagine my surprise when I tested both of them, thinking maybe one would prove worthwhile, and then discovered I wanted one of each.
So, How Does It Work?
Your ideal opening is familiar for Mecha Phantom Beast fans: a Normal Summoned Mecha Phantom Beast Megaraptor backed with a Set Scapegoat will draw out attackers, which then won’t destroy Megaraptor once you control Sheep Tokens. Move to Turn 2 and you can Tribute one of your Tokens to search a Mecha Phantom Beast from your deck: Coltwing can destroy a monster, Tetherwolf will get you another Token and an ATK boost, and Harrliard can get a third Mecha Phantom Beast on the field to swarm or make an Xyz Summon.
Harrliard’s more important here than it has been in previous builds, since you’ve got more Tokens to fuel both it and Megaraptor, and more reason to place more Mecha Phantom Beasts on the field: while a two-Beast field can make a powerful Xyz Summon, a third keeps Strike of the Monarchs live, giving you ample protection for a Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack. Just make sure you overlay the one Mecha Phantom Beast you Special Summoned with Harrliard, since you need a Normal Summoned monster to Tribute for Strike.
Oh, and fun fact? Tributing for Strike of the Monarchs can trigger Harrliard’s ability to Special Summon another Mecha Phantom Beast Token. Harrliard’s so good here that I’m still testing a third copy as I continue work on the deck.
Mecha Phantom Beast Hamstrat’s awesome if you can protect it and use it to bring back a Mecha Phantom Beast every turn – remember that it can revive Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack. The deck runs triple Fiendish Chain and double Mirror Force in part to protect Hamstrat, making it a viable opener and shielding it when needed in the mid-game. While Hamstrat’s been difficult in past builds, where its Level of 3 has clashed with the rest of the Mecha Phantom Beasts at Level 4, it can be more useful here because it becomes your default Tribute for Strike of the Monarchs. As the least aggressive and most mismatched monster you have, it’s the easiest to give up.
Strike is so cool here, because even at just two copies it serves a long list of purposes. My favorite is actually its graveyard effect which we haven’t even discussed until now: once you’ve used it to negate something, you can banish it from your graveyard to change the attribute of all monsters on the field until the end of the turn. That’s awesome, because it means you can use any of your monsters, even the Tokens, for any Masked HERO you want. That makes it easier to Summon Masked HERO Dark Law or the new Masked HERO Anki. But it also means you can bust out surprise plays with Masked HERO Acid to demolish your opponent’s backrow.
Speaking of Anki, that card is amazing. While Masked HERO Divine Wind gets you a free draw whenever it wins a battle and yards a monster, Anki searches you another Mask Change II. Combined with all your free discard and Tribute fodder, that becomes a ton of aggression shockingly fast. While the Mecha Phantom Beast decks of old struggled to gather cards, this one draws and searches with a ton of off-theme tricks. It’s not unusual to search for a plus with Megaraptor; negate and draw with Strike; and then +2 with Anki or Divine Wind.
Match-up wise, I feel this deck’s a good choice for a new format where you’re likely to see a ton of different strategies. Everything has an achilles’ heel you can abuse with Strike of the Monarch; Fiendish Chain is an all-around useful card; and your toolbox of effects can deal with a wide array of threats. It’s got a lot of promise in any metagame where you don’t know what you’ll be up against.
It’s also just a blast to play! There are powerful cards here that very few players are familiar with, and blowing your opponent away with slick moves they’ve never seen before makes a sound strategy even more fun. I’ve been testing a ton of new stuff since the F&L List dropped on Friday, but this is one of my favorites so far and has seen quite a bit of time. I haven’t regretted one minute of that – it’s been hugely entertaining. Give it a shot yourself and let me know how it goes for you, down in the Comments.