Last time around I showed you a Mecha Phantom Beast deck that I’d been refining and honing into a polished product for quite a while. Today I’m taking a different tack: I want to show you a work in progress that can’t really be specialized until we see some metagame definition at YCS Chicago. Why? Because it’s really freaking cool, for one. But more than that, it engages some of the core challenges of a certain kind of rogue deck, and that makes for an interesting discussion that goes beyond the immediate deck build.
Specifically, it engages that very special genre of “strategies that make one big monster, and then tries to beat your opponent to death with it.”
That’s actually how I got introduced to today’s subject, a new take on one of my all-time favorite underdog themes: Skull Servants! If you’ve been a long term reader of my work you may have seen me talk about this theme a few times before: as the deck’s developed and adapted with new releases I’ve revisited the strategy from time to time. Up until now, I did that because new cards came out and I wanted to play them. But this time is different. Frankly I wasn’t even thinking of Skull Servants when I saw the new F&L List. No, this time I had the inspiration beaten into me.
For once, I was the one getting my butt handed to me by someone else playing Skull Servants.
And it was an awesome eye-opener. Not just because the clutch new card that makes this build worth re-examining escaped my notice, but because it got me thinking. After years of playing Skull Servants there was one big question I’d never really approached; a guiding mystery I’d considered, but never really fully answered.
Why Skull Servants?
Seriously, why do I keep coming back to this deck. And why do people like it so much when I do. Before I answer that, let’s cover the basics.
If you’re not familiar with Skull Servants because, say, you prefer to play good decks all the time, let me give you a quick crash course. The strategy revolves around King of the Skull Servants, a Level 1 Dark Zombie that starts with 0 DEF and a question mark for ATK: its attack points equal the number of Skull Servants and King of the Skull Servants in your graveyard multiplied by 1000. Skull Servant itself is a Normal Monster, so they’re inherently useless, but there are several monsters that also count as Skull Servants in your graveyard and they all have key effects.
If King of the Skull Servants is destroyed by battle, you can revive it by banishing another Skull Servant or King of the Skull Servants from your graveyard. That won’t protect it from Raigeki or Mirror Force, nor banishing effects or bounce effects, but it means if your opponent shifts your King to defense mode and runs it over you can bring it back.
And therein lies the rub. See, there are tons of niche strategies that focus on dropping One Giant Monster to the field to try and make a win. Hamon, Lord of Striking Thunder; Apoqliphort Towers; Rainbow Dragon; Slifer the Sky Dragon; Uria, Lord of Searing Flames; Sophia, Goddess of Rebirth; Armityle the Chaos Phantom… I could keep on at lenth. The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG’s jam-packed full of cool, massive monsters that have ridiculous Summoning conditions, requiring dangerous over-investments for a shot at winning the game singlehandedly.
The problem with those strategies is twofold: first is the over-investment, usually something like “Tribute three monsters” or “put all your cards in the graveyard” at best. The second is general fragility: those one-shot or two-shot boss monsters might have upwards of 10,000 attack points, but the bulk of them go down just as easy as any other monster, and they don’t come back. You lose your investment and then you lose the game, pretty much every time.
And I think that’s what makes King of the Skull Servants so different. There’s definitely some set-up involved in filling your graveyard, sure. But it doesn’t take every card you have, and that cost is spread across a series of small actions over multiple turns; it’s not one giant sacrifice all in one go. And then once King of the Skull Servants hits the field, it actually has an effect that protects it from destruction by battle. Your investment is protected with lines of text right on the card. It’s a kind of safety net that no other flashy, quirky boss monster has.
And That’s Not All
King of the Skull Servants’ protection from battle is really just the beginning, because the theme packs all sorts of tricks that shield it from other threats. Wightprince helps you build your graveyard, yarding a regular Skull Servant and The Lady in Wight when it’s sent to the graveyard itself. Then, you can banish Wightprince from your graveyard along with two Skull Servants… or cards being treated as Skull Servants… to Special Summon a King from your deck. That can get your strategy going, but it also gives you a backup when you lose your first King.
If a King winds up banished, you can discard Wightmare to Special Summon it back. That’s handy in the face of opposing banishing effects, but can also combo with your own. Wightmare can Special Summon The Lady In Wight the same way, or return a banished Skull Servant or Wightmare from your removed zone to your graveyard as an ATK boost for King. Finally, The Lady in Wight shields all your face-up Level 3 Zombies from destruction by battle, and the effects of spell and trap cards, save itself.
So King of the Skull Servants comes with built-in battle protection; Wightmare brings it back if it’s banished; The Lady In Wight protects it from spells and traps; and if something goes wrong, Wightprince can Special Summon a fresh one. Add Book of Life and Mezuki to the mix too, if you’re looking for more easy revival.
With all of those answers there’s virtually nothing that can demolish your strategy in one clean shot. While Skull Servants might seem goofy on the surface, they actually represent a slick series of solutions to this problem we see all the time in the casual themes of Yu-Gi-Oh. They deliver all the edge-of-your-seat fun of the One Giant Monster concept, but it’s tempered by sound card design. If we could say the same of the Sacred Beasts and Ma’at, we’d be playing a very different game.
Now that we understand the appeal on a general level, let’s get back on course…
So Wait – How’d Some Dude Beat You With Skull Servants?
The last time we talked about Skull Servants here on the CoreTCG Blog, Wightprince was brand new. Mathematician existed, but I actually opted not to run it, in favor of Armageddon Knight and Summoner Monk. Using the Monk opened up Lavalval Chain plays for Mezuki and offered another way to load the graveyard with Skull Servants. It also made for a range of Rank 4 plays, and since Effect Veiler wasn’t popular at the time it was a viable plan.
Not much has changed today as far as on-theme cards are concerned. Uni-Zombie gives you a new way to load your graveyard and opens up Synchro plays and it shares synergy with Mezuki, but your opponent can stop it with all sorts of removal since its send-to-the-graveyard ability’s an ignition effect instead of a trigger. It’s interesting, but I’m not sold on it in an open field. Mathematician and Armageddon Knight are tougher to disrupt, with Mathematician packing a stellar draw ability as well.
And yet, the key component isn’t an on-theme card at all: it’s actually Oasis of Dragon Souls. Check out my current build.
Oasis of Skull Servants – 40 Cards
3 The Lady in Wight
3 Skull Servant
3 King of the Skull Servants
2 Armageddon Knight
3 Forbidden Lance
3 Mystical Space Typhoon
1 One for One
1 Burial from a Different Dimension
1 Foolish Burial
1 Allure of Darkness
3 Upstart Goblin
1 Book of Life
3 Oasis of Dragon Souls
Extra Deck: 15
1 Lavalval Chain
1 Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon
1 Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer
1 Number 101: Silent Honor ARK
1 Evilswarm Exciton Knight
1 Abyss Dweller
1 Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk
1 Gagaga Cowboy
1 Number 50: Blackship of Corn
1 Daigusto Emeral
1 Wind-Up Zenmaines
1 Leviair the Sea Dragon
1 Slacker Magician
1 Ghostrick Dullahan
1 Number 31: Embodiment of Punishment
Oasis of Dragon Souls does a lot of stuff here. Armageddon Knight’s effect will trigger whenever it’s Special Summoned, and the ability to bring back King of the Skull Servants in defense mode, then flip it to attack next turn is a nice backup plan that makes the strategy more resilient. You can even use it to revive Wightprince solely to place it in the graveyard a second time; that triggers its effect to yard The Lady In Wight and a Skull Servant, which is a nice trick on the chain when your opponent threatens your set Oasis.
But you could’ve done all those things with Call of the Haunted. You play Oasis of Dragon Souls for its synergy with The Lady In Wight. Sitting at 2200 DEF but with 0 ATK, The Lady doesn’t last long when you Call it up in attack position. In fact it just loses you games because your opponent swings damage through it. But since Oasis of Dragon Souls Special Summons in defense mode it’s much more secure, and because it works at Spell Speed 2 it’s a chainable out to almost any spell or trap card your opponent could throw at King of the Skull Servants.
Remember: The Lady in Wight doesn’t stop your opponent from picking targets or activating cards. It just lets your Zombies ignore spells and traps. That means popping a Lady onto the field mid-chain can stop your opponent from defending themselves by blocking King of the Skull Servants with Book of Moon, Mirror Force, Dimensional Prison, or Compulsory Evacuation Device. It also protects you from Breakthrough Skill and Fiendish Chain, both of which would leave the King at 0 ATK. Simple effect negation can keep you from winning, and turn the tables on your best monster.
Oasis is a small thing on its own, but combined with triple Forbidden Lance you make a suite of recovery cards and aggressive answers that take the Skull Servant concept to new heights. Gone are the days of tricky wins involving stuff like Creature Swap to send a King to your opponent’s field (shrinking it down to 0 ATK so you can attack it, then reviving it). And equally gone are the weaknesses to big back rows and spot removal – hugely important now that Ring of Destruction’s back. While conditional cleverness and inconsistent combos were once necessary, having six cards that can chain to answer spell and trap threats lets you play a much simpler game. You’re now free to focus on the one big thing you want to do: beat people to death with an 8,000 ATK King of the Skull Servants.
So How Does This Work Exactly?
Good question. For the first few turns of the game, your priority is to fill your graveyard. You achieve that by sending Wightprince to the yard, which then adds a Skull Servant and The Lady in Wight to your cadaverous collection. Each Wightprince you send contributes 3000 ATK to an on-field King of the Skull Servants. It also prepares you for Oasis of Dragon Souls combos with The Lady, and in a pinch you can banish all three to bring out a King if you can’t find one otherwise.
Deck thinning is crucial: the more monsters you yard early, the higher your chances of drawing cards that can help you recover from bad situations, or win in good ones. Mathematician’s your go-to grave tender in the early game, since it can block simple attacks and get you a draw in the process. Armageddon Knight plays second fiddle, and Foolish Burial trades an immediate minus to set up a Wightprince and eliminate four cards from your deck with one draw. Kuribandit’s a wild card that’s great in the early game, but loses some potential with every Wightprince you resolve.
One for One’s effectively a fourth copy of King of the Skull Servants, while Book of Life can revive a fallen King or help you get one into play to begin with. Burial from a Different Dimension’s similar, compensating when you banish three monsters for Wightprince.
There’s very little disruption in this build, and time will tell if that’s the right call for developing metagames. For now, I prefer this aggressive version that aims for speed, instead of trying to anticipate trends and strategies that might not materialize. The build’s pretty adaptable: Armageddon Knight or Kuribandit could be substituted for something else; the Upstart Goblin slots are flexible, though I’m very fond of Upstart here; and there’s great potential for Ring of Destruction and Crush Card Virus. That said, while I’ve skimped on Wightmares in the past I really do like three copies here, and the deck list is packed tight. Test any tweaks thoroughly if you make any.
Raigeki clears the way, while Forbidden Lance and Oasis of Dragon Souls let you play through spells and traps. That’s it; that’s essentially the entire gameplan. It’s simple, brutal, and effective, and now that Vanity’s Emptiness and Skill Drain are down to one per deck you can actually play it. The Extra Deck’s largely for rare contingency plans, so if you’re on a budget then by all means, feel free to build it however you like.
This thing has been a blast to play, and it’s kind of awesome to see how far this underdog deck has come over the years. Give it a shot yourself, keep your eyes open for opportunities and potential customizations, and let me know how it goes down in the comments!