Are you tired of Adamancipators spamming searches and Eldlich abusing their traps? Are you sick of seeing the same Synchro negate combo over and over again? And are you irritated that Konami did nothing to hit them on the June 2020 banlist? Well, fear not! There is a cool alternative to the decks that plague the lost meta – and by cool, I mean ice cool. In this article, we’ll take a look at the Nekroz archetype – its facets, strengths, weaknesses, and competitive potential.
Table of Contents
- Part 1: Nekroz Monsters
- Part 2: Nekroz Spells
- Part 3: Support
- Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
Nekroz is an Water-attribute Ritual archetype consisting of a group of ice-themed monsters. They don the visages of classic Synchro monsters and replicate their effects. Their two most signature characteristics are their internal consistency and their anti-meta effects. Firstly, Nekroz boasts great ease in searching for its combo pieces and maximizing advantage – particularly impressive for the bulky mechanic that Ritual Summoning is. Secondly, a Nekroz deck specializes in countering some of the most prevalent strategies in almost any meta. Particularly, those that revolve around the Extra Deck. Given these traits, it’s easy to understand their former prominence in the meta several years ago.
After several hits on the banlist and other decks emerging with brand new power, Nekroz faded from the top ranks of competition. However, with almost all of those banlist hits now undone, and with Extra Deck summoning more prevalent than ever, it may be time for Nekroz to shine again.
Part 1: Nekroz Monsters
Any analysis of Nekroz has to start off with Nekroz of Brionac and Nekroz of Clausolas, the former coming off the banlist several months ago. These two cards are the heart and soul of Nekroz’s consistency. Brionac lets you discard him to search for any other Nekroz monster. Clausolas lets you discard him to search for any Nekroz Spell (or Trap, but those don’t exist yet). With these two monsters, you have the whole deck at your fingertips. If you’re missing a monster, just use Brionac; if you’re missing a spell, just use Clausolas. You can even use Brionac to get a spell, by using him to search Clausolas, and using Clausolas to get your spell. With these cards at multiple copies, you have so many options for how you want your play to proceed.
There’s also Shurit, Strategist of the Nekroz. While not a Ritual monster, he provides two key benefits for the deck. The first is that he can pay for the entire tribute cost of the Ritual Summon by himself. This saves you from losing too many cards. And when he is tributed, you can search your deck for a Warrior Nekroz Ritual monster. So not only does he save you cards, he gives you even more – a great bargain for a Ritual deck.
The calling card of Nekroz’s anti-meta strategy is the newly unlimited Nekroz of Unicore. A Level 4 that boasts 2300 ATK, and continuously negates the effects of all Extra Deck monsters on the field. Considering how many decks rely on their Extra Deck monsters, this can be devastating for an unprepared duelist, especially those running Link or Synchro climbing strategies.
Nekroz has removal, too. The aforementioned Nekroz of Brionac targets two Extra Deck monsters on the field and returns them to the Extra Deck. Meanwhile, Nekroz of Trishula banishes one card from the opponent’s field, hand, and graveyard each. Neither card’s effect destroys, and only one targets; this is pretty handy removal that dodges many protective measures.
In addition to searching and disrupting the opponent, Nekroz cards protect their comrades by discarding themselves. The aforementioned Nekroz of Trishula can protect your Nekroz cards from targeting effects. Nekroz of Valkyrus stops the battle phase to save your monsters from being run over. Nekroz of Decisive Armor grants one of your monsters 1000 ATK and DEF. And Nekroz of Gungnir grants blanket protection from destruction. With these cards in hand, you can grant your monsters a measure of security from your opponent’s attacks and effects.
The amazing thing about Nekroz is that each Ritual monster provides two effects: one on the field and one from the hand. Taken all together, your monsters can accomplish a variety of different roles. Unicore can grab any Nekroz card from the graveyard; Valkyrus can generate extra draw power; Clausolas can negate an opponent’s monster in a pinch. Whatever you need, chances are one of your Ritual monsters has it covered in some capacity.
Part 2: Nekroz Spells
But in a Ritual deck, monsters are only half the story. Fortunately, the Nekroz Ritual Spells and their myriad special effects help to further enhance the deck.
Nekroz Mirror is like a Miracle Fusion for Nekroz. In addition to tributing monsters from your hand or field, you can also banish Nekroz monsters from the graveyard. This trait really helps your card economy. A common strategy is to discard Nekroz monsters for their effects, usually Brionac and Clausolas, before using them in the graveyard for a boss monster like Trishula.
Nekroz Cycle is like the opposite of Mirror. Instead of using tributes in the grave, it gives the option of Ritual Summoning the target monster from the graveyard instead. Again, this synergizes quite well with the Nekroz discard effects. Discard a Brionac for a search, or a Trishula for protection; then, when your opponent thinks they’re safe, bring them right back with Cycle.
Finally, there’s Nekroz Kaleidoscope, which takes “anti-Extra-Deck” to its utmost extreme. With Kaleidoscope, you can only use one monster as tribute, but you can choose that monster from your hand, field, or Extra Deck. In addition, instead of summoning just one monster, you can summon any number from your hand, provided their levels exactly total that of the monster you tributed. Cutting down on the Ritual cost while enabling mass Ritual summons, all in one card, makes Kaleidoscope a powerful mainstay in this deck.
Part 3: Support
Nekroz – and Rituals as a whole – have a lot of support options.
Obviously Preparation of Rites has an important place in this deck. You can search almost any Nekroz monster directly, or grab Brionac to search for the few monsters Prep can’t find. You can also grab a Ritual Spell from the graveyard, allowing you to Ritual Summon continuously. (Do keep in mind, though, that each spell is a hard once per turn.)
The Nekroz by themselves are rather consistent and cost-savvy, but they still do need a few bodies to tribute. That’s where the Impcantation cards come in. They can generate enough levels for you to tribute, and they add even more search power on top of Brionac, Clausolas, and Preparation.
Finally, there’s the Fairy package. Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands is a great normal summon that gives you any Ritual piece. Herald of the Arc Light, in conjunction with Nekroz Kaleidoscope or maybe Extra-Foolish Burial, can also grant you great generic searches.
Tributing Cyber Angel Benten allows her to grant you a Light Fairy from your deck. Coincidentally, Vanity’s Ruler is a Light Fairy. Ruler requires an old-fashioned tribute summon of two monsters; coincidentally, almost any Impcantation play generates two extra monsters. The internal synergy is sweet for the Nekroz player; but for the opponent, Ruler’s lock on special summons will be far more bitter. Depending on the number of Fairies you decide to include, you can run Archlord Kristya as an alternative. Unlike Ruler, Kristya can be special summoned, making for an easier win condition. However, the trade-off is that you will not be able to special summon, either.
Let’s recap a few factors that make Nekroz so good.
Firstly, their searchers, both in-archetype and generic, make sure that you almost never have a dead hand. The deck has a very consistent opening hand, especially with Brionac and now Unicore at three. You’ll almost always be able to set up not only Unicore, but also a Vanity’s Ruler, with a Nekroz hand trap to back you up.
Secondly, that plethora of searchers means you can play through disruption better than your average deck. If you go first, your opponent won’t be able to stop you just with one Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring on a Preparation of Rites, or an Infinite Impermanence on an Impcantation. Even Nibiru, the Primal Being falls flat, as you can finish a good board by the fifth summon or earlier. And going second, a skilled player can bait out several negations before going into their real play, like Brionac or Trishula.
Thirdly, your win condition – namely Unicore and/or Ruler – is pretty devastating for many decks. Extra Deck summoning – and special summoning in general – has become so ubiquitous in the game. Decks can be so monster-heavy that dropping Ruler on them can just end the game outright.
Consistency, resilience, and an oppressive win condition – all of these traits seem not unfitting for a top meta choice. So what holds Nekroz back from taking over this meta?
All My Homies Hate Floodgates
Paradoxically, the arguably strongest part of a Nekroz deck is also the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, the protective Nekroz hand traps don’t work on Vanity’s Ruler or Archlord Kristya. This means spells, traps, or non-special summoned monster effects that single out Ruler can blow your floodgate wide open. The most frequent offender here is Infinite Impermanence, a generic hand trap monster negator. But there are other problems as well, some of which are even in-archetype. Sky Striker Mecha – Widow Anchor can easily negate Ruler, while the popular Eldlich the Golden Lord can pop it without even being summoned. If you can’t protect Ruler, your opponent may be able to overwhelm your board.
But even if Ruler gets outed, Unicore should do a lot to keep many decks in check. After all, what can they do without their precious Extra Deck monsters’ effects?
What’s an Extra Deck?
Unfortunately, there are many other rogue decks just like Nekroz, in that they barely rely on the Extra Deck to function. Coincidentally, such decks also tend to be backrow-heavy decks, such as Subterror, Lair of Darkness, and especially Altergeist, which also received an important unlimit this banlist in Altergeist Multifaker. Not only are these decks unhampered by Ruler or Unicore, but their primary strategy – their spells and traps – also go largely untouched by Nekroz’s effects. And those spells and traps are quite deadly in their own right.
Toppling the Top
Speaking of backrow decks, let’s talk about the two elephants in the room. As mentioned, Eldlich possesses an in-archetype out to Ruler. And though it’s famous for its Link-Synchro package, it’s not totally reliant on it. Like the other backrow decks, it uses traps like Conquistador of the Golden Land and Golden Land Forever! to control the game in a way that Nekroz can’t really combat.
Adamancipator is far from a backrow deck. As a combo deck it suffers greatly without access to Special Summoning or Extra Deck effects. However, Adamancipator decklists, including that of Crush Card Cup champion Simon Wang, have incorporated multiple copies of Dark Ruler No More into their Main Deck. If you thought Impermanence was bad, you can imagine how a card that negates your whole board would be even worse.
Also, we’ve been assuming the Nekroz player goes first – but that won’t always be the case. And Admancipator is nigh-unstoppable going first. It builds a board of Borreload Savage Dragon, Herald of the Arc Light, Abyss Dweller, multiples of Koa’ki Meiru Guardian, and of course the archetypal Adamancipator Risen – Dragite. With all these negates, and with Herald disrupting the graveyard, it takes the perfect hand, chock-filled with extenders, as well as an inexperienced opponent, just to get one body on the board. And even if you could get, say, Brionac on the field, and spin back Savage and Dragite, you still couldn’t get over Block Dragon, a 3000 DEF wall that can’t be destroyed by effects. Not even Trishula can help; since Adamancipator usually ends a turn with no cards in hand, Trishula’s effect can’t actually resolve.
The same goes for Eldlich; going second is really tough, as they have access to many of the same negates, as well as the aforementioned traps. These obstacles can often prove insurmountable, even for a deck theoretically designed specifically to counter them.
…So, how do you counter them?
Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
Protect the King
Many of the aforementioned outs to Ruler are targeting effects. If only there was an easy, generic way to ward off targeting effects…
Well, would you look at that.
As demonstrated by Lucas Gaucher at last year’s WCQ Bordeaux, Sauravis, the Ancient and Ascended is a great way to protect Vanity’s Ruler. If any effect targets your monster, namely Ruler (or Kristya), you can discard Sauravis to negate that activation. What’s great about Sauravis is that not only does it fill the exact niche the deck needs, it’s also searchable, since it’s a Ritual monster. Preparation of Rites, Herald of the Arc Light, or Impcantation Talismandra can easily get this card to your hand. (Just watch out for Called by the Grave. That would really hurt.)
The Gravity of the Situation
Pardon the pun.
This next tech does not have the same competitive result pedigree that Sauravis does, but it may be worth a mention. Odd-Eyes Gravity Dragon is another searchable Level 7 Dragon Ritual monster that fulfills a different need for the deck. When summoned, it returns all the opponent’s spells and traps to their hand – and the opponent cannot respond to this effect. This could be a great way to deal with all the backrow problems that Nekroz can’t solve by themselves. While not necessarily an immediate blowout, a backrow clear can nonetheless buy you breathing room to set up your monsters for a large scale attack, if not an OTK. And if the game doesn’t end there, Gravity’s continuous effect that forces the opponent to pay 500 life for each of their effects can push them even further on the ropes.
Become Village People
If one or even two floodgates aren’t enough, then the obvious solution is to add another one, right?
Secret Village of the Spellcasters turns of Spell cards entirely for your opponent as long as you control a Spellcaster. Fortunately, the linchpin of Nekroz, Nekroz of Unicore, just happens to be a Spellcaster. Not only can this forestall cards like Dark Ruler No More, but it’s also a really potent in general to lock your opponent out of spells. Tier 2 and rogue contenders like Sky Striker, Salamangreat, and even Dinosaurs to some extent have key Spells they want to use. Even Adamancipator runs a couple Spells as extenders.
With Our Powers Combined…
This tech has seen use in Nekroz’s various rogue successes. While Nekroz doesn’t often summon from the Extra Deck, and while the Impcantations make that hard to do, one Extra Deck monster presents itself as an alternate win condition. Nephthys, the Sacred Flame is a Link 3 that requires at least one Ritual monster to make it, and gains effects depending on how many Rituals you use. With one, it can’t be destroyed by battle; with two, it can’t be destroyed by effects, and it gains 1200 ATK. And with three, it can’t be targeted, and it gains another 1200 ATK. So if you made Nephthys with three Ritual monsters, you’d have a 4800 untargetable, indestructible beater.
Eldlich the Golden Lord and its trap disruptions all have either targeting or destroying field removal, and Eldlich itself can usually only get up to 3500 ATK. So assuming you can get Nephthys onto the field, Eldlich can’t really do anything about it. It may be a handy tech to simply beat over Eldlich, turn after turn.
Sadly, Adamancipator brushes off Nephthys like it’s nothing, since Dragite has non-targeting non-destroying removal. Against them, just hope to go first, open Ruler and Sauravis, and hope you don’t see Dark Ruler. If you can get Unicore and Village, even better.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Some players are trying a different approach – which is to say, the same approach as everyone else. That is, some Nekroz players are incorporating cards like Deskbot 001, Mecha Phantom Beast O-Lion, Crystron Halqifibrax, Linkross, and Mecha Phantom Beast Auroradon to go into the Link/Synchro play common to most meta decks. This approach does have merit, as it supplements the starting board of Unicore and Ruler with more generic negates. Furthermore, Herald of the Arc Light acts as a natural bridge between the Link/Synchro combo and the Ritual searching. However, with the Pro-Play Games Tour imposing its own banlist and banning Halqifibrax, pilots of all decks are reworking how this combo will work going forward. On the other hand, that same banlist did ban Block Dragon, potentially making the Adamancipator matchup just a little better.
Hope on the Horizon
In the OCG, players have touted Nekroz in conjunction with the new Dragma archetype as a powerful competitor. Like Nekroz, Dragma also has you send your own Extra Deck monsters to the graveyard, while countering the Extra Deck monsters of the opponent. The natural synergy with cards like Disciple of the Nadir and Maximus Dragma, in conjunction with the aforementioned Herald, seems to add great value to the deck. TCG players will have to wait a while before they can experience it for themselves, so we may have to revisit this variant in the future.
This is an exciting time for Nekroz players, as all its cards have finally come off the banlist. Players looking to try the archetype for the first time, as well as veteran pilots, can now play the deck at basically full power. On its own terms, it’s very powerful, as it can consistently push a great win condition. In terms of competitive play, it’s still quite unproven in this format, despite its former pedigree. While its shortcomings can hold it back, it has potential to succeed, especially with some good tech choices, future support, and maybe a bit of luck. Wherever and however you want to play, Nekroz is a great build with a long history of success. Most of all, it offers a very different playstyle, even among other main-deck-focused strategies, making for potentially a unique dueling experience.