Deck Check: What's up with Paleozoic? Paleozoic is one of the most unique decks in Yu-Gi-Oh's history! Let's talk about its surprising resurgence in relevance!

Hi friends, Renren here! Today we'll be going over a very near and dear deck to my heart: Paleozoic! Without further ado, let's travel back to the Cambrian Period to see what's up.


It's the Cambrian Explosion!


Paleozoic Olenoides 

Paleozoic is a Korean exclusive archetype that debuted TCG-side in The Dark Illusion and got support in Invasion: Vengeance. The deck is extremely unique even to this day due to how it functions. The archetype focuses on Normal Trap cards that can later re-summon themselves as Normal Monsters to go into various Rank 2 Xyz bosses. All of the Normal Traps provided decent effects for the time as a Trap card, and can then be directly chained from the GY to a Trap activation, Special Summoning themselves as Level 2 WATER Aqua monsters. Interestingly, the summoned Paleos were unaffected by monster effects and got banished if they left the field.

During 2016 and 2017, the deck was a potent metagame contender with a staggering amount of results and placements, especially in conjunction with Toadally Awesome and the Frog engine. It was extremely customizable in terms of Trap techs used and its deck size. Versions with That Grass Looks Greener were effective until its banning and the standard version fared just fine, especially with Card of Demise backing it up. Pot of Desires was an extremely expensive Secret Rare, so people also made do with the likes of Paleozoic Pikaia, Reckless Greed, or Accumulated Fortune

Paleo continued to be a fairly decent rogue strategy during the early Link era due to MR4 mechanics being quite kind to it. You could easily function by summoning Toad in the Extra Monster Zone. Mistar Boy was released early and even provided powerful OTK lines alongside your Xyz monsters, either Double Mistar Boy + Toad, or Borrelsword Dragon + Toad.

As years went on, however, the deck was eventually powercrept out of the limelight as stronger and stronger control and combo strategies eclipsed it. Despite that, recent ventures from talented players such as Joshua Schmidt (who was also extremely successful with the deck back in its prime) have managed to revitalize the strategy, which we'll get into later.


Fossilized Friends

Paleozoic Canadia


Paleozoic Dinomischus 


Before we continue with its supposed modern revival, it's a good idea to understand the core Paleozoic cards. Let's start with the disruption/removal trio being Paleozoic Canadia, Paleozoic Olenoides, and Paleozoic Dinomischus. The former is a Trap card version of Book of Moon, which is still surprisingly decent today with the advent of Link monsters. Olenoides is Dust Tornado, able to clear out pesky backrow. Lastly, Dinomischus is strong targeted removal but you do have to give up a card, which often made it awkward in 40-card versions due to the lack of good discard outlets. This problem gets a little bit better post Rollback, as you can pitch copies that are stuck in your hand. Still, these three often formed the cornerstone of the deck for the longest time and are still moderately serviceable.


Paleozoic Marrella


Paleozoic Leanchoilia


Transaction Rollback  


Paleozoic Marrella is a card that got better over time, due to future Trap cards eventually getting stronger. The utility it provides is a lot more potent now with the release of Transaction Rollback, now able to cash in powerful Trap effects on demand. The modern builds make use of various mill cards such as Needlebug Nest to accelerate the game plan. 

Paleozoic Leanchoilia was also a niche pick back in the day, but it had some utility as a 1-of in recycling banished resources such as recurring a Frog that was used for Ronintoadin. or Ronin itself should it have been hit with a D.D. Crow or Called by the Grave. Nowadays, it is able to loop Rollback to terrifying effect.


Rise to Full Height


So turning the Paleozoic Traps into monsters is fairly easy enough, but how does one go about protecting them? Especially since they'll often be summoned on the opponent's turn, making them vulnerable to being destroyed by battle. A couple of choices have been used over the years, and people seem to circle back and forth over them. Rise to Full Height is accessible via Marrella and makes it extremely difficult for the Paleozoic monsters to be outed. WabokuThreatening Roar, and Aegis of the Ocean Dragon Lord have also been used, all with their upsides and downsides. 



Paleozoic Opabinia 


Paleozoic Anomalocaris 

Both of their Xyz monsters are powerhouses, the only problem was reliably getting to them quickly enough. This is because their full power is locked behind having a Trap card as Xyz material. If you manage to do so, you're in for a pretty solid time. Like their Trap counterparts, they are completely unaffected by other monster effects which makes them difficult to interact with. Paleozoic Opabinia lets you activate Paleozoics in the hand without needing to set them, allowing you to control the game incredibly fast. Backing this up is its ability to add any Paleozoic from the Deck to your hand, letting you access utility 1-ofs, or get more disruption and removal. 

Paleozoic Anomalocaris is an absolute beast that's reminiscent of Zoodiac Drident, but stronger. As long as it has a Trap card as material, you can target 1 card on the field and destroy it as a Quick Effect. You can pop up to 3 cards throughout a duel if it sticks. Its second effect is great for generating value too, able to give you free Trap cards from the top of the Deck whenever a Trap is sent from your S/T zone to the GY. Needing 3 or more Level 2s to make it can prove quite a challenge, but luckily you only need 1 Paleozoic as material to get the quick effect spot removal online. Supplementary engines such as the Frogs from back in the day helped turbo out this ancient predator.



Revisiting the Past

2024 is currently a great year for Paleozoic and the one that started its revival was none other than its esteemed champion: Joshua Schmidt! He brewed a modernized take on the deck for his stream on Master Duel and had a really good time.


More powerful trap cards from recent years such as Ice Dragon's Prison and Destructive Daruma Karma Cannon certainly give the deck a nice boost, as you can interact with your opponent more meaningfully while giving you easier entry points to re-summon your Paleozoics. The latter in particular is extremely useful, protecting your Paleozoics from being destroyed by battle and you can out monsters that cannot be flipped face-down. Master Duel has options such as That Grass Looks Greener and triple Reasoning which accelerates getting Paleozoics and Trap cards in the GY you want to make use of, either due to their GY effects like Rise or Lost Wind or copy with Rollback.

Absolute King Back Jack is phenomenal for the deck, as it can help toolbox Trap cards, stack draws in your favor, and get you multiple Paleozoic summons in combination with Fiend Griefing. It might just be the best discard fodder to pair with Dinomischus as well. Over in the TCG/OCG, you can also Normal Summon it and go into Super Starslayer TY-PHON - Sky Crisis to fight for the board.


Joshua even took a modified version of this deck to a big German regional, almost topping the event but fell just a little shy out of the Top 8. He mentions that the power level of the Paleozoic cards is outdated, but Marrella and Leanchoila's synergy with Rollback turned them into the breadwinners of the archetype. Traptantalizing Tune, Pot of Desires, and Card of Demise act as the deck's power spells. Going into time is a significant hurdle of the strategy, due to how long it takes for the engine to get rolling at times, as well as Rollback's LP cost. 



Arthropods of the Future


Joshua's actions and hard work inspired a few crafty players to try and refine the strategy for themselves, making significant breakthroughs as a result! Let's talk about the two major Paleozoic tops this year. An honorable mention goes to Aaron Coker as well for topping Fort Worth WCQ Regional with Tearlaments using a small Paleo engine.




Boazinaaaaa finished 3rd place at Battle Nexus Singapore, one of the largest OCG events this year. He used Paleozoic and even mentioned netdecking his goat @Gamebreak0r, being Joshua Schmidt. He went 7-1 with the deck and only lost to Tenpai Dragons during Extra Time. Boaz was able to take down both Snake-Eye players he ran into late into the Swiss rounds and did fairly well against everything else. 


The theory is pretty sound, as Grass, Triple Reasoning, and Card of Demise give the deck an insane level of push. Time-Tearing Morganite acts as a strong inevitability, giving you 2 draws every turn for no drawback. You do have to survive the initial wave and stabilize with the rest of your cards to reap the benefits, however. The Black Goat Laughs is yet another amazing Trap card that has a GY effect which slots into the deck quite nicely.

Waboku and Rise to Full Height notably receive double duty as a way to ward off Tenpai from utterly annihilating your Life Points to 0, ruining their OTK game plan. 

So what about the TCG? Surely the deck isn't as playable due to lacking a critical mass of these enabling power spells. While that may be true on the surface, it hasn't stopped duelists from trying. Enter Youri Lansman!




Youri played very well and made use of his creative techs to finish a solid Top 4 placement at the Westende WCQ Regional! He found a supplementary engine to make up for the lack of power spells. Soldier Dragons allows him to fetch for Laundry Dragonmaid from the Deck should his opponent activate a card or effect. Laundry mills 3 cards from the Deck to the GY, helping get the strategy going. Dragonmaid Tidying can be used to revive milled Laundrys to get more mills on later turns. These two dragons just so happen to be Level 2 monsters as well, giving you easier ways to summon both Anomalocaris and Opabinia alongside a Paleozoic summon.


Not only that, but another cool development is his discovery regarding Paleozoic Cambroraster's usefulness. An often forgotten card from Lightning Overdrive, this Link-2 was deemed by many people, (honestly including me) to be too difficult to summon and had fairly limited use on release. Because the modern iterations of Paleozoics mill a lot of cards, it doesn't hurt to give up 2 names to summon Cambro. Once it's on the field, you can use its effect to remove a Set card and then bring out another Paleozoic. From here, proceed to make Marincess Coral Anemone and revive Cambro, locking yourself into WATER monsters. Make Worldsea Dragon Zealantis and proceed to wipe the field clean!

Witch's Strike can be seen from both Youri and Boaz's decklists and they help shore up the Voiceless Voice matchup. Metaverse into Zombie World was his cute tech into Floowandereeze.

The banning of Linkuriboh is only a slight nerf as going into Relinquished Anima still retains most of Back Jack's utility, while the removal of Baronne and Savage has made it slightly easier to resolve certain Trap cards. He mentions including Sky Cavalry Centaurea in his decklist, as there are times when it is the best R2NK monster to make in a given situation.


All in all, these successes are a great stepping stone for all Paleozoic duelists out there! 




I hope you enjoyed this retrospective on the Paleozoic archetype. While it may still be underpowered and slow, it has a lot of untapped potential if just given the right tools. Until next time folks, Renren out!

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