New Year New Format With the first banlist of the new year going officially into effect, let's take a look at some of the decks vying for the top.

1. Diabellstar Rescue-ACE
To nobody's real surprise, Rescue-ACE claims the spot as the most dominant deck of the new format. While the limit of Rescue-ACE Air Lifter definitely hurt the consistency of the strategy, it is evidently nowhere near effective enough to knock the deck of its throne, with it currently boasting the most recorded event tops after the first week of the year.

To fill the cracks left by the limit, Rescue-ACE pilots have opted to run more copies of Diabellstar the Black Witch in the main deck and some even deciding to include One for One to further increase the probability of accessing Rescue-ACE Hydrant and jumpstarting the combo. With the endboard of the deck remaining mostly unaffected by the recent list, the successful resolution of Turbulence's effect generates too much disruption to play through, and too much follow-up to beat.

However, the strategy is not without its counters, as it sports some rather unfavourable match-ups against certain decks (e.g. Purrely and Labrynth) or simply have its field effectively dealt with by duelists using blowouts like Lightning Storm and Evenly Matched to favourably trade against it using a single card. Going forward, it should be expected to remain one of the main decks-to-beat heading into Maze of Millennia and Phantom Nightmare.

 2. Kashtira

 With it's main starter in Kashtira Unicorn back to 3 and ready to rip the Extra Deck apart, Kashtira comes to prove that it can be a threat with or without Kashtira Arise-Heart.

 While its absence can certainly be felt, the strategy can still utilise its individually archetypal tools like Kashtira Fenrir and Kashtira Birth to their fullest potentialwhile also making use of a line-up of strong staples to hinder the opponent and easily take control of the game after repeating their main resource loop enough times.

 With both the Rank 7 pool and the new format staple in S:P Little Knight at its disposal, Kashitra can flex into a variety of options with its tool box of an Extra Deck. In particular, Regional winner Luke Tyler, aimed to use Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack and its two tokens to access Decode Talker Heatsoul for extra draw power alongside I:P Masquerena for quick link summons on his opponent's turn. Additionally, the inclusion of Kashtira Ogre together with a copy of Kashtira Preparations gives the deck a boost to the strength of its endboard and helps with its grindgame by constantly bringing out more Kashtira names every turn.

 And though few expect it to be a major threat in the days to come, even fewer look forward to facing a deck maining a playset of Dimension Shifter, a handtrap capable of completely halting any plays most meta decks attempt to make.


 3. Tearlament 

 Technically coming off as one of the bigger "losers" of the banlist, Tearlament shrugs off the loss of Agido the Ancient Sentinel and Kelbek the Ancient Vanguard and continues to mill its way through the opposition, winning the biggest event of the year so far.

 Only a few notable changes have been made to the main deck: With both the Horus and the Destiny HERO engine being fully integrated into the deck's arsenal which Tearlaments use to easily access the likes of The Zombie Vampire and Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal respectively.

 It could be suggested that in the new format duelists aren't as prepared to face Tearlaments as before, but it can't be argued that the deck's dispruptions remain just as formidable.

 Focusing on Felix's list in particular we can see the inclusion of King of the Swamp which enables both Tearlament bosses in Tearlaments Kaleido-Heart and Tearlaments Rulkallos, something that was not as common in previous iterations of the deck. Whether this will become the most represented version of Tearlaments in the future remains to be seen, but for the time being it has resulted in a rather impressive finish for the deck. Of note is also the Rescue-ACE engine of 3 Rescue-ACE Impulse and 1 Rescue-ACE Fire Attacker, as extra ways to both dig through the deck and trigger the effects of Tearlament cards during the opponent's turn, something duelists should start expecting to face when paired against Tearlament variants.

 4. Fire King
 Moving from the kings of old to the new, Fire King continues to be a menacing presence in the metagame ever since its impressive showing at YCS Bologna with multiple regional tops under its belt, showing the playerbase signs of what's to come in the following months.

 For the time being though, there has been some interesting experimentation with the inclusion of Snake-Eye cards in the deck but more surprising is the emergence of the Tri-Brigade variant that went on to dominate the German Open, barely losing only to Tearlament in the finals.

 With the Fire King lineup consisting mainly of Beast, Beast-Warriors and Winged-Beast monsters, there is some noticeable synergy between the two archetypes - Sacred Fire King Garunix is even able to destroy the Fire-Attribute Tri-Brigade Kitt from deck, thus searching a Tri-Brigade name by sending Tri-Brigade Nervall to the Graveyard, and because Garunix itself is a Winged-Beast it can in turn be used as material for the summon of links.

 But for as interesting as this variant is, it's worth wondering if this version of the deck will stick around after the release of PHNI or if it will be completely overshadowed by the Snake-Eye one with Snake-Eyes Populus' debut in the TCG.


 5. Centur-Ion
 As Hot Red Dragon Archfiend King Calamity remains fully legal in the TCG, Centur-Ion has been basically untouched by the F&L list and keeps on ending turns and scoring tops left and right.

 Making full use of its consistent one card combos, that result in complete turn skips if left uninterrupted, its able to back up its oppressive gameplan either with a daunting amound of hand traps and boardbreakers, or with a secondary engine like the Bystials, or, such as in the case of Geovanni Romero, the Horus package.

 Being easily summonable level 8 bodies, Horus give access to the Rank 8 pool, tune with Centur-Ion Primera into a level 12 Synchro like Centur-Ion Legatia or just remain on field as intimidating bosses that give the opponent second thoughts on using removal unless they end up triggering their individual effects.

 Overall, as a strategy that can very easily customize its non-engine slots to place it into a better position against the meta, Centur-Ion is likely to remain around for the upcoming formats and punish duelists that do not respect it enough to devise proper counter measures.


 6. Mannadium
 From one Synchro strategy to the next, Mannadium, while never quite reaching the same high place finishes as some of the other top decks, has remained a very powerful presence in the meta for the past few formats.

 Since the first wave of support back in CYAC, Mannadium received much needed tools to round out its playstyle in DUNE and more recently AGOV, making it the turn-one monster duelists fear losing the die-roll to.

 Granted, while its certainly capable of playing through most kinds of interruption due to the sheer number of extenders included in most decklists, it's notoriously susceptible to cards like Droll & Lock Bird, a silver bullet that the deck, more often than not, struggles to deal with, and is the main reason why you'll often see Crossout Designator in most side decks.

 One of the newer additions to Mannadium builds has been a small engine of Kashtira Fenrir, Scareclaw Kashtira and Pressured Planet Wraitsoth that perform multiple roles for the deck like acting as disruption, board-breaking and even starting combos since the package can access Scareclaw Light-Heart and the rest of the Scareclaw engine featured in the deck. Of note is also its ability to play on the draw, due its quite substantial amount of non-engine slots for such a heavy combo deck, usually filled with whatever is necessary to combat the meta.


 7. Despia - Branded

 As one of the strategies with some of the most interesting and innovative deckbuilding, a great number of duelists have managed to incorporate different engines and tech choices in their Branded decks, making it feel like no two decklists are the same.

 However most of them do center themselves around successfully resolving Branded Fusion and accessing some terrifying fusion bosses that result in an endboard filled with a variety of interruptions and removal options, capable of destroying anyone foolhardy enough to try and clear it or simply locking the opponent out of the game entirely by summoning a copy of Gimmick Puppet Nightmare on their side of the field at the start of their turn.

 Some of the more common card choices featured in Despia - Branded lists, as seen below in Matthias Cerullo's decklist, include but are not limited to: Fusion Deployment for bringing Blazing Cartesia, the Virtuous or Fallen of Albaz out of the deck, Nadir Servant alongside Dogmatika monsters like Guiding Quem, the Virtuous or Dogmatika Maximus to set up the Graveyard for plays on the following turn (essentially ignoring its own restriction), Triple Tactics Thrust and Fusion Duplication as a way to counter being stopped by Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring by resolving Branded Fusion on the opponent's turn, Dark Magician and Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon as a powerful and easily accessible boss monster and countless other inclusions based entirely on each pilot's preferences.

 8. Bystial Runick
 Coming into the new format with both the most recent YCS Win and no hits from the banlist, a lot of duelists seem very eager to try variants of Bystial Runick out, a deck that focuses on generating advantage with Runick Fountain and Branded Regained, while using the rest of the Bystial and Runick cards to either set up a board or disrupt the opponent, whittling down their resources in the process and eventually overwhelming them.

 While the Quem build has been the original variant of the deck, with the return of Orcust Harp Horror and the Orcust engine as a whole, there has also been some experimentation and success with slotting these Dark Machines into the Runick Bystial shell.

 It is by no means a solved deck, as people constantly attempt to innovate on the core, with the goal of overcoming the difficulties that the meta shift has caused, since some of its more favourable matchups in Unchained and Tearlament suffered greatly from the latest F&L list update.

 9. Orcust
 As previously mentioned, Orcust Harp Horror is back and with it, more than a few duelists are eager to bring one of the most dominating strategies of the TOSS format back into relevance. Seemingly a natural fit with the Horus engine, as the Orcust archetype enjoys having a number of its pieces sent to the Graveyard, the Horus monsters act as bodies for link and xyz summons, while also making the already fearsome Orcust grind game that much harder to beat.

 Worth mentioning is the inclusion of Number 90: Galaxy-Eyes Photon Lord in lists, as a way to insulate the strategy against monster effects that would otherwise prevent the Orcust part of the deck from starting its combo. As the format continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how this old strategy further adapts into the upcoming metagame. 


 10. Labrynth
 Last but not least, the playerbase keeps their eyes on Labrynth, as the deck continues to dominate the competitive scene with some key inclusions from AGOV.

 "Furniture" seems to be the way to go, with the strategy aiming to play a fast game by setting up and activating their trap cards at a pace much quicker than one would expect out of a trap deck, capable of preparing the field for a very explosive turn two, accumulating vast amounts of advantage in the blink of an eye once said turn starts. Assisting said playstyle is Arias the Labrynth Butler, allowing for both Labrynth summons and Normal Trap activations on the opponent's turn while also being very recursive within the strategy itself.

 Of great importance is also the addition of Super Starslayer TY-PHON - Sky Crisis in the extra deck, providing the deck with another frightening boss monster they can summon under their own fiend-lock alongside Chaos Angel. With MZMI right around the corner, it is heavily speculated that a card like Transaction Rollback will be a natural fit for the deck, boosting the deck's power to a whole new level.


 All in all, while the current format is one of the most diverse the game has seen in years, it is also soon to be shaken up by the introduction of MZMI and PHNI within the next few months, I believe that most of the strategies mentioned above and many others I have yet to, will be around for the days and formats to come. So let's prepare ourselves for an exciting new year and get ready to see which duelists and decks will get to wear the crown. 


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