TCG Meta Snapshot: Branded Engine April 2022 With the recent conclusion of the Colombian YCS and WCQ regional events throughout mid-April, it's clear to see that Branded Decks are quite prevalent

The TCG Meta Snapshot is a project by some of the writers at YGOPRODeck that aims to encapsulate the state of the meta for a given 1-2 week period.
The TCG Meta Snapshot also aims to rank decks in a somewhat looser tier system. The tiers that we will use are as follows:

Tier 1: Highly Competitive Meta Decks. 10% or more of tops, as ranked by Pojo. This will roughly correspond to Pojo’s Tier 1, with some overlap into Pojo’s Tier 2.
Tier 2: Semi-Competitive Meta Decks. Less than 10% of tops, as ranked by Pojo. Corresponds to the rest of Pojo’s Tier 2, Pojo’s Tier 3, and Rogue.
Tier 3: Semi-Competitive non-Meta/Rogue decks. 1-2 tops. Specifically includes decks that only top small events or get lower rankings at medium events. Can also include decks that can potentially top but have not yet in a given format.
Tier 4: Casually Competitive non-Meta decks. Decks that can compete at the local level, but cannot top an event.  

Archetype Explanation

With the release of Structure Deck: Albaz Strike, Branded has risen to be a formidable contender in the competitive scene as an engine. Between the newfound dominance of Branded Despia as the deck to beat, the reliable Tri-Brigade and Eldlich giving it a whirl, and other off-beat such as Invoked or Drytron making use of it, you're going to be seeing Branded decks and Mirrorjade quite a lot from now on.

Branded's level of flexibility, reliability, and power is what lead to its success over in the OCG and it seems to be telling the same tale over in the TCG. Let's dive deeper, shall we?
Special thanks to OzoneTCG and the r/Yugioh Discord people for assisting in this Snapshot.

Tier Ranking

With the recent conclusion of the Colombian YCS and WCQ regional events throughout mid-April, it's clear to see that Branded Decks are quite prevalent, no questions asked.
Winning YCS Bogota as well as having several WCQ Regional 1st and Top 4/8 finishes speak to the effectiveness of Branded Despia! It's by far the most popular out of the decks that make use of the Branded engine. The other strategies are picking up some steam though, such as Branded Eldlich and Branded Tri-Brigade.

Covering an engine is not something we usually go into, but the Branded Engine is definitively Tier 1 in terms of success and representation. Now then, let's see what Albaz and friends have been up to.

Deck Lists

Christopher James - YCS Bogotá 1st Place

Christopher James managed an impressive finish at the first post-SDAZ YCS in Bogotá with Branded Despia! His build has some curiosities that people are quite divided on, but most choices are standard.
The deck is consistent by having 9 copies of Branded Fusion. This powerful spell is the key that unlocks the entire deck as you can bust out Albaz Dragons by dumping the materials from the Deck. Ideally, you want to dump Despian Tragedy to get other Despias such as Aluber or Ad Libitum.
Mirrorjade, Ad Libitum plus Branded in Red is your main combo as it is difficult to reliably answer. After you've banished their threat, you can set up a massive advantage snowball with Red! Guardian Chimera draws you into more hand traps while simultaneously tearing their field asunder. Ad Libitum brings back a banished Mirrorjade, which is important as it can use its effect again!
Not only that, the deck can be quite tough to outgrind once it gets going. Mirrorjade's End Phase nuke is one thing, but Tragedy's follow-up, Aluber's free Special Summon, and the Albaz Dragons' floating effects can prove overwhelming to even the best strategies out there. Albion the Branded Dragon in particular nets you access to any Branded S/T that you may need.
The Patchwork engine gives you a nice blend of utilities. Edge Imp Chain is great to discard off cards like Opening or to be fused away. This gives access to an on-demand Fusion Spell in Polymerization that can get you out of tough spots. In a pinch, you can fuse away cards like Tragedy to trigger them. Lastly, providing a raw +1 and untargetability to Chimera is no joke.
A caveat worth noting is that Branded Despia deckbuilding is not set in stone. The format is still in its developmental stages, and a lot of choices are often left to player preference. Adventurer, DPE, Lost package, playing Comedy, sided Zombie World, and the Patchwork engine to name a few. There are various topping lists with Adventurer and Enforcer as well.

Lucas Sacco - Fayetteville WCQ Regional Top 4

Lucas Sacco placed Top 4 at the Fayetteville Arkansas Regional with Branded Eldlich! The premise is quite simple, as the deck makes use of the power of Branded Fusion to great effect! It's a considerable step up from the pure variants, as now you have a powerful engine backing your plays up. It still retains the hard lockdown aspect with its floodgates, however.
Branded Fusion also makes it so Eldlich the Golden Lord becomes less of a liability as you can now access it on-demand by milling it to summon Albion the Branded Dragon. This pairs incredibly well with Cursed Eldland, as you can both get your Golden Lands and Eldlixirs in play!
Golden Land Forever! makes it harder for your opponent to crack through your setup while helping vs most blowout cards. Since you're going to have more ways to stick multiple Eldlich on the field, Forever is more reliable. You would still have Sanguine to make Conq/Huaq live. Lucas' list did not have this, but he can still benefit from reliable Conquistador / Huaquero + Scarlet Sanguine access.
It's no slouch going second either, as you can fit a good amount of hand traps and overwhelm the opponents with your onslaught of must-answer spells in Branded Fusion and Cursed Eldland! It helps that Eldlich can also power through boards when supported well.
And when all else fails, the deck can return to its roots and aggressively choke opponents out of the game with Gozen, Rivalry, and Skill Drain! Opponents may opt to use Dracoback early, as it is one of the few ways to cleanly out your Mirrorjade. A well-timed floodgate can punish this and let you walk away with a triumphant victory. Eldlich can also turn off its floodgates when needed. This is because of how its GY effect works.
Branded Eldlich is still quite new in terms of deckbuilding. Players are currently toying with variants with both Enforcer and/or Adventurer, garnering decent results.

Hector Orellana - Houston WCQ Regional 1st Place

Hector Orellana shook the competitive scene by bringing Tri-Brigade back on the map! With the help of the Branded Engine, he gloriously finished 1st at the Houston WCQ Regional, which had over 550 players! The deck uses the engine a little bit differently than the other two decks above, so allow me to elaborate.
Firstly, the deck gains a massive boost in card advantage because of Shrouded Dragon and Branded Sword! Mercourier is the last piece of the puzzle that ties these two together. Merc can be sent to the GY by Tri-Brigade Kitt and be banished by any of the Tri-Brigade monsters as the cost to activate their effects. Merc adds Albion, which sends Sword to the GY and places itself on the bottom to draw a card. Sword then banishes itself to add you Mercourier back to the hand. That's a pretty nifty +1! It helps neutralize the sting of Bearbrumm's double discard as well.
Another part is that thanks to Verte, the deck is able to reliably summon Mirrorjade! Not only does this strengthen the end boards, but it also gives the deck a powerful last resort option in case it gets harassed by multiple HTs. Mirrorjade has the tried and true banish effect which is difficult to answer, but did you also know it gives the deck some crazy follow-up? That's right, by sending Brigrand the Glory Dragon the deck gets a free Tri-Brigade search or summon in the End Phase. Did I mention that Mirrorjade sends for cost? Even if Jade's effects are negated, you can still dump Brigrand to the GY.
But then you might ask, doesn't Bearbrumm have a nasty lock on it? How do you make this work? The answer is quite simple really, you use Brumm as Fusion Material! That's right, the copied Branded Fusion uses Albaz from the hand or Deck then a Link on the field, getting you to both Mirrorjade and Revolt. Mercourier in hand also acts as a powerful hand trap the moment the Fusion monster hits the field!
Hector opted to run 3 Branded Fusion as a way to play should all his plays get negated and he hasn't summoned a Link Monster that turn. This is definitely a unique take on the engine, as most players opt to only run 1 copy of the Fusion Spell, due to its restrictions.
All in all, the Branded Engine gives Tri-Brigade so many versatile tools in its grasp. This may be the push the deck needed to return back to relevancy! Only time will tell if Rescue Cat and the gang will continue to thrive. I will say though that this makes for an impressive debut of the deck.

Tech Cards

With the three main variants discussed, let's go over some of the Tech cards used for and against the Branded Engine this format! Some of these are better than others, so your mileage may vary.
The winning YCS Bogota list had a lot of interesting techs, such as the introduction of Branded Lost paired with Mercourier and Albion the Shrouded Dragon. These cards haven't been quite successful or noteworthy in Despia lists, until now.
Lost gives you powerful conditional protection, with the best case being making Branded in Red unable to be stopped by Ghost Belle. In addition, you get some bonuses with Albion's draw and dumping of Opening, a great boon to have in the mirror match. Lastly, Mercourier is a handy negation in a deck that severely lacks some outside of Adventurer variants.
Some duelists are also trying out Despian Comedy to give Lubellion and friends the ability to dodge targeting effects. The results are rather mixed, as not many lists are actually on Comedy. Dramaturge also fits in this same boat of experimentation.
Necroworld Banshee has become a mainstay in the Side Deck for Branded decks as it can be milled with Branfu and shut down decks such as Floowandereeze with Zombie World!
Fairy Tail - Snow and The Light - Hex-Sealed Fusion are both LIGHT monsters for Albion that people are trying out. It's hard to vouch for their reliability, however.

Ghost Belle has risen to prominence as one of the main ways to stop Branded in Red. It also does a number vs Adventurer piles and works vs nearly every deck in the format, so all the more reason to play it. D.D. Crow may also prove to be a promising choice.
Super Polymerization is honestly a card that's hit or miss vs Branded decks, but regardless you might want to be prepared for it as its popularity is quite high right now.
Dimensional Barrier and Anti-Spell Fragrance are definitely side deck worthy right now, as they can utterly shut down the Branded engine in its entirety.
Last but not the least, it might not hurt to test out Winter Cherries in this format as a tool against the Branded engine.


And that leads us to the end of our Snapshot on Branded as a whole! It's likely that it'll only continue to become more prevalent from here on out, especially because DIFO comes with the ridiculous Branded Exile and Alba Renatus. What do you think of the Branded Engine? Feel free to let me know down below in the comments. Until next time folks, Renren out!

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