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 from 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. It can also include decks that can potentially beat 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.
The Ishizu monsters comprise of Level 4 EARTH Fairy monsters with some powerful effects at their disposal. It is named after Ishizu Ishtar, the original wielder of these cards from the Anime, who got retrained counterparts. They come in pairs and all work together to facilitate unprecedented amounts of GY hate and setup simultaneously! They also gain bonus effects off Exchange of the Spirit being in the GY, but those versions are on the rarer side.
Kelbek the Ancient Vanguard and Agido the Ancient Sentinel are first up, both having the ability to SS themselves from the hand if a card from the opponent's Hand or Deck is sent to the GY. The former is the stronger of the two, as it doubles up as a Hand Trap, bouncing away threats on the field for free. Agido's not as great, but the ability to revive a free Level 4 EARTH Fairy gives you effortless access to some of the strongest Rank 4 monsters, being Abyss Dweller and Number 41: Bagooska the Terribly Tired Tapir. Of course, their best trait comes in their second effect, being able to mill 5 from both decks to the GY. This enables a lot of strategies and can also heavily mess up the opponent's game plan all at once.
Ah, but isn't it dangerous to also let your opponent mill? What if they can benefit off it? Not to fear, as the shuffler is here! Keldo the Sacred Protector and Mudora the Sword Oracle are notorious for obliterating any attempts at GY plays, as they're able to banish themselves from the field or GY and shuffle up to 3 cards back into the Deck. More often than not, these two can utterly wreck decks trying to get their engines started. That's not all, as they're also free summons when paired up with the millers, as you can discard them to bring either Keldo or Mudora out of your hand. In mirror matches, these cards are the ones you'll be relying on the most.
It's been quite a while since we've had something on this level of power, but Ishizu is currently a beyond-dominant Tier 0 contender in the metagame. Ishizu Tearlaments is the deck to beat and is leagues above everything else in competitive play. It's not the only Ishizu abuser in town though, as strategies like Naturia, Madolche, and Runick are also slowly making waves. Overall, the representation they hold across every major tournament so far has reached T0 status, deservedly so.
Bystial Ishizu Tearlaments
Vincenzo Orofino managed to win the entirety of YCS Dortmund with Bystial Ishizu Tearlaments! This is the largest European YCS yet, with 2591 players participating in this monumental event. His teammates who helped him create the deck were no slouches either, as Pierreluigi and Andrea placed Top 8 and Top 32, respectively.
Ishizu Tearlaments is a surprisingly customizable deck, with many players running a variety of ratios and techs, often ones that are specifically geared towards the mirror or against Floowandereeze. The strategy's engine cards are more than capable of overwhelming opponents, sometimes brute-forcing their way against boards that don't have floodgate-type effects tied to them.
Tearlaments Reinoheart's count is something that's up in the air, but the vast majority of people have settled on 2. Tearlaments Merrli has also been discussed, as Hani's winning Pasadena list was only on 2. Having the 3rd one is often preferred, but you can't really go wrong with either choice. The deck is powerful enough that minute deckbuilding decisions won't be too impactful in the long run.
The deck also survives the limiting of Herald of Orange Light handily and even benefits from the banning of Mystic Mine as some people used it in the Mirror to cheese out wins, especially in combination with Number 39: Utopia Double and Double or Nothing! Most rogue matchups fall to the deck's might without a shadow of a doubt, so preparation for Floowandereeze and opposing Ishizu decks is what you want to be looking out for.
When dueling in the mirror, it'll often depend on the situation whether or not you want to be milling with your Agido or Kelbek. Players like Jesse Kotton prefer to maximize the value + ability to easily make Abyss Dweller, therefore running 3 copies. Most are on 0-1, while you'll see some occasional lists on 2.
Other promising options include the addition of Mask Change II, which pairs well with any of the Ishizu monsters and often nets you a 2900 ATK untargetable Dark Law which can absolutely be a blowout in the mirror. Diviner of the Herald is an excellent NS that can force a ridiculous amount of things out all while partnering up with Spright Elf for some Ishizu mayhem in the opponent's turn and enabling a potential Baronne de Fleur.
Aside from that, the Extra Deck has some flex slots to work with. Aussa the Earth Charmer, Immovable is used to snipe out Ishizu monsters, Borreload Dragon and Underworld Goddess of the Closed World are occasionally used to deal with would-be issues such as Mekk-Knight Crusadia Avramax protected by I:P Masquerena.
One last thing to note is that the power of Bystials are not to be underestimated, as they serve as some of the best HTs against the mirror match, all while enabling powerful R6NKs monsters such as Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal, and Wollow, Founder of the Drudge Dragons! Even if the opponent uses their shuffler to put the Tear monster back, it still denies them the fusion and you get to keep the Bystial in hand. Some pro players have mentioned that Bystial Magnamhut being a liability in the GY is greatly exaggerated, as the benefits of running him far outweigh the negatives.
Ishizu Vernusylph Madolche
Herman Hansson placed Top 32 with an unexpected strategy that's tied together by both the Ishizu cards and the Vernusylphs from POTE and DABL, enter Madolche! That's right, Madolche has made a triumphant comeback after several years, getting 2 solid Top Cut placements in YCS Dortmund.
Ishizu Vernusylph Madolche is a midrange strategy that aims to take advantage of the popularity of Tearlaments as well as setting up a minimalistic but tough-to-crack board, going for a Turn 3 OTK once it has snowballed enough advantage. Madolche's fragility is in part solved by the help of the Vernusylph monsters, as now they no longer fold to a singular interruption.
Vernusylph of the Misting Seedlings fresh out of Darkwing Blast helps tie everything together, as being able to search any EARTH Fairy and Special Summon an EARTH monster from the GY provides a ridiculous amount of plays to the table. This level of toolbox gives you avenues to access the likes of Madolche Anjelly, Madolche Petingcessoeur, the other Vernusylphs, or even the Ishizu monsters. Madolche having to worry about the GY being empty or having something for Madolche Hootcake to banish has also become a non-issue, as the Vernus give you enough Special Summoning power to keep going.
Herman only opted to run the shufflers for his Ishizu package, which works well in tandem with the Vernus, being excellent discard fodder for their effects, or vice-versa if Dweller access is needed. Should the opponent get complacent with their millers, it also gives him good odds to get the shufflers into the GY to punish their plays. They're still highly useful and functional if you draw them of course, especially Keldo. Keldo's can pitch a Fairy to summon itself and add Mudora, use a Vernu to get Mudora to the GY, and now you have both shufflers in rotation.
Kashtira Fenrir is an incredible generic here, and the extra copy of itself that it adds even lets you essentially use the Vernu effects for "free". In most instances, the deck tends to end on Madolche Teacher Glassouffle + Madolche Promenade backed up by either Fenrir or a Shuffler. Glass' trigger effect also comes in handy during the opponent's turn, as it becomes a Chain Link 2 effect to shuffle back their Tear monsters, denying fusion attempts.
Lastly, the sided Madolche Butlerusk lets the deck access Zombie World which can then be protected by Promenade to shut down Floowandereeze, which appears to be public enemy #2 of the current format. Only time will tell if Madolche is going to continue to have success, but the metagame seems kind to it so far. Orange Light being limited and Mystic Mine getting removed are huge boons, as now you don't have to side Gate Blocker like Herman had to, or deal with the nightmare that is Kelbek/Agido + Orange Light (as much).
Ishizu Vernusylph Naturia
Robert McCallum placed a solid Top 8 finish at the Burnaby WCQ Regional with ishizu Vernusylph Naturia! It had another decent showing, with Raul Aguilar winning the Merida WCQ Regional wielding the deck.
Naturia is no longer a joke and is actually quite the formidable threat, as the support it received from Darkwing Blast allow it to leverage its crazy tools in the past that were gatekept by the deck's inability to start plays. Naturia Camellia is the main starter that gets everything going with just a little bit of help, which the Vernu monsters provide. Camellia is able to send any Naturia card to the GY, which will usually be Naturia Sacred Tree. Tree's effect to add any Naturia card is not a hard once per turn, and thus you'll be resolving it 2-3 times in a single turn! Because of this, the deck is capable of producing some nasty boards to get through, with a complementary mix of both negations and GY hate.
From there, you'll want to add Naturia Mole Cricket and discard it off your Vernusylphs in order to revive it. Use its effect to tribute itself and Special Summon a Naturia monster from the Deck, generally Naturia Sunflower. Thanks to Camellia, you can instead mill the top 2 cards of your deck for free instead of having to sacrifice the cricket. This also gives you the potential to send either Keldo, Mudora, Exchange of the Spirit, or more Sacred Trees to the GY. Pretty good stuff! More importantly, you keep the Naturia monster on the field.
Naturia Blessing is a great Quick-Play spell that lets you extend, occasionally also churning out Synchros on the opponent's turn. The main Naturia setup is Naturia Beast backed up by Camellia, Sunflower, and Cricket. If the opponent tries to run your cards over, Cricket can summon out Naturia Stinkbug from the Deck!
Similar to Madolche, the deck gets a lot of mileage out of the Ishizus, Fenrir, and the Vernus, but arguably even more so here as your board tends to be far more explosive. Gravekeeper's Trap is free off Mudora, and you can pitch Shufflers or Sacred Trees that are stuck in hand to get yourself a Kelbek the Ancient Vanguard. Post banlist, the deck doesn't really mind the loss of Curious, the Lightsworn Dominion and is fairly replaceable.
The deck does struggle a bit when going second against non-Ishizu decks, as its defensive count is a little on the lower end. Still, it's a formidable force that should not be slept on. Some players like Din-Kha Bui have also messed with a Runick variant over Vernus, attempting to maximize the fact that Camellia results in 2 Level 4 tuners by itself to pair with the Runick levels for Synchro plays.
Speaking of Runick, there have also been regional waves of Ishizu Runick, but it is arguably the clunkiest of the bunch when it comes to synergizing with the Ishizu monsters. To sum it up, most of them abuse Diviner of the Herald to dump the Ishizu monsters and then take advantage of the level modulation alongside cards like Hugin the Runick Wings and Geri the Runick Fangs all while generating a lot of resources off Runick Fountain. I would recommend checking out DKB's Ishizu Runick Naturia if you're interested, as the other topping lists were overly reliant on Mystic Mine to see things through.
All in all, Ishizu is definitively a Tier 0 contender in the metagame and it's been responsible for even resurrecting some other decks back into relevance. The hit to Orange Light does somewhat damper Tear's potential Turn 0 plays, though its power level is still beyond anything else available as the gap is quite significant. Other decks can compete still (Spright, Floowandereeze, Bystial piles) but it's an uphill battle. One major thing to point out is the creation of non-Tear Ishizu strategies that are favored vs Tear, but face issues when running into Floo, sort of like a triangle in a sense.
It's likely that things will remain the same for a while until Photon Hypernova, where the much anticipated Kashtira support wave will turn that deck into a powerhouse. Until then, see you all in the next snapshot!