Table of Contents
Before I jump into the tierlist, I’d like to add a few disclaimers.
Firstly, this list is subjective. Any and all data used to determine each deck’s placement is a result of discussions between myself and other players, reported KoG lists, published tournament victories, and, in extreme cases, some degree of speculation.
Secondly, the difference between tiers is not night and day. It’s a matter of inches. Every deck on this list is completely viable, and (with some exceptions) is certainly able to have a massive showing in the KC Cup.
Finally, some decks are placed where they are not because they’re bad, but because of poor match-up spreads, high skill ceilings, or weak translation to the KC Cup ladder system. Remember – unlike tournament play, the KC Cup rewards quick, consistent victories, so control decks are automatically at a disadvantage when compared to aggressive decks with similar winrates.
Without any further ado, here is the tierlist – and just in time for the KC Cup!
Red-Eyes Zombie Dragon
Skill: Beatdown, Straight to the Grave
By now a shoo-in for “longest lived archetype,” Red-Eyes Zombie Dragon makes a triumphant return to tier one. This multi-format superstar uses a core of Red-Eyes Insight, Red-Eyes Spirit, and Gozuki to flex utility zombies and consistently summon a 2400-attack behemoth.
The deck’s numerous one and two-card combos have always allowed REZD to tech in specific answers to format superstars. Right now, many players are opting to play multiple copies of Storm to answer the backrow-heavy decks that give REZD trouble. Anti-Magic Arrows is a more reliable solution, but won’t be nearly as effective against competent players.
Skill: Beatdown, Aroma Strategy
Hazy Flame players have two choices when deckbuilding. They can play Caninetaur, Flame Tiger, Soul Exchange, or Mausoleum of the Emperor to turbo out Sphinxes, or they can include a small Fire Fist Engine. The latter always includes a few Fire Formation – Tensu and gives Hazy Flame access to pseudo-backrow-removal in Fire Formation – Gyokkou.
Builds are also almost always forgoing Aroma Strategy for Beatdown. Since the deck is already playing mostly monsters, the small percentage of the time you call Hazy Flame Sphynx’s effect incorrectly (especially if you give up Beast Rising) is outweighed by the benefits of high attack.
Cyber Angel (Saffira)
Skill: Mind Scan, Balance, Beatdown
The deck that won’t die, Cyber Angels has proven resilient to its multiple nerfs. Its powerful linear gameplan is still more than enough to overwhelm unprepared decks. While it certainly won’t be as popular as it was last Kaiba Cup, you can definitely expect to see Cyber Petit Angel flutter to the field soon.
Since the semi-limiting of Cyber Angel Dakini, many plays have filled its vacant slot with Saffira, Queen of Dragons. This enables a slower, longer game where Dakini’s non-targeting removal is one piece of a control shell instead of the focus of the deck. This build is occasionally paired with backrow aimed at taking advantage of decks prepared to face last season’s Cyber Angels.
Skill: Mind Scan, Balance, Holy Guard
Gladiator Beast has two advantages over other backrow strategies. Firstly, it usually doesn’t have to commit more than one piece of backrow to the field at a time, so it can easily wade through a Storm or a Xing Zhen Hu. Secondly, it has built-in backrow destruction in the form of Gladiator Beast Bestiari. These tools give it an amazing grind game and a natural resistance to backrow decks without win conditions.
Skill: Middle Age Mechs
By playing a low count of monsters alongside powerful backrow hate like Sergeant Electro, Ancient Gear aims to lock opponents out of relevant spells and traps while beating them down with their powerful monsters.
Despite their machines’ resistance to battle traps, the deck still struggles against removal that can be activated outside of the battle phase. Floodgate Trap Hole, Enemy Controller, and Massivemorph can be devastating to an Ancient Gear player. If you’re an Ancient Gear player concerned about this, try playing a few copies of Storm to take advantage of your skill and pop potentially problematic cards.
Backrow Control/Stall Burn
Skill: Parasite Infestation, Endless Trap Hell
This is an incredibly simplified entry, but in order to not die a painful death of hand cramps, I’m classifying Weevil Burn and Backrow Stall as a single deck with a similar goal – neutralizing their opponent’s monsters.
One of the best arguments for this type of deck is its incredibly flexible series of win conditions. Massivemorph pairs well with Amazoness Swords Woman for consistent OTKs. Many stall decks play Lava Golem. More recently, these monster-muzzling decks have elected not to play a win condition at all, hoping to deck their opponent out by playing more than 20 cards or by taking advantage of Endless Trap Hell.
Skill: Dinosaur Kingdom
Rex Raptor’s deck needs almost no explanation. A relic of a simpler time in Duel Links, Dinosaur aims to beat you to death with huge monsters. By using Black Brachios’ incredible effect alongside backrow, they often aim to set up OTKs with multiple Hydrogeddon.
Less of a tech choice and more of a mainstay in Dinosaur, Sergeant Electro has become very popular in Rex decks despite his non-dinosaurness. He acts as an insurance policy for Hydrogeddon, ensuring that the first attack from the snowballing dinosaur is uninterrupted.
Skill: Master of Magicians
Consistent and explosive, Arkana’s namesake deck sneaks into the bottom of tier two. The release of Magician’s Rod gives this deck powerful tutoring as well as an answer to the ever-present threat of backrow. Plus, you get to play Arkana’s Dark Magician, which is awesome.
Unfortunately, this deck suffers from an unfortunate catch-22. You can’t remove backrow until you have a Dark Magician on your side of the field, and you can’t reliably stick a Dark Magician until the backrow is gone. Still, it is a powerful option, especially against opponents without Enemy Controller.
Skill: Fields of the Warriors, Mind Scan
Six Samurai is a deck in the midst of an identity crisis. We know the individual cards are good, but it’s been difficult for deckbuilders to settle on a list that provides a compelling reason to play it. Its “summon multiple monsters” build competes with Dinosaurs, and its “sit on backrow” plan competes with Gladiator Beasts.
The most successful Six Samurai builds usually play Powerful Rebirth. This allows them to consistently have two Six Samurai on their side of the field, but requires their opponent to not force its activation by attacking directly or by activating backrow removal.
Fire King Sacred Phoenix
Skill: Beatdown, Restart
Budget superstar Fire King Sacred Phoenix has seen better days. While Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys’ effect seems very powerful against backrow strategies, it often requires several cards worth of investment, and any competent player will stop overextending the second they see Fire King Island. What’s more, once Sacred Phoenix is on the field, it’s not particularly difficult to deal with, and the deck’s grind game is absolutely abysmal.
Despite the negatives, there are still compelling reasons to play the deck. Occasionally you still get to live the dream of 2017 and get a sweet Harpie’s Feather Duster on legs.
Skill: Duel, Standby!, Restart
The Bitcoin of Duel Links, Dark World was immediately snapped up by those who could afford it, only for it to rapidly lose value as people figured out how mediocre it was. This deck attempts to use effects that discard your own cards to trigger the Dark Worlds’ powerful effects.
One of the biggest issues with this deck is a general lack of space. Unlike other meta strategies, which usually contain a core of 7-15 cards and a few flexible slots, Dark World requires steadfast commitment to its archetype. This not only prices most players out of the deck, but also prevents them from including must-haves like Enemy Controller.
Decks to Watch Out For
Skill: Endless Trap Hell
The first deck that makes effective use of That Grass Looks Greener, Grass Magnets recoups the loss of activating its namesake spell with Endless Trap Hell before capitalizing on the incredibly powerful Magnet Warrior cards. A wealth of backrow means this deck can easily play a long stall game against any deck in the format.
Temple of the Mind’s Eye
Skill: Destiny Draw
Temple of the Mind’s Eye relies almost entirely on its field spell. By gaining lifepoints with Golden Ladybug, Draining Shield, and Aegis of Gaia, it can extend its lifespan by multiple turns. After the pilot has taken 2000 damage, they will activate Destiny Draw, searching a direct attacker or a Lava Golem. This deck is a potentially devastating matchup for anyone without backrow removal.
Red-Eyes Slash Dragon
Skill: Duel, Standby!, Restart
A fresh take on last year’s “let’s fuse into Twin-Headed Thunder Dragon and hope for the best,” Red-Eyes Slash Dragon attempts to fuse into Red-Eyes Slash Dragon and hope for the best. The individual monster is very powerful, but countered by most decks playing any backrow at all.
Anyone who played paper Yu-Gi-Oh! in 2014 has fearful memories of Bujin. Thankfully, its Duel Links counterpart is much less frightening. Keeping a Bujin Yamato on the field is no easy task, but getting multiple activations of its effect can be hard for any deck to deal with.