Duel Links Meta Snapshot: January 17th, 2018


A few months ago, I wrote an article on getting started in Duel Links. The article, now embarrassingly outdated, provided a clear path towards Duel Links’ ranked mode. However, when looking back, I realized I had neglected to give readers an adequate understanding of the current ranked climb. Because of this, I’ll be writing a series of tier lists which explain what the top decks are and what they do. This first list includes what I believe are the current top performers, though that’s subject to change with the impending banlist. This list is not a final judgment on the power level of these decks. It is a judgement based on their popularity, their effectiveness at laddering, and their flexibility at Platinum-Legend.

Without any further ado, here is the (completely subjective) tierlist.

Tier 1

Bamboo Sword FTK

The arguable best deck of the format, Bamboo Sword FTK decks are few and far between on ladder. Like aggro decks in other card games, its quick game-time and >50% winrate propelled most players who could afford the collection to build it into King of Games days ago.

The deck combines Woodland Sprite (to be limited on January 24th) with a suite of incredibly powerful draw spells – Broken Bamboo Sword, Cursed Bamboo Sword, and Golden Bamboo Sword – along with Black Pendant to easily deal 4000 damage to an opponent on their first turn. There is counterplay, of course; an Enemy Controller on turn 1 will make quick work of anyone attempting to use Woodland Sprite’s effect multiple times. Still, without critical draws and the ability to win the coin-flip, you could easily find yourself without lifepoints on turn one.

Three-Star Demotion Ninja

During the previous KC Cup in November, Cyber Angel was most popular deck by a large margin. Despite this, the top performing deck was 3SD Ninja. Ninja is an incredibly complex deck that relies on both a skilled pilot and the Paradox Brother’s “Three-Star Demotion” skill. Since this skill will be changed on January 24th, the future of the deck is up in the air.

Until then, the deck makes use of the incredibly powerful Red Dragon Ninja and Black Dragon Ninja to dispatch backrow and threatening monsters. It then uses the Ninjitsu Art line of traps to facilitate different combinations of defensive monsters. The overwhelming advantage both large ninjas generate, the flexibility of the “little ninjas” package, the high skill ceiling, and the consistency of the deck’s very searchable draw engine all helped to propel the deck into tier one.

Tier 2

Red-Eyes Zombie Dragon

Red-Eyes has been meta-relevant ever since Super Joey first appeared as a roaming duelist. Since then, the deck has evolved in order to compete through a banlist that crippled one of its most powerful cards: Champion’s Vigilance. The zombie variant has adopted the extremely powerful Gozuki alongside his most dedicated impersonator, Samurai Skull, to become a top contender with incredible OTK potential.

Red-Eyes Zombie Dragon has a few glaring weaknesses, usually against decks with dedicated backrow. While the monsters are very individually strong and therefore aren’t usually hampered by battle-position-changing spells and traps, the deck can easily fall prey to a well-timed Wall of Disruption. Because of this, most players have begun playing copies of Anti-Magic Arrows, sacrificing a bit of consistency for dramatically improved matchups against combat tricks.

Amazoness Massivemorph/Weevil Burn

I’ve included these two strategies together, since pieces from both decklists routinely find their way into each other’s strategies. Many lists, like the one above, find combining the strengths of the two decks is too good to ignore. It turns out taking 1000 damage for free from a Lava Golem or a Parasite Paracide enables some very simple OTKs with Amazoness Swords Woman.

These two decks have wildly swingy matchups, often automatically losing or winning based on what their opponent is playing. For the most part, they excel against strategies which have no way of removing their own monsters. Once all zones are occupied by a monster targeted with Massivemorph, Mask of the Accursed, or a Parasite Paracide, the opponent won’t survive long.

Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys

While certainly not the most powerful of all decks represented, Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys deserves a spot in tier two for being one of the most popular of all decks represented on ladder. It owes its popularity to the cheap core of the deck, all found in a single, small pack.

The deck aims to use Fire King Island to both search Fire King Yaksha from deck and destroy Sacred Phoenix. At the same time, the deck can set up a defensive wall with any remaining Fire Kings. Since you have to destroy a monster card specifically with Fire King Island, Sphere Kuriboh serves double duty as a battle trap that can’t be destroyed by Sacred Phoenix and as a searching tool. Finally, since Sacred Phoenix’s statline adds up to 4000, players will usually play some number of Cards of the Soul to ensure it is in their opening hand. The deck excels against backrow-heavy strategies, but has trouble against any deck that can consistently make a monster with over 2400 attack.

Tier 3

Gladiator Beasts

Gladiator Beasts, one of the longest-lived physical TCG decks, don’t exactly live up to their reputation in Duel Links. They lack Gladiator Beast Gyzarus, but are still able to use Gladiator Beast Bestiari and Gladiator Beast Murmillo to destroy the opponent’s cards. Instead of using combos, they routinely play long, drawn out games decided by how many battle traps each player draws. Because of this, most builds play either Balance to reduce bricking or Mind Scan to prepare for their opponent’s plays.

The good news for players faced with a daunting amount of Gladiator Beast decks is the enormous gap between the expensive and budget versions. Three copies of Floodgate Trap Hole and Mirror Wall, for example, are much more devastating than Security Orb and Inspiration. The high-roller versions of the deck can be legitimately frightening, which cements its position at the top of tier three.

Hazy Flame

A deck that had previously occupied the dregs of post-King-of-Games-memery is now somewhat playable, thanks to the release of new Hazy Flame support. By using Mai’s “Aroma Strategy” skill, you can always know the top card of your deck, making the chance that you call Hazy Flame Sphinx’s effect correctly 100%. Thanks to this, you can summon several powerful monsters in one turn, converting their mediocre attack points into one massive monster with Beast Rising.

This deck has multiple different successful builds, all with different strengths and weaknesses. Several run Flame Tiger as free delayed tribute fodder while others play Mausoleum of the Emperor to power out a Hazy Flame Sphinx without a tribute. The billionaires among the community play Soul Exchange in order to both remove problematic monsters from the opponent’s side of the field as well as enable tribute summons. While the Hazy Flames have built-in immunity to Enemy Controller, they have a rough time fighting through multiple battle traps, struggling almost exclusively against those decks.

Ancient Gear

One of the premier budget strategies, Ancient Gear is almost completely buildable by supplementing Crowler drops with format staples. By using his skill “Middle-Aged Mechs,” Crowler begins the duel with Ancient Gear Castle activated. This ensures that you will always have tribute fodder available for powerful cards like Ancient Gear Beast and Ancient Gear Golem.

This deck also benefits tremendously from a metagame that includes backrow-heavy archetypes like Gladiator Beasts. For the most part, its monsters can’t be hindered by battle traps. By including powerful machine beaters like Sergeant Electro and Ancient Gear Knight, the deck can also make use of Gravity Blaster to dispatch with threats like Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys that would otherwise give it trouble.


Rex Raptor has usurped Mako Tsunami as the de facto “dumb guy beatdown” deck. By using Rex’s “Dinosaur Kingdom” skill, powerful monsters like Hydrogeddon and Black Brachios become strong enough to consistently get over problem monsters, or, in Hydrogeddon’s case, get their effects off.

Like Gladiator Beasts, this deck relies on a very powerful suite of combat tricks to do most of the heavy lifting. Black Brachios is incredible at walking over otherwise-unbeatable monsters like Red-Eyes Zombie Dragon or Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys. By supplementing the dinosaurs with format all-star Sergeant Electro, the deck can either play an aggressive beatdown strategy that summons multiple 1900-attack monsters or a slow, plodding game that grinds value out of its efficient monsters.

Cutest Rogue Deck of the Format

Dark Magician

Okay, I’ll be frank, this deck isn’t particularly good, but I’m including it for two reasons. Firstly, it’s much more popular on ladder than it should be. Secondly, because Arkana was just released, many people are playing it to level him up.

This deck attempts to use Legion the Fiend Jester and a suite of resilient spellcasters to summon Dark Magician, usually by activating Dark Magic Curtain. With access to Skilled Dark Magician, Ancient Rules, and Magician’s Rod, it can summon its flagship monster. It then uses Arcana’s “Master of Magicians” skill to add powerful cards like Thousand Knives, Dark Magic Attack, and Dark Magic Expanded to your hand. Its powerful draws are INCREDIBLY powerful, but it’s inconsistent as all hell and loses to every Enemy Controller cast across the table.


These decks by no means represent everything good in the format. Darkworlds, Post-Nerf Cyber Angels, Magnet Warriors, and a whole host of others reached King of Games this season. Obviously, the upcoming skill re-balance and banlist changes will drastically warp the meta, at which point we’ll re-evaluate this list. If you’ve been anxious about jumping into ranked, this should give a sense of what you’ll start seeing in Platinum.



HERO fanboy, YouTuber, and Writer for YGOPRODeck. Follow me on twitter at @MonoBlueTron and please validate my existence on yt.com/c/MonoBlueTronYGO.


HERO fanboy, YouTuber, and Writer for YGOPRODeck. Follow me on twitter at @MonoBlueTron and please validate my existence on yt.com/c/MonoBlueTronYGO.

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