Introduction to Deck Mastery 101

“I like playing silly decks and seeing how they work – some people who might’ve been at Liverpool will know I have a soft spot for Burning Abyss,” Thomas Rose said on the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG EU live stream after his Round 5 victory.

This is more than just a silly deck profile though. This is advanced winning against the odds through a number of powerful strategies. Through his incredible deck-building, nuanced tech choices and some bonkers interactions between his combo pieces, Rose managed to win.

This isn’t a luck win though (sorry Stephen Singh; love not hate!). There has to be more than luck to take out a Tier 2 event of this caliber. All told, this is Deck Mastery and something we’re going to examine closely to find out how it was possible.

There are many great reasons why he managed to top this tournament, but let’s just have a look at a few of them.

Defined Formats Benefit Smart Rogue Players

The definition of the June 2018 format – moving towards Sky Striker Trickstars and Knightmare variants and tailoring side decks for them as well – benefits a deck that doesn’t get hurt by the deck or its main counters. Droll & Lock Bird, Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, Evenly Matched, Infinite Impermanence, Winged Dragon of Ra – Sphere Mode, Red Reboot… which of those cards really hits BA hard? Not many; or at least not enough to matter. You might as well be playing blank cards if those are your options against Burning Abyss.

Then on the other side of this equation, Rose’s deck was built to counter Sky Striker Trickstars. We’ve seen this become an option in previous formats: Trickstars against Spyral being a highlight of this concept. When you tailor your deck to counter the meta and aren’t destroyed by that same meta, you really make some inroads.

While a good match-up against the meta is one thing, capitalizing on it is definitely something else.

Know Your Deck, Know The Meta… Know Everything

While he admitted to some poor plays after his round 5 match, Rose didn’t falter in the finals when it mattered most. Smart victories against difficult opponents made the difference.

His semi-final victory was built upon knowing the match-ups and knowing the math. Basic things to say, but after a day’s action it’s always hard to remember every combo, every nuance and strategy. He didn’t concede to the Firewall-Lilybell loop immediately and instead forced the hand of Conor Zhou. He then managed to power through game two with Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning and Knightmare Cerberus.

His choices throughout Swiss enabled him to power into the top of UK Nationals. In the end it came down to a smart player with an even smarter deck. Let’s have a look at his deck in its entirety.


Thomas Rose Sekka Burning Abyss


Deck List
Monsters Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring x3
Droll & Lock Bird x3
Gallis the Star Beast x3
Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning x3
Rescue Cat x3
Fiendish Rhino Warrior x3
Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss x3
Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss x3
Sauravis, the Ancient and Ascended x2
Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss x1
Barbar, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss x1
Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss x1
Calcab, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss x1
Libic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss x1
Elephun x1
Fairy Tail – Snow x1
Spells Sekka’s Light x3
Extra Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss x2
Dante, Pilgrim of the Burning Abyss x1
Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal x1
D/D/D Stone King Darius x1
Number 47: Nightmare Shark x1
Super Quantal Mech Beast Grampulse x1
Borreload Dragon x1
Decode Talker x1
Knightmare Unicorn x1
Knightmare Phoenix x1
Knightmare Cerberus x1
Knightmare Mermaid x1
Naturia Beast x1
Underclock Taker x1
Side The Winged Dragon of Ra – Sphere Mode x2
Vanity’s Fiend x2
Shaddoll Dragon x1
Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit x2
Sauravis, the Ancient and Ascended x1
Magic Deflector x3
Anti-Spell Fragrance x2
Imperial Order x1

Tech What Matters

Let’s have a look at the impressive suite of tech choices he made going in to the event. Rose didn’t want to lose any matches to Trickstar Sky Striker and made some astonishing meta calls that paid off handsomely. Sekka’s Light was Pot of Greed (except not the Giant Card everyone else was playing for) AND it shuffled back dead cards or otherwise important Garnets. This allowed him to play a risky engine in Rescue Cat, which he used to summon 2 Gallis the Star Beast or Gallis alongside an Elephun. Even if he drew Gallis the Star Beast, the low spell count ensured it would usually stick on the board. Also when the situation called for it, he used Rescue Cat to go into Gallis the Star Beast and Elephun to summon Naturia Beast. Sauravis the Ancient and Ascended was another incredible defensive option he could use to defend Naturia Beast, Black Luster Soldier, or the Vanity’s Fiends that were in the side. If he drew Elephun or Fairy Tail Snow he could shuffle it back with the grave effect of Sekka’s Light.

As he explained it following the tournament victory, “He’s Dante’s cat… he’s my lucky little guy…We don’t have Terrortop anymore so I needed to find some new Tour Guide back up…when you’ve got a Normal Summon choice of Dante or Naturia Beast it’s going to go somewhere definitely.”

This level of integrated deck-building is beyond my wildest comprehensions. When the tech is this well informed, it almost starts to move beyond being a tech choice in theory. His list blew my mind earlier today when I first read it as all the pieces slotted together so naturally. Like a medieval clock, Rose precisely designed his deck to the utter devastation of the rest of the room.

But The Meta Will Always Win in the End

Just because it won a national title doesn’t make Burning Abyss the best deck in the room. It’s probably not even in the top five decks in the room. The secret to his success was BA’s anonymity and skirting around the meta heading into the tournament.

Thomas Rose definitely benefited from a lack of awareness at the UK Nationals. The deck has some terrifying hard-counters that like to lurk in Side Decks of formats gone by. Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries to hit Dante, Traveller of the Burning Abyss out of the Extra Deck. Dimensional Barrier, Abyss Dweller, Called by the Grave… it may tip the other way and rule out Dante’s travels. That said, the next rogue strategy will get its chance to shine as people scramble to cover the holes in their side decks, letting one or two decks through. This is the enjoyable thing about elite competitive Yu-Gi-Oh. You can’t account for everything and you’ll need to figure out as much as possible before the tournament.


This is the perfect triumvirate of a talented player/deck-builder, a meta catered towards one or two specific decks, and the power of unexpected techs within a rogue deck.

Thomas Rose has taken one of the better tournament wins in Yu-Gi-Oh history. While it’s one thing to win a Formula 1 race with a Ferrari, it’s another thing altogether to win it with a hotted-up Camry.

Before I go, I’d like to give a massive shout out to Yu-Gi-Oh TCG EU. Livestreams and strong social media work have been hallmarks of the European team for years now and it’s brilliant to see a Konami branch invest so much time and energy into the community. This article would have been a lot more difficult without your efforts so thank you.


Superheavy Samurai for life. Occasionally Spyral and D/D/D as side-life.

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Superheavy Samurai for life. Occasionally Spyral and D/D/D as side-life.

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