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Maximum Crisis is an aptly-named set. Between the release of Zoodiac Chakanine (and the resultant now-defunct fusion substitute combos) and the rarity-bumped True Dracos, Konami’s newest set can very much look like a crisis of maximum proportions to budget players, individuals hoping for deck ingenuity, or anyone who is sick of Zoodiac Ratpier‘s smug face. Deep within the draft chaff of Maximum Crisis, however, lies an archetype that you may have missed in piles of commons: Phantasm Spiral.
The Phantasm Spiral archetype consists of three parts: trap cards that can be activated from the hand if you have an “Umi” and a normal monster on your side of the field, equip spells that can be equipped to normal monsters in order to summon their flagship monster, Phantasm Spiral Dragon, and normal monsters. The deck plays a grindy control game through use of their powerful (literal) hand-traps and uses normal monsters and the effect of its field spell, Pacifis, the Phantasm City, to punish opponents’ plays. Although it boasts an incredibly low price tag, both budget and non-budget players alike have begun considering the deck, and, at the time of publication, the deck has even topped notable regional tournaments.
Despite these impressive results, individual lists remain in a state of flux. Because of the massive amount of powerful normal monsters available to players, several different iterations of the deck have become wildly popular. Today, we’ll be examining the four most prominent and most promising versions of the deck, establishing a core of cards found in all four, and concluding with an explanation of how to board against this up-and-coming strategy.
While there is room for a ton of innovation in Phantasm Spiral, all lists utilize a core of 15-25 cards that are simply too good to pass up. In my opinion, the following cards constitute this core.
1 Field Spell Garnet
Pacifis, the Phantasm City is the central card to your strategy. The deck does its best when it opens this early and opens it often. It allows searches from the deck every time you summon a normal monster, which enables (alongside Phantasm Spiral Battle) the grindy, resource-based gameplay on which the deck thrives. Set Rotation allows for 12 ways to find the field spell with the small downside of occasionally drawing into a Gateway to Chaos or a Magical Mid-Breaker Field and bricking yourself. To avoid these scenarios, some Phantasm Spiral players have added a Zombie World into their spell lineup because of its unique name and utility against True Draco, but most players prefer a singleton (or “Garnet) as part of their Set Rotation package.
The Phantasm Spiral traps are very individually strong. In a meta where Zoodiac Drident is king, it should go without saying that traps with similar effects will be similarly powerful. The redheaded stepchild of the Phantasm Spiral Traps, Phantasm Spiral Assault, is noticeably absent, as its slow and cumbersome alternative win condition is unlikely to steal any games anytime soon. Players have consistently waffled on Phantasm Spiral Power – its Breakthrough Skill-esque effect is undoubtedly powerful, but routinely is played at the minimum of one.
The core of Phantasm Spiral spells and traps are rounded out by their equip spells. Players have bottomed out on one each of Phatasm Spiral Grip, which summons a Phantasm Spiral Dragon when you destroy an opponent’s monster by battle, Phantasm Spiral Crash, which summons a Phantasm Spiral Dragon when you deal battle damage, and Phantasm Spiral Grip, which summons a Phantasm Spiral Dragon at the end of the battle phase if the equipped monster battled. Since the conditions by which these abilities trigger are radically different, and since they can each be searched by Pacifis, the Phantasm City, many players have shaved their lists down to a single copy of each one, or, more popularly, 2 copies of Phantasm Spiral Grip and 1 of each of the others.
Early in this deck’s lifespan, players hurried to jam 3 copies of their favorite Spiral Serpent retrain into their decks, but quickly found out that if you were summoning two 2900 attack beaters from your deck, you were probably winning the game anyway.
Finally, this is the reason to play the deck. Opening Heat Wave is an automatic win against a significant percentage of the field, allowing you to set up everything you need to close out the game and occasionally just OTK your opponent when they pass back after doing nothing.
These 22 cards make up the entirety of the “Phantasm Spiral” engine. The remaining cards are flexible, and each have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. We’ll examine four engines today.
A large percentage of successful Phantasm Spiral decks have been utilizing the Paleozoic Engine to supplement the deck. Usually, the Paleozoic engine will look like this.
These Paleozoics eat up the least amount of space in the deck for the most reward. Even as single-use traps cards, their effects (comparable to Mystical Space Typhoon and Book of Moon, respectively) are powerful, and they have the added benefit of special summoning themselves from a hand trap activation. They also count as normal monsters when special summoned to the field, so they’re perfect for snagging a quick Phantasm Spiral Battle from your deck while you’ve already got a token on your side of the field. Playing Paleozoics also opens up the extra deck and allows for Rank 2 all star Toadally Awesome to gum up your opponent’s plays even further or Paleozoic Opabinia to extend your own.
More often than not, Paleozoics are played alongside another normal monster suite in Phantasm Spiral. Since the archetype usually relies on special summoning multiple rank 2 monsters per turn, they’re much more at home in small quantities. Since the deck has so many flexible slots, Paleozoics usually take the place of hand traps like Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit or stun traps like Dimensional Barrier. Since their activation effects constrain your opponent’s plays, they’re usually not a bad trade-off to consider.
The most budget-conscious players usually opt to play Beast-Warriors, the least expensive variant of the deck. A Beast-Warrior engine will look like this.
What this engine lack in utility, it makes up for in card advantage. Fan favorite and original 2000-attack monster Gene-Warped Warwolf makes a triumphant return in this archetype as the highest-attack Fire Formation – Tenki target with the pendulum monster Dragoons of Draconia as the next runner-up. One advantage this engine has over the others is that drawing multiple normal monsters isn’t always bricky – activating Dragoons of Draconia in a pendulum zone is an easy way to both remove the additional normal monsters from your deck as well as ensure a Pacifis activation on your own turn. Fire Formation – Tenki’s attack boost is not negligible, either – the additional 100 attack allows Dragoons of Draconia to attack over Daigusto Emeral and Gene-Warped Warwolf to attack over Tornado Dragon, two Rank 4 monsters that you’re sure to run into, especially with a deck so reliant on a field spell surviving.
While slightly less powerful after the June 12th banning of Elder Entity Norden, an engine of water monsters with the intention of summoning Bahamut Shark in order to make Toadally Awesome still packs quite a punch. A water engine looks something like this.
The unfortunate truth is that while water has access to arguably the most powerful Rank 4 extra deck monster available, it is sorely lacking in seachability. As a result, 3 copies of Unexpected Dai are very common in these builds, if only to ensure normal monsters are always at the ready. More importantly, opening an Unexpected Dai and a normal monster is decidedly less bricky than opening several normal monsters. There are several advantages to a water-based deck beyond Toadally Awesome – access to the attack boost from Abyss Dweller makes setting up OTKs much more manageable and getting over monsters with Phantasm Spiral Grip much easier. While Number 37: Hope Woven Dragon Spider Shark has lost a lot of its punch in recent months, its availability in this strategy is also notable.
The most popular of the normal monster engines are the fortunately-typed dinosaurs, which are and currently enjoying tier two playability in a much more popular deck of their own. A dinosaur engine will look like this.
At a time when Fossil Dig is currently being cast on 40,000 open boardstates at any single time, I don’t have to tell you how powerful the most effective search spell in the game is. Sabersaurus can be paired alongside its old friend, Rescue Rabbit, to get up to the same Evolzar Laggia shenanigans from yesteryear. Depending on how desperately you want to make both Laggia and Toadally Awesome, you can also substitute 3 Kabazauls for 3 Sabersaurus, trading a bit of ability to walk over monsters with Phantasm Spiral Grip for a bit of flexibility in your extra deck. Additionally, you may cause a bit of confusion among players without Phantasm Spiral experience when you turn 1 Rescue Rabbit for a Evolzar Dolkka with no copies of Souleating Oviraptor in your 55.
This is Michael Craig Jr’s 15th place Phantasm Spiral decklist from Seattle’s June 2017 regional. He made the choice to play 50 cards, which allows him a significant amount of flexibility in the maindeck. Notable choices include 6 hand traps, 2 copies of Phantasm Spiral Grip, and a combination of the dinosaur and water engine.
|Monsters||Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring x2
Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit x3
Maxx “C” x1
Megalosmasher X x3
Phantasm Spiral Dragon x3
Rescue Rabbit x1
|Spells||Dark Hole x2
Fossil Dig x3
Heat Wave x3
Pacifis, the Phantasm City x3
Phantasm Spiral Crash x1
Phantasm Spiral Grip x2
Phantasm Spiral Wave x1
Pot of Desires x2
Unexpected Dai x2
|Traps||Phantasm Spiral Battle x3
Phantasm Spiral Power x1
Quaking Mirror Force x3
Skill Drain x1
Solemn Strike x2
Solemn Warning x1
I know it doesn’t bode well for the future of the deck for a sideboarding guide to begin with the claim that sideboading against this strategy is simple – but unfortunately for anyone ready to steal games with this strategy, this deck is quite easy to sideboard against. When going first, any spell and trap removal (like the ever-popular Cosmic Cyclone) will prevent Pacifis from accruing advantage. When going second, most classically powerful hand traps will be more than sufficient – Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit to stop the search or Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring to prevent Terraforming from snagging Pacifis in the first place. Out of the sideboard, Unending Nightmare does its best impression of Royal Oppression and can shut any Phantasm Spiral player completely and totally out of the game. It’s probably not worth devoting more sideboard slots than these to this deck, but if you find many Phantasm Spiral players around you, you can’t go wrong with any of these options.
As more Phantasm Spiral decks inevitably top in both the TCG and the OCG and as more and more scrutiny is inevitably placed on True Draco and Zoodiac, a cheap deck with game against meta strategies may just have what it takes to sneak into top 8s. The deck is flexible, interactive, grindy, and powerful. Even if you don’t intend to play it, hopefully this guide has given you a bit of insight into the deckbuilding process of the Phantasm Spiral players you will likely be cursing under your breath after getting Heat Waved for the third consecutive turn in a row.