Ritual Revolution: The Rise of the 2020 Tier 1 Blues

In November, Eric Meadows posted an article analyzing the Drytron archetype and how it works.  It’s a very comprehensive guide and a must-read for anyone who wants to learn how to pick up the deck.

But this article isn’t a deck analysis so much as a history lesson.  To explain what I mean, let me explain how I felt when I learned about Drytron’s rise to prominence in the December 2020 meta.  

It went a little something like this.

“Oh, so Drytron’s showing up in tournaments now?  That’s kinda neat.  But it’s probably just a rogue deck like Megaliths.  It’ll get phased out by the tier 1 decks, especially when they ban their common engine.”

“…Oh, it is a tier 1 deck?  It doesn’t have a common engine?  Whoa okay, that’s sick.  What’s its end board?  It’s gotta have some crazy boss monster, right?”

“…Oh…Herald?  That’s…a pretty old card.  It hasn’t been competitive since…Oh, Natasha?  Since when were Cyber Angels meta…Vanity’s Ruler?  Yeah I know that…I’ve been using it to try to revive Nekroz for months.  And in Ritual Toolbox, but that’s just a gimmick deck…”

“Okay okay okay, hang on.  I’ve been playing Ritual Toolbox for two years.  It hasn’t been meta, like ever.  But now you’re telling me that a deck that’s basically Ritual Toolbox is now a tier 1 competitive deck?  What gives?  What makes this deck so good when all the other Ritual decks weren’t?”

That’s the project I’m working on: How did we get here?  How did we go from MBTYugioh clowning on Ritual Toolbox to BladeYGO suggesting we ban Benten?  Out of all the Ritual Support we got (and there has been a surprising amount), why now with Drytrons?  In short: 

What sets Drytron Apart?

To answer this question, we need to look backto how previous support laid the groundwork for the Ritual engine we have now, and how previous breaks into the meta paved the way for the contender today.  The previous incarnations of the Ritual threat all showed promise, but fell short in some way.  As we’ll see, Drytron not only took inspiration from their strengths, but also shored up their weaknesses, perfecting a formula fit to compete at the top tables.

Toil and Trouble: Impcantations

       

In the midst of Master Rule 4 (remember that?), Konami suddenly released revolutionary Ritual support in the form of the Impcantations, first in Cybernetic Horizon, and then in Soul Fusion and Savage Strike.  The Impcantation effect monsters activated effects in hand to reveal a Ritual Spell or Monster.  Then they special summoned itself and another Imp from the deck.  On summon from the deck, the Imps could then search another Ritual piece from the deck or recur one from the graveyard.  Their primary Ritual monster wasn’t meant as much to be summoned as to use its effect to summon any Imp from the deck.  And their Ritual Spell could summon any Ritual, as long as it used Imp monsters’ levels.  It could even recur itself from the grave.

Let’s condense that into a few key strengths of the engine:

  • It has generic searches.
  • They put tribute fodder on the field.
  • Impcantations have an element of recursion.

Each of these facets aimed at rectifying the very weaknesses of Ritual Summoning, namely: how to gather your pieces, how to summon them, and how to follow up.  It was a godsend for every Ritual deck, from the jankiest Saffira homebrew to the fallen powers of Nekroz.

However, they weren’t without a few weaknesses.  For each Imp to pop off, they needed a piece already in hand; without one, they were dead in the hand.  What’s more, they were still costly; tributed Imps couldn’t replace themselves, and even Chalislime and Inception discarded.  Finally, in a touch of thematic whimsy, the Imps barred any Extra Deck summons while on the field.

To condense, they:

  • Bricked by themselves.
  • Were still costly.
  • Didn’t work with the Extra Deck.

Those About to Rock: Megalith

      

Starting in Ignition Assault, Konami released yet another Ritual archetype called Megalith.  Unlike Impcantation, which was mostly Effect monsters, Megalith was entirely composed of Ritual monsters.  They were unique in that they were able to Ritual Summon themselves, without a Ritual Spell, using their own effects.  The Ritual Spell they did use was also unique, summoning Rituals from the deck.  On their own, they were a nifty gimmick; however, astute duelists found ways to supplement them with other engines.  Block Dragon, which fueled so much advantage in Adamancipator, also worked wonders in Megalith, comprised of Rock monsters.  And the Synchro package, with cards like Crystron Halqifibrax, Martial Metal Marcher, and Herald of the Arc Light, raised the deck’s ceiling and give it more powerful end boards.

Again, let’s summarize the strengths that Megalith brought to the table:

  • Innovated new ways to Ritual Summon.
  • Tapped into a larger type synergy.
  • Made use of the Extra Deck.

But once again, this strategy wasn’t without its shortcomings.  Block Dragon gave a lot to the deck, but at that point, why play a Rock combo deck with Block Dragon when Adamancipator was way better?  And without Block Dragon, all the old Ritual weaknesses reared their heads again.  Similarly, why play a Halqifibrax engine when you could just play Combo Eldlich?  It’s an old path that many players will prepare for – and will get hit by the banlist too (goodbye Linkross).

In short,

  • It was just an inferior version of better decks.
  • It crumbled without those outside shared engines. 

Or to put it even simpler: despite having their own engine, Megaliths didn’t really have a unique identity.

The Final Frontier: Drytron

    

Now, let’s review the strengths of Impcantation and Megalith, and see how Drytron continued those paths:

  • Generic searches – Alpha and Zeta retained the Imps’ ability to search any Ritual Monster or Spell, streamlining consistency.
  • Tribute fodder – By staying on the field, and with Gamma bringing a Drytron back, the archetype makes sure that the Rituals always have fodder.
  • Recursion – All of the Drytrons can activate their effects from the graveyard, including the aforementioned Gamma reviving its brethren. Even Meteonis Drytron recurs itself, just as Inception did.
  • New Ritual Summons – By tributing for ATK instead of levels, Drytron reduces the cost of summoning, and extends the honor of fodder to monsters without levels, like Xyz and Links.
  • Type synergy – While not the same type, Drytron uses a Light Fairy package to amplify its abilities, starting from Cyber Angel Benten and ending in anything from Vanity’s Ruler to Artifact Lancea.
  • Extra Deck – With no Imp-like restrictions, Drytron could access key Extra Deck tools, particularly Union Carrier.

Now let’s see the weaknesses of the previous two decks and see how Drytron rectified them:

  • Bricking – Drytron don’t need a Ritual piece to search; they can search by themselves.
  • Cost – Again, with even more recursion and new Ritual techniques, Drytron cuts down on the cost and recycles its resources.
  • Extra Deck – See the above section.
  • In others’ shadow – Drytron’s engine has some techs, but it feels purely “Ritual.” Its primary engine is Ritual monsters and support. The endboard is its own monster, and other Ritual deck staples. No other deck turboes Vanity’s Ruler, or at least not like Drytron does.
  • Hot-seat cards – None of Drytron’s power cards are techs are old enemies like Block Dragon or Linkross. Indeed, the deck adds to the hate canon, by putting cards like Benten and Union Carrier under greater scrutiny.

Conclusion

I have long heralded the Ritual Revolution, partly in earnest, partly as a joke. To be honest, I don’t know when I expected Rituals to be really meta again, but I didn’t expect it to be now. I’m not complaining, though; it’s so good to see a Ritual deck competing at the highest level of Yugioh. When Konami started experimenting with Ritual support, I was cautiously hopeful. Even as I saw their shortcomings, the progress they made was undeniable. And it seems that in Drytron, their design has finally come to fruition.

Two questions remain now. First: how long will Drytron’s prominence last? Perhaps the meta will adapt to counter it. Perhaps Konami will ban a key card like Benten (Please, Konami, anyone but Benten). And second: is this a sign of more great Ritual decks to come? Perhaps, like its predecessors, Drytron will pave the way for more new Ritual archetypes to compete in the meta. Or perhaps, like the ice warriors of old, it will stand alone, an anomaly of its era. At the close of a year of darkness, a lone mountain of light blue suddenly emerges – only, perhaps, to disappear just as quickly.

PlacetMihi
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39 thoughts on “Ritual Revolution: The Rise of the 2020 Tier 1 Blues


  • Avatar
    January 28, 2021 at 1:22 pm

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    I have a friend who plays a drytron deck and the only way I’ve ever beaten it is either adams or eldlich numeron. I’ve got to hand it to drytron, it’s really good

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    January 28, 2021 at 1:43 pm

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    ^^^just go first with d-barrier

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    January 28, 2021 at 1:45 pm

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    Yup, Eldlich seems like the only way to beat drytron for me lol.

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    January 28, 2021 at 3:02 pm

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    Yeah eldich numeron is like, the ONLY way to kill this deck

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    January 28, 2021 at 3:04 pm

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    3 dimensionall barrier can easilly stop the deck

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    January 29, 2021 at 5:07 pm

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    My eldlich deck can eat drytrons. CRACKDOWN GO BRRRRR

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    January 29, 2021 at 5:24 pm

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    Once I sided in dimensional barrier and went first with sunavalon. I stopped them on their turn with d barrier. On my my turn I popped their field and otked

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    January 29, 2021 at 5:27 pm

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    As for crackdown, and all the other spells and traps, did y’all forget about mu-beta fafnir?

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    January 29, 2021 at 5:31 pm

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    Thats OCG and very conditional. Drytrons only play 1 machine ritual

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    January 29, 2021 at 5:47 pm

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    Well, it’s true that fafnir is ocg, but all the rituals are easily searchable, fafnir can be easily summoned within the deck with 3+ mats. It can pretty easily summoned with 5 mats, which, even after summoning 2 rituals with 2000+ attack, provides 1 s/t neg, with the decks decent draw+search capabilites, you can normally search out other forms of negations as well(the drytron trap, infinite impermiance, etc.). So I say fafnir is not “very conditional”.

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    January 29, 2021 at 5:55 pm

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    ok but that doesn’t really matter since it mills a dry and has other effects that are good

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    January 29, 2021 at 6:11 pm

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    Yes But I was talking about the spell/trap negate effect being conditional – the card is overall OP ngl but the negate eff is conditional

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:07 pm

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    Chad Drytron player here:
    D-Barrier does jack shit against most variants of Drytrons. We dump the Rituals like Benten to grave and turbo into Vanity’s, we don’t bother getting them onto the field. D-Barrier is useless against most variants and only affects a few.
    And about the funny XYZ: Yes, it’s broken. I haven’t playtested it yet, but even just from a base view, its broken. I plan on importing some copies.

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:14 pm

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    yeah me and my friend were draitron players way before you and yes it affects them lol

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:18 pm

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    I’ve been playing Drytrons since Genesis Impact came out, mate

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:20 pm

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    @henry barrier does effect drytrons but it does not stop them form ending on a RULER.

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:21 pm

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    barely, your last drytron decklist before you improved it was questionable at best, i’ve played them before they were even legal lol

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:21 pm

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    i’m aware

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:22 pm

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    Was still technically Drytrons, mate. I’m playing Vanity’s turbo now of course, a way better build.

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:22 pm

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    that dbarrier thing was a joke…………its mask of restrict kills drytron

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:23 pm

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    Best drytron counter is droll – drop droll and call gg

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:23 pm

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    Yeah but going second you are dead

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:25 pm

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    Also, is anyone else contemplating cutting Dawn Knight? He’s kinda just an extra brick when in hand and the middleman that could be cut. Would Eva still activate if it’s equipped to Union, and Union’s tributed?
    Also god i hate Droll, ban that little bird fucker

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:25 pm

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    a poor mans attempt at draitron

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:26 pm

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    yes it would trigger but you’re better of with the dry setup which is either gamma or another unused one, with the inclusion of the new xyz it’s gotten better and can make you play draconidas if possible

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:26 pm

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    BAN DROLL? LOL

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:32 pm

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    Hot take: Konami should ban meteornis drytron since it enables toxic ritual plays

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:33 pm

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    Hot take: ban rituals

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:33 pm

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    and they should just ban every card that came out after gx because the game just got worse after that ):<

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:33 pm

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    it really hasn’t done much for me since amazement search like once or twice

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:34 pm

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    Here me out, here me out. What if we *didnt* ban any of the Drytron cards yet because they literally just came out and we should give them a few formats to breath and show off the fact that Rituals can still contend, given the proper tools? And also, ban VFD lol

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:35 pm

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    ban VFD lol

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:36 pm

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    Ban frog the jam

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:37 pm

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    >
    >:(

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:37 pm

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    ban union carrier

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:38 pm

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    no don’t not yet

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:41 pm

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    limit benten

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:42 pm

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    you realise the format revisions will happen somewhere in march, 2 months is enough time for them to be at full power, besides with mu-beta there’s really no point in keeping it for now since you’re thinning your deck which you can put better stuff

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    January 29, 2021 at 8:49 pm

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    2 months isnt enough imo, they should get another format past march to really shine. I wanna bring them to actual locals but i’m fucked in that department, and i’m so weary of them being banned in the meantime. they deserve a few formats to shine, considering the state IRL tourneys are in

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