Speed Duels are experiencing a critical moment. Two months after an exciting rollout, the initial hype behind the starter deck release has all but evaporated. The first set, Arena of Lost Souls, has been out for 2 months. We’re now firmly in the optimization stage of competitive play. Unfortunately, like early Duel Links, there’s both a buy-in cost and not enough data to figure out what’s good.
That’s where we come in! Over the past several weeks, I’ve gathered a reasonable amount of data from the few events that HAVE been held, the occasional tournaments hosted on Facebook and Discord, reports from locals, insight from dedicated speed duels communities, and personal testing. Hopefully, this represents a pretty close guess at the nonexistent metagame. At the very least, it should provide a jumping-off point for duelists excited to try out the format competitively.
So, with the understanding that these are far more anecdotal and subjective than our usual meta snapshots, let’s jump in.
Table of Contents
Skill: Dragon Caller
I’ve been an extremely vocal proponent that “sky-is-falling” players fearing a tier 0 Blue-Eyes meta were misguided. While I still believe the deck is beatable, it’s almost undeniable that Dragon Caller is currently the best deck.
Dragon Caller has surpassed its tier 1 teammate, Tribal Synergy, almost singlehandedly through the rise of Twister. Twister is so oppressively strong against so many strategies that’s it’s often played at 3 in maindecks. Dragon Caller’s whopping 0 Twister targets affords it a unique position as “the best deck that doesn’t lose to Twister.” Add in the innate targeting protection of Lord of D. and its natural immunity to its best counter, Michizure, and it’s hard to argue against Dragon Caller’s dominance.
This deck also boasts a significant amount of build variation. The most popular build plays 2-turn setups with Blue Dragon Summoner and Champion’s Vigilance. If you expect a significant amount of backrow at your LGS, pivot to versions with Twin-Headed Behemoth and Stamping Destruction. If you find yourself among grind-game decks, bumping up your Flute of Summoning Dragon count and supplementing the deck with additional Tyrant Dragons is an easy way to do an impression of an aggro deck.
Skill: Tribal Synergy
Lo, how the mighty have fallen. Tribal Synergy, the best strategy from starter deck format, will now have to be satisfied with second place.
Previously unrivaled in resource generation, removal options, and flexibility, the deck has recently taken a nosedive in play-ability. Firstly, its decision to trade mediocre monsters for draws was defensible due to the extremely shallow monster pool. Secondly, it owed its ability to consistently beat Dragon Caller to both Amazoness Heirloom as well as the ability to find multiple copies of Amazoness Swords Woman with Amazoness Village. Unfortunately, every one of these setups relies on cards that are shockingly vulnerable to Twister.
While the deck has remained a power player, it has become a liability to pursue winning lines that rely on Amazoness Heirloom or Amazoness Village. As a result, sideboards are shifting towards battle-trap control, replacing easy two-for-ones with Sphere Kuribohs and Kunai with Chains. Builds that eschew the Tribal Synergy Skill entirely for more Amazoness monsters have also seen success in speed duels at the local level.
Relinquished is an unlucky duelist’s deck. While it’s unable to match the explosiveness of Dragon Caller or the draw power of Tribal Synergy, it has a better matchup spread than either of them. This consistency across matchups propels Pegasus’ prize to the top of tier 2.
Relinquished is a deck that’s routinely underrepresented for a number of reasons – most notably, because it’s exceptionally difficult to play. Because it often mounts next to no offensive pressure, new players will struggle against Tribal Synergy. Against these advantage-oriented decks, you’ll be aiming to deal with every monster they own and eventually deck them out. It’s got a decent Dragon Caller plan, as well: Sphere Kuriboh and its fellow battle traps usually means you will be able to engineer a scenario where you can equip both Lord of D. and its dragon buddies over the course of a match.
Relinquished is missing exactly two cards from its maindeck lineup. If you expect a significant amount of Dragon Caller, play Half Shut. Consider Wild Tornado to consistently beat Tribal Synergy. Finally, if you’d like a catch-all that triggers Destiny Draw, Amazoness Chain Master is worth a look.
Skill: Tomb of the Pharaoh
Gravekeeper is a deck that’s hard to place. Its access to a tribal Vanity’s Emptiness takes a backseat to its more optimal gameplan – swarming the field with 1900-attack monsters. Its incredible build diversity, exceptional grind game, and ease of OTKing earns it a spot in tier 2.
Now that the long nightmare of having to unironically jam Gravekeeper’s Priestess is over, Gravekeeper decks can play good cards. By punishing opponents who overextend with Gravekeeper’s Oracle and turning the usual 2-for-1s of Michizure into 1-for-1s with Gravekeeper’s Recruiter, this deck can make use of a significant pool of underplayed and unexpected cards. Like Tribal Synergy, it excels at putting out pressure, but unlike Tribal Synergy, it doesn’t matter much if you Twister the Necrovalley.
Like most decks, you’ll be building either for Dragon Caller or for everything else. Sphere Kuriboh, Kunai with Chain, and even Hidden Temples of Necrovalley are all considerations. This strategy represents the first top deck that forgoes battle traps in favor of more impactful options like Rite of Spirit and Michizure, so keep that philosophy in mind when brewing.
Harpies is a deck that takes advantage of the fact that spell and trap destruction is exceptionally rare and exceptionally valuable. While the deck is playable, it’s still only coherent enough to earn it the top spot in tier 3.
Despite the innate power of Harpies’ Hunting Ground, some critical weaknesses prevent this strategy from excelling. Unlike almost every other deck in the format, it has the potential to brick on multiple copies of Elegant Egotist and Harpie Lady Sisters. It doesn’t mount a convincing defense to format standards like Tyrant Dragon or Champion’s Vigilance. Finally, the widespread use of Twister (and expected use of Dust Tornado) tends to take the teeth out of a build-around Mystical Space Typhoon. Despite this, the deck definitely boasts reasonable across-the board winrates – provided you draw Harpie’s Hunting Ground.
Builds are all but standard by now though some find space for a small Amazoness suite to make use of Tribal Synergy.
Skill: Straight to the Grave
Decayed Commander is another in the line of speed duels’ “utility-monsters-from-2005-do-their-best-impression-of-win-conditions” style decks.
This one attempts to assemble a board of a Decayed Commander equipped with a Zombie Tiger, an attack from which is usually enough to steal the game by virtue of their combined effects. Their combined attack is also just a little too large for anything but Blue-Eyes to consistently get over. Like Gravekeepers, several fringe-playables like Michizure are right at home in this strategy. Unfortunately, the rise of Twister has been as devastating for this deck as it has been for Tribal Synergy.
This deck will likely see more play in the coming months, as the better generic battle traps and additional Zombie Support in Attack from the Deep will bolster its play-ability.
The upcoming set will obviously change this metagame. Having said that, I expect every deck above to remain playable. Hopefully this provides you the framework necessary to dip your toes in the water of speed duels before the release of Attack from the Deep.