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As this format comes to a close, let’s take a look at one of the most popular decks currently. Eldlich and its many variants took the game by storm with the release of Secret Slayers. Rivaled only by Adamancipators, the deck that puts out unbreakable boards every game.
But how did this deck that most were expecting to be T2 become so dominant? How did it surpass all the other trap-heavy control decks available?
Many duelists were excited for yet another Zombie archetype hitting the game. There was already a ton of good support readily available, such as Uni-zombie and the Zombie World package. Many people were thinking about how to take advantage of these cards together. The Eldlich archetype seemed all too welcoming to its type-sharers too. Eldlixir of Scarlet Sanguine and all the other archetypal S/Ts worked with regular zombies depending on the conditions.
Most of the hype at first was surrounding Eldlixir Of Black Awakening and Golden Land Forever!. It was difficult to think that an Archetype with an Emergency Teleport and Infernity Barrier could be bad. But most variants run fewer and fewer copies of those two cards.
As a standalone build, it was difficult to not compare it to Altergeist. Even if all the cards recycled themselves, generating pluses as they were spent, they seemed to lack the individual power of cards like Altergeist Protocol and Altergeist Multifaker. However, the results surprised us when Edlich officially came out in Japan in early March.
With the release of Secret Slayers in Japan, Eldlich quickly proved to be the most competitive out of the pack. There were three major contributing factors, the first being how easily it could play around the format-warping Maxx “C”.
Following closely behind were two cards that are currently limited in the TCG, but completely unrestricted in Japan. Reasoning allowed the deck to put an Eldlich on board much more efficiently than any of the other methods. All Eldlich cards will gain card advantage after being milled. Any Golden Land or Eldlixir card being sent to the GY this way would translate to an even scarier board. This focus on mills even led to some Paleozoic variants, as cards like Toadally Awesome and Paleozoic Dinosmichus would provide a further power boost to the deck.
Skill Drain being at three was the next contributing factor (and to a lesser degree, Vanity’s Emptyness being at one). Obviously, the deck whose main monster is effectively a vanilla on the field would want to max out on it. No reason not to abuse a card that wins games by itself.
However, the deck didn’t reach high levels of repesentation. With Thunder Dragon, Orcust, Salamangreat and Sky Striker at full power, it was difficult for it to flourish as much as it would on the TCG. The deck also had to directly compete with the ever-popular Altergeist, who had just gotten two pieces of support. Altergeist Pookuery and Linkross boosted the deck even further and it could similarly take advantage of Skill Drain. Even so, it was still the most represented of all the Secret Slayers archetypes.
Arrival on the TCG
The archetype ended up hitting the TCG around a month later. At the early stages of its release, there was already much speculation and many expected great things out of Eldlich.
However, April couldn’t be a worse time for competitive Yu-Gi-Oh. Covid-19 hit the entire world and demolished the YGO scene. With all events and even locals canceled, it seemed as if Eldlich would have to wait. This created a vacuum, as there was not a shortage of players eager to use the new cards.
The Perfect Storm
With YCSs and other kinds of events being postponed indefinitely, online tournaments began to pop up. Though PPG and the Crush Card Cup ended up becoming the most popular, there were many communities trying to capitalize on everyone being stuck at home.
These online matches factored out cost, one of the biggest limiting factors of building a deck. It’s important to point out how expensive Eldlich the Golden Lord became, costing as much as $100 for a copy. This led to new and interesting (but also costly) strategies.
Due to the size of the engine, generic zombie support did not fit Eldlich. Pure Eldlich ran mostly Eldlich cards and handtraps for a chance at going second. What put them apart from the Japanese builds was the card that wrecked the TCG’s last format: Magicians’ Souls. Getting draws while setting up your GY is too good to pass up on. The deck had a clear advantage over other control strategies due to how quickly it could end games. Superdreadnought Rail Cannon Juggernaut Lieb would capitalize on weak boards and quickly OTK.
The Invoked variant outshined the former build. For a deck that doesn’t need its Normal Summon, Aleister The Invoker fits like a glove. There were also some significant synergies between the archetypes. Eldlich is a light type, which means you could kill two birds with one stone by using Invocation. Not only would you get an Invoked Mechaba on the field, but you would also send the Golden Lord to the graveyard. As an added bonus, you could send Magical Meltdown to the GY to Special Summon it for free. This setup allowed the archetype to raise its ceiling while also getting rid of its biggest flaws. Having to minus yourself to get Eldlich out was a thing of the past.
Even with Reasoning at one, people still saw how much value mills could net you. This led to a Lightsworn variant. Raiden, Hand of the Lightsworn and Charge of the Light Brigade both allow you to quickly flood your graveyard with Eldlich cards. The other big benefit was Raiden himself being a tuner, possibly allowing for Crystron Halqifibrax plays. The true value of Halqifibrax in the deck wasn’t clear yet though. On the weeks leading up to ETCO, Invoked Eldlich was the most popular and apparently strongest variant.
The Final Phase
With ETCO coming out, it looked as if Eldlich’s main rival was ready to completely outclass it. The release of Linkross on the TCG further raised the ceiling of what Adamancipator could do. At first, it seemed as if all Eldlich had gained was a good way to turbo out Accesscode Talker.
A combo widely used in Japan involved link climbing into it by using Halqifibrax and Selene, Queen of the Master Magicians. The tuner needed for the combo could be either Raiden on the Lightsworn variants or Effect Veiler. However, switching from Infinite Impermanence to Veiler would soon become the smallest change the deck had made.
Aleister and Raiden would soon be completely outclassed due to Linkross combos. By NS’ing Jet Synchron, the Eldlich player could perform an elaborate combo through Halqifibrax and Mecha Phantom Beast Auroradon. The combo leaves you with Borreload Savage Dragon and Herald of the Arc Light. Two negates and a semi-Macro Cosmos off a single NS was nothing to scoff at. Getting that much value out of its Normal Summon was something other engines just couldn’t compete with. There were also additional routes that provided immense draw power. Formula Synchron, T.G. Hyper Librarian and Ravenous Crocosaur could make you draw as much as four cards at once.
Soon almost all Eldlich players began to run this Synchro variant, though Invoked still had some minor representation. The line had a couple of nuances to it. Jet Synchron’s effect sends an Eldlich card to the graveyard. There’s also the fact the Golden Lord can Special Summon itself by sending the card equipped to Borreload Savage. And to top it all off, Tuning not only just searched Jet but also milled a card for free. With ample Extra Deck space to spare, they could also do the combo twice in a single game. This combination also made the deck a nightmare to side against. The combo and trap parts of the deck didn’t interfere with each other. Siding for one might just leave you unable to deal with the other.
People expected Eldlich to make some waves, but who could’ve guessed it would reach this level? Eldlich evolved as much in a few weeks than entire archetypes did in multiple formats. The changes it saw just between online tournament rounds were unlike anything YGO had seen before. It’d be like Orcust going into Sky Striker Orcust in a single YCS. There’s no doubt the deck still has room for experimentation too. But where will it go from here? That’s something only the top players of the format can answer.