A Study in Nekroz
- Sherif Lewis
With The Secret Forces in February 2015, Nekroz instantly became not only a fan-favorite, but also the deck to beat right upon release. It was the one of the first ritual themes and Konami did a great job creating this powerful blue archetype. That was five years ago though. Where does the deck stand right now?
A Little Bit of History
Before Nekroz were introduced to the game, the ritual mechanic was the least viable one. You had to have the ritual monster in hand along with the ritual spell card that is specifically made for that card, on top of needing a monster or monsters whose total levels equal or exceed those of the monster you are trying to ritual summon. It was just not worth it to invest all these resources to summon a single monster. The release of cards such as Advanced Ritual Art in 2007's Strike of Neos and Preparation of Rites in 2009's Stardust Overdrive booster pack were a step in the right direction. They made it easier respectively to use materials from deck and to search your monsters.
The first proper ritual theme was Gishki, which the Nekroz deck is related to as part of the Duel Terminal Lore. Nekroz then arrived and immediately asserted its dominance over the metagame at the time, taking many of the top spots in many tournaments. Djinn Releaser of Rituals was a card that made the deck extremely unfair back then and it eventually earned a banning. Another amazing support card is Herald of the Arc Light, introduced in 2014 in The New Challengers set. Each of the above support cards came together and were incorporated in Nekroz decks, giving it the tools needed to take the meta by storm.
Like we are accustomed to, all top decks get some form of eventual hit on the banlist. Nekroz received so many hits, but finally all its cards were unbanned and re-released into the card pool. During this period, Impcantation monsters were introduced into the game, giving Ritual decks an amazing boost of consistency. Even with cards still restricted, Nekroz was suddenly a lot more viable to play. The other viable version of Nekroz is one that utilizes our usual suspect Crystron Halqifibrax with a Deskbot engine to steer the deck into combo territory: possibly ending on a board that prohibits your opponent from using the effects of Extra Deck Monsters and from Special Summoning in the first place.
What Can the Nekroz Cards Do?
Let's do a quick rundown of the important Nekroz cards. Each of the ritual Nekroz monsters has two effects, one that can be activated from hand and the other from the field. Nekroz of Brionac is your main searcher. You discard it to add any other Nekroz monster from deck to your hand. Its second effect allows you to target up to two Extra Deck Monsters on the field and return them to the Extra Deck. Next, we have Nekroz of Clausolas which you can discard to search for any Nekroz spell or trap card. (Funnily enough there are no Nekroz trap cards, but who knows what the future holds.) Clausolas has a second on-field effect, allowing you to negate the effect of a monster that was summoned from the Extra Deck in addition to bringing its attack points down to zero.
Next we have Nekroz of Valkyrus which can be discarded from hand while banishing a Nekroz card from grave to stop an attack and end the battle phase; or it can tribute two monsters from the field — including itself even — to draw two cards. Another relevant card is Nekroz of Trishula. Its first effect is the ability to discard it to negate any effect that targets a face up Nekroz monster. Its second effect allows you to banish one card each from your opponent's hand, field, and Graveyard. Beware, however, that unlike Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, your opponent must have cards in hand, deck, and Graveyard in order for the effect to resolve. That is the main reason why in mirror matches at the deck's zenith Nekroz players used to trigger Valkyrus to clear their field after the battle phase: to protect themselves from a possible Trishula the following turn.
Then we have Nekroz of Unicore which can trade itself from hand for any Nekroz card in your grave, and while on the field it negates the effects of all monsters summoned from the Extra Deck. The last important Nekroz ritual monster is Nekroz of Gungnir, which can protect a Nekroz monster on the field from destruction by battle or card effect. Its on-field effect is to discard a Nekroz card from hand to destroy a card on the field. The only non-ritual Nekroz worth mentioning is Shurit, Strategist of the Nekroz. This card counts as the entire required material for the ritual summon of a Nekroz monster, and once it is used in that manner, you can trigger its second effect to add a Warrior-type Nekroz monster from deck to hand.
Lastly, we have the three ritual spell cards which can be used to summon any Nekroz monster. Nekroz Cycle can ritual summon a Nekroz monster from hand or Graveyard using monsters from the hand or field. Meanwhile, Nekroz Mirror allows you to ritual summon from hand by tributing monsters from hand and/or field in addition to giving you the option to banish Nekroz monsters in your Graveyard too. The last ritual spell is Nekroz Kaleidoscope. You can tribute monsters from your hand/field or you can send one monster from your Extra Deck to Graveyard to summon as many Nekroz Ritual monsters from your hand whose total levels are equal to that monster's. All three ritual cards have a secondary effect, which is to banish it along with a Nekroz monster from the Graveyard to add a Nekroz spell card from your deck to your hand. But this effect can only be activated when you have no monsters on the field.
How to Play the Deck Now
There are currently two ways to play the deck, as we mentioned earlier. The first method is to use the Impcantation monsters not only to add to the deck's consistency, but this version also allows you to utilize cards such as Zaborg the Mega Monarch. The idea is that you trigger one Impcantation monster from your hand, summoning it to the field along with another one from your deck. Zaborg would then be normal summoned using those two monsters and it will destroy itself to send up to eight monsters from both players' Extra Deck to the Graveyard. You even get to choose which cards your opponent sends. In doing so, you can trigger three copies of Herald of the Arc Light along with possibly a Toadally Awesome to add any Nekroz monster in your Graveyard to hand since they are all Water monsters. If your opponent has any cards on the field, Elder Entity N'tss can trigger in the Graveyard to destroy it. Another possible target is PSY-Framelord Omega to recycle a card back to your deck.
If you do not want to play Zaborg, you can replace it with other options such as Vanity's Fiend, which locks both players out of special summoning. Another option is either Vanity's Ruler or Archlord Kristya. Both cards accomplish similar goals by locking special summons and they are both searchable via Cyber Angel Benten, which you trigger when you tribute it for the ritual summon of a Nekroz monster.
The second way to play the deck is one that utilizes Deskbot 003 and Deskbot 001 to start link-climbing into Crystron Halqifibrax and Mecha Phantom Beast Auroradon. This way you fill your field with tokens that you tune with Deskbot 001 to Synchro Summon multiple copies of Herald of the Arc Light which are later used as XYZ materials for the purpose of searching your Nekroz pieces along with Benten. The end board is generally four or five monsters that include Auroradon, Archlord Krystia, and Nekroz of Unicore while having Valkyrus and Trishula in hand to protect the Unicore. This version is prone to weaker opening hands at times. However, if left unopposed, it can produce a board that is very difficult for other decks to respond to.
Nekroz is a somewhat fragile deck and is threatened by hand traps and floodgates. The most effective ones against it are Droll & Lock Bird and Mistake since the strategy relies heavily on searching from the deck. Naturia Beast and Masked HERO Dark Law are also cards that are difficult to play around. Furthermore, any cards that restrict special summoning such as Vanity's Fiend or the Barrier Statues will probably render the deck unplayable.
The deck is nowhere near as dominating as it used to be during its prime, but it's slowly seeing a resurgence. Only time will tell what it will end up achieving on the competitive landscape. For now it remains a fun strategy with a lot of potential. Of course that might soon change when the archetype known in the OCG as Dragma arrives. That deck will basically be played the same as Deskbot Nekroz, just with more consistency and the ability to search a Dragma monster that can special summon itself on your opponent's turn to negate the effect of a face-up monster on the field. I do not know if the deck will be tier one or not, but a lot of other decks might struggle against it.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.