Back from the Dead: A History of Shaddolls

Almost six years agon, Duelist Alliance released. This set introduced three metagame-defining archetypes that would change the Yu-Gi-Oh! landscape forever: Qliphort, Burning Abyss, and most importantly Shaddoll. In such a fast-paced and ever-evolving game, who expected a deck from 2014 still to be relevant in 2020?

This deck was hyped from the start. With success in the OCG, the deck promised much. Did Shaddoll deliver success? And what form does it take nowadays?

A Deck from 2014 with Cards from Years Before

Unlike the text I wrote before about Burning Abyss, I can't start with a story about the real-life origin of the Shaddolls. Their story doesn't reference the culture of our world. Shaddolls were part of the official Yu-Gi-Oh! lore from the Duel Terminal games, and their story is quite interesting.

Out of the depths of darkness, a virus spawned. This virus had made its home in one of the previous heroes of the Duel Terminal lore, Gem-Knight Master Diamond. Master Diamond had been revived after previous battles and was turned into the evil Cairngorgon, Antiluminescent Knight. Beating foe after foe, Cairngorgon eventually had enough power to turn into the first Shaddoll, Shaddoll Core.

Shaddoll Core gave birth to previously fallen heroes of the war. Small and big critters, known from famous archetypes. The Shaddolls had a mission. Their goal was to return to the Naturia Sacred Tree. This tree was the source of life in the universe, and would have reborn the Shaddolls to their original form. However, their path was destructive. Destroying everyone and everything in their wake.

shaddoll core gem-knight lapis el shaddoll construct

This triggered the Yang Zing, dragons of light and guardians of the tree, to come and stop the Shaddolls. The Shaddolls and Yang Zing battled it out, with Shaddoll nearly beating the Yang Zing and even taking over some forms. Then, a new Yang Zing was born. Chiwen, Light of the Yang Zing came falling out of the sky, connecting the stars and earth. Taking the power of the fallen Yang Zing and those still standing, Baxia, Brightness of the Yang Zing was born.

Baxia, Brightness of the Yang Zing sinister shadow games shaddoll dragon

After the birth of Baxia, a group of warriors came down from the stars to join the Yang Zing in battle. Descendants from Constellars, the Satellars joined the fight. In the heat of the battle, Satellarknight Unukalhai lost the fight to the Shaddoll Core and turned into Shaddoll Squamata. Together with Bixi, Water of the Yang Zing that turned into Jiaotu, Darkness of the Yang Zing, Squamata and Jiaotu turned into Yazi, Evil of the Yang Zing.

yazi, evil of the yang zing stellarknight triverr el shaddoll grysta

The Satellarknights were unable to save the Yang Zing, and the war suddenly turned. Both evil Yang Zings and Shaddolls were fighting the Satellarknights now. The Shaddolls took the opportunity, and took the power of the Yang Zing to fuse it together and make El Shaddoll Grysta from the remains of Cairngorgon. The Satellars were losing ground quickly. One of the Satellars, Satellarknight Sirius had fallen. To prevent it from turning into a Shaddoll, Satellarknight Betelgeuse took his power and fused into Stellarknight Triverr. Even with this newfound power, the Shaddolls were still too strong.

Losing ground rapidly, the Stellarknights retreated to the Sacred Tree, now joined by the locals of the world, the Ritual Beasts and the Nekroz. The forces all clashed at the Sacred Tree. El Shaddoll Wendigo was created, made from the former Ritual Beast Tamer Wen. Winda, Priestess of Gusto came back to life as well, creating the rider of El Shaddoll Winda. However, the Battle turned quickly. After the allies defeated El Shaddoll Grysta, the power of the Yang Zing returned to the Sacred Tree. This gave the tree power to wake up yet another force, the Qliphort. These Qliphort were guardians of the tree. After their awakening they immediately went after the Shaddolls.

laser qlip saqlifice Apoqliphort Towers

In one final effort to end the war, the Apoqliphort Towers went in to restrain El Shaddoll Construct, the leader of the Shaddolls. Using its last power, El Shaddoll Construct fused with the tower to create El Shaddoll Shekhinaga. This move was finally stopped by the Nekroz using their power of the Ice Dragons to freeze Shekhinaga in time. After this the Shaddoll were leaderless and were quickly destroyed by the Qliphort. In one last move, El Shaddoll Winda used her last powers to recharge an enemy from the depths. The Infernoid were awakened.

El Shaddoll Shekhinaga nephe shaddoll fusion void seer

This is where the story of the Shaddolls ends.

Alliance of the Duelists

Now back to the actual game. Duelist Alliance released in August 2014, bringing three competitive decks to the game. The Shaddolls are a fusion archetype. They feature many dark spellcaster main deck flip monsters that have effects that activate when they are sent to the graveyard by a card effect. They fuse together with monsters from different attributes.

At release they had two "boss" monsters. El Shaddoll Construct was made with a Shaddoll and a light monster. On special summon, she can send a Shaddoll card from the deck to the graveyard. When Construct battles, she destroys the monster at the start of the damage step if it's special summoned. Her last effect is that when she leaves the field, she can add back one Shaddoll spell/trap from the graveyard to the hand. El Shaddoll Winda is quite different. Her continuous effect is that both players can only special summon once per turn. She also had the effect to add back a Shaddoll spell/trap from the graveyard to the hand.

With El Shaddoll Winda being oppressive and hard to out (being a 2200 attacker) and Construct not being killable by special summoned monsters (also being 2800 attack) the deck was looking quite strong. They were extremely easy to access by Shaddoll Fusion. If your opponent had an extra deck monster, you can fusion summon by using materials from your deck. This made matchups like Burning Abyss really easy to win.

shaddoll fusion white dragon wyverburster

The only problem the deck had is that it needed other attribute cards to be ran. At the start, the baby chaos dragons White Dragon Wyverburster and Black Dragon Collapserpent were amazing picks. Together with tech like Eclipse Wyvern and Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning the chaos lists where quite popular. With more releases the deck got more support and in The Next Challengers Shaddolls got their quickplay spell card El Shaddoll Fusion. This allowed the deck to trap opponents in an El Shaddoll Winda during their turn, winning the game almost instantly.

More and More Support

With each consecutive release Shaddolls got more support. They eventually got another fusion spell, an equip card named Nephe Shaddoll Fusion. This was supposed to help summoning their new attribute fusion monsters, El Shaddoll Grysta, El Shaddoll Shekhinaga, and El Shaddoll Wendigo. They, however, did not quite do the trick and hardly entered any competitive Shaddoll decklist. The last fusion monster they got was El Shaddoll Anoyatyllis. This card proved to be quite powerful against Nekroz, like it was almost specifically designed to counter the deck.

With new support and new sets, more and more cards entered the card pool — and decks. Denko Sekka appeared in some main decks, replacing the traps and focusing on going second. Super Polymerization got banned that format, likely because Shaddolls could easily make use of the card. Eventually the Performages arrived, and the Clown Shaddoll deck was born. This was the last competitive Shaddoll deck we'd be seeing for a while. The deck was getting more powerful each release. With the addition of Performage Trick Clown and Performage Damage Juggler, the deck would often generate two/three-card one turn kills. Eventually, El Shaddoll Construct was banned, killing the deck off.

denko sekka performage damage juggler

New Cards, Old Deck

Flash forward to May 4, 2019. The time has finally come. Construct is back. Wait a minute, she isn't at all. It's the release of Flames of Destruction. In this set, the new Shaddoll link monster has arrived. Shaddoll Construct. This card basically does nothing for the deck, except being funny when you forget to write the "El" word on your deck list.

What we should skip ahead to instead is January 13. El Shaddoll Construct got limited to one. This also did nothing for the deck. Although fun and nice to see, there still was no consistency nor power. But then, out of the blue, the Structure Deck: Shaddoll Showdown was announced. With the recent limitation on Construct, this deck was going to blow Shaddolls out of the water. And it did. On February 13 the structure deck hit store shelves, bringing with it a new powerful fusion monster, El Shaddoll Apkallone, and two new main deck monsters in Reeshaddoll Wendi and Naelshaddoll Ariel. New cards, and also a new banlist. El Shaddoll Construct was released at three. For the first time since 2015 Shaddolls was at full power.

el shaddoll apkallone reeshaddoll wendi

Together with Invoked, another new fusion archetype, the deck was officially brought back from the dead — this time to stay. The Invoked Shaddoll decklists proved to be really strong, topping YCSs left and right to no surprise. With new easy one turn kills, powerful turn one setups and more consistency, Shaddoll was in the best place it has ever been.

Shaddolls are finally back, a deck beloved by many for being incredibly fun and strong; a fan favorite for many, hated by almost none. It's good to see the deck come back to glory so triumphantly. It might not be that good this format, but I'm sure we haven't seen the last of the Shadow dolls just yet. Just wait and see.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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vBenni(14.10.2020 08:36)

Duelist Alliance released 3 Meta Decks, yes.
But the 3rd one was Tellarknight, not Qliphort.
Otherwise good article but a decklist would have been nice.

tatsym(14.10.2020 12:34)

VBenni i keep forgetting scout was from nech, but i'll never recognise satellars as a meta deck

JinzoMark(13.10.2020 16:51)

Nice article!
Love the YCS Utrecht 'El' shaddol Construct easteregg xD

RyanAtlus(13.10.2020 13:48)

Pleasant read, such a shame the Duel Terminal lore was never easily available in TCG territories!