The Travels of the Burning Abyss

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

At first, nobody thought much of the new strategy. But it quickly became famous and hasn't missed a format since. What happened to Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss and all his Malebranches?

A Deck from 2014 and a Book from 1320

In the year 1320 the world-famous writer Dante Alighieri wrote the Divine Comedy. The book reflected on life at the time, with philosophic, scientific, historic, and religious themes. The story was about Dante himself, and how he was banished from his home country. Living abroad, he missed the love of his life, Beatrice, and could not be with her. In the Divine Comedy, he was going to search for a way to be reunited with his love.

At the start of the book, Dante is being guided by the Greek poet Vergilius on a trip through hell. There they undertake several efforts to help Dante, and the reader, grow as a person. After hell they go to purgatory, the place between heaven and hell. After another long travel, they end up in heaven where Dante finally reunites with his loved one. The book itself is quite big, and these two paragraphs are not even remotely close to giving an adequate summary. If you love poetic books, be sure to look this one up.

dante, traveler of the burning abyss virgil, Rock Star of the burning abyss beatrice, Lady of the Eternal

But how does this relate to a card game in 2014? Well, the people at Konami design their own art and cards, but they do take inspiration from popular culture. We have a Star Wars deck, pirates, Invokers, and much more. One day, the team simply decided to use the Divine Comedy. Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss is of course the writer Dante Alighieri. He's joined by Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss as the tour guide in the underworld, also known as Vergilius. And the love of Dante's life, Beatrice, is being featured as Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal.

In one of the first chapters of the book, Dante and Virgil meet the Malebranches: twelve demons in hell that torture the souls of those unfortunate enough to be there. They all have very catchy Italian names, like Alichino, Barbariccia, Cagnazzo, Calcabrina, Ciriatto, Draghignazzo, Farfarello, Graffiacane, Libicocco, Rubicante, Scarmiglione, and Malacoda, their leader. These names are already extremely long. Iif you have to write all of them fully on your decklist combined with "Malebranche of the Burning Abyss," you'll eventually just play a different deck. The names of all the monsters except Malacoda where shortened to simpler things like Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, and Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss.

rubic, malebranche of the burning abyss fire lake of the burning abyss

So, we have Dante, Virgil, Beatrice, and a bunch of demons. This was the entire Burning Abyss theme. The spells/traps depict various events from the book, like Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss where the Malebranche torture their victims and The Terminus of the Burning Abyss where Dante ascends and meets his love.

Back to the Future

In August 2014, Duelist Alliance was revealed. Back then, each set had a TCG exclusive archetype. The one of that year was Burning Abyss. When the set released, no one knew what the Burning Abyss were or what they were going to do. The set included five cards: Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss, Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, and The Traveler and the Burning Abyss. Dante sold for a mere ten euros on release, being a secret rare, and people just liked the archetype because it looked cool.

It didn't take long until people found out the deck was extremely good though. Turns out, level three fiends are easily summoned by Tour Guide From the Underworld. And with other good cards like Crane Crane and Mathematician, the deck performed incredibly well. Everyone quickly understood that the effect of Dante, to mill three cards as a cost, was really good and strong. It was super easy to make one or two Dante's turn one and get huge advantages. Combined with the Rank-Up spell card Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force your Dante could change into a Constellar Pleiades and your Grenosaurus into Number 61: Volcasaurus. All and all the deck was looking pretty good with only five cards released.

Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force tour guide from the underworld scarm, malebranche of the burning abyss
On the 6th of November, The New Challengers was released. This set brought five more Burning Abyss cards to the table. Three Malebranche, Alich, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, Calcab, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, and Rubic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss as well as Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss and Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss. Virgil had quite the entrance, being a strong, easy to summon monster that removes cards from the field.

But the most important card of the set was easily Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss. This card sends two Burning Abyss monsters from the field to the grave as a cost, to target up to three cards your opponent controls and destroys them. This completely obliterated the backrow of Satellarknights and the scales of Qliphort. And after it resolves, your monsters just float into new ones.

From this point on the releases got less impactful. Secrets of Eternity brought us the powerful Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss but wasted its boss monster slot on Malacoda, Netherlord of the Burning Abyss. A clunky ritual monster with a less-than-stellar effect. Crossed Souls brought Barbar, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, who would later be one of the win conditions of the deck by burning in time. But again, the rest of the set was lackluster. For some reason crossed souls only gave four new support cards instead of five.

Barbar, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss karma cut

With each set the deck evolved and evolved, from Dante Spam to Fire Lake Control to graveyard-focused strategy. Burning Abyss was solid and easily a contender for the best deck at the time. With discarding traps like Phoenix Wing Wind Blast and Karma Cut, the deck controlled the field through advantage and spam ability.

Finishing Up the Story

But then, in 2016, Dante finally reunited with his love. Premium Gold: Infinite Gold brought us Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal. This Rank Six Xyz can be Xyz summoned by discarding a Malebranche while you control a Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss. Then you overlay Beatrice over the Dante, transferring any Xyz materials. Her effect is simple and effective: during either players turn, you can detach one material to send one card from the deck to the grave. When Beatrice gets destroyed, she summons a Burning Abyss monster from the extra deck, ignoring its summoning conditions. This was the first time Dante, Pilgrim of the Burning Abyss was actually summoned. But all jokes aside, Beatrice gave Burning Abyss new life, being able to send Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss to disrupt the opponents' play.

Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss

But what a life it was. Mirrors left and right, with three Beatrice without materials on the field. Turns out, Burning Abyss can't out its own fusion boss monster or a Beatrice without destroying it. This meta was unique and fun. People were teching Enemy Controller to steal Dantes and Beatrices. It was fun but tiresome. It all ended when Beatrice was put to one on the ban list. At this time, Graff, Cir, and Beatrice are all at one. But the deck is still going.

Then, from out of nowhere — except for the knowledge we had from the OCG — in late 2019 the Burning Abyss Link monster arrived. Cherubini, Ebon Angel of the Burning Abyss finally came to the TCG. This card helped the struggling archetype find more consistency in these times since the deck suffered in the link format. With all the Malebranches dying to other names, and no Burning Abyss link to be seen, the deck definitely needed this card. And it arrived with a bang. Just not the bang we expected.

Cherubini, Ebon Angel of the Burning Abyss

On February 25, 2020, Matteo Bertulezzi took second place at YCS Utrecht with Burning Abyss. But it was not like any of the trap decks or Dante decks we'd come to know. Matteo made 3.5 axis dragon link. Using the generic Cherubini to combo off, playing only two Tour Guides, one Graff, and one Cir. The Burning Abyss deck had become an engine. Cherubini could send Carboneddon to the grave, which then summoned a dragon from the deck, to continue the combo and end on a full dragon link board with multiple negates through the help of Rokkets. With zero Dantes in the extra deck, Cherubini did not bring back the glorious pure Burning Abyss decks. It merely helped the decks that used Burning Abyss as an engine.

At release, Burning Abyss was a trap deck that filled its grave quickly. Later it became a deck spamming level three monsters with Speedroid Terrortop and the Phantom Knights. Then, when That Grass Looks Greener came around, the graveyard deck arrived together with Fairy Tail - Snow. After the ban of Grass, the deck struggled. Later it reconfigured itself around Orcust format, with the help of cards like Fabled Soulkius and Destiny HERO - Malicious to hard-cast Beatrice by overlaying two level six monsters. But now, the traps are too slow, Malicious is at two, and Orcust's generic theme has left the party.

fabled soulkius destiny hero - malicious fairy tail - snow

A Bright Future

But all hope is not lost or gone. Dante is well known to come around eventually, and usually twice as hard. The deck innovated so many times over the years. I've played it since release, and I have probably made around twenty different styles of decks during that time. I wish I was exaggerating. Unfortunately, the power level of the deck is just too low currently. With Beatrice being easily outed and countered, and with no help from new archetypes, the deck is just lacking slightly. We recently saw an Eldlich Burning Abyss list pop up, abusing Dante's mill effect, but it was just not as good as the pure lists.

However, there is hope. Ryan Yu recently topped a bunch of online tournaments with a pure Burning Abyss list featuring traps! With more than ten Burning Abyss monsters, Karma Cuts, and Paleozoic Dinomischus, he proved that the deck is still viable. I'm especially happy to see it return in such a nostalgic way.

Phantom Knights are also getting support soon. That archetype has never functioned without Dante. Also, recently older archetypes have been released from the ban list. Tour Guide From the Underworld is at three. Maybe Cir and Graff can come back? That would definitely empower trap builds. I still have three Dantes. I still have each card printed since release. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Don't forget to mill three and don't forget Scarm!

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


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Pharaoh7(11.08.2020 18:59)

Lovely article!
Keep it up!

termichan(11.08.2020 09:47)

BA structure deck when

Yukimura(11.08.2020 07:47)

Tour Guide is not at three yet. It's still semi-limited. Anyways, good work! I really enjoyed the article!

tatsym(11.08.2020 11:48)

Yukimura it's so irrelevant if its at 2 or 3 i honestly forgot it was at 2, my mistake!

tatsym(04.10.2020 23:48)

Yukimura sorry what was that :)

Yukimura(05.10.2020 07:12)

Tatsym Yup, it's at 3 now. :)

tatsym(05.10.2020 09:28)

Yukimura just thought it was funny while I was reading back this text haha

Zustel(11.08.2020 06:54)

It's one of the best decks regarding the card design and I'm so happy that such a deck was and is able to stick around for so long. If it would have disappeared after half a year or so it would have been such a waste of a great design.

Dinasty(11.08.2020 01:29)

Best Deck.
God bless.