Hello Duelists, Galo Orbea here again!
For this week’s article I want to talk about a sleeper deck with a lot of potential once Duelist Alliance gets released August 15. Since, I haven’t really been testing out the deck myself, I thought it would be better if I interviewed someone with more experience in said archetype. I practically met him while he was using it back in 2007. His name is Javier Amores, a personal friend of mine in and outside of Yu-Gi-Oh! He is a well-known player here in Ecuador, this year he had great success with Bujins netting him his most recent credentials: second place at Nationals and a spot in Top 32 at the WCQ in Chile. His backup deck throughout formats has always been some sort of Monarch variant and this time it won’t be different.
Galo: How long have you been playing around with Monarchs?
Javier: I’ve played Monarch variants competitively since 2007. At that time, I won my first Regional running a hand control variant that used Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch and the popular Hydrogeddon engine. The following year I got to Top 16 in Nationals using Macro Monarchs; this variant used a D.D. Survivor engine and the most recent addition to the deck, Caius the Shadow Monarch. Around 2010, the introduction of Ronintoadin brought Monarch decks a new focus, which combined them with the most popular engine the deck has at the moment, the Frog engine. It was using this engine that I have also topped some regionals in my area.
I’ll give a brief explanation of what Monarchs are. They were introduced in 2004, when Ancient Sanctuary was released and continued to receive support in the following sets and even received their own Structure Deck. All pre-Shadow Specters Monarchs share the same key traits: they have 2400 ATK, 1000 DEF, require 1 monster to be Tribute Summoned and each represent one of the six main Attributes in the game. With the exception of Kuraz the Light Monarch and Delg the Dark Monarch, Monarchs can only activate their effects when Tribute Summoned. While most modern decks keep their boss monsters in the Extra Deck, Monarchs are basically boss monsters on their own and win by consistently gaining +1’s upon their summon and exhausting your opponent’s resources; their 2400 ATK points are no joke either. I also mentioned the term “pre-Shadow Specters Monarchs”, because this booster pack introduced the first of the Mega Monarch, overhauled versions of the previous Monarchs with 2800 ATK, 1000 DEF, that require 2 monsters to be Tribute Summoned and are more powerful, yet with similar effects. Also, for the first time Shadow Specters introduced support for the archetype in the form of specific Spell and Trap cards.
Galo: What do you enjoy about them in general?
Javier: I particularly enjoy the fact that Monarchs are the perfect embodiment of the Card Advantage Theory, which refers to how profitable cards are when played, in terms of how many cards you have before and how many you have after playing them. This also takes into consideration how many cards your opponent has before and after you have made your play. For example, say your opponent controls 1 face-up monster card and you activate Fissure. You have essentially -1 yourself, because you have 1 less card, but your opponent also lost a card so you also +1, making the 1-for-1 trade a net zero in terms of card advantage, but now let’s add Monarchs into the equation:
You opponent controls the same face-up monster and you have Cyber Dragon and Zaborg the Thunder Monarch in hand. You Special Summon Cyber Dragon and Tribute Summon Zaborg whose effect destroys you opponent’s monster. Your opponent lost a card (+1) and you lost a Cyber Dragon (-1) so the total is a net zero in terms of advantage. This is the wrong way to play Monarchs, because you are essentially gaining zero advantage with each play. However, let’s talk again about the engines used by Monarchs that make them +1.
Galo: Explain their strategy.
Javier: The D.D. Survivor engine and Frog engine I mentioned earlier have one thing in common, recursive monsters. Both engines depend on monsters that can be Special Summoned each turn, over and over again, giving the deck a consistent source of Tribute fodder. If we now take a look at our previous equation we can see how Monarchs can consistently +1 each turn: your opponent controls a monster, you Special Summon Treeborn Frog during your Standby Phase then you tribute it to Summon Zaborg and destroy your opponent’s monster (+1); since you didn’t invest cards into summoning Treeborn Frog this turn, its summon (+1) and its tributing (-1) are a net zero and because your opponent lost a card (+1) the net total for the play is a +1 for you, YAY!!! Because this play can be used repetitively throughout the game, the +1’s can keep coming every turn.
Galo: Are there other variants or techs?
Javier: Although there were many Monarch variants in the past (Apprentice Monarchs using Apprentice Magician and Crystal Seer, Perfect Circle Monarchs using Destiny Heroes, the aforementioned Macro Monarchs and some others) the best and most widely used variant at the moment are Frognarchs. This variant is especially effective because of the recurring Treeborn Frog. Both Swap Frog and the new Mathematician can send Treeborn to the Graveyard upon Summon and their secondary effects are also really useful for the deck. Swap Frog is the best card in the deck for two reasons. First, it allows you to dump Treeborn to the Graveyard to allow the Tribute shenanigans I mentioned earlier, but it also comes with the interesting ability to bounce back any monster to your hand be it itself or, even more interesting, other Monarchs to reuse afterwards. The second best card of the deck is Enemy Controller because with the recurring ability of Treeborn Frog, you gain access to control of your opponent’s monster, virtually for free, and further increase your advantage.
Galo: What are the archetype’s weaknesses/bad match-ups?
Javier: The main weakness of the deck is that it is a really slow paced deck so you won’t be seeing any really flashy combos like those seen in the current Infernity, Sylvan or Mermail decks. It is also really dependent in having Treeborn Frog in the Graveyard, so it is top priority to make sure Treeborn Frog gets there and that’s why Swap Frog and Mathematician are necessary. However, there are some outs to not having Treeborn in the form of hand traps (Battle Fader and Gorz the Emissary of Darkness), Soul Exchange and the most recent addition, The Monarchs Stormforth. This last card is the best response this deck has to some of the most annoying cards of the current format, Bujin Yamato and Leo, Keeper of the Sacred Tree because it doesn’t target. Before the coming of Stormforth, if you used Soul Exchange against a huge field you had to target the specific monster you wanted to Tribute, giving your opponent the chance to disrupt your play, but now you can Tribute any monster on their side of the field without them knowing which one it will be and it also doesn’t prevent you from attacking that turn.
Galo: Why will this deck be a good choice against the meta post-Duelist Alliance?
Javier: The effects of the Monarchs give them a particular advantage against the popular Fire Hand and Ice Hand, because Caius the Shadow Monarch can banish them, Raiza the Storm Monarch can return them to the top of the deck and both Soul Exchange and Stormforth can use them as tribute fodder, none of which will trigger the Hand’s effects. The same cards give Monarchs an edge against the newcomers of the Format, Shaddolls, also without triggering their effects, Caius being especially good, since Shaddolls are DARK.
The deck can further cover its weaknesses by having easy access to some excellent monsters, that don’t work as well in other decks because they require to be Tribute Summoned. Cards like Light and Darkness Dragon, Dark Dust Spirit, Vanity’s Fiend, Majesty’s Fiend, Jinzo or Obelisk the Tormentor, have found a great home next to the Monarchs by working in synergy with them. For example, LaDD is always troublesome to deal with and costs your opponent a lot of cards to get rid of, Dark Dust Spirit can get rid of established fields and by being a Spirit monster it’s as recurring as Treeborn Frog, Vanity and Majesty’s Fiend are great cards in any meta, Jinzo can be used against Trap-heavy decks and Obelisk the Tormentor was good during the Dragon Ruler Format and I also feel it will be good choice once Quiphoths come out as a way to deal with Apoqliphoth Killer.
Galo: Anything else you would like to mention?
Javier: To finish, I would like to rank Monarchs from best to worst:
- Mobius the Mega Monarch (10/10): to me it’s simply the best monarch released so far. Its synergy with the Frog engine is such, that it’s basically a Harpie’s Feather Duster that can’t be negated (except by Solemn Warning) on a 2800 body.
- Caius the Shadow Monarch (9.5/10): the best of the young Monarchs. It has even found usage in decks like Tengu Plants due to its easy +1’s and its ability to get rid of monsters that can protect themselves from destruction (Wind-Up Zenmaines, Stardust Dragon, Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack, etc.)
- Raiza the Mega Monarch (9/10): the effects this Monarch will have on the metagame have yet to be proven. The main issue I have with it is that sometimes you just don’t want to return a card from either Graveyard to the top of the deck because it will either hinder you or give your opponent resources back. However, a well resolved Mega Raiza can seal a game on its own.
- Raiza the Storm Monarch (9/10): it was once limited and for good reason, but sometimes it suffers from the same issues as his big counterpart.
- Mobius the Frost Monarch (8/10): Despite being overshadowed by its mega form, it’s still a good Spell & Trap removal card.
- Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch and Thestalos the Mega Monarch (6/10): controlling your opponent’s hand was a vital part of the game in the past, but in a heavy backrow format their effects have become irrelevant.
- Zaborg the Thunder Monarch (5/10): outclassed by both Caius and Raiza, the first Monarch ever released hopes its mega form can make it to the top.
- Granmarg the Rock Monarch and Granmarg the Mega Monarch (4/10): to specific to be useful.
- Kuraz the Light Monarch and Delg the Dark Monarch (1/10): Kuraz had a niche usage in some OTK’s and Delg is outright bad.
I also wanted to show a Frognarch deck skeleton post-Duelist Alliance:
- 2-3 Light and Darkness Dragon
- 3 Caius the Shadow Monarch
- 3 Raiza the Storm Monarch
- 2 Mobius the Mega Monarch
- 1-2 Raiza the Mega Monarch
- 2 Mathematician
- 3 Swap Frog
- 1 Ronintoadin
- 3 Treeborn Frog
- 1 Gorz the Emissary of Darkness
- 2 Ghostrick Jackfrost
- 3 Battle Fader
- 3-4 Hand Traps (Maxx “C”, Effect Veiler depending on the meta)
- 1 Foolish Burial
- 3 Enemy Controller
- 2-3 Soul Exchange
- 3 The Monarchs Stormforth
I feel that Monarchs are always a decent deck in any metagame. They are easy to play, so people new to the game can quickly grasp their mechanics and use them effectively. They can plus easily but they do prefer slower formats to work better, hence the Dragon Ruler and Spellbook format wasn’t a good time to run them. Although, thanks to this upcoming Shaddoll format, the new additions to the deck in the form of Mega Raiza and Stormforth make it seem like the deck can work well in the coming months. Also, Zaborg the Mega Monarch has been revealed and one can only hope that when Caius’s time comes, its effect may be game changing.
Thanks for this short interview, I enjoyed knowing a little more about the future strategies this old archetype will be bringing to the table. Their simple play style may upset the next events coming up especially with their favorable matchup against Shaddolls. Let me know what you guys think, will we be seeing a couple Monarch decks in the top tables of YCS Toronto and YCS Lima? Only time will tell, ‘til next time duelists!