Welcome to the second installment of "Getting There." This column is aimed to basically break down an archetype entirely. Rather than build decks like I did previously, these articles will focus on more general themes and strategic considerations.
We will be breaking down Blackwings this week. This article will thoroughly address Blackwing strategies for your consideration. Hopefully some of this information will be useful in time for SJC New Jersey.
Introduction to Blackwings
Blackwings have become firmly entrenched in the top tier of all Yu-Gi-Oh! decks, almost upon release. The reigning World Champion actually piloted a unique build of Blackwings to success against some of the better players in the entire game.
Due to a few synergetic support cards working in conjunction with a clearly broken Black Whirlwind anchor, Blackwings are frighteningly versatile. The archetype is capable of playing both open and closed duels and your main goal as a builder is to decide which pace you favor. There are definitely cards for Blackwings that can further either strategy.
Strengths of Blackwings
Blackwings pack two immense strengths. One is the repeated advantage generated from the Black Whirlwind to Icarus Attack chain. Broken down simply, the chain basically creates free two for one mass removal.
I've always emphasized that Blackwings are the most versatile deck in the history of YGO monsters. Any deck capable of working with Skill Drain OR Royal Oppression with virtually no drawbacks must instantly be recognized for versatility. Throw in the mass removal through Icarus Attack and the various Blackwing effect monsters and you have the supreme answer to most field situations.
Blackwings retain access to the different advantages that DARK monsters give (though this has been undercut with the restriction of Allure of Darkness). Blackwings have easy access to Dark Armed Dragon and generally leave about 2-5 open monster slots for different pieces of tech to counter the expected metagame.
While Sirocco, Kalut, and Bora the Spear are generally underwhelming without Black Whirlwind, three of the Blackwing monsters can certainly stand alone. Shura the Blue Flame, Gale, and Blizzard all affect the field in clear ways.
Shura is a constant threat to either reset the field or create powerful Synchro summons. My favored play with Shura is to search Vayu and then Synchro summon a level five. This gets a Vayu in the graveyard for future shenanigans. Other players, such as searching Gale and making a Black Rose Dragon or Armor Master are obviously open as well.
Gale is a broken card, period. I personally feel level 3 monsters should not be swinging over level 6 and higher monsters for free. The designers disagree. It remains one of the few cards that can break an overpowered setup such as Stardust Dragon + Bottomless Trap Hole.
And Blizzard, if used properly, makes Blackwings a constant threat to top-deck their way out of the most dire fields. A Blizzard can instantly remove Synchro Summons or steal monsters through Goyo Guardian.
Addressing the Pace of the Blackwing Deck
Blackwings have historically received a bad rap. Because a lot of Blackwing players are inexperienced and unskilled, their favored tactic appears to be to swarm the board at great risk. I have seen plays such as summoning Sirocco + two Boras on a t-set and swinging.
The better BW players realize the deck can branch off into different strategies. Players who favor explosive strategies can max out on Blizzard, Icarus Attack, Dark Grepher and then fill the variable slots with cards like Gorz, Emissary of Darkness. The goal here is to treat the original Blackwing summons as expendable, using Icarus Attack to send them to the graveyard while forcing trades. In this low resource open war, Blizzard should create a great deal of magic.
Closed Blackwing players may instead choose to focus on playing cards like Starlight Road in conjunction with either Skill Drain or Royal Oppression. Variable monster slots may include defensive monsters such as Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter or Legendary Jujitsu Master. This tends to shore up one of the bigger weaknesses of the Blackwing build.
The closed Blackwing deck still retains the ability to explode in one fell swoop. A play such as Black Whirlwind into free monster into Icarus Attack swings the game regardless of whether the game is open or closed.
There are two things you can do to achieve success at a premier event. If you are using Blackwings, decide whether you prefer an open game or a closed game. Then, construct your deck to better favor either trade. If you are paired against a Blackwing player, immediately try to define their playing tendencies and what approach they have chosen.
Formulating a Strategy for Blackwings
While you may naturally favor a certain pace, always remain adaptable. The biggest factor in determining what type of duel you will have is the opening hand you draw. A hand such as Shura, Blizzard, and Icarus Attack lends itself to an explosive game regardless of what your deck was intended to do.
Your key card is Black Whirlwind. I would suggest finding as many ways possible to search it without losing card advantage. If you keep Blackwings simple and strip to the core, the general goal should be:
"Clear backfield. Play Black Whirlwind. Profit."
With that said, it's rather rare to be able to play a Whirlwind and summon while facing a clear opponent's field. While you can manipulate your deck to achieve this more favorably, it's not always possible. So in that case, I would suggest summoning monsters like Kalut and Blizzard frequently (searching 1300's or Vayu's, respectively). The reason is that your opponent will spend any card possible to kill your Whirlwind next turn. So summoning a Bora/Shura/Sirocco right into a Bottomless Trap Hole is rather wasteful.
As for your overall strategy, please adapt to the trends of the game. Players realize how powerful Blackwings and Black Whirlwind are. The majority of spell and trap lines are devoted to stopping this. Do not be surprised to see something like:
2 Dust Tornado
3 Book of Moon
1 Torrential Tribute
2 Bottomless Trap Hole
1 Mystical Space Typhoon
In a standard line. This means 9 cards, or almost 25% of the deck, is devoted to stopping your Whirlwind search. When your opponent draws 6 cards to start, will he or she see one of these nine cards frequently? As Sarah Palin would say, "you betcha."
The way to adapt, obviously, is to run some spell or trap removal of your own. But the more delicate Question is what you should be doing with your normal summons in the meantime. Consider experimenting with cards like Ryko, Gravekeeper's Spy, Caius, Breaker the Magical Warrior, and other cards. You need stable summons at the start to block annoying moves such as GB to Bestiari or X-Saber Airbellum pillaging.
It is generally a terrible idea to summon a Blackwing monster like Bora without having a Whirlwind, Kalut, or Icarus Attack as backup. You are bleeding advantage when doing so. Hold cards and stick to the simple Black Whirlwind equation.
And finally, remember to use your Kalut's and Icarus Attack's wisely. You don't want to just blind Kalut threats. Often, you will be holding a card in hand (like Dark Armed Dragon or Blizzard) that will let you deal with the threat anyways. So hold that Kalut for the Whirlwind search!
Try to keep Icarus Attack for your monsters that have already paid for themselves (or will in the future). I'm talking specifically about Vayu, of course, but other cards work as well. You should generally try to chain Icarus Attack to a destruction effect rather than simply gun it during the Standby or Main Phases, for obvious reasons.
How to Counter Blackwings
Blackwings are not entirely invincible. The builds suffer from a few weaknesses that are tied together. The deck is keyed upon Black Whirlwind; this means good players are simply not summoning the bad Blackwing monsters without some form of backup. This means they are leaving clear fields open.
Generally, you have to overpower Blackwings before the engine gets up and running. If your deck cannot manage the field and capitalize on the bad BW hands, expect little success at premier events. It's not enough to summon a monster and deal an inconsequential 1500 or so damage. Your monster should be creating some advantage on the field.
Ideally you will exploit BW players with cards like Airbellum. Blackwing players generally do not like summoning lone monsters like Bora without some way of getting advantage through them. As a result, you would benefit immensely by forcing them to summon these monsters before they are ready. Thankfully, most decks are based on the idea that you can indeed take advantage of a clear field. For those decks that naturally can't (i.e Flamvell variants that don't use Airbellum), you had better tech cards that do take advantage of this!
Another weakness of BW decks (that you should address in your main) is the inability to get over strong face down monsters. This makes choices like Hoplomus and Gravekeeper's Spy fantastic. I am personally testing Blackwings myself and an opening Gravekeeper's Spy play is very difficult to handle.
As for your back row, it's also a good idea to use chainable spell and trap cards. This lets you win the Icarus Attack exchanges. Blackwing players need to secure their Icarus Attack swaps because it's originally an inherent -2.
Great side-deck choices include Dust Tornado, Trap Hole, and Sirocco. Your own Sirocco's will get over even a Shura + Kalut setup. You should generally summon the Sirocco by itself to avoid Icarus Attack.
I would not recommend Consecrated Light. I expect smart BW players to side-deck in game 2 to non-Dark monsters that will instantly -1 your "amazing tech."
Having said all this, you definitely have an uphill road to follow. Master Blackwing players are extremely adept at taking advantage of every situation you give with precision. And Blackwing decks, unfortunately, can simply auto win certain games due to drawing an incredibly good hand (Whirlwind + Shura + Icarus + Solemn Judgment type hands).
If you have not done so yet, I would recommend building a Blackwing deck and playing with it. It will really help you see the win conditions of the archetype and the game situations that make it difficult to achieve those win conditions.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on what you're running), Blackwing players also have numerous side deck cards that do not hurt the main deck at all. Consider using Royal Oppression, Skill Drain, Mirror of Oaths, Cyber Dragon, and other such cards that can instantly swing matches in your favor. Your main deck likely will not suffer from this process.
Blackwings look to be getting support in future sets and are just powerful enough to not warrant extreme adjustments from the Forbidden List team. Because they are here to stay, you would be wise to grow familiar with every aspect of their strategies if playing competitively.