Welcome to the fifth installment of “Getting There.” This week we will be looking at the X-Saber archetype. In discussing this new threat to the metagame, I want to draw a few comparisons to a similar deck and help most of you duelists prepare a strategy either for or against the deck prior to the first Yu-Gi-Oh! Championship Series.
X-Sabers first gained prominence when Roy St. Clair piloted the deck to a top four finish at SJC Nashville. While many other top players had recognized the potential capabilities of the deck, St. Clair took the release of Absolute Powerforce's X-Saber Emmersblade, X-Saber Hyunlei, and Saber Hole to focus the strategy and transform it from a gimmick to a force.
In many ways, the pattern of X-Saber's rise to power mirrors that of Gladiator Beasts. Both archetypes were the benefit of an impatient design push that created unnecessary support before the full powers of the deck were recognized.
The Rise of the X-Sabers
Some relevant history: By the time Paul Levitin won Shonen Jump Minneapolis with a Gladiator Beast deck, Konami had already designed Gladiator Beast Gyzarus (in Light of Destruction, two sets later). In addition, Gladiator Beast War Chariot and Equeste were in the pipeline (one set after LODT). Instead of waiting to introduce support after the playerbase had properly adjusted, new cards were hammed through the pipeline just as Gladiator Beasts established dominance over the metagame! The result of this impatience was an entire format of mono-Gladiator Beast dominance.
Enter X-Sabers. Even as the deck was flexing its muscles at SJC Nashville, new cards were being introduced for the very next set! To be quite Honest, it makes me wonder why the team simply could not wait for the results of the Absolute Powerforce support before churning out X-Saber Darksoul, X-Saber Boggartnight, and X-Saber Palomuro.
Strengths of the X-Saber Deck
Starting from this article, I am going to list each deck's unique strengths in an easy to read format. Perhaps this will help you choose a deck based on your playstyle as well.
- A “true floater” that replaces itself on summon (XX-Saber Ragagira)
- A “true floater” in the same vein as Sangan/Goblin Zombie (XX-Saber Darksoul)
- Along with Spirit Reaper, one of the best open field attackers in the game (X-Saber Airbellum)
- A theme-stamped Level 6 Synchro monster on the same, or superior, power level as Brionac and Goyo Guardian (XX-Saber Hyunlei)
- Access to Rescue Cat (Rescue Cat)
- Access to the Super-Nimble Mega Hamster/Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter Engine
- A theme-stamped recruiter (XX-Saber Emmersblade)
- A legitimate “boss” monster on the level of Chaos Sorcerer (XX-Saber Faultroll)
- A theme-stamped Level 9 Synchro monster that can effectively win the game on the first turn (XX-Saber Gottoms)
- A theme-stamped 1900 attack beatdown monster that special summons (XX-Saber Boggart Knight)
- A tuner with multiple useful effects (XX-Saber Fulhelmknight)
- A unique theme-stamped monster that can create powerful infinite loops (X-Saber Palomuro)
- A theme-stamped Cyber Dragon that is more difficult to summon (X-Saber Gardestrike)
- A theme-stamped spell that can destroy multiple cards for the cost of one (Saber Slash)
- A theme-stamped trap that serves as a free Solemn Judgment for monster threats (Saber Hole)
- A theme-stamped trap that has twice the power of Call Of The Haunted with chainability to boot (Gottoms' Emergency Call)
I do apologize for such a long list of theme-specific support. Other archetypes generally have less elements. However, X-Sabers are notorious for having too many monsters to fit.
Of these particular threats, the most egregious ones to worry about (other than the typical Rescue Cats shenanigans) are Gottoms' Emergency Call, XX-Saber Hyunlei, and XX-Saber Faultroll. The glue to the engine is the newly released Darksoul.
What are the Goals of the X-Saber Deck?
The deck currently has the most stable field presence in the game and packages the most ways to exploit this field presence in the mid to late game (through multiple copies of Gottoms' Emergency Call). X-Sabers have consistent and generally unstoppable early game drops through the combination of Fulhelmknight, Emmersblade, Ryko/Hamster, and Darksoul (along with Rescue Cat grabbing two Darksoul or syncing a level 6 Synchro monster on the opening turn!).
Every Gottoms' Emergency Call resolution that occurs makes it increasingly more difficult for you to win. The reason is that each of the E-Calls, like with Quickdraw's Debris Dragon, creates an advantage-generating Synchro monster for the cost of one card.
Now throw in Faultroll to the mix (now easily fetchable through Darksoul). At any point, the boss monster of the X-Saber deck can hit the board. Faultroll can either retrieve an Airbellum to gain advantage through battle or instant sync a Gottoms.
Generally players could counter an impending Faultroll by setting extra backfield. Unfortunately, the release of Hyunlei in Absolute Power Force has made this a generally terrible idea. Due to this, duelists are increasingly entering the X-Saber Catch-22. Either set your hand and lose it to Hyunlei or keep it and lose it to Gottoms! Good times for all.
Because of the unique nature of Hyunlei (it clears everything), it proves the ideal synchro monster to set up the inevitable Gottoms's Emergency Call follow up set. This play, as many of you know, is unstoppable. Hyunlei is synced through two monsters (including a self-replacing Darksoul), clearing the backrow. The X-Saber play then sets E-Call. Because the E-Call is chainable during the opposing player's main phase, the play is practically impossible to stop. The two materials for Hyunlei will sync again, replacing themselves again, to create the most suitable monster for the occasion. It is very possible that the expended Darksouls led to Faultrolls, which are easily summoned once Gottoms' resolves.
The immediate pressure is generated by searching Faultroll from the Hyunlei synchro summon. Imagine staring down a situation where your opponent has just generated Hyunlei, searched Faultroll with Darksoul, and telegraphed a Gottoms' Emergency Call set. In this scenario, you are faced with a situation where:
Any non-chainable spell or trap you set will likely be destroyed by another Hyunlei next turn.
Any cards you leave in hand will likely be lost to Gottoms next turn.
The Gottoms' Emergency Call two-for-one is unstoppable.
Prepare to face this depressing situation quite frequently in the future.
How to Counter the X-Saber Deck
Let's be Honest. X-Sabers are going to dominate the next cycle of premier Yu-Gi-Oh! events. While other archetypes and anti-meta decks can challenge, I firmly believe X-Sabers will firmly implant themselves into the top tier of all strategies. It is very likely that X-Sabers can create a Tele-DaD type of “tier 0” state where no other decks can compete (except perhaps Infernities and heavily teched tier one decks such as Gladiator Beasts).
The recent slew of additions to the X-Saber cause have created a deck-type with no weaknesses. X-Sabers used to fear opponent's sets. X-Saber Synchro monsters were big on disruption but low on actual field presence with lower attack scores than the standard and no effects that destroyed cards on the field. Hyunlei clearly changed this. Now, no field is really safe against the onslaught.
Another weakness of X-Sabers was a lack of stability in field presence. Emmersblade and Darksoul put a stop to this immediately. X-Sabers now have the strongest opening plays in the game and have the strongest field presence other than perhaps Synchro Cat (which plays Gravekeeper Spies, Hamsters, and other solid monsters).
The final weakness of X-Sabers was a lack of pure beatdown power. Gardestrike was often situational and Faultroll was difficult to summon under such circumstances. However, Boggart Knight has now bridged this gap (while providing even more special summon juice). The all important 1900 ATK score allows Boggart to get over Blackwing – Shura the Blue Flame, Gladiator Beast Laquari, Machina Gearframe, and other once-powerful monsters while canceling anti-meta strategies such as Thunder King Raioh and Doomcaliber Knight.
Specific Strategies When Deckbuilding and Playing
Between Infernities and X-Sabers, your nonchainable Traps have become useless. Dimensional Prison, Mirror Force, and other such cards have become useless in the face of cards such as Mist Wurm and Hyunlei. Your primary goal now should be to counter expected strategies while desperately latching on to whatever weaknesses you can find.
X-Sabers really require a face-up X-Saber monster on the field to make a lot of their plays. Saber Hole, Saber Slash, and Gottoms' Emergency Call are all keyed upon having a face-up X-Saber in play. If you can Bottomless Trap Hole or Book of Moon the monster off the board, your monsters can then easily generate advantage.
Most X-Saber decks are relatively lacking in defenses once you breach the Saber Hole. It's not entirely a bad idea to focus on ways of keeping the X-Sabers off the board. While your specific plays will depend entirely on the deck played, different top tier decks (that X-Sabers will likely dominate) can exploit this weakness. Examples include:
- Gladiator Beasts can Book of Moon/Smashing Ground every X-Saber monster to circumvent Saber Hole. The resulting Gladiator Beast hit will lead to a +1 from Bestiari. X-Sabers have problems countering a strong Gladiator Beast field set up.
- Blackwings can use Delta Crow Anti Reverse or Icarus Attack at the end phase to trigger some massive losses of advantage for the X-Saber player. Tech such as Skill Drain and Royal Oppression will definitely help.
- Cat Synchro can focus on using more proactive cards such as Smashing Ground, as opposed to reactive cards such as Dimensional Prison, to ensure advantage swings with their own Airbellums and other cards.
Obviously after game one, you should immediately bring in the maximum allotted copies of your own Gottems' Emergency Call. The goal is to have the foolish X-Saber player use their own Gottoms and for you to then chain on top. However, keep in mind they have the original advantage due to the fact that their Hyunlei plays will likely force you to activate Gottoms first.
Keep in mind that most tech that counters the top decks in this environment will involve graveyard manipulation (such as D.D Crow or Transmigration Prophecy) or cards that interrupt special summons or effects (such as Royal Oppression or Doomcaliber Knight). If you are intent on running a standard pre-TSHD tier deck such as Gladiators, Blackwings, Cat Synchro, Flamvell variants, Lightsworn, Gadgets, Frog Monarchs, or Quickdraw, you will be very surprised at how awe-inspiringly explosive the X-Saber and Infernity decks are.
Please note. If you expect to show up at the upcoming Yu-Gi-Oh! Championship Series with a standard version of pre-TSHD tier without significant, significant pieces of tech to accommodate the new card pool..... you can expect to have a terrible placing at the event. The new decks are simply far too powerful and far too explosive. They have changed the rules.