This seventh installment of "Getting There" will be the last one for the foreseeable future. U.S. Nationals and the European Championship are the last of the national season and there are no major tournaments on the horizon. Also, I have basically written about every top deck!
We will end this series with a look at Frogs, the key engine behind two of the most affordable and powerful decks of the metagame.
Introduction to the Frog Engine
Frogs are keyed around tributes. The main bread and butter plays of their arsenal include Swap Frog, Substitoad, and Treeborn Frog. The deck happens to be very annoying because most of their effects are repeated ad nauseum.
Swap Frog is a card that can be summoned repeatedly to dump a needed Frog to the graveyard. The main play is usually Treeborn Frog but it can also hit Ronintoadin or unwanted Substitoads as well. Its effect can return Swap Frog back to hand, allowing the controller to summon it again the next turn. It is not uncommon to see a duelist use the same Swap Frog 5-6 times in one duel.
Substitoad is another key to the strategy. It has no "once per turn" restriction on the effect, meaning Substitoad can send anywhere from one to forty monsters to the graveyard in the same turn! Players unfamiliar with Frogs often get confused when their opponent plays every card quickly. If you are unsure, you should tell your opponent to slow down and explain each play.
Here is a standard scenario: Substitoad can tribute a monster (say Treeborn Frog) and bring out another Treeborn. That Treeborn is then tributed for Swap Frog (which triggers, dumping Ronintoadin). Two more Swap Frogs are brought out, each dumping a Ronintoadin or Substitoad. Then, the Swap Frog is tributed for a Dupe Frog. Substitoad then tributes itself for a Dupe Frog. Voila! A semi-unbreakable board for little to no cost!
There are two important things to note when you are playing against Frogs, particularly Frog FTK. Substitoad is a "Toad," not a "Frog." This means it cannot be searched by Dupe Frog and it cannot tribute monsters to bring Toads (such as other Substitoads or Ronintoadin) to the field. Also, Swap Frog can only send AQUA monsters to the graveyard. You will see many players cheating, trying to either search Substitoad through Dupe Frog or send a card like Fishborg Blaster through Swap Frog.
Application of the Frog Engine: The FTK
The Swap Frog and Substitoad engine keys two different approaches you can take with Frogs. The first is the Frog FTK engine. This is an extremely consistent and powerful first turn win that focuses on the interaction between Mass Driver and Ronintoadin. Assuming the player opens with the right hand, he quickly manipulates Substitoad to send twenty Frogs to the graveyard and Ronintoadin. Ronintoadin can remove itself repeatedly and be tributed to Mass Driver.
Frog FTK decks have been doing well at numerous national events. There's not much subtlety to how they work. Practice enough with the deck and you will pick up the nuances of play. I will refrain from writing what these nuances are; playing against them at a major event is not a fun endeavor.
Counters to Frog FTK
The problem with Frog FTK is that in most matches you lose, you won't even get a turn. And because sideboard space is growing increasingly limited, it's very difficult to devote side slots to Hanewata (the best counter to the deck).
Top players tend to go with a versatile card like D.D Crow that works against multiple matchups. Many Frog FTK players have begun streamlining the engine, often using only one Ronintoadin and running less than 20 Frogs. This means that one D.D Crow can either win the game outright (by removing Ronin), or cause the Frog player to deal less than 8000 damage.
These occurrences are rather flukey. If you have sidedeck space, run some Hanewata. Otherwise, your only recourse is to pile shuffle and hope your opponent won't hit the combo. Duelists are split on the exact win percentage of Frog FTK going first. However, it is clearly more consistent than any FTK should be.
Application #2 of the Frog Engine: Frog Monarchs
The Frog Monarch engine is also viable at top tournaments. I recently took a modified variant of it to a Day Two finish at YCS Rosemont. The deck is based around a healthy dose of tribute summons. Duelists generally agree that Caius the Shadow Monarch and Light and Darkness Dragon are at the top of the heap. The remaining tribute slots can be devoted to tech picks such as Dark Dust Spirit and Vanity's Fiend, Monarch staples such as Raiza and Thestalos, or mythical divine beasts such as Obelisk the Tormentor!
Augmenting this engine is multiple copies of Battle Fader and Gorz, Emissary of Darkness. These cards are obviously the best defensive cards in the game; each is capable of single-handedly blocking a big game-ending push by your opponent. In tandem with Substitoad and Swap Frog, Battle Fader can create big plays that involve tribute summons.
Strengths of Frog Monarchs
Let's list the strengths of Frog Monarchs, followed by some advice both for and against Frog Monarch players.
- Numerous cards that provide defensive stability and prevent an OTK
- Immense card advantage from Swap Frog, Substitoad, and Dupe Frog
- Game-changing tribute monsters that can end the game single-handedly
These strengths are tempered by weaknesses. Frog Monarch's worst matchup is Infernity, unless it can exert pressure and speed up the tempo. The other bad matchup is Gladiator Beast. Barring those two decks, Frog Monarchs can consistently defeat the other big decks in the meta (and some are defeated rather easily).
Advice for Frog Monarch Duelists
The type of deck you are facing will dictate the tempo you should be playing at. Most of your tribute slots should be devoted to tech picks as opposed to the standard contingent of Raiza and Thestalos. The reason is that those venerable Monarchs are far too slow for this current format. While are you dropping your +1 advantage plays, your opponent will likely be maneuvering into a position to game you.
Certain decks, including Infernity and Herald of Perfection, put you on a strict timetable. You will have to drop a monster such as Light and Darkness Dragon in the first few turns or you will lose. It's not enough to make your standard Swap Frog and bounce plays while waiting for your opponent to make a move. While your Battle Fader can block the Infernity push, they will end with a board of multiple powerful Syncrho monsters, wipe out your Fader, and set multiple Infernity Barrier. This type of board is obviously impossible to break.
Other decks, however, give you the chance to manage the flow of the game quite easily. Blackwings, Gadgets, Synchro Cat, and (to a certain extent) X-Sabers will give you enough time to set up big plays. While certain cards can create pressure in your matchups, you should generally be able to win.
The most dangerous of these decks is X-Sabers. From consistently using X-Sabers, I will say that there is a way to play the deck that will basically make it impossible for the Frog Monarch duelist to win (unless they set up the three Dupe Frog lock). X-Saber players can bide their time and wait to resolve Gottoms' Emergency Calls and Faultroll. If this happens, you will likely lose your entire hand in the Main Phase 2 after you use Battle Fader.
Always keep in mind when your pace is creating danger. When you feel danger approaching, it's very wise to drop your Light and Darkness Dragon or Vanity's Fiend to restore control of the game. Oftentimes, it might even be prudent to do this on your first turn!
Dueling against Frog Monarch Decks
I see a lot of players grow confused by the Frog Monarch strategy. So I will lay it out for you dear TCG readers. The Frog Monarch deck follows a "rope a dope" strategy. The Treeborn Frog and Battle Fader allow the Frog Monarch player to commit minimal resources to the field. The more you extend, the more problems it will create when a Caius, LaDD, or other such Monarch completely destroys your board.
There are a few keys to stopping this. The first key is that most of the big Frog plays are telegraphed. Meaning that if you don't have an answer to a big Monarch or to Gorz, nobody is forcing you to attack! In fact, nobody is even forcing you to summon a monster!
Playing in a very conservative way against Frog Monarchs lets you preserve your hand and develop board safely. Since Frog Monarchs are constantly using Monarchs and Soul Exchange to reverse board positions, you can simply commit floaters to the field and chainable s/t's that don't get wrecked by your opponent's plans.
By conservative, I mean really, really conservative. Don't summon anything that can lose advantage. Also, don't set any s/t's that can lose advantage as well! While this approach requires you to have answers to LaDD (every big deck should), most Frog players are going to wait a bit before playing LaDD. This incorrect approach is often to your advantage.
This strategy grows a bit more difficult to implement when your opponent loads Treeborn Frogs and you play nothing to stop them. However, most players tend to fall into the Frog Monarch player's hands by overextending to deal damage through Treeborn Frog! I want to lay out a few scenarios for what I'm talking about.
Scenario 1: If your opponent summons Swap Frog, sends Treeborn Frog, returns Swap Frog, and passes..... the absolute INCORRECT play is to set a monster that can easily lose advantage to Caius or Raiza. The correct play is to set a chainable or pass.
Scenario 2: If you read a Battle Fader in your opponent's hand and you have no way of addressing a LaDD or Monarch, the correct play is to summon your monster, not attack, and pass if you can develop your board more fully the very next turn.
Every deck should feature multiple answers to Light and Darkness Dragon. For example, Sabers can use Boggart Knight or Pashuul. Blackwings can use Sirocco or Vayu. And so on and so forth. Do not let one card completely destroy your main deck strategy!
One of the added perks to the incredibly conservative strategy is that your opponent can often end up having to dump cards in the end phase, or make suboptimal plays! Imagine your opponent holding a hand of Swap Frog, Tribute, Tribute, Soul Exchange, Battle Fader, Gorz. If you don't make a single play against this hand, eventually the opponent will have to set Soul Exchange or dump cards in the end phase!
All big decks have certain advantage plays that can swing the game. Most of these advantage plays require a developed field presence. Simply summoning monsters and swinging into Battle Faders or Gorz is not going to cut it for your strategy.
Your goal against Frog Monarchs is simple. They are playing an advantage engine that does not have access to rapid, broken special summons. Let's go over some proper strategies:
X-Sabers: Your strategy revolves around Faultroll and GEC. Nobody is forcing you to summon expendable monsters and attack. Simply develop board and then play your big cards. Frog speed will play against them (especially if their tempo is incorrect). You can often pitch their hand in one turn.
Blackwing: While this is a bad matchup, you can make things easier for yourself. Shura and Vayu are key. Wait until your opponent leaves a monster vulnerable to Shura (this can even include a Monarch). Summon Shura and create a Android through Vayu. Now you simply need to dump a Sirocco for a free monster.
Feel free to set Oppression. It helps block Substitoad and Swap Frog. Other than that, keep all of your cards in hand and make them play first. You have Black Whirlwind and Dark Armed Dragon, threats that they cannot manage.
Gadgets: The key here is relentless pressure (since all of your monsters are floaters). Feel free to summon anything you want and swing with it.
Gladiator Beasts: Again, feel free to swing with what you want after the first turn. Gladiator Beasts have an immensely favorable matchup. The only important thing to note is that you want to Retiari the Treeborn but you don't want to leave Retiari vulnerable on the field! Managing Chariot and Retiari should lead to easy games.
Frog Monarchs are a deck that have benefited from players not knowing how to manage them. The general idea you want to use when facing one is to "out-conservative" their conservative strategy. Good luck.