Monday, January 5, 2015

Saving the Stars: The Future of Satellarknights

I have had more success with Satellarknights than with any other deck.  This weekend, I won 10 packs and pulled a Virgil – not bad for a knight’s work.  Still, my faith in the deck is pretty limited.  Let’s be clear: Doolists taking this deck into a major tournament are going with an underdog.  

I'm going to spend two weeks with my head in the stars.  This week's post will focus on the main deck.  Next week, I will look at extra and side deck choices.   

Tell Tale Problems
While Tellarknights shine in their ability to search and recur, they have few significant drawbacks.  First, they run a ponderous number of traps.  Meanwhile, Shaddoll’s and Qlipharts are moving on to near trapless editions.  Even Burning Abyss decks are shedding traps as demonstrated by Jake Phinney’s six-trap wonder deck at ARG Orlando.   

While powerful, traps are inherently slow cards that are great at preventing problems.  Seeing red when you’re going first is a wonderful experience.  However, they do a poor job of getting you out of jams.  Bottomless is a fine card but not when there is a scrap yard’s worth of Qlips on the field. 

Qliphart rising has also ushered in the great age of set card destruction.  Some Qlip players in Orlando were playing triple MST and triple Night Beam.  This type of one-for-one destruction hurts Tellar players greatly since a significant portion of their card advantage comes from COTH and Oasis. Compare this mechanic to Shaddoll and BA players whose advantage comes from sending cards to the graveyard. If this trend weren’t enough, enter Denko Sekka who can single-handedly shut down 40% of your deck. 

The second problem is the deck’s reliance on normal summoning.  This idea has quickly evolved from sophisticated concept to bandied buzzword.  Of the major meta decks, Tellars are burdened the most with this criticism, which is ironic since Tellars are also the first archetype to get their effects regardless of the manner in which they are summoned.  From a mechanic standpoint, their effects are completely independent from normal summoning. However, this term really refers to the ease of special summoning.  Compared to Harpies and Samurais, Tellars are not so normal summon dependent. However, the label is well deserved for a deck whose set up is 3 turns longer than the rest of the meta. 

The third problem is their vulnerability to destruction.  Creating a wall of Satellarknights takes planning and several turns.  Knock it down with Dark Hole and the Tellar doolist will have to start all over again. This experience is dramatically different in for the BA player.  Activating Dark Hole can give them card advantage.  Now that Dark Hole is at two, I fear our little walls will be knocked into dust. 

Mini Makeover
For those of you who still wish to reach for the stars, here are a few principles that I try to incorporate into my builds:

Honest is essential.  I am happy to tell any purist to get over their righteous indignation and play the card.  If Qlipharts can main Limiter Removal, we can play two Honests.  In fact, I will sometimes “accidently” reveal my Honest while shuffling in order to enhance my bluffs.  I’ve had opposing doolists book a lone Alsahm in order to play around a potential Honest.

Bait out the destruction.  My trap lineup is a bit different.  With the exception of Nova, they are all continuous*.  They are not reactive with the possible exception of Emptiness.  Furthermore, they usually require a response.  This is why I dropped Fiendish Chain for Battleguard Rage. I can put a 2800 point monster on the field without special summoning leading most Shaddoll players to burn a MST to stop it.  I’m fine with that play since the goal is to protect COTH and eventually reuse it with Triverr. Of course, the card is not without risk, since popping the monster will leave you at a neg 1.  Nevertheless, it's time for a little out of the box thinking.

Limit the dead cards.  This deck does not have the liberty to brick.  Drawing Altair without cards in the graveyard gives you an Axe Raider. This is why I play Foolish Burial.  Between the COTHs, Oases, and Altiers, Foolish is never dead.

Don’t forget Thrasher.  Photon Thrasher is really a pumped up Vega.  Sure, you can’t summon him when you have board presence, but that’s not the time you need help.  I have found him most useful in getting rid of a defense position Burning Abyss monster.  By doing so, Fire Lake is often dead and I can proceed with the rest of my set up.  He also swings easily over Dinko Sukka.

3 Satellarknight Deneb 
3 Satellarknight Altair

3 Satellarknight Unukalhai

1 Satellarknight Vega

1 Satellarknight Alsahm

2 Photon Thrasher

2 Honest

3 Reinforcement of the Army

2 Mystical Space Typhoon

2 Satellar Skybridge (or Forbidden Lance)

1 Snatch Steal

1 Foolish Burial

3 Magic Planter

3 Stellarnova Alpha

3 Call of the Haunted

2 Oasis

3 Vanity’s Emptiness

2 Battleguard Rage

*Hence,  Magic Planter is nearly always live - at least until Dark Law comes out.

Maxi Makeover
For the most part, the fixes given above are not particularly radical.  We are still a long ways from the 6 trap deck.  Here is my attempt to build of such a Satellar Deck:   

3 Satellarknight Deneb

3 Satellarknight Altair

2 Satellarknight Unukalhai

2 Satellarknight Vega

2 Satellarknight Alsahm

1 Satellarknight Procyon

2 Photon Thrasher

2 Honest

3 Reinforcement of the Army

2 Mystical Space Typhoon

3 Satellar Skybridge

1 Snatch Steal

1 Magnum Shield

2 Hidden Armory

1 Soul Charge

3 Enemy Controller

1 Raigeki

3 Stellarnova Alpha

3 Call of the Haunted

This deck still requires some tweaking.  I am not sure if triple E Con and Skybridge are a good idea.  Forbidden Lance and Chalice may be reasonable alternatives.  That said, this deck feels like a Satellar deck that is trying to be a Shaddoll deck.  While Diamond has blown some life into the price of Deneb, I remain rather pessimistic about this archetype as a whole. 

Nevertheless, the stars have been good to me and for that reason I will continue to play it.

For those of you who aren’t astronomers by trade, here’s a pronunciation guide:

Altair: AL - tair

Alsahm: AL - sahm

Betelgeuse: BET-el-jooz

Deneb: DEN-ebb

Procyon: PRO-see-on

Rigel: RYE-jel

Sirius: SEER-ee-us

Unukalhai: uh-NOO-kul-lye

Vega: VEY-ga

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