It has been an eventful month...
The Zodiac Beast archetype made plenty of noise and their presence was definitely felt by players as they toppled the popular and widely-used ABC deck and replaced them as the best deck of the meta. With plenty of cards capable of single-handedly starting their combination plays - Speedroid Beigomax, Elemental Triangle of the Zodiac Beasts just to name a few - the deck's consistency is nothing to be laughed at or ignored.
Following the trend in Japan, ABC started to side out their copies of Anti-Spell Fragrance at the start of the format, choosing to optimise mirror matchups, which were very common at the start of the month. Metalfoes' usage started to decline, but remained as a force to be reckoned, seeing how it managed to secure a 3rd-4th slot in our first YOT Regional tournament of the month.
Then Zodiac Beast arrived in the game and presented itself as a threat for ABC decks to deal with, distracting them from their long-time rival deck - Metalfoes. ABC employed plenty of gimmicks to counter this new rival, some even went as far as as main decking Skill Drain, which could partially harm the ABC deck's consistency and plays. Now you can no longer use Gadgets' effect if Skill Drain comes first. The burden of setting up a field outside of your first turn falls on the shoulders of Photon Thrasher, but your ability to abuse and access the R4NK engine like Diamond Dire Wolf, Gear Gigant X and Bujintei Tsukiyomi is affected by the presence of your own Skill Drain.
To me, it feels like a very painful double-edged sword which is works in your favour only if you have set up the field on turn 1, and have it ready to be activated as a counter-measure to Zodiac Beast decks. But seeing how many decks chose to embark on this option, ABC players seem to be fairly confident in their deck's consistency.
Skill Drain is definitely an effective floodgate to plenty of decks in this format, and perhaps even replacing Anti-Spell Fragrance as the best floodgate for the format, seeing how the focus of the game has shifted away from the pendulum theme after Majespector Unicorn - Kirin's demise. Qli decks take advantage of this paradigm shift and push their way forward, abusing the fact that one of their deck's main searcher - Qliphort Scout is back to its Unlimited status.
On a related note, the decision by plenty ABC decks to side out Anti-Spell Fragrance has allowed Metalfoes to climb a little in representation and rise among the top tables. Metalfoes builds vary here in Singapore, with plenty choosing to pilot the Qli engine, while others are more convinced that the Guiding Ariadne and counter trap lineup is better for the job. Minority, like myself, choose to include gimmicks and some one-trick pony cards like Jowgen the spiritualist, Amorphage Sloth and True King Agnimazud, the Vanisher to compensate for the deck's lack of aggressive capabilities. With powerful fusions like Metalfoes Mythriel and Fullmetalfoes Alkahest, and the existence (and reprint, I might add) of Super Polymerisation, Metalfoes is far from dead and remains as a contender for the top tables.
Lawnmowing next door, a powerful mill card, has granted many of decks a fighting chance. Being a normal spell card, it probably functions best in Infernoids, which has Left Arm Offering to search it out. Other decks that enjoy this card's existence in the OCG include, but not limited to, Chaos Dragons, Lightlords (mostly piloting Fairy Tale - Snow as an engine) and Burgestommas. Infernoids, unlike in Japan, didn't see a massive increase in usage and popularity in Singapore, partly due to our small player base in our small island.
Zodiac Beast's popularity continues to spread like a virus, with many decks adding it as an engine. Metalfoes are no exception, but the most famous example of [Can't Beat Them, Join Them] perhaps fall onto ABC Zodiac Beast. Unlike Metalfoes, which can use the Zodiac Beast to be 'popped' for pendulum effects, or be used as fusion materials, ABC and Zodiac Beast shares little to zero synergy. Instead, Zodiac Beast engine just serve as a bait for backrow traps and field threats and leave the machine troopers ready to land on the battlefield, safe and sound. At best, excess parts of the deck are used to be discarded as cost by ABC-Dragon Buster.
Due to the massive usage of Zodiac Beast, Daigusto Emerald sees more use as well. Being able to recycle the engine and generate a card draw, and most of the time, it is the Zodiac Beast xyz monsters that gets recycled, it is more easily accessible than Pot of Avarice, which is limited and requires to be drawn into, as opposed to Daigusto Emerald being accessible as soon as you have assembled two Level 4s for an xyz summon on the field. Jar of Avarice, being a trap, is thus not preferred by players as it is deemed as too 'slow'.
Other casual ideas for Zodiac Beast include Zodiac Beast Fluffals and Zodiac Beast Lunalights. The main synergy being the Zodiac Beast engine's ability to call out Brotherhood of Fire Fist - Tiger King, which can set a Fire Formation spell directly from the deck. Apart from Fire Formation - Tensu, Fire Formation Tenki is another viable target and with it, you can search out a certain Beast-Warrior Lunalight monster, Lunalight Black Sheep which is in turn capable of searching out Polymerisation. This increases the deck's consistency and contributes to the rise in the Zodiac Beast engine. What is not to like about them, now that you learn that fusion users can use them to search out their main spell card?
Speaking of fusions, Shaddoll Zodiac Beast has been gaining popularity too. They have the ability to fuse away unwanted or excess cards, including the side deck card choice which many dabbled with - Flying "C". El-Shaddoll Winda survives a potential board-clearing destruction such as Dark Hole, which has always been Zodiac Beast monsters' existing weakness - lack of protection against mass removal tactics. Winda also counters the strategy of many decks that involve special summoning to compensate for their disadvantage or escaping lockdowns.
Kozmo is another deck in the long list of decks that joined forces with Zodiac Beast. Much like the once TCG-exclusive archetype Burning Abyss, Kozmo failed to replicate its success in the Asia region upon arriving in the OCG. With harsh lifepoints cost, bringing players themselves nearer to doom, and complex combos on top of that, their biggest downfall is perhaps their linear strategy (which can be very easily disrupted) and the fact that they share the common weakness with ABC decks, and hence, plenty of decks have Side Deck answers to this new deck.
The Fire King Kozmo build is unforgiving when players brick with a bad hand that can't launch into combos, whereas it offers generous increase in card advantage if the combo is able to be pulled off.
Zodiac Beast Kozmo offers more consistency and adds more flavour to the previous popular build - Speedroid Kozmo - which relies on Levair the Sea Dragon to recycle banished monsters. Players now have the added option of launching into the Zodiac Beast engine when they open with Speedroid Terratop
The most recent notable change is plenty of players deciding to pilot Pure Zodiac Beast, for reasons such as a better combo-orientated focus and OTK potential. The meta continues to shape itself as weeks passes, but one thing is for certain - the threat of Zodiac Beast can't be ignored. Beat them or join them. The rise of this staple rank 4 engine is a reminiscence of the past when Artifact Moralltach debuted - splash it into any deck and it will still work.