Red-Eyes is an archetype that once held the title as the longest-lasting deck in Duel Links, but due to considerable powercreep, it hasn’t seen any competitive relevance for a long time. However, with the announcement and recent release of Return of the Red Eyes, the deck has received the most hype it’s had in a long time, and a lot of it seems to be warranted.
Disclaimer: As the deck hasn’t been out for long, this guide looks almost exclusively at theoreticals, and should be read with the intention of coming to your own conclusions on what cards are best. It will not, however, exclusively use theoreticals, and will use decklists and concepts from the latest tournaments in which it saw play.
This deck’s main win condition is to use Red-Eyes Fusion to summon Red-Eyes Slash Dragon, alongside a powerful searcher in Red-Eyes Insight and several strong recovery cards to simultaneously apply a lot of pressure to your opponent, as well as control their potential disruption cards. While the first turn may often appear to be underwhelming, it can often set up your field for several turns to come. Due to the restriction found on your Fusion spell, your first turn often involves summoning Slash Dragon, occasionally setting a monster, and attacking if able. From beyond that point, your recovery cards start to come into play, allowing you to constantly streamline more high-level monsters practically for free, and by protecting them with Slash Dragon’s effect. However, the deck does struggle against several battle traps, such as Dimensional Prison and Wall of Disruption, which can turn the tide of a duel in the opponent’s favour if the player is too carefree with their plays.
The most commonly used skill, and for good reason. While not helping the deck push for lethal too often, it helps the deck get over relevant thresholds with ease; Blue-Eyes White Dragon, Cosmo Brain, Ancient Gear Reactor Dragon, and a few others can be difficult to get over without this skill. Due to this, it is most likely to become the go-to skill for Red-Eyes.
A general utility skill which can shut down a significant amount of decks. However, it is very reliant on being used in a proper meta. Currently, getting over specific attack thresholds is far more important than shutting decks down, as the decks that are effectively weakened by Sealed Tombs are used far less often than those that are affected by Beatdown.
Adding any card from your deck to your hand is always useful, but currently isn’t worth playing over Beatdown. The deck should be running six potential starter cards, which makes it consistent enough to not warrant a consistency skill like Destiny Draw.
Red-Eyes Slash Dragon (3x):
The undisputed boss monster of the deck. It is by far the best target for Red-Eyes Fusion currently in the game, and can apply a lot of pressure if an opponent cannot deal with it early. Its attachment effect severely mitigates the risk of attacking into face-down monsters such as Karakuri Ninja mdl 339 “Sazank” and Gale Lizard, since Slash Dragon can simply send the monster it just equipped to negate any effects that target, including those listed here.
Red-Eyes Retro Dragon (0-3x):
A card akin to Red-Eyes Spirit, as it recovers monsters that have been destroyed. The card is a free summon when its effect resolves, and serves as a spare body the turn that it is brought out.
Red-Eyes Archfiend of Lightning (0-1x):
The other optimal send for Red-Eyes Insight, as it couples very well with Return of the Red-Eyes. An insanely powerful card if it resolves, it can be an annoying card to see in your hand, and an argument could be made that it is win-more, as the common summoning method involves an already well-established field. However, a board wipe can never be overlooked, so several people have already begun experimenting with it.
Warrior-type Monsters (2-4x):
As Red-Eyes Slash Dragon needs a Warrior-type monster as Material in order to be summoned, there are several cards which have been noted as having potential.
- D.D. Assailant / Amazoness Queen / Obnoxious Celtic Guard / Destiny HERO - Decider: Cards that can help the deck control the field more effectively, and seem to be the most popular cards in decklists.
- A/D Changer / Shield Warrior: Very strong graveyard synergy, commonly sent if a player is afraid of specific counters to their monster, or if it is the best way to out any given card.
- Black Luster Soldier - Sacred Soldier / Buster Blader : Commonly used beatsticks in the deck, can help the deck streamline strong monsters more easily
Red-Eyes Fusion (3x):
The key card of the deck, allowing for easy access to boss monsters, as well as fueling the graveyard for future plays. This card singlehandedly brought the deck back to life, and will be the driving force for the deck moving forward.
Red-Eyes Insight (3x):
The deck’s searcher, allowing you to add any “Red-Eyes” Spell/Trap to your hand. Always a welcome sight in any starting hand, and will allow you to fill your graveyard for even more synergy by sending certain cards, most notably Red-Eyes Wyvern and Red-Eyes Archfiend of Lightning.
Red-Eyes Spirit (0-3x):
A strong card that allows the user to summon any “Red-Eyes” monster from their graveyard, and has really good synergy with the engine itself. Allows for amazing recovery from an opponent’s play, and grants a very strong topdeck game.
Return of the Red-Eyes (0-1x):
Another strong card that allows the user to summon a “Red-Eyes” normal monster from their graveyard once per turn. This card is used most effectively when paired with Red-Eyes Archfiend of Lightning, but can still excel with the raw card advantage and streamlined bodies it provides.
With Ancient Gears’ recent decline in popularity, this card has seen more play as of late. A lot of monsters boast high attack points, but often succumb to opposing monsters’ attacks while in defense mode, as well as having a slight surprise factor behind it, making it a very useful card.
Treacherous Trap Hole:
The other semi-limited card that can be abused; it can turn the tide of a duel in the user’s favour, and will often be the deciding factor in many duels. Do note that it may be rendered unusable due to a Red-Eyes Spirit already in the graveyard, but is an extremely powerful card nonetheless.
Also rendered more popular due to the decline of Ancient Gears, this card can bypass commonly used protection effects and remove an attacking monster from the field. Do note that if the opponent manages to stop their own attack (commonly with a card such as Bacon Saver), this card’s effect will not resolve, and they will get to keep their monster.
Wall of Disruption:
Yet another card that has seen an increase in play recently, it punishes players for committing too many resources to a single attack, and can even end up costing unwary players the game.
Buster Blader Package
The Buster Blader archetype is the one with the most potential out of all secondary engines, as it can abuse the natural Dragon-type monsters the deck uses, as well as abuse Red-Eyes Fusion to set up its own plays later in the game. It is exceptionally powerful against Blue-Eyes and other Red-Eyes decks, as it almost completely shuts down any play they may attempt to make.
Another potential archetype, this one with much less potential, but still noteworthy. As all of the relevant Amazoness monsters are Warrior-types, it is theoretically possible to use the Red-Eyes engine as an extension into key Amazoness cards, most notably Amazoness Princess, and if the deck succeeds in what it attempts to do, it could easily be one of the strongest boards possible in Duel Links.
This subsection will compare certain cards, and weigh the pros and cons of similar cards, and will hopefully help you understand which cards are best to use.
Red-Eyes Wyvern vs Red-Eyes Archfiend of Lightning
- Wyvern is a safer play, as it can never be a “dead card”. Opening it may not be the greatest, as it is usually the best card to send with Red-Eyes Insight if you open it, but it can still provide a body unlike Archfiend. It also provides the deck with guaranteed recovery if in the graveyard, but can still be significantly slow against some of the other relevant decks.
Both cards have merit behind them, and I would absolutely recommend playing one copy of either, but no more than that, as playing several can cut away from defensive cards and increase the deck’s clunkiness.
Red-Eyes Retro Dragon vs Red-Eyes Spirit
Retro Dragon has the benefit of providing guaranteed card advantage upon resolution; it is always at least one free card if its effect resolves. In addition to this, it boasts the significant advantage of being a hand trap, and can also provide an additional body on the field.
Despite these advantages, Retro Dragon has a few major drawbacks; it is far more reactive than Spirit, and requires the opponent to make plays before it can be used properly. It also requires the monsters to be destroyed, meaning that its effect is meaningless against cards such as Karakuri Ninja mdl 339 “Sazank” and Lava Golem.
Spirit is always an even trade; itself for a monster in the graveyard. It allows the deck to have strong recovery plays, as well as double as really good aggression. It is also searchable by Red-Eyes Insight, unlike Retro Dragon, giving it an edge in that regard.
Spirit’s biggest weakness is that it’s a trap, and must be set before being activated. Additionally, if a card is constantly chainable, it can be fairly easy to determine what the card is, and your opponents may end up playing around it. Being backrow, it is vulnerable to Speed Spell 2 removal, allowing your opponent to remove it from the field before it can even resolve. However, this can also be seen as an asset if it can be activated, allowing you to net one card more than your opponent does, as they waste a card trying to destroy it.
Both cards have really good potential, and it is unclear as of yet which will end up being best. I’d recommend running 3-5 copies total, including Return of the Red-Eyes, as there is such a thing as “too much recovery”
Enemy Controller vs Treacherous Trap Hole
- E-Con has the advantage of using the opponent’s monsters to your benefit, and is often used to steal games out of nowhere. It also has a neat interactions against opposing Warrior-type monsters, allowing you to set a monster, use E-Con to steal it, and then use it as Fusion Material with Red-Eyes Fusion. The most notable drawback is that while it can double as a generic protection card, it does so relatively poorly, and can be seen as worse than simply destroying cards if used in this way.
- TTH is still a downright broken card, allowing the user to target any two creatures on the field to destroy them. While not nearly as powerful as it was in the past, simply due to the sheer amount of cards which allow a player to prevent destruction via effects, it is still a force to be reckoned with, and can steal games from an unwary player with ease. This deck in particular can struggle to out certain fields without an established field, or can occasionally fail to recover from a devastating blow, potentially making this card an amazing prevention or comeback card for the deck. The biggest drawback is that it limits potential trap usage in the deck, and with a deck that can abuse strong traps such as Red-Eyes Spirit, it can sometimes be a dead draw.
Both cards are still very powerful, and it is still unclear which is superior in the deck. If I had to take a guess, TTH will outright win more games in this deck than E-Con, as this deck struggles most against decks that can swarm larger monsters very consistently, and TTH tends to stop these types of decks dead in their tracks. However, running TTH also limits potential trap options, so I expect most lists to be running 1 E-Con and 1 TTH, with a slightly higher E-Con count averaged across all lists. Regardless, I’d recommend almost always playing 2 of these semi-limited cards, unless the meta calls for cards that are simply more useful and the space cannot be warranted, which is certainly not the case in this current meta.
This section will focus more on what works well against each deck, and will touch slightly less upon actual matchup favours, as nothing has been conclusively proven as of yet, but there should still be enough data to predict the deck’s odds in any given matchup.
Neos Variants (Including Cyberdarks)
In theory, you should be able to consistently win this matchup unless you overextend into certain cards. They cannot reliably attack over your Red-Eyes Slash Dragon, and its own protection effect counters almost all of Neos’ removal cards (with the exception of Lava Golem). However, Red-Eyes Retro Dragon is significantly weaker in this matchup, as the majority of their effects do not outright destroy, and will usually send to the graveyard or return to the hand.
- TL;DR Retro doesn’t do much here, avoid Lava Golems, and just keep using Slash Dragon
This matchup is a little trickier to theorise about. You have more potential for card advantage off of your engine, and can negate certain monster effects with Red-Eyes Slash Dragon, such as Snipe Hunter and Dragon Spirit of White. However, if the deck manages to deplete you of your resources too early (often through the two aforementioned cards), you will most likely find yourself in a losing position. If you manage to survive their onslaught and can establish your own field, you are likely to find yourself in a winning position against this deck. This is also one of the decks in which Red-Eyes Retro Dragon is most effective, as almost all of their removal involves destroying opposing cards. If I had to guess, it will likely be in Blue-Eyes’ favour, but not by much, just because their optimal hand is leagues stronger than this deck’s optimal hand.
- TL;DR Retro claps, Snipe can be annoying, and 3 beatsticks turn 1 can probably beat Slash Dragon pass
A deck which has fallen somewhat in popularity, but still maintains relevant presence because of its potential to completely shut down battle-reliant cards. While an extremely powerful deck, it isn’t always the most consistent, or the fastest, giving the Red-Eyes decks a chance to set up. However, if the opponent manages to summon multiple copies of Ancient Gear Reactor Dragon, it can often be disastrous for the player, as they prevent all monster effects and backrow that is not already active, the most important of these being Red-Eyes Retro Dragon’s recovery effect, and Red-Eyes Slash Dragon’s floating effect. One of the best cards you could use here is Red-Eyes Archfiend of Lightning alongside the skill Beatdown, as having 2 high-level monsters allows Archfiend to surpass Reactor’s incredible defense points. Despite this threat, Red-Eyes can still hold its all, and with what testing has been possible, it feels like a fairly even matchup, simply due to the recovery that Red-Eyes still possesses.
- TL;DR Reactor is annoying, expect set 2 summon Wyvern pass every game, and this deck’s godhands can probably beat any deck
This matchup will likely be one of the most difficult, as they are a backrow-reliant deck, and as I’ve mentioned above, this deck is extremely prone to backrow. The deck runs no natural outs to Amazoness Queen within its own engine, and if they manage to get it out onto the field early enough, it will likely be extremely difficult to win, especially when paired with their main win condition Amazoness Onslaught. On top of that, Amazoness Swords Woman will punish you for using high-attack monsters, and there is a good chance that the Amazoness player will simply whittle away at your resources and Life Points until they eventually win. All in all, this may be the toughest matchup of them all without proper side deck cards, the most notable being Jinzo.
- TL;DR Turn 2 Queen is probably a game loss, Parasite APK is dumb, and pray to god they don’t ever open Princess
In theory, your only problem in this matchup is if you fail to properly set up a Red-Eyes Slash Dragon. While Legendary Six Samurai - Shi En can negate one spell/trap card per turn, the deck cannot innately out Slash Dragon without the use of Six Style - Dual Wield (which you can play around) or Legendary Six Samurai - Enishi, which you can negate if you can manage to get an equip card onto your Slash Dragon. However, if they manage to set up their Enishi before you can set up a Slash Dragon, then it is almost impossible to beat their deck without a good amount of luck backing you.
- TL;DR Enishi plus Shi En is probably a game loss, Shi En negates things sometimes, and never run face-first into a Dual Wield.
A deck which has seen a recent renewal in its popularity, this deck has many cards which shouldn’t be extremely difficult to deal with, but one card in particular is likely to cause you to lose the game; Vampire Vamp. Vampires can easily force a Slash to negate a card thanks to their Vampire Kingdom, allowing Vamp to come in and finish the job. In addition to Vamp, a turn one Kingdom can also be devastating, as the main engine cards require a player to send cards from their deck to the graveyard. One way to play around this is to activate Red-Eyes Insight on an empty field, forcing Kingdom’s activation and allowing you to continue with your turn scot-free.
- TL;DR Kingdom is mildly annoying, Vamp is super annoying, and they will probably summon more monsters in 3 turns than you will in 3 duels
Hands-down the most difficult matchup for any Dragon-type-based deck. With Blue-Eyes’ renewal, Buster Blader decks have also seen a rise as a result. Their main boss monster, Buster Blader, the Dragon Destroyer Swordsman, switches all opposing Dragons into defense mode, gains 1000 attack for every opposing Dragon-type monster on the field or in the graveyard, and deals piercing damage. Your only possible out to this is through tech cards, and in extremely rare circumstances, Red-Eyes Archfiend of Lightning.
- TL;DR You’re probably going to lose, use as much monster removal as possible, and pray to god they don’t open godly
Another deck which has seen a surge in popularity, this deck can be difficult to play against. First off, Silent Magician, their go-to Spellcaster-type monster, can negate a Spell card once per turn. In addition to this, they try to loop Spellbook of Fate in order to remove any threat on the opposing field. While the matchup isn’t unwinnable, it can quickly turn into that if they open very well, and/or if you don’t open well enough to match their constant disruptions. Oh, and another thing; you cannot prevent Fate’s banish effect with your Red-Eyes Slash Dragon as it doesn’t target, putting you at their mercy if you are not careful. To complicate things even more, even if you do manage to destroy Silent Magician, it just summons to the field a copy of Silent Magician LV8, which is larger than this deck can probably handle without techs, especially with their disruption via Fates. Remember: Sphere Kuriboh, Dimensional Prison, and Treacherous Trap Hole are gonna be your best friends here.
- TL;DR SM is an annoying card, why won’t this deck just die already, and Fate loops will be the death of any deck.
Using more Red-Eyes Retro Dragon over Red-Eyes Spirit allows you to cut back on some copies of Red-Eyes B. Dragon, as you will find yourself being able to send a Retro Dragon in place of a B. Dragon from anything beyond the second Red-Eyes Insight.
Return of the Red-Eyes is insanely powerful for aggression, so I would almost always include one copy, and would always include one copy if I opted to play Red-Eyes Archfiend of Lightning, as it is the best way to extend into this card. However, I would never recommend more than one, simply as the effect is once per turn across all copies of the card, and the card itself isn’t nearly as effective unless used following a Red-Eyes Insight.
This concludes this more in-depth first look at the new and improved Red-Eyes archetype, and should still only be considered as a first look. All in all, this archetype has huge potential, and is very affordable for the majority of the playerbase, and will certainly be a very good deck for players in the future once fully optimised. The information contained here may not necessarily be wrong, but it may be proven later on that certain details mentioned here were ineffective or simply not as good as other options that exist. For the record, I do not plan on writing a detailed guide for when this inevitably (in my opinion, at least) ends up on the tier list, but I do plan on helping another with his guide, so feel free to reach out to me on Discord @Dulling#7290, I’ll (probably) respond before the end of the day.
~ Until next time, Terry