With the conclusion of MCS XV, all competitive attention has now turned squarely on this weekend's KC Cup. Embracing that theme, this week's Tier List will be exclusively for the KC Cup's best-of-1, ladder format.
Buster Blader has been promoted to Tier 1 again after winning MCS XV. With an incredibly strong Koa'ki Meiru match-up, Buster Blader could easily dominate various stages of the KC Cup. Universally playing Last Gamble for extra draw power, Buster Blader is one of the most oppressive decks in the game once set up. Because of Ancient Gears' presence in the meta, however, a rise in backrow removal like Cosmic Cyclone could hurt Buster Blader's position in a very random format. One of the biggest Buster Blader counters in the last KC Cup was Wildheart Control with big, trap-immune monsters, and will likely not be present in this event since Koa'ki Meiru and Vampires, the other Tier 1 decks, don't struggle against it at all. However, an unfavorable Ancient Gear match-up will be something that Buster Blader players must deal with unless they're counting on Koa'ki Meiru forcing them all away.
Koa'ki Meiru has remained in Tier 1. Arguably made stronger by the addition of Ancient Gears, Koa'ki decks have trended towards The Tie that Binds for OTK pushes through Sphere Kuriboh and to get Koa'ki Meiru Maximus over Ancient Gear Reactor Dragon. Fairly unchanged otherwise, Koa'ki Meiru is one of the strongest decks in the game but will also be one of the most countered. Winged Kuriboh by itself is a guaranteed turn of survival against Koa'ki, and the mirror match is difficult to win reliably against other good players with similar builds. Fortunately Koa'ki is fairly adaptable, but changing techs to improve other match-ups (like using Cosmic Cyclone for Buster Blader and Ancient Gears) will only make the mirror more difficult. An inherent out to stall (simply recycling Iron Core of Koa'ki Meiru) is nice as well, and will likely be relevant at certain stages of the event.
Vampires have been promoted to Tier 1. A very consistent and versatile deck, Vampires can benefit tremendously from a lack of Hero and Control players and focus all their attention on the other top decks. KaibaCorp Bling has become the go-to skill with Vampires, drawing Enemy Controller at will. With no overwhelmingly favorable match-ups in the meta, Vampires may fall off as the meta narrows in higher DP ranges. Simple counters like Sealed Tombs exist and can become popular if there ends up being a Vampire Takeover. A poor Spellbook match-up is also frustrating for Vampire players to deal with, but one of Vampires' strengths is that they lose to almost nothing for free and experienced pilots can likely take this deck very far.
Buster Blader will be able to capitalize off of the presence of multiple Koa'ki Meiru players. The ideal point to be playing Buster Blader would be a DP range where Ancient Gears are lowly represented.
Ancient Gears have been added to Tier 2 following their 2nd place finish in MCS XV. Ancient Gear Reactor Dragon has a place right next to Maximus on the list of "strongest, easiest to summon boss monsters" in Duel Links and single-handedly wipes out many rogue decks. Strong built-in backrow removal with Galaxy Cyclone, Unending Nightmare, and Breaker the Magical Warrior makes Ancient Gears a very powerful deck against backrow-reliant decks like Buster Blader and Vampires. Middle Age Mechs is the most common way to play Ancient Gears, giving the option to simply normal summon Reactor Dragon by turn 3-4. Sttrong defensive traps like Paleozoic Canadia and Floodgate Trap Hole are becoming quite common as well to help improve the unfavorable Koa'ki Meiru match-up.
Karakuri has been demoted to Tier 2. A very strong deck when it has access to a side deck, Karakuri has always struggled with the randomness of ladder formats since it relies on tech cards (which it can access very easily) to really do anything. The core of a Karakuri deck simply draws cards, so the deck's performance is largely tied to the impact that those non-Karakuri cards have on the duel. And when the deck needs to both protect against larger monsters and clear out backrow (having to tech both offensively and defensively), it will be very difficult to find the right balance.
Spellbooks have been added to Tier 2 for the KC Cup. With many excellent match-ups against top decks and a favorable meta (e.g., little current use of Sealed Tombs), Spellbooks can be a very strong deck for the KC Cup. An early Silent Magician is as oppressive as ever, and looping Spellbook of Fate is almost enough to just beat Ancient Gears and Karakuri by itself. Koa'ki Meiru or Ancient Gears adjusting and moving to Sealed Tombs would hurt this deck a lot, and Buster Blader can almost win for free with a turn 1 DNA Surgery if the Spellbook player didn't open Cosmic Cyclone or Breaker the Magical Warrior. Multiple skills have seen use in the past with Spellbooks, including Restart and Mind Scan, but the most successful version recently uses KaibaCorp Bling with a prismatic Spellbook Magician of Prophecy or Spellbook of Secrets, followed up by a glossy Silent Magician. Whether this kind of consistency will prevail over Restart (or over the benefits of Mind Scan) will be interesting to follow during the event.
Karakuri is a dominant deck in side-deck tournaments. Without the side deck advantage, it's Tier 2.
Naturally, Spellbooks is a good deck for KC Cups. It has many good matchups within the current meta - the sheer threat of Spellbook of Fate to many decks means that the deck is now more reliable without drawing Silent Magician.
Masked Heroes have been demoted to Tier 3. The ATK threshold for a worthwhile "vanilla" monster is now 3000 thanks to Maximus and Reactor Dragon, making Masked HERO Anki much less valuable. Heroes' best features are a strong Vampire match-up and the ability to swap out backrow with ease, keeping them relevant with Vampires in Tier 1. Against the rest of the meta, however, Heroes can struggle quite a bit.
Control remains in Tier 3, seemingly always around in some form or another during KC Cups. Heavy backrow with good standalone monsters like Breaker the Magical Warrior can annoy decks that struggle with backrow (like Karakuri and Spellbooks), but like Heroes, has a difficult time standing up to Koa'ki Meiru and Ancient Gears.
Stall have been added to High Potential. During KC Cups, these kinds of strategies tend to pop up due to the lack of a side deck, their relative simplicity to play, and opponents often being too worn out to play carefully through all the traps. The most popular and successful variant of stall uses 24-30 cards with Last Gamble and many of the usual traps with lingering effects like Hallowed Life Barrier and Rainbow Life. If the opponent commits multiple monsters to the field, Lava Golem becomes a clock on their LP. The best way to beat stall is by sitting on a single threatening monster (Koa'ki Meiru Maximus, Armades, Keeper of Boundaries, Ancient Gear Reactor Dragon, Vampire Grace, Destiny HERO - Drilldark, etc.) and keep chipping away at their resources. Although the side deck can be used against backrow strategies like stall, losing out on siding into more copies of Soul Release for the Koa'ki Meiru match-up hurts stall a bit as well. This is a deck to keep an eye on during the KC Cup.
Mecha Phantom Beasts have been removed from High Potential. The deck lives and dies with Needle Ceiling and unfortunately has a tough time against faster decks like Ancient Gears that can wipe its whole board with relative ease. However, Mecha Phantom Beasts are still one of the best "rogue" decks and it would not be surprising to see them continue to have fringe representation at competitive events.
Tier List update written by superforms.