The archetype - a series of thematically-interconnected cards whose effects and abilities, when played in the same deck as one another, unlock the potential for high-level combos - reigns supreme in modern Yu-Gi-Oh! While in the early days of the game’s existence you could get away with throwing your strongest monsters together with enough Equip Spells and staple cards to keep them on the field and have a chance at victory, nowadays a deck without the synergetic qualities of modern archetypes like Vanquish or Unchained will struggle to find any level of success.
The synergy of a well-designed, modern archetype in the hands of a talented player with the technical understanding to know what works and what doesn’t within the context of the metagame (and the talent to augment the basics of any deck to overcome an opponent’s strategy) is key to victory in Yu-Gi-Oh! today. Without it, more likely than not, you’ll drop out of finals without a chance of redemption. With this in mind, we wanted to look at the building blocks of a new archetype making its debut within the newest core booster set, Age of Overlord, and understand what impact it could have in the meta over the coming weeks and months.
In the case of Diabellstar, when we say we want to talk about the building blocks of a potentially-powerful new deck releasing in Age of Overlord, we do mean the building blocks. Within Age of Overlord, the set introducing the archetype, there is just a single Diabellstar monster available alongside a selection of Sinful Spoil spell and trap cards. The deck synergises with various Snake-Eyes cards also available in the same set and first released in Duelist Nexus, but beyond the Level 1 monsters used as building blocks for the deck’s core strategy this brings just one new boss monster into the equation: Snake-Eyes Flamberge Dragon.
What makes Diabellstar a rather cumbersome monster for your opponent to overcome is that it’s very difficult to actually get rid of the card once it’s out on the field.
The deck is primarily built around Diabellstar the Black Witch, which currently serves as the only monster the archetype has to offer as of the release of Age of Overlord. This 2500 ATK Level 7 Spellcaster has relatively simple summoning conditions, considering it can be Special summoned just by sending one card from the hand or field to the Graveyard, although the limit of being summoned this way once per turn prevents anyone from quickly spamming three copies of the beater onto the field in a single turn. From there, you can directly set one Sinful Spoils spell or trap card from your deck.
What makes Diabellstar a rather cumbersome monster for your opponent to overcome is that it’s very difficult to actually get rid of the card once it’s out on the field. During your opponent's turn, if this card is sent from its owner's hand or field to the Graveyard you can send one card from your hand or field to the Graveyard to bring it right back, and summoning the card in this way doesn’t have once-per-turn limitations like its primary summoning method. This isn’t even limited to being destroyed by an opponent’s card effect or in battle, either, so you could use Super Polymerization in your opponent’s turn before bringing this card right back if you so desired.
When you bring the Sinful Spoils spell and trap cards into the picture, the potential for the deck becomes apparent. WANTED: Seeker of Sinful Spoils is one of the most highly-anticipated cards in the new set for a reason, as it serves not only as a searcher for Diabellstar monsters when activated normally but can be banished from the Graveyard to send any Sinful Spoils spell or trap card either banished or in the Graveyard to the bottom of the deck before also drawing a card. This card advantage improves consistency and searchability for the deck and is crucial in making the deck viable in these early sets of their existence.
Other Sinful Spoils spell and trap cards also possess secondary effects that can be activated when banished from the Graveyard. Sinful Spoils of Betrayal - Silvera is a trap card that allows you to send a Diabellstar monster from your hand or face-up field to the Graveyard in order to negate the effects of any card on the field. Then, if this card is in the Graveyard when an opponent tries to activate a card or effect in response to a Diabellstar or Sinful Spoils card, you can simply banish this card to negate that effect too. While you can only activate one of these effects per turn, preventing its use as a single-turn double-negation power play, it is a useful card nonetheless.
As for the link between Diabellstar, Sinful Spoils and Snake-Eyes? That comes with Original Sinful Spoils - Snake-Eye, a spell card that can send one face-up card from the field to the Graveyard to Special Summon a Level 1 Fire Monster from your hand or deck (most likely being a Snake-Eye). It can also search for a similar monster and send a Snake-Eye or Diabellstar monster from the Graveyard to the bottom of the deck when banished from the Graveyard for its secondary effect.
That all being said, what sort of impact can we really expect from an archetype still so far in its infancy to only possess a single monster of its own and a few spell and trap cards? For that, it’s best to cast our eyes over to the OCG and look at just how the deck is being played in the current meta in Japan, where the cards and this set have already been available for a few months up to this point.
Doing so reveals the card has found success in Japan, but not in a pure variant taking advantage of all these cards for a deck placing Diabellstar at the centre. This is understandable at such an early stage, for sure, but it is worth keeping in mind as we discuss some of these early decks utilising the archetype from recent months.
Diabellstar has found a home within the Rescue-Ace deck - the deck hasn't ever been bad within the TCG, but it lacked the popularity and consistency needed for success until Duelist Nexus.
One of the main homes that Diabellstar has found in a post-Age of Overlord world is within the Rescue-Ace deck. It’s not that the deck has ever been bad within the TCG, but it lacked the popularity and consistency needed for success until the release of the most recent set, Duelist Nexus. Even then, as a result of the 2023 Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championships where many of these cards were banned from competitive play in the headline event, many overlooked the deck until well into August. Only recently have we seen it find limited success in major events, such as the second-place finish at YCS Cancun by Max Reynolds.
In Japan, where the only hit to Rescue-ACE on the Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden and Limited list is a semi-limit to the deck’s primary searcher Air Lifter, Diabellstar has been introduced as a way to improve consistency in the deck and offer an easy-to-summon strong monster into the mix for turns where going into the deck’s main combos may not be viable due to the card’s availability. Taking this deck list of Zabida as an example, the deck runs a relatively-standard variation on Rescue-ACE with the addition of two copies of Diabellstar the Dark Witch and three copies of WANTED: Seeker of Sinful Spoils, alongside a single copy of Original Sinful Spoils - Snake-Eye.
The advantages of such a decision should be obvious. Even beyond the attacking strength of Dark Watch, its ability to search out either WANTED: Seeker of Sinful Spoils for a free draw is an obvious advantage for a deck that relies on Air Lifter and Hydrant, another searcher in the deck, to kick-start its core combo. The synergy between Diabellstar and Rescue-ACE only increases when considering Original Sinful Spoils - Snake-Eye’s lack of specificity for targeting Snake-Eye monsters with its effect. Since the card only specifies it can Special summon a Level 1 Fire monster rather than specifically a Snake-Eye monster, it can be used to bring out Hydrant directly from the deck as another outlet for starting your Rescue-ACE combos.
You can even avoid running into multiple copies of the card at the detriment of your other strategies by running the card at one copy per dock as seen in this list, thanks to its ability to be easily searched by the other Diabellstar cards. The draw potential of WANTED: Seeker of Sinful Spoils has been a core appeal of other decks where the archetype has made an appearance such as Tearlaments, but the heavy impacts of the deck on the Forbidden and Limited List will likely avoid a repeat of this internationally, especially considering further hits to the consistency of the deck in the recent list in Japan appear to have all-but killed off the deck’s remaining viability.
Upon the release of Age of Overlord in the TCG, we imagine that Rescue-Ace will be the main use-case scenario for the archetype, just as we have seen transpire in the OCG. Original Sinful Spoils allows the Diabellstar archetype to work effectively as an engine within the deck, helping further improve the deck’s consistency and transform it into a greater threat than it was before.
Provided its cards continue to receive support from Konami, there is hope for the deck to reach new heights in future events.
Can the deck succeed beyond this? Not until future releases, but there is potential. It was recently announced that the deck would receive further support in the next core set following Age of Overlord titled Phantom Nightmare. With a Japanese release just before Halloween, international players won’t have a chance to get their hands on these new cards until early 2024, and the impact new support will have on the viability of the archetype remains to be seen.
That being said, these are aesthetically-appealing, well-designed cards with an interesting mechanic revolving around their ability to send cards to and from the Graveyard in order to extend their combos and potential. Provided they continue to receive support from Konami, there is hope for the deck to reach new heights in future events.