There has been a pretty recent explosion in the popularity of Leila Fusoya decks after Harigai and Sawada’s performance at Masters Final, mostly of the Mono Water variety but also a couple of other spin-off variants. I started grinding games on the deck immediately after reviewing the vods on my Twitch channel (though it was a little different for about a day or two until the lists were published on the Column).
After watching Euro’s and seeing players struggle with mutilated versions of the deck I couldn’t help but feel like people were fundamentally misunderstanding what the point of Harigai’s variant actually is, why it’s teched the way it is, and how you are supposed to play the first few defining turns with the deck. Today, I would like to run through how I analyzed his list and how it taught me his thought process while building and playing the deck and what I should do to achieve a parallel level of performance.
As always, everything I say here is just the way I view and play the game. Take it with a grain of salt; it may not work for you the way it does for me, and that’s okay!
First: The List
Mono Water Fusoya isn’t exactly a hot new archetype. We’ve seen a lot of Fusoya Decks in the past with Water/Lightning variants (ie the OG Harigai and Kurosawa decks) and then Mono Water as a successor for most of Opus 5 until Jihl R became a staple in both dominant Ice variants as a countermeasure that largely drove it out of the meta. So now in Opus 6, why did Harigai’s archetype absolutely curbstop the competition at the Final despite there being a plethora of it seen and tested beforehand? This should be puzzling to you, and it definitely was to me.
Second: Identify the Change
The first thing I looked at to try to understand the list was what was different. Take a moment to pour over the list and think about it.
There should be a number of things that draw your eye, but the immediately obvious ones should be the 3 PuPu, 3 Brahne, 3 Merlwyb R, and maybe 2 Baderon. These are pretty far out of the ordinary. Merlwyb H is usually preferred over Merlwyb R as an EX Burst and filter for your extra Fusoyas. Brahne is usually a 1 or 2 of, and PuPu is often viewed as strictly worse than Moogle, which isn’t even always a one-of in these lists. The backup lineup cuts a lot of mid-late performance Backups like Scholar and Gladiator, which are often viewed as staples for Water. Without Scholar there really isn’t a reliable Cag combo (yes it is possible with Leviathan) and without Gladiator you can lose some of your opponent mid-late cycle and Cloud of Darkness extensions. So why would Harigai make these unconventional changes? What purpose do they serve?
Third: Think About Why it Changed
This one is surprisingly less straightforward than it seems, and it’s possible that there is no one one “correct” answer; there is often a multitude of a reasons why any given change might have seen particular success at an event whether or not it aligned with the deckbuilder’s original intentions. Some commons things that are probably worth thinking about that may lead you to an answer are things like the popularity of a certain archetype at the previous event, expected fields, the introduction of certain power cards or new synergies (more relevant at the beginning of a new set), and the abuse of cards that have shown themselves to be significantly above the power curve.
To be very clear, Harigai’s changes to the existing archetype can most reasonably be attributed to the last of those statements; in other words, Harigai threw away the common logic of Mono Water Fusoya up until this point to abuse Leila as much as possible. The extra Brahnes and Merlwybs are insurance that you can get your Leila online as fast as possible, and this is often the case as early as turn 1 or 2. The entire of dynamic of the Fusoya deck shifts as a result. While Mono Water Fusoya was often considered a midrangey deck that relied on tempo swings with Summoner/Fusoya combo interaction, Harigai’s version of the list abuses everything that those lists had going for them while increasing the tempo and shifting down to a more aggressive approach. This is where PuPu really comes in to shine. Because if you have no hand you can tack it on to your Merlwyb/Baderon/Brahne/Viking or simply play out your hand and reload a little more quickly that the other aggressive decks (primarily TD, which PuPu is also fantastic into), you have multiple avenues for recovery when your tempo stutters.
I’ve heard a lot of talk about the list about going up to 5 Backups and getting stuck or clogged, or being unable to deal with developed opposing boards with your low quality Forwards. I think that if you’re experiencing those kind of issues, you’re probably missing the point of the deck entirely. You are the aggressor, not the controller, and Cloud of Darkness extensions plus Fusoya and his synergies are there to allow you to make those aggressive pushes. It is not an all-in deck, which is why we don’t see cards like Garnet S alongside the PuPu. The entire point of the PuPu is to abuse existing synergies and promote the aggressive playstyle; it is the glue that helps keep the deck bound together. You almost never hit 5 backups, because you should be pitching the dead ones (often Baderon and Wakka) to kill them.
Editor's Note: By request we've included Jareds coverage of the event with the featured decks. It was an impromptu and casual stream among friends, not made specifically for this article. We trailed off a bit after the coverage and people were joining/leaving at different points.
Fourth: Play the Deck With Those Changes in Mind
Now that we’ve identified what Harigai’s list is trying to do; don’t go fuck it up by changing something right away. Playing a few games while thinking explicitly about the working components of the deck is the best way to process these changes, understand the strength of the deck, and abuse it as best as you possible can. Try to work with the changed elements as much as you can. If the point of Harigai’s list was to abuse t1/2 Leila in a Wind/Water, Earth/Wind, and TD heavy matchup, play into those matchups and try to abuse Leila. You’ll find yourself understanding the deck much more quickly.
I would like to clarify that I have no intention to say that you can’t change the deck, only that you shouldn’t do it right away and you shouldn’t turn around and reverse the changes the predecessor made just because you think X cards (Merlwyb H, Scholars, and Gladiators) are better than the new component those changes (Leila abuse via Brahne and Merlwyb R) provide. Every change made should be to take the deck into a direction that you think is more appropriate towards the field while doing your best not to screw with the new dynamic from the deck.
Anything beyond these four steps kind of reaches outside of the realm of netdecking and becomes deckbuilding, which is less about winning-deck analysis and more of a philosophy that I think I (a fairly successful netdecker) am less qualified to talk about. You would be better of reading Kurosawa’s article or listening to a very potent deckbuilding madman like JFB. I hope this gave a little insight into how you might go about understanding the thought process of players and metas just by looking over decklists, the way I do.