Yu-Gi-Oh! - Tistina: NOT a TCG Tragedy?
Excitement is a difficult thing to quantify in terms of a card game. While some new releases spark immediate joy & testing, for reasons of nostalgia, power, or uniqueness, others are almost immediately shrugged-off, falling by the wayside. That said, this rarely happens with TCG-Exclusives in Yugioh: They’re unique, being premieres for the non-OCG regions, oftentime utilize new mechanics, and historically have a pedigree in competitive play. Everyone’s awaiting the next Kozmo, Burning Abyss, or Kaiju, knowing our exclusive archetypes offset the months-long staggering of releases from abroad. This is where my favorite deck of all time, Tistina, comes in.
Tistina, as an archetype, has perhaps the lowest word-of-mouth I’ve ever seen in a TCG-Exclusive; even travesties like War Rock became instant memes, and mediocre strategies like Beetrooper topped regionals at their height. Despite the art being overall uninspired, the name not ringing bells of references or wordplay, and the gameplan being…simple, however, Tistina has somehow become my favorite archetype ever. Let me explain.
The first wave of Tistina’s support, arriving in Duelist Nexus, was met with little fanfare. If you keep up with the YouTube presence of Yugioh, this sentiment was echoed at-large, with most content creators passing it over without so much as a second thought. It became known as ‘That deck that Destructive Daruma Karma Cannons the opponent’, and pretty much everyone agreed to wait for the second wave, coming in Age of Overlord. That sheer lack of interest from the playerbase was what compelled me to test with the strategy, and while it’s taken some time & effort, I’ve smashed tiered lists with a brew we’ll discuss further down this article, as well as grinding to success on Duelingbook. The reason is simple: I recognized the deck didn’t need to blind second.
More than a blind second deck that’s simply looking to resolve Divine Domain Baatistina to Summon Crystal God Tistina, the strategy excels at simply putting a ton of bodies on the board, which threaten to be resummoned on turn 3. If you’re sequencing it correctly, opens of essentially any two Tistina names gets you 5 material, with the threat of 5 more on turn 3, specifically by way of Sentinel of the Tistina, Breath of the Tistina, and to a lesser extent, Demigod of the Tistina. What you can actually do with this material varies greatly from build-to-build, but in my case, I’ve refined the deck to function seamlessly with a meta darling: Scareclaw Kashtira, aka ‘Scarekash’. What Tistina gives this strategy is the following: A free Level 4 to make Baronne with Visas, enough bodies to hard-make Scareclaw Tri-Heart (which normally minuses you), the tools to go second better than normal while retaining a midrange gameplan going first.
It’s vital to stress that last point: Tistina, even if you’re not fully committed to going second, immensely helps any secondary engine go second. Baatistina into God is accessible at any point in your search chain, and Breath can even be a midcombo Book of Moon if you’re not threatened. Kashtira Fenrir, as he is in every meta deck right now, also assists going second, as sometimes a low-to-the-ground game just becomes so-called ‘Fenrir Control’. For us, however, it’s also a free body that searches Scareclaw Kashtira, which opens the entire Scareclaw line. The list is flush with field spells that act as individual starters, finding Fenrirs, Visas, Scareclaw pieces, etc with a lot of redundancy. Due to the fact none of your engines lock, aside from Tri-Heart, being interrupted on one front means you just switch gears to another, constantly accessing different parts of your deck that each flow into one another.
While I don’t want to touch on exactly this list for too long, I do want to explain some general card choices, as there’s a lot of fine-tuning that’s been done here. The Tistina ratios are, in my opinion, perfect here, with 3 of your core cards, and 1 of each other, which you access over the course of your line as-needed. Our Scareclaw package is also minimal, as the Level 3 Scareclaws are demonstrably bad cards, and we only need one for the Tri-Heart revive into Reichheart, into Twinsaw/Arrival+Draw. The Mannadium Fearless is another adorable tech, making hands of Visas+Calarium not dead, and giving you access to Naturia Beast, by way of Fearless+Astra, in matchups where it’s an auto-win, such as Runick or Sky Striker. This list is playing midrange, hoping to end on Tri-Heart, 2 Scareclaw bodies, Twinsaw, a Draw, & I:P Masquerena, with higher ceiling hands also resulting in a Baronne or Naturia Beast. Then, on turn 3 (Given Tri-Heart helps you survive), you’re aiming to go Cross-Sheep into Vicious Astraloud, reviving Sentinel of the Tistina, resulting in an Accesscode for 3, or Underworld Goddess. Gadarla is also our best Kaiju option, as it’s got less than 3k ATK, and less than 2k DEF, which means essentially everything trades favorably into it. We’re on the format’s best handtraps, in Droll & Imperm, and the mandatory Triple Tactics package, with a sideboard aimed at beating Kashtira, Purrely, & Runick, with some hedges against Branded & Labrynth.
Much like Salamangreat, Tistina in all forms should aim to play as a midrange strategy, with a disruption-resistant turn 1, and an aggressive turn 3 via follow-up. The difference, though, is that everything: The Scareclaws, the Fenrirs, the Tistina, all have additional tools for going second. You’re ending on a negate, 2 pops, a draw, and Link-Locking turn 1, which isn’t impressive, but if you lose the die roll, you’re still likely to have similar or greater results. As was stated by Joshua Schmidt, one of the few content creators to recognize at least some potential in Tistina, they represent a form of card design that offsets the inherent disadvantage of going second while still looking reasonable on the play. This is great news for those who get tired of ‘coinflip formats’ all-too-common to Yugioh, but surely this deck isn’t doing anything insane with just 6 playables?
In my gut, I worried precisely that. Yet, I just kept winning.
In the same way that Vanquish Soul took second at Italian Nationals mostly due to its unexplored nature, the fact Tistina has absolutely 0 people talking about it helps make its strong points even stronger. I kept getting away with my standard line over & over, even if parts got negated, still managing to end on reasonable boards and beat my opponent on the crackback. Against a lot of decks in the current format, it turns out that Twinsaw+Apo via I:P can be enough to at least let you live for another turn. Much like Spright, you absolutely cannot give this deck their turn 3, though, and just surviving often meant a grind game not a lot of opponents could contest. Purrely & Infernoble have issues outing Tri-Heart, Kashtira loses hard to God, Breath, & Triple Tac effects, and a lot of rogue strategies can’t keep up with your supplemental engines. It was rare to open unplayable hands, and across my most recent stretch of games, I was able to at least do something every time, and sometimes, when your opponent’s down 2 cards from their opening hand due to ineffective hand-traps, that can be enough. If Salamangreat can top a regional, this list surely can as well. I intend to prove that!
I’ll be taking this list to as many tournaments as my time will allow, going forward, and I’m going to try my best to represent this ludicrously underloved strategy to the best of my ability. Moreover, I also somehow landed a moderator position in the Tistina Discord, so if I see you there, feel free to say hello!
I think one of the last big things to note about Tistina is that it has perhaps the highest second-wave power spike imaginable for a TCG-Exclusive deck. Part of what holds it back now is the lack of names, particularly for its Level 4 or lower monsters. If we get, for example, a Level 1 FIRE Tistina & Level 2 WATER Tistina, to follow the trend of Hound & Sentinel, that not only opens up the Snake Eye engine, but also Toadally Awesome. In AGOV regardless, we’re likely to consider the Diabellestar engine, as many decks will, because of our ability to cycle through excess empty advantage. Even if Konami gives Tistina the bare minimum, in the other two ‘animal’ monsters, that alone skyrockets the deck’s ceiling & floor alike, giving us way more tools to play with. If any of this interests you, any of it at all, I highly recommend picking up a Tistina core: The cards are dirt-cheap, and are unlikely to be reprinted anytime soon, so if we strike gold in Age of Overlord, you won’t want to miss out.
This article was a bit more free-form & irreverent than my normal work, and hopefully that’s something you enjoyed! If you have any thoughts about Tistina, or need combo sequences, feel free to ask below! I’m just trying to do my part in giving these K-Mart Adamancipator ripoffs the love they deserve.