Welcome to the Underworld
As you tour the Nine Circles of Hell described in Dante's Inferno, you will meet all of the evil Malebranche that reside in the depths of the "Burning Abyss", and even Dante himself and his guide, Virgil. However, with Tour Guide From the Underworld leading the way into your exploration all the way to the Fire Lake, there is no need to be afraid of the horde of terrible demons and their appetite for destruction.
Burning Abyss is an archetype whose Main Deck Effect Monsters consist of Level 3 DARK Fiend-Type monsters, each with 3 effects or conditions. All of them are rather picky in that they refuse to be on the field with a non-Burning Abyss monster, self-destructing if you control any non-BA monster; also, every Malebranche can be Special Summoned from the hand if the player controls no Spell or Trap cards, allowing for strong opening plays to swarm the field and make Rank 3 plays. Finally, every Malebranche has a 3rd effect, or condition in Rubic's case (he's the Tuner of the archetype), that activates when it is sent to the Graveyard in any way, creating shocking synergy with Mill and discard effects. As for Extra Deck monsters and the on-theme Ritual Monster, Dante achieves the former, while Virgil and Malacoda trigger the Malebranches' effects via the latter method.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Power: 6/10
Standard Burning Abyss decks typically don't summon any monsters with an ATK greater than 2500, which is nothing outstanding by modern Yu-Gi-Oh! standards. This isn't as much of an issue in Ritual builds, which have Malacoda, who sits at 2700 ATK with a stat-modifying effect, but even then, he is not always readily summonable. Most of the Malebranche are fairly weak offensively, with 1200 ATK or less, but there are a few exceptions, such as Cir's decent 1600 ATK stat. It's also worth noting that several of them have sizable DEF stats for their Level 3 status, all the way up to 2100. The lack of offensive power is aided by the aggressive nature of the Trap cards that Burning Abyss tend to play, eliminating threats that the deck's monster forces can't break through alone.
- Consistency: 10/10
Quite frankly, there are very few decks that rival the consistency of a Burning Abyss deck. Consistency is, arguably, the best and most powerful quality that the archetype possesses. The deck thrives and rolls around in consistency; it can almost always summon an Extra Deck monster on Turn 1, and often multiple. Most other themes can only dream of reaching a level of consistency such as this.
- Speed: 7.5/10
While the deck certainly doesn't have the speed of Lightsworns or Tele-DAD, the deck gets rolling quickly, usually right from Turn 1, usually snowballing in a series of discarding and milling effects that deplete half of the BA player's deck within 4 or 5 turns. The common effect of the Malebranches that allows them to be Special Summoned from the hand, along with Cir's and Graff's effects allow Burning Abyss decks to swarm the field quickly.
- Draw/Search Power: 9/10
As stated before, the deck is so consistent, all due to its access to a plethora of draw and search power. Tour Guide From the Underworld is the chiefest of these, allowing the player to tutor any Malebranche straight from the Deck, but the deck also has Graff and Scarm for more search power, Allure of Darkness and Virgil offer draw power, and Dante and Cir recover cards from the Graveyard. Therefore, the deck has some of the best draw and search power in the history of the game, only comparable to themes like Air Blade Turbo, Tempest Dragunities, Dragon Rulers, and Wind-Ups.
As stated above, the standard Burning Abyss Deck lacks muscle to deal with threats above the 2500 ATK cusp, and especially struggles with monsters above the benchmark that can't be targeted by card effects, such as Yazi, Evil of the Yang Zing and Leo, the Keeper of the Sacred Tree. Due to the nature of the key mechanics of the deck, "floodgate" cards like Vanity's Emptiness and Skill Drain can slow the deck down, while cards that prevent the Malebranche's Graveyard effects, i.e. Dimensional Fissure, Macro Cosmos, Soul Drain, and Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror, can almost shut down the deck entirely if not handled quickly. However, most of these can be played around fairly easily with Traps like Phoenix Wing Wind Blast, and BA's signature Trap, Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss.
On-Theme Cards & Support
- Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss - The first of the Malebranche to be revealed and the heart of the deck. Scarm can search any Malebranche from the Deck during the end of the turn that it hits the Graveyard, but more importantly, it can search Tour Guide From the Underworld for easy 1-card Rank 3 plays. Scarm has amazing synergy with Phoenix Wing Wind Blast, Karma Cut, etc., essentially making these cards costless. If you play Burning Abyss, max it out or play another deck.
- Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss - Another one of the first trio of Malebranche released in Duelist Alliance, and it's the second most important Malebranche in the Deck, grabbing another demon buddy from the deck when sent to the Graveyard. Combos well with Tour Guide to set up the classic "double Dante" plays. Double Dante is delicious. Run 3.
- Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss - Cir is the final member of the original trio and the last piece of the puzzle that makes up the backbone of the Deck and gives it consistency. While Scarm and Graff and deck searches, Cir brings in field reinforcements from the Graveyard, further aiding in swarms and making Fire Lake live. Cir also has interesting synergy with Dante, looping each other for a recurring 2500 DEF wall as well as allowing easier access to recycling Fire Lake without having to summon a fresh Dante from the Extra Deck. In pure builds, this card is a must to maximize. Run 3.
- Alich, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss - A member of the admittedly lackluster second wave of Malebranche, released in The Next Challengers. Ever since it was released, it's easily been the worst Malebranche, yet it was still decent as a 1-of for another Malebranche name and the option to use its niche effect if needed, to shut down an El Shaddoll Winda. It's not really bad; however, since Farfa's release, poor Alich is terribly outclassed for basically all of his uses, save for synergy with your own Acid Golem. It's best to overlook this guy.
- Calcab, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss - The second Malebranche in the second bunch offers some disruption. Calcab can bounce a Set Spell or Trap when sent to the Graveyard, which in theory seems great when trying to get some big plays off without a hitch. Unfortunately, Calcab doesn't work as well in theory as in practice. Due to the sheer volume of other Malebranche that'd you'll almost always want to trigger instead of Calcab, he usually doesn't qualify for deck space. It's not necessary, but if you really must, no more than 1.
- Rubic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss - Hands down, easily the best Malebranche in the second trio, solely because of Rubic's status as Tuner monster. He has the first 2 standard effects of all of the other Malebranche, meaning you can still Special Summon him from the hand if your backrow is empty. He can only be used for the Synchro Summon of a Burning Abyss monster, but that's exactly what you need him for - to summon Virgil easily. Virgil is awesome, which will be discussed later, and this guy is the only way to make him reliably without going to off-theme shenanigans that the Malebranche don't tend to like much anyway. For this reason, Rubic is a staple and usually worth running multiples of, but some builds have had success with just 1 copy since he is so easy to grab when needed, by either Graff, Cir, or even Scarm. Usually though, for consistency purposes, 2-3 is recommended.
- Cagna, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss - Now, we get to the latest set of Malebranche, released in Secrets of Eternity. The newest Malebranche trio is certainly unique, and, in general, better than the second trio. Cagna was released to go in tandem with the deck's Ritual Spell, Good & Evil in the Burning Abyss. Therefore, Cagna's usefulness really shines through in Ritual builds, which will be running 3 copies of the Ritual Spell that Cagna can dump, making both effects of Preparation of Rites live. Interestingly, Cagna can still be used in standard builds as well, by teching in a copy of Good & Evil, which would be used for its second effect to search a Burning Abyss card from the Deck. Another target for Cagna's effect is Fire Lake, which can be recovered by a fallen Dante's effect. In Ritual builds, run 2-3. In standard builds, consider 0-2 as tech.
- Libic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss - This guy happens to be one of the unlucky Malebranche to be overshadowed by the other ones. With Graff, Cir, and Scarm offering +1's off of their effects, a "Special Summon from the hand" effect is basically eclipsed by these more powerful effects. While indeed, Libic does pale in comparison to the original trio, the negation clause of its effect, which at first glance would seem to be a drawback, actually saves it from be relegated to complete obscurity. In Burning Abyss decks that choose to run Mathematician, Libic can be yarded by Math's effect to Special Summon a Malebranche that can stand to be on the field with Mathematician. This opens up a Dante (or other Rank 3) play in a pinch, which is otherwise impossible to do in a basic Mathematician build. In builds with Mathematician, including 1 copy can be useful.
- Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss - Finally, we have Farfa, the last Malebranche currently released at this point, and is definitely one of the deck's best options. Rather than simply negating an opponent's troublesome monster efect, Farfa lets the player bypass a monster entirely, banishing it for a turn and clearing the field temporarily to dish out more damage. Excellent for stripping opposing Xyz Monsters of their materials and dancing around El Shaddoll Winda, El Shaddoll Construct, Stardust Spark Dragon, etc. In all Burning Abyss-focused builds, 2-3 copies work excellently.
- Malacoda, Netherlord of the Burning Abyss - The final Main Deck Burning Abyss monster, and the oddball of the bunch, being a Level 6 Ritual Monster. Malacoda is the leader of the Malebranche, sporting a nice 2700 ATK and the ability to weaken opposing monsters, making it a formidable beatstick that the deck otherwise doesn't have access to. That said, as a Ritual Monster, Malacoda requires dedicated support to use effectively, meaning the deck has to sacrifice quite a few of its tricks to include him. However, creating a one-sided Special Summon soft-lock with Djinn Releaser of Rituals is a notable benefit of the Ritual build that shouldn't be overlooked. In dedicated Ritual builds, use 3. Otherwise, 0.
Extra Deck Monsters
- Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss - Ah, Dante. Ladies and gentlemen, now we get to the de facto key monster of the archetype. Dante makes the whole deck tick and function fluently. As a Rank 3, he is stupidly easy to spam and speeds the deck up considerably. His effect triggers the effect of a Malebranche he detaches for his effect, but the icing on the cake is that any Malebranche that may be milled to increase his ATK also activate their effects, provided they already haven't been used yet during that turn. Although his nice 2500 ATK stat (3 should always be the number chosen) drops back to a measly 1000 at the end of the turn, he will always be switched to defense position after he attacks to be a 2500 DEF blocker. The cherry on top of the icing on the cake is Dante's final effect that adds any Burning Abyss card back from the Graveyard to your hand if he's sent to the Graveyard, and yes, that includes Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss. MAX IT OUT, no exceptions.
- Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss - While discussing Rubic, it was mentioned that he is ran for his access to Virgil, which is indeed a powerful utility card and the other BA Extra Deck monster. Virgil offers further spot removal and some potential graveyard manipulation, basically functioning as a pseudo-Phoenix Wing Wind Blast/The Transmigration Prophecy on a 2500 ATK body, which is fantastic and always welcome. 2 copies should be plenty.
- Good & Evil in the Burning Abyss - Currently the only Burning Abyss Spell card, and it's quite useful. Ritual builds will need as many copies as this as possible in order to summon Malacoda, and it's still worth considering even in pure versions for it's powerful search effect that can trigger a Malebranche's effect and simultaneously pluck Fire Lake directly from the deck. Ritual builds must have 3, other builds can opt to run 0 or 1.
- The Traveler and the Burning Abyss - Awesome artwork, but that's sadly the best part about this card. It competes with Alich as the worst card in the archetype, which admittedly isn't too much of a shame, considering the high caliber of the Burning Abyss theme. In fact, this card still has some viability, albeit very minimal. A championship-winning build ran a copy, so teching 1 could have its uses to recover from a massive nuke, but The Traveler and the Burning Abyss is best left as a nice coaster for a drink.
- Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss - Ok, so Fire Lake is amazing. It's the Burning Abyss-stamped version of Icarus Attack and Fish Depth Charge. What makes it so potent is that it disrupts the opponent's plays while triggering the effects of the Burning Abyss monsters sent to the Graveyard to activate it. This allows the Burning Abyss player to continue to establish their set-up during the opponent's turn. Brutal. Not to mention that it's searchable by Cagna and recycled easily by Dante's last effect. Usually, Fire Lake will be a +2 in the end. +2's are good, run 3.
Other Support Cards
- Tour Guide From the Underworld - Introducing our Tour Guide, everyone's favorite instant Rank 3 card. Literally the first thought that ran through most players' minds when they saw the first 3 Malebranche was, "Holy crap, these things can all be summoned by Tour Guide! *drools*" She is definitely the best off-theme card and supports the deck brilliantly, allowing for easy double Dante plays by searching Graff, detaching Graff for Dante's effect, searching for another Malebranche to pair with another one that Special Summons itself from the hand. Deadly combo enabler and universal searcher that can search about half of the deck, summon my key monster, and gives beaucoups of card advantage? Yes, please. No questions asked, max it. Always.
- Mathematician - So, the Malebranche like being in the Graveyard. Mathematician likes sending stuff to the Graveyard. 2+2=4? Seriously though, Mathematician has obvious simple synergy with all of the Malebranche, instantly triggering any one the player chooses. Usually, this will be a Graff to summon Scarm, which will destroy itself and set up a Rank 3 play next turn by searching for Tour Guide during the End Phase. This play thins the deck by two cards and strengthens the consistency of Tour Guide plays, plus nets the user a free card if Mathematician happens to be ran over during the next turn. In early builds, Mathematician was nearly a must-have, but now with more Malebranche released, he can clog and slow the deck down a bit at times, so he is no longer as useful. Any number is acceptable, as it's mostly up to preference, but most current builds use 0 or 2. Ritual builds need 3 to dump Djinns too.
- Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning - What? We're overwhelmed with a ton of yarded DARK monsters but there's no LIGHT monsters in the Main Deck...oh wait, what's this? The spammable, key Extra Deck monster, Dante, is LIGHT. Given the tendency of Burning Abyss decks to almost always summon Dante on their first turn, the Chaos boss, BLS, is often live as early as a Burning Abyss player's second turn. While it has begun to fall out of favor due to lack of necessity, BLS rings in at 3000 ATK and brings that crucial muscle that Burning Abyss needs, offering more removal and double-attacking. Think carefully about choosing to exclude him; he can win games that would otherwise be lost. It's recommended to run the 1 you're allowed.
- Caius the Shadow Monarch - A mainstay in earlier days of Burning Abyss, but much like Mathematician, Caius is somewhat antiquated now. Burning Abyss can almost always plop down a monster to tribute off for Caius for some more board control, but now that Malebranche can often be paired with another one for a Dante, who brings more utility, instead. If you like him, try 1-2.
- Allure of Darkness - Allure has been a semi-staple in DARK-heavy decks since it's release back in Phantom Darkness, and Burning Abyss is no different. The Malebranche don't particularly like being banished, but the deck thinning power is nifty and is always welcome in order to see Tour Guide, BLS, and other power cards more often. It's optional, but you could run up to as many copies allowed, which is currently 1.
- Foolish Burial - Foolish Burial instantly triggers any Malebranche's effect you choose. This card screams utility. Use the 1 copy you can.
- Enemy Controller - A less popular choice, but it's a chain-able Quick-Play Spell that can disrupt the opponent or use their monster against them, depending on if Enemy Controller was activated on the opponent's turn or the player's turn. If a Dante or Malebranche is tributed, of course, that monster's effect will activate as well. The "switch position" effect can come in handy to stop an attack too or run over a strong monster with low defense. With Snatch Steal now legal, this card does lose a little bit of appeal, although it's still a notable option. 0-2 should be considered.
- Phoenix Wing Wind Blast - Along with Fire Lake, PWWB is another reason that Burning Abyss has sometimes been called the ultimate Trap deck. The cost of Phoenix Wing Wind Blast and similar discard effects is mitigated if a Malebranche is discarded, making it essentially free disruption that, like Fire Lake, continues to establish the player's board presence. Handles Extra Deck monsters easily and also can disrupt the opponent's next draw. A must-run at 3.
- Karma Cut/Raigeki Break - Karma Cut follows the same concept as PWWB but it banishes a monster instead and can't target Spells and Traps, so it's a little more narrow. Raigeki Break can destroy Spells and Traps but doesn't work as well at removing some monsters, since it destroys, but that is preferred for some monsters as opposed to spinning them back to the top of the deck for the opponent to draw again next turn. Some Burning Abyss builds have chosen to ditch these for a few more Malebranche, so it's up to preference depending on the desired Trap count. In trap-heavy builds run 2 of one of these. In builds light on traps, run 0.
This build focuses more on creating a Special Summon soft-lock by using Djinn Releaser of Rituals to summon Malacoda and using the nice search effect of the Ritual Spell to grab Fire Lakes more easily to protect the player's board and seal the game.
"Shabyss" - Beginning of the End Turbo
This unique variant of Burning Abyss includes a mini Shaddoll engine that brings some power and additional speed to answer Extra Deck monsters with a 1-card power play; Shaddoll Fusion. Shaddoll Beast also accelerates the deck nicely and can be Set if stuck in the hand by using the Burning Abyss monsters as Tribute fodder; Beast's Flip Effect is very welcome in here. Shaddoll monsters also have excellent synergy with discard traps and make The Beginning of the End live very quickly, which is a strong pick for the deck for insane draw power.