Written by Matt Perez
Link Joker’s Messiah has quickly gained fame as the second best deck in Standard Vanguard since its introduction in EB07: The Heroic Evolution. Although it is not as strong or consistently tops as much as Bermuda Triangle, this deck is surely respected and has a fair, if not good, chance at beating the top deck on a regular basis. There isn’t much that this deck cannot do and it is extremely satisfying to play, especially since this is one of the few decks in Standard where the player has a stronger sense of agency piloting it. There are many decision trees in this deck, which will reward the player for reacting properly to different situations or being proactive in gaining constant advantage. With the emergence of this new force in the meta, it is important to understand why it is so strong and where it falters.
Big Boy Harmonics Messiah
The deck's strength first and foremost comes from the boss unit itself, Harmonics Messiah. The fact that this card can call any unit from the deck to the field on its first G3 ride is extremely powerful and it only get stronger on the second ride. Once Messiah reaches its second G3 ride, everything is online. This unit allows for multi-attacks, situational superior calls, and a lot of draw power. This deck will search for any card you need during the battle phase, call it, unlock it, and have your front row gain 15k power to apply more pressure to the opponent. The deck built around Messiah only strengthens its skills and makes the deck a well oiled machine. Claw of Occlusion, Ghastly Nail and Lady Battler of the Gravity Well are extremely strong cards that help you draw and set up a field by means of locking a card from your hand and top of the deck respectively. This is especially important because these two cards enable Messiah to receive five attacks in one turn.
What's a deck without its pieces?
Messiah has other cards that help gain advantage to hand or board. Remarkable Burst Monk allows the player to essentially draw a card when it becomes unlocked and if the card added was a G3, the vanguard can re-stand by discarding two cards. Destiny Dealer allows you to lock the top card of your deck to the field which is extremely useful during the early game and against control match-ups. On top of that, Messiah is also given a strong control engine. It has powerful spot removal that binds cards on the field face down. Blast Monk of the Thundering Foot is a guaranteed bind on attack by counter blasting one and it also has the ability to soul charge if a G2 or greater is bound by this skill. Soul in Messiah is an extremely useful resource, and soul charging a 3 can be game changing. Sunset Edge, Duskblade is a similar card, in that if the unit it boosts hits a vanguard, for CB1 you get a bind as well as a draw (if on G3), thus creating on-hit pressure.
Whiteouter, Vect is an interesting card in Messiah because it forces the opponent to guard with triggers if they don't want you to counter blast one to draw and bind a G2 or greater card. The idea that you are giving your opponent the option to guard with at least a trigger is discouraging and many times in-optimal for your opponent. The card actually extremely powerful because even if they guard with normal units, the skill can still be used. Calderon Wing is also an added bonus to Messiah because it can lock itself and counter charge.
As you can see, Messiah basically has everything a deck would want. A strong draw engine, multi-attacks, a potential re-standing vanguard, control, power gain, soul charge, and a consistent counter charger. The deck is given so many useful cards that only help Harmonics Messiah shine. These are only a few cards listed that could go into a strong Messiah deck as well. Link Joker has a large card pool and there are so many different options that can go into the deck. You'll find many different builds that prioritize different strategies, but knowing that Messiah has access to all these different strategies and can potentially implement them all in one deck is terrifying.
So what's the catch?
Since Messiah has so many different options and deck builds, it is easy to think that this deck is unbeatable. Fortunately, this is not the case. If it didn't have a clear weakness, then the deck would not be considered to be the second best in the format. The cards mentioned before in its advantages are also sometimes its disadvantages. Some of the cards need a G3 vanguard to activate, and many of the cards have a cost that "evens out" because it basically replaces what is used. The cards are not bad by any means, but every card has a cost. This means that Messiah can run out of resources easily. The strongest strategy to defeat Messiah consistently abusing its weak early game. The deck does not have a strong draw engine until second G3 ride. Even though it can call a board fairly easily, the deck does not have the luxury of being able to generate resources to hand during the early stages of the game. Messiah's first G3 ride is also very weak. Either you ride Messiah and get a free call as lock, or you use Ghastly Nail to call a locked card and draw. Some variants of Messiah have started using Docking Deletor, Greion and Wandering Starhulk Ruler, Brant to try and make a more effective first G3 ride or to relieve pressure for a turn before being able to ride Messiah.
Messiah struggles between calling cards early to pressure the opponent or to play safe and guard against any pressure that may come its way. It can have a decent early game since it has so many units that retire the field, but decks that can constantly call out a board with minimal resources or decks that can multi-attack early exploit Messiah's weakness effectively. The largest candidates for this are Bermuda Triangle and Nova Grappler. Bermuda can rush and call out a board with so much efficiency that Messiah struggles keeping up. In addition to this, Bermuda Triangle is a deck that reaches its power spike on its first G3 ride. Being able to hit extremely high attacking columns is the bane to Messiah's weak early game, while Nova Grappler simply rushes Messiah to the ground. Unfortunately, all the Messiah player can hope for are triggers, enough shield to guard effectively, or hope that Nova Grappler does not have many early rush pieces. Other decks such as Kagero can have a strong match-up against Messiah since it keeps the same pace and has the ability to retire back row rear guards. Messiah's attacks are not as potent or deadly without boosters, so even with the multi-attacks, it is much easier to guard in all stages of the game. Although, there really is a race against the clock because once Messiah can get its second G3 ride, it starts getting much harder to beat. Bermuda and Nova Grappler will start to fizzle due to the sheer multi-attacks Messiah can get and the fact that Messiah can start drawing a lot of cards means there is a much higher chance of drawing into sentinels/guard for those deadly columns/attacks. The biggest issue Messiah runs into on top of all this is: drawing into a second ride Messiah. Without the G3 in soul Messiah is underwhelming and cannot pressure any deck. In fact not being able to draw into Messiah at all is game ending.
Overall, Messiah is an extremely powerful deck that has everything a deck could want. The deck is satisfying to play and it gives the player a larger amount of agency piloting the deck. The decisions you make matter while playing the deck and can be a clear difference between winning and losing. Unfortunately for Messiah players, it is a slower deck that requires a second G3 ride. You can get lucky and soul charge a G3 off of Thundering Foot, but it is obviously not a consistent or reliable strategy. It tends to lose to decks that play faster and can effectively abuse the early game to make the Messiah turns less deadly and the draws less effective. It has a strong win rate and player representation despite Bermuda being as strong as it is and Nova Grappler being a fairly clear early game counter. Messiah is one of the decks that has the tools to take down any deck, even the ones it typically struggles against, although it will almost always be an uphill battle until Messiah can stabilize the game state. With all of this being said, it is obvious that players will still take this deck to competitive tournaments because the pros of this deck typically outweigh the cons. You can find more information on Messiah and how to better pilot it from our Link Joker clan primer!
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