Hello everyone, I’m Zach L. from Singapore and I’ve been playing OPTCG since May 23. I have some background in card games such as Yugioh, Hearthstone, and Duelyst as a casual player but that was many years back. I find OPTCG one of the most enjoyable card games ever created today, with many interesting decisions to make. Most importantly, the Singapore community is a joy to play with, with everyone being very friendly to each other and welcoming to newbies like me.
My ARLONG Deck
I decided to try out Arlong as I saw a few guys playing it casually in some other events and also doing well in OP04, and wanted to try it out in OP05 as well. During OP05, I ran the Big Mom Engine with all the trigger 4c 5Ks. After my testing up to the end of OP05, Arlong matches well against Pluffy due to the ability to rush him down and has a fair chance against Sakazuki if you manage to clear their board efficiently with either Don Krieg or tech in Choo.
The only problem was Enel (and at the end of OP05 mono green Uta), there was no way to deal with those two decks because they were simply “stronger”.
Then OP06 arrived, and Arlong got an insane boost. He can now drop down 6Ks such as the new Kikunojo and Arlong, plus he can use 2c Hiyori on turn 1 going second to swap your top life with Cracker, then take your first life to play cracker and smack leader with a cheap 7K double break to threaten them. With Vander Decken, you no longer need to fear 8c Kid because you can just spend 2 don and 2 cards to get rid of it and resume smacking face.
Most importantly, you gain 9c Zoro SEC, which was the one missing piece that Arlong needed to play evenly against leaders like Enel who have a strong sustain to end-game.
Arlong’s strengths are that you can consistently flood the board with 5Ks 6Ks every turn, and swing at the leader every turn with multiple attacks 7K or higher. The 6Ks are not as easily cleared by the 5K power leaders, so it is much easier to defend your board. Not only that, but with a bit of luck, you have many triggers that disrupt the board such as Onami, Chibi Zoro (Yellow Zoro), and multiple ways to rest blockers through triggers so you can almost always make opponents drop cards to defend their leader. I’ve found Arlong to be consistent in being aggressive while laying down a scary board at the same time. Plus, having to deal with multiple 7K attacks and still having to fear triggers is a scary thought.
However, in some games, it becomes a race against who can finish the opponent faster. Arlong (due to being 4 life) dies to Bello Betty who can just repeatedly swing at your face for crazy undefendable numbers and swarm the board faster than you can swarm yours. RP Law is also theoretically another difficult matchup since they can go wide and clear your board at the same time.
Yellow matchups often come down to who manages to get better triggers in life most of the time as well. Especially in the case of Katakuri who gains a lot of aggro power in OP06, can lay down a scary board while still aggro-ing you to death, while their triggers stop your attacks and nuke your board because your main attackers are all 4c and below. Finally, since the meta has become gradually slower, it is important for you to mulligan into or draw 9c Zoro otherwise you are just a sitting duck waiting to be out-controlled and destroyed.
You want to go first in all matchups. Mulligan for at least one 4c Kikunojo, 4c Arlong, or 4c Cracker in hand in this particular priority. You want to see 9c Zoro in almost all matchups, hard mulligan if you have to because there is no way to search for it. Momo searcher in the starting hand is optional as even though they are your first turn play, if you go first you are generally not activating the search until you are at 5 don.
Django was a key card in Arlong decks pre-OP06 because of the crazy effect – for 5c, your leader can restand. So at 9don, you can keep hitting face for 9K twice, and if you kept chaining this, your opponent would likely be dead. Plus, being able to cheat out two units while attacking at 8K twice is also a plus.
However with the release of OP06, Django’s usefulness has subsided. Not only is he a brick in hand and life, with the Wano engine you have no way to search for him. Not only that, OP06 meta has a lot of decks with a ton of blockers, so a leader restand isn’t strong enough to finish games anymore. Plus, the optimal Django play is at 9 don where you can hit twice for 9K, but why would you do that when you can simply play 9c Zoro and kill your opponent next turn? The power creep is real, and Django is a thing of the past. This leads us to the next section…
About the 9c Zoro
9c Zoro is key for most matchups. The strength of playing 9c Zoro on curve is unmatched because you are generally putting up so much aggro that the opponent is left with 1-2 life left (unless you are Reiju because your hand size is so big). Most people don’t expect a 9c Zoro since you are constantly attaching Don and smacking their face with multiple 7Ks, so there is the element of surprise. Plus, it puts the opponent into a panic mode where they have to consider if they can either defend 3x 16K swings with cards in hand or by playing blockers, or end up having to go for game that turn. If you have been defending yourself well, you should have around 2-3 life left and still a healthy hand so you will generally be able to survive unless your hand bricks.
What to play turn 1-4
Going first, your first few turns are generally the same. Turn 1 play momo if you have it or just pass. Turn 2 attach 2 don to your leader and smack face for 7K, using 1 don to play your 4c trigger character (Kikunojo is preferred). Turn 3 search with momo if you have it. Assuming Perona or Yellow leaders didn’t KO your 4c 6K, attach 1 don to make a 7K swing, then make another 7-8K swing with leader, playing another 4c trigger character, otherwise search with momo or swing for 9K and play something. On your 7 don turn, it is generally better to use 3-4 don to play another trigger beater then use leader effect to play one more. Going second is generally the same though you will be on the backfoot losing the chance to attack first. Make sure to defend your board and also your leader if it’s cheap to do so (using one card you don’t need), and try to keep a Kuroobi or Izou in hand when you want to finish the game. Remember that even smacking face 3 times with a no-don attached 9c Zoro is still painful, and you can use Hody Jones to rest two blockers/don and still have 3 don left for Zoro to attack 3 times.
Let’s discuss some common matchups in OP06…
Reiju is one of the hardest matchups for you. Not only is her hand size usually 7 cards or more, she can defend the heck out of your 7K swings and still end up healthy. Not only that, if you go first against her, she can come out with a 7K rush Ichiji on turn 2 to poke you to death.
Against Reiju, not only do you want to look for your 4c 6Ks, but you also want to hard mulligan for your 9c Zoro and also see your Vander Decken. Vander Decken deals with that pesky turn 2 Ichiji but still is expensive at 2don and 2 cards to KO Ichiji which can be brought back to life next turn (and still attack!), but at least that makes Reiju lose some tempo. You need to defend any attacks lower than a 7K hit to your life. You may sometimes want to get rid of their board first before smacking at their leader, so you can survive until your 9don turn.
Immediately play 9c Zoro the first chance you can get, because you are not surviving a long game with Reiju. After that, rest their blockers, swing low with your leader and your remaining characters and then swing 16K at their life 3x and hope for the best.
Enel is another problematic matchup because their leader ability means you always need 3 clean hits to end them. 9c Zoro automatically solves that issue for you and Yellow has no way to remove 9c Zoro before he attacks. Hard mulligan for 9c Zoro, then go aggressive and smack their face (and then their board once you leave them at 1 life), and then survive until the turn after you play 9c Zoro.
Enel is the second-most toughest matchup for you because they often also have a ton of cards in hand, can go aggressive if they want to, and due to being yellow have many triggers that will clear your board and ruin your day. Bege trigger especially will stop your 9c Zoro in his tracks, and Enel has 2 chances to do so on his last 2 lives. Literally for this matchup, pray that no triggers will mess you up.
Katakuri is your toughest matchup, no joke about this. While Katakuri usually folds to aggro, your board is not wide enough to withstand their constant trigger blockers and trigger KOs, and Bege as usual ruins your day any turn. Plus, Katakuri’s ability is too efficient, giving him a 7K attack plus being able to look at your life and rearrange it to his liking so you don’t get many good triggers off at the right time. Even if you drop 9c Zoro, you might not be able to survive the next turn because they may have a few units and 7c mom on the field that you cannot defend against. When they start the 10c Mom loop, you will lose. You have very little chance of winning unless your opponent lowrolls. If you can get Katakuri to 1 life before they reach their 10don turn, you will likely win even if they play 10c Mom.
The general way to play against Yamato is similar – have as many counters in your hand as possible, and get rid of their dangerous characters that can threaten you early such as Cracker. You may choose to ignore the Kikunojo but make sure you have enough counters in hand. Remember that Yamato often runs Amaru so your blockers may not work against them, so block early if you have a blocker on the field before they become useless later. If you can swarm the board faster than Yamato, you have a good chance of winning because Yamato generally cannot deal with your board without losing tempo unless they luck out on some triggers.
Unless Sakazuki highrolls Hound Blazes and 4c Rob Luccis, he will have trouble against your aggro. Prioritise having 4c Arlong over the other 4c triggers in your initial hand. Having 9c Zoro in hand is good if your opponent plays more defensively with many blockers, but may not be necessary so you can discard it with Arlong if you have too many other bricks in hand. Arlong will make it difficult for the leader to reduce your character’s cost (yes, that -1 cost is huge) and stop them from removing your board without losing too much tempo.
As usual, just keep smacking his face at 7K or more each turn. Sakazuki usually uses blockers to defend against attacks, so if there are no blockers he will just keep on losing cards in hand to stop your huge attacks. Even if he has a ton of blockers, you can rest them with many of your other cards. If he plays Gecko Moria on 8 don turn, he loses tempo because you can rest his blockers easily and continue to smack his face (do clear the Rebecca if you are not intending to win the next turn).
Generally, Moria has a hard time against your aggro. The same goes for Moria as Sakazuki, get all the 4c Arlongs you can have, because locking Moria from attacking slows his swarm down. I’ve generally not had a difficult time against Moria, but I have yet to play more against him.
Perona is getting more popular recently due to the Doflamingo engine combined with Navy. You must have 9c Zoro somewhere in hand to win this matchup. Perona will clear your board easily with the Leader effect + Ryuma, and she often also plays a ton of blockers that will stop your 2-3 swings of 7K per turn. You may want to have Vander Decken in hand to clear an early Ryuma and slow down the tempo for Perona to survive, just make sure you play him while none of your beaters are rested. Also, even though Perona can clear your Momo on her 4don turn, but you should still play momo on turn 1 if you have him because it’s a bait – If she rests your momo to clear him on turn 2, she loses value because Ryuma now doesn’t have a good target to KO and you can get in two 7K hits next turn. At the same time, their turn 1 Baby5 is a bait and it’s often better to hit their face first and let them choose to get a second search down or play Ryuma.
Perona is also the only leader that can play 8c Moria and suddenly play 3 blockers (Rebecca, Borsalino, Corazon) and defend against your aggro effectively. You will not win this match if you do not have 9c Zoro.
The whitebeards today run a hybrid strawhat and whitebeard pirates deck. You have an advantage in this matchup because you are generally always swinging high at 7K, plus your main attackers Kikunojo and Arlong already are at base 6K which makes it easier to attack into leader and defend against attacks. Whitebeard generally does not play 5c Marco against you because there is nothing worthwhile for him to KO. Smack leader’s face as much as you can so he cannot play his 9c Whitebeard, and always keep in mind that whitebeard has a ton of counter in his insanely large hand, so you can often slowplay it at the end and try to clear his board while resting the Marco blocker so he has to drop more than 1 card to defend. 9c Zoro does help, but is not necessary to win. Remember that Hody can rest dons as well, so you can always rest Whitebeard’s active dons to stop him from activating radicals at the turn you are going for the game.
Unfortunately, I did not manage to play against many RP Laws, but I believe it will be a tough matchup for you theoretically since they wipe your board plus swarm you faster than you can swarm them. Pray for some good triggers in life that can clear your board. Focus on killing their board whenever possible. They don’t usually defend against 7K attacks (unless they have 5c Kid and they can defend cheaply against your 7K with 1 card). Remember they also have Reiju to fix their problem of having no hand size now.
You also automatically lose to Bello Betty players as long as they know what they are doing and focus on your face. Queen will also be able to starve you, and you will not be able to deal with 9c Sanji SEC into another top end like Aramaki or Yamato. Keep Vander Deckens in hand to deal with 8c Kid in Green Uta and smack into face as much as possible (You can 7K into Nami a few times to make the opponent drop 2 or more cards and force them to make a tough choice). You swing hard enough to make Nami and Purple Luffy players have a hard time.
Recently Tournament with Arlong Deck
In standard battle in our LGS, I went 5-0 and faced 2 Peronas, 1 Reiju, and then 2 Whitebeards. I needed the 9c Zoro for the two Peronas and the Reiju, and Arlong + some lucky triggers helped me win against the whitebeards. I didn’t play 9c Zoro against the whitebeards.
Note: In the two Perona matches, I managed to draw into 9c Zoro somewhere in the game despite not having them in the opening hands. For the second Perona, even though my opponent had 4 blockers on the field at one time, I managed to keep 9c Zoro alive for 3 turns which proved fatal. 10c Doflamingo unfortunately only removes one attack off 9c Zoro (use activate main to spend 2 don to restand Zoro, so you can attack again then spend 1 don to restand), so you still get two attacks with him which is plenty.
Thank you for reading my lengthy article. Arlong is an underrated off-meta leader that is fun to play especially if you like aggro decks that have fun triggers! I hope that this writeup makes you feel like running him in your next local event.
I would like to thank Daimonji for being an amazing store and the friendly players I have met there who have been welcoming to me as a newbie and given me many opportunities and tips to get better. Also, thank you to OnlyWaifu for being a great support group. Lastly, I would also like to give a shout-out to Sato, one of the first friends I made in this game who has been a great teacher and friend.