The Handiest of Traps

Matt GoehringIt’s no secret that Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy has a huge impact on competitive Yu-Gi-Oh leading up to nationals this year. The prophecy archetype is coming full circle with the release of Spellbook of Judgment, and Elemental Dragons are ready to hit the ground running with their most important cards coming out in this set. Prophecy players are able to amass enormous card advantage on their first-turn with Spellbook of Judgment, effectively spelling defeat for their opponent by hand advantage alone. Elemental Dragons have a similar turn one play by utilizing Super Rejuvenation to refill their hand after summoning Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack and Light and Darkness Dragon.

Does any of this sound familiar? A year ago in March 2012, Wind-ups had the potential to end a game on turn one by dropping 3-5 cards from your hand if uninterrupted. Inzektors were just as lethal, capable of destroying nearly everything on their opponent’s field and searching another Dragonfly to do it again next turn. Explosive turn one plays like these were countered with hand traps like Effect Veiler and Maxx “C”. An Effect Veiler or Maxx “C” in your opening five cards usually meant the difference between winning and losing.

EffectVeiler-ORCS-EN-SR-LEWoah. Let that soak in for a moment. It’s hard to accept these kinds of odds as a player. Pros and newbies alike want to believe a hard fought game should always result in a victory. Yet these kinds of formats are nothing new, and have always been a part of the game. In formats where speed kills, players adapt by using cards to stop these fast decks as quickly as possible. Against Wind-ups, Maxx “C” or Effect Veiler was the first card sided in over something like Torrential Tribute. The ability to respond to an explosive play on your opponent’s turn with Effect Veiler or Maxx “C” was the main reason these cards were so important. Fast-forward to the current metagame, and you would probably have a hard time remembering the last time you got Effect Veilered. Factors such as the increase in play of Macro-rabbit and the neutering of Wind-ups led to the gradual movement away from hand traps. The format, however, is rapidly speeding up again. At a first glance, Elemental Dragons, Prophecy, and Evilswarm are all capable of dropping bombs on turn one. Is it finally time for hand traps to see play again? I believe it is, and I’m going to show you the ones you should be playing to give yourself a fighting chance against these new decks.

If you’ve heard anything about the new Spellbook of Judgment, you’ve also probably heard about Droll & Lock Bird. A hand trap from Starstrike Blast, this card is one of few capable of shutting down a Prophecy player’s turn one Spellbook of Judgment. Unfortunately, this spellcaster and his pet bird are largely useless against the other decks of the upcoming format with the exception of Gishki FTK. A single card, useful in only one matchup, side decked for games two and three. Sounds bad right? But wait! There’s more. The win condition for Prophecy is arguably Spellbook Judgment day, but don’t forget that their spell cards aren’t what actually kill you. High Priestess and tech cards like Injection Fairy Lily are the beaters they’ll use to drop your life points. Conveniently, both of these cards are switched off for a turn by Effect Veiler. Although Veiler won’t eliminate the monster entirely, it can give you breathing room to deal with the monster next turn. For example, Fire Fist could follow up next turn with a Bear play, and Frog Monarchs could use Soul Exchange to tribute the monster and then deal with something else. Effect Veiler buys you precious time and isn’t completely worthless in other match ups. It can be main decked in almost everything and is currently being overlooked.

number 11 big eyeElemental Dragons are the slightly more intimidating big brother of Prophecy, capable of pumping out rank 7 XYZ’s just fast as the Inzektors of old could destroy your field. Their turn one Dracossack into Light and Darkness Dragon play is outright game ending. And that’s not even taking cards like Super Rejuvenation into account. This combo however, isn’t bulletproof. If you Effect Veiler the activation of Draccosack’s effect, they may no longer be able to special summon an additional monster to tribute for Light and Darkness Dragon. If you chain Maxx “C” to the activation of a “Baby” Elemental Dragon’s effect in hand, you guarantee yourself a worst-case net 0 in terms of card advantage, and put your opponent in the awkward position of having to choose how far to go with their summon spree. Lastly, Electric Virus is a downright evil card to side in for the E-Dragon matchup. Draccosack, or any Elemental Dragon they control are now yours for the taking. The stolen monster can be tributed, used as synchro or XYZ material, and even attack on the turn you control it. The virus is even better in E-Dragon mirror matches and Prophecy, allowing you to make Rank 7’s with your opponent’s monster. If you happen to go up against Tinplate Gadgets, Karakuri, or Geargia,  Electric Virus can also be put to good use, giving it more side deck utility. All three of these hand traps are highly effective against Elemental Dragons, and are still functional in other matchups.

Although presenting a smaller threat by comparison, Evilswarm will also be a dominant force in the coming months. Evilswarm Ophion’s ability to lock down E-Dragons and High Priestess of Prophecy are a serious concern. Additionally, Ophion can search Infestation Pandemic from the deck, making it incredibly resistant to spell/trap removal.  Unfortunately, Maxx “C” isn’t quite as potent here as it can be against E-dragons. It’s inconsistent, just like it always has been against Dino-rabbit. Effect Veiler on the other hand hits several big cards in the Evilswarm arsenal, shutting down Ophion’s search and turning off Evilswarm Kerykeion so you can hit over it next turn. Electric Virus can also be used to steal an Ophion before your opponent has the chance to wreak havoc with it.  By tributing or destroying it under your control you can dodge the Infestation Pandemic they searched out previously. Similar to Elemental Dragons, there are at least two hand traps that work incredibly well against Evilswarms that also have versatility.

I’ve saved one hand trap for last that I feel will have the biggest impact in the upcoming months leading up to Nationals. This card is Puppet Plant.

puppet plantIt’s always invigorating to discover a weak spot in an extremely powerful deck, so you can imagine my excitement when I realized Puppet Plant can be used to take control of an opponent’s Number 11: Big Eye. Yes you read that correctly. Your opponent’s Big Eye, now under your control for a turn, can use its effect to steal another monster, likely burning it’s last material. Those two stolen monsters could then be used for a tribute summon, or if your opponent didn’t control another monster, Big Eye could swing for 2600. Being able to take control of any spellcaster also means Puppet Plant is great against Prophecy. Stealing a late game High Priestess could be devastating for a Prophecy player, who may have already exhausted all cards capable of reducing your life points to 0. Even some of their most versatile spells like Spellbook of Fate would now be shut off because the opponent does not control a spellcaster. Puppet Plant can also be used to slow down Evilswarms, functioning like a pseudo-Effect Veiler on Evilswarm Castor to prevent the summon of Ophion for a turn. The Hero and Six Samurai matchups are also made significantly easier by siding in puppet plant. There is an unparalleled amount of flexibility in this one hand trap that makes it a standout for combatting the upcoming meta.

Before you start selling your collection because of the Elemental Dragon/Prophecy Apocalypse, consider this:  There have been formats far worse than the one approaching. In the past, hand traps have been the answer to fast decks, and these new archetypes are no exception. I strongly recommend play testing with the hand traps discussed here to see just how much damage they can do.

Until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!

--Matt Goehring

Matthew Goehring

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