The Trap Card Paradox

All traps aren’t created equal. You can generalize most trap cards into a few different categories. Depending on the format, one of these categories of trap cards will usually be superior to the other types of traps. The way this format is developing has lead to a paradox among the different types of traps that is riddled with contradictions. This week I’m going to explain my findings about this phenomenon.

As far as this article is concerned, when I say “trap,” I am referring to any type of defensive card, not exclusively a trap card. It also encompasses cards like Book of Moon or Effect Veiler. I’m also not talking about trap cards that aren’t defensive like Gottom’s Emergency Call or Wiretap. I’m also only talking about traps that you have to draw, not defense that you create with your extra deck, like Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand or Abyss Dweller.

 

Types of Traps

 

solemn warningAnti-Establishment Removal

 

These are cards that stop your opponent from setting up a board by responding to what they are doing. Examples of this are cards like Solemn Warning or Bottomless Trap Hole. I’d say this type extends to any type of effect negation like Breakthrough Skill as they are used to stop the initial setup.

 

The inherent problem with these cards is that they have to be drawn before the opponent has already done their play. If you draw a Solemn Warning when your opponent already has a Black Luster Soldier on the field, it’s not going to do you much good.

 

Battle Traps

 

Battle traps are anything type of trap that responds to an attack. These are cards like Mirror Force or Dimensional Prison. Unlike anti-establishment removal, you can draw these cards to an already established field and get full value out of them.

 

The downside to these types of traps is that they are not chainable. They only have value in the battle phase. This means that your opponent has free reign to do whatever they want during the main phase. This can leave them subject to be destroyed by something like Ghosterick Alucard.

 

Phoenix Wing Wind BlastChainable Traps

 

These are cards that you can use whenever you want. They don’t need something specific to happen like your opponent to summon a monster or declare an attack. Examples of these are things like Phoenix Wing Wind Blast and Karma Cut.

 

The downside to these traps is that they generally have higher activation costs. Both Phoenix Wing and Karma Cut require you to discard a card to activate them.

 

Floodgates

 

Floodgates are extremely powerful as they completely lock your opponent out of the game. An example of this would be Vanity’s Emptiness.

 

The downside to floodgates is that, much like anti-establishment traps, they have to be used pre-emptively. Drawing a Vanity’s Emptiness after your opponent already has Black Luster Soldier won’t do you much good.

 

vanity's emptinessThe Effectiveness of Each Type of Trap

 

I’d argue that anti-establishment traps are the worst type of traps available. Having to draw them pre-emptively is such a huge hindrance. These cards have gotten significantly worse as the game has progressed.

 

In today’s game, you can do significantly more things on any given turn than you could on a turn back in 2006. You have way more options and the ability to establish a field more readily. Whether that is an improvement on the game or not is up for debate, but regardless of whether or not it’s good, it is the way it is. These types of traps had a lot more value in formats where things were “fairer.” Since opponents couldn’t easily set themselves up, it was less likely you’d draw these traps after the fact. In today’s format, you’ll often draw them when it’s too late.

 

Floodgates have the same downside as anti-establishment traps, but they’re much more effective in today’s game. Why do you think Solemn Warning is less played than Vanity’s Emptiness right now? I’d say it’s not the 2000 life point cost of Solemn Warning like you might think; it’s the nature of today’s game. Let’s say you’re playing against Lightsworn Shaddolls. If you activate Vanity’s Emptiness on Shaddoll Fusion, it’s unlikely that they will have much of a follow up play as Vanity’s has locked them out. If you activate Solemn Warning on Shaddoll Fusion, they can still summon Black Luster Soldier, Chaos Sorcerer, Synchro, XYZ, or play Soul Charge. They can just do something else. Cutting them off of only one option isn’t enough in today’s game.

 

Floodgates are effective when the decks can do unfair things. Anti-Establishment traps are effective when the decks can’t do unfair things.

 

Similarly, battle traps are weaker in today’s game. Since the decks can do more things, they will have plenty of options available to them in main phase. Decks used to have to rely on the battle phase to gain advantage over an opponent. That no longer being the case, battle traps lose a great deal of utility.

 

Battle traps are less effective the more unfair things the decks in the meta are capable of doing.

 

Chainable traps are inherently the best type of trap. You can draw a card like Phoenix Wing before your opponent has made their play and use it to disrupt them, but you can also draw it later on and deal with a field they have already established.

 

The cost of these traps is what keeps them from being heavily played in every format. They will work best in decks that play with “free cards,” cards that don’t actually cost the player anything. Examples of this are Burning Abyss and Dragon Rulers. If you pitch either type of those to activate Wing Blast, you still get value out of whatever you discarded since you can revive the Dragon Ruler and the Burning Abyss will replace itself.

 

el shaddoll windaDominant Trap Strategies in the Current Format

 

Even if you could make the cost of activating a chainable trap negligible by using it in a deck that supported it such as Burning Abyss, it still has the secondary weakness of an anti-establishment trap. Yes, you can draw it to an established field or use it to break up a play, but it still only stops one play. If you use Phoenix Wing to get rid of Winda, they might still summon Chaos Sorcerer.

 

Chainable traps have a dominant advantage over anti-establishment cards and battle traps in the current format. Both Burning Abyss and Shaddolls are capable of explosive plays which make anti-establishment traps weak. This also takes care of battle traps like Dimensional Prison that only deal with a single threat. Both decks are inherently strong against battle traps like Mirror Force as they both utilize “free cards.” Mirror Force can only take Tempo, or field presence, from a Burning Abyss or Shaddoll deck, but it will rarely take away actual card advantage as whatever cards you destroy will almost certainly replace them. This makes battle traps ineffective against the top decks.

 

Floodgates also have a dominant advantage over anti-establishment cards in the current format. Floodgates stop decks from making a lot of plays. They’re not good when a deck already does not make a lot of plays since they wouldn’t be taking away much from it. An example of this would be HAT last format where Vanity’s Emptiness wasn’t very effective against them. This format, however, the decks do make explosive plays so the ability to stop all types of plays is very powerful.

 

This leads us to conclude that floodgate traps and chainable traps are the two best types of traps available to us in the current format.

tour guideThe Tradeoff of Power and Versatility

 

The paradox of traps in this format is created when neither chainable traps nor floodgates have a dominant advantage over the decks in the field. Floodgates have a dominant advantage when the best deck is capable of making enough plays to overwhelm conventional traps. This is why Vanity’s Emptiness and Vanity’s Fiend are effective against Shaddolls.

 

Conversely, when the best deck is only capable of making a single play in a turn, chainable traps have a dominant advantage if the deck can support them. You can use Karma Cut to disrupt your opponent summoning Tour Guide and it is unlikely they will be able to continue advancing their game state that turn.

 

We currently have a format that is not conducive to a dominant best type of trap. Shaddolls can make multiple plays in a turn. This means floodgates are going to be effective against them. Since they can make multiple plays in a turn, chainable traps that deal with only one threat are less effective. Burning Abyss can only make one play in a turn. This means that chainable traps are going to be the best against them as you won’t get overwhelmed. It’s difficult to effectively floodgate Burning Abyss, as they are versatile and can easily deal with whatever floodgate threat you throw at them, which makes floodgates less effective.

 

Essentially, floodgates are good against Shaddolls, but not against Burning Abyss.

 Chainable removal is good against Burning Abyss, but not against Shaddolls.

 

The term “good” may be a bit too generic to use there, so I’d like to expand on what I mean. It makes sense to say “Of course Phoenix Wing is good against Winda!” or “Of course Vanity’s Fiend is good against Tour Guide!”

 

I more so mean, floodgates are more likely to be effective than chainable removal against Shaddolls and chainable removal is more likely to be effective than floodgates against Burning Abyss. If you Phoenix Wing away a Winda and they don’t follow that play up with Chaos Sorcerer, sure, the chainable removal was pretty good. A significant portion of the time, however, they are going to have the ability to make a second play that couldn’t be stopped by the chainable removal.

 

vanity's fiendSimilarly, if you summon Vanity’s Fiend against a Burning Abyss deck and they don’t have Phoenix Wing or Karma Cut to get rid of it, it will be good against them, but a significant amount of the time, they will be able to deal with it.

 

This creates a tradeoff between the power of floodgates and the versatility of chainable removal. Usually, a format dictates a particular dominant strategy. This format, however, the two top decks are complete opposites. One is not significantly better than the other, but the type of defense available is good against one deck and bad against the other no matter which type of defense you pick.

 

The paradox creates a situation where you can’t make an effective deck decision as some matchups it’ll work well in and others it won’t. Then if you switch to the other option available, it’ll be good against the other deck, but bad against the deck your defense was originally good against. This is one of the puzzles that exists in the format. I don’t know the answer to the trap card paradox, but if you are able to solve it, you’ll certainly see success in the upcoming months of the format. Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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