Trap Tricks

frazier smithIf you have been testing the format post Duelist Alliance, you probably realize by now that many of the traps which we considered staples before are simply outclassed in today’s meta. It can be difficult to cope with the idea that cards like Torrential Tribute and Bottomless Trap Hole are not adequate enough to deal with problems. The game is so much different than it was a month ago, so I am going to go over what I have found to be the best traps of the current format and why.

Compulsory Evacuation Device

Whether you’re dealing with an El Shaddoll Winda or a Satellarknight Delteros, this card will always be the answer. It is the simplest form of removal for monsters that are summoned from the extra deck, and it bypasses any graveyard effects, too. The part that makes Compulsory Evacuation Device even better is the fact that you can use it in tricky situations to get the results you want. For example, let’s say you wanted to resolve the effect of Black Rose Dragon, but you have a read on Breakthrough Skill in the backrow. You could chain Compulsory to the Breakthrough Skill to ensure that your effect goes through, and the field will be wiped clean. You can also reuse certain monsters like Caius or Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning, which can be outright devastating if done at the correct time. I would have to say this is one of the most powerful traps we have available, and it is no shock to me that all 16 players from ARGCS Atlantic City were maining the single copy.

solemn warningSolemn Warning

This is another card that was mained by all 16 players in the Top16 of ARGCS Atlantic City. Some players may have different opinions on Solemn Warning right now because it triggers the graveyard effects of Shaddolls, but it is still one of the most powerful traps in the game right now. You have to understand that tempo wins games. If you have an established field and your opponent tries to summon a monster, this is probably the one thing they do NOT want to see. People will hold their Mystical Space Typhoons for a Vanity’s Emptiness, but when the backrow turns out to be Solemn Warning instead, it usually means the game is over. Now, obviously, it has its drawbacks, such as allowing players to use multiple copies of a card that says “once per turn,” like Soul Charge or Shaddoll Fusion, but that is not enough to deter me from using it. If you can hit your opponent for half their life in one turn and set a Warning behind it, you can win games that you might have lost in the long run. Sometimes, you just have to summon your monsters and attack wildly when your hand isn’t that good, and Warning is the best trap to go with that strategy. I also like having some sort of protection to go with it, like a Stardust Dragon or a Cairngorgon, Antiluminescent Knight. At that point, your opponent cannot avoid getting caught by it (or any other trap for that matter).

Phoenix Wing Wind Blast

Patrick Hoban considers this to be the best trap card in the game, and for good reason. Wing Blast has been around /competitively/ since the Teledad days, and it has made its mark every time it sees play. Recently, players have discovered the Thunder Dragon build of Shaddolls, which makes great use of this powerful trap. It also acts as multiple copies of Compulsory Evacuation Device in the mirror match or against anything summoned from the extra deck. Burning Abyss literally thrives off of it, too. All of their monsters can trigger their effects by being discarded for costs, which makes this trap completely free to them, and a huge minus for you. Whenever they set a backrow, I always assume that it is a Phoenix Wing Wind Blast and plan my turn out accordingly.

This card can cripple a deck using Artifacts if you attempt to use MST or Ignition to target one of your sets. A smart opponent will use Phoenix Wing Wind Blast to set you back a turn, assuming it isn’t Ignition, and even then, he or she could wait until the new Artifact is set to spin it to the top of your deck. We all know how bad it is to draw them, right?

Wing Blast is especially good against the most popular trap of the format, Vanity’s Emptiness. It doesn’t destroy it, but it DOES give you the opportunity to establish a field of monsters while the opponent draws into it, and that sucks every time it happens. I love using it against Satellarknights on the first turn because it puts Deneb on the top, successfully stymying a future Altair, and rendering their counter trap useless for one turn. This can provide the opening you need to establish some good tempo and win the game.

vanity's emptinessVanity’s Emptiness

I talked about this floodgate trap in my last article, Noah’s Arc, but I will briefly recap why it is so good. Vanity’s Emptiness is one of the few cards right now that can win the game by itself. There are times when all you need is something to attack with and a copy of Emptiness to take your opponent from 8000 to 0 real quick. It has happened to me in the past, and I’m sure any competitive player has experienced it at some point or another, too. There is, however, a correct way to play this card. Some people set it too early and get punished for it. You really don’t need to put it face down until you make your push. You also should try to make it the only backrow you have so your opponent cannot get full value out of their MST(s). The monsters you control when you flip it should be strong enough to not die in battle. That way, your opponent has the least chance of getting the Emptiness off the field.

There are a couple of hard locks that go with Emptiness and you should be made aware of them before any big event. For starters, we have the Sean McCabe special where you control a Constellar Pleiades and a set Emptiness. Your opponent may try to use a card like Mystical Space Typhoon to destroy a different backrow, attempting to trigger the destruction effect of Emptiness in the process, but you can simply use Pleiades to bounce that other backrow to your hand, and the Emptiness will stay. I have seen players make this mistake so many times that I’ve lost count. Next up, we have the classic Stardust Spark Dragon and Emptiness lock, which very simple and effective. The Spark Dragon will protect the Emptiness from destruction once per turn, and that is usually all you need to win the game. And then there’s the one we know as “Key Beetle Stuntin’,” a term started by pro player Stephen Silverman, where you do the same thing as the Spark Dragon lock, but it’s way more effective and harder to break. All of these two card combos are deadly, and if you have the chance to establish one of them then you should do so.

artifact sanctumArtifact Sanctum

My favorite trap of all time. It is no coincidence that all of my tops this year have been with this card in the main deck. It is absolutely amazing what it does for your deck, and I think players should not overlook its power. Sanctum allows you to play the game on your opponent’s turn, AND establish field presence, AND clear threats all at the same time. It has the ability to punish players for being too carefree with their backrow destruction, and you can chain it to get even more value. If you ever feel that your opponent has an end phase MST, you can set Sanctum by itself and get a quick 2-for-1. People cannot resist destroying the new backrow on the end phase, so it becomes very easy to set up mind games with this card. On top of this, it gives you the opportunity to summon what I consider to be the strongest Xyz monster, Constellar Pleiades, who gives zero respect to other extra deck cards.

If you wait to use Sanctum on the end phase of your opponent’s turn, they will be unable to plan effectively enough to counter your next move. This works very well against decks like Satellarknights, who require a monster to use their counter trap. Outside of Wiretap, nothing really stops the power of a flipped Sanctum. I suppose Breakthrough Skill can help, but you still get a 2100 beater, which is stronger than most monsters right now. One of the best parts about Sanctum, though, is its ability combat opposing floodgate cards with the help of Moralltach. It can get rid of Shadow Imprisoning Mirror, Macro Cosmos, Dimensional Fissure, Stygian Dirge, Soul Drain, etc. That can prove to be very useful in a long tournament.

Sinister Shadow Games

This is one of the “harder to play” trap cards in the game. It requires a little more thought than just activating immediately, even though it allows for that to be effective sometimes, too. The part of the effect that allows you to flip up any facedown Shaddolls can give you so many possibilities when done correctly. For instance, let’s say your opponent controls a Castel and one backrow, which you assume to be Dimensional Prison because it has been sitting there for a while, and you already have Sinister Shadow Games set. Well, you can draw for turn, then set a Shaddoll Squamata, then flip Sinister Shadow Games to send a Shaddoll Dragon and flip the Squamata. This will trigger both of their effects, meaning you get to destroy Castel and pop the set Dimensional Prison. The reason I am highlighting this aspect of the card is because I often see players instantly activate it on their opponent’s end phase without any consideration for the immediate flip effects they could have triggered. In this way, you can also search out Shaddoll Fusion by setting Shaddoll Hedgehog and using Sinister Shadow Games.

Stellarnova Alpha

This is one of the most powerful traps in the format due to how well it works with the archetype. Stellarnova Alpha does exactly what you need it to do by putting your Deneb in the grave while also negating anything you want and netting you a card. If used correctly, you can stymie the setups of other decks. When your opponent tries to summon Mathematician on the first turn to send a Shaddoll or Burning Abyss monster, you can negate his effect and stagger him. At the same time, you can immediately follow it up with Satellarknight Altair for another plus and more pressure. You can do all of this while keeping your opponent off the board and establishing your own field presence.

Another cool trick is when you have Satellarknight Delteros out, you can use Stellarnova Alpha to tribute him and negate something, then use his effect to summon Altair from deck and bring Delteros right back. Between this play and opening with Deneb and the counter trap, which I consider to be the best opening right now when going first, I would have to say Satellarknights are one of the most formidable decks of the format, despite being predictable and linear.


This pesky little counter trap is the answer to all of the above. Wiretap is free, effective, and unrivaled by anything other than another spell speed 3. This card defined the entire Geargia format, and it has been here to stay ever since. It is one of the only cards that can deal with Artifact Sanctum and Breakthrough Skill, making it a perfect choice for decks that set a lot of backrows and can defend themselves for one turn. If you can afford to set it up, you will be able to push through any play you want, regardless of the opponent’s backrow. Wiretap can also randomly give your opponent some horrendous draws, like Torrential Tribute or Bottomless Trap Hole after you’ve already established board presence. Though it does not happen frequently, the chance is still there, and it is painful to experience. Imagine paying 2000 for a Solemn Warning, only to have it countered and see the monster hit the field successfully. You will probably be losing a lot more lifepoints that turn, too. With a counter trap like this, I try to conserve it for as long as possible. Don’t just spring it up on the first trap your opponent plays. You need to understand the difference between what is permissible and what you need to actually stop. Once you do that, you will have armed yourself with a powerful offense and defense.

Honorable Mention

Torrential Tribute and Bottomless Trap Hole did not make the cut for the best trap cards in this format. I know it may come as a shocker to some of you, but to be perfectly honest, these two cards are just very underwhelming right now. For starters, there are very few scenarios where you would rather have one of these over Vanity’s Emptiness—just think about it for a second. Torrential happens to trigger all of the Shaddoll effects and all of the Burning Abyss effects. It is also a minus against Satellarknights when they summon Altair or Deneb, because they will replace the destroyed cards with another Altair, and repeat the process on the following turn. Bottomless does not hit many of the serious threats at the moment, like El Shaddoll Winda and Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss. If you Bottomless a Monarch, it has already gained value by affecting whatever it targeted. A lot of the time, you’d rather just have a Breakthrough Skill to stop your opponent’s effect rather than try to remove the monster altogether.

And I know that sounds strange, but so many of these monsters want to be sent to the grave. I would love to trade my resources with you if it means that you will help to trigger my effects. If you Torrential my Shaddoll Dragon, I get to pop your other backrow. If you use it on my Squamata, I get to choose which Shaddoll effect I really need at the moment. The only time Bottomless is going to be “good” against Satellarknights is when they summon Deneb on the first turn. And before you say it, please realize that a smart player will back up his or her Soul Charge play with Wiretap or Stellarnova Alpha.

Now, don’t get me wrong, in the hands of a good player you could make it work, but you are putting yourself at a handicap if certain situations never arise. A deck like Satellarknights could utilize both of these cards with no problems, but for everything else, I would say they are mediocre at best.

Until next time, duelists! Remember, Play Hard or Go Home!

-Frazier Smith

-The Dark Magician

Frazier Smith

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