Shattered Alliances introduces 90 new cards that are sure to have an immediate impact on the tournament scene, but what about older cards that failed to make their presence known? Overlooked cards from previous sets are often breathed new life as a block continues, and it’s extremely gratifying to identify these “diamonds in the rough” before the rest of the field does. One card in particular that I’m sure everyone has considered after reading the 9SHA set spoiler is Clash of the Duel Masters’ own [ccProd]Slumbering Titan[/ccProd]. Is this card too narrow to see any competitive play, or is it a perfect counter to the slew of new discard options?
The Discard Dilemma
Making discard effects viable yet fair is a tightrope walk, to be sure. Kaijudo’s metagame is held together thanks to the existence of a finite number of high-utility reactive cards. Understanding the implications of these available “reactive cards” is critical; the player that does so will have the best-laid plans. If both players curve out and Player A conserves his removal spells for the appropriate threats while Player B prematurely jettisons them to the mana zone, Player A will find himself in the driver’s seat (barring the presence of Shield Blasts, of course). It’s understood that most big creatures can be quickly dispatched via [ccProd]Terror Pit[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Root Trap[/ccProd], so it behooves a successful player to either (a) diversify his threats, or (b) force a reactive card to be played on a less-threatening creature, potentially opening the floodgates a few turns down the road.
Discard creatures and spells, on the other hand, are proactive cards. They can be an incredibly fair equalizer, but they can also be incredibly unfun for the player on the receiving end.[ccProd]Specter Claw[/ccProd] allows your opponent to choose what to discard, but 2 mana is still a pretty efficient investment. If you’re on the draw and your opponent is playing a 4 color deck, it can be quite punishing.
[ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd] is the biggest offender of the bunch. Obtaining knowledge of your opponent’s future turns is powerful enough, but you also get to pitch any card you want! [ccProd]Terror Pit[/ccProd] an Andromeda without any free shields. Pre-negate a crucial spell like [ccProd]Mana Storm[/ccProd]. Mess up your opponent’s colors if they’re playing a greedy mana base. All this for a paltry 3 mana![ccProd]Maddening Whispers[/ccProd] costs 5, but it takes the madness of [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd] a step further! Duel Masters veterans have nightmares about an old card called Cranium Clamp, and Whispers is the same thing for one more mana. One extra mana is a small price to pay to come up a card on your opponent, right? Whoever casts their Whispers first is in control, and will almost assuredly coast to victory.
Don’t even attempt to pilot a deck without Darkness in the next KMC season, unless you like it when your hand is mercilessly ripped apart. Discard is too powerful to ignore.
By now, you’ve probably realized that I’m exaggerating my evaluations of the discard spells. These are the common responses you’ll see, because discard spells are easy to overrate.
I stand by my statement that making discard cards fair is tough to do, but I think Wizards of the Coast has succeeded in full.
Consider the staple generic discard spells in Yu-Gi-Oh! — [ccProd]Delinquent Duo[/ccProd], [ccProd]Confiscation[/ccProd], [ccProd]The Forceful Sentry[/ccProd], and even [ccProd]Trap Dustshoot[/ccProd] are all forbidden in the Advanced Format. Given the rules of the game, it’s easy to understand why. If there’s no resource system, then the primary indicator of who is winning is who has more cards at their disposal. Since a player can play any number of Spells or Traps during their turn, crippling the opponent’s hand doesn’t force that player to halt his on-board assault. [ccProd]Delinquent Duo[/ccProd] getting a free +1 while doing so is ludicrous, but even the other cards allow you to pluck away answers while still doing what you want to do. If your opponent can’t answer your threats, it doesn’t take long to turn your pseudo-advantage (knowing their hand) into hard card advantage. Discard spells can never be this powerful in Kaijudo as long as they are appropriately costed, since they force you to make a choice. You can attempt a war of attrition, but you’re going to be light on cards as well, and without a critical mass of creatures with which to attack. In Kaijudo, each individual discard spell is very fairly costed, and can be quite debilitating if cast on its appropriate turn. The balancing factor is that you are choosing to cast a spell and not develop your battle zone.
The reason that Cranium Clamp was so good in Duel Masters was that there were no small creatures that dissuaded you from playing it, and if you were on the play, you could easily empty your opponent’s hand. If the opponent goes second and does nothing but drop a resource on his first three turns, his 5 card hand will go to 3, immediately negating any advantage of going second. The player who cast Cranium Clamp also had ample time to resolve powerful small creatures like Aqua Hulcus, which hammered the advantage of going first home. If the “Clampee” did try to play little guys in the opening turns, though, then Clamp ensured that they’d either have to mana whatever they drew on 5, or skip a mana drop for the turn. These factors are absent from Kaijudo.
Consider discard’s efficacy in the control matchup. Even if you are able to curve out with [ccProd]Specter Claw[/ccProd] into [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd] into [ccProd]Fumes[/ccProd] into [ccProd]Maddening Whispers[/ccProd], you’ll have ONE single-breaker creature in play at most. Yes, your opponent has no cards in hand, but this isn’t Magic: the Gathering. Your opponent can simply draw, play a guaranteed “land,” and continue to advance toward the late game. You’re not putting him on notice with such a meager battle zone. Even if you add [ccProd]Veil Stalker[/ccProd] to the mix and start to get aggressive, you still lack the ability to defeat your opponent before he can make use of the fresh shields you just gifted him with. Also, notice how you keep paying more mana for more expansive discard. The discard has a cumulative effect; you want to hit it early and often, but in doing so, you are lessening the potency of your higher cost discard spells. Alternatively, if you miss your discard effects early, they become largely irrelevant in the late game when you are facing creatures that demand an immediate answer.
Against the aggressive decks, forget about it. They plan to empty their hand anyway, so your discard cards become blanks if you’re even able to last long enough to cast them all. You need to meet these decks head-on in the battle zone, or you will be quickly overrun. Discard can help as a supplemental option (pitching that Gilaflame can be huge), but it’s not a means to an end here.
What about a midrange strategy like Megabugs, or a Dragon deck that hits its Fire Birds? Discard is a mixed bag in these scenarios. [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd] is great at dealing with big Dragons before [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd] is able to cheat them into play, and Megabugs don’t exactly want to see their [ccProd]The Hive Queen[/ccProd] or [ccProd]General Finbarr[/ccProd] hitting the bin. At the same time, these decks start their curve on turn 2. [ccProd]Cyber Scamp[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] cause obvious problems.
The bottom line is that simply tossing in all the discard options available is not the way to go. Yes, you can try to take advantage of combo potential with [ccProd]Curse-Eye Black Feather[/ccProd], but the end result can’t help but be fragile and matchup-dependent. We’ll see plenty of discard in the coming weeks, but the most successful variants will be those that pepper in a sensible number of these cards.
The Case For Titan
Where does that leave [ccProd]Slumbering Titan[/ccProd]? The Titan is certainly powerful. A free 6 for 6k Double Breaker can really set the opponent back, and it’s a mono-Nature card so it makes casting your [ccProd]Reap and Sows[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Mana Storms[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Fullmetal Lemons[/ccProd] easier. He was a poor fit for that Clash meta, since the most ubiquitous discard option was [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd]. Bobby Brake used this knowledge to his advantage by packing [ccProd]Fumes[/ccProd] in his winning deck, to great effect.
Shattered Alliances could change that, though. [ccProd]Maddening Whispers[/ccProd] is a very powerful anti-control card. Players that think they can just sit back and curve out to [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Queen Kalima[/ccProd] will soon know that it WAS all their fault. We’ve also been granted 3 brand new cards that allow for a random discard — [ccProd]Spire Puppet[/ccProd], [ccProd]Veil Stalker[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Calamity Bell[/ccProd]. Holding that Titan in hand can be very beneficial, especially in the early weeks of the KMC season and at this weekend’s ARG Circuit Series in Fort Worth. Everyone knows [ccProd]Slumbering Titan[/ccProd] exists, but having him wake from his slumber in a top tables match would be an awesome sight to behold.
Since the opponent is choosing to give up early battle zone supremacy in an attempt to empty your hand, [ccProd]Slumbering Titan[/ccProd] is a double whammy. Not only are they now down a card, but you now have a free Double Breaker than can go on the offensive on the very next turn.
I certainly wouldn’t feel good about casting [ccProd]Specter Claw[/ccProd] right now. The inherent tension that exists when you’re up against any control deck playing green cards is enough to scare me away from the fringe discard effects.
The Case Against Titan
Doesn’t this make [ccProd]Slumbering Titan[/ccProd] subpar, though? The very existence of the card may be enough to disincentive heavy discard strategies. He’s a fine body when you get him out for free, but you don’t want to be stuck summoning him on turn 6 while your opponent has vastly superior options.
Titan fits best in a long-curve control deck, because those decks can sit back a little bit in an attempt to maximize his chances of triggering. That said, he’s also a feel-bad card when your opponent hits their discard effects and you simply don’t draw him. We saw control decks packing well over 50 cards in the Clash meta! If that trend continues, and people just toss Titans into their piles, how consistently will they see him when they actually want him?[ccProd]Maddening Whispers[/ccProd] is likely the card that you’ll see most often, and it’s nice when you get to drop a surefire Titan, essentially making the opponent pay 5 mana for a bad [ccProd]Specter Claw[/ccProd]. But in this case, you only got the Titan out a turn early! Do you have another level 6 creature to pair him with? That’s great, but that probably means you aren’t holding any level 9+ threats in hand, so won’t your two 6 drops be quickly outclassed? Do you attack shields with [ccProd]Slumbering Titan[/ccProd] and try to press the advantage that way? Maybe, but that isn’t what control naturally wants to be doing at that stage of the game. If you’re playing anti-discard tech that doesn’t simply allow you to continue on undeterred, is it even worth it?
What about when you open with a copy of him and your opponent is playing Darkness cards, but no sign of heavy discard? He’ll end up in the mana zone, sending a clear signal to your opponent that he exists in your deck. Now, they can just simply play around him. So you won’t mana him, and you’ll just keep him hidden, you say? That makes drawing your 2nd or 3rd copy extremely painful! Well maybe you’ll just play one copy, to scare the opponent into thinking you have more waiting on-deck. Now we’re firmly entrenched in Kaijudo Fantasy Land. You’re getting way too cute with it.[ccProd]Slumbering Titan[/ccProd] is a very interesting card, but its most intriguing feature may be the fact that it exists. There are definite pros and cons. Think long and hard about whether his inclusion is warranted. On the flip side, if you’re getting too greedy with discard effects, beware the Mountain!
It’s almost here! The ARG Circuit Series in Fort Worth, TX is happening this weekend! Drop everything you’re doing and grab a cheap flight out there for your shot at part of a $1000 cash prize purse! This is the first chance to make a name for yourself with your brand new Shattered Alliances-powered innovations! If you can’t make it, be sure to stay tuned to ARG’s Facebook page for all the hottest news and deck techs!
Until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!