A Look At The Hidden Arsenal

And now, for something completely different.

We, the unwavering public of the Yu-gi-oh community, have withstood many laughable antics from the lovable Konami Digital Entertainment. They provide us with cards, whether we want them or not, and we throw money, because we really want them. So, the most recent set has arrived by USPS in this frigid season, and I feel it hasn’t received quite the hype from the competitive meta that it may or may not deserve. Given, Hidden Arsenal 5 fought with announcements such as Tour Bus from the Underworld and, God forbid... Interplanetarypurplythorny Dragon* for about a week before its release, as well as living in the shadow cast by Hidden Arsenal sets of the past. But before going further and looking into what exactly this set contains, let’s look back for a moment on what we’re to expect from the HA series.

*I didn’t make that up, if you didn’t already know that this kindergarten monstrosity exists.

I begin with Hidden Arsenal 1, the first taste that the TCG received of the elusive Duel Terminal archetypes that the OCG loves. Yet, these archetypes went mostly ignored. Without further support, the X-Saber, Mist Valley, Flamvell, and Worm archetypes were unable to take off. The remainder are still waiting for their broken TCG exclusive to never come.

How did the players benefit from such a pack then? The archetypes, despite being new and exciting, were not the main focus of the buyer base at all. Our money took the form of three individual cards; Brionac, Catastor, and Mist Wurm, three of arguably the best Synchro Monsters in the game to this day. These were the money cards, and near necessary if you wanted to compete. Even now, at the death of the Synchro era and the dawn of the Exceed(XYZ = Ikzeeze?) era, these cards can be found in any deck list. Brionac mercilessly left a trail of destruction on its way to the Ban List, Catastor is the agent of death in every deck with a tuner, and Mist Wurm cleared the way to rampage all over your opponent’s life points. Worth it? With an impact like that, absolutely.

Continuing on to Hidden Arsenal 2 - The Nameless Sequel, after seeing what Hidden Arsenal 1 gave us, what could we expect from this one? Why, more archetypes of course. Archetypes that suffered the same curse as the first set, little support and little playability. But, there was hope, and we received three more cards that impacted the game. Naturia Beast, Dewloren, and Fabled Grimro. No, sadly, these three are nowhere near as detrimental as the first three money cards we were spoiled with, but this doesn’t make them bad. Naturia Beast is a common MVP amongst Samurai and Karakuri players, as well as any other deck that can make him. Dewloren’s effect to reuse continuous cards eventually led to brushing shoulders with the Ban List, and Fabled Grimro is the card that holds the infrequent Fabled decks together with her ridiculous consistency. Some say Hidden Arsenal 2 was the worst of them all, but if you’re a player that benefitted from these releases, you may think differently.

Hidden Arsenal 3 marked the beginning of an old favorite of mine, the Dragunity archetype that still pops up in the competitive scene, as well as further support for the Fabled, Worms, Naturia, and many others. This set brought us that extra support we needed to make some of these archetypes playable, but still not playable enough to dominate the game. You see the pattern here, I’m sure. Archetype support with little meaning, and some money cards that affect the game universally. HA 3 stayed true to this mantra, and introduced Ally of Justice Decisive Arms and Naturia Barkion to the game. At the time, Decisive Arms didn’t see much play at all, but now it is revered as the “Agent Killer” for its notorious strength against the popular deck. Barkion joins up with Beast as a power hitter in the decks that can make him, with their combined ability to negate game winning effects for little cost. Still not quite as good as Hidden Arsenal 1, but that’s asking a lot.

Hidden Arsenal 4 - Trishula’s Triumph. Trishula. Need more be said?

Well, yeah, a little. More archetypes, just incase you were worried. Fableds become much more playable, Dragunity get more support in a time when they needed it, Birdman makes an appearance, and Trishula started existing. Surprisingly, this set was a sign of things to come with its little amount of profit for the buyers. Almost every card in the set is below a three dollar buy, even the “good ones” like Cerburrel and Birdman didn’t stay at the top for very long. But, maybe Trishula was all Konami needed to benefit from this set. It is widely considered to be the best Synchro Monster ever released, due to its effect to completely shut down the opposing deck. Whether you had Judgment Dragon on the field, Infernity Archfiend in the grave, Black Luster Soldier in hand, or all of the above if you’re a gamblin’ man, Trishula didn’t care about you, and curb stomped its way to its rightful throne on the Ban List.

And then we come to present day. Hidden Arsenal 5 - Steelswarm Invasion. Let my bias shine as my favorite HA to date comes to light. Are there any broken Synchro Monsters? No, not really. Not even any money cards. So, where is the appeal? Why spend a dime on this set? Well, believe it or not, it’s actually the six new archetypes this time around that you should care about. There’s something for every kind of player in this set, but if you’re looking for the next Trishula, Brionac, or Catastor, you’ll be looking for a while. Though you may be looking at the metagame of the future. For about a month before its release, I’ve watched the hype behind HA5 evolve and I gathered the general opinion of the set around my local area and within forums. In this endeavor, I’ve found that HA5 has developed a humorous cult following of players, with every player that I have come across having a strong preference towards at least one of the six archetypes. No matter the skill level, accolades that follow, personality, or even activeness in the game, each player (including myself) supported an archetype as if it were a politician, and made it known that they were a fan.

So, what? Some people you don’t know like a set of cards that won’t break the game open. Like I mentioned before, when I say that there is something for everyone in this set, I mean it. I won’t give in-depth deck lists of each archetype, as they all deserve their own articles and discussions, but I will tell you what you need to know and maybe introduce you to a new favorite deck as well.

I’ll start with my favorite archetype of the set, the one that I currently main deck and advocate as my new favorite deck: Gishki Ritual. I got a glimpse of the archetype with the release of Gishki Diviner, a mediocre card at best in the Generation Force set. Even before this release, I’ve actively played the complete deck on Dueling Network with successful results. Gishki is an archetype of aquatic creatures and sages, whose effects revolve around searching necessary cards from the deck with their own copies of Pot of Duality, Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands, and Elemental Hero Stratos. After searching the cards out, their big beaters take the form of Ritual Monsters, a game mechanic not seen since Demise, the King of Armageddon. After you bring them out and gain control of the game, you recycle all of your searchers with the archetype’s own Pot of Avarice, and start the whole process over again. Their attribute and type scheme opens them up for great, underrated support cards such as Salvage, Surface, and Deep Sea Diva, with amazing artwork to top it all off. However, the available ritual monsters are not amazing, and games may take longer to win because of their lack of a true “game winner”. This deck seems to appeal to Hero players, Dragunity players, underdogs, and casual players.

Next archetype to talk about is the Steelswarm for which the set is named. This deck appeals to the Monarch veterans out there, who love to tech in Caius to any deck that can hold field presence. The idea behind the Steelswarm is the forgotten art of the Tribute Summon, with many boss monsters whose effects activate upon summon. They retain their field presence and tribute fodder with their own copies of Treeborn Frog, and rely on destruction effects to wear your opponent down and swarm effects to overwhelm them. Within their... arsenal... of boss monsters, they have a Dark Hole, a Heavy Storm, and Compulsory Evacuation Device, just to name a few of their utilities. Their dark attribute gives them a powerful draw card in Allure of Darkness, and a powerful win condition in the form of the infamous Dark Armed Dragon, with artwork ranging from amazing to meh. Some of the better bosses require two tributes to summon, which can be problematic if you’re new to the Monarch mindset, but they’re not to be overlooked even if they aren’t broken.

Then we come to a Japanese favorite, the Laval archetype. Lightsworn, Infernity,  and Plant players looking for a change of pace will enjoy this fire archetype, revolving almost entirely around the graveyard and toolboxing your way to huge beaters and explosive fields. Amongst the six archetypes, Lavals and Gishkis have shown to have the most potential overseas. With the Laval archetype, the idea is to get as many different Laval monsters as possible into your graveyard to activate some pretty cool effects. The archetype has their own Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter, a nerfed Glow-Up Bulb, and many effects reminiscent of Foolish Burial. We got a taste of the magma golems in Generation Force with Laval Magma Cannoneer, who welcomes the D.D. Crow your opponent has waiting for you. Once more did we see their face in Photon Shockwave, with the very common Laval Dual Slasher, who is a great Synchro Monster to throw around in this deck. Later support for the archetype suggests that the deck could easily become Tier 2, but as they stand now, they lack a lot of their good supports and tuners, and their artworks kind of turn me away.

Gemknights are another fan favorite, simply because of their likeness to the original Hero fusion builds that used to show up. They are a group of Normal Monsters who don’t Exceed into the Solemn Dragons, but they rely on the familiar mechanic of Fusion Summons. The archetype’s own Polymerization comes with a nice recycling effect, allowing you to use it multiple times in a turn, or add it to your hand whenever you need it. The archetype is flawed, as they rely on Normal Monsters and their earth attribute does not add the much needed support required. Plus sides include their own copy of a nerfed Honest, cool artworks, a recruiter for their Polymerization, synergy with the adorable Rescue Rabbit, and high attack points to throw their weight around with. Players who miss Avian and Burstinatrix will find satisfaction in the Gemknights, even players of the current Hero Gate builds will find something to love.

The last two archetypes, Gustos and Vylons, normally get grouped together in conversation because of their particular lack of support that puts them a tiny step lower than the other archetypes. Gustos are a favorite of mine in terms of artworks, and their strategy relies entirely on their recruiters to fill the graveyard with Gustos, and then return those Gustos to the deck to benefit from effects like drawing cards or destroying monsters. The problem with this is that most of the recruiters have to be destroyed by battle, making them a little bit slow in filling up the graveyard for these cool effects. But once you pull these effects off, you don’t really feel like you’ve accomplished much. They rely on Synchro Summons to get out their bigger monsters, but they don’t really have an “easy” method of getting the required monsters out. Their wind attribute and winged beast members allow for support in the form of Reborn Tengu and Icarus Attack,  and their psychic members make Emergency Teleport, Krebons, and Telekinetic Power Well useful, but it isn’t enough to keep Gustos above a casual level. They’re a fun build and great to look at, they just need that little extra push to catch up.

Finally, the sixth archetype to get introduced are the Vylons. They are a light archetype of machines and fairies that revolve around one more forgotten art of the game, equip spells. Their effects range from bumping up your other monsters when equipped, to drawing cards per equip spell attached. Right now, the Vylon equip cards are sub-par, which I believe is a huge weakness to the archetype. Vylon Material pumps up their attack points by 600, and search out another Vylon equip card when it’s sent to the graveyard. Aside from itself, the only other Vylon equip spell is Vylon Filament, which prevents the activation of spells and traps during the damage step. Even with great equip cards unlimited like United We Stand and Mage Power, and their ability to use Honest, the deck has an even harder time than Gustos standing up. Further support includes Union Monsters, which fixes a lot of problems the deck currently has with power plays and consistency.

In conclusion, no, Hidden Arsenal 5 - Steelswarm Invasion is not the best, nor the most broken set to rear its head in the last couple of months, but it is surely one of my favorites in a long time. Pick up one of these archetypes while they’re cheap, play them with your friends, spice them up with your own ideas, show off your creativity and make something powerful and competitive. Take them to locals and indulge in the whole point we play this game, just having fun. Some say that these archetypes have potential to top future YCS and Regional events, some say these archetypes become tier 1 - 3 with their future support, others say they’re all garbage and shouldn’t be considered. Form your own opinion, pick a faction and join up.

Written by Tyler Alastor Meacher