Evaluating Snatch Steal

snatch stealThe last time Snatch Steal was legal the original Transformers movie had just been released, everyone was standing under Rihanna’s Umbrella, and George W. Bush was regrettably President of the United States. In all likelihood, most people reading this have never used Snatch Steal in a tournament. In just under two weeks that’s’ going to change as the card makes its return to competitive play as a new Forbidden and Limited List takes effect.

Any card that has been forbidden for almost a decade must hold some serious power behind it, right? This week I’m going to evaluate what is surely the most impactful change to the list and analyze Snatch Steal’s worth.

As soon as the list was announced, everyone seemed to be going crazy because the card had been limited. I made a comment stating that my initial impression was that Snatch Steal would not be that good, except in mirror matches, a bold claim against an obviously powerful card. I intentionally didn’t expand on my thoughts and didn’t leave any reasons why I felt that way. Let’s take a jump right in and see if I can convince you that I’m not crazy for thinking such a thing.


Let’s Define “Good”


English isn’t always best suited for conveying our thoughts. “It’s cold” means something different from someone saying it in Minnesota than it would if someone were to say it in Atlanta. Saying something is cold is ambiguous because it’s relative to who says it. This leaves us with a vague idea of cold, even though “cold” has a specific dictionary definition.

Because terms are relative to who is saying them and under what conditions they are saying them, it’s important to define key terms upfront. In this case, I am defining “good” as the equivalent of “ideal.”

If I’m going into a tournament that I’m hoping to win, I want my deck as ideal as possible. Clearly, every card is not good in every scenario. A card may be ideal for a situation, but not for an entire tournament.

Look at Raigeki for example. If I have a field full of monsters or if they have a monster that replaces itself when destroyed like Dante, I don’t want a Raigeki sitting in my hand. I’d rather it be something else. Conversely, if my opponent has a field full of monsters, especially ones that don’t replace themselves, I’d love to see Raigeki!

If you think about the current meta, most monsters in the top decks would replace themselves if they were destroyed by Raigeki. There will undoubtedly be situations where Raigeki would shine, but what is far more likely to be the case is that Raigeki would be underwhelming.

This is what I mean when I say that I find it unlikely that Snatch Steal will be good as well. There are some number of games that Snatch would be excellent and on an individual game level I’d love to see it in those scenarios, but you can’t pick when you’re going to draw it when it’s solid and when you’re going to draw it without much gain. I don’t build my decks to try to win every game. I build my decks to win the most games possible out of 1,000.


When I say that I don’t think Snatch Steal is good, I mean that I don’t think it’s maximizing my chance to win the most possible games of those 1,000 games, not that it’s not capable of outright winning any individual game.


This is an important distinction to make. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard someone justify keeping a card in their deck based on the claim “But it wins games.” On an individual level, that’s probably true, but a better approach to deckbuilding is to look at it on a macro level and attempt to optimize your deck based on a card’s projected utility over lots of games, not just one.


MysticalSpaceTyphoon-LCYW-EN-ScR-1EWhat the Argument Is Not


Yes, I understand that Mystical Space Typhoon is not only at 3, but that it is played at 3 in most decks as well. I also understand that Snatch Steal gives the opponents 1000 life points every turn.

I don’t care. At most you’re risking a 1 for 1 trade with your opponent if they have Typhoon. And I, of all people, am certainly not about to sit here and argue the importance of 1000 life points either. I’m not that hypocritical. This is not why I’m arguing against the inclusion of Snatch Steal in most decks. These are relatively minor and almost negligible downsides and if these were the only downsides to the card, I would almost certainly include it almost immediately in any of my decks.


The Argument


Monsters, Spells, and Traps are not very fitting for describing how cards actually work. The core engine of your deck is the most important aspect of any deck. These are any cards that work to advance your game state. It’s the Mermail monsters of a Mermail deck, the Plants and support spells for a Sylvan deck, and so on. You’re trying to get to your end point while your opponent is simultaneously trying to get to theirs. These cards are the ones that will get you there, so naturally they are the most important and most abundant.

As nice as the idea of only using cards to help you reach your end game truly is, defensive cards to stop your opponent from reaching their end game first are vital to a successful deck. Anything from Solemn Warning to Maxx “C” falls into this group.

The engine and defense are far more important groups of cards than any of the others. Ideally, I want every card in my deck to fall into one of these two categories (engine > defense though) with a bomb or two as well.

This is the core reason behind why so many cards that seem good are truly not all that great after all. Snatch Steal will not advance your game (like discarding Gunde for Pike), nor will it provide you defense.

DarkHoleSYE-NA-C-1ERaigeki, Dark Hole, Call of the Haunted, are prime examples of this same idea. They first two are only taking away from your opponent, not giving to you. Cards that give to you are better than cards that take from your opponent (as a generalization). Call of the Haunted potentially gives to you, but does so only after having provided no benefit the turn you drew it and likely no benefit on your opponent’s turn either as you won’t be able to continue advancing your game.

Snatch Steal may be powerful, but it’s not going to let me work toward my end game (that my deck should accomplish, not the end game of the opponent having 0 life points). It’s also not going to provide me a defensive option to protect the cards that are pushing me forward in the game.

Instead, Snatch is reactive and dependent upon what the opponent does. Defense is the same way in this aspect, which is one of the biggest reasons decks shouldn’t be based around a defensive strategy such as Fire Fist and protecting Bear from attacks.

It doesn’t even matter if it is easy to use in a reactive manner, reactive cards are inherently worse. If I elect to go first and I have a Snatch Steal or any other reactive card in my hand, it can never give me value that first turn. I want to use every resource I have every turn. I’ve got 5 cards available to me going first, my deck is going to work better if it’s able to use all of them than if it’s only able to use a portion of them.

A bomb is what you intend to end the game with. Black-Luster Soldier and Soul Charge are prime examples. You should usually minimize the number of bombs that you play because they often have costs associated with them (banishing a light and dark for BLs or having monsters in grave for Soul Charge) that will lead to inconsistent hands. If a bomb can be used early on or even first turn a good amount of the time, you can run more bombs as they’re more likely to not just sit in your hand like BLS in Burning Abyss might.

Bombs have a similar downside to reactive cards in that they usually cannot be played right away. At first it may seem like Snatch Steal could fit the definition of a bomb in that it enable you to win the game, but bombs are better as proactive cards than reactive cards because they can be played without having to wait for your opponent to do something like put up a monster for you to Snatch or Raigeki. I am free to drop Soul Charge whenever I have monsters that I want to revive, regardless of what my opponent is doing. Usually reactive cards can be at similar power levels as bombs, but bombs almost always deserve inclusion before reactive cards since they are independent of the opponent and therefore less restrictive.

The second part of the argument is that archetypes don’t work well together. X-Sabers work well with other X-Sabers and Burning Abyss work well with other Burning Abyss. They don’t work very well together. If the format has more than a single dominate deck, it’s unlikely that I’m going to be taking an opposing monster that will actually give me any value if we’re not playing a mirror match. If I’m playing Burning Abyss, what am I going to do with their Winda or Carrier?

If we assume little to change about the format as we come into the new year, we can figure out how Snatch interacts with the matchups. Qliphorts can use whatever monster they take in any matchup as a tribute. That’s great for mirror matches, but has little impact in the Shaddoll matchup and doesn’t do much in the way of stopping Fire Lake in the Burning Abyss matchup.

danteBurning Abyss would love Snatch in a mirror match. Taking Dante with Enemy Controller or Puppet Plant was an effective way of dealing with Dante in mirrors this past format and this is more of the same. Against any other deck, however, your Burning Abyss monsters will die if you have any other monster up, so Snatch will almost never be good outside of the mirror.

Shaddolls struggled dealing with Qliphorts Saqlifice. This gives them an effective out that they can use to overlay with. Conversely, in the mirror, monsters will often be set. It also fits with Shaddolls current “do 8000” game plan, so it seems to be more applicable here than in other matchups.

Given these factors, I’d say that Shaddoll is the most likely candidate to find success with Snatch in the main. Being reactive is still the inherent flaw here, however, even if Shaddolls are able to overcome the archetype flaw. I’m not willing to give a guess about whether or not Qliphort will actually use the card (though I’d argue they should not). Burning Abyss will get the least amount from it and should avoid it in the main deck, but it seems like Snatch will provide an excellent side deck option in the mirror match.


On Hidden Armory


Hidden Armory essentially gives you access to four Snatch Steals in your deck since it can retrieve it from the graveyard. I find two inherent flaws with its viability.

Firstly, I’ve used this article to explain why I have concluded that Snatch Steal is subpar. If I am correct, the ability to run four sub-par cards instead of just 1 subpar card does not sound beneficial.

Secondly, the normal summon condition is too much of a drawback. I’ve found that if multiple decks exist in a format, a good indicator of which one is the best, is the deck with the fewest normal summons. This is because if you have three normal summons in your five card hand, you can still only summon once per turn. That means that you’ve only got two cards to actually do something with after you normal summon. Every additional normal summon is a wasted card for the turn.

Qliphorts heavily rely on their normal summon. Their game plan isn’t just pendulum summoning. It’s equipping a monster with Saqlifice (which can be retrieved off of Hidden Amory, in fairness), tributing for Disk, then pendulum summoning. Shaddolls play normalsummon.dek any time they can’t resolve a Fusion. Burning Abyss are the most likely candidate to get around this as they only have to normal summon Tour Guide and three total normal summons is significantly less than all other decks in the format, but the clause of dying with a monster other than another Burning Abyss keeps Snatch from being a consideration, even if they can afford the normal summon restriction of running four.

I encourage you to apply these concepts to more than just Snatch Steal. They’re difficult to learn. It’s not obvious the costs associated with a card that aren’t things like “Your opponent gains 1000 life points,” but they do exist and being able to identify them will make you a stronger deckuilder. I hope everyone has a happy holiday! Once you’ve decked the halls, get away from all the snow and participate at 2015’s first Circuit Series in sunny Orlando, Florida on January 3 and 4. Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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