There's always that 'thing' that triggers your initial attraction to a new deck–maybe it's the art, the playstyle, or how strong the deck is in a competitive setting. Often, it's the presence of a handful of exceptionally powerful cards that get players on board with a new theme.
Virtual World had easy access to one of the best Xyz Monsters in the game–True King of All Calamities–and duelists picked up the deck specifically for that reason. Cards like Zoodiac Drident, Eldlich the Golden Lord, and Invoked Mechaba make the case for their respective themes. Cards like that are worth building a deck around, if the deck they belong to is relatively capable.
Sometimes high value cards don't come from the best themes, or even from playable ones. Mecha Phantom Beast O-Lion was always a strong card, but Mecha Phantom Beasts simply weren't competitive enough see widespread play. It's now Forbidden alongside Jet Synchron and Dragon Buster Destruction Sword: two more cards whose respective themes were never competitive powerhouses. Crystron Halqifibrax was probably the first and only Cryston card you've played this year.
The competitive landscape's littered with hugely powerful cards that technically belong to a specific deck, but they're easily slotted into other decks that can make better use of them. There are also plenty of high value cards that can't exist outside of their respective strategies, and we'll be talking about both camps this week as we look at some of the best cards from unbelievably bad decks.
It's pretty easy to identify a busted card when the text includes a line about 'as many as possible' or 'any number' attached to a positive action.
Soul Charge once dominated the competitive scene, fueling explosive combo strategies and turning duels around with huge five-monster special summons. But Soul Charge was only imitating its predecessor: the Fire-exclusive spell card Rekindling. By comparison, Soul Charge was stacked with punishments that Rekindling didn't have, including its severe Life Point drain and Battle Phase lockout. Rekindling, meanwhile, only restricted the monsters you could summon with its effect.
Of course, Rekindling has seen far less play over the years than Soul Charge did at its peak. It's not hard to see why: there aren't enough good Fire monsters with 200 DEF. Sure, there are plenty of monsters that fit that description, but few of them are worth building around. Flamvells, Lavals, Fire Kings, and Hazy Flame can make good use of Rekindling, and if those themes were any good I'd expect Rekindling to still be on the F&L List.
It was actually Limited for a while before it was moved to Unlimited again, but since then no deck's really put it to use. The upcoming Laval support in Lightning Overdrive might change that.
I absolutely love Sylvans, their playstyle, and honestly I'm just a big fan of Plants in general.
Sylvans have some really fun combos and a unique approach that makes them a little more strategic than Adamancipators–at least in terms of how you time their excavation effects. Unfortunately Sylvans are, well… awful. I spent way too much time in 2014 trying to make Sylvans work when I should have simply been waiting for Soul Charge to hit the TCG.
Sylvans developed into a glass cannon strategy by leveraging Lonefire Blossom and Soul Charge, and Sylvan Charity was instrumental in setting up that crucial two-card combo. What's wild about Sylvan Charity is that it doesn't have any of the restrictions we're used to seeing on draw cards these days, like those on Pot of Extravagance and the upcoming Pot of Disparity. As long as you're playing enough Sylvan cards you're good. At the time it dropped, it was the envy of every deck that didn't have a dedicated draw spell, and I think that's still the case today.
Naturia Beast and Naturia Barkion are great examples of cards that saw vastly more play outside of their themes.
I'm not exactly sure how Naturias were supposed to summon Synchros anyways, although back in the day we all thought Naturia Cherries was one of the game's best Tuners. Times have changed, but Naturia Beast is still a fantastic Synchro that can single-handedly shut down spell-heavy strategies.
Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier and Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier were instant staples of Synchro strategies during the 5Ds era, but Main Deck Ice Barrier cards were nowhere to be seen.
The upcoming Structure Deck: Freezing Chains is poised to upgrade the Ice Barrier strategy this year, although that's nearly twelve years after Ice Barriers first debuted in the TCG. Still, it's nice to see that Ice Barriers are finally getting the serious support that Naturias and Mist Valley might never receive. Speaking of Mist Valley...
Okay, just one more Hidden Arsenal theme. It's so easy to cite Hidden Arsenal on this topic because many of the packs contained generic Synchros like the Ice Barrier Dragons, Ally of Justice Catastor, and the Naturia Synchros. Almost all of the Main Deck engines in Hidden Arsenal were severely under-tuned and almost completely unplayable at the time. X-Sabers needed a total rework with a few World Premiere cards to see any competitive play, and Dragunity barely saw action even after Starstrike Blast and their own Structure Deck.
Mist Valley actually had two interesting cards: Divine Wind of Mist Valley and Mist Valley Apex Avian. Divine Wind of Mist Valley still Limited today, and Apex Avian is run as a target for Simorgh, Bird of Sovereignty. Both cards are hugely powerful, but Mist Valley as a deck never took off, for a few reasons.
First, it didn't have a consistent way to summon Mist Valley Apex Avian anyways. It's a cool card with great interactions within the theme, but you're just not summoning it often enough. Second, Mist Valleys were missing Turn 1 methods of returning monsters to the hand outside of Genex Ally Birdman, and at that point you might as well be playing Harpies.
U.A. Turnover Tactics is one of those cards that you can't believe exists, and when you read it you'll find yourself asking "...are U.A. really that bad? I feel like I could make it work with this..."
It's a stunningly disruptive card that can completely out your opponent's set-up and leave them with a few extenders stranded on their field. What makes U.A. Turnover Tactics so effective in U.A. is the deck's access to a high-ATK piercer that can punish your opponent for summoning monsters in Defense Position after U.A. Turnover Tactics resolves.
Unfortunately U.A. aren't consistent enough to take full advantage of U.A. Turnover Tactics, but I'm not sure how far off the deck is at this point. Calling it 'unbelievably bad' is probably too strong despite the fact that the deck hasn't done much in the six years since it debuted.
Like Rekindling, Heat Wave is a somewhat-generic spell that's built to match a particular type of deck. In the case of Heat Wave you'd only play it in something that isn't summoning effect monsters, like a deck built around Phantasm Spiral Dragon.
It's totally busted in that context because it completely stops your from playing the game on the following turn, and could very easily lead them to pass their turn without playing a single card. Still, there's really nowhere to play Heat Wave at the moment, outside of the occasional casual Spiral deck, but should another Normal Monster strategy show up we'll likely start asking whether it should be restricted.
If Heat Wave the justification for Normal Monster-based strategies, then Harpie's Feather Storm is the definitive reason to build Harpies. It's a complete shutdown of your opponent's monster effects that can be activated on either player's turn, and you can even activate it from your hand if you control a Harpie monster.
It's even searchable with Hysteric Sign, yet Harpies just don't have what it takes to be competitive this format. The deck's engine can't keep up with Zoodiac Eldlich or Virtual World, and the most recent support for Harpies has been underwhelming.
I've written about World Legacy Survivor before because it's just so strong in a deck that absolutely cannot make use of it. Krawlers are terrible and will probably always be terrible, but World Legacy Survivor a seriously impressive draw and search card that would be fantastic anywhere else.
Its effect lets you look at the top five cards in your deck, add a Krawler or World Legacy card to your hand, and send the remaining four cards to the graveyard. It's a chance to look at 12.5% of your deck, pick the best card for your hand, and toss a bunch of potentially great cards into your graveyard as well. I think Charge of the Light Brigade is a close second here since it largely accomplishes the same goals, but the potential selection from World Legacy Survivor includes a lot more utility spells and traps like World Legacy's Secret and World Legacy Succession.
Convert Contact might be the best themed draw spell in the game next to Solar Recharge.
It's basically your average 'discard a themed monster to draw two cards' del, with a themed Foolish Burial attached. There are so many decks that would love to see more cards from their deck while simultaneously setting up their graveyard with two monsters. You're not only digging for key cards with Convert Contact, you're also thinning your deck and triggering the graveyard effects of your monsters. There's just one problem: Convert Contact belongs to the Neo-Spacians, and none of their monsters care about landing in the graveyard. That said, I'm willing to bet that you can think of at least a few themes that would love a Convert Contact clone.
Some of these cards are a bit of a 'what-if' discussion. 'What if' there were decks that could make really good use of Heat Wave and Rekindling? 'What if' Sylvan Charity or Convert Contact worked with other themes instead? You can fall down a pretty deep rabbit hole talking about the possibilities of an alternate universe where Blackwing-level support is given to another theme, or where Allure of Darkness was printed with another attribute in mind.
I think the main takeaway here is that a single excellent card isn't saving any of these decks. The Create-A-Card Project showed us just how tempting it is to imagine our favorite deck with that one amazing new card, but the reality is that most decks rarely become playable with a single piece of support. In fact, if a bad deck does get one killer card… well, it probably winds up in Zoodiac or Eldlich.
Until next time then