I was headed into the Regional with the mindset that this would be the last time I'd be playing Spirits competitively, simply because Primal Origin is going to change the game so much. Surprisingly, this Regional ended up proving to me that this strategy still has room to grow, and that it might still be possible to pilot it going forward.
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone that's tested Spirits as much as I have. I know every single play inside and out, and that gives me a huge advantage compared to newer duelists picking up the strategy. Unfortunately, this all means I comprehend the theme's problems and shortcomings better than someone less experienced. What shortcomings, you might ask? Well…
…Tragoedia is terrible. There, I said it. Tragoedia was literally only played because it could turn itself into a Level 4. Most of your big combos revolve around putting two Spirits on board with another Level 4. That allows you to overlay with Nikitama and get some draws after using your Xyz Monster's effects. The only reason Tragoedia was even run over something like Battle Fader or Swift Scarecrow was because it could transform its Level. I'll be the first to tell you that this is definitely not a good enough reason to play it.
Trust me on that one.
Anyway, I also had some problems with Cardcar D. It was really, really good when you had no other monsters, but rough opening hands where you had four or more monsters just got worse with Cardcar D. It was essentially a blank spot in your opening in that scenario, gaining you absolutely nothing. It also opened up possible Effect Veiler opportunities when Spirits are naturally good at avoiding hand traps otherwise. Cardcar D was semi-productive, but it cost an entire turn and I often found it would often sit in my hand, useless.
Not only that, but both of those cards screwed up Kagetokage. Many times I was getting "brick openings" like Cardcar D and multiple Kagetokage's, or Tragoedia and Kagetokage together. In both situations I'm relying on drawing a Level 4 to avoid having totally useless monsters. Hands where you'd open no Spirits were already rough, but hands where you opened with no Spirits and dead Kagetokages were basically unwinnable. The Ghostricks in Loukas and Jeff's Spirit build accomplish one goal: having plays when you don't draw Aratama. Personally I'm not a fan of that particular style, and prefer the Rank 4-centric version I've been playing for the last two months. I needed to solve some really important issues if I ever wanted Spirits to grow.
Let's take a look at the build I came up with for the tournament:
DECKID=100222The night before the Regional I was sitting in bed trying to sleep, and right before I dozed off I got the idea to play Fire Hand and Ice Hand. I quickly jumped out of bed and went to look up their effects for verification, and decided that'd I definitely wanted to give them a go. Tragoedia and Cardcar D were the obvious drops, although I'd be playing with two brand new cards with zero testing whatsoever. It seemed too good to be true, but I had to give it a try.
Actually obtaining two Fire Hand and two Ice Hand before the tournament was nearly impossible. We arrived only twenty minutes before registration closed, and I scrambled to pick up the copies I needed. The vendor's prices were outrageous, but luckily I found someone willing to part with his for reasonable trade values.
One of the best parts about using cards that were only released two days prior is that no one freaking knows what they do. The element of surprise is already huge with Spirits, but the Hand Duo gave me the edge I needed to take easy games. My first experience with them was extremely good, and it started me off on the right mindset.
My opponent went first, setting three cards to his back row. I Normal Summoned Ice Hand, and my opponent responded with Solemn Warning. Ice Hand triggered, popping his Mystical Space Typhoon to Special Summon Fire Hand. I attacked directly, and when he chained Abyss-sphere I had a Mystical Space Typhoon of my own. It was then that I realized I just wiped out three cards while only losing a Mystical Space Typhoon, giving me overwhelming momentum. Like I said before: from there the Hand Duo just got better and better as the day went on.
It was amazing.
They Come In Handy
Stupid puns aside, the power of Fire Hand and Ice Hand should not be overlooked. By the end of the day, anyone playing them swore by their power and anyone not playing them vowed to burn every copy in sight. Everyone on the tournament floor was searching for them, and nobody wanted to get rid of theirs. A surprising amount of people didn't even know what they did, and by golly they were punished harshly for it. Attacking into a face-down monster that turns out to be Fire Hand often swings the game so far into your favor early on that your opponent just auto-loses.
I might seem like I'm exaggerating, but I'm really not. Every time your opponent tries to destroy one of the Hands they're automatically losing a card. End of story. It gets nutty when you're actually crashing your Hand into a monster with equal ATK, popping a card, and Special Summoning the other Hand. It's a free +2 that threatens a string of destruction effects if they don't play around it extremely carefully.
And, yeah, that's the thing: these Hands put pressure on your opponent so much it's not even funny. Normal Summoning a Fire Hand or Ice Hand puts the other player in a horribly unfavorable spot unless they have Bottomless Trap Hole or Dimension Prison. The Hand Duo just rips through cards, and can actually win games on their own. That may sound silly, but over the course of the Regional there were several games where I didn't play a single Spirit monster and just grinded out the win with Fire Hand and Ice Hand.
Of course, it's not like they're limited to just Spirits. Many top level Mythic Ruler duelists were packing the Hand Duo too, using them not only to fuel Tidal and Blaster but also to take out trap cards to pave a path for the Dragon Rulers and larger combos. If your opponent has two monsters and two backrow you can just burn through a bunch of Hands and then have free Tidal and Blaster fodder for a Rank 7. It's too good, really.
The last benefit of the Hand Duo is important if you want to abuse them to their upmost potential. The Hands force pretty much everything your opponent has to miss timing, and not a lot of players currently seem to know that. Notable examples include Geargiaccerator and Gear Gigant X. It's come up a few times where my opponent and I were low on resources, only to have me crash into Geargiaccelerator with Ice Hand, pop a back row, make Geargiaccelerator miss timing, and Special Summon Fire Hand.
As you can tell, there aren't many reasons to not be playing Fire Hand and Ice Hand in any deck that has space and uses Level 4's. They're some of the best splashable monsters we've seen since Reborn Tengu, and they'd arguably be better than Tengu if it were put back to Unlimited status right now. All of these reasons and more contribute to my decision to continue using them in Spirits.
The Future of Spirits
The rest of my deck was fairly standard. Oddly enough I think I've never failed to draw Aratama as much as I did at this Regional. On two separate occasions my first Aratama drop was in Game 3 of the match, if that says anything. Despite the fact that Ghostrick Spirits seem to be slightly more consistent than the Rank 4 version I'm confident that the Hand Duo brings the consistency up to the same level if not higher. It's no longer a matter of me being stubborn and not switching to the Ghostrick build, it's more that there are now definite advantages.
As for card choices going forward there are some changes that need to be made. I want to fit in one more copy of both Hands, and that's going to require some careful maneuvering. I'm also considering a Photon Thrasher because there were a couple times that I really needed the second Rank 4 Xyz Material. Pot of Dichotomy is always an option too, because Fire Hand's a Pyro and Ice Hand's an Aqua. Honestly there are just so many cards I want to give a whirl.
I guess at the end of the day I'm still not 100% sure that Spirits are the way to go looking forward. A bunch of really fast, really consistent strategies are coming out in Primal Origin, and I'm not sure how good ol' Spirits will hold up. However, I'm confident that if you're wanting to run Spirits in the coming weeks you have to be using the Hand Duo, no excuses. They're just way, way too good to not play them. What do you think about this new version of Spirits? How about the Hand Duo? Let me know in the Comments.