Wow. So that new F&L List is a thing.

With so many changes in the upcoming Advanced Format, there's been a huge spread of different reactions from players. Obviously, the big impacts to Nekroz, Shaddolls, Burning Abyss, and Qliphorts are the main points of conversation, but smaller tweaks have generated a ton of discussion as well. One of the biggest is the newly-Limited status of Reinforcement of the Army.

Reinforcement hasn't been a leading card in competitive play this past year, but it's definitely seen a lot of play. It was integral to early Nekroz decks, where it could search Shurit, Strategist of the Nekroz and Nekroz of Clausolas, as well as a rotating base of tech picks to answer Djinn Releaser of Rituals; cards like D.D. Warrior Lady, Bull Blader, and Exiled Force. Later when Djinn was Forbidden, Reinforcement of the Army was still played in Nekroz to search the then-Limited Shurit. It appeared in the Clown Blade-esque Performage Challenger decks that were popularized at YCS Dallas; it was run in a few Shaddoll variants, which used it to search Elemental HERO Blazeman for more consistent Fusion Summoning; and it was a three-of in the progenitive Igknight decks that started cropping up earlier this month.

It was played in a lot of different places, and to differing degrees of importance, but it was most closely associated with Masked Heroes; a deck which repeatedly made Top 8 this format, hovering on the fringes of competition. I wrote an article a few weeks ago examining recent trends in Masked Hero builds, highlighting Herman Cosie's deck list that topped the September Regional Qualifier in Los Angeles.

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That article also made reference to Top 8 builds from the same timeframe played in Georgia, North Carolina, and Winnipeg. With so many logged Top 8's as well as some fair showings in recent Championships, it was a good time to be a Hero duelist. And while there was certainly some variation, all those builds had at least one big thing in common.

Triple Reinforcement of the Army, which is now Limited.

Setting The Record Straight
It's easy to see a deck that revolves around the abuse of Masked HERO Shadow Mist and think that Reinforcement was played to search it, but in truth, that wasn't really how it was used. Since Shadow Mist searches a "Change" Quick-Play from your deck when it's Special Summoned, it's best played with A Hero Lives or Summoner Monk. Search it that way and you score a free Mask Change, which you can then set and activate on your opponent's turn to trade Shadow Mist for Masked HERO Dark Law. That sends Shadow Mist to the graveyard, triggering its effect to search another HERO from your deck – chiefly Elemental Hero Bubbleman.

Sure, you could search Shadow Mist with Reinforcement of the Army if it fit your needs – that option made the deck more consistent. But you were much more likely to search Goblindbergh, or even Bubbleman, since those two cards offer little synergy with A Hero Lives and Shadow Mist offers your key play and a bunch of free cards. If you clicked through those Top 8 decks I linked above, you'll notice that only one of them played triple E – Emergency Call and triple Reinforcement. Two more played triple Reinforcement and one Emergency Call, while the other played no Emergency Call whatsoever. Searching Heroes from your deck to your hand just wasn't that important, because it was the Shadow Mist plays with Monk and A Hero Lives that were the foundation of the strategy.

Now we're headed into a new format where everyone's declaring Heroes dead and gone because Reinforcement of the Army's Limited. And placed in the context we just described, that doesn't really make sense: your core plays with Shadow Mist are still intact since you rarely wanted to search it anyways, and if you still want that level of redundancy and the ability to search Elemental Hero Bubbleman on demand, you can flip the typical balance of three Reinforcement with one E – Emergency Call and run three Call, one Reinforcement instead. You'll lose the searchability of Goblindbergh, but that's a relatively small price to pay for the deck's survival, and you can simply opt to skip Goblindbergh altogether.

I know, I know: if you've been playing Heroes this format yourself, dropping Goblindbergh sounds like heresy. Triple Shadow Mist, double Goblindbergh, and double Bubbleman were the core of nearly every Top 8 build we saw. Goblindbergh was awesome because it let you Special Summon a Shadow Mist from your hand if you were unlucky enough to draw it, or if your hand gave you the chance to search one of the two Warriors to make a combo. It made fast Rank 4's that could help you finish a game you were in control of, and its Warrior typing opened up stuff like Blade Armor Ninja and Heroic Champion – Gandiva.

But there were alternatives, and we didn't really see them explored until very recently. Check out this build from the Top 8 of the Mexico City Regional Qualifier earlier this month, and consider how it fits into the new format with Reinforcement of the Army Limited.

DECKID= 103655First off, let's recognize that this deck made Top 8 in a large Regional with lots of Nekroz, Burning Abyss, and Shaddolls. This deck succeeded in a fully developed sunset format with decks that had been seeing development and Championship Level play for over a year. Now, with those decks all de-powered in the upcoming format, you can view this strategy one of two ways: either it benefits from the most competitive decks in the format all being less consistent and less viable, or it takes a hit because while all of those decks were graveyard dependent and thus weak to Masked HERO Dark Law, the next big strategies might not be.

Personally I'm seeing nothing but upside. Lots of current decks that are likely to see more play – think Kozmos, Tellarknights, and Infernoids – rely on sending cards to the graveyard. And since we appear to be headed into an era where Pendulum Summoning reigns supreme, it's important to note that Dark Law's effect will banish Pendulum Monsters destroyed in your opponent's Monster Zones, instead of letting them head to the Extra Deck. If stuff like Majespecters, Pendulum Magicians, and Performages with Performapals take off, Masked HERO Dark Law is in a great position to capitalize. Its banishing effect that punishes search effects is tremendously valuable as well, since virtually everything these days relies on the precision of powerful search cards.

The deck was great under fire from overpowered strategies that had benefitted from an unprecedented level of support and development, and I think it's going to be even better now. So how is it affected by the Limiting of Reinforcement of the Army?

Astute readers may have noticed that it's not. Because the deck didn't run Reinforcement of the Army to begin with.

By trading Goblindbergh for Traptrix Myrmeleo, Mexico's Irving C. relied entirely on the search power of Summoner Monk and A Hero Lives, in conjunction with the recursion of Call Of The Haunted, to trigger Shadow Mist's spell-searching ability. That let him focus on a more aggressive Rank 4 aspect, using the uber-disposable Traptrix Myrmeleo to grab free trap cards and act as Xyz Materials. Combined with the Special Summoning power of Elder Entity Norden he could flood the field with an aggressive burst of Rank 4 options to answer whatever problems his opponent presented, or simply end games faster.

While the deck plays fewer Warriors and thus places less emphasis on Warrior Xyz like Heroic Champion – Gandiva and Blade Armor Ninja – both of which Irvin C. skipped – it offers a higher level of flexibility by making Xyz more frequently, and offers a trap lineup that's more destructive and offers an element of selection and choice, thanks to Myrmeleo's search tricks. It also squeezes a little more utility out of Call Of The Haunted, since while reviving Myrmeleo with Elder Entity Norden will negate its abilities, Calling it back will clear a spell or trap from your opponent's field. That's awesome when you're trying to force a fast flurry of attacks through your opponent's backrow, and that same effect gives alternate plays with Summoner Monk when you don't need to grab a Shadow Mist.

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The use of Traptrix Myrmeleo also makes the deck less dependent on combos; just Normal Summoning Myrmeleo to search and set a trap card is a generally strong move on its own. That's a really strong option for a deck that was pretty all-or-nothing in the past: previously, your only real opening play was to set up a Masked HERO Dark Law. If you couldn't do that, or didn't find it advantageous to do so, the rest of your options weren't very good and tended to top out at a Rank 4 play that would vary in quality according to your match-up. They were all committed moves – nothing simple. Now the deck has an easy +1 that sets up defenses, puts some attack on the table, and establishes a Level 4 for a potential Xyz Summon next turn.

Myrmeleo makes your Summoner Monk plays for Shadow Mist that much better too, since it gives you an immediate use for Monk beyond leaving it on the table as a chump Blocker. Since Myrmeleo replaces itself it's a very safe over-extension to throw down next to Dark Law when you're racing to close out the game, too. It works especially well with Pot of Duality, since a simple Myrmeleo play doesn't require your Special Summon. None of the previous builds ran Duality, because they were so dependent on Special Summoning. This build doesn't share that weakness.

While Irving opted to run one Bottomless Trap Hole and one Void Trap Hole with two Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare, you can play different Trap Hole traps to fit whatever your metagames wind up looking like in the coming weeks. Meanwhile the classic Masked HERO Dark Law plus Mirror Force play is stronger than it was before, since you have more easily Summoned beatsticks to protect, and thus punish your opponent.

I think Masked HERO Dark Law's in a tremendous position to punish the most anticipated decks of the new format, and while a chorus of Hero players are ready to declare the deck dead, I think it's never been stronger. This balanced version of the Masked Hero strategy is fast, disruptive, and wildly adaptable – it's a great pick for the coming weeks, and the sheer volume of Hero naysayers even gives you the edge of a surprise factor. If you're a Hero fan yourself, now's the time to give this deck a shot.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer