Every player's got something they keep going back to time and time again. For some, it's a favorite deck from the past, adapted to fit into the current format. Others have a favorite tech card that splashes into nearly anything. Personally, mine's a little bit of both – a card that fits into a surprising number of decks, but that requires careful deck construction to shine. It's even been so good as to net me a Regional Top 8 just a few months ago! I'm talking about Mist Valley Falcon.

Mist Valley Falcon's an interesting little card that's always been on the fringe of competition since it was released in Hidden Arsenal 2 in 2010, a set that was often ignored save Naturia Beast and Dewloren, Tiger Prince of the Ice Barrier. A Level 4 Winged-Beast clocking in at a whopping 2000 ATK, Falcon's in the class of powerful Level 4 attackers that've been given a drawback to keep them from being too powerful. Whenever Falcon attacks, you're required to return another card you control to your hand as a cost to declare the attack.

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On the surface, it just looks like a better alternative to the classic Joey Wheeler monster, Panther Warrior. You have to give up a little field presence to attack, but you aren't actually losing any cards in the exchange. Look a little deeper, and you'll see that Falcon's "drawback" is almost anything but.

Show Me Ya Moves!
Mist Valley Falcon's main job in any deck playing it is providing pseudo card advantage by allowing you to reuse powerful continuous cards and effects. Cards like Fiendish Chain and Call of the Haunted have one-shot effects, but beyond that they give no value in the long run. Chaining up a monster to stop its effect is great, but once you kill the monster, the Chain goes with it. Unless the effect you negated had an activation cost, your Fiendish Chain's a minus of card economy. Killing your opponent's monster in battle makes what would be a +1 battle win into a 1-for-1 trade, and any other card you had to use to clear that monster is just a minus in the long run.

The tempo gained by Fiendish Chain's disruption more than makes up for that loss of a card, but what if you didn't have to lose a card at all? That's exactly what Mist Valley Falcon does for you. Many of the best things to Chain up have low stats, too! Those weaker monsters are the perfect prey for Falcon to punch over, freeing them of Fiendish Chain by returning it to your hand just before they're destroyed. And if your opponent's clearing that monster from the field themselves, it was most likely for a Tribute or for a Synchro or Xyz Summon, all of which leave the Fiendish Chain sitting dead on the field anyways. Getting the Fiendish Chain back turns a useless "zero" of a card into a live one – that's an immediate +1 right there. Fiendish Chain was one of the biggest reasons to use Mist Valley Falcon in the past, and with practically every deck using it in tournaments right now, Falcon's even easier to play.

Call of the Haunted works along the same lines when you pair it with a Falcon. By itself, Call's effectively a 1-for-1, grabbing back a monster from the grave but doing nothing else while it sits on the field. Falcon turns Call of the Haunted into a revolving door of the previously dead. Get some value out of the Call through an Xyz Summon or an on-Summon effect, then bounce the Call back to your hand and do it all again! You can even Call back a monster, attack with it, and then have Falcon return that monster back to your hand to Summon again later. If you can keep Falcon safe for a turn and then retrieve your Call of the Haunted, you can keep the cycle of +1's going turn after turn!

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Falcon's great for reusing monster effects that trigger when you Summon them, too! Recycling Breaker the Magical Warrior lets you blow up a spell or trap every turn. Traptrix Myrmeleo lets you search "Trap Hole" cards over and over. Any monster with a search effect like Elemental HERO Stratos can give you a fistful of monsters for future plays. You can even use Falcon to double down on once-per-turn ignition effects. Use the effect once in Main Phase 1, bounce the monster in your Battle Phase, and Summon it back to use it again in Main Phase 2. Falcon's perfect for retrieving monsters that have fallen victim to your opponent's Fiendish Chains, too, letting you free them to try again.

Now All That Card Advantage Is Fine And Dandy…
…but there is one issue: you have to attack to use Mist Valley Falcon's effect. If your opponent only has huge monsters on the field, the Falcon can't recycle your cards unless you want it to crash and burn in the process. That's where Safe Zone and Big Bang Shot come in. If you're playing a deck with Falcon, it's easy to use one of these multi-purpose cards as versatile monster removal, and they have lots of added utility for other situations.

Safe Zone is my personal favorite; it's generally the superior choice in any control deck using Falcon. As removal, you can strap it to an opponent's attack position monster right before you declare your attack, return it to your hand and destroy the monster. But you can still use it on one of your own monsters to shield it from opposing effects and battle, perfect for protecting stun monsters like Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo, or just saving your hide from an OTK. You can even put Falcon itself into the Safe Zone, letting it recycle cards even more effectively, although the restriction on direct attacks can make things more complicated.

Big Bang Shot is similar to Safe Zone when you're playing it as removal, and arguably does the job better since it's a spell card (making it a better fit for more aggressive strategies with Falcon). Being an equip spell, it isn't restricted to targeting attack-position monsters, and unlike Safe Zone – which destroys the monster when it leaves the field – Big Bang Shot simply banishes it, answering even more threats with Falcon. You don't have to set it face-down before using it, either, so you can drop it at any point, and a freshly drawn copy is a lot better than a topdecked Safe Zone when you have to clear a monster. The +400 ATK boost and piercing damage is surprisingly relevant too, dishing out unexpected damage in battle, and ending games when your opponent thinks they're safe. While Big Bang Shot doesn't have the same level of utility as Safe Zone, the aggression and speed it provides still make it a strong pick.

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Now, when you're dealing with these monster-killing cards, there is some technical stuff you need to know regarding your attacks. When you're attacking with Mist Valley Falcon, first state that you're going to attack with Falcon and pay the cost of returning a card to your hand. In the case of returning Safe Zone or Big Bang Shot, their effects immediately clear the monster from the field at that time. After that's happened, that's when you select your attack target; you don't get a replay to let you cancel the attack. If your opponent has several big monsters, using this trick to remove one of them could force you to attack into another. Make your plays carefully!

A Little Captain In You?
So, everything I just mentioned works great in decks with some focus around Mist Valley Falcon, but none of those strategies are mainstream. What about the popular competitive decks?

As far as popular, acknowledged strategies go right now, Fire Fists are probably one of the best places to play Falcon. On top of typical combos like Fiendish Chain, you can abuse the whole array of Fire Formations with Falcon's power. Fire Formation – Tenki's the most obvious card that benefits from Falcon's recycling power, extending your number of searches drastically. Fire Formation – Gyokkou's also amazing with Falcon. Locking down a backrow, clearing it safely with Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Gorilla or Mystical Space Typhoon, and then bouncing the Gyokkou just to lock another card is an incredible feeling. Falcon's been used in the past with Xing Zhen Hu to a similar effect, and it might even be worth playing Gyokkou in other decks just for this trick. You can even use Fire Formation – Tensu to get another Normal Summon the same turn you play Falcon, so it won't slow down your core strategy.

Mermails have space issues that would keep Falcon from being an easy addition, but that's not to say there isn't value to be gained from it. The Mermail deck has a handful of strong Normal Summons in Mermail Abysspike, Mermail Abyssturge, and Deep Sea Diva. In addition, Falcon can bounce an Abyss-sphere to your hand to trigger Mermail Abysslinde's effect, or return a Mermail Abyssmegalo or Mermail Abyssteus summoned from the sphere to hand to use their effects. The last cool trick is combining it with Atlantean Marksman to Summon and bounce more Atlanteans from the deck. A lot of those combos were already popular through Dewloren, Tiger Prince of the Ice Barrier, and Mist Valley Falcon can give you another way to do similar combos.

Harpies can also really take advantage of Falcon. Falcon's Winged Beast-type fits perfectly here, and you can bounce Hysteric Sign and Hysteric Party to reuse them for more Special Summons. It's amazing with Divine Wind of Mist Valley, which many Harpie builds are starting to run for combos with Harpie Dancer, and when you don't have Falcon, you can still pair Harpie's Hunting Ground with Safe Zone or Big Bang Shot to kill monsters, giving them even more utility! Mist Valley Falcon sacrifices a little bit of speed from the Harpie strategy to give it even more staying power and extend your plays a few turns further.

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Constellars and Bujins fall under the same category as Fire Fists, in that Falcon can Recycle Fire Formation - Tenki and important protective traps like Fiendish Chain and Safe Zone. In Constellars, however, Constellar Pleiades can fill the same role as Falcon, making it far less powerful due to the unneeded redundancy. Bujins can make very good use of Falcon, when Summoned to supplement Yamato. Some Bujin builds use Call of the Haunted as another way to keep Yamato on board, as well, so Falcon can pair with Call to retrieve Bujingi Crane from the graveyard. Bujingi Hare from Legacy of the Valiant can protect a Yamato from being destroyed when you bounce an attached Call of the Haunted too, making a teched Mist Valley Falcon very appealing in the right build.

A FALCON PUNCH To The Side!
Even if you don't have too many cards to abuse with Mist Valley Falcon, there's still one really simple fact: for a Level 4 monster, Falcon is BIG. It runs over just about anything Level 4 or lower you're likely to run into, including many powerful Side Deck cards like Banisher of the Radiance, Thunder King Rai-Oh, and Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo.

For some decks, like Hieratics, Mermails, and Synchro variants, which can struggle to clear certain threatening stun monsters, Mist Valley Falcon's actually a solid Side Deck option to use as a counter-side. If you play enough cards to recycle with Falcon, like Fiendish Chain and Call of the Haunted, it becomes a strong pick to kill off opposing monsters. Currently the most popular card used for this job is Fencing Fire Ferret. Comparing the two cards, barring a few threats like Evilswarm Ophion, you can get more value out of Mist Valley Falcon in the long run, though at a slightly higher risk since Falcon's more vulnerable to cards like Raigeki Break and Mirror Force. It's a classic situation of risk versus reward, but I suggest you try it out if you feel your deck can take advantage of it.

There's another amazing perk of Mist Valley Falcon that comes into play mostly in Games 2 and 3, due to its interaction with popular Side Deck choices: Mist Valley Falcon can easily turn off disruptive continuous effects that you don't want active on your turn. Bouncing your own Fossil Dyna or a Vanity's Emptiness can let you get in a key Xyz summon before setting them up again, and returning a Mistake or Thunder King can free up Pot of Duality or any other searching card you may have drawn into. You could even flip a Royal Decree to shield you from traps until your Falcon makes the final attack of the turn, bouncing Decree and getting your traps back online! Falcon gives you the freedom to choose when preventative effects are active, which gives you a huge leg up after Side Decking.

Captain Falcon's Bag Of Tricks!
My favorite thing about Mist Valley Falcon has to be the sheer number of uses for it. I haven't mentioned even half of the cards that can pair with Falcon effectively, but I think you can see the kinds of cards that can work. Think stuff like Deck Lockdown and Swords of Revealing Light.

Even without a huge focus on Falcon it has great utility, but when nearly everything you play synergizes with it, it gets out of control. I've been working on some updates to my Top 8 Traptrix / Falcon Control deck, so check this out, and see if you can find all the synergies in here.

DECKID=99487There's a little bit of everything here that I discussed earlier. Fiendish Chain, Call of the Haunted, and Safe Zone are a bunch of reliable continuous cards that pair with Mist Valley Falcon. Traptrix Myrmeleo can be cycled to search a ton of Trap Holes. Fossil Dyna and Thunder King can be toggled on and off, and along with Myrmeleo they make for a ton of good Call of the Haunted targets.

This deck is all about clearing threats before they become an issue, all while generating simple incremental card advantage with the Traptrix and most importantly Mist Valley Falcon. I'm not going to go any more in-depth on the deck itself at the moment, but Jason wrote an analysis on the build that got me my Regional top over at CoreTCG. You can check that out here, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask them down in the Comments! Next week I'll be back with my favorite deck made possible with additions from Legacy of the Valiant.

-Bobby Kenny