After all, somebody has to go first.
One big change that's worked to keep balance was with the introduction ofthe rule that stops the first player from drawing a sixth card. That changewas made right after the 2014 North American World Championship Qualifier,and it definitely helped. Outside of that one gameplay change, though,Konami's mostly looked to card design to "fix" this issue.
Hand traps have spiked in popularity as the game has gone on, partlybecause the newest ones are so powerful. Gone are the days of EffectVeiler, because cards like Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, Ghost Ogre& Snow Rabbit, and others are just better. Ash Blossom's always a funnyone to me, because if each of its three effect triggers were split into aunique hand trap, they'd all be worth playing.
But combine all those negations into one card, and you've got a staplethree-of in virtually every format.
And Then Came Evenly Matched
If removing the first turn draw hindered openings, and hand traps stoppedyour opponent from making openings in the first place, then Evenly Matchedis Konami's way of saying "if you make a good board, be prepared to lose itinstantly."
In terms of sheer removal, Evenly Matched is at the top of the food chain.If it was just a normal trap card it would likely be a lot more fair, butas it stands it might as well be a spell that adds on the restriction of"skip your Main Phase 1" if you want to activate it.
One way to play around Evenly Matched is to simply hold back from makingthe most insane board possible, unless that board also has severalnegations. Prior to the release of Tri-Gate Wizard, the first turn SPYRALboards were definitely scary, but they didn't have any way to actuallynegate things. That made Evenly Matched an excellent counter, and even withTri-Gate Wizard there's a good chance you can still resolve an EvenlyMatched to win the game.
The issue is that a lot of decks struggle to hold back their resources,mostly because their fully powered fields are only on par with a halfpowered SPYRAL board. Or, perhaps the deck is literally designed to fillthe field and not the hand, as is the case with every single Card of Demisedeck. While Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring certainly hurts decks that relyon Card of Demise, Evenly Matched is the true counter to that card becauseit puts the Demise player to just one card, which usually isn't enough tosurvive the onslaught of your opponent's Main Phase 2.
Evenly Matched is the type of card that a lot of players asked for: ithelps players who are going second, and it punishes overextension. But manyfeel like it's a bit of overkill, which has created a potentiallyimbalanced trap. Luckily, I have two solid counters to Evenly Matched tohelp keep from losing all your games to it!
Perhaps the best hard counter to Evenly Matched is Artifact Lancea. Duringyour opponent's turn, you can tribute it from your hand or your side of thefield to stop any banishing effects for the entire turn. What's awesomeabout Artifact Lancea is you're skipping your opponent's Main Phase 1 andBattle Phase, and then they lose their Evenly Matched. That puts them onfive cards going into Main Phase 2, and they're can't banish any more.
That's relevant because of things like SPYRAL Sleeper, TrickstarReincarnation, and SPYRAL GEAR - Drone. If your opponent was planning onusing any of those cards' banishing effects they'll have to wait an entireturn. That should be plenty of time for you to stabilize and possibly OTKthem on your next turn.
What's even cooler about Artifact Lancea is that you can bring it out withArtifact Sanctum. Sanctum's already a sweet card in this format becauseArtifact Scythe is so good in the SPYRAL and Pendulum Magician matchups,but with Lancea it has even more versatility. While your opponent might tryto pull some mind games on you and enter their Battle Phase without anEvenly Matched in hand, it's usually just a firmly telegraphed play.
That means you can use Artifact Sanctum to bring out Artifact Scythe ifyour opponent does try to make a push in their Main Phase 1, but if theyjust go straight to the Battle Phase you can bring out Artifact Lanceainstead. Please note that if you decide to chain Artifact Sanctum to theEvenly Matched you'll still lose all your cards because the Evenly Matchedresolves before you have a chance to tribute the Artifact Lancea.
If you're playing SPYRALs, Artifact Sanctum's even better because you canrecycle Artifact Lancea and Artifact Scythe with SPYRAL Resort. We saw thatin both the 1st and 2nd Place lists from YCS Dallas,played in both of theKhan brothers' SPYRAL decks. This is especially cool because it means you only have to play one copyof each Artifact monster, maximizing the chances to open Artifact Sanctumwhile minimizing the chances of drawing the Artifact monsters themselves.This Side Deck practice claimed the top two spots at Dallas, proving thatit's worth a shot.
The other tech card to counter Evenly Matched is more susceptible tobackrow destruction, but it's way more impactful when it resolves. WithArtifact Lancea you're almost always trading 1-for-1 with Evenly Matched.With Mind Crush, you're gaining a lot of knowledge in the process.
Mind Crush is a sleeper pick across the board in this format, but it'sspecifically great against Evenly Matched. Since it's so easy to see EvenlyMatched coming, you shouldn't be worried about activating Mind Crush to hitit out of their hand when they enter the Battle Phase without playingcards. I'm sure there's a point where Mind Crush becomes so widespread thatpeople start bluffing Evenly Matched, but I don't think the game will getthere anytime soon; I really wouldn't worry about it.
Like I mentioned a second ago, Mind Crush is exceptional against commonlyplayed decks this format. Virtually all competitive strategies have searcheffects - it's one of the reasons Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring is sopopular. Not only is Mind Crush good at hitting single targets out of youropponent's hand, you'll occasionally get multiple cards, which almostresults in a free win. Pendulum Magicians and Trickstars commonly runduplicates of cards, so where you're most likely to see that benefit there.
Evenly Matched is one of the best cards in Yu-Gi-Oh! right now, but it'snot unbeatable. By playing around it, or by using cards like ArtifactLancea and Mind Crush, you can avoid losses to the crazy trap card. I don'tthink it's out of the question to say that Evenly Matched will wind up onthe Forbidden & Limited List someday, but for now you've got to toughit out if you want to be successful in competition!
Doug Zeeff hails from Michigan and is currently an English major incollege. When he's not found emailing Konami about why there's not asingle walrus card in all of Yu-Gi-Oh! you can find him regularlyposting unorthodox, unfiltered Yu-Gi-Oh! content on his Youtubechannel, Dzeeff. In his spare time he enjoys eating cheese, Overwatch,and, of course, playing Yu-Gi-Oh.Click hereto follow him and his adventures on Facebook!