Our first core set for the TCG in 2020, Ignition Assault, launchesat the end of the month and brings an impressive line-up of new themes!

There's also plenty of retro support for archetypes like Karakuris, Senkas, Sky Strikers, and Witchcrafters, plus new tech cards likeGizmek Mikazuchi, the Nuclear EmperorandLightning Storm– a mash-up of destruction effects that sets the bar for future removal spells. Lightning Storm's easily the most interesting card inIgnition Assault thanks to its backrow-deleting power, which makes it one of the best going-second Side Deck picks in the game against trap-heavy strategies.

Lightning Storm has steep competition from other 'Turn 1 mass removal' options, including Raigeki itself. Over the last couple of years we'veseen monster removal transition away from mass destruction effects, and more towards cards like Sky Striker Mecha - Widow Anchor, Dingirsu, the Orcust of the Evening Star, Evenly Matched, Nibiru, the Primal Being, andvarious Counter Traps like Salamangreat Roar and Orcust Crescendo. Themed removal, negation bodies, and Extra Deck destruction effects are almost always preferred over Main Deck single-use monster removal.

Backrow removal is a little more popular in Main Decks, but not by much. Lightninig Storm is competing against Twin Twisters, Cosmic Cyclone, EvenlyMatched, and even Hey, Trunade! to become the preferred going-second backrow removal effect. Whether Lightning Storm deserves a place in yourMain or Side Deck entirely depends on your strategy's capacity to remove cards without teching extra removal effects, but is it really any better than existing options?

That's what we're here to discuss, and the first topic at hand is LightningStorm's biggest advantage over other removal effects: its utility against both monsters and backrow.

Never A Dead Card...At Least Early On
Lightning Storm gives you the option of destroying you opponent's attack mode monsters, or destroying their spells and traps instead. Both effects are fantastic, but there's a catch: you can't control a face-up card to activate it.

That's largely okay for the situations you'll usually end up using it in.Generally, Lightning Storm should be viewed as a going-second Side Deck pick that can break up your opponent's defenses with actual destruction. As I mentioned before, this positions it in the same space as a lot of other incredibly popular cards, even non-removal effects like Dark Ruler No More.

How can Lightning Storm earn its keep? First, it's a lot more flexible than other aggressive spells. Lightning Storm can answer a field where problem monsters with floodgate and negation effects are stopping you from playing the game, or it can blow out your opponent's backrow to clear the way for your opening combos.

The ability to do one or the other withoutgiving up your BattlePhase is a significant advantage over other options that only offer one form of removal. With Lightning Storm you can make the choice betweenclearing backrow or popping monsters based on the situation. It enables more tactical decision making than Hey, Trunade! or Raigeki because you're no longer trying to decide between monster or backrow removal during deck construction, or between games using your Side Deck. It's unique because it covers so much ground.

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Of course, in most match-ups it's fairly clear when you'll want spell and trap removal and when you'll want monster removal. The biggest threats fromTrue Dracos, Sky Strikers, and Altergeists are tucked away in their Spelland Trap Zones, and decks that rely on Field Spells or Pendulums want to protect them at all costs. Extremely monster-heavy strategies might keep their backrow empty for the entire duel, so it's usually not hard to design your Side Deck to address those match-ups individually.

Lightning Storm is a fantastic card from a Main Deck perspective because if fills both roles, but its activation restrictions make it a tough sell outside of the Side Deck. As a result, Lightning Storm will probably underperform compared to more specific monster removal options – thinkSystem Down against Orcusts – as long as you can afford the Side Deckspace.

That said, Lightning Storm is fantastic against backrow and easily one of the format's best options for blowing out decks that rely on traps,Field Spells, Pendulums, or Continuous Spells. It's an excellent option against floodgates too, including sided ones, which can come in handy even against monster-heavy strategies.

Siding in Lightning Storm to destroy monsters doesn't keep you from destroying backrow if your opponent sides in There Can Be Only One orCounter Traps. That flexibility has value, and it can absolutely make a difference in your ability to play out your early game strategy. But it's worth considering the trade-off: playing Lightning Storm chiefly as monster removal isn't optimal in most match-ups.

Weighing Alternatives
It's not hard to find mass removal right now, and Lightning Storm's niche role can be filled just as easily by Evenly Matched. Ultimately, destroying monsters is a potentially terrible idea against way too many decks this format. There are dozens of monsters with effects that trigger upon destruction or when they hit the graveyard, and plenty more are completely immune to destruction by card effects. Raigeki already doesn't see play this format for that reason, so I'd be shocked if Lightning Storm saw significant play as monster removal tech. That said, Storm's backrow deletion power is what we're really here for anyways, so the monster destruction's really just a bonus.

Evenly Matched banishes cards everywhere on the field, but it leaves at least one card for your opponent, consumes your entire Battle Phase, and activating it is extremely predictable.

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Losing Evenly Matched to a Red Reboot is a much bigger problem than losingLightning Storm on the outset of your turn. Banishing spells and traps isn't nearly as important as banishing monsters in most match-ups, although SkyStrikers and Orcusts are exceptions. Dingirsu also makes destruction effects a liability in the Orcust match-up, though that hasn't stopped players from running Twin Twisters. Lightning Storm's much more economical as proactive removal, but keep in mind that it's still a Normal Spell. It won't replace Twin Twisters despite costing one less card to activate.

Lightning Storm also doesn't replace Red Reboot or Cosmic Cyclone. It's jus tnot a reactive counter to your opponent's freshly-activated backrow, and that severely limits its usefulness in match-ups where your opponent's activating floodgates during your Draw Phase. It's totally useless againstImperial Order, and you'll absolutely be waiting a full turn againstAnti-Spell Fragrance. Unfortunately a set Lightning Storm's terrifyingly useless against Fragrance and probably won't last until your next turn.

None of this would be as big of a problem if you weren't siding LightningStorm specifically to counter floodgates and backrow. The fact that Storm'sso easily negated or delayed is a problem, though it's still devastating ifyou can resolve it.

You can only activate Lightning Storm when you don't control a face-up card, so you'll most likely lead with it on your first turn when you're playing second in the duel. It's easy to silo it away as a card that canonlybe played on your first turn, but that's not necessarily the case. Unlike Evenly Matched you can still control cards, just notface-up cards.

It's a lot easier to control the number of face-up cards on your field as opposed to cards in general, so in theory you could have multiple opportunities to activate Lightning Storm at different points in the duel.How often those opportunities show up is dependent on the state of the dueland your particular strategy, but the fact that Lightning Storm isn't completely restricted to the first turn makes it a much more interesting mid-game option compared to Evenly Matched.

In terms of card economy there's a lot to love here. As far as backrow removal goes there's really nothing better outside of the currently-Forbidden Heavy Storm and Harpie's Feather Duster. Hey, Trunade!doesn't come close to Lightning Storm's effectiveness, and I imagine everyone currently playing it will switch to Storm as soon as possible.

Generating a +2 or +3 in card advantage by resolving a single spell is excellent, and Lightning Storm is relatively easy to activate compared to other cards that offer similar card economy. It's poised to make a big difference in how easily decks can push through strong backrow set-ups, and decks with large trap line-ups will need to pay close attention to how vulnerable they are to Storm's effect.

The broader question of Lightning Storm's impact on the format is even more interesting, although for now all I can do is speculate. When Heavy Stormwas legal it changed the way duelists played backrow. Players would onlyset one trap because they were worried that their opponent would score a quick +1 in card advantage during the early game by blowing out theirBottomless Trap Hole and Book of Moon in a single move. Will Lightning Stormhave the same impact, or will Sky Strikers continue to build up resources in their Spell and Trap Zones without fear? We'll find out in a few weeks when Lightning Storm finally arrives in the TCG.

Until next time then

-Kelly