Everyone has their decks. You know what I mean: your pet strategies that you always come crawling back to. There's just something about that particular deck that lured you in when you first saw it, and it's never let go since. For some people it could be the artwork, and for others it could be a neat combo that gets you going every time. Regardless, you know you've found your Yu-Gi-Oh! equivalent of your spirit animal. But like all things once shiny and new to you, your favorite deck can become dull and tarnished over time; a candle that's burnt close to a nub.

It isn't that the love is gone, it's that it's changed. You've got to work a little harder now to keep it fresh and exciting.

The release of a new set can rekindle that flame as if it never flickered low before. It's the secret to a successful card game: a steady influx of fresh and new cards to keep things from getting boring. Whenever a new booster comes out we all do the same exact thing when we see a cool card: the first thought in your head is always "which one of my decks does this fit into?" It keeps the romance alive, you know?

Wind-Ups are one of those decks for me. Ever since Generation Force came out in August of 2011, I was enthralled by these cute little toys. Even to this day, if I'm in a card shop and I see packs of Generation Force on the shelf, I have to struggle to resist the urge to buy every single pack in the store. The association's just so strong – I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for that set.

Recently, a pair of new cards made their way into my Wind-Ups to really great results - enough to inspire me to pick up the strategy again even though I've played the crap out of it. Sometimes, cards just fit so well in an existing strategy that it feels as if the cards were subtly made for your deck, and in this case I can't help but feel like that's the case. Let's dig into my toy chest and see if you can pick out the new material!

DECKID=99974If you spotted Number 82: Heartlandraco and Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force then you nailed it! Not that it was that hard to see, but still, props if you got it. Astral Force and Heartlandraco are two incredibly splashable cards that really, you know – make a splash here! Each of them serve a distinct purpose and elevate an already-formidable strategy to greater heights.

Listen To Your Heart!
Number 82: Heartlandraco kind of came out of nowhere. I mean, a lot of new cards kind of just plop right into our collective lap without much notice. But Heartlandraco really stood out to me. Maybe I'm alone on this one, but a general Rank 4 that can swing 2000 ATK directly at your opponent's Life Points before they even blink sort of blows my mind. If this card was a Secret Rare in a regular booster it would easily be $30 plus – no doubt.

Of course, the one catch to Number 82: Heartlandraco that keeps it from seeing play in everything is that to get the most out of its effect, you need to have a face-up spell card. If you've played Wind-Ups at any point in their history, then you know they pretty much always have some sort of Continuous Spell just hanging out at all points of the game. The deck can also crank out any Xyz from Rank 3 to 5, so it's pretty much a no-brainer.

What exactly does Heartlandraco do? Well, first off if you control a face-up spell card, then your opponent can't target Heartlandraco for attacks. Secondly, by detaching an Xyz Material from it, you can make a direct attack with Heartlandraco. To keep things from getting obnoxious, that effect carries the stipulation that makes Heartlandraco your only attacked for the turn. This card backed by a spent Fire Formation – Tenki can be a horrific wall of defense for your opponent to try and get through. Take into consideration the fact that Wind-Ups are also the kind of strategy that has room to run a pretty formidable back row, and you have yourself a promising win condition from the get-go.

Number 82: Heartlandraco really solves a lot of the problems with Wind-Ups in the late game – especially for budget-minded players. It used to be that you could just bust out your big Wind-Up combo and if it fell through, you had Pot of Avarice to fall back on; it would get you a quick +1, and load everything back into your deck so you could reuse those combo pieces. Of course, with Pot of Avarice Forbidden many people have just turned to Pot of Dichotomy and Daigusto Emeral to fill that void, but you have to be ready to sacrifice money and deck space for that - resources you may not have to begin with. Heartlandraco provides a cheaper and arguably better alternative to that costly scenario.

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Think about it: if you've ever played Wind-Ups before then you know how it looks. You've got a bunch of spent ContinuousSpells taking up your back row and a handful of Wind-Up Rats. Now all you have to do is Special Summon Wind-Up Warrior with Rat, make Rat a Level 4 using Warrior and – boom! – Number 82: Heartlandraco. How can you even step up your game after that?

Well, how about a 4000 ATK monolith that will destroy every card your opponent controls if they declare an attack…

Movin' On Up!
So let's take a step back and talk about Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force. Over the past year, Konami's released several Rank-Up-Magics as a means of Summoning the five million un-Summonable Number C Xyz monsters that were spawned over the course of the Zexal era. This is universally a good thing. Some of these monsters are outright incredible and deserve to see play! It's just that many duelists can't justify taking a -3 just to make a really big dude appear. It's understandably a hard moral battle for all parties involved.

Astral Force largely corrects all of those problems, and it encourages you to bring out the big guns. Since Astral Force is kind of a novel to read, let's hit the key points and continue on. When you play Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force, you're going to target the Xyz Monster with the highest Rank on your side of the field (and of course, if it's a tie you get to choose). Then you can Special Summon ANY Xyz from your Extra Deck that happens to be the same Attribute and Type as the monster you targeted, treating that Summon as an Xyz Summon. That's just the first half of the card. Let's pause for a moment and reflect…

...okay! Ready? Cool! During your Draw Phase, instead of conducting your normal draw, you can add Astral Force to your hand from your graveyard. You can't Special Summon for the rest of the turn afterwards EXCEPT by Astral Force's effect. Alright, we've made it through! Sometimes, I just feel it's way better to do that with massive textbooks-for-cards because for me, personally, an incredibly cool card can be really intimidating and hard to grasp until you've read it several times.

So what Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force really excels at is promoting your Rank 3s into some vicious Rank 5s with relative ease – some of which you couldn't play otherwise! Take for example, Crimson Knight Vampire Bram. Normally, Bram needs two Level 5 Zombie monsters as Xyz Materials – a monster type that's completely lacking in Wind-Ups. With Astral Force you can promote Ghostrick Alucard, a generic two-Material Rank 3, into Bram after blasting away an opposing set card. Then to add insult to injury, Bram will let you steal the strongest of your opponent's fallen monsters.

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Astral Force will also let you easily move up into two Wind-Up staples: Number 61: Volcasaurus and Tiras, Keeper of Genesis, through Grenosaurus and Mechquipped Angineer respectively. Now, what about that 4000 ATK monstrosity I mentioned before? Well, if you start off with Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut – an awkward and less effective Wind-Up Zenmaines at best – you can Rank-Up into Number C69: Heraldry Crest of Horror and just sit there as your opponent cries. Because of how stupidly impossible it is to Summon the Number C monsters, I'd never read Number C69 until I found out it could actually be used and I've got to say, I'm shocked by it! It's one of those cards that shouldn't exist but does because of the ridiculous cost of Special Summoning it.

The sweetest part is that you've got a shortcut for it now and can literally hold your opponent's entire field hostage with little effort. Because Yu-Gi-Oh.

Alright, Buck. Where's The Bang?
This one caps off right at $100 – all thanks to the price of Ghostrick Alucard. The combos it sets up with Crimson Knight Vampire Bram were just too good to overlook; I'm sure that you understand.

It's safe to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the breath of fresh air that Number 82: Heartlandraco and Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force brought to the overall Wind-Up strategy! They managed to add depth to a strategy that already had layers of complexity to spare. Have you experimented with any Rank-Up decks – Astral or otherwise? I'd love to hear about your experience down in the Comments.

-Zach Buckley

Team Nofatchx