The era of ZEXAL locking is upon us.
Battles of Legend: Armageddon is just around the corner, releasing next Friday. It's quite the fitting name, since this set brings us a new meta-defining suite of cards that you can use to summon the world-wrecking Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL instantly. The arrival of the Numeron cards will bring an end to our current format as we know it and force players to adapt. If you've followed the news in Asia's Yu-Gi-Oh! OCG then you'll know what I mean, but today I want to explain what the Numerons do, how to play them and how you can beat them.
The Numeron theme revolves around the spell cards Numeron Calling and Numeron Network, as well as a monster called Numeron Wall. It also requires new Xyz Monsters called "Numeron Gates" as well as Number C1: Numeron Chaos Gate Sunya, essentially a giant finisher.
Numeron Calling's the centerpiece to this package. It allows you to summon up to four "Numeron" Xyz Monsters, but once you do, you're only allowed to Normal or Special Summon once more. You can only activate Numeron Calling while you control no monsters and you must have the field spell Numeron Network. The TLDR? It's basically a Scapegoat, but instead of tokens you get these vanilla Xyz Monsters.
Numeron Network's the Field Spell. While it's active, its effect lets you send a "Numeron" spell card from your deck to the graveyard, and on resolution it'll copy the effect of the card you sent. Ignoring all the other Numeron spells that exist, Numeron Network's purpose is to copy Numeron Calling.
Numeron Wall is a Level 1 Dark Fiend with 0 ATK and 0 DEF. While you control no monsters or only Numeron Wall, you can send it to the graveyard to activate a Numeron Network from your deck or hand. It's also got another effect that's similar to Battle Fader: when you take battle damage, you can Special Summon it from your hand and it'll end the Battle Phase at the end of the Damage Step. (That effect works regardless oof whether you have other monsters on the field.) It's a surprisingly good effect that can help you survive in a simplified game, where neither player has many cards left.
Once you've resolved Numeron Calling you're free to use those Xyz Monsters: Number 1: Numeron Gate Ekam, Number 2: Numeron Gate Dve, Number 3: Numeron Gate Trini, and Number 4: Numeron Gate Catvari. Pure beatdown is a valid option. While I've mocked Numeron Xyz a bit by calling them vanillas they do actually have effects: they can't be destroyed by battle, and at the end of any battle with an opponent's monster, you can detach a material to double the ATK of all your Numerons. The problem is that if you Special Summon them with Numeron Calling, the Numerons won't have any Xyz Materials anyways.
Luckily Numeron Network lets you skip the cost of detaching for your Numeron monsters' effects. That can mean a good chunk of damage to your opponent; the Numeron Xyz start with 1000 ATK each, and if you've doubled their attack points over and over again, you can create game winning damage. That's where Number C1: Numeron Chaos Gate Sunya could come up if you missed lethal, just by a bit. You can Xyz Summon it on top of Number 1: Numeron Gate Ekam and banish all monsters, then on your next standby phase Number C1: Numeron Chaos Gate Sunya comes back. If you still have the Field Spell up, it'll deal burn damage equal to the ATK of all your banished Xyz. That's just one of the ways this package can close out games.
A lot of that was covered in Konami's Duel Download video introducing Battles of Legend: Armageddon last week. But one of the things that video didn't detail much was that you can use three of those Numeron Xyz to summon Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL! You can use S0's effect to stop your opponent from activating cards or effects for the rest of their turn, effectively skipping your opponent's turns with ease. It makes combo decks obsolete if they don't have an answer. It'll probably be one of the better Turn 1 plays going forward, as there are only a handful of solutions to the set-up that can also deal with an established Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL.
In the beginning of May when the Numeron cards were first released in the OCG's Collection Pack 2020, me and my friends saw their potential with Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL. Sure enough, a few weeks later the players in OCG territories have popularized that strategy, using Numerons in decks that don't necessarily need a specific opening field; decks llke Eldlich. It wouldn't surprise me if the same happened here in the TCG.
Those same OCG players also popularized other uses for the Numeron package, like using the Xyz to make Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops, a towering monster that only loses to spell or trap effects, or other Xyz . Making Link 4's can be pretty good too: you can make Saryuja Skull Dread to draw some cards, Apollousa, Bow of the Goddess for multiple negates, or maybe even Topologic Bomber Dragon. The sky isn't the limit, just the Link Rating.
Though Numeron Calling's important, you don't really want to draw it without Numeron Network; you really want to prioritize seeing Numeron Network more. Even as I'm typing this, Planet Pathfinder's being bought out. For good reason, too: it searches you the Field Spell while still leaving you free of monsters, making it a great fit for the strategy.
With three copies each of Numeron Calling, Numeron Network, Numeron Wall, and Planet Pathfinder as well as a Terraforming, that's thirteen cards making up more than a quarter of your deck, all to help you do the same thing! You could even play Set Rotation and more raw draw power like Pot of Desires to help you see those cards more frequently.
So what are the weaknesses to the set-up and the established ZEXAL lock?
Once you activate Numeron Calling with Numeron Network in place, you don't lose to of anything. Even if your opponent had a specific answer like Herald of Green Light or PSY-Framegear Delta, you can often play another Numeron Calling or use the Field Spell's effect to do the same thing again. Your opponent could try to use something like Flying "C" or Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries to keep you from summoning Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL, you can just swerve your play into Infinitrack Fortress Megaclops or whatever Link 4 you want instead, and your opponent will still be in a tight spot.
Even Nibiru, the Primal Being can't beat the Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL play; you only need to summon three Xyz and then play the Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL on top. Unless you used Planet Pathfinder to get there, that's only four summons, so Nibiru, the Primal Being not a factor.
Numeron Wall activates Numeron Network directly from your deck instead of searching it, which means your opponent can't negate it with Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring. (Planet Pathfinder and Terraforming are still regular searches, so those can be countered more easily.) Numeron Network effect can also lose to Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit.
Once you've passed the turn with Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL on board, you could immediately use Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL effect after your opponent draws to keep them from activating cards or effects. BUT! That play could lose to Infinite Impermanence or even a PSY-Framegear Gamma. I'd still do it, but if you have enough patience, you can often wait until your opponent commits a monster to the field first to play around those cards. Note that doing so gives your opponent a free action to play a card: it could even be a Dark Ruler No More or a Kaiju to squash your Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL.
If your opponent simply has a Forbidden Chalice they'll have a chance to play the game either way. Overall, I think that Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit or Forbidden Chalice are the better options against the ZEXAL lock. Even if you draw Ghost Ogre off the top for the turn, you can use it against the Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL just as removal; even though it doesn't negate the effect, it at least gives you a chance to play on the following turns.
PSY-Framegear Gamma will surely be popular, because not only is it generically good against combo decks with Crystron Halqifibrax as well as potentially beating the established Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL, it also helps you punish your opponent when they try to negate your Numeron setup with Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring. As long as you're not under the condition of Numeron Calling, you can make a free PSY-Framelord Omega to take another card from your opponent while still keeping monsters off your field so you can continue with your set-up.
Even if the Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL is on board and you've resolved its effect, and your opponent can't activate cards or effects, they can still Special Summon monsters that don't start a chain. And keep in mind that with Numeron Calling, the Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL will only have three Xyz Materals to start with. After you use its effect it will be down to 2000 ATK, so even something like a Cyber Dragon can attack over it. That's one of the reasons why ths package fits so well with the Eldlich cards. The Eldlich traps let you bring out Eldlich the Golden Lord with Conquistador of the Golden Land to help defend your Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL while progressing your position in the game.
Aside from attacking over Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL, your opponent could be playing a deck that's heavy with trap cards to play on your turn. That's the ZEXAL lock's biggest blindspot, because it only stops your opponent from playing cards on their turn. Again, that's more reason to favor the Eldlich cards. But really, any trap-based deck can both counter, and combo with Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL. Even Altergeists are worth considering.
And that's it. I hope I've given you enough insight into how I think the future of competition will look once everyone and their dog is turboing out a ZEXAL lock. Personally I'm sort of excited, since it's been a while and I enjoy summoning Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL. It's won me a lot of games in the past. But once I keep seeing it on my opponent's side of the field, maybe I'll start to like it less.
As I'm double checking the cards, I think to myself how unbelievably easy it is to make these plays. To think that was what the cards were designed to do is baffling. Were the Numerons meant to exist in the same timeline as Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL? Just like how Summon Sorceress and Crystron Halqifibrax don't exist together in the Advanced Format of the TCG, these cards seem like they should be mutually exclusive. I really think that the ZEXAL lock may be too good to be true.