The end of the Xyz era is nearly upon us as the Zexal TV show reaches its conclusion, and at the end of its life we're finally getting our hands on some serious anti-Xyz tech. Primal Origin introduces a new Side Deck card called And the Band Played On, which might initially appear to be a cross between Gozen Match and Discord. In fact, you may remember Band's fan-translated name was Discord Sector – rather fitting for a music-themed card that prevents Extra Deck Summons. Discord refers to a lack of harmony, and the card art seems to imply that the Symphonic Warriors are all playing different notes, in Discord, but continue to play on regardless. Or maybe Konami just likes referencing various expressions in card names.

Do A Barrel Roll, anyone?

Let's take a look at how And the Band Played On functions. It's a Continuous Trap that prevents both players from Special Summoning monsters of the same Level as a monster they already control. For example: while Band's active and you control a Level 4 monster, you can't Special Summon another Level 4. Simple, right? Band's second effect is almost identical, and simply replaces 'Level' with 'Rank'. So, again, if you controlled a Rank 4 Xyz Monster, you wouldn't be able to Summon another Rank 4. It's worth noting that Band's first effect doesn't apply to Normal or Flip Summons, and neither effect has any influence on cards that are already on the field. These are major differences that set it apart from cards like Gozen Match or Rivalry of Warlords, despite the similarities between their effects and applications.

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There's no question that And the Band Played On was designed to counter Xyz strategies. Most decks make Xyz Summons by Normal Summoning one material and then Special Summoning the rest. That's especially true for cards like Coach Soldier Wolfbark that can make Rank 4's by itself. Simple, two-card combos with things like Tin Goldfish and Kagetokage are a frequent sight in this Xyz-heavy format. During the Synchro era players needed ways to put both Tuners and non-Tuners on the field in the same turn, but for the last few years our only challenge has been to Summon two monsters with the same Level. Xyz Summons are much more accessible because they don't require specific card types, and as a result they're easily integrated into nearly any deck.

Because Xyz Monsters are so popular, you can use And the Band Played On against a huge range of decks and themes. It's not always the most effective option, but it has great utility that makes it well worth discussing. We'll take a look at some of the ways you can play Band to get you an edge in your match-ups, and we'll also talk about which decks can Side Deck it the best.

A Melody In Discord
As you might expect: And the Band Played On is best used against decks that frequently Special Summon monsters with either the same Level or Rank. The second part of Band's effect is often irrelevant as your opponent will usually run into its first restriction long before trying for a second Xyz. After all: how frequently do players Summon two Rank 4's or two Rank 8's without Special Summoning two monsters with the same Level? It happens in Geargia on occasion, or with Soul Charge, but for the most part you'll be using Band to prevent your opponent from making any Xyz Summon.

Dragon Rulers run into And the Band Played On's restrictions very quickly. Outside of Mythic Tree Dragon and Mythic Water Dragon, it's nearly impossible to make Xyz Summons while Band's on the field. Once one Dragon Ruler's on the field, any others will have to be Tribute Summoned. But since Hieratic Sun Dragon Overlord of Heliopolis and Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack are still accessible through Tree Dragon and Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls, is Band worth playing over Debunk or Vanity's Emptiness? Mythic Rulers have plenty of ways to make plays without Summoning two Dragon Rulers, but losing the ability to put two Rulers into play does have a noticeable impact. Band doesn't share Emptiness' self-destruction effect, and it certainly looks as if it was designed to balance out. For this match-up I'd recommend sticking to Emptiness, Black Horn of Heaven, and Soul Drain.

Band's slightly more effective against a different Dragon theme: Hieratics. Your biggest threat in this match-up is Hieratic Dragon of Su, but your opponent won't be able to Summon it if they control a Level 6 monster. That means they can't tribute Hieratic Dragon of Tefnuit and they'll be forced to rely entirely on Hieratic Dragon of Eset. Even when they do make that Tribute they'll be forced to Summon a Normal Dragon like Flamvell Guard or Galaxy Serpent rather than Labradorite Dragon. Given those facts, And the Band Played On is slightly better than Kaiser Colosseum, but it's important to remember that this is another deck that can make Synchro Summons. Black Rose Dragon and Scrap Dragon are easy outs to Band in any Hieratic build with Galaxy Serpent. It's a weakness that Kaiser doesn't share.

Some of the best cards in the Mermail deck are Level 7 monsters like Mermail Abyssteus and Mermail Abyssmegalo. And the Band Played On is an awesome counter to those cards and can be chained in many situations to keep a monster from hitting the field. Under Band's effect, Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls becomes a solitary beater, Rank 4's require Abyss-sphere to set up, and Rank 7's are nearly impossible.

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Madolche and Scraps are getting a serious boost with new support in Primal Origin, and both decks have something to lose from Band's effect. Madolche Hootcake and Madolche Mewfeuille can't Summon Level 3 Madolches while And The Band Plays On is active, which makes M-X-Saber Invoker more difficult to play. Against Scraps, Band stops Scrap Chimera and Scrap Beast from making quick Rank 4 Xyz or Level 8 Synchro Monsters. Additionally, Scrap Orthros can't be Special Summoned if Chimera or Beast are on the field.

Noble Knights, Geargia, and Artifacts are affected by And the Band Played On to varying degrees. You can't Special Summon Noble Knight Gawayn while you control a Level 4 Knight, but Noble Knight Medraut's level-changing effect bypasses Band's restriction. Geargiaccelerator and Geargiano Mk-II run into issues with Band, but Geargiagear gets a free pass. Although Artifacts are packing a ton of removal, Band can limit your opponent to controlling just a single monster while also shutting down Artifact Sanctum.

Where Can You Play It?
The decks that can best make use of And the Band Played On are those that either make minimal Special Summons, or those that only Special Summon monsters with different Levels. Band by no means prevents Xyz Summoning outright, but it does limit your opponent's options for the materials they put on the field. Cards that allow you to Normal Summon twice bypass Band's restriction, so Fire Fists with Fire Formation - Tensu can get away with making Rank 4's without Special Summoning. Wolfbark and Spirit are still going to run into Band's restriction, but 4-Axis builds should have no problem playing around it. Even Fire Hand and Ice Hand are playable under your own copy of the trap as long as they're the only Level 4 you control at resolution.

Tensu isn't the only card that lets you double up on Normal Summons. Constellar Pollux and Constellar Sombre, along with their cousins Evilswarm Castor and Evilswarm Kerykeion, give each of their themes Rank 4 access while dodging And the Band Played On. Evilswarm has a particularly easy time playing around Band thanks to Evilswarm Mandragora's Special Summon ability. Unlike Constellar Algiedi, Mandragora can be Summoned before you use your Normal Summon. Along with Constellar and Evilswarm, Hunders also have a pair of monsters that grant extra Summons. Pahunder and Sishunder can bring out Constellar Omega, use it until it's destroyed, and then immediately Summon another… All the while tossing a seemingly endless supply of monster removal and effect negation at their opponent.

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Obviously any deck that simply doesn't Special Summon has nothing to lose from siding And the Band Played On. However, most of them will probably find Vanity's Emptiness to be a superior choice. Band outshines Emptiness for strategies that still need to make Xyz Summons, but can gain extra Normal Summons. Band's also great in decks packing monsters with Level-changing effects. Copy Plant and Sylvan Princessprout allow Sylvans to make various Xyz and Synchro plays while Band's active. Geargiagear changes the Level of the Summoned Geargianos after they've hit the field, which means you can activate it even if you control a face-up Geargiarmor. Constellar Kaus and Mythic Tree Dragon can also change their Levels to circumvent Band's restriction.

Closing Thoughts
It might have some steep competition, but I expect And the Band Played On to see at least some small amount of competitive play. It's a solid anti-Xyz and anti-Special Summon Side Deck option that has a ton of potential, thanks to its interactions with popular strategies. Band's easy to play around when you side it yourself, but it can sometimes be just as easy for your opponent to do the same.

I can definitely see it going the route of Shared Ride: functional, yet lacking in effectiveness against certain decks currently being played. Right now there are better options available – although there's nothing wrong with giving it a shot anyways. It could be much better than I've described here if Primal Origin changes how decks like Mythic Rulers and Bujin function.

Until next time then

-Kelly