If you've been paying attention to Regional Top 8s lately, you've probably noticed the huge number of Dragons of Legend cards being played. I was actually surprised; I didn't expect to see cards like Kuribandit, Mathematician, Fire Hand, and Ice Hand to catch on quite so quickly. These monsters are essentially brand new, and without seeing play in the OCG first it was tough to predict if some of them would see any use. Yet, during the first weekend after the set's release we saw plenty of tournament tops from decks using DRLG cards. They weren't just playing Soul Charge either: Kuribandit was a massively popular pick for Mythic Rulers, and both Hands found their way into numerous strategies.

After a couple of months of Fire Fist dominance we're now leaving the grind game behind in favor of fast, aggressive decks supplemented by Soul Charge. It's an unsurprising change as Bujin and Infernity require much more than a Normal Summon to beat their set-ups. Yamato will win nearly any one-on-one battle with an opposing monster, while Infernity Break and Infernity Barrier stop plays long before their field is threatened. Making multiple Summons in a single turn is absolutely crucial, and it's one of the reasons why Dragon Rulers continue to be a highly competitive strategy. There's only so much your opponent can do to keep you from making plays over a single turn, and once those cards are exhausted you're free...at least temporarily.

In some decks losing your Normal Summon to Solemn Warning prevents you from Summoning anything else for the rest of the turn. There are plenty of themes that can't Special Summon monsters from the hand, deck, or graveyard without a card already committed to the field, and it's a serious problem that different strategies overcome in different ways. Some do it better than others. Mermail and Dragon Rulers have multiple cards that can be Special Summoned from the hand, Fire Kings and Bujin play spells that Summon from the Main and Extra Deck, and Geargia builds are almost never without a set of Geargiagear. All of these cards Salvage plays when your opponent disrupts you, but again – not every theme has access to those kinds of effects.

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Soul Charge changes how we've looked at certain archetypes in the past by providing them with a platform that launches plays, kick starts combos, and bypasses your opponent's traps. If Solemn Warning kills your Normal Summon you still have options thanks to Soul Charge. When your monster's destroyed by Infernity Break or Torrential Tribute, you can bring it back and continue your play. At the cost of some Life Points and your Battle Phase, nearly any situation can be Salvaged. Lost your Xyz Summon to Black Horn of Heaven? Summon back your materials and try again. Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand negated your Wolfbark? Bring back its target and more.

Clearly Soul Charge is great when you need to break set-ups, but what if you're on the receiving end? We talked about counters to Soul Charge last week, and we'll be going over more cards this week. However, this time we'll be focusing purely on preventing Special Summons altogether.

Why? Because Soul Charge is only one of several new and upcoming cards that you should definitely be siding for. Primal Origin's poised to bring in even more Special Summons – including some that nearly win you the game outright. Blanket, anti-Special Summon effects are going to be in high demand this format.

Vanity's Return
I wrote specifically about Vanity's Emptiness back in June, nearly a year ago. At the time, one of the most popular strategies among Dragon Ruler players was to Summon Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack, set Emptiness, and ride that two-card combination to victory. Emptiness saw a ton of play at least year's World Championship, but it hasn't been seeing nearly as much use this year. It wasn't an effective counter against Fire Fists or Bujins, and there were few cases where you could make a 1-for-1 exchange with a spell or trap.

Emptiness is awesome whenever you can chain it and turn your opponent's Special Summon effect into mush, but it's even better when the card you're chaining to required costs to activate. Even if you're just chaining to Onslaught of the Fire King or Bujincarnation, Emptiness will still leave you with a +1. That's a heck of a lot better than using it against Coach Soldier Wolfbark, or activating it preemptively to deter inherent summons while hoping your opponent doesn't have any removal handy.

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Emptiness is back in Side Decks this month as a result of Soul Charge's popularity. As you might expect, chaining Emptiness to Soul Charge will prevent monsters from being Special Summoned. If you passed up on it last format, now's the time to take a second look. It's easily one of the best cards to protect your field, and can make get you +1's when chained to effects that Summon monsters like Lonefire Blossom, Call Of The Haunted, and Geargiagear. Thanks to Soul Charge seeing play almost everywhere, Emptiness has gained a ton of extra utility and is much more playable than before.

More 'Empty' Cards
Vanity's Emptiness is one of the more popular blanket, anti-Special Summon cards right now because it's easily destroyed by its controller. Tyrant's Tummyache is roughly similar, but it's difficult to play in anything other than Infernity. Brandon Wigley made his way into the Top 16 at ARG Ciruit Series in Richmond using Infernity with Tummyache in his Side Deck, plus a full set of Vanity's Emptiness in his Main Deck. By protecting his set-up with Number 66: Master Key Beetle, he could lock down his opponent and address any other threats with Infernity Break or Infernity Barrier. Something like Evols might be able to use Tummyache, but for now it'll likely remain a tech choice exclusive to Infernity.

The big summon stopping monsters – Archlord Kristya and Vanity's Fiend – each have their merits. Kristya requires two Tributes to Summon, and that's almost impossible for themes outside of Frogs. On the other hand, it has a bigger ATK score and, perhaps most importantly, it can be Special Summoned. That's a big advantage over Vanity's Fiend when you consider how easy it is to Summon with Soul Charge. Unfortunately Kristya's still mostly relegated to Fairy-based themes...or at least those playing Valhalla. Vanity's Fiend pops up occasionally as a side in Mermail, but it's still played only infrequently. Primal Origin's Majesty's Fiend may rekindle interest in Tribute Summoning outside of Monarchs and Hieratics.

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Alright, how about some more generic stuff? Fossil Dyna Pachycelphalo continues to find its way into my articles because its name is so much fun to type. Seriously though: the thing is great at countering Soul Charge. Summoning it forces your opponent to enter their Battle Phase to take it out, delaying Charge until the next turn. Setting it will often leave it face-down until your turn, at which point you can flip Pachy and clear the field. You won't get the chance to do that very often with cards like Dracossack running around, but if it does go off you can attack directly and potentially finish an already weakened opponent. Jowgen the Spiritualist is another option, although its extremely low ATK score makes it tough to use beyond simply activating its first effect.

Looking Forward
There's a lot of hype behind the impending release of the Artifact theme in Primal Origin. For the most part the excitement's centered around Artifact Sanctum and Artifact Moralltach – two pieces of the archetype that can work outside of a themed build. There's an expectation among players that after PRIO we'll be seeing a number of Artifact hybrids, much like the highly successful Chronomaly-Artifact (Chronofact) builds being played in OCG territories. Moralltach's accessible removal will cause all sorts of headaches next month, but there are fairly reliable counters to it: anti-Special Summon effects.

Using Emptiness is a bit of a risk if Artifact Ignition is being played, but cards like Fossil Dyna, Vanity's Fiend, and even Koa'ki Meiru Drago are great ways to stop Artifacts in their tracks. Drago's a potential pick for Mythic Rulers later on, and fits nicely into the new-and-improved Koa'ki Meiru theme with Koa'ki Meiru Diamond Core hitting the TCG next week. Dyna and Fiend are also strong against two other decks that are receiving support in Primal Origin: Madolches and Sylvans. Madolche Anjelly and Lonefire Blossom are noticeably weaker than Fossil Dyna, and Vanity's Fiend is even more difficult for those themes to destroy. Vanity's Emptiness works great against both decks, particularly when chained to the effects of Anjelly or Lonefire. Neither of those two strategies can get the ball rolling while Emptiness is on the field, and that buys time for less-explosive strategies to develop nearly unbreakable fields.

Maxx "C" was a strong deterrent against Special Summoning in the past, but Soul Charge has decreased its effectiveness. Any duelist who runs into Maxx "C" can simply stop their play, then use Soul Charge on the next turn to pick up where they left off. Additionally, Maxx "C" can't differentiate between simultaneous Summons, and only nets its controller a single draw in response to Soul Charge. Rather than deter, players will likely prioritize blocking Special Summons outright. Between Black Horn of Heaven and anti-Special Summon effects the next format is bound to be full of Summon-hate. The question is: which ones will you use?

Until next time then

-Kelly