Strangely it's not nearly as widely played here as it was in the OCG, andthat has a lot to do with recent trends in the TCG's competitive landscape.I don't expect it to stay that way for long, and I'd wager that it'll be adefining card at this year's World Championship Qualifiers.
Called by the Grave is worth talking about not only because it hasincredible Side Deck utility, but because it represents a change of paceafter nearly eight years of hand traps getting more and more powerful. It'sthe most obvious anti-hand trap card we've seen so far, and unlike somealternatives it's essentially playable everywhere.
Called by the Grave has been a long time coming, and its release speaksvolumes about the state of the game.
Correcting Trends Since DREV
Duelist Revolutionarrived in 2010 and changed the course of Yu-Gi-Oh! by ramping up players'abilities to interact with each other. X-Sabers had dominated thecompetitive scene a year prior, and Quickdraw Synchron decks had revealedjust how powerful the current Synchro toolbox was. There was a desperateneed to slow the pace of the game and give Normal Summon strategies afighting chance; DREV accomplished that by introducing three of the bestcards the game has ever seen: Effect Veiler, Pot of Duality, and SolemnWarning.
The post-DREV environment was saturated with builds playing four SolemnCounter Traps and a playset of Pot of Duality, and for the first time therewas an abundance of 'hand traps' beyond Gemini Imps, D.D. Crow, Honest, andBlackwing - Kalut the Moon Shadow. Two core sets later Maxx "C" made itsfirst showing in Storm of Ragnarok, and when players finally cameto understand its potential the idea of a hand trap strategy was born.Effect Veiler and Maxx "C" became musts to stop Six Samurai and PlantSynchro.
Hand trap usage exploded last year when Ash Blossom & Joyous Springlaunched in the midst of a Zoodiac-dominated competitive scene. The resultwas entirely predictable: the Zoodiac engine was trimmed down and trapswere replaced with more copies of Ash Blossom. Invoked and True Dracostrategies thrived in a format where they could get away with running closeto a dozen hand traps, and nearly every other deck was pushed out in themeantime. We've had some time for the format to change since then, and inaddition to Maxx "C" hitting the Forbidden List there are a number offactors reducing the overall usage of hand traps.
That said, Called by the Grave does seem like a response to last year'soverabundance of ghost girls. It's a direct counter to hand traps that'sconsiderably more consistent than Prohibition, Amano-Iwato, andPSY-Framegear Gamma, and you can play it just about anywhere. Ash Blossom& Joyous Spring's Semi-Limit in the OCG, as well as the Forbidding ofMaxx "C" here in the TCG, indicates there's at least some attempt to reignin the power of hand traps. It's safe to assume Called by the Grave is apart of that strategy, but it's also so much more.
Invaluable Turn 1 Safety
Hand traps are one of the only ways to interact with your opponent on Turn1 when they play first, and that puts a lot of pressure on your hand trapsto do their job effectively. Called by the Grave throws a wrench into thatstrategy by letting players negate hand traps after they're sent to thegraveyard. Until recently there weren't many ways to counter an Ash Blossom& Joyous Spring without Prohibition, PSY-Framegear Gamma, or Herald ofthe Orange Light, which meant hand traps were rarely negated during thefirst turn of the duel. If you were lucky you could Summon a negation bodybefore activating a search effect, but that didn't happen often.
The most obvious way to use Called by the Grave is to side it when you'replaying first in Game 2 or 3 and negate a hand trap. Most players areadjusting their hand trap counts as soon as possible in a match, so if yourdeck's particularly vulnerable to a specific hand trap you'll probably wantto side in a direct counter. There are plenty of times where that won't bethe correct siding strategy for your particular deck or build. Called bythe Grave is overkill if you can power through hand traps or simply playanother copy of a negated card.
Called by the Grave launched at the worst possible time: the currentcompetitive scene is at an all-time low for hand trap play, and one of thegame's best strategies is playing a card that's an even stronger techagainst Turn 1 monsters. Amano-Iwato effectively achieves the goals ofCalled by the Grave, and its utility against negation bodies and floodgatemonsters makes it a better pick for True Dracos anyways. Siding anotheranswer to hand traps is probably too much, and that space is betterallocated to other Side Deck cards.
Pendulum Magicians take another approach to hand traps: rather than playouts to hand traps the deck simply powers through disruption. The deck'sredundancy helps launch plays despite Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit or AshBlossom & Joyous Spring. It's difficult to stop your opponent frommaking a strong Turn 1 field even when you're holding on to multipledifferent hand traps, and that means Called by the Grave just isn't neededin Pendulum Magicians. Having another Pendulum in hand is almost alwaysbetter than Called by the Grave, with one exception: Ghost Reaper &Winter Cherries.
Called by the Grave is a much stronger pick in decks without betteralternatives and those that lack enough redundancy to power throughinterruption. If your strategy falls to pieces against Ghost Reaper &Winter Cherries and you can reasonably expect to see it oftenduring a tournament then Called by the Grave is an excellent choice.
After all, Ghost Reaper's activation conditions preclude PSY-FramegearGamma as a counter, and Prohibition's utility becomes incredibly narrowonce it's activated. Meanwhile, Called by the Grave remains a powerfulpiece of disruption even if your opponent never draws Ghost Reaper.
Uses Beyond Hand Traps
Called by the Grave isn't just a hand trap killer: it's also asignificantly stronger D.D. Crow in the right match-up. You can target andbanish a monster from your opponent's graveyard even if you don't expectthem to activate another copy. In the early game it's a solid option forbreaking up combos by banishing targets for a Special Summon effect likeSoul Charge and Monster Reborn. It's also a competitive solution tomonsters that Special Summon themselves, and it even prevents more copiesfrom resolving successfully until the end of the next turn.
Fairy Tale – Snow's an excellent target for Called by the Grave that forcesyour opponent to put in a ton of work before attempting to Special Summonit again. But even if they can reload their graveyard they'll still beunder Called by the Grave's effect until the end of the next turn, andthat's a long time to for 60-card strategies to wait. Granted, youropponent can banish another seven cards immediately to Summon Snow beforeit's banished, but fourteen cards is a tall order if That Grass LooksGreener hasn't resolved yet.
As any duel drags on your opponent's likely to yard at least one copy of acard they run three of. At that point Called by the Grave adds another jobto its list of duties. It's not just a hand trap counter and a morespecific D.D. Crow; it's also two turns of monster effect negation that canhit monsters anywhere and at any time. Preemptively banishing a MasterPeace, the True Dracoslaying King will negate the effects of a TributeSummoned copy even if your opponent eventually tributes a spell to Summonit.
Mill-heavy strategies will give you a huge number of options to choose fromas you plan out what to negate, but 60-card variants are also masters ofplaying around non-continuous disruption. Decks that tend to cycle throughExtra Deck monsters, like ABC's, also give Called by the Grave morerelevant targets by repeatedly sending ABC-Dragon Buster to the graveyard.
It's an awesome choice in this match-up especially because you can chainCalled by the Grave to ABC-Dragon Buster's Special Summon effect an keep itfrom Summoning its materials. If you pair Called by the Grave with Kaijusyou'll have coverage against players who try to keep Dragon Buster off thefield at all times and those who keep it on the field.
You can negate the continuous effects of Main Deck floodgate monsters aslong as at least one copy ends up in the graveyard, but that's easier saidthan done. Monsters that normally can't be targeted can still be negated ifthere's a copy in the graveyard. There are also plenty of monsters likehand traps that tribute themselves to activate some effect.
Lonefire Blossom, Infernoids, or essentially any monster that replacesitself when it hits the graveyard is an excellent target. D.D. Crow wasalways useful for halting cards that Summoned themselves or anothermonster, but Called by the Grave is also general purpose negation foranything that ends up in the graveyard between activation and resolution.
Finding a space to play Called by the Grave is tricky this format, and itseffect is still somewhat limited to decks with loads of graveyard effectsor those that are sending cards to the graveyard rapidly. It's a weakchoice against Pendulums or decks with low monster counts anyways, andunfortunately two of the game's best strategies happen to be PendulumMagicians and True Dracos.
The widespread play of Called by the Grave in the OCG has more to do withMaxx "C" than anything else, but I think there's still plenty of room forit in the TCG after the release of Flames of Destruction. It justso happens to be a great pick against a couple of upcoming strategies, soI'm sure we'll be seeing more of it in the coming months.
Until next time then
Kelly Locke is a West Michigangamer and writer. In addition to writing onTCGplayer, Kelly writes a personal blog covering Yu-Gi-Oh!, Destiny, andother hobbies. You can follow him onTwitter and check out his Youtube channel. He also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.