There's a common line of thinking among players transitioning from beginner status to an intermediate level of play, that cards are either 'good' or 'bad'. It's a binary method of observation that limits creativity and innovation at the competitive level. You'll see most players leave it behind in favor of a stronger, more consistent method of measuring the strength of cards or strategies: factoring in when along with what. In other words, the time period in which cards see play determines how effective they are. Droll & Lock Bird is a great example of a tech choice that was awful for over two years, became a massive hit, then slipped back into obscurity. When asking "Is Lock Bird a good or bad card?" a simple 'yes' or 'no' really won't do it justice. Still, some players continue to think like that, and are surprised when once-forgotten cards triple in value overnight.

Not everyone's quick to pick up on the next 'big hit'. In fact, many duelists won't even bother testing or exploring options. Instead, they'll wait for the game's biggest innovators to create new strategies, then play whatever the finished product is. Is that a bad thing? Only if you make it a habit. Nobody expects you to come up with a deck that's entirely original. For most of us we don't even have enough time in the day to test alternative options. When something has been proven to work, and requires only minor tweaking, it's a heck of a lot more enticing than spending twenty or more hours refining a concept that might end up being a bust anyways.

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Exploring previously-unsuccessful cards and strategies can be hugely rewarding if you stumble across something that works far better than you expected. Recently I've been putting a lot of testing and thinking into Trap Eater: a nearly ancient monster from 2009's Crimson Crisis. I want to avoid overhyping a card that's been passed over countless times by other duelists, but at the same time I think it's worth a look at for the upcoming format. I can't say I'm totally sold on it yet, but I'd like to share my thoughts and explain why I believe it has a ton of potential.

What Makes Trap Eater So Interesting?
It may not be seeing any play, but Trap Eater has a lot going for it. Its effect is fairly straight-forward: it can't be Summoned outside of sending a face-up trap card your opponent controls to the graveyard. Like Lava Golem and Volcanic Queen, Trap Eater relies on your opponent to meet certain conditions before it can hit the field. However, unlike those two fiery monsters it doesn't get Summoned to your opponent's side. Instead, Trap Eater hits your monster zone and takes out an opposing trap in the process. What does that mean for you? Well, for starters, it means this monster's a +1 right out of the gate.

Because Trap Eater doesn't activate it can't be chained to, meaning it's not vulnerable to Mind Crush, Debunk, or any other piece of negation. It's an inherent Summon and the trap being sent to the graveyard is sent there simultaneously. Even if Solemn Warning or Black Horn of Heaven negates your Summon, the trap will still be gone. Again, you're getting a straight +1 on Summon when you do that. Your opponent will lose their trap as a result of just the attempt to Summon Trap Eater. That extra bit of card advantage can certainly come in handy, especially if you plan on exploiting this card's excellent typing and stats.

At 1900 ATK Trap Eater can easily hold its own in battle. There are plenty of sub-1900 monsters running around right now, and Eater can simply crash with any monster that has the same ATK. It's a beatstick that nets a +1 immediately, and keeps your Normal Summon available. If it wasn't for that annoying Summoning condition it would probably be seeing play everywhere…although that's hardly a problem unique to this card. Anyways, did you notice that Trap Eater is a Level 4? With any trap you eat, you're not just putting a 1900 ATK monster on the field and netting a +1, you're also supplying your field with Material for a Rank 4 Xyz Summon. Quick access to Number 101: Silent Honor ARK or Evilswarm Excition Knight can quickly turn games around in your favor. Trap Eater helps make those Xyz Summons even more frequently for dozens of strategies.

Rank 4's are great, but that's only half of what Trap Eater's capable of. It also happens to be a Tuner, and at Level 4 it can turn your other Level 4's into Stardust (Spark) Dragon, Scrap Dragon, Crimson Blader, or Colossal Fighter. Have a Level 3 monster on the field instead? Everyone's favorite thorn-covered nuclear device – Black Rose Dragon – is at your disposal. Cards like Leo, the Keeper of the Sacred Tree, Vulcan the Divine, Ally of Justice - Catastor, and Armades, Keeper of Boundaries are easily Summoned with Trap Eater. There's one last interesting aspect of this Tuner: it's Dark. That opens up access to Void Ogre Dragon and the newly-released Beelze of the Diabolic Dragons, both of which require Dark Tuners.

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Synchro and Xyz plays highlight Trap Eater's effectiveness against Fiendish Chain. When a Level 4 monster you control is placed under Fiendish, you can summon Trap Eater to both remove the Fiendish and make an Extra Deck monster. If your opponent negates a once-per-turn effect like that of Mermail Abysspike or Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear, then making an Xyz or Synchro summon becomes the best choice. If they're just using Fiendish to Block Attacks, Trap Eater can either free the targeted monster or put an even more threatening attacker on the field via Synchro or Xyz Summon. Even if your opponent uses Fiendish during the Battle Phase you can still summon an Extra Deck monster during your Main Phase 2. Cards like Scrap Dragon and Number 50: Blackship of Corn allow you to remove a card you failed to destroy by battle due to Fiendish. In this situation, and in many others, Trap Eater turns your opponent's cards against them and allows you to make plays that would have been impossible otherwise.

Siding Amidst A Continuous Trap-Heavy Format
Trap Eater's basic function is to eliminate your opponent's Continuous Traps. Everything else, from the +1 on Summon to the extra Synchro and Xyz Material, is simply an added bonus. Still, those side benefits help make a strong argument for playing Eater over something like Twister. Don't get me wrong: this card is absolutely not a replacement for Mystical Space Typhoon. There are also a lot of situations where Trap Eater's less effective than Forbidden Lance. But for the decks that can use it, or have already run as many Typhoons or Lances as they can get away with, this monster offers a different sort of removal with its own merits.

The ability to deal with Continuous Traps is incredibly important for anyone competing at a serious tournament. There are an absurd number of sided cards right now that can shut you out of a duel if you're not careful. My usual go-to example is Macro Cosmos, but Trap Eater actually won't counter it – you have to send that opposing trap to the graveyard, which Macro would disallow. Thankfully Macro's currently Limited, so it's less of an issue. How about something like Light-Imprisoning Mirror, then? Hieratics, Bujins, and Constellars all have a tough time playing around it. Eater devours Mirror and provides Tribute fodder for Hieratics, plus Xyz and Synchro Materials for Bujins and Constellars. The same can be said for Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror in Dark match-ups.

There's a long list of cards we could discuss in detail, but the end result's the same: this monster eats Continuous Traps like nachos. Imperial Iron Wall, Soul Drain, Skill Drain, and DNA Surgery are seeing a lot of play right now and Trap Eater counters all of them. Themed Continuous Traps like Horn of the Phantom Beast, Dark Smog, and both Fire Formation - Tensen and Tenken also make Eater worth siding in. As I mentioned earlier, Fiendish Chain's hugely popular right now and it's a big part of what makes this monster so tempting.

Knowing when to side Trap Eater is huge. I'm a big fan of '2-for-5' when choosing card ratios. That means I'll run two of a card that I have five targets for. Draw spells are a good example of what I'm talking about. For instance, running two Trade-In alongside five Level 8 monsters is a very consistent ratio. After testing Trap Eater for a while I settled on siding two whenever my opponent had at least five Continuous Traps. If your opponent's playing two or three Fiendish Chains and they side in two or three Continuous Traps against you, then your Eaters become much more playable.

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Another important detail to consider is that cards like Call Of The Haunted and Fiendish Chain tend to stick around after they're played. Unless they or their target are destroyed, these cards have a habit of remaining face-up in your opponent's spell and trap card zone. They're still totally valid for Trap Eater, even if they're not a threat. Lastly, depending on the match-up and whether or not you drew into your Eaters, it might be a good idea to side them out for Game 3. If your opponent knows you're playing it, the best move on their part would be to side out a few of their Continuous traps, thus deadening your monsters. It's tricky, but again, Eater can definitely pay off if you play it well.

Prospects For The Future?
It's still much too early to tell if Trap Eater's worth playing in April, especially in the post-Primal Origins format. The biggest determinant will be the number of Continuous Traps players are using – on average – in Games 2 and 3. There are roughly a dozen cards that could easily make Trap Eater viable. Imperial Iron Wall could be a big counter for Madolche, or a counter side to D.D. Crow, Debunk, Macro Cosmos, and Dimensional Fissure. Rivalry of Warlords is also strong versus Madolche, and limits the Xyz Summoning options for Artifacts. Soul Drain will likely remain a staple against Mermail, Fire King, and Bujins. Both Light and Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror should continue to see play against Bujin, Dark World, and Hieratics.

There are enough Continuous Traps to make Trap Eater viable for Games 2 and 3. The only question left to answer is whether or not they'll see play in the new format. Fiendish Chain's popularity is definitely a big help, but should it fall out of favor I can't see myself realistically playing Trap Eater. It's a very time-sensitive card with a lot of risks, but some huge rewards for decks that can exploit its Level and Tuner qualities. I definitely recommend giving it a shot. It's more playable than you might expect.

Until next time then,