I'm a fan of looking at long-term trends: the rise and fall of strategies over several formats; changes in perceptions of popular tech cards many months after their release; and the way even minor changes to the Forbidden and Limited List shape competition years down the line. You can get so much insight into the current state of the game by observing the last two years of dueling. The ultimate goal is to find parallels between the past and present, and to use those trends to extrapolate how new cards and decks will behave over time.

One of the cards I've been fascinated with recently is Mistake; it's seen a real roller coaster ride in popularity since its release, and I think it's finally going to hit its peak this format.

Shadow Spectres struck me as a sleeper set almost immediately. It was loaded with high-rarity cards that had great effects but just weren't applicable to the format at the time, dominated by Dragon Rulers. Beyond the new Bujin and Noble Knight support there were only a few monsters that caught the eyes of competitive players. Mythic Tree Dragon and Mythic Water Dragon made Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand accessible in Dragon Rulers, but it stayed under $20 until Sylvan players began Xyz Summoning Felgrands in pairs on their first turn. White Dragon Wyverburster and Black Dragon Collapserpent are arguably better versions of Reborn Tengu, yet even their release went relatively unnoticed. Then there's Pot of Dichotomy, Meliae of the Trees, and of course Mistake.

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I wrote about Mistake shortly before its release, arguing that its effect was well-suited to combat Dragon Rulers, but still too exposed to the effects of Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos and Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack. Remember when those cards were everywhere? Keeping any Continuous Trap on the field was tough. Mistake didn't have any built-in protection from the themed removal of the best deck at the time, and without that protection it fell out of favor immediately. As 2014 began there wasn't much room for Mistake in competitive play. Nearly every worthwhile strategy early in the year needed to use a large number of search effects. Fire Fist, Mermails, Geargia, and Bujins couldn't afford to side Mistake.

Sylvans brought Mistake back into relevance for a short time. Outside of Kuribandit, Sylvans didn't play any deck-searching effects, and that gave them a great opportunity to play Mistake in the Main Deck. Mistake was a huge Game 1 advantage against Geargia and HAT, but the inconsistencies of the Sylvan strategy kept them from leveraging that into Championship-level success. Mistake's poor track record isn't proof that the card doesn't work; it's a very effective floodgate under the right conditions. For the bulk of 2014 those conditions weren't met, but that's about to change.

New Format - New Match-Ups
Joshua Ramkissoon placed in the Top 16 at ARG CS Orlando last weekend with Shaddolls. His Side Deck had a bunch of interesting tech picks in it: Advance Draw can turn an El Shaddoll Construct into more draws while still recycling either Shaddoll Fusion spell. He could also Tribute his opponent's Construct or Qliphort Shell by taking control of them with Snatch Steal or Enemy Controller. Fire Hand and Ice Hand have become a common sight in Shaddoll Side Decks recently, and it's mostly to counter the Qliphort match-up. Nearly all of the Top 16 Shaddoll builds at Orlando played two copies of each Hand to break Pendulum Scales and punish early game set-ups with Saclifice. It's definitely a trend worth talking about, but what really caught my eye in Ramkissoon's Side Deck was his playset of Mistake.

Shaddoll players have a unique opportunity to exploit Mistake this format, and it's one that few players are taking advantage of. In Ramkissoon's build only six monsters add cards from the deck to the hand: Shaddoll Hedgehog, White Dragon Wyverburster, and Black Dragon Collapserpent. None of them are vital to the deck's strategy, but the same can't be said for other themes. Qliphorts, Satellarknights, and even Burning Abyss rely much more heavily on their themed search effects.

Mistake will shut down the Qliphort strategy almost completely as long as it's face-up. Without the effects of Qliphort Scout and Saqlifice, Qliphort players have no way to generate card advantage. In just a few short turns they'll run out of cards and be left entirely defenseless. With so many deck-searching effects crammed into those builds, there are plenty of opportunities to chain Mistake to a Summoner's Art or Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon. Doing so robs your opponent of a card and turns Mistake into a +1 at activation.

Of course, waiting to chain Mistake can Backfire just as easily. A face-up Continuous Trap can't be targeted by Night Beam, which means you're better off activating your cards preemptively. You won't be able to grab a +1 by chaining to a Summoner's Art, but you'll limit the number of ways your opponent can take your floodgate off the field. Other than Mystical Space Typhoon, Qliphort Helix is the deck's only answer to face-up spells and traps. Activating Mistake ahead of time will help keep it on the field longer, although it might not be the most effective way to play it.

Satellarknights are another theme that's highly dependent on search effects for card advantage. Satellarknight Deneb's an absolutely vital part of the deck's long-term strategy, and without its abilities your opponent can't keep up a steady stream of Satellarknight Altair Summons. Cut off from its best plays, this deck quickly falls back on its robust trap line-up, but that's not a winning strategy. Shutting down Reinforcements of the Army will drastically reduce your opponent's consistency and immediately throw the duel in your favor.

With Satellarknights getting a new anti-Dark Xyz Monster in Secrets of Eternity their match-up versus Shaddolls and Burning Abyss should get much better. The deck is well-worth playing as-is, so a new monster-based floodgate could make it a top pick for the post-SECE format. Both Shaddolls and Burning Abyss have difficulty playing Light-Imprisoning Mirror, but Shadddolls can get away with playing two excellent anti-Satellarknight cards: Mistake and Denko Sekka. It's an advantage that could put Shaddolls well ahead of their competition.

The last of the Big Three is probably the least affected by Mistake. Burning Abyss runs only one card that searches the deck to add cards to your hand; most of the theme's effects recycle monsters from the graveyard or Special Summon them. Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss can't activate under Mistake, but since it works during the End Phase your opponent will have plenty of time to take Mistake off the field. Chaining Mistake is rarely successful: Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss and Phoenix Wing Wind Blast easily sweep it away before it has a chance to resolve. Virgil, Rockstar of the Burning Abyss doesn't need Scarm's help to hit the field, so even if you can block a Scarm search you'll still be fighting an uphill battle.

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On the other hand, Burning Abyss gets four new cards in SECE...including a Ritual Spell that can grab Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss and Traveler of the Burning Abyss out of the deck. If the new Ritual Monster ends up catching on – and I'm of the opinion that it will – Mistake might end up being worthwhile to stop both Good and Evil of the Burning Abyss and Preparation of Rites.

Lastly, there's the upcoming Nekroz match-up to consider. This is where Mistake truly shines: that deck is loaded with deck-searching effects. Preparation of Rites; Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands; Senju of the Thousand Hands; Schritt, Caster of the Nekroz; The Nekroz Armor of Brionac; Herald of Rainbow Light; Reinforcement of the Army; The Nekroz Armor of Clausolas...you get the idea. Mistake shuts all of that down, and leaves only The Nekroz Armor of Trishula and generic removal options as a means of escape.

Why Shaddolls Make Mistake Work
So what about Twister and Dust Tornado? There's so much spell and trap removal running around this format that it's hard to imagine a Continuous Trap making an impact. In any other deck it probably wouldn't, but players aren't siding those removal options against Shaddolls. After all, why would they? Shaddolls are running just a couple of traps Main Decked and nearly all of them are fully chainable to removal. There's no point in blasting backrows with sided copies of Dust Tornado, only to end up hitting Shaddoll Core or Sinister Shadow Games.

Shaddolls have a tough time siding floodgates: they can't play Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror, Light-Imprisoning Mirror, Dimensional Fissure, Soul Drain, Skill Drain, or any number of other Continuous Spells and Traps that limit game mechanics. Vanity's Emptiness and Mistake are their two significant options, but players who expect to only see Spell Shattering Arrow or Maxx "C" sided against them – cards that can't be answered by removal – can be caught off-guard by Mistake. That surprise factor makes counter siding difficult, and lets you play further mind games by smokescreen siding in Game 3. Surprised your opponent with sided Continuous Traps in Game 2? Side those cards out in Game 3 and watch them draw into useless copies of Twister and Dust Tornado.

Mistake cripples Nekroz, Qliphorts, and Satellarknights. I'm not sure that Shaddoll players have wholly caught on to the fact that they – among a handful of other rogue strategies – have one of the best Side Deck cards of 2015. It's not just great against the most popular decks in the format, it's also excellent against rogue strategies like Mermails and HEROs. Between Joshua Ramkissoon's success with his sided copies, and Cordero 'Vexacus' Spencer's attempt to run them in his Main Deck at the Tinley Park Regional in Illinois, I think we're seeing the beginning of a movement towards Mistake in Shaddolls, and potentially other strategies. It's a powerful card this format, and any deck that can play it is going to have great Game 2 and 3 match-ups against some of the most popular strategies in the game.

Until next time then

-Kelly