Duelist Alliance is a surprisingly packed set, containing eight brand-new archetypes, support for older themes, and seven new Pendulum Monsters. After cramming in Yang Zing, Shaddolls, and Satellarknight themes, you'd think there wouldn't be enough room for many generic tech cards. Certainly Side Deck cards would get swept under the rug.

And yet here we are – checking out the latest Side Deck tech from DUEA! Granted, there isn't much to look at. Most of these cards are sleeper hits: underwhelming for now, but potentially amazing in future formats.

Face-Off
Counter Traps that negate spells, traps, and monster effects are typically limited to specific themes. Infernity Barrier, Imperial Tombs of Necrovalley, Assault Counter, Divine Punishment, and Do a Barrel Roll require certain cards to be on the field to activate. Face-Off's condition is a bit different: it can only be activated during the Damage Step. Its short activation window limits its utility, but that doesn't mean it's unplayable. There's almost no shortage of effects that trigger during the Damage Step. Face-Off shuts down battle searches, cards that modify ATK, Flip Effects, and other monsters that activate when flipped face-up.

It's impossible to avoid a comparison between Face-Off and Debunk; there's considerable overlap in their ability to negate commonly-played monsters like Fire Hand and Ice Hand. Both Honest and Bujingi Crane are countered by Face-Off, but Debunk remains the superior choice against Bujins. In fact, there aren't many decks that are better countered by Face-Off. Debunk's an obviously stronger pick against Dark World, Mermails, Infernities, Madolches, Dragon Rulers, and Sylvans. Geargia might be the only match-up where Face-Off is worth playing. Debunk's better even against Shaddolls – a theme packed with Flip Effect monsters.

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Damage Step mechanics work against Face-Off; most cards that activate during this step are monsters in the graveyard. Some traps can be used, but Wiretap's equally effective at stopping them. Spells like Forbidden Lance and Forbidden Chalice are valid targets if used during the Damage Step, but they can also be activated before attacking. These cards can be easily played around Face-Off, and unfortunately they're probably the effects you'll want to negate the most. Unless Debunk suddenly stops being effective we likely won't see Face-Off in serious competition for a while. It has some solid potential, even with its narrow application, but it's not ready to shine just yet.

Chain Dispel
Chain Destruction's newest sibling – Chain Dispel – is another interesting Side Deck card released in DUEA. Like Face-Off it doesn't seem to have an obvious use quite yet, but it could see play against future strategies. When chained to a spell or trap, Chain Dispel destroys all other copies of that card in its controller's Main Deck. Destroying Main Deck cards isn't bad, especially when those cards can be searched by your opponent. You could side it against Gravekeepers to rid their deck of Necrovalley and make Gravekeeper's Commandant much less useful. Chaining it to Harpies' Hunting Ground, Hysteric Sign, or Fire Formation - Tenki might put your opponent in an awkward position later on in the duel.

Alternatively, Chain Dispel might do absolutely nothing to impact your opponent's strategy. It won't destroy the card it's chained to, making it a -1 in most cases. In fact, the only situation where you can make a 1-for-1 trade with it is if the spell or trap you're chaining to searches out another copy of itself. Think Toon Table of Contents: a spell that's often used to thin the deck by searching each copy in turn. If Chain Dispel hits Toon Table your opponent won't have any targets left in their deck when it resolves. Obviously using Chain Dispel on Toon Table is incredibly counter-productive, but this card might end up being a solid counter to similar effects. For now, Nobleman of Extermination and Cursed Seal of the Forbidden Spell can lock away future copies of a spell or trap in a much more reliable way. Oh, and they also destroy the card they're targeting or chained to, so that's a plus.

There's one more thing to mention regarding Chain Dispel: it can be chained to a Pendulum Monster's activation in a Pendulum Zone. That's actually not too bad; by destroying Pendulums in the deck, they'll go to the graveyard rather than the Extra Deck. It's arguably stronger than Cursed Seal of the Forbidden Spell when it comes to limiting your opponent's future Pendulum options, but unlike Cursed Seal it still doesn't destroy the card it's chained to.

Time-Space Trap Hole
Let's face it: if you're playing Traptrix right now, you're probably playing Time-Space Trap Hole in your Main Deck. However, if you're not playing Traptrix and you're looking for something to side for Extra Deck-heavy strategies, then hey, here's a great Side Deck card for you. Time-Space has become one of the most-wanted cards in DUEA due to its effectiveness against Fusions, Pendulums, Rituals, Xyz, and Synchros. It kicks El Shaddoll Winda and El Shaddoll Construct back into the Extra Deck, keeping them out of the graveyard. Pendulums are shuffled into the Deck, breaking their loop between the Extra Deck and the field. Rituals, Xyz, and Synchros are sent flying after their materials are used up.

Time-Space has become a clear replacement for Black Horn of Heaven – hitting nearly everything Horn could. While your opponent will still be able to activate the effects of things like Evilswarm Excition Knight or Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand, Time-Space's huge range of targets makes it a much stronger pick for the current format. At least one of the biggest decks in the format is a Fusion-based strategy where Black Horn's completely ineffective. I don't think we'll be seeing much of Horn for the next few months, especially given its inability to deal with multiple Pendulum Summoned monsters.

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The only thing better than powerful Side Deck cards are searchable Side Deck cards. Traptrix Myrmeleo grabs Time-Space Trap Hole early in the duel, netting you a +1 in the process. If you're already playing Bottomless Trap Hole and siding Dark Trap Hole' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Deep Dark Trap Hole">Deep Dark Trap Hole, siding Myrmeleo can just makes sense. Seeing your sided cards more frequently is a huge advantage, and duels are often decided by who draws into their counters first. Siding a copy or two when going first in Game 2 or 3 will increase your odds of setting a potent trap on the field before your opponent can make their Turn 1 play.

Time-Space will likely continue to drive up the play of Traptrix monsters in the Main and Side Deck, making counters like Wiretap and Trap Stun even more important.

Doomstar Magician
The last card we'll be looking at today is Doomstar Magician – one of three anti-Pendulum cards released in Duelist Alliance. While Time-Space Trap Hole and Hypnosister threaten monsters, Doomstar targets the Pendulum Scale itself. Its 'discard to destroy' effect wouldn't be very exciting if not for the additional draw it provides. Doomstar's essentially a +1 machine. If you can keep it on the field against a deck that's playing a bunch of Pendulum monsters, it'll force them to repeatedly commit new cards to their Pendulum Zones. Each turn you can grab a +1 with Doomstar, dig deeper into your deck, and replace useless cards in your hand.

Doomstar Magican seems decent on the surface, but its once-per-turn limitation is a major disappointment. If it could hit both ends of the scale in a single turn and let you draw two extra cards, I'd be picking up as many copies as I could get my hands on. As it stands Doomstar's only good and not amazing. It can't do much against an on-field Pendulum Monster, and destroyed Pendulums are sent back to the Extra Deck. If your opponent has another Pendulum in their hand they'll not only be able to set up their Scale again, they'll also be able to Summon the card you destroyed back to the field at no cost.

Future Pendulum mirror matches could be decided by Doomstar plays. Its effect can be used to both destroy your own cards as well as your opponents, and that's something that can really come in handy. Unlike Field Spells you can't play one Pendulum over another, so it's sometimes possible to lock your zones by accident. In themes with several Pendulums like Performapal and Qliphort, Doomstar send a Pendulum in a Pendulum Zone into your Extra Deck at no cost. Coupled with its effectiveness against your opponent's Pendulums, the benefits Doomstar provides to your own strategy makes it well worth considering.

Looking Forward Post-DUEA
Again: many of the generic, non-Shaddoll/Satellarknight/Yang Zing cards in Duelist Alliance won't be useful right away. Face-Off could easily be a huge pick for several match-ups down the road; Chain Dispel has the potential to be a strong anti-Pendulum card; and Doomstar Magician could find niche uses in and against Pendulum strategies. Time-Space Trap Hole's just about the only card from the bunch that's obviously excellent straight out of the box.

The new DUEA archetpes have already made a big impact at last week's YGO Open in Orlando Florida. Side Decks are rapidly changing to address those new threats, and several older cards are returning to competitive play as a result. De-Fusion, Pulling the Rug, and Cursed Seal of the Forbidden Spell saw play at the event where Shaddolls were the most-represented deck in the Top 16. We'll be taking a look at these new strategies over the next few weeks and discussing how to Side for them.

Until next time then

-Kelly