The most-talked about card in Dragons of Legend is, without a doubt, Soul Charge. Is it a retrained Monster Reborn? A more balanced Rekindling that works with nearly any theme? Whatever it is, it's good.

Like really, really good.

So good that no matter who you are or what you're playing, you can expect to see your opponents play it against you at some point in a tournament. Unlike other power spells like Dark Hole or last year's Monster Reborn or Heavy Storm, Soul Charge is Unlimited. While it may not be quite as popular as Mystical Space Typhoon, I'm sure we'll be seeing a whole lot of Soul Charge this year…or for however long it escapes the F&L List.

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With this being a column dedicated to Side Deck strategies, it should be obvious that we're going to talk about Soul Charge in the context of Games 2 and 3. But first I'd like to get this much out of the way: I'm not recommending people side cards for Soul Charge and only Soul Charge. It's an extremely powerful card, but it doesn't end the game outright.

I don't expect players to side negation specifically to stop a spell that their opponent might only be playing one copy of. That said, Soul Charge adds some extra incentive to run stuff like Hero's Rule 2, Big Burn, and Soul Release. These cards fall into two categories: either they prevent Soul Charge from activating, or capitalize on the aftermath.

Soul Blasting!
Attempting to negate Soul Charge outright presents a number of challenges that largely stem from the fact that spells are usually difficult to counter directly. Traps are easy; you can fit Seven Tools of the Bandit and Trap Stun fit into just about any strategy. But outside of getting lucky with Magic Drain, negating a Normal Spell usually requires some sort of monster. Naturia Beast, Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV8, and Legendary Six Samurai - Shi En come to mind, but they're only accessible in a small number of strategies. What if you're playing Fire Fists, Bujins, or Mermails? What cards can you play to prevent your opponent from resolving one of the best spells in the game? The answers are much more conditional than Trap Stun or 7 Tools, but they're just as effective...and some are even more so.

The most obvious piece of direct negation comes from Hero's Rule 2, a Counter Trap that negates the activation of a card or effect that targets a card in the graveyard. Hero's Rule makes a 1-for-1 exchange with Soul Charge, Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Spirit, Coach Soldier Wolfbark, Mermail Abyssgunde, Madolche Hootcake, Bujincarnation, Constellar Sombre, Evilswarm Kerykeion, Call Of The Haunted, Salvage, Geargiano, Gravekeeper's Stele, Infernity Necromancer, and many, many other cards. While it negates a huge number of effects, Hero's Rule is still a bit too narrow to suggest for serious competition. Discounting off-theme tech, it's rare for Fire Fists, Mermails, and Bujin to play more than two or three cards that target monsters in the graveyard. Hero's Rule is great when you can trigger it, but it's rare that you'll actually be able to negate something with it. Debunk's clearly the superior choice for Mermails and Bujin, and Overworked is too good to pass up against Fire Fist.

So what's better than negating Soul Charge? How about forcing it to resolve without Summoning anything? As you might expect, if the cards Soul Charge targets are no longer in the graveyard when it resolves, they won't be Summoned by its effect. The key point here is that it's not enough to just banish one of the targets – it's not like Pot of Avarice where a single D.D. Crow can prevent it from resolving. You'll have to banish all of the targeted monsters if you want to ensure your opponent gets nothing from their graveyard. Luckily there are a few cards that let you do exactly that.

Big Burn is arguably the best card to respond to Soul Charge's activation with. This trap banishes all monsters from both player's graveyards and leaves nothing for Soul Charge to Summon. Its activation conditions are very similar to Hero's Rule, but it doesn't actually negate the card you chain it to. That makes it less effective against some of the cards I mentioned earlier, but it's actually a better counter to Soul Charge as a result. Because Soul Charge does technically resolve your opponent still has to forgo their Battle Phase for the turn, as per Soul Charge's effect. In other words, Big Burn doesn't just stop Soul Charge, it also gives you a free Thunder of Ruler effect.

Clearing out your opponent's graveyard is huge, and not just because it stops Soul Charge from Summoning monsters that turn. What makes Big Burn so effective is that it also prevents future copies of Soul Charge from working. Redeveloping a graveyard and filling it with monsters worth summoning takes time, and until then any copies of Soul Charge your opponent has are nearly useless. They'll need to commit more cards from their hand to make Xyz or Synchro Summons to load their graveyard again. Big Burn forces your opponent to make more aggressive plays while disrupting their graveyard, stripping away their Battle Phase. It's absolutely worth siding this format.

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Banishing everything from your opponent's graveyard is the only way to ensure they won't Summon a monster with Soul Charge, but most players won't be Summoning back five monsters anyways. Instead, they're more likely to target two or three to start up a combo or make an Xyz Summon. Keeping that in mind and taking into account the popularity of single-Attribute themes, Crevice Into the Different Dimension's arguably just as effective as Big Burn in most situations. Banishing two of Soul Charge's targets greatly limits the scope of what your opponent can do of. Beyond that, you can chain Crevice to removal that targets it, and at the very least you can banish key combo pieces before it leaves the field. The Transmigration Prophecy works in a similar way and can be used to recycle your own cards as well.

Soul Charge is worthless if you can prevent monsters from ever hitting the graveyard. Banisher of the Radiance, Macro Cosmos, and Dimensional Fissure are strong early game cards that shut down graveyard-dependent strategies and, of course, graveyard-specific card effects. Soul Charge is no exception, and blanket-banishment keeps it offline by simply making the graveyard irrelevant. Still, it's unrealistic to expect these cards to stick around forever. Proactive banishing in the form of Soul Release, Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer, Gladiator Beast Retiari, or Dark Smog keep your opponent's graveyard from filling up to the point where a single Soul Charge can leave you staring down an impossible field.

Life Points Matter
Soul Charge's Life Point drain can be severe. Summoning just one or two monsters isn't too taxing, but targeting three or more monsters leaves you vulnerable to effect damage or direct attacks. Number 82: Heartlandraco can already close out duels when a player dips below 2000 Life Points, so the last thing anyone wants to do is spend a ton of LP and lose to a single card on the following turn. And yet, we'll probably still see players dropping 3000 on Soul Charge, and another 2000 on Solemn Warning. Those cards are just too good to pass up, and they've made me reevaluate burn effects. With the release of Dragons Of Legend I'm finding that dishing out burn damage, even in small increments, has suddenly become much more worthwhile.

Fairy Wind doesn't deal a whole lot of damage, but it's already a solid Side Deck card in a format where Continuous Spells and Traps are plentiful. In Game 1 you can chain it to Fire Formation - Tenki and stop it from searching a monster, or knock out Miracle Fertilizer and Mount Sylvania at the same time. It also counters Fiendish Chain, virtually any Field Spell, and sweeps away Fire Formation cards. In Games 2 and 3 Fairy Wind can destroy Light-Imprisoning Mirror, Soul Drain, Skill Drain, DNA Surgery, Kaiser Colosseum, Gozen Match, Vanity's Emptiness, Macro Cosmos, and Dimensional Fissure. Spell-Shattering Arrow will usually inflict more damage, but Fairy Wind can destroy a greater variety of cards.

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Lava Golem's another promising counter to Soul Charge is. This guy eats Shooting Quasar Dragons and gives your opponent just a few turns left to either win the game, or take it off the field. Decks like Fire Fist, Geargia, and Bujin have a limited number of outs to Lava Golem, and most of them involve wiping out their own monsters. It's an excellent way to take out the negation bodies your opponent will probably summon off of Soul Charge. In the meantime the 1000 burn damage will chip away at the remainder of their Life Points. Lava Golem can also be used to set up a Heartlandraco attack after you've Tributed off your opponent's Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand and Photon Strike Bounzer.

More specific cards like Spiritual Fire Art - Kurenai, Number 61: Volcasaurus, and Judgment of Anubis deal a substantial amount of damage to your opponent. I can already imagine using an Owner's Seal strategy to summon Lava Golem, attack over a monster, then Tribute it for Kurenai and win the game right there. There are tons of cards with added effects that damage players, and it's thanks primarily to Soul Charge that they're worth looking at again. This game is headed in a new direction thanks to this card, and it's one that I'm actually looking forward to.

If nothing else, this year's World Championship Qualifier promises to be very, very interesting.

Until next time then

-Kelly