This week I want to answer two questions: is Grinning Grave Virus worthplaying, and are other Viruses now more competitive thanks to Lair ofDarkness?
The newest Virus trap – Grinning Grave Virus – is a modern take on thetraditional Virus effect. Many years ago cards like Crush Card Virus wereincredibly powerful because destroying your opponent's monster in theirhand typically meant those cards were out of the duel. In today's gamethat's far from the case: self-replacing monsters are everywhere, anddestroying your opponent's cards can actually help advance their strategyin some cases.
Crush Card Virus' current effect with its errata is designed with this inmind, and it balances out its hand destruction by letting your opponentdump three of monsters into their graveyard. It takes very little effort toleverage that destruction into big plays, and that narrows the match-uputility of Crush Card Virus. You don't want to hand your opponent a win offyour own trap card.
Fortunately Grinning Grave Virus solves that problem – mostly – bypreventing cards it destroys from activating their effects for theremainder of the turn. Blowing up cards that say "If this card isdestroyed" is the biggest problem facing the Virus cards, but it's just nota concern with with this one. That said, you're still going to be helpingyour opponent load their graveyard. When the turn ends they'll have accessto the effects of those destroyed monsters, so monsters like Fairy Tail -Snow are very well positioned. Depending on the match-up your opponentmight have plenty of cards they'd love to load to their graveyard, or theymight end up sending spells and traps instead.
Let's quickly cover the two aspects of Grinning Grave Virus' effect: youcan activate its deck-destroying effect by tributing any Dark monster withless than 3000 ATK, but that monster needs at least 500 ATK to do anythingmeaningful. Your opponent must then destroy cards of any type in their handor deck for every 500 ATK that Dark monster had, so a 2000 ATK tribute netsfour destructions. You can imagine that most of the time your opponent'sgoing to choose to destroy cards in their deck, but they're totally free tosend spells and traps to the graveyard too. This isn't competitive in theslightest – you'll be trading two cards for almost no real benefit, andquite possibly loading your opponent's graveyard for them. The reality isthat this part of Grinning Grave Virus' effect is just like Crush CardVirus: it's an attempt to balance out the hand destruction aspect.
The real prize with Grinning Grave Virus is its ability to destroy allmonsters your opponent draws for the next threeof their turns. Unlike other Virus traps there's no ATK or DEF clausenarrowing its list of victims, so its wide range of targets helps give itgreat match-up utility. Some of that utility's limited by the first part ofits effect, but ultimately only Eradicator Epidemic Virus comes close tomatching Grinning Grave's coverage. This breathes some life into a cardthat's otherwise a hard sell.
Note that Grinning Grave Virus doesn't destroy monsters on thefield. It's unique among the Virus traps in that way, and it heavily pushesthe card towards a 'Turn 1 or bust' Side Deck role. Other Virus traps haveutility as mass removal, but Grinning Grave Virus' only purpose isto empty your opponent's hand of monsters and rob their draws for threeturns. Destroying cards in the deck is actually a disincentive to play it,and that's a painful reality for anyone looking to play it. It's very hardto recommend it over a more targeted Virus trap, like Full Force Virus orDeck Devastation Virus.
Like Crush Card Virus I think Grinning Grave Virus is a bit too fair, and as anyone who has played Yu-Gi-Oh! for some time can attest to,you don't want to play fair cards when you can play unfair ones.
Tracking Other Pandemics
Grinning Grave Virus might be a bit of a disappointment, but some of theother Virus traps reprinted in the Lair of Darkness Structure Deckare still competitively viable. I think Crush Card Virus falls into thesame bucket as Grinning Grave Virus: it's too fair against any deck thatwants to land its cards in the graveyard.
That said, both cards have their uses against True Dracos and they'reparticularly effective at keeping Amano-Iwato off the field. True Dracoswill usually search their monsters with Dragonic Diagram, but they draw aton of cards too. The Virus traps have a good chance of hitting theirmonsters while they're resolving draw spells, and of course you'll get tosee every card they draw while they're under the effect of either trap.
Neither Virus is a game-winning card against True Dracos, but the deck canstruggle with only one copy of True King's Return. Relying entirely onDragonic Diagram to find monsters will get old quickly, and it immenselyslows the pace of the duel in the early game. Grinning Grave Virus willknock out any remaining hand traps after the first turn of the duel, andboth it and Crush Card Virus can keep your floodgate monsters or negationbodies safe from Amano-Iwato. They're solid additions to larger disruptivestrategies, but it's not hard to imagine why players might prefer a SolemnWarning or Solemn Judgment instead.
Full Force Virus has already seen Top Cut play in Pendulum Magicians wherePurple Poison Magician and Astrograph Sorcerer easily fulfill its tributerequirements. Most monsters have less than 1500 DEF, but hand traps likeGhost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries, and AshBlossom & Joyous Spring have just enough DEF to avoid destruction.
All of the Main Deck True Draco monsters besides Master Peace, the TrueDracoslaying King are in range, and a huge number of Pendulums,Lightsworns, Zombies, Frogs, Trickstars, Infernoids, and just abouteverything you'll find in 60-card builds. Some of those cards are bettertargets than others, and there's plenty of monsters you might want youropponent to keep in their hand, but emptying your opponent's hand ofmonsters is frequently a great way to start the duel.
Deck Devastation Virus is really best suited for strategies runninghigh-ATK Dark monsters with a huge fear of hand traps. It takes out justabout everything: Ghost Ogre, Ghost Reaper, Ash Blossom, Droll & LockBird, and D.D. Crow fall into its 1500 ATK or less range. It's been a longtime since Deck Devastation Virus has seen any real play though, and that'sin part due to the fact that it's much less likely to destroy anythingmeaningful on the field after Turn 1. Full Force Virus can break up boardsby wiping away high-ATK but low-DEF monsters, but Deck Devastation Virus isreally only useful against Synchro, Xyz, and Link materials. It's rarelyuseful against the Extra Deck monsters you'll be staring down later.
Eradicator Epidemic Virus sees a small amount of play in the OCG againstSky Strikers: an incredibly spell-heavy theme that's currently among thebest decks on the OCG tournament scene. Although it's Limited in the TCG itstill could see play against Sky Strikers, but even in the OCG it's greatlyoutperformed by Cursed Seal of the Forbidden Spell. I'd only recommendEradicator Epidemic Virus if you're not running enough spells to feedCursed Seal, although you'll still need to feed Epidemic somehow. PendulumMagicians can pull it off, but there aren't many other decks that arewilling to sacrifice a 2500 ATK Dark Extra Deck monster.
New Options With Lair Of Darkness
Lilith, Lady of Lament helps to prioritize Virus traps by searching themrandomly from the deck. It won't help you find Eradicator Epidemic Viruswithout a bit of luck, but you can easily grab a playset of Full ForceVirus to guarantee you'll grab that specific card. It's a great tech forany siding strategy that wants to activate a Virus trap on Turn 1, orreally any strategy that relies on Normal Traps and can make the space forLilith. Lilith itself is potential fodder for Crush Card Virus, GrinningGrave Virus, and Deck Devastation Virus depending on how you Summon it.
Lair of Darkness is a game-changing card for strategies that can leveragetribute costs into monster removal, and it's the reason why players arecarefully eyeing Infernoids again. Lair's effect turns your opponent'smonsters into tribute fodder for your Virus traps or for Lilith, Lady ofLament, but there's a catch: they'll need to Summon a monster first. Thatgoes against our ideal gameplan of firing off these traps as soon aspossible into Turn 2. Still, it's not a huge loss if you can be sure thatyour opponent will Summon a target with the right stats. Grinning GraveVirus can tribute anything, so at worst the trap simply becomes a piece ofmonster removal.
Grinning Grave Virus is a little underwhelming, and I'm not sure if we'llsee Lilith-fueled Virus Side Deck strategies in the future, butLair of Darkness Structure Deck creates more opportunities forVirus traps to see competitive play. Dark strategies are in a good placeright now with a currently-Unlimited Allure of Darkness, and that couldn'tbe more evident than with the overwhelming success of Pendulum Magiciansthis format. Lair of Darkness remains the star of this structure deck, andthe cards found within are mostly an attempt to take advantage of itsinsane effects rather than stand out on their own.
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.