Card advantage has always been important in Yu-Gi-Oh, but after Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy there was a paradigm shift in the way players viewed it. Dragon Rulers made most 1-for-1 exchanges into losses for their opponents. The deck played twelve self-replacing monsters with huge ATK scores and plenty of Xyz options. Rank 7s could be summoned at almost no cost, so losing your monster to Compulsory Evacuation Device or Solemn Warning was only a minor setback. Bottomless Trap Hole, Dimensional Prison, and other traps that dealt with a single monster were mostly ineffective against Dragons. Even after the Rulers had been hit, winning the grind game was often too much to ask for from most decks.
Cards like Spellbook of Judgment and Super Rejuvenation changed players' focus from winning a war of attrition, to shutting their opponent out of the game. Imperial Iron Wall, Number 16: Shock Master, Eradicator Epidemic Virus, and Macro Cosmos were all notable for doing exactly that. It was almost impossible to out-resource a deck that could draw or search a half-dozen cards during the End Phase. Fire Fists, Geargia, and dozens of other decks that couldn't lock Rulers out of the game or OTK them fell out of play.
Dragons were, for a very long time, the deck to beat. They were on an entirely different level, and could largely ignore the concept of card advantage in all but a few match-ups.
The Return Of The Grind Game
The new format brings with it a return to resource-centric gameplay that challenges players to out-grind their opponent. Making card exchanges that are in your favor, generally in increments over the course of the duel, are now preferable to explosive OTKs or lock outs. Referring to the format as 'slow' is inaccurate: there are a number of decks that can rapidly increase their card presence over a single turn. Karakuri Geargia, Hieratics, Harpies, and Madolche are capable of huge, game-changing plays with very little prior set-up. Still, these moves aren't always the priority. With maybe the exception of Hieratics, each of these decks can win games by out-resourcing their opponent. It's something that those decks, along with Fire Fists, Bujin, Fire King, and Inzektor, excel at.
The fundamental qualities that make a good Side Deck card are changing. You're no longer looking for game-ending effects, but instead ones that can prevent your opponent from either accruing more cards or destroying your own. Winning the resource race is essential, and there are a few cards that can help you do that.
The trap I'd like to talk about in this article was originally printed in the game's very first booster set – Legend of the Blue Eyes White Dragon – and it's none other than Trap Hole. It's popped up as a Side Deck choice a handful of times in the past, despite being largely outclassed by Bottomless Trap Hole. Now it's once again gaining attention from players looking for new cards to supplement their trap line-up.
Ever since Bottomless Trap Hole was released, Trap Hole has been played very infrequently. Sure, Bottomless can't destroy monsters with an ATK between 1500 and 1000, but it more than makes up for that with its ability to trigger in response to Special Summons. Trap Hole has been irrelevant for entire formats, going against decks that rely almost entirely on Special Summoning. Dragon Rulers, Mermail, Dino Rabbit, Chaos Dragons, and so many other strategies from past years have no issue dodging a trap that destroys Normal Summons. Bottomless was always the better choice, especially since it could hit multiple monsters.
With Bottomless Trap Hole Limited there's a demand for better, more reactive traps that don't carry a discard cost. Raigeki Break and Phoenix Wing Wind Blast are powerful cards, but if winning the grind game's your goal then they might not be the best choice. Still, we have Mirror Force and Dimensional Prison, right? Why look for alternatives when you could run two copies of Mirror and Prison each? The answer's pretty simple: too many decks this format can play around them. Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Gorilla, Hieratic Dragon of Su, and Harpie' Hunting Ground destroy backrows long before the Battle Phase. Dimensional Prison's incredibly good when it gets the opportunity to resolve, but that doesn't happen too often. A lack of chainable backrow has created a need for more reactive traps.
This is where Trap Hole fills its niche. It's a strong counter to dozens of monsters in Main Phase 1 or 2. In fact, you might be surprised by how often Trap Hole's live this format. There's an astounding number of monsters that it deals with better than more widely played cards. At the very least it's useful against Normal or Tribute Summons that Bottomless Trap Hole could also hit. Acting purely as a supplement to Bottomless it does an okay job, and that's as much as we can really ask for.
The most commonly played set of traps right now is a single copy each of Bottomless Trap Hole, Solemn Warning, Compulsory Evacuation Device, and Torrential Tribute. They're all Limited – and for good reason. Outside of Compulsory, we'd probably be seeing players max out copies on these cards if they had the chance. I can't blame them and I'd definitely do the same if I had a choice. Trap Hole won't be replacing those cards any time soon, but it might be worthwhile to side in over other traps.
Along with Mirror Force and Dimensional Prison, Fiendish Chain's a very popular method of blocking attacks and negating effects. Its weakness to Mystical Space Typhoon is worrying, however. Surprisingly, Trap Hole destroys many of the same cards that Chain's typically used against. A Flip Summoned Geargiarmor will still get its effect, but Trap Hole destroys it permanently and forces your opponent to commit another card to the field before Summoning a Geargiaccelerator. Trap Hole will also take out Geargiarsenal before it has a chance to use its effect. Fiendish Chain is, once again, helpless here.
Where To Side It?Like all Side Deck cards, Trap Hole's effectiveness is largely dependent on when you side it. Even after considering the match-up and weighing its effectiveness, you'll also need to factor in whether or not you're going first in the next game. Trap Hole isn't in any way proactive, and against a deck like Bujin you'll want to set it early, preferably before Bujin Yamato hits the field. Once your opponent has a monster in place and refuses to commit more to the field, you'll start regretting that you sided out your Battle Phase traps for a card that responds to summons. If you have two copies in your Side Deck then I'd suggest bringing in only one if you're going second. Otherwise, side the full count of your traps if the match-up calls for it. The potential benefit is that you'll be able to keep your opponent from establishing field presence for a few turns. That's a lot of time in this game, and can lead to some easy wins just by attacking through an open field.
The first strategy that makes sense to side Trap Hole against is Harpies. This deck's immensely reliant on its Normal Summon, and can't make many plays without first committing a monster to the field. In order to make those plays go uninterrupted, Harpie players use Harpies' Hunting Ground to annihilate opposing backrow and clear away any threatening cards. Hunting Ground's amazing, but outside of Hysteric Party there aren't a lot of ways to get Harpie monsters on the field without first making a Normal Summon.
That's where Trap Hole shines: it's able to destroy the newly-Summoned monster even when Hunting Ground triggers. In the best-case scenario they'll target your Trap Hole with the Field Spell's effect. Even when that doesn't happen it's still going to be your best bet at stopping their plays. Outside of pure Summon negation in the form of Horn of Heaven, it's hard to ask for something more.
Fire Fists have a similar dependency on their Normal Summon…both of them. Chances are your opponent's going to have Fire Formation – Tensu active often enough to make it seem like they have two Normal Summons. On the off chance they don't, Trap Hole is even better. Hitting a Bear, Gorilla, or Rooster before they can activate their effect will help you out tremendously. Fire Formation – Tenken answers Trap Hole reliably, although that's no different than how it counters any non-Battle Phase trap. It's another case where timing is crucial, as a combination of Typhoons and Trap Hole can stall out the Fire Fist strategy for a short time.
Madolche are hard to disrupt thanks to the powerful effects of Madolche Ticket and Chateau. However, they also have a dependency on Normal Summons that can be exploited. Madolche Hootcake's an incredibly dangerous card that temporarily dismissed with Trap Hole; often buying you a turn you wouldn't have had otherwise. If it resolves you probably won't have a field to defend yourself with any longer thanks to Madolche Queen Tiaramisu, making Mirror Force once again useless. While Chateau's on the field nearly every Madolche monster is a target for Trap Hole. At the very least it's consistently live in this match-up with plenty of Summons to respond to, even if those cards are being recycled.
Constellars and Evilswarm depend on their Normal Summons as well, and they're affected by Trap Hole in roughly the same way. You can typically destroy their first Summon and prevent them from making an Xyz, although later in the game you'll have Contellar Sombre and Evilswarm Kerykeion to contend with. The extra Normal Summon could be enough to bypass your defenses, or it might just be another target for a second Trap Hole. Evilswarm have the benefit of an on-theme Quick-Play Spell that offers them protection from your spells and traps, and Constellars have Omega to keep their monsters safe. Against a deck that makes Rank 4s so easily it's tough to play Fiendish Chain effectively. Trap Hole's a much simpler solution, even if it can't be used on the Xyz themselves.
Other rogue match-ups have a lot to lose from Trap Hole as well. Blackwings can't make use of Black Whirlwind if their monster's destroyed just after being Summoned, and the deck has very few ways to play around it outside of Icarus Attack. As a deck that's designed to make the most out of a card that requires Normal Summons, Blackwings are unsurprisingly susceptible to Trap Hole. It's been a popular side for them in the past, and I'm sure it'll continue to do so.
From Hunders to Gravekeepers, Trap Hole might end up being one of this format's biggest cards. It can even destroy Tour Guide From the Underworld, or a sided monster like Banisher of the Radiance. It has tons of uses, and it's relatively difficult to negate or play around. It's definitely worth giving a shot.
Until next time then.