Over the last decade we've seen a massive spike in the number of cards thatnegate Summons, activations, and effects. Most themes have at least onecard that can negate stuff, like Sky Striker Mecha - Widow Anchor andAltergeist Protocol. Other strategies can tech negation effects into theMain Deck or Summon powerful negation bodies from their Extra Deck. There'seven negation to counter negation – namely Called by the Grave andPSY-Framegear Gamma.
Witch's Strike is a new trap that responds to negation effects with anincredibly powerful penalty for your opponent, and as we've just discussedthere are plenty of opportunities to play it in today's game. It's of thesame vein as cards like Evenly Matched and Shared Ride: your opponent'sfree to make their moves, but they're going to pay a price for it.
While Evenly Matched and Shared Ride counter established fields andexcessive search effects respectively, Witch's Strike addresses negationeffects without actually negating them back. Instead, Witch's Strikedestroys your opponent's entire field and their hand if a card youcontrol has its Summon or the activation of its effect negated.
Just how does Witch's Strike stack up against alternatives, and how exactlyshould it be played anyways?
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Let's start by talking about what Witch's Strike isn't: first,it's not a traditional counter to a negation effect.
This isn't Called by the Grave – your card must be negated to activateWitch's Strike, and that should immediately create a distinction between itand other cards that negate hand traps or Trap Cards. You won't be sidingthis into an aggressive strategy like Lunalights, Cyber Dragons, orCrusadia to keep your combos going. Called by the Grave is still the go-toanswer to push through interruption and negation effects when playingfirst, and Denko Sekka, Twin Twisters, and Red Reboot are generally thebest picks for handling non-hand trap threats in the backrow while playingsecond.
Maybe it's obvious that Witch's Strike isn't meant to be a Turn 1 solutionto anything – it's a trap after all. But it's also not useful for dodgingnegation at any later point in the duel either. It's simply not a cardyou'd play to keep your strategy rolling on despite interruption from youropponent: the entire point of this card is its insane destruction effect.But there's a catch here: Witch's Strike isn't generic removal, and itshouldn't be played as such. Yes, there are plenty of negation effects thatwill make it live, but relying on your opponent's cards is tricky. Most ofthe time you'll be hit with a negation effect during your turn, which meansWitch's Strike will need to be set for a full two turns before it's readyto resolve.
Unfortunately Witch's Strike isn't chainable to removal and can't be playedproactively. It's no substitute for Evenly Matched or Kaiju cards, and itrarely addresses the same kinds of boards and monsters. There's still arole for Witch's Strike to fill, and that's against negation-heavystrategies that commit one or more negation bodies to the field. Thinkdecks that prioritize one huge boss monster on Turn 1 with a negationeffect, like Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon or Toadally Awesome.
Witch's Strike can be devastating not just against an entrenched field witha negation body, but also against the resources your opponent will keeptucked away in their hand.
Destroying Negation Bodies
I think Witch's Strike has its role set as a counter to monsters likeNaturia Beast. It's a narrow role that's often served better by fasterforms of removal. A Kaiju will liberate your card effects faster thanWitch's Strike, but there's a lot more value packed into the trap thatmakes it worth considering.
There's a big caveat to playing Witch's Strike instead: you'll need to playpassively for a couple of turns while you get Strike loaded onto the field.If your deck can't do that, or if you're in a match-up where even Strikewon't save you after waiting a couple of turns, then you'll be better offplaying an alternative card.
When you can afford to wait and later resolve Witch's Strike there's aninsane amount of value to be reaped. Destroying your opponent's field andhand is no joke, and while some strategies can mount a comeback most ofyour opponent's will be out of the game almost immediately. Waiting to setup Witch's Strike can pay off, and it's entirely game breaking when itdoes, but is it worth taking serious risks in the meantime? You're making atrade-off when you could instead end the game with an OTK protected byCalled by the Grave or Denko Sekka. The deck you're playing matterstremendously–any aggressive OTK strategy won't bother with Witch's Strike.
So we've narrowed down Witch's Strike to a semi-passive anti-floodgate cardthat's fit only for strategies that can slug it out over the course of alengthy duel. Decks like Altergeists and Subterrors can play it as anexplosive counter to Red Reboot: punishing their opponent for interruptingtheir defensive cards. Outside of OTK strategies there's more room to takenegation in stride, and that's where Witch's Strike excels. For decks witha lengthier route to their win condition a single blowout trap is a solidaddition, but what's perhaps more important is the mind games it creates.
Like Waking the Dragon there's a real sense of danger when you're playingagainst an opponent running copies of Witch's Strike. Any negation effectmight result in your field and hand being destroyed, so seeing just onecopy will change the way you approach negation for the rest of the duel.It's a big incentive to play Denko Sekka and other non-negation backrowcounters, but hand traps will still see plenty of play in Games 2 and 3.That's enough for Witch's Strike to remain relevant, and its explosivepotential will lay in wait for the necessary conditions to arise.
While I don't think Witch's Strike is a good choice if you're looking formass removal, it is still a form of mass removal on a scale that'snearly unmatched. You won't be playing it to solve a problem on the fieldoutside of a few key match-ups where a negation body or floodgate ispresent, but it's worth running to ruin your opponent's set-up and crushtheir resources.
That said, there are other cards that are nearly as destructive witheffects that are much easier to activate. The freshly-Unlimited EradicatorEpidemic Virus can destroy your opponent's entire hand on their first turn– a distinct advantage over Witch's Strike. It's incredibly easy to playright now and totally devastating against spell or trap-heavy strategies,and you can even chain it to removal or activate it beforeSummoning a monster that might be negated.
Other Virus traps are worth considering over Witch's Strike on the groundsthat they're live significantly earlier in the duel. Their match-up utilityis much higher if we're strictly speaking about the narrow set of match-upswhere Witch's Strike is optimal. Unfortunately there's a short list oftimes where Witch's Strike is definitely viable, and far more opportunitiesto resolve a Virus trap that could cripple you opponent's strategy. Thatsaid, not every deck has access to Dark monsters to use as fodder for theVirus cards. For those decks Witch's Strike is an interesting alternativethat plays well against Sky Strikers in addition to the usual line-up offloodgates like Imperial Order.
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Witch's Strike compliments a trap line-up that includes Trap Trick: you canchain Trap Trick to a negation effect, set Witch's Strike, and chain itwhen the negation effect resolves. Once again Witch's Strike seemsperfectly suited for slower strategies with large trap line-ups, and Ithink it could reasonably see play at two copies in basically any deckthat's playing Trap Trick. It's still primarily a Side Deck card, however,as its effect is somewhat useless going second in a number of match-ups.You don't want to see this card going second against Thunder Dragons, forexample.
It's hard to pass up the sheer destructive power of Witch's Strike, but anobjective view of the best-possible situations to play it in leaves me withthe impression that it's rarely worth playing over alternatives. It majorlymisses on Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring and Ghost Belle & HauntedMansion: since neither card negates an activation there's nothing forWitch's Strike to chain to.
I think it's a missed opportunity, and Witch's Strike would be massivelyimproved if it could activate whenever an effect was negated by anopponent. Still, there's some future for this card, especially in decksthat are already playing Trap Trick.
Until next time then
Kelly Locke is a West Michigangamer and writer. You can follow him on Twitterfor more updates and check out his Youtube channel. He also studied marketing at Western Michigan University