At YCS Philadelphia – the first YCS following the release of Primal Origin – several new strategies emerged that mixed the Traptrix, Artifact, and Hand themes in various ways. Traptrix Hands, Artifact Hands, and even Traptrix Hand Artifacts are now a common sight at Regional-level events.

Despite some overlap, each variant's unique and requires a slightly different approach when you're Side Decking against it. For this article I want to focus on how to side against the HAT variant, but we'll inevitably end up looking at cards that are just as effective against Traptrix Hands and more 'pure' builds of Artifacts.

A Few Hat-Trix
HAT is the combination of three separate themes: Fire and Ice Hand, Artifacts, and Traptrix. Traptrix are the oldest of the bunch with Traptrix Myrmeleo debuting back in Judgment Of The Light, and it already saw play earlier this year as tech in Fire Fists. On its own Myrmeleo doesn't do much beyond searching Trap Hole, Bottomless Trap Hole, or Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare. Don't get me wrong: it's a great way to search traps and get a quick +1, but you're still a bit limited in what you can do with it beyond that. Outside of Fire Fist where Fire Formation - Tensu could turn Myrmeleo into a Rank 4 right away, almost nobody else was willing to play it. Unfortunately neither Traptrix Atrax nor Traptrix Nepenthes are worth playing, so the Traptrix theme was competitive only in the form of a single Myrmeleo teched into the dominant strategy at the time. That was the case right up until Primal Origin released Traptrix Dionaea into the TCG.

Playing Dionaea alongside Myrmeleo results in a small-but-effective engine that searches your traps, sets up Rank 4 Xyz, and destroys your opponent's spell and trap cards. But the fun doesn't stop there! Fire Hand and Ice Hand are also available to pick apart your opponent's field, play a bit of defense, and contribute to Rank 4 Xyz plays by effortlessly replacing themselves when destroyed. Both sets of monsters function independently, but they work toward the common goal of clearing the way for some serious Artifact aggression. The Artifacts themselves are generally played in a ratio of three Artifact Moralltach, two Artifact Beagalltach, and three copies each of Artifact Ignition and Artifact Sanctum. That's another nine cards with destruction effects aimed at your field. Targeting your opponent's backrow with removal is essentially asking to get slaughtered by the punishing effects of Sanctum and Moralltach.

Normally I'd spend a bit more time discussing how this deck operates, but Bobby Kenny's two-part series on Traptrix covers just about everything you need to know. If you're still curious about how the deck works, I definitely recommend reading both of his articles.

Going up against this deck requires a careful approach. Rushing in with a huge play could leave you stalled out against Artifact Scythe, and Moralltach can easily break up a combo by taking out a key card. Wait too long and your opponent will eventually draw into enough cards to break through your field. Finding the right pace to play at isn't easy, but this match-up will become much easier when you do. In the meantime you'll want to remember that most of your cards won't be sticking around for long. Continuous Spells and Traps, Field Spells, and monsters that lack built-in protection are basically sitting ducks.

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There are plenty of cards that work against Artifacts, Traptrix, and the Hands individually. What we want to find are cards that work against as many of them as possible. Dropping a bit of effectiveness for utility goes a long way, especially when it's tough to know exactly which variant your opponent's playing until they reveal certain cards. Your opponent might play Game 1 without ever playing a Traptrix card, and leave you under the impression that their deck is based solely around Artifacts and Hands. If you're siding cards that are only effective against one variant you could be in for a surprise during Game 2.

Side Deck Options
The biggest obstacle to overcome when siding against HAT variants is their obscene amount of card removal. Myrmeleo, Ignition, Moralltach, Sanctum, Fire Hand, and Ice Hand can all destroy cards on the field. The safest place for your sided cards is in your hand, and luckily there a few monsters that can activate there too. Skull Meister's an often-disregarded hand trap that doesn't see nearly as much play as D.D. Crow, Effect Veiler, or Maxx "C". However, that could be changing soon. By discarding Skull Meister you can negate a card effect that activates in the graveyard. It's a quick out to both Hands; it prevents them from destroying a card and summoning another Hand from the deck. It's rarely expected, and most of the time you'll find your opponent's field wide open after they rammed a Hand into your monster. Debunk's seeing a lot of play as an out to these cards, but Skull Meister can be used the turn you draw it. It's a small discrepancy that makes a big difference when a Hand is the only thing standing between you and your opponent's Life Points.

Skull Meister's also strong against Artifacts, negating them when their effects trigger. It might not work against Artifacts that are Summoned through Sanctum, but it will stop plays led by Ignition or Beagalltach. Beyond that, Meister's a potential Rank 4 material and has 1700 ATK. In this match-up Moralltach is stronger, and that's a big plus over the worthless stats of other hand traps. As far as rulings are concerned, Skull Meister can be activated in the Damage Step in the TCG only. If for some reason you're playing under OCG rules, I'd avoid playing it entirely. Its biggest strength is its effectiveness against the Hands, and without that it's not worth playing over alternatives.

D.D. Crow's another out to your opponent's combos that won't require you to commit anything to the field. While Crow's mostly useless against the Hands, it's much more effective against Traptrix Dionaea and Pot of Dichotomy. You can banish Myrmeleo when Dionaea targets it; sparing one of your backrow cards while denying your opponent a Rank 4 Xyz. Crow also works against Dionaea's trap-recovery effect...although most of the time you'll just target Dionaea instead. Then there's Pot of Dichotomy: a draw spell that returns monsters in the graveyard to the deck. Dichotomy's just as susceptible to D.D. Crow as Pot of Avarice was: if you banish one of the spell's targets the effect disappears. Not only will your opponent miss out on their draws, but they'll also be forced to skip their Battle Phase. If you're not afraid of the Hands, I'd definitely recommend D.D. Crow over Skull Meister. It's just as useful against Artifacts too; it can banish an Artifact when it activates in the graveyard and prevent it from hitting the field.

Ally of Justice Cycle Reader's an alternative to D.D. Crow. This card saw play at YCS Philadelphia as a side against the two most popular Light-based strategies: Artifacts and Bujin. Banishing two cards is a heck of a lot better than just banishing one, so if you're given the choice between Crow and Cycle Reader in an all-Light match-up the answer should be obvious. In the early game against Bujins you can clear their graveyard of Bujingi Turtle and Bujingi Hare, leaving the Beast-Warrior Bujins vulnerable to card effects. It's essentially a faster Crevice Into the Different Dimension, but that's not exactly ideal against HATs. Sure, Cycle Reader knocks Lights out of the graveyard and can make it more difficult to activate a future Dichotomy, but it's completely useless against Traptrix Dionaea. A Dichotomy that doesn't target a Light monster can't be stopped, and will leave you wishing you'd sided Crow instead.

On the other hand Cycle Reader plays very nicely in the Artifact deck. As a Level 3 Tuner it opens up Level 8 Synchro Summons with the Artifact cards. Cycle Reader also happens to be Dark and can therefore be used to Summon Void Ogre Dragon and Beelze of the Diabolic Dragons. It's also another monster type for Pot of Dichotomy. If there's one card I'll be keeping an eye on in case HATs mirror matches become a common sight, it's Cycle Reader. Should pure Artifacts ever become competitive I imagine we'll be seeing a lot more of it.

I discussed Debunk at length in last week's article along with Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare. Both cards are worth playing in this match-up despite the number of counters HATs are packing. Imperial Iron Wall's particularly good; I've already mentioned three Side Deck cards so far that banish. Iron Wall's currently being played in HATs as a counter D.D. Crow, Cycle Reader, Debunk, and various other cards and strategies. We've seen Fire Kings use the same tactic before and it's just as effective here. If your opponent counter sides against you with Iron Wall after you bring in things like Dimensional Prison and Debunk, you'll be in for a world of hurt.

Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare's awesome against Artifacts, decent against the Hands, and completely useless against the Traptrix monsters. If you're not playing Traptrix cards already you'll want to very careful observe your opponent's actions during Game 1 to discover if they're playing Myrmeleo and Dionaea. If they aren't you can freely side Nightmare, but if they are you may want to look at alternatives. Nightmare isn't completely useless if they're playing those cards; it's just noticeably weaker.

You might want to give some older stuff a shot too! Doomcaliber Knight's surprisingly effective in this match-up with a strong 1900 ATK and 1800 DEF. You can play it aggressively and defensively, and it forces your opponent to throw away one of their monsters to get past it. Generally they'll try to take it out by attacking with a Moralltach Summoned off Sanctum, but any number of backrow cards can keep your Doomcaliber safe. Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo's another monster worth protecting. It effectively shuts down the Artifact engine outside of Ignition, and stops Dionaea from making Rank 4's. It also sneaks under Bottomless Trap Hole, but as a result it's very vulnerable to being destroyed by battle. If you manage to keep it safe you'll be in a very good position.

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Rivalry of Warlords is tough to play with so much removal running around, but it does stop Dionaea from Special Summoning Myrmeleo, and generally prevents most Rank 4 Xyz Summons. It'll also keep Fire Hand from bringing out Ice Hand if your opponent controls a non-Aqua monster. Lastly, Artifact Sanctum becomes useless when a non-Fairy is face-up on your opponent's field. Macro Cosmos is tempting, but it's easily dealt with by Sanctum and Moralltach.

Traptrix, Hands, and Artifacts are likely to keep showing up throughout the year as components of other strategies and decks. Siding for a component of a deck is a bit more difficult than siding for a complete strategy. There are fewer traps that will shut your opponent out of the game, and all of your sided cards will have less utility. There are plenty of vulnerabilities to exploit, but only a few will do more than slightly annoy your opponent. I'm sure we'll be talking about these cards again very soon.

Until next time then

-Kelly