With the game in a place right now where 2-card +3's into Shooting Quasar Dragon are just kind of a thing you can do, it can be hard to appreciate cards that don't rack up the same kind of card economy, even if they're actually great. Soul Charge, which I talked about last week, has an effect on the competitive scene that reaches beyond its immediate in-game potential, skewing the way we look at any cards that only net a +1 or less.

And why wouldn't it? When every deck can and will run a totally generic +4 knock-out punch, a +1 just seems mediocre. But that said, you have to get to a point where you can even make that play in the first place: few strategies have effective Soul Charge plays in the early game. That means those early turns are still about the same things regardless of what's happening elsewhere in the TCG: accumulating card presence, establishing card advantage, setting up a secure field, and whittling down your opponent.

Every deck has different ways to go about that: Infernity do their best to burn through cards until you can't make a move without getting shut down; Bujin do everything they can to set up one invincible monster; Dark World pray to the luck-gods; Mythic Rulers apparently emptied their wallets and souls at the nearest voodoo shaman that promised them life after death… there are plenty of viable approaches. But there's a card from Dragons of Legend that embraces one of the oldest ways to set up your early game, with a modern twist to keep it relevant: Mathematician.

Balanced Equation
Instead of netting a huge, immediate gain in card economy, Mathematician takes the route of loading your graveyard with resources and thinning your deck without any cost. A lot like the attribute Knights – Armageddon Knight in particular – Mathematician lets you drop a monster from your deck to the graveyard as long as it's Level 4 or lower, more or less serving as a Foolish Burial on legs. There are enough recursion cards in the game that Mathematician doesn't have to send away a monster that's inherently live in the graveyard; Call Of The Haunted, Soul Charge, Debris Dragon, Crane Crane and similar cards all take advantage of a stacked yard.

Unlike Armageddon Knight, Mathematician takes a cue from Card Trooper and Cyber Phoenix to refund you a card when it dies and goes to the graveyard itself. Where Foolish Burial sends monsters away as a -1 of card economy and the attribute Knights generally break even before they fall in battle, Mathematician watches your back by Reloading your hand when it gets taken down. If you lose it any way other than battle or it fails to hit the graveyard you won't get the draw, but if you're purposely giving up the draw to use it for something else then you're probably making a play that renders that irrelevant.

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There aren't many convenient or advisable ways to add Mathematician to your hand or recover it from the graveyard, since Spellcasters are basically one of the least-loved types in terms of searchability. There are some monster types that don't have search cards, but Spellcasters actually got bad ones that cost you games, and that's pretty rough. I'm looking at you, Magician's Circle. Even then, Mathematician only triggers on Normal Summons anyway.

Running The Numbers
The huge range of applications for Mathematician is where the real appeal of the card comes from. The effect itself is quite good, even if it isn't mind-blowing on its own.

Inspired by old Plant Synchro decks, Mathematician fits with new takes on the same strategy. Being a Level 3 Earth monster means it's Xyz Material for Meliae of the Trees if you pack in a couple of matching Earths. Crane Crane and Mystic Macrocarpa Seed are both good choices, since they're so easy-access; Crane Crane flourishes thanks to Mathematician dumping cards into the graveyard. Spell Striker's catching a little spotlight right now too, thanks to its built-in Special Summon and its ability to pair off with Mathematician for the Xyz Summon of Meliae. After that, Meliae can bring back Lonefire Blossom, Dandylion or anything else you might need at the time, based on your build and your situation. Recycling Plants with Meliae isn't limited to Level 4 and lower monsters either, so Tytannial, Princess of Camellias and Chirubimé, Princess of Autumn Leaves are both available as Main Deck boss monsters.

Straying away from the more popular decks right now, Mathematician's a blessing for alternate win conditions, specifically Exodia the Forbidden One. The two most important tasks for an Exodia deck are to draw cards, and to make sure you draw as few actual Exodia pieces as possible until you have a comfortable amount of options. Each time you draw an Exodia piece early on that's basically a dead card; you might as well have drawn nothing at all until you have the other four, and that doesn't help keep you alive in any capacity. Mathematician can send Exodia pieces to the graveyard to be recovered later, while offering a draw for your trouble. It ensures that you have the highest probable chance of drawing stall cards to keep yourself in the game while you're in the process of putting together your Weapon of Mass Obliteration. Backup Soldier's a thing, plus Dark Factory of Mass Production and Dark Eruption, so there are plenty of options.

A dedicated Zombie deck is worth testing, especially in the wake of Dragonecro Nethersoul Dragon's release. One of the coolest Fusions we've gotten in years, it has the allure of intriguing design, incredible beefiness on the field and an ability that can generate huge swings of card presence. Since it hands you a token, and then that token can kill whatever Dragonecro attacked, any attack from Dragonecro that isn't stopped essentially becomes a +2 that leaves you with a pair of beaters to ride while you build up more options in your hand.

Mezuki can bring a fallen Dragonecro back from the graveyard, which Mathematician loads up without any real investment. Conversely, Mathematician could send away Zombies for Dragonecro's Fusion Summon, whether you plan to revive them somehow or cut to the chase with Dragon's Mirror. Either way, you're still left with a self-replacing monster, a thinner deck and at least half of the requirements for Dragonecro. Zombie Master doesn't mind Mathematician filling up the yard, and Plaguespreader Zombie's happy to go there, too. There are so many options it's crazy.

Depending on what Lightsworn support we get from the new Structure Deck, Mathematician might have a place there too; sending Wulf, Lightsworn Beast to the graveyard triggers its Special Summon. Same for Felice, Lightsworn Archer if we ever get that card in the TCG, and Eclipse Wyvern can automatically banish Judgment Dragon to add to your hand later. Milling it's neither here nor there, so it's hard to say, but the idea definitely has potential.

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There's a chance that Blackwings could put Mathematician to work sending Blackwing - Vayu the Emblem of Honor and Blackwing - Zephyros the Elite to the graveyard. Both make Mathematician a +1; Vayu hands out a free Synchro Summon and Zephyros puts Mathematician back into your hand to use again on a subsequent turn. From there, that Zephyros can either go toward an Xyz or Synchro Summon, let you start Special Summoning copies of Blackwing - Bora the Spear, Blackwing - Gale the Whirlwind or Blackwing - Oroshi the Squall. In a deck like Blackwings that have a hard time generating +1 or better trades outside of Black Whirlwind, Mathematician might be a saving grace for the archetype, despite looking a little gimmicky.

The Sum Of Everything
The only negative thing you could say about Mathematician is that it's too balanced to really shine right now with things like the Dragon Rulers, Soul Charge and the like running around, especially going forward to Primal Origin this month. Everything about Mathematician screams "fair" and "good," but there isn't any game-breaking FTK with it. There are a couple of three-card combos that let you set up a probably-to-highly-likely kill on the following turn, but that's about as far as that goes.

Mathematician doesn't necessarily go in everything, but it goes in enough things that it's impressive. For what it does its stats aren't bad, and it has a lot of benefits going for it. Not to mention the hilarity of your opponent trying to Effect Veiler it. Instead of being a loss-less Foolish Burial, you +1 immediately and then draw again when it leaves. One of its best features is that Veiler-bait aspect, drawing fire away from your more important monsters and maybe paving the way for you to pick up extra wins here and there.

Regardless, Mathematician's probably going to see play moving forward and there are plenty of ways to use it that I haven't mentioned. What are you planning on using it in, if you're going to use it at all? Do cards like Soul Charge overshadow anything that isn't ridiculously powerful for you, or was Mathematician already catching your eye? Either way, it's got solid design and a lot of potential, so I can't wait to see how you use it this format.