There's always a vibrant debate among the community whether or not to assess a format as "healthy" because it demonstrates extreme diversity. Back in 2008 when Dark Armed Return was stomping out competition, and more recently in 2013 with Dragon Rulers, we trudged through months and months at a time of single-deck or very-few-deck formats. Some people thrive on that kind of regularity, defining all of the most efficient ways to rip apart the small number of dominant strategies and becoming masters of those matchups – in times like those, Side Decking is less demanding and tech becomes more impactful. At the same time, it's not unusual for duelists to feel like the format gets stagnant with that level of monotony, not allowing enough variety in competition to keep things interesting.

Up until recently our current format was hyper-diverse, with all kinds of different decks running around: Bujin, Fire Fists, Mermails, Geargia, Dark World and so many more it's hard to list them all. Even climbing down the ladder into the locals scene, Six Samurai and other rogue decks are still scrapping it out. With the release of Dragons of Legend, we're having to redefine what "diversity" even is; a wide array of viable decks, versus how often we see certain cards.

There are still a lot of viable decks at a YCS-level, and even more when you look at Regionals and lower, but they're all starting to run the same little packets of monsters. Putting Traptrix into decks was already catching on a few months ago, but DRLG's brought two much more common offenders into the mix: Fire Hand and Ice Hand.

Order, Entropy; A Never-Ending Cycle
If you played during the Plant Synchro format back in 2011, you probbly remember how stupid it was having to deal with Reborn Tengu. It was Level 4, and it kept your field stocked even if your opponent ran over it twice, assuming you didn't recycle any copies back into the deck somehow. Yu-Gi-Oh's had its share of strong recruiters in the past, so I'd be hard pressed to say Reborn Tengu was revolutionary in that aspect, but there's one thing that set it apart from all of the other UFO Turtle-esq recruiters: Tengu didn't care how it left the field. With the exception of Peten the Dark Clown, there weren't many options in the way of recruiters that didn't need to die in battle to trigger. Even then, it's not like Peten the Dark Clown was any kind of popular. If you're not familiar with Peten, my point exactly.

Okay, you got me; Bubonic Vermin, too.

Tengu had the weakness of Solemn Warning and Solemn Judgment, and you couldn't get another if you used it as Xyz Material, but just about anything else would net you one more bird from your deck to keep the Synchro train rolling down the track. It was the perfect card for that aggressive format, though its defensive applications were much less impressive. There's something to be said for blocking out three attacks or surviving Mirror Force, but that wasn't its most practical use.

Flash back to 2014: Fire Hand and Ice Hand are similar, but sort of the precise opposite at the same time. They have the same power level as Tengu, but with the utility flipped around. Instead of having huge aggressive presence and supporting spammy Extra Deck plays, the Hands hang out on the field to block as many as six attacks, taking your opponent's cards as souvenirs in the process. Fire Hand incinerates a monster and snags Ice Hand from the deck, then Ice Hand flurries through a backow and snags Fire Hand.

Assuming each of their effects went off you'd effectively trade one Normal Summon and one card in your hand for six of your opponent's cards across however-many turns. It's not like your opponent has the luxury of putting them down with Solemn Warning either; they're worded like the Madolche. They'll activate whether they're destroyed in the hand, on the field, face-up, face-down… it doesn't matter. Crush Card Virus isn't around anymore, and Deck Devastation Virus isn't all that popular, but if something like a Virus were to knock one of these two monsters out of your hand, you'd get to Special Summon another for your trouble and rip into your opponent's field.

Something else that separates the Hands from most other recruiters is their ability to outplay Vanity's Emptiness. Because of the way they're worded, the destruction of your opponent's card is the important part of their effects, in regards to when you can activate them. They don't have to Special Summon anything, so you can activate Ice Hand's effect under Emptiness, destroy Emptiness, and then Special Summon anyway since it's not on the field anymore. Keep in mind that you'd have to target Emptiness with Ice Hand for that to work. If you were to pop something else, Emptiness wouldn't trigger to destroy itself until your Ice Hand attempted to fully resolve, so you'd miss out on the chance to Special Summon something. For the same reason, Fire Hand doesn't have the same luxury.

The Hands aren't necessarily the ultimate defense; there are a couple weaknesses you can exploit to get around them if you get into a tight spot. Since they're both "When... you can" effects, they're subject to all the timing issues that you'd expect to come with the territory. Considering the Hands would take a card from your field either way, burning one yourself to make them miss timing isn't a whole lot different, but it does keep the next Hand from hitting the field. Since Hands can only Special Summon each other from the deck, any extra copies your opponent draws become Normal Summons they can't use productively later in the game, and that's good news for you. By using Mystical Space Typhoon on the Summon of a Hand and chaining Torrential Tribute, or activating Fire Formation - Tenki and chaining Raigeki Break, you can keep things under control without wasting cards.

On the other hand, you could play no cards of one type to get around the Hands just the same. Since they need a target card to destroy in order to activate, taking Fire Hand out with a destruction spell or trap while you control no monsters, or running over Ice Hand in battle when you have no set spells or traps leaves your opponent high and dry.

Meathook Meatshields
Some decks have an inherently easier time dealing with the Hands than others, and it's not necessarily the ones you're thinking of. Bujin in particular get around the Hands thanks to Bujingi Turtle; Fire Hand can't Special Summon Ice Hand if it doesn't destroy the monster, and Turtle can protect your Bujin in the damage step. Other than Tenki and Kaiser Colosseum, there's nothing hanging out in your backrow for very long, and they're both strong Mystical Space Typhoon bait.

Swinging against Ice Hand while you have no backrow with Bujins is a more common occurrence than in most decks. On top of that, you can even use your opponent's Fire Hand to your advantage; making Tsukuyomi' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Bujintei Tsukuyomi">Bujintei Tsukuyomi with a couple of Bujingi or Bujin Hirume, then running it into Fire Hand lets you bring back Bujin Yamato and Bujin Mikazuchi from your graveyard if they're in there. That's only an option when you have Vanity's Emptiness active or your opponent has no more Ice Hands to Summon, because the destruction has to be the last thing to happen, but knowing about that play could pick up clutch late-game wins. Bujingi Hare can keep your monsters alive through Fire Hand's effect and keep Ice Hand off the field, too.

Interestingly, Traptrix Artifact Hands have a great time against themselves, thanks to Artifact Ignition and Artifact Sanctum being so good to start chains with. Artifact Sanctum or Ignition into Torrential Tribute or the like leaves you in a huge upswing of momentum and puts your opponent in a bad spot. Coupled with the fact that the Hands themselves can make your opponent's copies miss timing, that whole deck is a nightmare for Fire and Ice Hand. When your Fire Hand gets run over by your opponent's Hand, you can pop it, then Special Summon an Ice Hand and it'll be too late for your opponent to use the effect of the Hand you just destroyed.

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In that respect, any deck that packs the Hands can use them as a tool against any other deck also running them. Considering their high utility, it makes sense that people would be cramming two or three of each Hand into their decks to fight against every other strategy doing the same thing.

Nothing Slight
Ice and Fire Hand don't have many prerequisites when you're deck building, other than taking up six of your forty card slots. They fit in most themes and offer a bulky defensive engine for no real downside. If Dino Rabbit can dominate the game for more than a complete format with Kabazauls and Sabersaurus, there's no reason other themes can't hit on the same concept with six +1's that search each other. They let you play around Vanity's Emptiness, most defensive sets, most boss monsters and the vast majority of the competitive circuit. The Hands can even play around themselves, without giving up game position.

From a standpoint of card design they're powerful but still fair, and that's a rare quality. In Traptrix Artifacts, Madolche, Gravekeepers, Mythic Rulers, Plant Rulers, Evilswarm and a number of other decks, the Hands give solid first-turn plays that don't reveal your strategy too early, and hold down the field through aggressive pushes. If you're playing the hands yourself, I'm curious: what decks are you playing them in? If you're not using them, why not? Maybe your deck space is too tight, or maybe you just don't care for them? Either way, they'll be gripping the format with an iron fist for a while, so get used to seeing them just about everywhere.

Oh, also, Debunk and Skull Meister do a number on the Hands, so there's that. You can thank me later.

-Beau