Ever since the first Level 5+ monster that didn't need to be Tribute Summoned, there's been a trend in Yu-Gi-Oh! to gradually scale up the amount of bang you get for the investment of a card. Legend of Blue Eyes White Dragon and Pharaoh's Servant both had cards that brought back monsters from the graveyard as 1-for-1's, and you could Tribute those monsters, but as far as card economy goes they were just substitutes on an even level – you were still giving up a card to make your Tribute Summon.

Chaos Sorcerer and the Envoys were different beasts entirely, because using a Light and a Dark from your graveyard to field a big monster was like bypassing the -1 or -2 to you'd normally have to take to Summon monsters of that caliber; banishing cards instead was like pseudo-Tributing from the graveyard and only displaced cards from one practically inaccessible area to another. There was no loss of economy. Imagine for a minute how much worse Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End would be if you had to Tribute two monsters to Summon it instead. Or Chaos Sorcerer. Or Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning. They'd still be playable, but immensely less so for the time in which they were released, and even more so now. Not to mention that they'd take up a Normal Summon in addition to having to minus to drop them. Every instance of a top-decked BLS crashing onto your opponent for game would be out the window. Yata-Lock would never have been a thing, realistically. Chaos Sorcerer would have to become best friends with Treeborn Frog.

Those guys don't even have the same circle of friends to start with. Awk-waaard.

Zombies like Mezuki and Plaguespreader made the graveyard into another resource pile, more or less. Then monsters that add cards from your graveyard to your hand were released. Spells and traps that Special Summon from the removed zone, and eventually monsters that did the same. Right now, both the graveyard and removed zones are practically just two more hands for certain decks, cycling monsters for free from one to the other and back. Next thing you know, the Extra Deck's going to be the same way. There are probably going to be monsters that land there instead of the graveyard when they die, and you'll be able to Special Summon them back to the field once per turn for free or something.

Like a pendulum. Oh.

Taking all of that into account, defensive backrow like Mirror Force, Dimensional Prison, Bottomless Trap Hole, Torrential Tribute and the like all end up being far worse than they were previously. In the old days, a monster falling to Sakuretsu Armor meant it was DEAD. Now it means it's taking a breather before it pops out again. Not to imply that those cards are useless, but they are severely hampered by the ease of recursion. Luckily, we've been given a new kind of defensive trap that handles that specific problem directly: Time-Space Trap Hole.

No More Time Wasting
When you look at the available defensive traps in the game right now, and compare the relative power of traps for their time to where they are today, it's kind of insane. There was no monster in the game that Mirror Force didn't destroy until Jinzo reared its head, and even after that things like Pitch-Black Warwolf and Mirage Dragon were few and far between. You couldn't even search for them because they were too strong for Sangan, Mystic Tomato or Shining Angel to grab from the deck.

For the first year or so between Mirror Force's release in mid-2002 and the Spring 2003 Limited List, it was running around as a three-of that struck every monster with a fear of the battle phase. Jinzo didn't come out until October 2002, so there really was a several-month period where Mirror Force was a terrifying threat. Pitch-Black and Mirage Dragon weren't a thing until the very end of 2004, way after the fact.

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Summon-response traps were scarce, but there were still three Trap Holes on the loose. Compound that with Torrential Tribute, Compulsory Evacuation Device and Bottomless Trap Hole and all of a sudden monsters are looking a lot like cannon fodder. They were entirely disposable in nature, because so few had any protection at all. Now, Mirror Force is at three and it's not even used, because so many cards either protect against destruction, are immune to destruction or just don't care about being destroyed. Trap Hole is effectively a non-issue. Torrential and Bottomless are still very good, but both are Limited to one. Two traps isn't exactly insurmountable. Fiendish Chain, Dimensional Prison and Breakthrough Skill are all tremendous cards, but also all single-target. Same for Solemn Warning; you're not hitting more than one monster with Warning unless you're stopping a Pendulum Summon, and they're not exactly common.

Time-Space Trap Hole is the first Summon-response we've seen that jams a monster back into the deck viably, more or less filling the role of a multi-hitting Phoenix Wing Wind Blast without the discard cost. I don't like discarding if I don't have to, and you probably don't either. In exchange, it only hits Special Summons and specifically only those from the hand or Extra Deck. Kind of a stern limitation, but not enough to change how good the card is overall. Jamming things back into the deck is way safer than letting the graveyard or removed zone fill up for recursion to undo your work, and Life Points are kind of unique in that they don't really matter until you have none left; whether you're at 1 or 15000, you can still win just the same.

The only real conflict there is with other cards that cost Life Points, like Solemn Warning and Soul Charge. Because Warning and Soul Charge both cost so much, if you're running multiples of Charge and Time-Space, there's a good chance you're going to kill yourself or be left with cards you can't activate, so plan around that accordingly. Looking at the ARGCS Atlantic City Top 16 as a general base, Soul Charge is only a one- or two-of in nearly every case, but that could still translate to a lot of paid LP if you're not careful. In that regard, Time-Space is probably better kept as a one-monster stop against Xyz Summoning than anything else, but it definitely helps to remember that you can hit as many as you want if you have to. If Pendulum Summoning ends up being a defining mechanic in the coming months though, make sure you don't Time-Space four or five monsters without enough LP to back it up, because you actually can suicide with Time-Space's LP loss. It's not a cost, so you can activate it even if you don't have what it takes to follow through.

The Test of Time
Just about every deck Special Summons from the Extra Deck, and with so many monsters that have built-in defense or some kind of return policy on destruction, it can be hard to answer back to those monsters without losing footing in the game. I was mentioning last week about Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss that taking it off the field without falling behind two cards or more is way more difficult than it should be; you can't use Solemn Warning or Torrential Tribute on it unless you want it to get its effect, and even Compulsory Evacuation Device doesn't prevent the Malebranche that Dante has as material from activating. While Time-Space Trap Hole doesn't stop the Malebranche either, it's not Limited like Compulsory is, so it's more reliable. On top of that, it has more use against the Malebranche themselves and keeps Black Luster Soldier and Chaos Sorcerer off your back more effectively. Paying 1000 LP to answer a boss monster sounds like a discount Solemn Warning to me, even if it doesn't negate the Summon outright, just for the additional utility.

And not negating the Summon is actually better in the long run in some instances. Solemn Warning has to negate things like Shaddoll Fusion outright, letting your opponent keep their Fusion Materials and leaving you in a bad spot. You don't know if they're going to make an El Shaddoll Winda or El Shaddoll Construct, and you don't know which Shaddoll effects might get triggered or if you're even obligated to care, so you have to activate Warning as though it was the worst case scenario every time. Time-Space Trap Hole gives you the flexibility of waiting until after the Fusion is successful to see if it's even worthwhile to respond, and only costs half as much. It gets by Winda because it doesn't destroy, and regardless of which El Shaddoll hits the field, you're not putting it in the graveyard, so Shaddoll Fusion doesn't come back.

If you're lucky, you can even bait your opponent into sending Shaddoll Dragon as a Fusion Material – why would you mind if they try to destroy Time-Space Trap Hole? You're about to chain it to whichever Shaddoll triggers anyway, whether it's Dragon or not, so it's better they pick the Shaddoll that doesn't do anything in the long run.

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It's not a universal cure-all; some decks just don't get hurt by Time-Space. Ironically, and perhaps thematically appropriate, Satellarknights have immunity through their boss monster Stellarknight Delteros. While Delteros is on the field, you can't activate cards or effects against their Normal or Special Summons. At the same time, if they don't have Delteros, Time-Space Trap Hole hits them just as hard as it hits any other deck. All of their other Xyz Monsters fall to Time-Space the way everyone else's do. They don't Special Summon from the Hand much, save for with Satellarknight Vega's effect, but that is something you can disrupt if you have to. Putting Satellarknight Deneb back where it's more difficult to reach is enough to make Satellarknight Altair weaker, and generally keeps your opponent's Extra Deck at bay. It's hard to rush out a Delteros without overcommitting if Deneb's search isn't involved.

There are a few generic Xyz Monsters that you can't hit with Time-Space Trap Hole, and that's important to keep in mind. Number 101: Silent Honor ARK won't make it through, and things like Gagaga Cowboy that rely on ignition effects are easy hits, but quick-effect Xyz like Abyss Dweller and Evilswarm Exciton Knight can chain their effects to Time-Space and still do their job. Don't get me wrong, they'll be shot back into the Extra Deck, but their effects go through just the same. Constellar Omega can walk right through it by becoming immune. Black Rose Dragon nukes the field and Time-Space resets it back into the Extra Deck to be used again later.

There's no sense over-romanticizing cards, so knowing the weaknesses of Time-Space is just as important as knowing the strengths, and there are a few.

Always Making Time
As a universal answer to all things, Time-Space Trap Hole maybe doesn't quite do the job. But then again, what trap does? What it does have is a wide range of monsters it can shut down, and there's never a shortage of times to activate it thanks to the Extra Deck's prevalent role in the game. The only decks that don't crank out Extra Deck monsters are rogue matchups that your Side Deck can handle, or at the very least aren't worth preparing for; Dark Worlds, Exodia and that kind of thing. Even Lightsworn have a full fifteen card Extra Deck and their own Synchro, though they maybe don't rush through them as fast as other decks do.

In my area, and I'm sure many others, there was a big hype train for Time-Space – the only reason it's not in everything around here is because most players don't have them yet. Is that how your local or Regional scenes have been? Are you one of the players that decided to pick up and use Time-Space early, or are you a skeptic that's letting others do the testing before you make a decision either way? Either way, make sure you keep this one in mind, because it might just sneak up on you.

-Beau