For the last couple of weeks, I've made it a forefront issue to talk about the role of card economy and its importance to your game position. More specifically, maintaining the number of cards you have at your disposal through self-replacing card effects. Last week I was talking about how central Stellarnova Alpha was to the Satellarknights because it replaces itself after use so you keep even footing in the game. The week prior, it was all about Shaddoll Fusion, and how the Shaddolls' effects trigger and make up for the cost of fusing, so you never fall behind even though it should hypothetically be a -2 to Fusion Summon. Here are links to both of those respectively, in case you missed them and want to check 'em out - Nova and Fusion.

Self-replacing cards aren't a new concept by any stretch of the imagination; there were self-replacing monsters as far back as Metal Raiders, and monsters that could take cards with them when they died in Legend of Blue Eyes White Dragon. It's true – Armed Ninja and Man-Eater Bug are ancient. Back then though, there was only one effect on each card.

Well, okay, Relinquished was always kind of a novel.

But as a general rule of thumb, most cards had only one ability if they had one at all. As the game went on, the best cards were the ones that had several. Both of the original Envoys, Dark Magician of Chaos and Yata-Garasu all come to mind as pretty clear examples of that. Now we have monsters with three or four effects at a time that people don't even give a second thought, and those monsters often have to have a specific combination of traits to be really playable: a self-replacing ability, and also something to advance your strategy in a meaningful way. One of the best examples of that is Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss.

SPF 1,000,000
Card Trooper used to be one of the most feared cards in the game. "Troop-Dupe-Scoop" was no joke, since you could be smashed in the face for 11,400 damage out of nowhere, and even if you stopped it, your opponent got to draw three cards and replace the entire investment of the push. Milling three cards to boost Trooper's ATK had the potential to load up your graveyard with effects you could take advantage of later, and drawing a single card on Trooper's destruction was enough to make leaving a 400 ATK monster on the field worth the trouble.

It's been a long time since that was a top concern though, and now Card Trooper's more of a tech choice in the occasional rogue deck than anything else. What made it truly scary was a combination of two things: self-replacement and deck thinning. There's likely no one in the Yu-Gi-Oh! playerbase right now who'd be surprised to hear that the graveyard is essentially a second hand for some decks, and at the least a resource pool for others, so sending cards away is more beneficial than a hindrance. Unfortunately for Trooper, the game's progressed so far that boosting up to 1900 ATK just isn't that valuable anymore, and only drawing one card doesn't outweigh the trade-off of losing your Normal Summon for the turn.

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Cue "Dante, Card Trooper Version Two of the Burning Abyss." At 1000 ATK to start, it's already bigger than Trooper, and it boosts itself to a modest 2500 attack points – just high enough to tie Stellarknight Delteros; beat all the Shaddolls except for El Shaddoll Construct; and run over most rogue monsters. Bujintei Susanowo; all of the Lightsworn; occasional Monarchs that happen to pass by; Armades, Keeper of Boundaries; an unboosted Baxia, Brightness of the Yang Zing; Ally of Justice Catastor; you name it. Not to imply that there's nothing bigger than 2500 ATK in the format, but the list of monsters Dante can beast-mode through is rather impressive for its easy Summoning requirements. Pair with that a 2500 DEF and an effect to swap to defense position if it attacks, and you can rename that list to "monsters that can't take Dante off the field." On paper there are a few checks to Dante in defense, but you might be shocked how durable it is in practice.

Also like Card Trooper, your opponent can't stop you from milling cards your graveyard with Dante. As a cost to activate Dante's ATK-increasing effect, you literally have to mill them, whether you get Skill Drained, Effect Veilered or anything else. You'll be locked into attack position with a meager 1000 ATK to back it up should Dante be negated, but your main goal should be to mill cards if you're making Dante in the first place, and short of negating the Xyz Summon, there isn't much that stops you from meeting that goal. Even if you're under Fiendish Chain or Breakthrough Skill, you can activate its effect meaninglessly just to send cards to the graveyard.

That's where the similarities between Trooper and Dante end. Instead of drawing a random card, which may or may not be of any use to you at the time, Dante lets you snag any Burning Abyss from your graveyard and adds it to your hand, basically accomplishing the same goal. Removing the randomized aspect of blind drawing in favor of conscious decision-making through graveyard recursion means you're more in control of how the next turn plays out than you otherwise would have been. You technically have five choices with Dante, since it can get another copy of itself back to the Extra Deck or the Burning Abyss trap card, but the most common situation is that you'll be picking between the three Malebranche of the Burning Abyss. Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss is an on-theme Monster Reborn, so you can get back Dante if you want to. Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss snags a Burning Abyss from the deck and Special Summons it, and Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss is a Reinforcement of the Army for Dark Level 3 Fiends. (Also read: "get Tour Guide From the Underworld and profit.")

Thanks to Dante's Light attribute and its being a Warrior-type, you can hit it with Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force. If there's something more frustrating to deal with than a three-material Constellar Pleiades, I don't want to think about what it is. There's no loss in using Dante as an Xyz Material either, since its effect to add a Burning Abyss to your hand triggers any times it's sent to the graveyard, not just from the field; detaching it from Pleiades triggers that effect after Pleiades' bounces something. You only need to keep one Astral Force on hand too, since you can snag it back from the graveyard with its own effect later.

Travel Arrangements
Dante's obviously the core of the Burning Abyss deck, and for good reason; detaching a Burning Abyss from it to activate the milling effect triggers whichever Malebranche you detached on a new chain after Dante resolves. Any Malebranche you mill will trigger also, so you're looking at between one and three different effects on each mill, depending how lucky you are. Not hitting anything on the mill can be rough, but, the detached Malebranche's effect is generally worth it anyway. Also, it's worth noting that Dante being taken off the field in any way while it has material does trigger any Malebranche monsters that were under it, since they're going to the graveyard. There's effectively no drawback to losing Dante, and Summoning it in the first place is so low-risk high-reward that there's no reason not to shoot it onto the field early and often. Even if you get smashed by Solemn Warning, Dante's effect to recover a Burning Abyss still triggers, and any Malebranche that would have been material go off. Depending on which ones activate in that scenario, you might be able to go ahead and make another Dante right then instantly and laugh off the Warning.

Just because Dante's excellent as a core component of that deck doesn't mean that it should be considered off the table for other Extra Decks. After all, it's a generic Light Rank 3, so any deck in the game that can generate Rank 3's could hypothetically drop Dante onto the field. As a Light, Dante falls under Honest's jurisdiction, and Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner can make it pretty effectively. Lumina discarding a Level 3 Lightsworn and instantly bringing it back makes Dante a reliable milling option and a solid defender. You could opt to skip out on attacking with it to leave it in attack and play mindgames with an implied Honest in your hand, whether you have Honest or not. You probably won't have another Burning Abyss in the graveyard, so the utility of its self-replacing effect kind of goes out the window, but milling three and having an effective 2500 ATK isn't anything to turn your back on, considering the other Rank 3's that Lightsworn can make. If you don't have Raiden, Hand of the Lightsworn to go into Michael, the Arch-Lightsworn, then you might want to consider it.

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There's something to be said about Dante's ability to mill away and trigger Shaddolls, too. Okay, whoa, hear me out. The only Shaddoll you can make Dante with is Shaddoll Hedgehog, but the OCG and TCG both aren't strangers to mixing other things into Shaddoll decks. Black Dragon Collapserpent and White Dragon Wyverburster are popular choices, Mathematician isn't unusual, Dark Armed Dragon and Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning – plenty of off-theme cards make the cut. Tour Guide From the Underworld and a couple of Malebranche could give Shaddolls an interesting opening play besides setting Hedgehog and crossing their fingers, and Dante being a Light plays into BLS Envoy's Special Summoning requirements.

Five-Star Review
Everything about Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss screams "modernization"; it's a perfect take on Card Trooper, made relevant for today's game. It has both aggressive and defensive traits to give you a safe source of damage and a solid wall, while advancing the strategy of its own archetype and still fitting into other decks. You can use Honest with it, rank it up into something even more fearsome, and go through the laundry list of Warrior support with it. The Xyz Summon can't be negated without triggering effects that force your opponent into a minimum -1 situation, while two of them can recycle each other back to the Extra Deck if you really feel like it. The utility is nuts in the truest sense.

Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss didn't start as the big money card from DUEA, but it's not surprising that it's far-and-away taken that title from everything else. Four Burning Abyss decks topped the recent ARGCS in Atlantic City, and we'll be hearing about plenty of Burning Abyss plowing through the Regional scene pretty soon.

Are the Burning Abyss a deck that you're trying to pick up right now, if you don't have them already? Planning on using Dante in your current Extra Deck, even if it isn't for a Burning Abyss strategy? If you don't already have plans for dealing with Burning Abyss in your Side Deck or Main Deck tech, now would probably be a good time to figure something out, because you can bet that you'll be seated across the table from them regularly for the foreseeable future.

-Beau