Years and years ago, when the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG was just starting out, the playerbase had a much different idea of what constituted "high ATK." At first, 1700 ATK Level 4's and 2500 ATK single-tribute monsters were the best. Eventually 1800 ATK Normals like Sky Scout (printed as 'Harpie's Brother' at the time) came around, and then Mechanical Chaser with 1850 ATK. The power creep was marginal at best. Gemini Elf hit the scene with a dominating 1900 ATK a year or two in, and Skilled Dark Magician followed right behind it. They weren't the biggest Level 4's overall, but they were the biggest that didn't have some ridiculous downside like Jirai Gumo.

I guess the bright side is that halving your Life Points can't kill you. Fabulous.

But then in 2005, Cybernetic Revolution hit the TCG, releasing a monster that overhauled the face of the game completely: Cyber Dragon. Everything about it was insane for its time – it had more ATK then any commonly played Level 4, didn't take up your Normal Summon, gave Monarchs a speed they never had prior, and it didn't have any kind of restrictive text or prerequisites. You could have and should have played it anywhere. Simply put, if you weren't using a full three copies, your deck wasn't as competitive as those that did.

Since then, Cyber Dragon fell from the spotlight and has largely only shown up as a tech choice or Side Deck option when other Machine decks got popular. Flash forward to 2014 and we've just received something that looks to change that entirely: the Cyber Dragon Revolution Structure Deck. Poised to move Cyber Dragon back into the competitive circuit, that Structure Deck brought the new Rank 5 Cyber Dragon Nova to the TCG.

Explosive Force
The concept of using a dedicated Cyber Dragon deck's been floating around since Yu-Gi-Oh! GX debuted, and I know there are thousands of players that have tried it at least once. More than likely, those attempts didn't deliver the results that were hoped for. Even playfully daydreaming about topping a Regionals with a Cyber Dragon deck used to be infeasible for a lot of reasons; most pressingly, the theme itself was too small. With only a handful of monsters, you had to stock up on generic Light and Machine support to get anywhere near the 40 card minimum without lumping in filler. The deck didn't have many tricks or flashy plays, either. You went to Special Summon Cyber Dragon and hoped it went through, with Overload Fusion as a panic button. That was about it.

What Cyber Dragon Nova brings to the deck is versatility and resilience. Now, instead of relying on Power Bond or Overload Fusion to bring out your boss monsters, you have an easy-access, on-call beater with a complimentary Monster Reborn to do it for you. Without any other cards, you can Special Summon Cyber Dragon with Nova's effect and swing in for 4200 damage, or tackle up to two monsters in battle. You could +1 into a plausible +2 to follow up in the battle phase, but the conservative +2 you earn just by running over a monstere seems pretty realistic. If and when Nova eventually goes down, you get a complimentary 2800 ATK double-attacker or a 4000 ATK monstrosity to carry on the negotiations pertaining to your opponent's terms of surrender.

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But remember, you don't have to replace Cyber Dragon Nova with a Cyber Dragon Fusion: any Machine Fusion works, as long as it can be Special Summoned. While that may not sound so important, the options it opens up for your Extra Deck are hard to ignore. Super Vehicroid - Stealth Union's a 3600 ATK beater, that cuts itself to 1800 ATK if it attacks, but your opponent still has to treat it like it has 3600 ATK during their own Battle Phase. With piercing damage and a Relinquished effect to suck up a monster off the field, plus the luxury of clearing away most recruiters and tokens in the same Battle Phase, it's really strong despite the half-ATK drawback. 3600 ATK essentially guarantees that your opponent has to use card effects to deal with it, after they waste cards to get Nova off the field. Any time you create a situation where you absorb more resources than you spend you'll be coming out ahead, and Stealth Union makes that happen.

Cyber Ogre 2; Barbaroid, the Ultimate Battle Machine; and Gatling Dragon all do something similar, creating field presence that demands action outside of the Battle Phase. Gatling Dragon and Stealth Union both let you take your opponent's cards during your Main Phase, where Ogre 2 and Barbaroid capitalize on the Battle Phase. In the long run, Cyber Twin Dragon and Cyber End Dragon can outshine Ogre 2 and Barbaroid, but Gatling and Stealth Union are strong control plays that let you ride out several turns and play the resource game.

Simply bringing out a Fusion when Nova dies makes it very good, but that isn't what makes it great. What makes it truly awesome is the exceptionally low risk factor when you put it on the field in the first place. Because Nova's worded "If this card in your possession," even Solemn Warning can't stop you from activating its effect – whether it's destroyed on the field, in the Extra Deck, or in that weird limbo between the two, you're always going to get a replacement monster.

Like Grandmaster of the Six Samurai, Nova only activates when it's sent to the graveyard by an opponent's card effect, so it becomes a prime target for battle. At 2100 ATK there's no shortage of monsters that can run it down, but its effect to beef itself up is reassurance that nothing negative will happen in the Battle Phase. Banishing a Cyber Dragon to raise its own attack by 2100 ATK means there's probably nothing taking it down in battle that turn, forcing your opponent to end their turn or start burning cards to handle it. Cyber Dragon Drei can even sling protection over one of your on-field Cyber Dragons if you use it to as the cost for Nova's boost.

If you really wanted to go ham, you could use Light of Redemption to Reload your hand with the Light monsters you banished with Nova's effect, but who knows how well that would go over. I'll always tell you about gimmicky plays, but I'll make sure to point out quite clearly how gimmicky they are so you can try them at your own risk. That's just how our relationship works.

Life Of A Star
Since it's so easy to rip through your opponent's Life Points with Cyber End and Cyber Twin, most of the Cyber Dragon decks you'll see are super aggressive. Cyber Dragon Nova lets you split that into two directions: aggressive beatdown and a kind of controlling resource deck. If you've read my stuff before you know that I love control strategies and the concept of the resource war, so even if the aggressive builds are more effective this format, I'll give you the idea. Nova's exceptional for both, so either way you'll be packing a few in the Extra Deck.

Mark Balaban's Regionals Top 8 deck was the perfect example of an aggressive OTK, having a lot of kill potential whether or not it opened perfectly. One of the best plays the deck has is making Cyber End or Cyber Twin with Power Bond, but that can get tricky since big backrows are so popular right now. There's a chance that your push for game won't go through you have to hold Power Bond and wait. Even when there isn't any backrow set, it's hard to predict some hand traps. One Day of Peace removes that concern by blocking the damage Power Bond would do to you at the end of the turn, if the game doesn't end right there. After you draw, neither player can take damage until the end of your opponent's next turn, and that includes self-inflicted damage.

Trap Stun's incredibly strong in a Cyber Dragon OTK like that, because you don't necessarily want your traps disabled. Royal Decree's not such an option, since you have to run a Little Defense to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed in the downtime between pushes, and Mystical Space Typhoon's around. The idea here is that Trap Stun can't be stopped with Mystical Space Typhoon, and you can still have Threatening Roar and Reckless Greed live.

Mark chose to run three each of Reckless Greed and Upstart Goblin, favoring outright speed over a heavy defense. Combined with three Trap Stun, three Power Bond and the failsafe One Day of Peace, everything about that build screams "I will kill you, right here, right now. And if I don't, I will anyway."

Building toward controlling the game, removing the draw power for a powerhouse trap lineup and including Stealth Union and Gatling Dragon in your Extra Deck creates a strategy that relies on consistent +1 trades to whittle down your opponent. That's probably where Light of Redemption would see use, putting Drei back into your hand to make Nova again on the following turn. Any time you can bring out Nova to start recycling Cyber Dragons and generate free cards you're doing well. The aggressive versions of this deck are probably going to see more competitive play right now, but formats change, local metagames shift, and having alternative concepts in mind never hurts.

STARtling Power
Cyber Dragon Nova isn't a generic Xyz that you should squeeze into just any Extra Deck, and it doesn't have some insane built-in +3 every turn. You can't steal your opponent's cards with it, it doesn't prevent anything from being activated or resolving normally, and it's original ATK isn't that big.

Even so, Nova's a consistent +1 with a chainable ATK steroid that can pressure your opponent into a bad situation for next to nothing, and it replaces itself with something even scarier once it's left the field. All of its real power comes from the strength of your Extra Deck and making smart trades. Oh, and using a combination of its ATK boost with Limiter Removal, plus the Cyber Dragon it Special Summoned back, to hit for 10,500 damage.

There's always that.

It's interesting that Cyber Dragon Nova isn't considered completely overpowered, just because so many other insane cards exist. Either way, Cyber Dragons already made their first Regional Top 8 showing their first weekend out, and between Nova and the other support they received, you better believe we'll be seeing them do it again.

-Beau