Luck is a funny, fickle thing. Even people who claim to be particularly lucky aren't testing that for accuracy several times every few minutes for an entire day straight, yet that's exactly what some duelists try to do. The deck they play forces them into that situation. It sounds kind of absurd when you say it that way, but some people just keep going for it; in particular I mean Lightsworn players.

WHOA, I know, and hold on a minute! I'm not trying to bash on Lightsworn or any duelists that stick by their exceptionally shiny side. All I'm trying to say is that milling's a random mechanic that can't be controlled without external card effects setting up the top several cards of your deck. Sylvans have Orea, the Sylvan High Arbiter for that, among other things; Lightsworn have to fly by the seat of their sparkly white robes the whole game. When it comes time to mill four cards with Judgment Dragon, or a combined five with Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner and Garoth, Lightsworn Warrior, you kind of just have to cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Because of that mechanic, Lightsworn haven't had an easy time here in the TCG, ever since their debut back in 2008 with Light of Destruction. No one's ever brought up Lightsworn in the context of "wow, I wish something else would win a YCS for once," unless they meant they wished the 'something else' would finally be Lightsworn. Despite being inherently more luck-intensive than other strategies, the new Realm of Light Structure Deck has a big chunk of the playerbase riding the hype train right now, and Lightsworn are starting to pop up all over the place. While you could argue that it's related to the availability of Judgment Dragon, Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress and the rest of the archetype being in a single box, there's just as much accuracy in blaming the three new Lightsworn monsters. One card people aren't really talking about though is the fourth new card from that same Structure: Lightsworn Sanctuary.

Deserving The Spotlight
There are some positives that come with Lightsworn Sanctuary that the deck really needs, but they just don't compare to the overwhelming negatives. If it doesn't look like there are really that many downsides to such a unanimously beneficial effect, just hear me out.

On the positive side, Lightsworn Sanctuary lets you snag back any Lightsworn as a 1-for-1, by trading it out for another Lightsworn. That solves the issue of Wulf, Lightsworn Beast being dead in your hand, combining with Solar Recharge to offer you a robust set of options for disposing of dead cards. Getting back Lumina so you can establish the Lumina plus Garoth play is a big deal, and you get to do it without taking a hit to card economy; Sanctuary trading the monsters is a 1-for-1, and so is Lumina's effect. Sanctuary even goes the extra mile to stave off Torrential Tribute, Bottomless Trap Hole, Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare and other destructive traps, while protecting itself from Mystical Space Typhoon.

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That said, you have to have a Lightsworn in your hand that you actually want to discard, unless you're getting back Lumina; if you're trying to get back Lyla or something you might have to give up a monster that isn't necessarily dead. Unless you have Wulf in your hand, which would otherwise be useless, you're trading out live cards, and that's neither here nor there. If you do have Wulf at the time that's great, but that also means you didn't mill it, and sending it to the graveyard only fixes your hand; you aren't getting that Wulf's effect.

On top of that, if you run three Wulf because Lightsworn Sanctuary makes them less of a dead draw, you risk drawing them instead of Sanctuary. For some decks that's not so bad, because you can just draw into the card you want eventually. Lightsworn have no such luxury, since they're blind-pushing through your deck so quickly. If you send that Sanctuary away, there's no way to get it back, realistically. Running extra copies of Sanctuary so you don't mill your only copy means you're more likely to mill at least one, and you also risk drawing multiples instead of useful cards in the early game.

I don't want to see the look on the poor duelist's face that opens with three Sanctuary and two Wulf.

There are a lot of duelists turning to Rainbow Kuriboh for their Lightsworn decks, as a replacement for Necro Gardna. It's a Light instead of a Dark, so Lightray Diabolos has an easier time finding the right number of monsters in your graveyard to be Special Summoned. Also, Rainbow Kuriboh actually does something in your hand. Unfortunately, neither of those cards are Lightsworn monsters, so Sanctuary can't pitch either of them to recover a Lightsworn from the yard.

Speaking of non-Lightsworn monsters, Lightray Diabolos; Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders; Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos; and Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms are all dead in your hand early and can't be sent away with Sanctuary. Judgment Dragon and Kuribandit, too, though they're ones you would probably want to hang onto anyway. Add Eclipse Wyvern and you're pushing fourteen monsters you can't discard with Sanctuary. If you count the average five traps and seven or eight spells, that's thirty cards you can't use with Sanctuary, if you even draw it before you mill it away. That's not very good math.

Shedding Light
In the interest of full transparency, I'll be honest with you: I'm mostly talking about Lightsworn Sanctuary as kind of a cop-out to talk about the state of Lightsworn right now, because I really love that deck conceptually. Through all the luck-reliance with random milling and the negative stigma that comes with sackiness like Judgment Dragon, I maintain that the archetype is interesting and cool. There are people who struggle with building Lightsworn decks though, because they don't play to the theory of embracing the milling process. If I had a dime for every time someone said to me they lost because they couldn't mill anything, I'd be able to buy myself the deck to show them why they were wrong.

Or, well, they were right, but only because the way they were building Lightsworn wasn't suited to the conditions that Lightsworn operate under. That is to say, if you know you're going to have to mill eventually, don't load up on cards that are combo-centric: odds are, you'll mill pieces to combos that you can't get back and be stuck with a hand of loose ends.

Lightsworn Sanctuary's definitely one of those types of cards that forces you into the mentality of flashy combo plays, like recycling Celestia, Lightsworn Angel or Lumina to swarm. It feels rewarding when it happens, because you don't get to see it as often as more reliable plays, and thus it comes across as a different experience. It's similar to Gateway of the Six in that way, where if the situation fits and all the variables line up, you can do all kinds of fun and involved plays. Unfortunately, from a competitive standpoint that's basically a death sentence; you can't force your mills to be perfect every time, just like you can't force Gateway into your opening hand.

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With the way the deck's commonly built now, stuffing Dragon Rulers and Eclipse Wyvern into it to search out Judgment Dragons, everything relies on rapid fire machine-gun milling to spit all of your tools into the graveyard, while you do everything you can to minimize bad hands in the early game. Of course there's nothing that can stop you from opening with a bunch of Rainbow Kuribohs and Judgment Dragons, but with so much of the deck dedicated to the idea of making your milling more efficient, an average opening hand can generate a lot of live effects through the graveyard.

All you could hope to accomplish with Lightsworn Sanctuary on the first turn is activating it and maybe recycling something you were forced to discard or mill with Solar Recharge or Charge of the Light Brigade. Trying to use Sanctuary over and over is sort of playing to the mid and late game, but Judgment Dragon's built to stomp out a victory in the first couple of turns. It's just so backwards from the rest of the deck that it's hard to find a place for it without weakening the deck overall.

As Bright As Ever
Even with their faults, Lightsworn are still a gorgeous archetype artistically, and the individual monsters' effects are all incredible. A free Mystical Space Typhoon, a free Monster Reborn, the chance to draw more cards, a full-field nuke on legsā€¦ each of them has huge advantages, despite needing to cross your fingers at the end of the turn. While Lightsworn Sanctuary's effect solves the majority of their issues, the fact that it's a continuous spell is so counter-productive that it can't be used efficiently. Even building around Sanctuary very specifically leads to inconsistency, and that's just not good business.

After a strong Day 1 showing at the North American WCQ that faltered in Day 2, Lightsworn can make Goyo Guardian pretty easily, so there's always that going for them here in the new format. And remember, this is basically a Regionals-only format with just one YCS scheduled between now and October. All it would take for Lightsworn to be truly successful is to dominate the Regional scene, which is much easier and way more likely than a YCS reign.

Are you one of the duelists jumping onto the Lightsworn party wagon, or maybe not so much? Have they been popping up in your area? If you've been playing them, are you doing any testing for yourself with Lightsworn Sanctuary? It'll be interesting to see what the NA WCQ brings for Lightsworn.. To anyone competing, good luck this weekend!