Sometimes when a card's released, it's obviously too powerful right off the bat. Dark Armed Dragon, Crush Card Virus, Pot of Greed, Thousand-Eyes Idol; I could go on. We don't get those cards all the time, but you'd still be hard pressed to find someone that can't think of a single card like that – something that's just so easy to recognize as overpowered the moment you see it.

Back when Pharaoh's Servant was released in 2004, we got just such a card that was obviously too good: Call Of The Haunted. Those early formats didn't offer much in the way of Special Summoning, and many of the cards that did were overly gimmicky or just not useful. The severe drawbacks and inconveniences were huge: Spear Cretin had to flip before it got run down in battle, The Shallow Grave gave your opponent a free monster, and so on. Meanwhile Call Of The Haunted was basically a Monster Reborn with a bigger playbook and high utility. It was so strong that by the time we got it in the TCG, it was already Limited. Call was even Forbidden for a year and a half, between March '08 and September '09.

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After that, though, something weird happened. Ever since the beginning of 2012, we've had the option of running a full three copies of Call Of The Haunted, and for a big chunk of that time, people didn't even bother playing it. But recently we've seeing it come back into competitive favor, and for good reason.

Back From The Dead
Call Of The Haunted never actually got any worse, necessarily, but the game hit a level of speed where it wasn't practical to worry about bringing back a single monster. There were huge plays every turn and expendable boss monsters constantly on-hand, so why should anyone care about bringing back just one of them? Xyz don't come back with any Xyz Material anyway, making them lackluster targets, and cards that replaces themselves are extremely common. Having the resources to push out another boss monster or swarm the field haphazardly without any real concern for card economy was easy to manage, so that's what people did.

Flash-forward to today and you're left with the question, "Why now?" Why would a card that was never bad but largely past its competitive prime suddenly start seeing play on every level? There are players that would say it has to do with what decks make Top 8 at a given Regionals or Top 32 at a YCS and write off Call as a "flavor of the month" issue, but that doesn't help explain whythose tournament-topping decks use it. What it really comes down to is equal parts game speed and card economy.

While the game was previously just absurdly fast – too fast for Call Of The Haunted to be a relevant factor – this format's proven to be slower than what we've experienced the past couple years. Dragon Rulers aren't taking up ninety-percent of Top cuts, and that deck wouldn't have used it anyway since all of their monsters were self-recurring. The original Mermail builds with Moulinglacia the Elemental Lord and triple Mermail Abyssmegalo are way behind us. Inzektors with triple Inzektor Dragonfly and Inzektor Hornet are never coming back. Right now, the competitive circuit's a pool of Fire Fists, paced out Mermails, Geargia and about fifteen other decks that want to take their time to make plays over the course of three or four turns. Upstart Goblin and Reckless Greed are ubiquitous, but even despite that, everything's still slower than it was this time last year.

The obvious problem of spot removal never goes away; Mystical Space Typhoon will always be a Checkmate to Call Of The Haunted, but it almost paints a target on itself with the way it Taunts out Typhoon. There are other backrow cards that are way more important than Call, and forcing Mystical Space Typhoon by making a push with Call can leave your mid-game and late game much more secure, or keep a vital Side Deck card on the table. Mistake, Light-Imprisoning Mirror, Soul Drain and DNA Surgery all work a lot better when Typhoon's out of the equation, and Call's one of the best ways to bait out your opponent's removal. If they don't go for it, then you get back a free monster to generate +1's in battle or soak up other backrows for itself. Either way, everything's coming up Milhouse for you.

Call's Collective
To say that Call Of The Haunted's "generic" is an understatement. Literally any deck that plays monsters can benefit from it at least a little, so there isn't much point in trying to state the true breadth of its versatility. Despite that, there's a wealth of power-plays that set certain decks apart from the rest when you're trying to gauge which strategies play Call the best.

If you look at Matthew Mills' YCS Berlin Top 4 list, his Fire Fist deck has some incredible plays with Call. Obviously the luxury of Special Summoning Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear is great, making exchanges with on-field Fire Formations to offset Call's 1-for-1 nature. Beyond that that, you can revive Wolfbark' rel=" Soldier Wolfbark">Coach Soldier Wolfbark with Call and immediately score a +1, leading into Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Tiger King and a free Fire Formation, and possibly searching another Fire Fist with Fire Formation - Tenki. Going from a single Call set to your backrow, to a field of face-up Tenki, Tiger King and another Fire Fist in hand is incredible, even if you don't destroy anything in battle that turn (which you often will).

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Thunder King Rai-Oh and Traptrix Mymeleo are great variable plays with Call, too, letting you interrupt a searching effect like an improvised Mistake, or destroying a backrow to clear the way for a push. Between the option of Special Summoning Myrmeleo off of Call and an in-hand MST, paired with Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Gorilla, you could play through as many as three backrow cards in one turn, while Summoning an Xyz or attacking for 3200 damage. Nearly everything that Mills played happened to make Call Of The Haunted a potential +1 or better, and helped him fight through defensive decks.

Two separate Infernity builds both made Top 32 at YCS Berlin with Call Of The Haunted; the first with one copy, another with a pair. The most direct route to kickstarting your card economy is to bring back an Infernity Archfiend and start searching, but it's also the least profitable play. Instead, you can Special Summon Infernity Necromancer and use that to Special Summon Archfiend. Making a +2 right off the bat and searching for either a double Monster Reborn (Infernity Mirage) or an off-brand Solemn Judgment (Infernity Barrier) shouldn't even be allowed. If you get stuck with Archfiend in your hand, you can Special Summon Armageddon Knight and use its effect to send Stygian Street Patrol to the graveyard, then banish it to drop your Archfiend and get things rolling with its search. When and if your opponent shoots out your face-down Call with their MST, you can chain it to bring back Archfiend Heiress, searching for a card to change that would-be 1-for-1 into a hard plus.

Inzektors keep showing up in Top 32's these days, and Call Of The Haunted's partly to blame for that. The raw destructive force from Inzektor Hornet's a big factor, and Inzektor Dragonfly's excellent even when it's Limited, but Call basically adds another Dragonfly to your decklist for every copy you're using. Inzektor Centipede can search for Dragonfly in the early game, so you'll virtually always have it to Call. Bringing Centipede back from the graveyard instead, to blow something up with Hornet, lets you search for Dragonfly even if you haven't seen Dragonfly before that. Early, mid and late game access to Dragonfly are all on the table, and it's not likely to get banished this format.

For Hieratic Rulers, Call's a good way to dive into the Extra Deck. They already have an easy time pushing out Xyz and Synchros, but Call Of The Haunted makes it even easier. If you've already Synchro Summoned with your Level 1 Dragon Tuner of choice, you can use Call on the Tuner and Special Summon a Dragon Ruler to tune it with, Synchro Summoning a Level 8 for the cost of nothing but Call. Once you've Xyz Summoned Hieratic Dragon King of Atum and used its effect, Call Of The Haunted keeps things going, letting you make another Atum, a Photon Strike Bounzer or a Gauntlet Launcher without burning anything else from your hand. More swarm, more control, and more spot removal are all at your fingertips. Special Summoning the Tuner puts Black Rose Dragon on speed dial, too.

Geargia work in the same way, using Call to push Gear Gigant X and the Karakuri Synchros without taking multiple turns or a slew of external card effects. Forgetting about the Extra Deck, Special Summoning Geargiarmor restarts your search engine, and getting Geargiarsenal's just as good as getting Geargiarmor, since that's what you generally trade it for. Like Inzektors, Call lets you keep your key monster around so you can be as high impact as you want from the early game until you win. Aris Samaras' Top 4 Karakuri Geargia build is an especially good example, since it can recycle Effect Veiler by bringing it back with Call and then bouncing it with Genex Ally Birdman. The different trick plays are stunning.

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If you're anything like TCGplayer's own Bobby Kenny, you use Call Of The Haunted in a Traptrix and Mist Valley Falcon deck to recycle Mymeleo ad infinitum and destroy a spell or trap every turn. Dark Worlds can Special Summon any Dark World monster and recycle it to the hand for the Special Summon of Grapha, the Dragon Lord of Dark World. Just about everything except Mermails uses Call Of The Haunted currently. It's hard to say why that is, but part of it's almost surely because raw speed is too important for that deck. Mermails as they stand now are similar to decks from a time when Call Of The Haunted didn't make as much sense; they have boss monsters everywhere and keep such a steady stream of threats available that they don't need to bring back any of the dead ones.

Continuously Effective
Call Of The Haunted's an example of really interesting card design. Despite high utility in any deck that plays monsters, it isn't going to be good in every format, and it's only as useful as whatever you can Special Summon back. If the entirety of your graveyard's nothing but Chamberlain of the Six Samurai, Call won't do anything exciting for you. With big boss monsters and high utility effects, though, it's a total game-changer and sometimes wins duels outright. Thunder King Rai-Oh's a good example of a prime target, since it denies a search effect and then blocks out a Special Summon on top of that.

Whether or not Call Of The Haunted stays relevant as the game develops is going to depend entirely on the factor of speed, and the April Forbidden and Limited List. Either way it won't ever be bad, and everyone's going to keep playing monsters. There are lots of neat things you can do with Call, and it's the perfect time to be using it in your deck as an easier Abyss Dweller against Mermails, a generic gateway to the Extra Deck, or a specific boost to your strategy's card economy.

Also, as a side note, you can activate Disturbance Strategy and chain Call to Special Summon Protector of the Sanctuary to prevent your opponent from getting a hand back. Someone's gonna do something with that, I'm sure, and I hope they tell me about it.