Utility and power: these are the two underlying factors you should analyze to accurately evaluate a card's strength. Some cards like Book of Moon have been highly successful for having multiple applications, while other cards like Raigeki and Snatch Steal shine through due to their simple, powerful effects.

A lot of the time, when making deck-building decisions, you'll have to choose if you want more utility or more power: either or. So which is better?

A Quick History Lesson
Throughout the history of the game, the deck that usually stands out as the "best" is nearly always the one with the highest utility. Just looking at the top decks since 2011, you can see this trend fairly clearly. Tengu Plants and Wind-Ups dominated 2011 and 2012 through their insane flexibility and the ability to toolbox with the Extra Deck. Mermails and Dragon Rulers had incredible searching power on monsters that were very synergistic and had multiple effects, placing them at the top of the food chain for the beginning and end of 2013, respectively. Early 2014 was ruled by Geargia's massive Rank 4 repertoire and HAT's (Hand Artifact Traptrix) incredibly flexible answers. The end of the year was dominated mostly by Burning Abyss and Shaddolls, each with the ability to selectively get to whatever Main Deck monsters they want with incredible consistency, to answer a wide variety of threats.

That's not to say that raw power isn't important. Many of the competitive runner-ups in these formats have gotten there through raw strength. Chaos Dragons had a great showing in 2012 due to their ability to drop several huge threats to the field turn after turn. 2013 had explosive OTK strategies like Geargia Karakuri and Hieratics pop up to steal wins from the dominant Dragon Rulers, and 2014 had Sylvans threatening to lock out the opposition with an insurmountable board of Rank 7 and 8 Xyz Monsters. Even in today's format, the raw power of Qliphorts places them right in the running with the other big decks.

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Now, you may be wondering why I went on this tangent to talk about the utility and power of the strongest decks; aren't I supposed to be telling you about specific tech cards? Well, I wanted to give an idea of the general value of utility and power before going into depth on what just might be the strongest single card in the format: Enemy Controller.

Controlling Your Enemy Just Sounds Overpowered
That's because it kind of is. While Enemy Controller doesn't let you literally control your opponent's actions, it does give you a surprising amount of control over their monsters' actions. Enemy Controller was released way back in Ancient Sanctuary, and is one of the most classic cards that sees play without any interference from the Forbidden and Limited list. That says something about the card. Most cards of that age are either so strong that they're restricted in some way, or so weak that they aren't worth playing. Because of that, whenever an ancient card like Enemy Controller starts popping up in the top cut of premier events, you should take note of it.

Enemy Controller has a ton of things going for it. First of all, it's a quick-play spell. Quick-plays are arguably the strongest type of spell or trap card in the game, since you can play them straight from your hand on your turn, or set them to use them like traps on your opponent's. You can even play them from your hand during your battle phase or in response to another effect on your turn! They're effectively traps without most of the downsides. Next, we have bullet points. As you may remember from my article on Tackle Crusader, bullet points are great because they represent options, and more options mean more potential plays.

Thirdly, there's no specific activation timing for either of Enemy Controller's effects. That means you can activate it at any time that would work in your favor. Traps with specific activation timings like Dimensional Prison and even Bottomless Trap Hole are seeing less and less play due to their lack of flexibility, and Enemy Controller doesn't have that weakness. It also means you can chain Enemy Controller to effects that are trying to destroy it, netting at least a little value in return.

Controlling Tempo
Enemy Controller has three characteristics that tend to suggest a card with high utility. So what are its uses? Enemy Controller's first effect is incredibly simple: target an opponent's face up monster and change its battle position. Position shifting has never been a powerful effect by itself unless it flips monsters face-down, but with how the game has been evolving it can actually do quite a bit in current competition.

The name of the game is tempo. Card economy is becoming less and less important in competitive play, as every deck can replenish cards quickly and easily. As a result, you want to keep your opponent off-balance and make sure that your strategy goes as planned while slowing your opponent's progress. Enemy Controller's first effect is great for stopping your opponent on the most simple level: winning battles. Battle is the simplest way of both gaining card economy on your opponent and controlling the tempo of the game. One player is losing their monsters for free because the other player put out monsters of their own. Enemy Controller helps keep a monster safe from an opposing attack for a brief -1 of card economy, hopefully allowing you to kill the attacker in battle the next turn, replacing the lost card and establishing a favorable position in the game.

Now you may be thinking "if I wanted to stop an attack, I'd be playing Mirror Force or Dimensional Prison since they get rid of the problem." That's reasonable, but what about those situations where your Enemy Controller gets destroyed after your opponent Summons a monster? While it would make sense for your opponent to clear spells and traps before making a play, look at Shaddolls. They activate a Fusion Spell and send Shaddoll Dragon to the graveyard to summon their El Shaddoll Winda, and Dragon targets your Enemy Controller. If that Controller were a Dimensional Prison instead, you would just lose your card for nothing, but Enemy Controller can switch the freshly summoned Winda into defense, leaving it vulnerable to attack the next turn. Similarly, Qliphorts can do an almost identical play Tributing Qliphort Helix for Qliphort Disk. Switching the Disk into defense mode prevents 2800 damage often makes it impossible for them to clear a field with larger monsters.

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Of course, there's also the ability to just switch a monster's position when you're attacking it, as well. This can let you get over problem monsters like El Shaddoll Winda, Vanity's Fiend and Majesty's Fiend, or push through heavy damage over a walling monster like Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss or a Pendulum Summoned Qliphort Scout. The extra damage that can be gained from a play like this can often be the difference between a win and a loss, and should not be overlooked.

Stealing Games
All that, and we still haven't gotten to Enemy Controller's good effect. I'm not saying its first effect is bad, but it's not the main reason to play the card. Enemy Controller's second effect lets you Tribute a monster to take control of an opponent's face-up monster until the end of the turn. Stealing monsters has always been an incredibly strong effect, but Enemy Controller's cost has always been rather steep… until now, anyways.

In the past, decks like Tengu Plants and Frog Monarchs were most likely to abuse Enemy Controller. They had monsters that immediately replaced themselves when Tributed or could return to the field for virtually no cost. But what decks played today have traits like that? Oh wait… all of them. Burning Abyss is the embodiment of efficiency when Tributing monsters, as nearly all of them replace themselves in some way, and while a monster summoned off of a Graff, Malebranch of the Burning Abyss would get destroyed if you took control of an opposing non-Burning Abyss monster, that still means you get to search off of Scarm at your End Phase.

Tributing the new Farfa, Malebranch of the Burning Abyss allows you to temporarily remove two monsters from the field: one with Enemy Controller and another with Farfa's Banishing effect, often clearing the way for massive pushes from multiple Dantes. In the Burning Abyss mirror match, Enemy Controller can nab opposing Dantes or even Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss without disrupting your own plays, and stealing opposing Malebranches and holding them hostage under your Xyz is a great way to halt your opponent's momentum. Similarly, trapping a stolen Dante and its material under Downerd Magician can completely dismantle their following turn.

While any deck can do it, Shaddolls best use Enemy Controller's theft effect to further push in lethal damage when staring down multiple monsters. By attacking over a smaller monster with a fusion, then Tributing it to take the opponent's larger monster, the deck's already-powerful pushes become even stronger, all while recycling their spells with the Tributed fusion's ability. In addition, after attacking with the stolen monster, you can easily fuse it away with El Shaddoll Fusion in the same battle phase!

Shaddolls also can take advantage of the stealing effect of Enemy Controller in the mirror match to dodge the negative repercussions of leaving a Fusion on the field. Controlling a monster Summoned from the Extra Deck lets your opponent use monsters from their Main Deck while resolving Shaddoll Fusion, so the mirror match becomes a dance of Summoning Fusions to deal damage, then clearing them from the field by doing things like Tributing for Shaddoll Beast. Enemy Controller gives the deck another way of removing its own Fusions from the field, and being Spell Speed 2 means that you can chain it to opposing Shaddoll Fusions and force your opponent to fuse from their hand and field. The fact that you just took their monster makes it even harder for them to properly resolve their fusion spell too.

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Qliphorts have probably used Enemy Controller in recent competition more than any other deck. While Qliphorts can't use most monsters you steal for Synchro or Xyz summons due to their Pendulum Scales' restrictions, Qliphorts have no problems Tributing opponent's monsters for big summons. In addition, Qliphort Carrier and Qliphort Helix both have extra effects that trigger when they're Tributed! A timely Enemy Controller can then both take control of one monster and either destroy a spell or trap card, or return another monster to the hand! Because of that, activating an Enemy Controller after Pendulum Summoning all but guarantees your OTK.

Using Enemy Controller to steal monsters and push for damage isn't the only strong application of that effect. You can also use it to completely dismantle an opposing push! Against Burning Abyss, stealing the monster Summoned by Tour Guide From the Underworld can leave your opponent's play stranded, since any Malebranch they Summon afterwards would be destroyed by its own effect. While the monster you take may not do you any good, it effectively ends your opponent's turn and immediately puts you into a position to retaliate against their weak board.

Similarly, Enemy Controller can steal an opponent's largest monster to effectively blank their Battle Phase, or steal a powerful effect monster before it uses its ability. While it seems like a poor play because you have to Tribute a monster, it goes back to the value of tempo in the game. Every deck replaces its own cards at such an efficient rate that disrupting plays is worth taking a minus of card economy.

It's Out Of Control!
Enemy Controller combines unprecedented versatility with one of the strongest effects in all of Yu-Gi-Oh, in stealing monsters. Its primary cost of Tributing a monster when stealing one is negligible in nearly all of the top decks, and it enables tons plays that wouldn't be possible without it.

Whether you're playing Burning Abyss, Shaddolls, Qliphorts, or even a rogue strategy that can easily field monsters like Satellarknights or Frogs, Enemy Controller is a high caliber spell that can easily be added to your repertoire. Give it a try, and feel the strength of controlling your enemies.

-Bobby Kenny