Link Monsters had a rocky start last year when Master Rule 4 went intoeffect. At the time there weren't many Link Monsters to choose from, andmeanwhile all other Extra Deck Summoning methods were negatively impactedby the rule change. Until the release of Code of the Duelist therewere exactly three Link Monster in the game, and decks that could play withthose cards effectively, or could skirt the Extra Monster Zone mechanicentirely, had a distinct advantage.

The OCG LINK VRAINS Pack changed the outlook on Link Monsters bydropping twenty new Links that support specific themes or card types. Thatrelease is a fascinating look into what the future holds for Link Monstersand how Konami's approach to the new mechanic has radically changed sinceStarter Deck: Link Strike.

If I had to guess I'd assume that nearly every currently-known Link Monsterwas designed around the same time, but from our perspective the outlook onLinks is totally different.

Earlier this monthI spotlighted Heavymetalfoes Electrumitewhich is poised for a release next week in Extreme Force alongsideeight other Link Monsters from the LINK VRAINS Pack. The communityhas been very vocal about the way these cards are being imported, andunfortunately it looks like we'll be waiting until at least May for themost-wanted Crystron Needlefiber to hit the TCG. The slower rollout isn'tnearly as exciting as the OCG release, but Extreme Force will endup with the largest Link line-up of any TCG set to date.

This week I want to dive into the future of Link Monsters inExtreme Force and beyond. LINK VRAINS Pack seems toanswer player complaints, but is there still more work to be done? It's byno means perfect, and I think it might even have a few unintended sideeffects.

Expanding The Link Toolbox
The most common complaint I heard about Links last year – especially in theweeks leading up to Code of the Duelist – wasn't that theynegatively affected the game, but that there simply weren't enough of themto keep older strategies alive.

Pendulums were written off almost immediately when the new mechanic wasrevealed, and there are still plenty of other strategies that wereeffective prior to Links, but can't compete now. The decks that floated tothe top of the competitive scene after Code of the Duelist werethose that could leverage Missus Radiant and Decode Talker, and anythingthat couldn't found itself trapped behind an insurmountable obstacle.

The biggest challenge facing Fusion, Synchro, and Xyz-focused strategies isfinding a way to emulate their former Summoning power without dumping toomany resources into Link Monsters. That means finding ways to economicallySummon Link-2 and Link-3 monstres with downward arrows. Otherwise your deckruns the risk of locking up the Extra Monster Zone after your first XyzSummon, greatly reducing your ability build a strong field and making somecombos impossible. With Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow Limited there arefewer pathways to Decode Talker, and that's made it even more difficult forvarious strategies to Link Summon and perform another Extra DeckSummon in the same turn.

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With Extreme Force we'll have access to three Link-2's that fitperfectly into single-Attribute themes, but it's a long way from a workablesolution for so many other decks that desperately need Links to supporttheir playstyle. LINK VRAINS Pack addresses that by introducingmore Links with flexible, off-theme Summoning conditions.Heavymetalfoes Electrumiteis perfect for Pendulum strategies and effectively 'solves' the Master Rule4 issue by itself. With that card, Pendulum Magicians, Zefras, Metalfoes,Odd-Eyes, Performapals, and nearly every other Pendulum theme in the gamefinally have their own go-to Link-2.

Synchro-heavy strategies also have a new staple Link Monster monster oftheir own:Crystron Needlefiber. It requires two monsters to Link Summon, including at least one Tuner,and gives dozens of Synchro strategies a path to competitive success in theLink era. It expands the Link-2 toolbox and creates opportunities for anydeck playing Tuners to leverage those cards into two downward arrows and aset of awesome effects. Needlefiber won't be coming inExtreme Force, but hopefully it'll be on its way to the TCG soon.

While Heavymetalfoes Electrumite and Crystron Needlefiber open up the Linktoolbox for two kinds of Monster Cards, other Links inLINK VRAINS Pack benefit Monster Types.Perpetual King Archfiendis Summoned with two Fiend monsters,Inzektor Picofarenauses Insects,Hieratic Seal of the Celestial Spheresuses Dragons,Qliphort Geniususes Machines, andIsolde, Two Tales of the Noble Knightsuses Warriors. That isn't a comprehensive list, but it's a strongindication that Konami will be expanding the flexibility of the Linktoolbox much faster than I anticipated. That's awesome, because mycriticism of the Link mechanic essentially boiled down to a lack of LinkMonsters to play with.

Nearly all of those Link Monsters provide an economical way to getbeneficial Link arrows into play. They either replace some of theirmaterials on Summon, replace themselves when they leave the field, or haveanother effect that keeps your card economy and momentum flowing. Decksthat struggle to follow up on a Link Summon are quickly being left behind,and the new Links in LVP1 are helping to level the playing field in twoways: first, they're easier to Summon than Decode Talker, and second, theyoffer ways to pay for their investment.

There's a generic, Proxy Dragon-like monster on the way in the OCG with bottom-left andbottom-right Link arrows. It has the flexibility and ideal arrows we'relooking for in a Link 2, but it lacks the great effects of LVP1 monsters.With intense power creep among Link Monsters this year it might be sweptaside in favor of LVP1 cards, but it's the ultimate in terms of flexibleSummoning and throws the door wide open for any strategy that can put twomonsters on the field. The question is: will it still be worth playing whenit arrives later this year, and how soon after will decks need to find newLink-2's to compete against the top strategies?

Much-Needed Support For Older Themes
Link Arrows and economical Link Summons are hugely important for making themodern Link era of Yu-Gi-Oh! as accessible as possible, but LVP1 and itsimports in Extreme Force have so much more to offer.

Beyond the widely generic Links that primarily benefit a wide range ofstrategies, there's also a number of cards in this set that direct supportto older themes. Most of them are easy to identify: just look for themonsters that require specifically named monsters rather than a monsterType or a kind of Monster Card. In Extreme Force those cards areRitual Beast Ulti-Kimunfalcos, Zefra Metaltron, Steelswarm Origin,Gem-Knight PHantom Quartz, and the Link 3 Curious, the Lightsworn Dominion.

LVP1 wasn't just an opportunity for Konami to open up Link access to decksthat couldn't effectively play Decode Talker or Link-4's, it also gave thema chance to provide retro support in a new way. Links are powerful vectorsfor retro support for two reasons: they solve a theme's problems with theLink mechanic, and they let players use any on-theme monster for an ExtraDeck Summon. Even the least-useful themed cards now have a role they canfill, and that's given some strategies an entirely new perspective onpreviously poor support.

We've already seen what great Link support can do for a theme that predatesLinks. SPYRALs were launched from a local-level strategy to the mostdominant deck in the game thanks entirely to SPYRAL Double Helix. Thesedays SPYRALs are one of the best Link-heavy strategies in the game, andthat's with just a single piece of support.

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SPYRALs can leverage all of their SPYRAL monster into an outstanding LinkMonster that further accelerates the deck's plays and launches their bestcombos. It's a style of support that's only comparable to Xyz Monsters, butsupporting a theme with Xyz requires many monsters with similar Levels.Links are far more generic, and in many cases just straight-up betterdespite having a lower investment and being easier to play.

In the Synchro, Xyz, and Pendulum era we still saw plenty of spell and trapsupport for older themes. Those themes couldn't accommodate the strictLevel requirements of those Summoning methods, and as a result it waslikely harder to introduce a single card of support outside of a Main Deckcard. Going forward a single Link Monster is a tremendously powerful pieceof support, and perhaps the only one some themes need to propel them toChampionship-level competition.

The LINK VRAINS Pack answers major criticisms of Link Monsters ina constructive way, but in doing so it's set a high bar for futurereleases. Co-linking and other Link Monster interactions ensure that deckslike Pendulums won't stop at Heavymetalfoes Electrumite – they'll still belooking for new Link Monsters to build up co-Links and access Link 4's.LVP1 doesn't suck the air out of the room despite the power of those newmonsters, and leaves the door open for new Links to build upon a more solidfoundation. The Link era is here in force now, and the excuses for avoidingthe new mechanic are quickly vanishing.

Until next time then

-Kelly

Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​​​​gamer and writer. In​​​ ​​​addition​​​ ​​​to​​​ ​​​writing​​​ ​​​onTCGplayer,​​​ ​​​Kelly​​​ ​​​writes​​​ a ​​​​​​personal​​​ ​​​blog​​​​​​ ​​​covering​​​ ​​​Yu-Gi-Oh!,​​​ ​​​Destiny,​​​ ​​​and​​​​​​other​​​ ​​​hobbies. You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​​​​​​​Twitter​​​​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​. He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.