While these cards aren't always easy pulls in our version of the game, they're often even tougher to find in the OCG, where resellers often stalk manga the morning of their release to buy every copy they can find, and toys and collectibles can be wildly expensive. There's something to be said for the convenience of seeing these cards printed in mass-released boosters.
The OCG Imports in Breakers of Shadow are uncharacteristically strong and diverse, especially in comparison to the Imports in Dimension of Chaos and Clash of Rebellions. Today, let's start with the most in-demand card in the set and go from there.
#####CARDID= 19461 #####
There are at least five game-shaping OCG imports in Breakers of Shadow, and Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer is definitely the best of the bunch. While Performapals were largely just played piecemeal pre-BOSH, this release is where they really come into their own as a dedicated engine; cards that work together amongst themselves. It all starts with this card.
A Level 4 Pendulum with decent ATK and solid potential as a Pendulum Spell, Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer's often a straight +2 or better, in the sense that you'll usually be destroying Pendulum cards for its effect and sending them to your Extra Deck. The chance to destroy stuff like Performage Plushfire and Guiding Ariadne to trigger more free searches in the process lends more card economy to those trades, and the ability to grab whatever Performapals you need to launch your combos is a tremendous enabler that helps build whatever plays you're looking for. It's an outrageous level of consistency.
Searching Performapal Monkeyboard gets you to Performapal Guitartle for more free plusses when you start replacing your Pendulum Spells, as will Performapal Skullcrobat Joker, creating a cascade of cards that's all the more absurd for Pendulum Sorcerer's utility as a Level 4 with decent stats. In a pinch, it even opens up stuff like Performapal Lizardraw and Performapal Secondonkey, and some duelists may even choose to run Performapal Silver Claw and others. It's amazing just how diverse you can make your deck, and just what kind of esoteric stuff you can rationalize, when you're searching those cards for free, with other cards you also drew for free, because everything is free now.
The level of search power available to the Performapal engine and the off-theme cards you'll run it with is now so strong that it affects your access to everything else in your deck. Even if you can't search stuff like Wavering Eyes or Instant Fusion, you're going to see those cards more frequently than you would with other strategies because you're pulling so many Performapals and other Pendulum monsters out of your deck. That makes your normal draw stronger every turn, and even improves the quality of cards you'll get off stuff like Guitartle.
Like Twin Twisters, Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer's an amazing card on its own that also has a more subtle ability to make every other card you play that much better – even cards it doesn't have direct interactions with. It's a tremendous consistency booster for all your Performapals, it has favorable interactions with off-theme Pendulum cards that were already great, and on a grander scale it lets you see unrelated cards more frequently. It's great, and you don't really need me to tell you that because you were probably already aware that it's a very powerful card. But the layers and depth aren't necessarily appreciated by many players at this time, and that's the real takeaway here.
Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer's so good that it affects every card in your deck.
#####CARDID= 19462 #####
The addition of Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss and Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss to the F&L List for this format didn't keep Burning Abyss from topping Regional Qualifiers, and now that Fiendish Rhino Warrior's arrived to replace those cards, the deck's stronger than it's been in months.
Fiendish Rhino Warrior brings a lot to the table. First, it obviously protects your other Fiends from destruction by battle and card effects. That secures your field to some degree against your opponent. It also keeps your Burning Abyss monsters from destroying themselves when you control off-theme monsters, opening up a range of moves and some flexibility that didn't exist before. Think expanded use of Crane Crane, Tour Guide From the Underworld, and Mathematician just for starters, as well as more flexibility in how and when you assemble Xyz.
Since you can Normal Summon Rhino Warrior and then Special Summon all of your Malebranches save Rubic, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss, Rhino Warrior effectively serves as another "name" when you're trying to put together a field of Rank 3's. It extends a lot of typical plays at the core of the Burning Abyss strategy. While Fiendish Rhino Warrior doesn't work with stuff like The Traveler and the Burning Abyss or Fire Lake of the Burning Abyss, and can never replace Graff and Cir in that sense, it's often a very close fit.
And that's all great, but it's really all just enabling side benefits for what Fiendish Rhino Warrior really does: it yards a Burning Abyss monster from your deck when it hits the graveyard. That ability works regardless of where Rhino Warrior's being sent from, which means detaching it as an Xyz Material triggers its ability, as will discarding it for a cost. Whatever you yard with Rhino Warrior, it probably has an effect that then triggers, bringing back that element of precision and selection the deck lost when it gave up those two copies of Graff. And while Graff's effect was more powerful in a vacuum since it offered a Special Summon that would then enable combos, there's something to be said for the sheer numbers advantage of three Rhino Warriors and one Graff, versus just three Graff alone. Fiendish Rhino Warrior also has the advantage of immediacy, sending whatever you choose straight to the graveyard to trigger its ability then and there, rather than cycling it through your field first.
That's not to say the deck's better off down three Malebranches and up three Rhino Warriors. But they're a pretty close facsimile, and they add a new approach to a lot of tried-and-true Burning Abyss plays. With Burning Abyss already erupting into Regional Top 8's in the first weekend of BOSH's tournament run, the deck's clearly locked as a viable choice moving forward – great news for Burning Abyss fans, and competitors looking to play something rogue.
#####CARDID= 19463 #####
Neptabyss, the Atlantean Prince is so nutty that it singlehandedly returns Atlanteans to the top of competition. That was the general theory amongst people who were aware of the card and its associated combos before its release, but now that we've seen it take repeated top spots at YCS Sydney the past weekend, we know for sure that it's going to play out the way we expected.
To give you a full perspective on this card's impact I'd really have to take you through some of the basic combos it creates, which would involve listing a very long string of individual moves. Luckily, Pasquale already did that legwork last week and if you want to see a breakdown of how the card actually works, you can hit up his article and read all about it. Rob Boyajian did an awesome job presenting some different combos as well, over on the CoreTCG Blog.
But the gist is this: on the broken side of things, a hand of Deep Sea Diva plus any water monster to pitch for the Mermail Abyssmegalo you're eventually going to Summon, you'll wind up with a field of something like Moulinglacia the Elemental Lord, Blackwing – Nothung the Starlight, and Mermail Abyssmegalo, or a disruptive field like Moulinglacia, Tatsunoko, and Mermail Abyssmegalo with Abyss-scale of the Mizuchi. To confirm, yes, that's the Moulinglacia that -2's your opponent's hand and that's the Abyss-scale that negates a spell card for free. The right opening combo with Atlanteans basically demolishes your opponent's hand before they can play a turn.
While some duelists have gone full Atlantean, treating Neptabyss, the Atlantean Prince as the new Genex Undine, some are running both, using Undine to trigger Atlantean Dragoons and search Deep Sea Diva when they aren't lucky enough to just open with it. We've already seen that approach succeed in conjunction with Double Summon, which allows for the immediate Normal Summon of Diva for that turn one hand wrecking. Marcus Wheeler played that approach to a Top 32 finish at YCS Sydney.
As of this writing, I'm still kind of surprised Neptabyss and Moulinglacia are so affordable. Arguably the second best deck of the format, you can build Atlanteans on a budget and have a viable deck that competes with Performage Pendulums and Kozmos. I'm not sure how long that'll last.
#####CARDID= 19464 #####
Chimeratech Rampage Dragon largely feels like an upgrade over the age-old Chimeratech Overdragon, once a favored OTK card that was played with Overload Fusion. Years ago, entire tournaments were won by a strategy that aimed to load the graveyard with Machines, then banish them for Overload Fusion to Special Summon Overdragon. If you could banish a full ten Machines you'd drop Chimeratech Overdragon with 8000 ATK, sending all your other cards to the graveyard. Since it could attack opposing monsters a number of times equal to the number of monsters banished, you could make a direct attack for game, smash over a few attack mode monsters, or pierce through defenders with a variety of additional effects.
The problem? That play took a ton of setup, rarely accomplished much beyond fielding one big monster, and yeah, sent all your other cards to the graveyard. The strategy was slow and narrow, and eventually the game just sped up too much for it to matter. Without Heavy Storm to keep players from setting big backrows, it was too tough to win with a delayed one-monster strategy.
Fast forward and Chimeratech Rampage Dragon sort of occupies a similar space, minus a lot of the problems. You can Overload Fusion with just two Cyber Dragon monsters to Summon this thing, instead of waiting to accrue four times the graveyard presence. It's way faster. Instead of sending your own cards to the graveyard, it can then destroy an adjustable number of your opponent's spells and traps to make your job of attacking your opponent easier.
And while it won't buff itself to 8000 ATK, Rampage Dragon starts at 2100 ATK and can then load your graveyard with more Light Machines to attack up to three times. That's enough to deal 6300 damage, and if that doesn't finish off your opponent it may set you up with two more Cyber Dragons in the graveyard for another Overload Fusion that will.
It works really well with Power Bond too, giving you more ways to put together an OTK. Pitching two Cyber Dragon monsters from your hand for Power Bond isn't unreasonable, and in that case you can make three attacks for 4200 damage a swing. That opens up a lot of versatility that Chimeratech Overdragon never offered, making the entire strategy more realistic by yet another degree. It's a pretty cool throwback to an oldschool fan favorite.
#####CARDID= 19465 #####
Meanwhile Cyber Dragon Infinity's in a league of its own. While you'll probably never Xyz Summon it with its printed Xyz Materials – I'm not sure when I last saw three Level 6 Light Machines on the field, if I ever have – it's quite easy to play with its alternative Summoning requirement. You just activate Tellarknight Ptolemaeus' effect with three Xyz Materials, stick Cyber Dragon Nova on top of it, and then overlay Cyber Dragon Nova with Cyber Dragon Infinity and you're done. The only tricky part's assembling three Level 4's for Tellarknight Ptolemaeus in the first place, or keeping it alive for a turn after making it with two Xyz Materials and putting a third on it in the End Phase.
That said, current Pendulum variants can do it with relative ease, as can strategies like Tellarknights and Heroes, as well as pretty much anything that chooses to run Star Seraphs. For the level of difficulty and investment it takes to Summon Cyber Dragon Infinity, its power level is pretty crazy. If you're not familiar, let's look at its effects.
First up, it gains 200 ATK for each of its Xyz Materials, because why not. Next, it eats monsters. Once per turn it can attach a face-up attack mode monster, yours or your opponent's, as an Xyz Material. For doing that, it gains ATK and gets fuel for its next effect. That alone would probably make it playable; eliminating your opponent's monsters without destroying them, again and again every turn, is pretty great. But it's Cyber Dragon Infinity's final effect that makes it into a tournament-shaping force, detaching a Material once per turn to negate the activation of a card or effect and destroying the source.
To be clear, taking a monster is a +1, negating something for free is a +1, and attacking can mean another plus, or just damage to win you the game. And that negation effect works on both player's turns. Even if you're fueling it with your own monsters as Xyz Materials because your opponent refuses to play cards in face-up attack, you're still going to win pretty quickly because you're controlling the direction of attack.
Answers like Solemn Strike are slim, and we're already seeing Gameciel, the Sea Turtle Kaiju in more and more Side Decks just to Lava Golem this thing away. Heck, we're seeing it in Main Decks as well. Answering Cyber Dragon Infinity is a must, and any strategy you play needs to come armed with strong options to do that.
#####CARDID= 19466 #####
Searchable with Black Metal Dragon, Red-Eyes Retro Dragon is an insurance policy for bigger Red-Eyes monsters. Sadly its Level limit keeps you from using it with Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon or Red-Eyes Flare Metal Dragon, but it works well enough with Red-Eyes Black Flare Dragon and could be useful with Red-Eyes Archfiend of Lightning. Both have strong abilities that are usually tougher for your opponent to deal with the more you can use them, so having a free revival effect lets them put in considerable work.
Retro Dragon's second effect is a little narrow, but the ability to Tribute it off for another Normal Summon could let you bring it back with Darkness Metal Dragon if you don't have another decent target for its revival ability.
As far as I'm aware this card's far from earthshaking, but it's a solid addition to casual Red-Eyes strategies.
#####CARDID= 19467 #####
Sharing the low end of the Magician Pendulum Scale with Oafdragon Magician and Dragonpulse Magician, Dharma-Eye Magician offers another protection effect to shield your Magician Pendulum Spells, much like Pendulum Call. The difference is that while Pendulum Call interferes with the all-important Wisdom-Eye Magician, Dharma-Eye only messes with your opponent's effects, not yours. It's pure upside.
That said, its Pendulum effect isn't very good, especially compared to Oafdragon and Dragonpulse. But it's another Level 7, so it has synergy with Dragonpit Magician and the Odd-Eyes monsters. Will it see play? I feel like the big bump in Performapals' viability may make Pendulum Magicians somewhat irrelevant anyways, so it's tough to say. But the ability to shield yourself from opposing Twin Twisters and Wavering Eyes certainly has some value. I'm just not sure how relevant it's going to be with Face-Off' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Draco Face-Off">Draco Face-Off offering Dinoster Power, the Mighty Dracoslayer to accomplish the same kind of thing with better trades of card economy.
#####CARDID= 19468 #####
Black Luster Soldier – Sacred Soldier isn't terrible in and of itself, but it suffers from a lack of support that makes it tough to Summon, even in a dedicated Black Luster Soldier build. 3000 ATK and an effect that combos with other Black Luster Soldier support to load your removed zone is great, but it doesn't mean much if you have to hard-tribute it as a Level 8. Its effect triggers when it's Special Summoned as well as Normal Summoned, but it's difficult to Pendulum Summon a Level 8 monster, and prepping your graveyard and then bringing it back with something like Call Of The Haunted is a cumbersome plan.
Its recursion effect to score a +2 overall when it destroys a monster in battle falls into the same category; it looks nice, but you'd have to summon it first. The new Gaia The Fierce Knight' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Arisen Gaia The Fierce Knight">Arisen Gaia The Fierce Knight seems built to help facilitate that, but it just doesn't seem like it's enough.
#####CARDID= 19469 #####
Case in point. Numerous cards can help you field Gaia The Fierce Knight' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Arisen Gaia The Fierce Knight">Arisen Gaia The Fierce Knight, including its own effect and that of Black Luster Soldier – Super Soldier. I think the best case scenario you could reasonably hope to achieve would be to lose your Super Soldier, use its graveyard trigger to Summon Arisen Gaia, and then Tribute it for something else to revive Black Luster Soldier – Sacred Soldier or Special Summon it from your hand. That effect can't miss timing, so you can Tribute Arisen Gaia for a Ritual Summon and field two big monsters at once. But pulling that off means having another card to Tribute; access to your Ritual Monster and Ritual Spell; and Sacred Soldier in your hand or ideally your graveyard.
A lot of stars need to align to make that happen, and since the Super Soldier deck is already so heavy on combo cards with limited utility, adding another one to the mix just for a shot at 3000 ATK and a banishing effect seems unwise. With a more straightforward Normal Summon ability and a more practical ability to search your deck instead of Special Summoning under specific conditions, Gaia The Fierce Knight' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Charging Gaia The Fierce Knight">Charging Gaia The Fierce Knight seems like a better partner card for Black Luster Soldier - Super Soldier.
You'll generally Ritual Summon Super Soldier by Tributing either a mix of Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands, Evening Twilight Knight, and Beginning Knight; or a Gaia The Fierce Knight card, plus a Level 1. The problem is that the Manju plan's just vastly more feasible, since all the cards involved are easier to play, and Manju sets up your Ritual Summon with both its search effect and its own ability to serve as Ritual fodder.
While it's tempting to consider Tributing Gaia The Fierce Knight' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Arisen Gaia The Fierce Knight">Arisen Gaia The Fierce Knight from your hand, making your Ritual Summon, and then reviving Sacred Soldier or something like it, it's the greedy play. All those cards are nowhere near as consistent as the simple Level 4's, and the Knights are risky in and of themselves.
It's not terrible, but it's probably not worth playing, even in a strategy that was already out of the competitive picture anyways.
#####CARDID= 19470 #####
And finally we arrive at the last card in the set and one of the best in the release, Traptrix Rafflesia. Is it fair to say that when you want a controlling early game play but can't make Cyber Dragon Infinity, you make this thing? Or… if you're lucky, you make both?
Those are probably both reasonable perspectives. Rafflesia works with a variety of cards, but will probably be run most frequently with Bottomless Trap Hole and Treacherous Trap Hole, possibly with Time-Space Trap Hole. Treacherous makes a return to competitive play with Rafflesia, because while it's a dead card any time you have other traps in your graveyard, an early game Rafflesia can ensure that you use Treacherous Trap Hole's effect so early that there's nothing else in your yard to disrupt it. That means you threaten your opponent with the loss of up to two monsters, often for free. The versatility of a Rafflesia opener with Treacherous Trap Hole has already proven so powerful that it featured in Yaowei Zhang's winning Pendulum build at YCS Sydney, where he ran it with no trap cards but Treacherous.
That feels like a bit of a minimalist approach, but in a format where games can end so quickly, sometimes that one activation of Rafflesia's effect is really all you need to defend your position long enough to take a win anyways. That said, Rafflesia plays very differently with a varied number of Trap Hole cards, so expect to see different suites of traps used at different times over the course of the format. Since one or two cards can make such a difference, it's a great opportunity to play with your opponent's expectations for how a given scenario might work.
Rafflesia's a tough card to predict beyond that opening Treacherous, and I don't think we're even guaranteed to see Treacherous Trap Hole 100% of the time. While it's a favored pick for its sheer threat level, it's possible that bluffing Treacherous as an option could often be effective enough to guide your opponent's plays, leaving you to make the most of Bottomless Trap Hole and Time-Space Trap Hole with a mid-game Rafflesia instead.
There's a lot going on with this card, and if you're a competitive player, the complexities of Traptrix Rafflesia are going to be highly important moving forward. Half of you are going, "Yeah, no $%&*, Jason." But I can guarantee that the ability to play around Rafflesia's going to be one of the big factors that easily separates the successful players from the unsuccessful moving forward, so it's worth acknowledging. When this thing hits the table, you want to be trying figure out what your opponent's going to do with it, and you want to draw those possibilities from a list you know by heart. If you're not prepared, you're going to get rolled hard.
And that's it! That brings us to the end of our in-depth look at Breakers of Shadow, and we've discussed almost every card in the set. Despite a few downbeats in the spells and traps, I think it's easy to say that this is by far the strongest set we've seen in a long time, and I'm eager to see where competition's headed in the coming weeks. Early results suggest that we're not headed for anything near a one-deck format, and even anticipating a three-deck format of Performage Performapals, Kozmos, and Atlanteans may be underestimating the complexity of upcoming tournaments.
What do you think? What kind of format's going to emerge from BOSH now that the set's out in the wild: one-deck, three-deck, or free for all? Let me know your thoughts, on that topic and any particular cards that fascinate you, down in the Comments.