And we're kicking it all off with a look at the newest, and perhaps most complicated monster theme in the game!
The Zefras! Crossed Souls introduces ten Zefra monsters, each bearing the "Zefra" namestamp as well as the name of another unique monster tribe: Tellarknights, Shaddolls, Yang Zings, Nekroz, and the Ritual Beasts. As I mentioned in the intro the Zefra are incredibly complicated because they can function as support for their unique monster families, or you can unite all ten for a single Zefra deck complete with some topnotch support cards.
Each of the Zefra stands on its own, but each is also a Pendulum Monster at Scale 1 or Scale 7, so there are tons of ways to play them. Note that when you play them as Pendulum Spells they limit you to Pendulum Summoning only two strains of monsters: Zefras and the matching theme they're affiliated with. That makes Zefra mashups very theme-heavy. They're easily some of the most complicated monsters released in years, and I'm not sure they'll see the play they deserve given that level of complexity. Still, I remain hopeful.
Satellarknight Zefrathuban's a Level 4 Scale 1 Warrior, so it's searchable with Reinforcement of the Army and Oracle of Zefra. You can also grab it with Satellarknight Deneb, too. Its monster effect is pretty awesome, offering a free destruction ability when you have a Pendulum Spell to pop and you need to get rid of a face-up threat. It's simple, brutal, and efficient, and it works in Zefra decks and any Satellarknight build that commits enough card slots to the Zefra engine.
Note that it's a Level 4 Light for your Xyz Summons, too. It's got really high utility.
Stellarknight Zefraxciton's a Level 4 Fiend at Scale 7, so it's not searchable with Reinforcement of the Army – you'll need to Oracle or Deneb for it. Still, it has a similar destruction effect that complements Satellarkngiht Zefrathuban by destroying face-downs instead of face-ups.
Together these two cards can turn any Pendulum Summon into an instant +4 or better: two monsters hit the field for free, and you destroy two cards by sending two Pendulum Spells to your Extra Deck, from which you'll just Pendulum Summon them again. That's possible in a Satellarknight deck, but I think it's one of the chief reasons to consider a dedicated Zefra strategy. Since all your Zefras are Pendulums at complementary Scales the play's easy to pull off, and it swings more cards than Nekroz of Trishula.
Moving on, Yang Zings might get the long end of the Zefra stick with some of the best Zefras in the set. Zefraxi, Treasure of the Yang Zing gets its effect when it's Pendulum Summoned off an established set-up, or simply Special Summoned from your deck with any Yang Zing. It turns a Zefra or Yang Zing of your choice into a Tuner, making it much easier to Level match for Yazi, Evil of the Yang Zing; Baxia, Brightness of the Yang Zing; or the new Chaofeng, Phantom of the Yang Zing.
Not only does Zefraxi's ability make it easier to Summon those big Synchros, it lets you combine Yang Zings in new ways to leverage their effects into different results. The core Yang Zings all grant effects when you use them as Synchro Materials, and now – since anything can be a tuner – there are more combinations of those abilities at each Level.
Zefraxi's especially awesome because it's a Pendulum Monster at Level 3, so if you make the Level 3 Bi'an, Earth of the Yang Zing into a Tuner and then yard them both for Metaphys Horus, you'll unleash a 2300 ATK monster that can't be destroyed by battle; that negates the effect of a face-up card on the field; and that Snatch Steals an opposing monster, permanently. Zefraxi places itself on the bottom of your deck when you use its effect and it leaves the field, so that trick's not as repeatable as you'd like, but does very little to rain on your Metaphys Horus parade.
In the dedicated Zefra deck Zefraxi's nuts, because everything you Tune is going to be a Pendulum Monster… meaning all your Synchro Materials save Zefraxi go back to your Extra Deck so you can Pendulum Summon them again and again. How you choose to play Zefraxi is just one of the important choices you need to make when building Zefras.
One of the biggest challenges to the Yang Zing strategy was their lack of an easy search mechanic: it was super cool that Yang Zings could replace themselves with monsters from the deck, but numerous factors needed to align for that to work.
Zefraniu, Secret of the Yang Zing is a Level 6, but you can Special Summon it as a 2600 DEF wall from your deck with the typical shared Yang Zing "replace me when I'm destroyed" effect. From there it blocks attacks, acts as free Synchro Material, and when it's run over in battle or destroyed by a card effect it gets you any "Yang Zing" or "Zefra" spell or trap from your deck.
For Yang Zings that means easy access to Yang Zing Path and Yang Zing Creation. Maybe even Yang Zing Brutality. They're all powerful cards that spike your win ratio, but were challenging to see consistently before. No longer: now there's a clear way to get to any of them all while keeping up your defense. On the Zefra side you can go straight for Oracle of Zefra, or one of three other control-oriented Zefra cards.
It's really, really good.
The Shaddoll Zefras are likely the weakest of the bunch. At Level 2 and Scale 1, Shaddoll Zefranaga has worthless stats and an effect that only works when you've started building your Pendulum Scale. It bounces a Pendulum Spell from your Pendulum Zone or your opponent's, back to its owner's hand, and since most of your opponents won't have Pendulums it's basically just a tool to reuse your committed Pendulum cards.
That's largely useless in Shaddolls, but potentially alright in a dedicated Zefra deck. The Tellarknight and Ritual beast Zefras all have effects that trigger when they're Normal Summoned. The Nekroz have what are essentially from-the-hand effects, while the other eight Zefras have abilities that trigger when they're Pendulum Summoned. Shaddoll Zefranaga lets you get to all of those effects when you need them… if you played them as Pendulum Spells. Is that worth running Shaddoll Zefranaga? My gut impulse is no, but it's early days for this strategy and I could be missing something.
It's not smart to disregard this card, but it's worth questioning and testing very carefully. It's a shame it's not as awesome for its theme as some of the other Zefras are for theirs.
In a dedicated Shaddoll build, Shaddoll Zefracore does nothing but Summon a pre-established Shaddoll Zefranaga, which you don't really want to play. Not good.
In a Zefra deck, it lets you kick out an additional Special Summon when you make a Pendulum Summon, or whenever Zefracore happens to go to the graveyard. With 1950 DEF and a much faster effect, it's clearly a better card than Zefranaga with some serious potential. It's a mid-game card and likely best played as a search off Oracle of Zefra, but it's still clearly powerful in a range of situations.
Sorry, Shaddolls: you got kind of boned on this one.
Speaking of Zefras that aren't helpful in their core theme, Ritual Beast Tamer Zefrawendi's not for Ritual Beasts. The play patterns that stand tall in this strategy won't see you recovering a Zeframpilica in anything but the strangest of situations. You'd have to really, really want to Pendulum Summon for this to be worthwhile.
Zefrawendi is, however, quite useful in Zefras, where it reverse toolboxes out of your Extra Deck. Since it triggers off Normal and Pendulum Summons it's super easy to use even if your Pendulum Scale's broken, and it can help you reassemble virtually any disrupted set-up. It also helps you get more mileage out of Satellarknight Zefrathuban and Stellarknight Zefraxciton, amongst others.
This is a rich card that offers a lot of options that aren't readily apparent until you become familiar with the Zefra game plan.
Ritual Beast Tamer Zeframpilica fares much better in a Ritual Beast deck, offering more opportunities for Contact Fusions, more ways to seek out the combo pieces you need, and more options off Emergency Teleport. It's phenomenal as an enabler for plays this deck was already trying to make, it's especially helpful for making the new Ritual Beast Ulti-Gaiapelio, and it even creates Metaphys Horus opportunities when you pair it with a Level 3 Tuner like say, Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit.
Though its chief value is simply being a fourth Ritual Beast Tamer – important, because all your plays involve Special Summoning Tamers and each can only be Special Summoned once per turn – there's a lot to this card, and it works wonders to expand the pre-existing play patterns Ritual Beasts rely on. Be sure to check out Pasquale's article on his latest Ritual Beast build for a really in-depth discussion of what this card brings to the table.
On the Zefra side of things, Zeframpilica's effectively the Zefrawendi of Zefra decks: it doesn't do a heck of a lot. Since they're all Pendulum Monsters it's fairly rare to see most of them in the graveyard, save largely the Shaddolls. That said, you may wind up making numerous Xyz Summons depending on what kind of variant you run, so your mileage may vary with this one. It could be better in your build than I'm giving it credit for.
I'm not convinced Zefrasaber, Swordmaster of the Nekroz has much value in Nekroz or in Zefras. In Nekroz it's effectively a costly Ritual Spell that can't be converted into another Ritual Spell. Being a monster instead of a spell comes with some benefits and can help you outplay certain problems like Spell Canceller, but given the number of competitive Nekroz cards that Championship-level players already skip on, I'm not convinced this is going to be relevant. I feel like the deck simply has bigger priorities, and this card's being dropped into a competitive scene where players are already looking to run as few Nekroz monsters as possible.
In Zefras it doesn't do much other than count as a name for a card you probably won't play – Chosen of Zefra – and a Scale 1 Pendulum Spell.
That said, it's searchable in both decks by Nekroz of Brionac, and maybe that makes it worthwhile? There's a lot to be said for the wildcard factor in the dedicated Zefra strategy, and Nekroz of Brionac works as both a Scale 1 and Scale 7 if you play enough cards for it to search – that necessitates Zefrasaber. I think the real viability of this card is one of the core questions about the Zefra deck. If you have strong opinions either way about this thing, do me a favor and let me know down in the Comments. I'd appreciate educated opinions.
Zefraxa, Flamebeast of the Nekroz is considerably better, effectively a free chump Blocker once per turn whenever one of your Nekroz or Zefra goes down in battle or falls to a card effect. This seems obviously worthwhile in the Zefra deck, and at least worth testing in Nekroz. It's definitely better suited for some metagames over others, and as a Level 5 it's all kinds of awkward, but the idea of a free monster every turn is tantalizing to me. I bet nobody plays this thing for weeks before it then starts winning tournaments. I also bet someone takes a stab at me in the Comments just for saying that.
Except now that I've predicted it, they can't. Take that, internet.
That rounds out the list of the ten Zefra monsters in Crossed Souls. There's so much power and so much diversity here, I really hope people put in the time to puzzle these things out. There should be more hype and excitement here, but if there's one thing that can bring out the innovative spirit that characterizes this game at its best it's World Championship Qualifier season, so I'm keeping my hopes high.
I've already written on Infernoids and how I feel they're underrated in the current format, and Crossed Souls brings five new cards to the theme. Several of them are great, starting with the new Infernoid Permais. Stepping into the theme's vacant Level 1 slot, it's effectively a Night Beam that shuffles away problem cards instead of destroying them – often preferable.
Since there's a window for response at the point of Summoning, as well as a chance for your opponent to negate the Summon, Pirmais can force cards like Solemn Warning, Ring of Destruction, and Stellarnova Alpha; your opponent either has to use it or risk losing it. That could leave you free to make bigger moves, leveraging Infernoid Pirmais as graveyard fodder for more dangerous Infernoids. Alternatively there are plenty of cards that can't be activated in response to Pirmais' Summon: stuff like Bottomless Trap Hole and Mirror Force continue to see tournament play, and Pirmais will eliminate them before they're relevant.
Infernoid support cards in CROS allow for the reuse and reverse toolboxing of Infernoid Pirmais, making it a repeatable threat to your opponent's backrow. It's an awesome card that offers backrow hate in match-ups when it's needed, without being a totally dead card in the Main Deck otherwise.
Infernoid Sjette is much more niche, with an effect that banishes a card of your opponent's choice from their Extra Deck every time it attacks. At 2400 ATK that effect can definitely see some use, but you need to activate it repeatedly to disrupt even the most vulnerable strategies.
It's certainly not bad, but it's a far cry from Infernoid Seitsemas at the same cost of two banished Nekroz, and it's vying for space in a deck that's already really tight.
Infernoid Devyaty is the new Infernoid boss monster, just a little smaller than Infernoid Onuncu but packing an ability that can win match-ups wholesale if it resolves successfully… or if you back it up with Void Seer, which becomes a considerably better card thanks to some new support we'll discuss in Part 4.
While Infernoid Onuncu was a Dark Hole on legs, keeping itself around while destroying all other monsters on the field, Devyaty's a Heavy Storm that blows away all spells and traps save Void cards. While Void Launch has seen no real tournament play, and Void Expansion has been better suited for Mecha Phantom Beasts than Infernoids, two new Void cards make this effect better than it looks. The new Void Vanishment makes it easier to seek out Void Seer; Void Seer helps ensure that Devyaty's effect resolves; and that effect spares Void Vanishment from being destroyed.
With everything but Nekroz running lots of traps these days, Devyaty could be tremendous. I have high hopes for it in at least Regional competition moving forward.
Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit remains a hotly debated card, largely praised by players in the know and smack-talked by those who either don't understand it or don't want to pay for it. Somewhere there are some people who know all about this card, have tested it, and disregarded it after lots of rational thought and discussion, I'm sure. But I think that group is small.
I've written extensively on Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit already, as has Kelly Locke, but the gist is this: no, it can't stop the same range of effects as Effect Veiler. Yes, it can stop Nekroz of Trishula, if you pitch it as the last card from your hand. No, it can't stop Vanity's Emptiness and Skill Drain. Yes, it can stop Lose 1 Turn. No, it won't stop stuff like Satellarknight Deneb, Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands, and Star Seraph Scepter from resolving their effects. Yes, it will demolish the majority of the plays tied to those cards, leaving your opponent vulnerable and keeping them from making game-winning plays.
No, it wouldn't be great in the pre-CROS environment. But yes, it exists in a post-CROS environment, where it shuts down a host of new cards, including the notable Clear Wing Synchro Dragon. It's also awesome as a Level 3 Tuner, singlehandedly ushering Synchro Monsters into decks that have never really considered them before… including Clear Wing.
Snow Rabbit's effect can be activated from the field as well as the hand giving it more utility, and it's got a solid 1800 DEF in a pinch. On the flip side of the coin it can also help you deal damage, by removing would-be defenders from the table so you can swing on your opponent. And it works with Emergency Teleport.
Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit's a deeply complicated, very flexible card that will work better in the hands of a skilled and practiced player than a dilettante. I've said it before, but I'll say it again here: I love the idea of this card being introduced just in time for YCS Columbus and the WCQ Season. It's really going to separate the wheat from the chaff and give serious duelists a chance to reap an advantage; games – and Championships – will be won and lost on this card.
Like so many cards in Crossed Souls, Deskbot 004 takes an existing strategy and offers the chance to take it into a different direction. While the previous Deskbot 001, Deskbot 002, and Deskbot 003 all worked together to create a surprisingly powerful OTK strategy, Deskbot 004 actually prevents your opponent from taking damage after buffing itself by up to 1500 ATK.
Instead of killing your opponent outright, Deskbot 004 loads your graveyard, then offers the chance at an immediate +3 off a successful battle with an opposing monster. That +3 comes in the form of the monster you destroy, and two free Deskbots Special Summoned from your deck or graveyard.
Those cards come out in defense mode, but they all generate big ATK and DEF bonuses. In addition, Special Summoning two Deskbots will let you revive a Deskbot 001 from your graveyard to turn the play into a +4, while nabbing a Deskbot 002 from your deck will let you search another Deskbot for another plus. Those plays quickly open the door for Xyz Summoning shenanigans as matching Deskbots stack up, or you can just capitalize on Deskbot 001 and Deskbot 002 to make a giant field of beefed up tinybots.
Deskbots were a powerful dark horse deck before, but the strategy was narrow and predictable. Now there are more ways to gather a horde of little Machines, and more things to do with them.
Yes! Searchable with the sadly Limited Tour Guide From the Underworld, Doomdog Octhros can seek out Level 8 Fiends from your deck like Archfiend Emperor, the First Lord of Horror; Grapha, Dragon Lord of Dark World; Mazera DeVille; and one of my favorite oldschool cards, Dark Necrofear.
While Dark World never had problems searching Grapha before, and the competitive viability of Mazera DeVille may be questionable, I think Doomdog makes Archfiend Emperor and Necrofear a little more competitive. I don't have high hopes for any Championship-winning builds, but there was a brief period where Archfiends flirted with Regional and YCS top cuts, and the chance to revisit that strategy excites me.
And with that, we finish out my arbitrary list of basic effect monsters from the core set! Tomorrow we'll dive into the blue, black, white, and purple cards that caught my eye, when we look at the Ritual, Xyz, Synchro, and Fusion Monsters from the center cut of Crossed Souls. There's some really awesome stuff in that portion of the set, so you won't want to miss it.