We're back! With the basic Effect Monsters from the core set now behind us in Parts 1 and 2, we turn our attention today to the Rituals, Xyz, Fusions, and Synchro Monsters that in large part serve to define the shape of Crossed Souls. A lot of themes get powerful new boss monsters in this release, and most of them are found right here flying the blue, black, white, and purple.

Almost nothing from this portion of the set is outrightly bad, though most of these new monsters offer new directions for their respective themes. Some of those directions are awesome, but others run counter to the core goals of these themes as we've known them. This portion of the set opens up with one of the more questionable additions, but explodes from that point forward.

Let's talk about the sketchiness first.

#####CARDID= 18208#####

It's hard to tell if Nekroz of Sophia's a progressive card that pushes Nekroz in an interesting new direction, or just straight-up misses the mark. In a strategy that's built its success off its fluidity and adaptability, Sophia can only be Ritual Summoned from your hand, and only with three different Tributes that need to be on the field. As a Ritual Monster Sophia's a tough-to-Summon blowout that demolishes the field and both graveyards. That's impressive, but it hits you on both ends of the play sequence: it's remarkably tough to pull off and at the same time eliminates all your graveyard plays when it actually works. Granted, if you were going to Tribute off three different Types of monsters in a conventional Nekroz deck, it's likely you burned through your whole Graveyard jut to do that in the first place.

Are there ways to cheat around that? Yeah, namely building a different deck entirely. The three Types of monsters you Tribute for Sophia don't have to be Nekroz, so not only are Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands and Senju of the Thousand Hands fair game, but so are Token Monsters and say, Treeborn Frog. Something like Scapegoat or Void Expansion could keep up your defenses while contributing potential Tribute. But that's a very different deck from the Nekroz strategy we know now, and it's unclear as to whether there's a viable deck there. Entrenched Nekroz players are likely to be skeptical.

As a hand trap, Sophia's effect is desirable in a lot of top match-ups: it fends off El Shaddolls; Stellarknights; Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss and Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss; Ritual Beast Ulti-Cannahawk and Ritual Beast Ulti-Apelio; Pendulum Summoned Qliphorts; and every boss in the Yang Zing arsenal. But it's a pretty spendy ability, requiring the discard of a Nekroz spell card. Since Nekroz spells are currently limited to just the three Nekroz Rituals, Sophia could be good when your hand's clogged, but not so hot when your deck's actually working properly.

It's a weird card, offering a set of abilities that run against the current Nekroz norms. Let me know what you think of it down in the Comments.

#####CARDID= 18210#####

I alluded to Schuberta the Melodious Maestra when we discussed Soprano the Melodious Songstress. With Fusion Materials of any two Melodious monsters, you can Fusion Summon Schuberta with nothing but a Special Summoned Soprano, since its ability will retrieve another Melodious from your graveyard for you to then Summon alongside it. A number of simple plays like 1st Movement Solo effectively let you 1-for-1 into Schuberta, yarding two Fairies to build your graveyard and delivering a 2400 ATK beatstick.

Schuberta's a really solid stick, and that 2400 ATK can grow to be as much as 3000 by banishing cards from the graveyard. Read carefully, because Schuberta's ability can feed off your graveyard or your opponent's. That's awesome news, giving this deck a fast and easy leg up on Nekroz and Satellarknights; the two decks that might emerge from YCS Columbus as the top two strategies in the format. Since Schuberta's ability is a quick effect that can be played on either player's turn, you can chain it reactively to stymie your rival's plays.

You can also use it to edit your own graveyard, ensuring that you don't overshoot the mark stacking up four Fairy monsters for Archlord Kristya. With Kristya locking down Special Summons and Schuberta harassing the graveyard, there's finally a real direction for the Melodious theme. This is another one I'll be building myself over the coming weeks.

#####CARDID= 18211#####

Bloom Diva the Melodious Choir's more complicated, more demanding, and – to me – a less inspiring card. It's sort of like a Number 61: Volcasaurus? Except it deals less damage, only destroys Special Summoned monsters, and it has to attack to destroy something. Or your opponent has to have very poor reading comprehension and swing into it on purpose.

Granted it's got some Gellenduo stuff going on too, since it can't be destroyed by battle. Your opponent can't push damage over it, and it can't be destroyed with effects, either. I think it's a competent late game finisher if your opponent doesn't know it exists and they're low on Life Points? Or maybe an alright problem solver. But I'll be honest, this isn't what I want to do with Melodious monsters right now; it doesn't manipulate the graveyard, nor does it work when you control Archlord Kristya.

Bloom Diva's an interesting card, but the Fusion Material cost of a Melodious Maestra makes it kind of a tough sell. This card's very specific in a vacuum, and even more situational given its Summoning requirements.

#####CARDID= 18213#####

Frightfur Sheep though! Nothing ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-ad about this Fusion Monster.

Edge Imp Chains are basically free, as noted back in Part 1, and the second half of your Fusion Summon is just any Fluffal monster you want to yard or banish depending on what Fusion Spell you're using. You can basically Summon this thing for nothing.

…Then you'll Summon it for nothing again, because if your opponent destroys Frightfur Sheep it just comes back. With a boosted 2800 ATK to boot. While you can only revive Frightfur Sheep once per turn that way, its buffed ATK makes it much tougher to approach while its immunity to effects adds another layer of insurance. This card's simple, fast, and really good, all things we couldn't say about Fluffals before Crossed Souls.

#####CARDID= 18212#####

Frightfur Leo drops into play off Edge Imp Saw and any Fluffal monster, and it does a far better impression of Volcasaurus than Bloom Diva the Melodious Choir. It mimics Volcasaurus' effect to a tee, simply targeting a face-up monster and then destroying it to burn your opponent for damage equal to that monster's original ATK. It's ridiculously easy to Summon, since Edge Imp Saw sends a Fluffal of your choice from your deck to the graveyard when it's Normal Summoned, and Frightfur Fusion can fuse from your yard. The fact that Saw's effect also grants an immediate plus and can set up other combos at the same time is just icing on the card economy cake.

You can't attack with Leo the turn you use its ability, but it does have 2400 ATK should your opponent not control a face-up monster and you find yourself with a Leo onboard. That's not really how you want to play it, but if your opponent can't get rid of Leo and it sticks around it can force them to make face-down plays. That's a winning position, and Leo can keep up that pressure. That said, it's an awesome reactive solution to lots of threats, and the damage dealing ability's a big bonus that helps you end games faster. Very cool card.

#####CARDID= 18215#####

Frightfur Chimera came up when we discussed Edge Imp Tomahawk and Edge Imp Frightfuloid, two cards which were likely made specifically to support this one. While the idea of gathering three Frightfurs as Fusion Materials is pretty outlandish – those monsters that are usually Fusions themselves – the game plan's at least more viable with Tomahawk yarding a Frightfuloid from your deck to give you two of the three Frightfurs you need. That means with one successful Frightfur Summon, you have what you need for a Chimera.

Unopposed, Frightfur Chimera can steal opposing monsters while gaining small ATK boosts. 2800 ATK's great, but not outstanding; 3100 ATK's much better. This card probably wouldn't be attractive without Frightfuloid's ability to mimic its ATK, which is kind of a nice solution to a classic problem: what do you when you Summon a big monster, wreak some havoc, and then lose your attacker? In this case you just Normal Summon a replacement.

There's some interesting stuff going on here on a design level, but I think Fluffals get better options in this set. There are lots of ways to run Fluffals now, and unless we see more support for the Chimera game plan in particular, I don't expect to see it in tournaments. Still, it's cool to see some interesting design going on, cushioned by the incredible high quality of the other Fluffal cards. It's easier to feel okay with this when the other Fluffal support's so good.

#####CARDID= 18216#####

Shaddolls are arguably the second best deck heading into YCS Columbus, and El Shaddoll Anoyatyllis is a huge addition to the theme. The list of cards you can stop with it is really huge: it walks all over standard Nekroz plays in the early game, like Nekroz of Unicore or Nekroz of Clausolas; it stops your opponent from reviving cards with Satellarknight Altair or Call Of The Haunted; it shuts down Malebranches in Burning Abyss; it can hamper Pendulum Summons in Qliphorts… it's even good against stuff like Shaddoll Falco in the mirror match. It's really nuts right now, and it's arriving at a time when Shaddolls were already doing really well in tournaments.

But it needs a Water monster as its Fusion Material, which isn't easy beyond a Shaddoll Core play. There's talk of running Shock Troops of the Ice Barrier as an alternative out to Djinn Releaser of Rituals with Nekroz of Clausolas, but the card does nothing else in any relevant match-up. There's enthusiasm for Treeborn Frog, but actually getting it to the graveyard's not easy and it conflicts with your backrow – especially Mistake, which featured heavily in most recent builds of Shaddolls. Ice Hand and Fire Hand might not be terrible right now, but they aren't great either.

I saw someone suggest subbing out Mathematician for Armageddon Knight, then running Reinforcement of the Army to search it and running a Water Warrior like Elemental Hero Bubbleman. And that's a thing that could happen. It might be better than the other ideas floating around right now. But for the moment, I haven't seen a great solution to this problem yet. Shaddoll Anoyatyllis is a great card that's full of promise, but it's really difficult to Summon.

#####CARDID= 18217#####

I'm not sure Ritual Beasts needed one of the best boss monsters ever printed, but they got it anyways! Ritual Beast Ulti-Gaiapelio is so good I literally had to go and read Gladiator Beast Heraklinos for the first time in over a year just to verify that yes, this card's better.

3200 ATK is apparently the new 3000 ATK, though it's kind of salt in the wound – or icing on the cake – to note that those numbers are almost the same thing in current competition anyways. And while Heraklinos could only stop spell and trap effects, Ulti-Gaiapelio negates those plus monster effects too. It's a vastly better lockdown card.

Like Heraklinos there's no once-per-turn restriction on Ulti-Gaiapelio's ability; the only limit is the sheer number of Ritual Beasts you have in hand, and while Heraklinos had the advantage of discarding anything instead of on-theme monsters, Ritual Beasts specialize in combo plays that generate card advantage. Note that since Ulti-Gaiapelio banishes Ritual Beasts instead of discarding them it actually aids in setting up a number of valuable plays, ensuring that your momentum continues to snowball.

While Ritual Beast Ulti-Gaiapelio requires three Fusion Materials, it's deceptively easy to Summon, and as Pasquale noted on Friday the real question isn't how to Summon it, but when specifically to drop it and effectively win the game. This card's clearly nuts and I'm surprised it's not getting the level of hype I think it deserves. It only stops everything.

#####CARDID= 18219#####

Clear Wing Synchro Dragon's a generic Level 7 Synchro; a niche that remains relatively empty seven years after the debut of Synchro Monsters in The Duelist Genesis. Seriously, name generic Level 7's you'd actually play: Black Rose Dragon, Black Rose Moonlight Dragon, and maybe Yazi, Evil of the Yang Zing? With an asterisk next to that last one.

Sometimes I see people playing Scrap Archfiend, but I imagine they probably live a desperate life farming dirt in underground cavern-kingdoms, like a secret race of mole people.

Clear Wing Synchro Dragon fills two roles: blocking some of the biggest, baddest threats in competition, and keeping itself on the field so your opponent can't hit you in the face and groin. Nekroz of Trishula, Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss, Ritual Beast Ulti-Cannahawk… if it's big and it's not an Xyz Monster, Clear Wing makes it tougher to play, forcing attacks where monster effects would normally suffice.

It also shields itself from smaller threats like Shaddoll Dragon and Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss thanks to its second effect, and that second ability can double up as a second dose of protection against bigger monsters with targeted effects – remember, each of Clear Wing Synchro Dragon's effects are once per turn. That makes it really tough to deal with, and its ability to boost its own ATK from 2500 to who-knows-how-big-this-thing-can-get will pressure your opponent when you're attacking, and help you keep your fists up when you're on defense.

The addition of Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit as a splashable Level 3 Tuner just makes the Level 7 Synchro slot that much more important. One of the things I love about Crossed Souls is that it's very much about Crossed Souls: there are top level cards that are obviously good, and then cards that seem designed specifically to interact with the new material. That's awesome. It's going to reward a lot of testing and experimentation with the new stuff and really divide serious competitors from the less diligent.

#####CARDID= 18222#####

Chaofeng, Phantom of the Yang Zing isn't just infinitely better than the previous Yang Zing boss Synchros, it arrives at a time when all of a sudden, it's so much easier for the deck to make Synchro Summons in the first place. Zefraxi, Treasure of the Yang Zing hits just in time to open up a whack-ton of plays for this Level 9 behemoth.

Shockingly easy to Summon, Chaofeng delivers a huge body with an even bigger set of effects. When Chaofeng's on the field your opponent can't activate the effects of monsters with the same original Attribute as any of the Yang Zings you used as Synchro Materials. Since Zefraxi makes any Yang Zing into a Tuner and opens a ton of Material combinations that wouldn't be possible otherwise, it's easier than you might think to incorporate whatever Attributes your opponent's running. If Chaofeng had 2800 ATK and just that effect, it would obviously be worth running.

But that's not where it ends. When Chaofeng's destroyed and this the yard, you can search a Tuner from your deck to make another Synchro play and replace it. Note that you can get any Tuner you want: that opens up some flexibility in Yang Zings, but also means that you could run Chaofeng in entirely different strategies. Chaofeng's first effect rewards you for using Yang Zings as Synchro Materials, but it doesn't require them. You can make this thing with generic Synchro Materials and then get a free Tuner when it hits the dirt.

Also, once per turn when an opposing monster is destroyed for any reason, you can Special Summon a Wyrm from your deck that matches the attribute of the destroyed monster. While the Wyrm ranks are largely limited to Yang Zings at present, the flexibility of this effect and the Tuner search ability mean Chaofeng has an obvious future in other Wyrm decks in the future.

Everything right now wins off monster effects: Nekroz are all Waters, Satellarknights are all Lights, Ritual Beasts are all Winds, and both Shaddolls and Burning Abyss are Darks (at least as far as their Main Deck monsters are concerned). You don't have to hit multiple attributes to cripple the biggest strategies in the format, making your task of Synchro Summoning Chaofeng easy. It also lets you use whatever combination of Yang Zings is best for your situation, imbuing Chaofeng with the Yang Zing abilities of your choice.

Yang Zings are already tearing up tournaments and could prove to be a big hit after YCS Columbus. There are lots of reasons for their newfound success, but Chaofeng's certainly one of the biggest.

#####CARDID= 18223#####

With Raidraptor – Rise Falcon established as the Rank 4 monster in the Raidraptor's Rank-Up game plane, Raidraptor – Blaze Falcon sits at Rank 5. It's small enough that you can boost your Raidraptors' Levels and Xyz Summon it normally, but big enough that you can Rank-Up Rise Falcon to bring it out as well.

Blaze Falcon can make direct attacks even if your opponent controls monsters, and when it gets in for damage you can blow away an opposing monster. That's very solid, but its second effect is the real gem: once per turn you can detach just one Xyz Material to destroy all of your opponent's Special Summoned monsters, dishing out 500 burn damage for each one.

The Raidraptor strategy is in some part largely designed to punish Special Summoned monsters; instead of preventing Special Summons it has ways to get them off the field. The Rank 4 and Rank 6 options both key off attacks to wipe a big field, but Blaze Falcon's notable for its ability to avoid battle entirely, packing two destruction effects, one of which can clear multiple monsters. That's very important to understand, since all three monsters have similar abilities.

#####CARDID= 18224#####

Raidraptor – Revolution Falcon borrows from both Rise Falcon and Blaze Falcon: like Rise Falcon it can attack all of your opponent's monsters, but unlike Rise Falcon it's not restricted to attacking just monsters that were Special Summoned. Like Rise Falcon it can also reduce the ATK of whatever Special Summon it attacks, but Revolution Falcon also reduces DEF, and it can do that trick more than once per turn.

Borrowing from Blaze Falcon, Raidraptor – Revolution Falcon can't destroy multiple monsters with an effect, but it can destroy any one, then dish out damage equal to half the ATK of the destroyed monster. It's another card in Crossed Roads that draws comparisons to Number 61: Volcasaurus, dealing less damage with its effect but offering more abilities in return. Note that you can opt to destroy any monster, not just Special Summons, and using that effect won't keep Revolution Falcon from attacking.

How do you field Raidraptor – Revolution Falcon? We'll talk about that in Part 4, when we look at the new Raidraptor Rank-Up-Magic card.

#####CARDID= 18225#####

Tellarknight Ptolemaeus is one the best cards in this set, for a lot of different reasons. As a generic Rank 4 that you can make with any two Level 4 Xyz Materials, it's an outstanding addition to any Rank 4 strategy. You can Summon it, then use it as Xyz Material for Stellarknight Constellar Diamond as per Constellar Diamond's effect. That means you effectively Xyz Summon a Rank 4 with 2700 ATK and effects that hamper some of the biggest strategies in the game: neither player can send cards from their deck to the graveyard, and any card that would be recycled from the graveyard to the hand is banished.

It also hates on Dark monsters' effects, negating them and destroying the source cards. That was a big deal when Stellarknight Constellar Diamond first dropped for Satellarknight strategies, but it's an even bigger deal now that any Rank 4 deck can play it.

And that's not even the biggest impact Tellarknight Ptolemaeus can make. Played with anything that can easily make three-Material Xyz Summons, or anything that has an extra Satellarknight kicking around in the Extra Deck, it turns into any Rank 5 you want aside from Numbers Xyz. And it does it at Spell Speed 2, on your turn or your opponent's.

So not only can you go into Shark Fortress or Wind-Up Arsenal Zenmaioh to harass your opponent on your turn, you can also dangle the threat of a more reactive card over their head on their turn. The two big ones there are Constellar Pleiades, breaking up opposing plays and defending from attacks; and Tiras, Keeper of Genesis, impervious to destruction by attacks. This card's incredible, making a wealth of existing Xyz and Level 4 Xyz-minded monsters better.

And then aside from all that, it has a weird effect that works solely in Satellarknight decks, that lets you skip your opponent's turn entirely. Because why not. That effect basically wins you the game if it ever resolves.

In case that somehow wasn't abundantly clear.

#####CARDID= 18227#####

Madolche Puddingcess Chocolat-a-la-Mode is another multi-specialty Xyz boss, filling a lot of different roles depending on what cards you pair it with. On the most basic level, it clears your graveyard so you can make the most of cards like Madolche Nights, Madolche Puddingcess, and Madolche Tea Break. That effect has obvious synergy with Madolche Chateau and Madolche Ticket, triggering their effects that trigger when a Madolche would be returned from your yard to your deck. There's a lot of range to that first, most basic ability.

Roll Madolche Puddingcess into the Xyz Summon and things get even more brutal, as Chocolat-a-la-Mode effectively brings her own Chateau and Ticket to the party with a killer Special Summon effect that can quickly overwhelm your opponent. Xyz Summoning Chocolat-a-la-Mode off Level 5 Materials with a conventional Madolche deck can be tricky, but Instant Fusion for Cyber-Saurus can be tremendously helpful, while still having utility for other purposes if you can commit the space for a Level 4 Fusion as well.

On one hand, Madolches didn't get nearly the push off Crossed Souls that a number of other themes received. But what they get is very solid, and the reality is that Madolches were already popping up at events to steal Top Cut slots over the past half year anyways. This thing could definitely see play, and while it doesn't broaden the scope of the Madolche deck as much as CROS did for other strategies, Madolche Puddingcess Chocolat-a-la-Mode does serve to renew interest in a bunch of older cards.

Also, it amuses me to imagine that classic monsters get entirely new abilities when you cover them in chocolate. It's like the "Dark" versions of fan-favorite monsters from Phantom Darkness, but chocolatey.

And on that insightful-and-totally-relevant digression, we'll leave off until Part 4 tomorrow. There are some killer spells and traps in Crossed Souls, including some of the best generic cards in the set. Stay tuned tomorrow for ruminations on some of the most valuable, controversial, and powerful new cards of the year.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer