Pound for pound and word for word, there's more discussion in this Giant Set Review than any before it, because Duelist Alliance has so many playable, notable, and entertaining cards that do cool things. Call me a mark, call me a shill, but the reality is that having spent so much time pouring over the set in its entirety I'm a fan. A lot of the monsters in this set are more synergy-driven and more complicated than what we're used to as a baseline average, and the one big place where this set shines particularly bright is in the spells and traps, where we usually see more misses than hits.
Duelist Alliance breaks the mold with killer support cards and an incredible number of playable new themes, and while we covered Satellarknights yesterday, the biggest and most hyped of the new archetypes is the one deck everybody's talking about, and the one that kicks us off today here in Part 2!
That of course being the marquee monster family from Duelist Alliance, the Shaddolls. Each of the basic Shaddoll Effect Monsters have two abilities: a Flip Effect and a second ability that triggers when they're sent to the graveyard by a card effect. Remember: though each Shaddoll has two effects, you can only use one of them each turn – you can't use the Flip Effect and the graveyard effect in the same go, even if you have multiple copies of the same Shaddoll monster. Sometimes that won't be a problem, since your Flip Effects will be reserved for your opponent's turn when they attack you, and your graveyard effects will be triggered solely by your own moves. But when you start wanting to Flip Summon on your turn, or start using trap cards to respond to your opponent's moves, things get tricky.
If you're playing against Shaddolls that's the number one thing you want to be careful with – TONS of Shaddoll players are being really sloppy right now because they're new to the deck, so don't let them make illegal moves by Mistake. This strategy's very good and can be really tough to overcome. It's even tougher if your opponent's playing the deck incorrectly and getting more effects than they're entitled to.
So yeah! Let's get started with Shaddoll Squamata, effectively an 1800 beater that's like a Level 4 high-utility Man Eater Bug on steroids. Facing down a little monster? Swing over it. Facing down a big monster, or just don't feel like giving your opponent information? Set Squamata and use its Flip Effect for a 1-for-1 trade or a free +1. Nutty.
Even better? Shaddoll Squamata's graveyard trigger effect is a Foolish Burial, so when you push it to the graveyard with an effect it kicks something else from your deck as well. That fills your yard for a variety of effects and helps you Summon monsters like Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning and – if you're so inclined – Dark Armed Dragon or even The Dark Creator. Two of your best Shaddolls are Level 4's, as are many of the off-theme cards you'll want to run with them, so that means tremendous opportunities for big Rank 4 or Level 8 Synchro Summons off Soul Charge. Squamata's awesome.
The other Level 4 in the Shaddoll mix is Shaddoll Dragon. The Dragon's even bigger than Squamata: with a whopping 1900 ATK, its Flip Effect is a Compulsory Evacuation Device that hits monsters and backrow cards. Then, if you send it to the graveyard with a card effect it turns into Mystical Space Typhoon and pops any spell or trap card on the field.
What do you even say to that? It's a beater, a generic answer to opposing threats in not one, but two different ways, and it's Soul Charge fodder. Heck, with 0 DEF and the Dark attribute, Shaddoll Dragon even works with Recurring Nightmare should you love that card as much as I do.
Which you don't. I'm pretty sure of that. But only because I love Recurring Nightmare so very much.
Shaddoll Falco works neatly with Shaddoll Squamata, teaming up to kick a Shaddoll you need to the graveyard so you can Special Summon it back with Falco's Flip Effect. Falco's chief asset is the fact that when you yard it with an effect, you immediately Special Summon it in face-down defense so you can get something more useful on a time delay. That's valuable with Shaddoll Fusion, sending Falco to the graveyard from your hand. It's even better with effects like Squamata, which load Falco to the graveyard – and thus your field – for free anyways. More on those when we discuss the spells and traps in Part 4.
On the topic of cards that work well with Shaddoll Falco, Shaddoll Beast may be the best of the bunch! Shaddoll Beast is a Level 5 so it's a real pain in the butt to draw, but searched straight to your graveyard with Shaddoll Squamata or something similar it's really awesome – its graveyard trigger gets you an immediate draw as a free +1. From there you can revive it in face-down defense with Shaddoll Falco and when it flips, it'll draw you two cards at the cost of just one and then sit on the field as a 2200 ATK beater.
There are certainly risks associated with this card, namely that you really, really hate drawing it. But it offers such a payoff for basic things you already want to do that it's difficult to imagine not running it. The three Top 4 Shaddoll decks from the Series Open in Orlando all played three copies each, demonstrating the card's power level.
Shaddoll Hedghog has poor stats and it's only Level 3; it doesn't match the Level of any other Shaddoll monsters, nor many of the off-theme cards you're likely to play them with. But it's got two killer search effects and together they make the Shaddoll strategy the consistent powerhouse it is. The spell card Shaddoll Fusion is the heart of the Shaddoll strategy, and Hedgehog's Flip Effect seeks it out from your deck. Send Hedgehog to the graveyard for an effect like, oh I don't know, Shaddoll Fusion, and it searches a Shaddoll monster instead.
It's an outstanding card that gives you the precision you need to make all the very specific Shaddoll effects work properly together. There's not much more to say; the card's berserk.
And finally we turn to the Yang Zing! Easily the most complicated of the new monster themes, the Yang Zing mark the debut of the new Wyrm-type: cards that probably could've been Dragons, except they would've been insanely overpowered if they worked with Dragon Rulers so instead we get a new monster type to keep that from happening.
There are five basic Yang Zing Effect Monsters, each keyed to a different attribute: Fire, Earth, Water, Wind, and Light. All five share a recruiting ability that activates when they're destroyed, by battle or by a card effect: when they hit the graveyard, each lets you Special Summon another, different Yang Zing from your deck in Defense Position. That makes it incredibly tough to push through a wall of Yang Zings with attacks. It also fuels several themed effects that leverage a full graveyard into big payoffs.
Chiwen, Light of the Yang Zing is the only Tuner in the theme, and it's tremendously important because the Yang Zing strategy is all about Synchro Summoning. The other four Yang Zings range from Level 1 to Level 4, and Chiwen itself is a Level 1. Though Chiwen's the only on-theme Tuner, that's not a problem because of the recruiting effect: you can use your Special Summon tricks to get the Yang Zing non-Tuner you need at the Level you're looking for, then seek out Chiwen when you're ready to make your Synchro. Chiwen also has an ability that lets you revive it from the graveyard when a Yang Zing you control is destroyed and yarded, an ability that stacks with the basic Yang Zing recruiter effect.
But wait! It gets more complicated.
Suanni, Fire of the Yang Zing is the biggest of the basic Yang Zing monsters: it's got 1900 ATK and it's Level 4, so if you tune it with Chiwen for a Synchro Summon you can unleash Level 5's with ease. While the Yang Zing non-Tuners have the same recruiter effect as Chiwen, they also share another ability: during your opponent's Main Phase or Battle Phase, you can Synchro Summon with Yang Zing monsters as Synchro Materials (and you do it as a Quick Effect). If you've ever come up against Formula Synchron and had to play around the possibility of a sudden Black Rose Dragon wrecking you mid-turn, you likely understand how good this effect can be.
Once you make your Synchro Summon you win fabulous prizes for doing so! Each of the Yang Zing non-Tuners grant special bonuses to whatever monster you Synchro Summon, and in the case of Suanni, Fire of the Yang Zing that's a +500 bonus to your monster's ATK and DEF. Cards like Armades, Keeper of the Boundaries and T.G. Hyper Librarian are much tougher to deal with if they've got an extra 500 ATK, and Suanni's effect is just the beginning.
Counting down from Suanni at Level 4, Bi'an, Earth of the Yang Zing is a Level 3 with all the Yang Zing trimmings: it recruits another Yang Zing when it's destroyed; it gives you that Synchro Summon effect on your opponent's turn; and it bolsters whatever Synchro you use it for.
In this case, Bi'an shields your Synchro Monster from destruction by battle. Combine it with Chiwen and Suanni to Summon Level 8 Synchros that can't be run over, and that pack an extra 500 ATK and DEF.
Bixi, Water of the Yang Zing is a Level 2, and this is where the bonus effects for your Synchro Monsters start getting really impressive: Bixi grants your Synchro Monster immunity from trap cards. Imagine a Leo, the Keeper of the Sacred Tree that's immune to Torrential Tribute or Fiendish Chain. Or a Star Eater that can't be bounced with Compulsory Evacuation Device. Or perhaps best of all, a Black Rose Dragon that's immune to cards like Breakthrough Skill. It's a tremendously powerful effect given the popularity of trap cards this year.
Finally, Pulao, Wind of the Yang Zing is just a Level 1, but its effect grants immunity to spell cards. Whatever you Synchro Summon your opponent won't be able to destroy it with Dark Hole. Book of Moon won't stop it from attacking nor flip it down, and it won't lose battles to Forbidden Lance.
There are several flavors of Yang Zing floating around right now, including an aggressive Hieratic version that might have potential. But for the moment, it seems like the most successful builds just stick to the basics and stay tightly-themed, sometimes with Skill Drain as their big trump card. A great deal of Yang Zing's strength comes from their support cards – they have some of the most awesome spells and traps ever released for a theme, so be sure to keep an eye out for those later on this week. The Yang Zing may be the toughest of the new themes to play, and they certainly don't carry the hype of Shaddolls, but they can certainly put in work.
Artifact Chakram's a neat new card that takes the core Artifact mechanics in a bit of a new direction. While it can be Special Summoned when it's set and destroyed just like previous Artifacts, it doesn't have a Trigger Effect that goes off when it's Summoned on your opponent's turn. It has very solid stats at 1900 ATK and 2000 DEF, but it doesn't have a destruction ability like Artifact Moralltach, nor a combo-oriented trigger like Artifact Beagalltach. It just hits the field to make attacks or become Xyz Material.
In return for the lack of a Trigger Effect, Chakram' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Artifact Chakram">Artifact Chakram can be played to save a card from your backrow and cost your opponent a targeted removal effect. If your opponent Typhoon' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Mystical Space Typhoon">Mystical Space Typhoons a real trap card instead of an Artifact, you can bounce the target back to your hand to rescue it and field Chakram to clog up the table. Or, if your opponent uses removal on your turn to try and outplay the abilities of your other Artifacts – remember, they only trigger if they're Summoned on your opponent's turn, not yours – you can save those cards from destruction and set them again.
Artifact Chakram's likely at its best in Artifacts, where there are plenty of synergetic Level 5's to match it with and clear-cut reasons of theming to want to use its effect. But it's worth noting that it's also just a straight +1 against 1-for-1 removal: that could make it useful in all sorts of places. It's great in the Artifact mirror match too, where your opponent's Artifact Ignitions need to destroy whatever they target to pull a card from your opponent's deck.
Sort of the Artifact answer to Ally of Justice Cycle Reader, Artifact Lancea can put a stop to all manner of banishing shenanigans from decks like Bujins, Lightsworn, and Dragon Rulers, while acting as a cohesive Level 5 Artifact to Special Summon when you need to put together big plays.
Artifact Lancea is very specific to particular match-ups and will probably see play chiefly as a Side Deck card: since its effect works only on your opponent's turn it won't answer stuff like Bottomless Trap Hole or Dimensional Prison. But it's a nice addition to the Artifact arsenal, and it helps flesh out more dedicated Artifact lineups.
Synergy with Spellcasters aside, Nefarious Archfiend Eater of Nefariousness is largely useful just because it lets you destroy your own monsters so easily. That might not seem like a big deal, but the hideous looking little monstrosity has tremendous synergy with cards like Archfiend Heiress and Archfiend Cavalry, where its themed namestamp gives it immediate combo potential. Its timing is convenient, giving you a chance to see all of your opponent's moves for their turn before deciding what to Special Summon or search… while avoiding freshly-set trap cards that might ruin your plans otherwise.
Beyond the obvious Archfiend uses, Eater of Nefariousness works really well triggering the destruction effects of cards like Fire King High Avatar Garunix or Fire King Avatar Barong, and it could see some unlikely play in both Yang Zings and Shaddolls. Its best use may lie with a card we've been using to death lately, here on TCGplayer: Supply Squad. Since Eater of Nefariousness creates 1-for-1 plays or better whenever you destroy a monster to return it to the field, Supply Squad will offer a straight plus every turn you maintain your set-up. The speed of competition will definitely determine how viable that is, but at the very least there are some sweet casual concepts there, if not something with real competitive potential.
Prepare Uranus! The Agent of Entropy – Uranus was previewed back in the Primal Origin Deluxe Edition, a flexible Tuner with Level-altering abilities that loads up your graveyard for stuff like Master Hyperion, Chaos Sorcerer, and Archlord Kristya. While decks built around The Sanctuary in the Sky have never been viable before, a Level 5 Special Summon with 2200 ATK that can make huge Xyz or Synchro Summons, all while setting up bigger plays and thinning your deck, makes a strong argument for further exploration.
Zach Buckley actually wrote on this card a month ago, creating an Agent variant that sure enough, loaded up the graveyard with The Agent of Entropy to fuel not just Archlord Kristya and Hyperion, but also The Agent of Miracles – Jupiter, too. It was a conservative build that skipped riskier bells and whistles like Divine Punishment, but even though it was built for consistency first and foremost, it was capable of some awesome plays with stuff like Beelze of the Diabolic Dragons, Mist Wurm, and Leo, the Keeper of the Sacred Tree – cards you'd never see in an Agent variant otherwise. Cool stuff!
Seeming to complete the stable of Djinn monsters that protect your Ritual Summoned monsters (or that just protect your face and groin from your opponent), Djinn Demolisher of Rituals is a strong new addition to any Ritual Summoning strategy. Like Djinn Releaser of Rituals and the less powerful Djinn Prognosticator of Rituals, Demolisher's a Level 3 Fiend, which means it has instant synergy with Tour Guide From the Underworld. Summon Tour Guide, Special Summon Demolisher from your deck, and you've got everything you need for a Level 6 Ritual Summon like Herald of Perfection. By protecting Herald from targeted monster effects you cut down on the number of threats you need to negate with Herald's ability, making your strategy more efficient overall.
It also works really well with other Level 6 Ritual Monsters, such as the new Saffira, Queen of Dragons from this very set. More on that in a little bit.
Sure! Satellarknights have an Elemental Hero Stratos, so why not… uhh, Batterymen? Erm…
Batteryman 9-Volt actually hits many of the same marks as Satellarknight Deneb. The Batteryman strategy usually floods the field with monsters for one big push, but to do that securely and consistently you need extra cards to cushion potential losses and further the reach of your combos. You also need to get to the cards you want as early as possible, making the element of selection key here. Like Deneb, 9-Volt's search effect triggers no matter how it's Summoned, too: you can Normal Summon it early on to make an attack, load your graveyard, and potentially create Rank 4 opportunities, sure.
But you can also Special Summon it with Batteryman Charger to search Batteryman Fuel Cell or Batteryman Industrial Strength: fielding Charger and 9-Volt together will give you the field you need to Special Summon Fuel Cell, creating what can easily become a game-ending series of attacks as well as the precise requisite for the activation of Short Circuit, should you be inclined to play it. Batterymen are often played in conjunction with Hunder monsters, and 9-Volt will help you compensate for consolidating plays into Xyz Summons as you blargh your whole hand onto the field. Be sure to check out Doug's article from a few weeks ago for more deck ideas and examples of play sequences.
Batterymen are shockingly competitive thanks to Batteryman 9-Volt, no pun intended. Expect to see them putting in big rogue performances over the next few weeks.
Breaker the Dark Magical Warrior is a shabby Normal Summon, but a pretty incredible Pendulum Summon! Hitting the field with 2800 ATK off any Pendulum Scale that can allow a Level 6, it immediately destroys a spell or trap the turn you Summon it; that balances out its own risks and get you an instant +1. It drops to 2400 ATK to make that happen, but it's still strong enough to survive at least one more turn against many strategies, whereupon it can plus you again. If it lasts a full three turns it'll become a +3 before it's removed from the field.
And remove it you will! While Breaker can be useful as free Tribute fodder or Synchro Material, its real strength might lie in its status as a Level 6 Spellcaster for the Xyz Summon of Norito the Moral Leader. Combined with the monster removal of Chaos Sorcerer, you can blow away two opposing cards with your two monsters and then drop Norito for free; that's a 2700 ATK monster that packs two spell and trap negations for a potential +3 across two turns. It's the perfect companion card for Breaker, which already specializes in grinding card advantage and hating on your opponent's spells and traps.
Raiza the Mega Monarch is by far my pick for the best of the Mega Monarchs, generating card advantage in several different ways: like Raiza Classic it spins a card back to your opponent's deck, and it even sticks them with the worst card from their graveyard too, clogging their draws. At the same time it also returns a card to your hand so you can reuse stuff like Fiendish Chain and Call Of The Haunted, or it can bounce away an opposing card. As always, Synchros and Xyz Monsters are your prime target for the bounce trick since they become hard pluses when you punt them back to the Extra Deck.
Years ago there were successful strategies that won almost entirely on their ability to stack the effects of Raiza the Storm Monarch and Phoenix Wing Wind Blast to block your opponent's draws in the worst ways possible. It was an elegant era; the format was slow enough to make that a viable strategy, and executing the concept took plenty of skill and careful timing. Now you can create the same effect just by Tributing as little as one Wind monster. That's a whole 'lotta bang for your buck, and I'm eager to see what this card can do if it sees play.
Hypnosister is a potentially devastating card in matches where both players are making Pendulum Summons. While those don't exist in tournaments today, it's easy to see that this card could have big potential later in Arc-V's run. Hypnosister's not too shabby as a 2100 ATK monster in any Pendulum strategy you play yourself, but her real strength comes from the idea of forcing monsters to attack into her, destroying them with her second ability and then drawing free cards with her fourth. That requires both duelists to have completed Pendulum Scales.
She's not tremendously useful now, as there are better, more combo-driven Level 4's to play in the Pendulum decks of present. But Hypnosister could definitely be useful later.
A Treeborn Frog Tuner that doesn't balk at backrow cards? And it's searchable by Emergency Teleport?! Sign me up! Re-Cover is way more useful than it looks, costing Life Points and only working once, but functioning more reliably than any dearly departed amphibian we've ever seen. It's a tremendous gem with Monarchs where it can stand in for Treeborn as needed, or where you can leverage it into a Synchro with your used-up Tribute Summon to make an even bigger monster.
It's even an Earth monster, so it has potential Synergy with other Earths to make Naturia Beaast, Naturia Barkion, and Naturia Landoise. Very cool.
My first thought when I saw Deskbot 001 was Machine Duplication. My second thought was Soul Charge. It wasn't until my third thought that I actually arrived at what I assume is the real point: Pendulum Summoning.
Gadgets are one of the biggest prospects for the Pendulum Summoning mechanic as it stands, and since Deskbot 001 gets a +500 ATK bonus for every Machine you control, dropping a bunch of self-replacing Machines for a Pendulum Summon and bringing this thing back from the graveyard can make it really big, really fast. More than that, it goes extremely well with Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon: plunk down two Gadgets plus Odd-Eyes off one Pendulum Summon, revive Deskbot 001 from your graveyard, and you can Tune Deskbot to Odd-Eyes for a Level 8 Synchro. When you do, you'll send Odd-Eyes back to the Extra Deck and Deskbot back to the graveyard and you'll have two more Gadgets in hand – exactly what you need to make the same play on the following turn.
Deck idea? I think so!
On the topic of deck ideas, I may have actually played more Skull Servants than anything else in the wake of Duelist Alliance. Wightprince solves every problem the Skull Servant strategy suffers: it triples the speed with which you fill your graveyard with cards like Foolish Burial and Armageddon Knight; it counts as a Skull Servant for Skull Servants' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=King of the Skull Servants">King of the Skull Servants; and it even searches out the King straight from your deck, while creating synergy with Wightmare.
I've beaten some angry people lately. People who apparently don't share my love of a 10,000 ATK Skull Servants' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=King of the Skull Servants">King of the Skull Servants.
With Wightprince the meandering Skull Servant strategy becomes much simpler than it was before. Your goals are clear: the basic Skull Servant deck wants to resolve Wightprince's graveyard trigger effect two to three times to load up on six or nine Skull Servants, and then it wants to end the game in what's usually two attacks: often a small attack early, and then a parting shot from a high-powered Skull Servants' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=King of the Skull Servants">King of the Skull Servants later. That's it, and when you frame the dialogue that way it doesn't seem nearly as impossible as Skull Servants might seem: resolve the trigger two to three times and make two attacks. Surprisingly doable.
Meanwhile Wightprince works really well with cards you as the Skull Servant duelist were likely playing anyways. You can revive it with Kinka-Byo to make a Rank 1 like Ghostrick Dullahan, detach Wightprince, and claim its effect. You can Special Summon it with One for One, or discard it if you already drew it. You can revive it with Mezuki, Book of Life, or Zombie Master (the discard cost of the latter will again land you two additional Skull Servants in your graveyard). You can even Special Summon Wightprince with Masked Chameleon to make a Level 5 Synchro Summon, which will also trigger its search-and-dump.
This card's great, and if you like things that are fun, I'd implore you to give it a shot.
That brings us 36 cards deep into our Giant Set Review so far, and brings us to the end of the Effect Monsters in the core set! Tomorrow we'll take a quicker look at the Fusion, Xyz, and Synchro Monsters that follow, and we'll even talk about the brand new Ritual Monster that could have some competitive promise. Don't miss it!