We're a big ol' rainbow of monster love like that.
Kicking off our look at the Fusion, Ritual, Synchro, and Xyz Monsters in Duelist Alliance, we might as well open up big! El Shaddoll Winda is the marquee monster for the Shaddoll strategy, coming in off Shaddoll Fusion and triggering the graveyard abilities of your Fusion Material Monsters in the process. Beau did a great job of outlining all the effects you can cash in on with Shaddoll Fusion, but we'll discuss those once we get to Shaddoll Fusion itself. For now, let's focus on Winda.
El Shaddoll Winda can't be destroyed by opposing card effects, so you have to either negate that ability; eliminate it by way of banishing, bouncing, or spin; or simply beat over it in battle. The latter's the easiest way to bring Winda down, but fielding a monster big enough to tackle it can be difficult because it keeps both players from making more than one Special Summon per turn. For decks that rely on a string of Special Summons to accomplish their goals, like Infernities, Dragon Rulers, and Satellarknights, that can be a big problem. It's a similar strategy to the time-honored tradition of "Stardust Dragon + Royal Oppression," except Winda protects itself, and it brings its own form of Oppression to the table independently.
Unlike the Main Deck Shaddoll monsters, El Shaddoll Winda's graveyard ability triggers no matter how it's sent their. When it hits the yard, Winda's ability gets you back the Shaddoll spell or trap card of your choice, most commonly Shaddoll Fusion so you can make another one. It's a self-perpetuating threat that you can play over and over again in a number of adaptable ways, and you'll often Summon it for free across the long term thanks to its recursion trick, the graveyard triggers of your Shaddoll Materials, and the unique abilities of Shaddoll Fusion itself.
It's a heck of a card, and it's the crown jewel in a strategy littered with strategic gems.
Clocking in at 2800 ATK, El Shaddoll Construct is even bigger than El Shaddoll Winda, and though it's a little tougher to Summon they make an incredible pair – Construct addresses a number of match-ups and individual threats that Winda can't touch, and vice versa. Since El Shaddoll Construct requires a Shaddoll monster and a Light monster as its Fusion Materials, any Shaddoll duelist looking to play it needs to run Lights to make it happen: looking at early tournament results the most popular seem to be White Dragon Wyverburster, Lightsworn, and of course Effect Veiler. Cards like Artifact Moralltach and even Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning can work in a pinch, as well.
While those Light monsters won't trigger any Shaddoll graveyard effects, Construct compensates for that by immediately sending a Shaddoll card from your deck to your graveyard when you Summon it. You don't even have to yard a monster: you can load up a Shaddoll spell or trap for recursion later if that's in your best interests, and Construct shares Winda's ability to retrieve a Shaddoll spell or trap when it hits the graveyard itself.
On top of that, the Construct's main specialty is winning battles: when it steps up to any monster that was Special Summoned it destroys it at the start of the damage step, so if 2800 ATK wasn't enough to take down whatever you're attacking that effect locks your win anyways. It's also really handy for circumventing battle-triggered abilities, or effects that would activate in the graveyard when the attached monster is destroyed by battle. It's very good at handling big Synchro Monsters or say, a giant Skull Servants' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=King of the Skull Servants">King of the Skull Servants, but it's also great at taking out recruiters too.
When you're up against a slower strategy where you don't need Winda to suppress flurries of Special Summons, El Shaddoll Construct is an amazing stand-in. Without the Construct, Shaddolls' match-ups could have been all over the place. With Construct to bat cleanup though, the strategy's well-rounded against virtually anything you could run into, and deadly against some of the most popular decks of the year. It's rare to see not just a robust and complete theme dropped in just one set. But to see a high-quality backup plan as well? That's practically unheard of, and that's what Construct brings to the table.
Hymn of Light is the newest Ritual Spell to hit the game, and it works to solve two of the big Stumbling blocks that can hobble Ritual Monsters out of the gates, largely by being tremendously convenient. While some Rituals require an exact Level-counted Tribute – no more and no less – Hymn of Light lets you throw any monsters of Level 6 or higher into your graveyard to unleash Duelist Alliance's new Ritual Monster, Saffira, Queen of Dragons. That's to be expected: most of the monster-specific Rituals allow you that level of freedom, so you can Tribute say, a monster at Level 3 and a monster at Level 4 instead of only a strict 6 Levels total.
What's cool is that Hymn carries another effect that lets you banish it from your graveyard to save one of your Ritual Monsters from being destroyed, and while that can help you keep Saffira on the field to abuse its effects, the Hymn's protection can also extend to other Ritual Monsters you might play in the same deck. Again, like we said earlier about the new Djinn Demolisher of Rituals, that layering of protection can help you pick and choose which cards to negate with Herald of Perfection. Both Ritual Monsters have effects that benefit you more the longer they stay on the field, so while Hymn of Light would be great protection for any Ritual Monster, it's especially good with these two.
Playing Tour Guide From the Underworld into Djinn Demolisher and then Tributing them to drop Hymn for Saffira gives your Ritual Monster protection from targeted card effects, as well as a single catch-all shield against one destruction. Brutal.
Now that you understand the context surrounding Saffira, Queen of Dragons go ahead and take a look at it! The Queen has three different effects, and you'll activate one of them of your choice in the End Phase of any turn where you meet certain conditions. On the turn you Summon Saffira you get a pass: pick an effect, resolve it, and enjoy free card advantage. From that point forward you can use cards like Herald of Perfection, Herald of Orange Light, The Agent of Entropy – Uranus, Effect Veiler and Honest to meet its turn by turn requirement, which rewards you for sending a Light monster from your hand or deck to the graveyard. Even discard costs like Divine Wrath or Phoenix Wing Wind Blast, as well as the milling effects of Lightsworn, can trigger Saffira's payoffs.
And those payoffs are substantial. Saffira lets you draw two cards and then discard one; or discard a random card from your opponent's hand; or retrieve a Light monster from your graveyard. Each ability is a straight +1, letting you dig for cards you need, restrict your opponent's moves, or reuse cards like Honest or Effect Veiler. The latter's especially brutal: block an attack with Honest, take Honest back in the End Phase, and attack again with Honest next turn. Locking your opponent down under a recurring Effect Veiler can be just as rough, and played together those cards can paralyze your opponent completely.
With massive draw power, hand control, and the ability to reuse arguably the best attack pump ever printed, I'm pretty enthused about Saffira. Since Djinn Demolisher of Rituals and Djinn Releaser of Rituals are both searchable with Tour Guide From the Underworld you can afford to run one of each and just grab whichever's better for your match-up every Game 1: if you're playing against something that needs to Special Summon to win, you get Releaser; if you're facing down something with less emphasis on Special Summoning, you can pull Demolisher instead to fend off targeted effects. It's a great card with a lot of possibilities, and I'm excited to work with it over the coming weeks.
All the Main Deck Yang Zings are different Attributes, and while there are a few payoffs for that, the biggest may be Baxia, Brightness of the Yang Zing. You Synchro Summon it by pairing any Tuner with non-Tuner Wyrms, and when you do you target cards on the field equal to or less than the number of different Attributes of Wyrm you used in the Synchro Summon. Those cards get punted back to their respective decks, so if you used just two Yang Zing you make an instant +1, while imbuing Baxia with two Yang Zing bonus effects.
Since it's very likely that your Tuner monster will be Chiwen, Light of the Yang Zing you'll usually have at least three Wyrms of different Attributes for an immediate +2 instead; coupled with Suanni, Fire of the Yang Zing at Level 4 and Bi'an, Earth of the Yang Zing for 8 Levels total, your Baxia will hit the table at 2800 ATK with an immunity to battle, shunting three cards off the field. That's dumb, but the situation gets even crazier if you commit more Yang Zings to the Synchro Summon – you'll shuffle away more cards at a 1-for-1 ratio, which is good, but you'll also rack up more bonuses for Baxia which is really where life gets frustrating for your opponent.
If that wasn't enough Baxia has another effect. Aside from just clearing the field and being enormous, Baxia can also build momentum with its secondary ability: that effect lets you pick any card you control plus a Level 4 or lower monster in your yard, destroying the first one and then reviving the other. If you destroy a used Continuous card like Fiendish Chain or Call Of The Haunted the effect's basically free, and that Special Summon helps you put more pressure on your opponent. But if you destroy a Yang Zing instead, the effect's even better because you'll replace it with a search from your deck that can lead to another Synchro Summon. Add in the easy revival effect of Chiwen and you can leverage the incredible defensive power of the Yang Zing into a fast flurry of aggression. You really have to see this thing in action to get it.
Oh, and remember: the monster you revive has no restrictions beyond the Level 4 limit. It can attack, defend, use its abilities, or perhaps most importantly – be something other than a Yang Zing. No theme-stamped needed. Brutal.
It's been a while since we've seen a generic Level 5 Synchro Monster that was worth running. I mean really, how many of those are there? Years have passed since the release of Synchros in Duelist Genesis and we've got what: Castastor and Armades?
T.G. Hyper Librarian? Kinda.
Well now we can add Samsara, Dragon of Rebirth to that list! With 2600 DEF and an effect that unleashes the fury of Monster Reborn when your opponent runs it over or sends it to the graveyard, Samsara's one part awesome wall and one part recovery tactic. If your deck relies on fielding one monster on a perpetual basis, and that monster can be Special Summoned from your graveyard, Samsara can help you stabilize by threatening to bring it back should that monster get taken down. It's a difficult card to deal with, getting stronger and stronger as the game continues: whatever the nastiest thing is that's hit the yard, the Dragon's going to bring it back, though only at the discretion of your opponent.
Compulsory Evacuation Device and Phoenix Wing Wind Blast are anathema to Samsara, and the latter may be a bigger factor this format with the rise of the Burning Abyss theme. But beyond that there are relatively few answers right now. Dimensional Prison's a non-factor because you're unlikely to attack with Samsara's mighty 100 ATK. Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning is seeing some measure of play in certain Shaddoll builds, but we'll need to see if that's an actual trend or just an anomaly. Meanwhile it makes life difficult for any opponent interested in attacking you, or even just activating something like Torrential Tribute, Dark Hole, or Black Rose Dragon's effect. Making this thing in Yang Zings and then giving it immunity to say, trap cards, can be downright mean.
Granted, there are proactive ways to play Samsara as well. It's really easy to just slam it into an opposing monster, or if you want to be a bit more graceful about it you can use Creature Swap. Any deck that runs Creature Swap and can play suitable Tuners should be considering this card, though off the top of my head the only strategies that come to mind playing Creature Swap right now are all casual stuff. Like Skull Servants, and More Skull Servants. Regardless, the mere fact that this card exists makes Creature Swap itself stronger, so we may see more of it.
I don't know. This is one of those cards I type five paragraphs about and love way harder than anybody else. I can recognize that. But a new and splashable Synchro Monster at an under-served Level is always going to be the kind of thing that smacks of potential to me. When there's a void in the game that's lasted for literally half a decade, any strong option to fill that space makes me raise an eyebrow.
As a 2500 ATK Rank 4 that requires three Xyz Materials, Stellarknight Delteros may actually look underpowered at first glance. Half of you probably feel that way. The other half just wondered what I'm talking about, because Delteros is so awesome. And yeah: to be clear, I'm siding with those guys in the second half of the crowd.
Three Materials? Not a problem when you've got cards like Satellarknight Deneb and Satellarknight Altair nabbing you free cards way. You'll never Summon this thing as anything rougher than a -1, and since it has an immediate +1 destruction effect it breaks you even unless something goes horribly, terrifyingly wrong. It protects itself from stuff like Torrential Tribute and Bottomless Trap Hole with its first ability, and that effect protects your further extensions in turn when you decide to go for game, by throwing every card you have onto the field while hurling glossolalia at your opponent.
I guess what I'm getting at is that this is a really well-designed boss monster for the Satellarknight theme. It works well on its own, offering break-even card economy and then gaining you card advantage the longer it sticks around. At the same time it also works to serve your central win condition, which is basically "pressing your luck by aggressively playing a bunch of cards all at once." It's a very effective card with even minimal support, and it works well in both complicated and simplified game situations. The fact that it then gets you another "tellarknight" back when it goes down makes it a little more efficient; it mitigates some small degree of risk, but really I feel like that's often irrelevant. It's the front end of this thing that matters most, and it's better at ending games than you might think.
What do you even say about Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer? On one hand it's clearly a Rank 4 in the vein of problem-solvers like Diamond Dire Wolf, Number 101: Silent Honor ARK, and Number 50: Blackship of Corn. And that seems alright. But Castel just seems so obviously better despite being different, right at first glance. It addresses a wide variety of cards like Diamond Dire Wolf, but it stays on the field to swing for 2000 when it does. It eliminates face-up monsters like ARK, but it bounces defense position cards, Normal Summoned monsters, and face-up spells and traps too. It doesn't care about the ATK of its target like Blackship, and while it doesn't deal effect damage it doesn't need to because it can swing for twice that damage anyways.
And then you play with it, and sure enough it's just better than those cards on a very general level. It's so good, and you probably already know that by now. But if you haven't played with it yet yourself, or haven't been moved to flip a table yet because it was played against you, consider this your courtesy notice: Castel's amazing. If this card was an Ultra Rare instead of a Super Rare it would be at that forty dollar mark that Number 101: Silent Honor ARK once occupied. The card's ridiculous. The Zexal era may be over, but whoever's in charge is still clearly dedicated to keeping the Xyz mechanic around, giving us a new Rank 4 that's singlehandedly better than all the existing Pendulum Monsters put together.
Is Castel straight-up overpowered? I'm undecided on the issue, but I'd love to know what you think in the Comments below. It seems especially strong against some of the big themes emerging from this set, punting away a variety of boss monsters that were specifically made to resist or compensate for their own destruction. Don't get me wrong, cards like Number 101: Silent Honor ARK are still worth playing – we saw a ton of defensive ARK plays at the North American WCQ, so the entire context for that card's use in competition has changed. Castel can't mimic that. But regardless, it has an instant spot in the Extra Deck of anyone who can make Rank 4's and likes winning, so yeah.
If you ever question whether or not Konami loves you, remember: they didn't make Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer a Secret Rare. Someone over there likes you.
That's eight more cards down on our journey to the end of Duelist Alliance! Stay tuned for Part 4 where we'll look at the above-average spell and trap support for the biggest new themes plus some splashable generics. In Part 5 we'll move on to the slim field of highlight imports, and what might be the greatest crop of World Premieres of all time. It's forty-four cards down with a couple dozen left to go, as we close out our Giant Set Review!