These bonus cards can always go either way: historically the World Premiere stuff presents at least a few really playable cards, while the OCG imports can range from "killer" to "stuff printed over a decade ago that just never got released; enjoy your Normal Monsters." Here in Duelist Alliance there are only a couple notable OCG cards for tournament play, but the World Premiere stuff might be the strongest ever. For the first time in the history of the game a new World Premiere theme arrives in fighting-fit form, ready to take names and dominate big competitions.
But let's start at the beginning.
Dragon Horn Hunter was the Sneak Peek promo for Duelist Alliance, and it adds another option to the ranks of the Normal Monster Pendulum suite. Like Foucault's Cannon, you can search Horn Hunter with Summoner's Art, and its high Level makes it useful for potential Xyz Summons in a pinch – Horn Hunter's bigger than the Cannon, but it's also one Scale higher as well; a bit of a drawback. The good news is that it's a Warrior, and thus a better fit with Flash Knight and Warrior support like Battleguard Howling. While it's matched at Level 6 by Performapal Kaleidoscorp, its Pendulum Scale of 3 is much more useful than Kaleidoscorp's Pendulum Scale of 4. It's also easier to search, and it has a useful 2300 ATK instead of a passive 2300 DEF.
It's nothing spectacular, but Dragon Horn Hunter's more solid than it looks.
As a Level 4 Normal Summon with 1800 ATK, Doomstar Magician screams utility. It follows the Duelist Alliance pattern of design we talked about earlier, as reflected in cards like Shaddoll Fusion and Stellarnova Alpha: while the Magician's effect is costed with a discard at activation, it draws you another card at resolution, effectively destroying a Pendulum Zoned monster for free. That doesn't matter much now, but again, once Pendulum Summons become more common it's going to be a valuable ability.
Not only can destroying Pendulum Zoned cards prove useful – whether they're yours or your opponent's – but the ability to cycle one of your in-hand cards to draw another can be incredible. While the concept of opening hand quality has been a big issue throughout the history of Yu-Gi-Oh, the dialogues about "hand fixing" and how you can turn bad hands into workable or good hands is still fairly new. This card could go on to be an important part of that dialogue, trading stuff you don't need for a shot at cards that are more useful. It also helps you load graveyard-live cards where you want them.
We discussed the Ultra Athlete monsters a bit yesterday, when we talked about Feast of the Wild LV5. Each of the current Ultra Athletes – U.A. Perfect Ace and U.A. Mighty Slugger – are Level 5 monsters, so to Normal Summon them you'll usually have to send away a monster from the field as Tribute.
When you do, U.A. Stadium cushions the blow with that signature Duelist Alliance "Pay Now, Get A Refund Later" design we've seen with Shaddoll Fusion, Stellarnova Alpha and others. In this case, if you can pay the Tribute cost to Summon Perfect Ace or Mighty Slugger, the Ultra Athlete Field Spell will search you another Ultra Athlete from your deck. You take a minus to attempt your Tribute Summon, but once it's successful you get a plus to make up for it. Since the Ultra Athletes can bounce eachother back and forth off the field that's probably going to become the basis of some important plays in future releases, while also keeping the theme efficient in terms of card economy.
Of course the free search effect can work even more in your favor if you can cheat your Ultra Athletes to the field in the first place. The Monarchs Stormforth makes a great combo here: you can effectively trade it against an opposing monster as a 1-for-1, then drop your Ultra Athlete to the table for free and then plus off the U.A. Stadium search effect. You can also go in the other direction and use a revival effect or the built-in abilities of your Ultra Athlete monsters to tag in and out of your hand with a Special Summon, giving everything you control a +500 ATK boost. Note that while that boost effect can only trigger once per turn, it doesn't disappear at the end of the turn – if your monsters stick around, you can stack up several +500 ATK boosts over the course of the duel.
This card's promising support for a deck that doesn't really exist right now. But it's clear to see that it's rooted in strong fundamentals, and as we see more Ultra Athletes it's going to become increasingly powerful.
The two Ultra Athletes we have so far are split, one aggressive and one defensive. U.A. Perfect Ace is the latter, packing just 1500 ATK but a strong 2500 DEF that can help it survive your opponent's turns. When it's on the field during your opponent's turn you can pitch a card from your hand to negate an effect and destroy its source, sort of acting like a one-shot Gladiator Beast Heraklinos.
It's a solid disruption card that offers a kind of effect that usually comes with more difficult set-up. Once U.A.'s are more viable it should be pretty useful, especially with the search power of U.A. Stadium.
On the aggro side of things, U.A. Mighty Slugger is the homerun-smashing foil to Perfect Ace's defensive slant. With 2300 ATK it goes to 2800 attack points off of U.A. Stadium's effect, which is pretty big for a monster you can Special Summon for free with its own tag-out effect. Its effect-stopping ability lets it swing through stuff like Mirror Force and Dimensional Prison, and keeps a variety of Flip Effects and abilities that trigger when monsters are destroyed and sent to the graveyard from ever activating.
Bujingi Crane? Nope. Honest? Nope. U.A. Mighty Slugger's a pretty decent attacker, and its strength will depend on the shape of competition and your particular metagame once Ultra Athletes finally become viable as the theme accrues more cards.
Noble Knights started to trickle into the game with the release of Noble Knight Artorigus in Galactic Overlord. That was more than two years ago, and the theme still hasn't taken off in competition; cards were released one or two per set in those first few offerings, and that meant Noble Knights had to grow step by step at a painfully slow pace.
That's not the case with the new Burning Abyss theme! Debuting as a World Premiere theme in Duelist Alliance, Burning Abyss hits the ground running with a mighty champion – Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss. While Dante starts with just 1000 ATK, its effect lets you mill up to three cards from the top of your deck and then boosts Dante by +500 ATK for each card you sent to the graveyard. Use that ability for three cards and Dante goes to 2500 ATK until the end of your turn. That boost won't last, but if you attack with Dante it shifts to defense position where it has a permanent 2500 DEF. If Dante's ever sent to the graveyard you can pick another Burning Abyss card in your graveyard – including non-monster cards – and add it to your hand. That makes Dante repeatable, feeding you Materials for continuous Xyz Summons.
All three of the Main Deck Burning Abyss monsters released in Duelist Alliance have effects that trigger when they're sent to the graveyard, so Dante offers two ways to use their abilities: you can play them as Xyz Materials and detach them, triggering their effects and feeding Dante's ATK boost; or, if you get lucky or happen to have an effect to stack your deck, you can mill Burning Abyss monsters and trigger them that way. While a 2500 ATK boss monster that keeps shifting itself to defense mode and helps you recover cards might not seem tremendously impressive, it's those graveyard triggers that make the Burning Abyss deck so good. One Dante play can kick off a stream of effects that put a ton of pressure on your opponent, and combined with the right oldschool trap cards, the Burning Abyss strategy can get really mean, really fast.
All three of the Burning Abyss Effect Monsters share some important traits. All three are Dark Level 3 Fiends, so you can Special Summon them with Tour Guide From the Underworld – that gives you an easy Dante play and ensures that you set up for at least one Burning Abyss graveyard trigger. All three have effects that destroy them if you control any off-theme monsters, and they each have an ability that lets you Special Summon them from your hand if you control no spells or traps. Again, that speed is clutch because it lets you quickly assemble Dante plays in the early game.
Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss is the weakest of the three Burning Abyss Effect Monsters in terms of sheer ATK, but its graveyard trigger is amazing: if it hits the yard, it searches any Level 3 Dark Fiend from your deck. That means you can get other Burning Abyss monsters if you need them, but it can also set you up with Tour Guide From the Underworld or Kuribandit. Both cards are proving highly popular in successful builds of the theme.
Scarm can also search cards that aren't seeing play yet, but that could prove useful in future Burning Abyss variants: Archfiend Heiress; Djinn Demolisher of Rituals; Djinn Releaser of Rituals; Garbage Ogre; and Night Assailant top my list of darkhorse picks. Scarm's search power makes it a key card for any Burning Abyss strategy, but it could see even more intriguing uses moving forward.
While Scarm searches a wide range of Fiends from your deck to your hand, Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss digs through your deck to Special Summon Burning Abyss monsters specifically. Its graveyard trigger can help build momentum, playing off Dante's effect to field another Burning Abyss and granting you one half of another Rank 3 Xyz in the process. It pushes your strategy forward in all sorts of simple ways.
Once everything gets into motion, Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss keeps it going by recycling Burning Abyss monsters from your graveyard. It chump blocks, it helps make more Rank 3's, and it even has a decent 1600 ATK all on its lonesome. While you can play Cir to bring back Scarm or Graffe for Xyz Summons or simply to reuse their abilities, it can also revive Dante as well, allowing you to wall up, reuse Dante's graveyard trigger, or make more plays with the all-important Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force. That's important, because using Astral Force to upgrade Dante into Constellar Pleiades is a staple of current builds.
Note that you can trigger the graveyard effects of these Burning Abyss monsters by yarding them with Mathematician, or discarding them for the cost of cards like Phoenix Wing Wind Blast, Raigeki Break, Divine Wrath, or even Karma Cut. That's really one of the key things to understand about the Burning Abyss theme: while we only have one name-stamped Burning Abyss trap card so far, the monsters work so well with classic discard-costed traps that they effectively come with their own trap support already. If you're going to build a Burning Abyss deck yourself those cards will likely prove key. They offer big, dangerous abilities for smart exchanges of card economy, and they advance your strategy on all fronts when you use them to trigger your Burning Abyss abilities.
The Traveler and the Burning Abyss functions as a chainable sort of Soul Charge, but it's difficult to justify playing it when it's so much slower and so imprecise by comparison. Soul Charge is going to cost you Life Points, sure, but you can play it straight from your hand and it gives you full access to everything in your graveyard: not just Burning Abyss monsters, and not just the ones that were sent to the graveyard this very turn. That superior flexibility is huge in a strategy that often wants to play Tour Guide From the Underworld and Kuribandit so aggressively. You really want to have the option of reviving those cards.
That said, The Traveler does allow you to make big defensive plays on your opponent's turn when they think they've got you pinned down. Whether or not that will prove to be useful over the coming weeks of competition is up in the air, and I feel dubious about the prospect. But it's certainly worth considering.
Speaking of cards with killer trigger effects in the graveyard, Felis, Lightsworn Archer is the definite standout of what's unfortunately a weak crop of OCG imports. With obvious utility in the flagging Lightsworn deck, Felis has become a popular choice for Shaddolls, where you can send it to the graveyard with Mathematician and Special Summon it for easy Black Rose Dragon and Arcanite Magician plays.
Note that Felis must be sent to the graveyard by a monster effect if you're going to try and Special Summon Felis with its own ability. That means Charge of the Light Brigade, Solar Recharge, and Needlebug Nest won't trigger its Special Summon, though Kuribandit will. Personally I'm a big fan; I think Felis is a must in Shaddolls, but I'm frankly eager to give it a shot in anything running Mathematician. Including Burning Abyss.
While Cloudcastle's effect to revive a Level 9 monster from your graveyard is tricky to play, it creates immediate Rank 9 plays for Number 9: Dyson Sphere and Phantom Fortress Enterblathnir, should that be a thing you want to do. I'm not sure which decks would have sufficient access to Level 9 monsters to make that relevant, but I'm sure someone will have ideas down in the Comments.
Perhaps more interesting, Cloudcastle's second ability keeps both players from attacking with virtually anything but Xyz the turn new monsters are Summoned. Whether or not that's a worthwhile form of defense given the investment one would have to make in Summoning a Level 9 Synchro I'm not so sure, but it's a unique ability strapped to an equally unique monster.
Fishborg Doctor's so freakin' cool…
For those of you not familiar with the Fishborg Family, the relevant cards here are Fishborg Archer, Fishborg Launcher, and Fishborg Planter. (Fishborg Blaster doesn't make the list as it's currently Forbidden. Tragic.) Planter's a non-Tuner and while it has some utility with Fishborg Doctor, your main combos are going to involve Archer, Launcher, and extra copies of the good Doctor itself.
You can Special Summon Fishborg Launcher for free with the right graveyard, and once it hits the field you can use it to Special Summon the Doctor to make a Level 5 Synchro. Alternatively you can discard the Doctor to Special Summon the Level 3 Fishborg Archer and make a Level 7 instead. Remember, Fishborg Archer won't destroy your monsters if you Special Summon it after your Battle Phase, so you can actually cheat a few more monsters into your gameplan without taking unnecessary losses..
Granted, in both of those two scenarios you're going to have to banish Fishborg Doctor, as per its effect. However, if you have one Doctor in your graveyard and one Doctor in hand, you can Normal Summon a Doctor to Special Summon back your extra copy, overlay them for a quick Rank 4, and neither will be banished when they're inevitably detached. That makes Fishborg Doctor a potential 1-for-1 Rank 4 play, and you can even use them to field Xyz Monsters that demand Water Xyz Materials like Bahamut Shark.
Long-time readers will know I'm a huge fan of recursive 1-for-1 Rank 4 plays; I think they're fundamentally very strong and very high in utility, so I'm really excited to put in some work with Fishborg Doctor.
And that's it! That is the entirety of Duelist Alliance as I arbitrarily choose to highlight it. This Giant Set Review took longer to write than any similar Set Reviews we've done in the past, and as work continued toward its completion the reason for that became clear: Duelist Alliance may be the best set ever. There's never been a release like this before: Shaddolls, Satellarknights, Yang Zings, and the Burning Abyss have all made an immediate impact on tournament play, and that's unprecedented. Not once in the history of the game have we had this many new strategies make such an incredible impact.
But beyond that the set's packed with hidden gems, too; cards that could easily fall by the wayside given the sheer spotlight-grabbing glory of the big new decks. That made this Set Review a ton of fun to write, and I hope it was half as fun for you to read. This format's relatively short with few big events, but the YGO Series Open in Orlando and the ARGCS in Atlantic City are already in the bag! There are two more YGO Series Opens coming September 6th and September 13th in Atlanta and Chicago, and of course the crown jewel of competition for this format kicks off September 5th, at YCS Toronto! Your understanding of Duelist Alliance is one of the biggest keys to your success this format, so hopefully the Giant Set Review can broaden your perspective, assist you in becoming a stronger competitor, and help you have more fun while you're doing it.
Think I missed something? Spotted a goof? Want to add some insight about one of your favorite cards from DUEA? Drop a note in the Comment section and I'll get back to you this week. Let me know if you'll be headed to YCS Toronto, too – if so I'll see you there next weekend!
Really Excited About Fishborg Doctor