But at the same time, Legacy of the Valiant presses the boundaries for Xyz Monsters in other directions, too. Rank 1's get what appears to be a philosophical makeover, while at least one Number C card proves impressive, while low-Rank Xyz get their very own Gaia Dragon, the Thunder Charger. A few boss monsters and some slick control effects later, and we've got a really stellar mix of cards to talk about in today's installment of the Giant LVAL Set Review.
Prior to Legacy of the Valiant, only two Rank 1 Xyz existed in the TCG that required just two Xyz Materials: the much-loved roadblock Slacker Magician, and the never-seen-on-a-table-before-ever Number 63: Shamoji Magician. Both were Light monsters too, so unless you had a third Level 1 kicking around to use as Xyz Material, your attribute options were limited.
That all changes with LVAL, which brings us two more low-investment Rank 1's. The first is the fellow right above, Number 39: Utopia Roots. Another defensive card like Slacker Magician, Utopia Roots isn't as good at keeping itself on the field, but it makes up for that by keeping other monsters around instead: like its full-sized Rank 4 counterpart, the original Number 39: Utopia, Utopia Roots can negate any attack, regardless of which monster's under fire. Unlike the Rank 4 Utopia, Utopia Roots doesn't have a self-destruction effect, so it can actually be a more effective defender by absorbing one more attack. Since it gains big ATK numbers when it negates the attack of an Xyz Monster, too, it can often ward off Xyz without costing you Xyz Materials.
It's a sweet little card! Legacy of the Valiant does a lot for Level 1 monsters, so watch for that as a running theme throughout the rest of the Giant Set Review.
Number C69: Heraldry Crest of Horror really, really looks like a big dumb useless card. It's very easy for most players to ignore the Rank-Up spells and their associated CXyz and CNumber monsters, but a few are actually deceptively easy to Summon and can make a tremendous impact.
In the case of Crest of Horror, the trick is to use something simple like Tour Guide from the Underworld or Crane Crane to Summon Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut, target it with the new Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force, and then overlay the Chrononaut with Crest of Horror. That gives you a 4000 ATK beatstick your opponent will never attack, because even if they had enough Fire Formations or Bujingi Cranes to swing over it, you'd get to destroy all their cards for free anyways.
You can't Special Summon on the turn you activate Astral Force, but Chrononaut's really good at sticking around and blocking attacks anyways. And since Astral Force has an effect that lets you retrieve it from the graveyard, you can search it by sending it to the yard with Lavalval Chain if you don't draw it naturally.
There's definitely a very impressive casual Chaos variant here. Taking a -1 to unleash a 4000 ATK monster that threatens to explode all of your opponent's cards sounds like a solid deal, especially when the ability to retrieve Astral Force and make more simple Rank 3 plays renders it repeatable.
Remember the new Gorgonic monsters from Part 1? Gorgonic Guardian is their sorta-kinda boss monster, a Rank 3 you can put together in one turn thanks to the effect of Gorgonic Gargoyle. Gorgonic Golem can reduce an opposing monster's ATK to 0 when it's destroyed in battle, but Gorgonic Guardian does it just by detaching an Xyz Material, negating the target's effects while you're at it. From there, you can use the Guardian's once-per-turn effect to destroy whatever you shrunk. The Guardian's destruction trick is the big general payoff for the Gorgonic strategy.
Of course, with two easy ways to reduce attack points, you can also play all the Reptilianne monsters that reward you for gimping your opponent's monsters! Destruction effects are all well and good, but the Reptiliannes can be even meaner. Attack over a stunted monster with the Level 4 Reptilianne Scylla's 1800 ATK and you get to Special Summon that monster in defense mode, minus its effect. That can make for some easy Xyz Summons. Reptilianne Viper lets you steal control of a 0 ATK monster when it's Normal Summoned, and it's a Level 2 Tuner so you can make an immediate Synchro Summon with whatever you swipe. Moving along, you Special Summon Reptilianne Vaskii by Tributing 2 monsters with 0 ATK from anywhere on the field, and from there it's got 2600 ATK and an effect that lets you destroy one of your opponent's face-up monsters once a turn.
Are Gorgonics the second coming of Reptiliannes? Maybe, if you're willing to acknowledge that both themes are for casual play and local tournaments at best. It's interesting to see the Reptiliannes get a makeover in the form of a new, complementary theme: I wasn't sure if we'd see that kind of Mermail + Atlantean pairing ever again, but it looks like it may become a recurring design element. Cool stuff.
By now you're probably familiar with Number 101: Silent Honor ARK. It's the second biggest money-pull in the set, and one of two new splashable Rank 4's that virtually any Extra Deck can use. Costing just two Level 4 monsters of any Type and attribute, it hits the field with an ability that grabs an opposing Special Summoned monster in attack mode, and grabs it for use as an Xyz Material. While consolidating two Level 4's for your Xyz Summon might involve a brief -1 of card economy, the monster you eliminate balances out the trade. It's an amazing way to turn any two Level 4's into an answer to a big boss, Synchro, or Xyz Monster in your way. It even protects itself from destruction, using that pilfered monster as a meat shield.
If your deck can make Rank 4's as 1-for-1 trades instead of -1's, you're really sitting pretty. Coach Soldier Wolfbark is the number one way to accomplish that amongst the top decks right now, but Gravekeeper's Spy can do it in the new Gravekeeper builds, and Thunder Family strategies that can plus into extra monsters with Thunder Sea Horse, or reuse Xyz Materials with Recycling Batteries. They can all turn Number 101: Silent Honor ARK into an immediate +1.
This card's an amazing addition to the Rank 4 generic lineup; a more specific problem-solver than Diamond Dire Wolf, it's a narrower card but makes up for its focus on monsters by being a +1 instead of a 1-for-1. There's a reason this card is so pricy: a ton of different decks can use it, and it's likely to hold most of its value until it gets reprinted some time many months from now. We haven't seen this kind of splashable power in a long time.
With cards like Sylvan Hermitree and Tytannial, Princess of Camellias, the Sylvan deck's perfectly positioned to play the new Rank 8, Alsei, the Sylvan High Protector. Like most Sylvans, Alsei can excavate the top card of your deck and send it to your graveyard, triggering the effects of monsters like Sylvan Komushroomo and Sylvan Marshalleaf. But Alsei takes that themed mechanic in some new directions, and to some new extremes: when you excavate your topdeck with Alsei, you name it in advance: excavate the card you named, and you add it to your hand instead of sending it to the graveyard. That means you can stack your deck using cards like Mount Sylvania, and then just take whatever you stacked; something the other Sylvans can't do. In addition, whenever you control Alsei and you send a card from your deck to your graveyard with a card effect, you can detach an Xyz Material from Alsei to punt any card from the field to the top or bottom of your opponent's deck.
That means Xyz and Synchros are gone entirely, while problematic monsters, spells, and traps can be placed all the way on the bottom of the deck where your opponent can't get to them… or even use them as resources from the graveyard. Alternatively, if you know your opponent has a relatively useless card on the field and needs to draw outs in their next Draw Phase, you can force them to draw that card again. With a respectable 2300 ATK and an effect that can clog your opponent's draws for two turns back-to-back, Alsei can end games with a little good decision-making.
The trick is gathering those Level 8 Xyz Materials in the first place, and creating situations where Alsei would be genuinely better than the two Level 8's you'd overlay for it. Since Tytannial has a powerful control effect that can lock down the game anyways, and Hermitree has a +1 draw effect that's similar to Alsei's excavation ability – and sometimes just better – that won't always be the case. Still, Miracle Fertilizer can work wonders in the Sylvan deck to easily make Alsei's Summon a 1-for-1 across two turns. There are many situations where you'll want it, and Summoning it's often shockingly easy thanks to the recursive power of Miracle Fertilizer.
Back on the Rank 1 side of things, Ghostrick Dullahan's the second new, splashable Rank 1 that only requires two Level 1 Materials. You can Summon Dullahan with something as simple as Kinka-byo, or a pairing of defensive Level 1's like Ghostrick Jackfrost, Battle Fader, or Ghostrick Lantern… heck, even Treeborn Frog. If your deck makes Slacker Magician as a defensive Summon, you can now play Dullahan as the precise opposite.
Because yeah, don't misunderstand – Dullahan's an aggressive card. At a boosted 1200 ATK thanks to its own "Ghostrick" name-stamp, Dullahan's ability lets it tackle monsters of 2300 ATK or lower, halving their attack points and then swinging over them. The effect works on defense too, so if your opponent attacks Dullahan on their turn, you can still Shrink their monster and send it crashing into Dullahan's lance. When your opponent does manage to beat Dullahan, it replaces itself with another Ghostrick from your graveyard, Alucard-style.
That's awesome, because you can use that recursive effect to get back Ghostrick Jiangshi, or a defensive monster like Lantern or Jackfrost. It can recycle a beater like Ghostrick Mummy, or let you reuse the search power of Ghostrick Stein. But it's especially brutal with Ghostrick Mary: if your opponent attacks Dullahan and presses over it for a little damage, you can drop Mary to search the Ghostrick of your choice, then use Dullahan's effect to add Mary right back to your hand. So to recap? You'll Summon Ghostrick Dullahan, often as a 1-for-1, and immediately swing over a monster for a +1. Next turn, even if your opponent has a monster with 2500 ATK or more to take Dullahan down (a -1), you'll Ghostrick Mary for a search (a 1-for-1), and then get Mary back (another +1). So as long as Dullahan survives on your turn when you Summon it, Ghostrick Mary makes it a +1 overall and feeds you whatever you need from your deck.
That's kind of nuts. Look for this card to be big in all sorts of strategies, including that Ghostrick Piper deck I keep mentioning.
I'm a massive fan of Bujintei Tsukuyomi. While Bujintei Susanowo gets you a single +1 each turn with its search effect, and Bujintei Kagutsuchi's talent is surviving a wide range of opposing threats, Susanowo's a mix of both agendas. It can create huge swings of momentum with the right set-ups backing it. Yes, Bujintei Tsukuyomi only needs Level 4 Light monsters for Xyz Materials, so you could potentially play it in all sorts of different strategies. That said, I'm only really interested in playing it in Bujins, since they make the most of its two effects.
Tsukuyomi's first ability lets you ditch a hand of at least one card to draw two more. Ideally, you want to toss as few cards as possible – preferably just one – to draw two more for a quick +1. Do that, and you balance out the consolidation for your Xyz Summon. But to get the most out of that effect, you want the cards you discard to be useful in the graveyard. Anything with a self-recurring effect, like Treeborn Frog or the Dragon Rulers, can help balance out the card loss. Anything with a banish-costed effect like Mezuki can also help turn your minuses into 1-for-1's.
But Bujins are the best at taking advantage of that effect: you can fill your graveyard with stuff like Bujingi Turtle, Bujingi Centipede, and Bujingi Hare, putting them where they're useful and drawing cards to replace them in the process. You know how you play Bujin Yamato to search a Bujingi Crane and then drop a Turtle or a Centipede, effectively scoring a +1? That's how you want to play Tsukuyomi, except with more cards involved and thus higher stakes.
Can't get that effect off twice because Bujintei Tsukuyomi doesn't stick around long enough? Provided your opponent destroyed Tsukuyomi with an effect instead of an attack – which is likely, since Bujingi Crane makes winning a battle with Bujintei Tsukuyomi really tough – you can cash in your unused Xyz Materials to retrieve Bujins from your graveyard, Special Summoning them so they're ready to defend your Life Points, keep your Bujingis live, and make another Xyz Summon. Heck, you can even just Summon Bujintei Tsukuyomi when you're reading Mirror Force and want to swing on your opponent for 1800 battle damage: if your opponent Forces away Tsukuyomi, you'll just present two attackers instead of one.
It's a really cool card, and I can't reiterate just how much I wish Bujins weren't pinned down by a billion Side Deck cards right now.
I really want to play Fairy Knight Ingunar, but I have no real idea for how to do that. I mean, I can think of lots of ways to Summon it. Just not any good ways to Summon it. There's nothing that screams, "tournament viable, not a terrible idea."
Would Hieratics play this? Level 6 monsters are tough enough to come by this format, but gathering three Level 6's on the field all at the same time is even tougher. A full-field Giant Trunade is pretty appealing, and against a couple of Synchro or Xyz Monsters you might even score an even trade of card presence after going into Ingunar as a -2 with three Xyz Materials. But it's not going to be relevant in a number of matchups: you don't want to give your opponent their Fire Formations back, nor their Abyss-spheres (which they'll inevitably chain).
You can certainly use Fairy Knight Ingunar to strike the final blow against your opponent if they have 2600 Life Points or fewer, courtesy of Gaia Dragon, the Thunder Charger. But Ingunar's effect isn't even a come-into-play trigger like Black Rose Dragon: it's an Ignition Effect, so your opponent can preempt it with something like Spellbook of Fate or Bottomless Trap Hole. This card's cool, but it's very costly, and I don't think this is the right format for it. If you have ideas for how to play it I'm eager to hear them down in the Comments. I'd love to be wrong here.
Evilswarm Exciton Knight is the marquee card from Legacy of the Valiant. While there have certainly been debates about how this card stacks up against Number 101: Silent Honor ARK, the reality is that both cards are amazing, and Exciton Knight's status as a Secret Rare has made it the biggest money pull in the set. And for good reason.
Coming to the field off the overlay of any two Level 4 monsters, Exciton Knight's purely generic; it's ridiculously easy to Summon at the cost of a -1, and cards like Gravekeeper's Spy or Coach Soldier Wolfbark will even let you 1-for-1 into it. Its effect is the ultimate field-leveler, destroying everything but itself if your opponent has card advantage over you. That makes it a huge comeback card when the game's not going your way, but it also punishes free +1 search cards like Fire Formation – Tenki, Genex Undine, or Spellbook Magician of Prophecy. It levels the playing field if your opponent opens the duel going first, and you can even burn cards for stuff like Gold Sarcophagus, Summoner Monk into Mezuki, or Phoenix Wing Wind Blast to create an artificial deficit of card economy, then clear the field to bring your opponent down to your level.
And don't forget: since you can activate Exciton Knight's effect in your opponent's Battle Phase, you don't even have to use its ability; you can always just put it out there as a threat, and keep your opponent from entering their Battle Phase in the first place. Brutal.
With Evilswarm Exciton Knight bringing easy mass removal back to the Advanced Format, the act of setting all your cards to the field to create big defensive set-ups is suddenly a huge risk. This is a game-shaping card, and if you're only thinking about how it impacts your duels turn by turn you're missing half the picture. The mere possibility of Exciton Knight changes the fundamental way you play the game in any matchup involving Rank 4's, so try to keep that in. If you can't adapt, you're going to get blown out again and again. Stay tuned, because Doug'll be giving you a more in-depth look at this card on Wednesday.
All Exciton awesomeness aside, Downerd Magician might be my favorite card in the set! As a Rank 4 Xyz Summon off two Spellcasters, the Magician provides piercing damage in return for something like two Kycoo the Ghost Destroyers or Breaker the Magical Warriors in certain Spellbook variants, or a lone Gravekeeper's Spy in a Gravekeeper deck. Piercing damage is always a useful option to have, especially in matchups where cards like Dandylion and Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack put Token Monsters onto the field. (Rare as those may be in this day and age.)
That said, the main attraction here is Downerd Magician's function as a Gaia Dragon, the Thunder Charger for Xyz Monsters Rank 3 and lower. It's insane. If you've ever played Tour Guide from the Underworld to Summon Leviair the Sea Dragon or Ghostrick Alucard, you know how that play normally goes: you make your Xyz Summon, use your Rank 3's effect for a quick +1, and next turn it gets run over because it only had 1800 ATK. And don't get me wrong – those plays are worthwhile. They can and do win games.
But Downerd Magician changes those situations entirely. Instead of leaving your weak Xyz on the table, you can overlay it in Main Phase 2 with the Magician, which hits the field with 2500 ATK and a far better chance to survive until your next turn. If your opponent can't destroy Downerd Magician they'll have to be careful putting defense position monsters on the field. If they do manage to attack over Downerd Magician you'll still take less damage than if you controlled an 1800 ATK monster instead, and you'll have one more card in your graveyard for Chaos Summons, Dark Armed Dragon, or Pot of Dichotomy.
That's just the beginning, because Downerd Magician upgrades Rank 1's and Rank 2's as well. You can make a cheap Rank 1 with something like Kinka-byo or Treeborn Frog, or plus into a Rank 2 with a Ronintoadin combo or Mystical Shine Balls, and then trade up into a beatstick in Main Phase 2 by upgrading to Downerd Magician. That's awesome if you want to retrieve a monster with Herald of Pure Light, Special Summon a Kagemusha Raccoon Token with Number 64: Ronin Raccoon Sandayu, or score a fast 3000 damage with Daigusto Phoenix. Claim your effects, dish out some hurt in your Battle Phase, and then swap your vulnerable monster for a 2500 ATK beater after the fact. If none of those effects look good to you, you can even just Xyz Summon whatever you like, keep all its Xyz Materials, and drop Downerd Magician as a 2700 ATK threat for next turn.
This card's tremendously versatile and I love the design work and balancing that evidently went into it. I'm also really glad to see that players are responding to its release: it's one of the top pulls from the set, as it should be.
Holy crap, is Leo, Keeper of the Sacred Tree ever annoying! As a completely generic Level 10 Synchro, lots of decks can Summon it, though I've personally played it the most in Sylvans (where it's easily made as a 1-for-1 off combos like Spore plus a Level 8). Leo's 3100 ATK eclipses the attack power of virtually everything seeing play right now short of Star Eater, and that's brutal because it's virtually immune to effects. Bottomless Trap Hole or Torrential Tribute can knock this thing out when it hits the table, and Spellbook of Fate continues to reign supreme in its non-targeting ways, but beyond that there just aren't many answers.
Common monster effects like Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear, Atlantean Heavy Infantry, and Karakuri Shogun mdl 00 "Burei"? They can't touch Leo, because you can't activate their effects in your opponent's Main Phase 2. Battle tricks like Forbidden Lance and Dimensional Prison are only relevant in the Battle Phase, so they're useless as well. Book of Moon and Phoenix Wing Wind Blast can get rid of it… but only after it's already had a chance to thump you at least once. Leo's certainly not invincible, but you're going to see quite a few games where your opponent just has no way to deal with this thing.
Though its effect is deceptively simple, don't make the mistake of underestimating Leo, Keeper of the Sacred Tree. The first time someone beat me with it was a major wake-up call.
That's it for today! Tomorrow we're going to look at the spells and traps that support all the monsters we've been discussing, as well as a couple sweet new tech cards. But for now I'm curious: what's your one favorite Xyz from Legacy of the Valiant? Evilswarm Exciton Knight? Number 101: Silent Honor ARK? Or is Downerd Magician just too awesome for you to resist (Like I said, I think it gets my vote). Share your pick down in the Comments and tell me why it's your fave.