At the same time this portion of the set also has key cards for the new Sylvan theme, plus some splashy and nichey stuff that could have a definite competitive impact. Let's start with a card we touched on yesterday…
Rank-Up-Magics haven't been popular in real competition, largely because they're tough to play and frequently act as dead draws. That said, Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force is the most versatile Rank-Up card yet: it lets you jump two Ranks instead of one, and it doesn't restrict you to just "Number C" or "CXyz" monsters. As we discussed yesterday, that lets you make plays like Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut into Number C69: Heraldry Crest of Horror; Ghostrick Alucard into Crimson Knight Vampire Bram; or Grenosaurus into Number 61: Volcasaurus. There are some Rank 4 into Rank 6 combos as well, but the main attractions here are the Tour Guide and Crane Crane plays that let you unleash massive monsters on the cheap, scoring a few useful effects along the way.
And it actually works, because Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force is more consistent than previous Rank-Up counterparts. One of the biggest challenges the previous Rank-Up-Magics stuck you with was drawing them in the first place: if you built your deck around Rank-Up-Magics but didn't actually see them, you often wound up with some lame low-Rank monsters and no path to victory. Astral Force is different: because you can trade your normal draw in your Draw Phase to retrieve Astral Force from your graveyard, you can recycle it again and again. But more importantly you can send it to your graveyard with Lavalval Chain in the first place, giving you easy access to the most important piece of your central combos.
I don't think this card's tournament-competitive, but I definitely want to work with it in the future. There are some very cool plays here that involve a lot of smart card economy and giant beatsticks, and that's a recipe for a ton of flashy fun
You saw me gush about Paladin of Photon Dragon back in Part 2, but now we get to discuss the Ritual Spell you'll use to Summon it! Luminous Dragon Ritual requires four Levels of Tribute, which is always your favorite number when you're playing Rituals: you can Summon Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands, search out your Ritual Spell or Ritual Monster as a +1, and then Tribute Manju for Luminous Dragon Ritual. That sets up your combo and unleashes Paladin of Photon Dragon as a simple -1 instead of a -2. If you can destroy a monster with Paladin of Photon Dragon in battle (+1), you'll instantly draw a card (+1) and finish your Battle Phase up a card.
For ages now, the Photon deck's had lots of tricks that put Level 8 monsters on the table: Galaxy Wizard can boost itself into a Level 8 for Xyz Summons, while Galaxy Expedition and Galaxy Knight can Special Summon Level 8's from your deck and graveyard respectively… under the right conditions. The problem was meeting the necessary conditions to make those three cards useful. Galaxy Wizard's Level boost was useless without another Level 8; Galaxy Expedition required you to control another Level 5 or higher "Photon" or "Galaxy" monster before you could activate it; and you can only Normal Summon Galaxy Knight without Tribute if you already had an on-theme monster on the table (with a target to revive in your Graveyard).
Paladin of Photon Dragon's cool because it doesn't eat your Normal Summon, and it brings a Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon to the field straight from your deck, independent of anything else. It even Summons Galaxy-Eyes from your hand if you caught some awkward draws. From there you've got the field presence needed for Galaxy Expedition; a Level 8 to overlay with Galaxy Wizard; and the set-up to Normal Summon Galaxy Knight without Tribute. If you play Paladin to establish an early Galaxy-Eyes in the graveyard for Galaxy Knight and then get another Level 8 on the field later, you even open up plays for Neo Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon. That means you'll score a 4500 ATK monster that negates the effects of all face-up cards on the table, detaches all your opponent's Xyz Materials, gains attack points, and may even make multiple attacks.
There's definitely a deck here, and I'm convinced it's playable for at least local tournaments. As a fan of Galaxy strategies, this is the card I've been waiting for to take things to the next level.
Mount Sylvania's the heart and soul of the Sylvan strategy, stacking the top of your deck with monsters like Sylvan Peaskeeper and Sylvan Marshalleaf so you can get to their trigger effects, and then threatening to resolve those effects in your opponent's End Phase by excavating those cards.
The discard cost required for Mount Sylvania may look steep, and it certainly hurts whenever you pitch a card and your opponent chains Mystical Space Typhoon for a quick +1 to kill your effect. The threat of that simple removal play and the minus it creates is probably the number one challenge that'll keep Sylvans out of tournament play this format. But the discard cost itself isn't a huge problem. If you draw Tytannial, Princess of Camellias or Sylvan Hermitree, you generally want to pitch those cards anyways so you can bring them back with Miracle Fertilizer: they're more useful in your graveyard than in your hand. Spore and Dandylion are both acceptable discards too, offering great effects that build aggressive combos.
Mount Sylvania's a game-shaping card, stacking simple removal plays with Komushroom and Marshalleaf to discourage your opponent from setting backrow, or Summoning monsters. If you can keep it on the field victory's often a matter of simply waiting for the inevitable. But therein lies the challenge: the popularity of Mystical Space Typhoon and cards like it – Dust Tornado and Twister – are the single biggest problem. For now, your takeaway should be this: Mount Sylvania turns Sylvans from a luck-driven deck that would excavate cards at random, into a precise control strategy. There's way more potential here than most believe.
Ghostrick Museum offers a new spin on Ghostrick Mansion, geared towards fixing some of the problems that plagued Ghostricks in their Shadow Specters debut. The Museum keeps Mansion's effect that protects set monsters and allows you to make direct attacks, but it carries an additional drawback, keeping your non-Ghostrick monsters from attacking. That's not really a problem for a dedicated Ghostrick deck; it's just meant to keep the Museum out of general stall strategies. From there, you give up Ghostrick Mansion's damage-halving ability that kept your opponent from killing you so quickly in the past, and replaces it with another effect that turns successful direct attackers to face-down defense when they score damage.
It's essentially a more aggressive Ghostrick Mansion. The Museum may not protect your Life Points as well, unless it discourages attacks completely, but it does make it much easier to attack your opponent directly by turning opposing monsters face-down. It's a nice new direction for the Ghostrick deck alongside Ghostrick Mummy; the Mummy's Summon effect lets you put more damage on the table in a single turn, so you can really take advantage of those new attack opportunities.
Speed was the chief issue keeping Ghostricks out of competition in the Shadow Specters era. New cards in Legacy of the Valiant make them more aggressive and accelerate them towards their best cards more consistently, so we may see Ghostricks putting in some sort of competitive showing in the near future.
Bujinunity is an awkward card, requiring you to pitch your entire hand while your field's empty. However, it is more search power for the cards that Bujins need to see in the early game: Bujin Yamato, Bujin Mikazuchi, and the new Bujin Arasuda. Bujinunity's effect is a lot like the first ability on Tsukuyomi' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Bujintei Tsukuyomi">Bujintei Tsukuyomi: it lets you drop your whole hand to get to different cards. Like Arasuda, that's good news if your hand's loaded with Bujingis you want in your graveyard anyways.
But, the restriction requiring you to control no cards is harsh, keeping you from playing out your hand to grift better card economy. And while you want to see your Beast-Warrior Bujins in the early game and thus might want to play Bujinunity to accomplish that, it's those times when your hand's full of cards that you have the most to lose. Granted, you might give up just one card along with Bujinunity to search three Bujins in the mid-game… but you can only do it with a bare field, and if that's the situation you're in you may've already lost.
It's an interesting card, but I don't think it's consistent enough to warrant play.
Hidden Temples of Necrovalley's pretty plainly a Vanity's Emptiness for Gravekeepers. It's not chainable, so you can't minus your opponent with it when they try to make a Special Summon. But it won't disrupt your own Special Summons when you want to bring out a monster with Gravekeeper's Spy or Gravekeeper's Nobleman, and it won't self-destruct just because you played a spell card or a Normal Trap.
Like so many of the new Gravekeeper cards in LVAL, this is a great Main Deck or Side Deck pick depending on the matchups in your metagame. The fact that you can retrieve it with Gravekeeper's Ambusher makes both cards a few degrees better, too, letting you retake control of the game when your opponent thinks they've finally broken free.
I'm not sure how to use Onomatopaira. I've built lots of Gagaga decks and plenty of Gogogo decks, but I've never worked on one strategy that played both. Nor any version that also ran Dododos or Zubabas. Nothing I've seen anyone do with this card has impressed me yet, including the use of the flexible Dododo Buster, but I feel like there might be a strategy here for anyone willing to put in the time to figure it out.
Thoughts down in the Comments? I'd love to know how people are running this thing.
First, the art on Stand-Off is totally badass. I bet Beau Butler loves it.
But beyond that, I'm pretty sure this is a wickedly obnoxious stall card and nothing else. There's no real way to fight out of a Stand-Off lock unless you can Tribute away your Standing monster, or use it for an Xyz or Synchro Summon. You can, theoretically press damage over your opponent's Standing monster. But if they're using Stand-Off in the first place, they're probably using it on something gigantic to preclude that possibility anyways. If you can't use one of the involved monsters as a cost or Material for something, I don't think there are many ways out of the lock. And that's terrible.
I don't think Stand-Off's going to win any tournaments. I do think it'll annoy the hell out of you if your opponent's trying to win with Exodia despite the odds being against them in a long tournament. Am I missing something? I don't know why this was printed. It seems to go against every piece of design philosophy we've seen for several years running.
Xyz Override lets you turn stuff like Thunder Dragon and Ojamas searched with Ojamagic into useful Xyz Effects. If there isn't something stupid to do with that right now, I guarantee there will be in the future. Keep an eye on this one.
Shared Ride is like the illegitimate love-child of Maxx "C" and Mistake. The latter's a huge card this format, appearing in strategies like Fire Fists and Constellars, which can get their necessary search effects out of the way early on before flipping Mistake and locking down stuff like Geargia, Mermails, Spellbooks, and Bujins. It's the Imperial Iron Wall of the current format: if it doesn't demolish your strategy you should probably be playing it.
…But if Mistake does demolish your strategy, then Shared Ride is the next best thing. While Mistake's a Continuous Trap that affects both players, Shared Ride will never restrict your own searches, since it only affects your opponent. It's got some other advantages too: while your opponent can Chain Mystical Space Typhoon to destroy your Mistake and force through their plays, simple chained removal can't stop Shared Ride from resolving: it's a Quick-Play Spell, not a continuous card. And while Mistake flips and then remains on the field until it's destroyed, effectively eating a card from your hand, Shared Ride will almost always replace itself with a free draw. As long as you chain it to a search effect that first draw will replace Shared Ride and effectively lock your opponent down for free.
Granted, your opponent may always just choose to press their luck, play through Shared Ride, and kill you anyways. But like Maxx "C", Shared Ride gives you the opportunity to draw into attack stops like Swift Scarecrow. Unlike Maxx "C", Shared Ride gives you the opportunity to draw into Maxx "C" and then draw even more cards, too. Seems worth noting.
While Maxx "C" has often been regarded as sub-par against Mermails and does virtually nothing in the Spellbook matchup, Shared Ride's a great Side Deck call against both decks. It fits a spread of matchups that aren't really addressed by any other comparable card. It'll be interesting to see the long term impact Shared Ride and Mistake create over the coming months.
Beau already launched into a huge discussion on Necrovalley' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Imperial Tombs of Necrovalley">Imperial Tombs of Necrovalley earlier this week, but I'll throw in my two cents as well, largely reiterating his sentiments. While many of the new Gravekeeper cards are limited to specific matchups or useful only in particular metagame conditions, two cards stand out as Main Deck musts: Gravekeeper's Nobleman and this thing. Drawing comparisons to Infernity Barrier, Imperial Tombs is arguably easier to activate and easier to recycle, though it's tougher to search and you can only use one per turn. It's an incredible card for its ability to both disrupt opposing plays, breaking combos and protecting your monsters, as well as its simple use to keep Necrovalley on the field in a format where triple Mystical Space Typhoon is so popular.
And as Beau noted, it's also got potential as a Side Deck pick against Gravekeepers. The Gravekeeper monster and the Necrovalley that must be on the field for the activation of Imperial Tombs don't necessarily have to be your own, creating a weird scenario where one of the deck's strongest support cards also becomes a powerful tech pick against it. I'm not sure we've ever seen that before; it's an intriguing situation.
This is kind of obvious, but I feel like it deserves to be said: Counter Traps are amazing right now. With Solemn Judgment Forbidden, Seven Tools barely seeing play, and Royal Decree absent from the Side Decks of virtually every Top 8 and Top 32 deck due to Mystical Space Typhoon, Necrovalley' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Imperial Tombs of Necrovalley">Imperial Tombs of Necrovalley can be a definite answer to hundreds of different threats. This card's really well-positioned right now, and if Gravekeepers are going to be a major part of competitive play this format, Imperial Tombs will no doubt be a big part of their success.
Skill Prisoner's fascinating. It's painfully specific, stopping a limited number of effects in an even more limited number of matchups. That said, it's a trump card that works twice against stuff like Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear, Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Gorilla, Atlantean Heavy Infantry, Karakuri Strategist mdl 248 "Nishipachi" and more. I like the concept here, offering a fairly niche effect but allowing you to use it twice to compensate for its low utility.
Granted, those utility concerns are alleviated a bit in a format where everything's running Effect Veiler, and I do think Skill Prisoner may be viewed largely as a counter to that card. The problem is that Skill Prisoner's inherently slow, since it's a trap card. If this was a Quick-Play Spell that could protect Summoner Monk on Turn 1 I'd love it, but as a trap it may just be too slow. Time will tell; I think there's some cool design here but it struggles due to the speed issue.
Oath of Companionship seems narrow, but decent enough for what it is. I could see it played in a basic Stun or Anti-Meta Beatdown deck where you wouldn't generally Special Summon anyways, turning your opponent's monster against them to create surprise win scenarios. In a pinch, you can chain it to Mystical Space Typhoon to steal a monster and defend your Life Points for a turn.
The main problem with Companionship is that if you're playing that kind of deck, you'd really prefer to never see your opponent Xyz Summon anyways. I feel like if you're doing your job, you're keeping Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo or Vanity's Emptiness on the table and making this card useless to begin with. But hey – it's another way to accomplish a well-recognized goal, for a time-tested strategy. That's worth a nod.
Duston Roller's actually pretty solid support for a Duston deck. That may mean nobody but me cares about it, but hear me out: searching House Duston's useful since your win condition revolves around getting to that card. If you can draw or search House Duston, that leaves you free to play your Stygian Securities to search out Goblin King, the other half of your OTK.
At the same time, stunning a monster your opponent was planning on using for an Xyz Summon and locking it on the field for a turn in attack position is huge; it keeps your opponent from Summoning more than one monster for the turn, which leaves them with an attack position monster so you can suicide House Duston, plus the four open monster zones you want to fill with Dustons in attack position.
It's a surprisingly well-designed card for such a niche strategy.
And that's it for the spells and traps! Tomorro we'll finish out our massive study of Legacy of the Valiant by looking at some of the best World Premiere cards ever created, and some deliriously awful OCG imports. Seriously, the dichotomy's kind of amazing, so be sure to check back for our fifth and final installment to complete this series.
You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll wonder why they're giving us cards that were printed literally fifteen years ago in Japan! Fun times.