And some stuff of questionable repute.
Sylvan Bladefender was the Sneak Peek promo for Legacy of the Valiant, and I think the intent was to make Sylvans more approachable to the general public. On the surface, Bladefender's a 1900 ATK beatstick that can excavate Sylvan Trigger Effects from the top of your deck, kicking off your combos. Then if you excavate the Bladefender itself and plant it in your graveyard, you get to add that 1900 ATK beater to your hand for free. To me, it looks like the plan was to create an easy-to-understand monster for a very complicated theme. By giving the Sylvans a 1900 ATK beater, the designers buffed the strategy's curb appeal for players who aren't familiar with the theme.
I mean, Sylvan Peaskeeper's an awesome card, but the first time you read it, it's a 400 ATK Level 1 monster with a wall of text. It's not the easiest sell.
The problem is that while Sylvan Bladefender's similar to Sylvan Flowerknight – they're both Sylvan beatsticks with middling effects – the Sylvan deck as it stands just has no interest in that kind of card. It's a devoted combo deck, and Bladefender takes card slots you need for other stuff. If its ability just excavated your top card when it was Normal Summoned it might be a different story, but the fact that you have to make a successful attack against an opposing monster to do something Sylan Marshalleaf does for free means Bladefender's utility will vary wildly between matchups. That pushes it out of competition.
I could be wrong! Maybe Sylvan Bladefender's the key to unlocking the true powers of the Sylvan strategy. But I'm pretty sure that's not the case, so for now I don't think it's worth playing.
While the best of the new Ghostrick cards in Legacy of the Valiant are geared towards playing the strategy more aggressively, Ghostrick Yeti seems angled in a different direction, similar to Ghostrick Nekomusume. With 2000 DEF and an effect that protects one of your Ghostricks from destruction for a turn, it walls your opponent's attacks and can combo with some of your battle position tricks that involve flipping cards (like the new Ghostrick-Go-Round).
While protecting a card like Ghostrick Jiangshi is highly important, and rewards you with field presence and free searches, I don't think Yeti's way of going about it is viable yet. There just don't seem to be enough synergetic cards in the Ghostrick theme, though that might change in the future. Ghostrick Yeti didn't make much of a splash when it first leaked to the public, and we'll probably need to see more releases in the future before it can grow to be useful.
Gravekeeper's Heretic was a different story, sparking a ton of debate and conversation when it was leaked in the same batch of reveals as Ghostrick Yeti. The conflict here's pretty obvious: Heretic's immunity to your opponent's card effects, as well as your own mass removal like Dark Hole, Torrential Tribute, and the new Evilswarm Exciton Knight (which Gravekeepers love), is truly awesome. There's a lot of monster removal right now in the most popular strategies for tournament competition: stuff like Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear, Atlantean Heavy Infantry, and Spellbook of Fate. Gravekeeper's Heretic dodges all of those threats and lets you play your mass removal cards freely. But at the same time, the effect that keeps Heretic safe also deprives it of the +500 ATK bonus from Necrovalley. While the notion of a 2300 ATK monster that's immune to card effects might seem understandably absurd to some, the fact that it's incompatible with Necrovalley made for some big backlash the day Heretic was revealed.
But yeah. A 2300 ATK monster you can Special Summon for free off Gravekeeper's Spy that's impervious to card effects would've been nuts. Gravekeeper's Heretic is a very good card, and it's a solid fit for the current shape of competition. In decks playing heavy backrows loaded with traps, it can dish out 1800 damage and swing over smaller monsters when almost nothing else can. Against decks with heavy backrow and a reliance on card effects to clear monsters from the table? There it's even better, forcing your opponent to make attacks and take risks they'd normally avoid.
While Gravekeeper's Heretic is another Gravekeeper card that varies in worth between different matchups, its overall value seems quite high right now, and it's definitely a Main Deck candidate. The ability to shrug off some of the most popular effects going is just too good to ignore, and the fact that you can search it with Gravekeeper's Nobleman and Gravekeeper's Recruiter means you can run just one copy and see it reliably.
Noble Knight Peredur's easily one of the most underrated cards in Legacy of the Valiant. I wrote the official reveal article for it and was really jazzed about the card, because it gives Noble Knights something they've never had: a simple, risk-free beatstick that you can throw a Noble Arms onto to get stuff moving in the early game or in between bigger plays, without sacrificing your options later – you'll never lose your Noble Arms when Peredur inevitably goes down. To me, Peredur's a fast and aggressive card in a combo-heavy deck; it balances out the complexity of the strategy by giving you the option of just hucking an attacker into the fray at 2900 ATK with Noble Arms – Gallatin, or immunity to destruction or targeting effects with other Noble Arms, all without any of the potential losses you'd take attempting that with any other monster.
On top of the simple plays, Peredur's an awesome combo with the new Gwenhwyfar, Queen of Noble Arms, using her Dark ability to destroy any monster in battle. Equipping Gwenhwyfar for free from your graveyard means that if your opponent destroys Peredur with an effect, you can trade Gwenhwyfar for any other Noble Arms card in your graveyard and keep your +1, all while setting up further plays. There are even a cuple combos that can wind up slapping two Noble Arms on Ignoble Knight of High Laundsallyn for free in the early game, should you be playing Lady of the Lake. Whenever a combo-heavy strategy gets a dose of simple raw power, that's important. But when the same card also offers free pluses and creates combos of its own? That's really worth your attention.
The entire point of Peredur is that it's got nothing to do with the, "Summon Medraut, search Borz, make Sacred Noble Knight of King Artorigus on Turn 1" play. It's an alternate plan that gives the deck more range, and diversifies its power instead of just building up one core combo that would wind up driving Noble Knights to the F&L List. It creates more options in what's often an extremely linear strategy, and it helps you play around common problems like Effect Veiler.
If you see no reason to play this card and haven't tried ti yet, trust me and just spend some time testing it out. Noble Knight Peredur's way better than people are giving it credit for.
On the flipside, nobody's talking any smack about Gwenhwyfar, Queen of Noble Arms. The initial reaction to this card was amusing: like Peredur, it drew immediate flack from a bunch of people who apparently can't recognize amazing cards but feel a need to speak very loudly. The first responses to Gwenhwyfar were largely negative. Now just a few weeks later, can you even imagine not thinking this card's amazing? With four different effects that are all independently useful on their own, Gwenhwyfar's an ATK pump; a trigger for your Noble Knight effects; a mini Noble Arms of Destiny; and a battle trick that lets your Knights destroy virtually anything in one-on-one combat. And it's not like you have to choose: you can use three of those four effects all at once, to devastating effect.
Since you can equip Gwenhwyfar, Queen of Noble Arms from your graveyard, she's essentially a +1 every time you use her beyond the first activation. Alternatively, you can yard her with Foolish Burial as a brief -1, balance that play by equipping her for a +1, and then plus off of her every time she activates from that point forward. You can even choose her with Noble Knight Borz, and if she's sent to the graveyard she's a +1 right from the get-go, no other set-up required. Let's recap:
-Gwenhwyfar makes it easier to Special Summon monsters with Noble Knight Medraut.
-She's a +2 with an instant destruction effect played with Noble Knight Drystan.
-Equipping her will get you a +2 with Noble Knight Borz, getting you to another Noble Arms for free.
-She's a +1 with Noble Knight Gawayn, creating more OTK's.
-You can equip her to Noble Knight Peredur, and as I mentioned above its effect turns Gwenhwyfar into any other Noble Arms in your graveyard.
I'm pretty sure that by this point, everyone accepts that Gwenhwyfar, Queen of Noble Arms is great. I'm just rehashing axioms and common knowledge. If Noble Knights are finally going to step up in tournament competition, this card will be the biggest reason why.
Five and a half years after the debut of the Synchro mechanic in The Duelist Genesis, the list of generic Level 6 Synchro Monsters is still downright anemic. While HTS Psyhemuth is a strong removal card with very solid ATK, and Orient Dragon always crops up a bit when Synchros see notable use, Vulcan the Divine's largely relegated to specialized strategies and Gaia Knight, the Force of Earth still sees play by simple virtue of its 2600 ATK.
Clocking in at 2500 ATK, Powered Inzektron is largely a better option for a generic Level 6 Synchro beatstick, with an ability that lets you play around Torrential Tribute and Mirror Force. It's a Light monster for Chaos Summons, and because it's a Machine that resists destruction it can combo with Limiter Removal. It shrugs off your own Dark Hole, and the turn you Summon it you can send it straight into your opponent's Bujingi Crane or Ally of Justice Catastor, knowing they'll either have to lose a card to accomplish nothing when they thought they were safe.
Powered Inzektron isn't a spectacular card that's going to force you to rethink the way you view the game, but it's a strong addition for a niche that direly needs more options. It's another entry on my long list of underappreciated cards from Legacy of the Valiant.
You may've already heard me prattling on about it being one of my favorite cards in the set, and you may've already read Beau Butler's full article on it, but it bears repeating: Obedience Schooled is one of the sweetest cards in LVAL. This card does so many neat things for so many cool decks, it's easy to see why it became a fan-favorite the moment it was revealed.
The biggest play here is a first-turn Naturia Beast: by Summoning the Level 1 Tuner Key Mouse and two Level 2 Beasts as Synchro Materials, you can unleash the spell-stopping powerhouse as an effortless 1-for-1. That's devastating in the Spellbook matchup, but it's also pretty good stopping Fire Formation – Tenki, Fire Formation – Tensu, and Fire Formation – Gyokkou in Fire Fists. It also nixes generic draw acceleration like Pot of Duality and Upstart Goblin, and fends off Mystical Space Typhoon in a format where it's hugely popular. By warding off Typhoon, cards like Fiendish Chain, Mistake, and DNA Surgery all become more useful.
Ojamas get better access to Ojama Blue and Number 64: Ronin Raccoon Sandayu, finally making triple Creature Swap viable so you can get your combos going with Ojama Blue's search ability. Fableds can make their Level 4 Synchros with ease, dropping The Fabled Kudabbi and The Fabled Unicore as 1-for-1's whenever you want them, thanks to The Fabled Cerburrel and The Fabled Nozoochee. That play even leaves you with an extra Fabled on the field to fuel more moves. Outside of themed Synchros and Xyz, you can always use Obedience Schooled to put three Tributes on the table for stuff like Beast King Barbaros or Obelisk the Tormentor, meeting their triple Tribute requirement with a single card.
Obedience Schooled is easily one of the most flexible and inventive cards in the set. I can't wait to see what the global dueling community winds up accomplishing with it. It's so different from anything we've seen before, and it can be played in so many different ways, I can't help but love it.
The final World Premiere card we'll be looking at in our Giant Set Review, The First Monarch was clearly designed to give you a quick way to -2 into the effects of Granmarg the Mega Monarch, and the new Mobius the Mega Monarch. While that might seem like a hefty cost, the Mega Monarch's abilities can more than even out your loss since each can net you up to a +3 with their destruction effects alone. In addition, you can discard common Monarch cards like Treeborn Frog and Ronintoadin to help compensate for the cost.
And that's all well and good. But The First Monarch is so much more than that. It can Block Attacks with its 2400 DEF. You can activate it without discarding anything, then Special Summon Destiny HERO – Malicious with Malicious' Special Summon effect and go into Inzektor Exa-Beetle as a 1-for-1 Xyz Summon that immediately sends an opposing card to the graveyard for a +1 overall. It's a Level 6 for the Synchro Summon of basic Dark monsters like Colossal Fighter and Thought Ruler Archfiend, as well as specialized Synchros with specific non-Tuner Materials, like Dark End Dragon and Hundred Eyes Dragon.
Between Obedience Schooled searching Earth and Water Beast-types, and The First Monarch giving you dynamic Tribute fodder on the fly, the Mega Monarchs might put in more work here in the TCG than they do in Japan. Decks like Fire Fists, Bujin, and Geargia set a lot of spells and traps, and that means big opportunities if you can work out the finer details.
While Legacy of the Valiant has an awesome crop of World Premiere cards, the OCG imports are pretty lackluster. Dark Artist is a 600 ATK monster with 1400 DEF, and its effect is to get weaker when it goes up against a Light attacker. As terrible as that sounds, it still looks like a winner when you put it next to Swordsman from a Distant Land, which is nothing short of laughably bad. It's actually possible that thing's effect has never worked, ever. Just by existing, these cards add a new facet to the argument for wholesale separation of the TCG from the OCG: if the two games were truly regarded as separate entities, there would be no reason to ever see cards that were printed literally fifteen years ago.
That said, a couple of the imports do have some potential. I've already made the argument that any non-garbage Level 6 Synchro with generic Materials is worth acknowledging, so that logic applies to Mighty Warrior, a 2200 ATK beatstick that brings his own Armory Arm to every fight. In theory, this card could win you games in niche situations when your opponent's low on Life Points. In practice it'll probably never see play, but I mean… at least it deals the damage immediately?
…And not like, five turns later in your opponent's End Phase. Like some people.
Queen Angel of Roses makes my list solely because the art's beautiful. Sure, there's some synergy here with Black Garden: you can Tribute Summon Queen Angel by sacking off a Rose Token, and her effect can destroy your opponent's Rose Tokens to clear the way for your attacks. Since she has 2400 ATK – a convenient multiple of 800 – you can even target her in the graveyard when you control Black Garden with three 800 ATK Rose Tokens on the field, destroying everything to revive Queen Angel. The design intent here's pretty clear, and as a Black Garden enthusiast I'm intrigued at the very least.
But really it's all about that art. I want to see someone cosplay Queen Angel of Roses more than I'd like to see any other character from the game. It's classic Yu-Gi-Oh! design at its finest, and I'm pretty sure it's a Super Rare just because the art's so stunning.
At last, we wind down our Giant Set Review with a look at one more OCG import to finish out our discussion! Interplanetarypurplythorny Beast is a total reversal of Interplanetarypurplythorny Dragon. While the Dragon has a superior 2200 ATK and 1100 DEF, the Beast has 1100 DEF and 2200 ATK. But, while you Special Summon the Dragon from your hand when one of your monsters is destroyed and sent to the graveyard, the Beast revives itself from your graveyard. That means you can pitch it for a discard cost like Divine Wrath or Phoenix Wing Wind Blast, then bring it back. You can even toss it for Eccentric Boy, or Special Summon it with Chaos End Master; it's a great addition to the Eccentric Angel of Zera deck I wrote about last week in What The Fix.
The coolest thing about Interplanetarypurplythorny Beast, and the thing that makes it worthwhile, is that it's reusable. Sure, the card says that when it's Special Summoned with its effect and leaves the field it's banished, but you can play around that by using it as an Xyz Material for a Rank 5. When you do, the Beast will return to your graveyard once it's detached, since it retains no "memory" of how it was Special Summoned in the first place. That can create some powerful opportunities in any deck playing Level 5's to complement it. And in a pinch, you can always abuse it for a while and then Tribute it off or use it for a Synchro Summon.
It's a really neat little niche card that boosts a few creative strategies.And With That, We're Finished!
But realistically, most sets do that: pretty much every core booster release these days has support for existing popular strategies, and a new theme or two that shows promise. What's really cool here is the return to a model that includes generic power cards playable in a variety of decks, like Evilswarm Exciton Knight and Number 101: Silent Honor ARK. Combined with splashable tech cards like Shared Ride, it gives Legacy of the Valiant a universal relevance for years to come. And then on top of that it seals the deal, winning my love with cards like Obedience Schooled; White Duston; Paladin of Photon Dragon; Kalantosa, Mystical Beast of the Forest; and Nikitama, all cards that take niche casual decks and suddenly make them vastly more competitive with just one new card.
Whether you're a competitive duelist, a casual player, or somewhere in between, there's a lot to love in this release. I really hope set design continues in this direction: an emphasis on established decks, new themes, splashables, and killer casual upgrades really hits all the marks for me, and I think that's the kind of wide appeal that can strengthen the game strong moving forward. Every set should ideally have something for everybody, and I feel like Legacy of the Valiant gets as close as you can to achieving that.
Did your favorite cards make the cut? Think I missed a hidden gem? Tell me about it down in the Comments!