And I hope you felt the same, because Primal Origin doubles down on that premise! While the set's biggest competitive impact has been the introduction of the Artifact theme, likely tearing up tournaments in your backyard this very weekend, it's packed with killer support cards that offer a chance to reinvent strategies and take them to new heights.
On the obvious side of things, Sylvans and Madolches each get a big boost. But they're just the tip of the iceberg, and beneath the surface there are tons of promising new cards that even today, two weeks after the set's official release, nobody's talking about. There's a ton of awesome stuff here and a lot of it's not being discussed; cards that can make casual decks a little more viable for local level play, and cards that could very well create genuine threats in time for the WCQ season.
Let's start small, and start things off with one of the weirder cards from Primal Origin.
Heliosphere Dragon's kind of bizarre. The first few cards in PRIO are pretty underwhelming, and Heliosphere stands out for just being hugely different from anything we've seen before. Right off the bat it gets a nod for being a compatible Level 4 for Debris Dragon, allowing you to make Rank 4 Xyz. That gives it a bit of notable utility in any strategy playing Debris, so there's at least one use for it.
But the meat of the card's invested in its protection effect, which keeps any opponent with four or fewer cards in hand from attacking, as long as Heliosphere Dragon's the only monster you control. Very few decks right now have a combination of card economy and play patterns that allow them to hold back five cards beyond the first few turns of the game. Decks that build a steady stream of +1's like Traptrix Hand Artifacts and Geargia tend to set most of their cards to control the field anyways, which would keep them from attacking Heliosphere Dragon. Bujins don't grind for improved hand presence nearly as well – they build up options in the graveyard instead – and even that strategy sets cards to the backrow quite aggressively. Decks like Madolches, Mermails, and Mythic Rulers have spot removal effects that could play around Heliosphere Dragon, but they have to work harder and make more commitments than Artifacts would.
The result's an inconsistent but potent defensive card. And thanks to Heliosphere's second effect it has aggressive uses too, pairing with Level 8 Dragon Synchros, Blue-Eyes White Dragon, or Mythic Water Dragon to make Rank 8's. It's a weird, quirky little card that has plenty of uses. Will it ever prove competitive? Tough to say. It's overly complicated, but the defensive ability's cool and it's got some aggressive potential in the right strategy. It's definitely one of those cards to just file away in the back of your head for later.
Also, yes! That was the longest discussion that will ever be written on Heliosphere Dragon. That just happened. This set's a bit of a slow burn out of the gates.
As a long-time Fish fan, Mermaid Shark makes me happy. It looks so niche, but it works in several different decks to create a level of consistency those strategies might not have had otherwise. In a conventional Fish deck built around Superancient Deepsea King Coelacanth, it can search out virtually everything you might need in between Coelacanth plays or anything that could make a Coelacanth combo even bigger: it can grab Oyster Meister, Royal Swamp Eel, Flying Fish' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Golden Flying Fish">Golden Flying Fish, Shocktopus, and even Silent Wobby. If your Mermail deck needs even more search power, you could use Mermaid Shark to grab Fishborg Archer, Mermail Abysspike, or Mermail Abyssturge; if the Shark wasn't outshined by another PRIO card that happens to serve Mermails better, it could do well there. (More on that later.) And of course, it works nicely with Shark monsters like the new Gazer Shark.
All focus on monsters aside, Mermaid Shark's status as an Elemental Hero Stratos for Fish also makes one of the few worthwhile Fish support cards much better: Fish Depth Charge. A removal-driven trap card, it's sort of like a fishy version of Icarus Attack; it lets you make a 2-for-2 trade to pop an opposing monster, spell, or trap, and then draw a card to balance the exchange. Since Mermaid Shark's an instant +1, and since it's a weak Level 1 with just 100 ATK and 300 DEF, it's the perfect Tribute for Depth Charge – it's essentially a free card that you then leverage into a search and a draw for a quick plus.
Speaking of Gazer Shark, it's a pretty slick card itself. It works with Shark monsters like Panther Shark, Eagle Shark, and Shark Cruiser to make Rank 5 Water Xyz like Ice Princess Zereort or Number 73: Abyss Splash. It also combos with off-theme monsters like Dragon Ice and Sea Lancer, and it could bring ambitious Water duelists one step closer toward a working Sirenorca deck. Heck! It even works with one of my all-time favorites, The Great Emperor Penguin.
While Gazer Shark needs a pretty loaded graveyard to work, every card with heavy graveyard requirements is so much more viable today than they would've been even just two months ago, thanks to Kuribandit. The ability to fill your graveyard with Level 5 Water monsters effectively for free, while thinning your deck and getting to important spells and traps, makes even casual cards like Gazer Shark much easier to play. There's nothing supremely competitive here, and Gazer Shark can be a painfully dead card in the early game. But it's got a notably powerful effect, and it can fit into a number of largely unexplored themes to add more power in the mid-game.
Back in the Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy Giant Set Review, I talked about the idea of using Harpies' Hunting Ground with Blizzard Falcon to dish out damage. I feel like Blizzard Thunderbird gets us one step closer to that goal, giving you a method to revive Blizzard Falcon turn by turn, burning your opponent for 1500 on the way to making a Rank 4. Since Blizzard Falcon would go to the graveyard when it's detached for an effect, and Blizzard Thunderbird returns to your hand each time you use its ability, you can keep burning and Xyz Summoning as long as you have enough cards in hand to keep the cycle going.
While Soul Charge hasn't seen quite as much play as I think everyone expected – myself included – burn damage on the whole is still better now than it was before Dragons of Legend. 1500 damage across a couple turns, backed by easy Rank 4 plays, could be the basis for a slick casual deck.
I'm not sure why Battlin' Boxers are doomed to just keep getting bad cards all the time? But after a long string of disappointments – some of which are actually in PRIO - Battlin' Boxer Veil's the first decent new Boxer card in quite a while.
First off, it's Level 4. That shouldn't be something that earns a sigh of relief, but we've been subjected to so many loser Level 3 Boxers at this point that just being the right Level is worth a nod. Being Level 4 means you can Special Summon Veiler with Battlin' Boxer Switchitter and go straight into Battlin' Boxer Lead Yoke. Unlike disappointments such as Battlin' Boxer Rabbit Puncher and Battlin Boxer Rib Gardna, which you can Special Summon with Switchitter to go straight into…
…Oh that's right. Nothing.
And Battlin' Boxer Veil even has a cool effect that works in two different ways, both of them useful! Need to defend your Life Points from two attackers? Veiler lets you rope-a-dope, take the first hit, and then gives you back all those Life Points. Then it hits the field in Defense Position and keeps the second attacker from connecting. Not on the ropes quite yet? Wait until your opponent's last attack, Special Summon Veiler so it'll stick around 'til your next turn, and suddenly you've got an extra Level 4 Xyz Material. That can make simple two-Material Rank 4's possible when Switchitter's not around, or it can open up plays for Rank 4's that require three Materials. That still probably doesn't make Number 105: Battlin' Boxer Star Cestus a good idea, but at least it's now plausible that you might put it on the field.
"Cards that look like garbage but are actually pretty sweet" is a recurring theme for Primal Origin, and Battlin' Boxer Veiler's definitely one of those hidden gems. This card's WAY better than it looks.
Umbral Horror Ghost isn't a showstopper, but it's a cool new take on Marauding Captain, and it does some neat stuff when you play it in the right strategies. Infernities can use it to slim down their hand, and most importantly to unleash the search effect of Infernity Archfiend. Infernities and classic Archfiend strategies can both play it with Archfiend Palabyrinth, too, using Umbral Horror Ghost as the banish fodder needed to bring a matching Level 3 or Level 4 to the table.
Neat little card. No killer app really springs to mind, but it could be worth experimenting with in Infernities at the very least.
Since this Giant Set Review's being posted a little later than usual, you probably know all about Artifact Moralltach. The flagship monster of the new Artifact theme, it's the go-to Special Summon off of Artifact Sanctum; it's big, it hits hard, and if it's Special Summoned on your opponent's turn it can pop one of your opponent's face-up monsters for free, without committing to a target at point of activation.
Special Summon Moralltach as a 1-for-1 and that destruction effect turns your play into an instant +1 if your opponent controls a destroyable face-up. From there Moralltach's got a beefy 2100 ATK and it can be leveraged into a Rank 5 Xyz Summon like the theme-stamped Artifact Durendal, or the uber-popular Constellar Pleiades. It works exceedingly well with Call Of The Haunted, a card that continues to be played but undervalued in many Artifact variants, and it's a frustrating card to play against largely for its ability to break up would-be Synchros and Xyz.
That said, people are getting wise to it. Not only are players trying to End Phase their Mystical Space Typhoons on suspected Moralltachs whenever possible to keep them from being Special Summoned, we're also seeing more teched copies of Banisher of the Radiance to keep Artifacts from touching down in the graveyard, and more ambitious use of Malevolent Catastrophe. Since the reflex instinct when you draw Artifact Moralltach is to set it, it's really easy to blunder into game-losing Catastrophes and just throw away the duel. Be careful how you play it, and understand that as players get more accustomed to fighting against it, you'll have to adapt.
One of the biggest problems with Artifact Moralltach is that once you draw it you kind of have to set it eventually; it does virtually no good in your hand. That means you have to destroy it with your own removal card on your opponent's turn to make it useful, usually through Artifact Ignition or Double Cyclone.
Alternatively, you can Artifact Sanctum for Artifact Beagalltach on your opponent's turn and unleash up to two backrow Moralltachs at once. Beagalltach's the second most popular Artifact in tournament competition for its synergy with Moralltach: people run it not because it's a great card, but because it solves problem situations where you draw Moralltachs; n those cases it can be tough to trigger the Moralltachs' effects, and at the same time if you draw too many Moralltachs your Sanctums could wind up dead with nothing left to Special Summon.
Artifact Beagalltach's the answer to those two problems. It gives you a couple more Artifacts for your Sanctums and a finessed, often skill-demanding way to redeem your unlucky Moralltach draws. At the same time though, people are sick of drawing into this card as well. The most recent round of events saw Traptrix Hand Artifact players very visibly trying to get by on just one Beagalltach, trading one set of risks – the chance of topdecking a subpar Beagalltach – for another set of risks entirely (the chance to draw your one Beagalltach and then have none left for Sanctum when you need one).
Watch that balancing act to be a big issue of fine-point Tuning heading into the North American WCQ. It's something you should be testing yourself if you're running HATs or any deck like it.
Artifact Failnaught may not have a place in hybrid Artifact decks; its effect is irrelevant unless you're running a lot of Artifact cards. But in a dedicated Artifact strategy, it can offer some mid-game recursion that lets you get the most out of your Beagalltachs and Artifact Ignitions later on. It's especially valuable in Game 1 where certain Artifact monsters you main only one copy of are especially powerful, and worth reusing.
Don't disregard this card just because it's not seeing play in decks that splash Artifacts. It's meant for an entirely different strategy.
Artifact Aegis may be the least useful of the Artifact monsters, warding off destruction by card effects and protecting only the Artifacts themselves. With cards like Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear and Dark Hole seeing less play in this format than in those previous, and with better answers to cards like Evilswarm Exciton Knight, it's really the bottom of the totem pole. That said, metagames are constantly evolving and it could be more useful in the future.
For now, it largely pales in comparison to…
Artifact Achilleshield! Which has actually seen some notable play , featuring in the winning deck from the Bolivian National Championship. Francisco Castillo Saveedra ran an Artifact-heavy build of HATs, running three Artifact Moralltach, one copy each of Artifact Beagalltach, Artifact Scythe, and Artifact Caduceus, as well as one Achilleshield. With 2200 DEF the 'shield's a pretty big wall, but its effect makes it even better by keeping your opponent from attacking your Artifacts for one turn.
While the lack of spot removal in current competition makes Artifact Aegis relatively useless, that same trend makes Artifact Achilleshield better, since answers are few and far between when your opponent goes to make a press and you Artifact Sanctum into this thing. It's far from an absolute answer – there are certainly quite a few outs running around – but the surprise factor's huge, and there are numerous strategies that can be totally brickwalled long enough for you to turn around and flip this play into a Rank 5 next turn. Drawing out an opposing push and then punishing your opponent with Constellar Pleiades can be huge, and Achilleshield is one of the best ways to make that happen.
As far as I'm concerned this card's notably underrated.
Artifact Labrys is a classic case of, "As soon as you see it's got more ATK than everything else in the theme you know it's bad." With 2300 ATK it's the strongest attacker in the Artifact Main Deck arsenal, but it's also the only Artifact without a bonus effect when it's Summoned on your opponent's turn.
Instead, Labrys has an ability that lets you Special Summon it from your hand, where you don't really want Artifacts in the first place. It's a questionable premise at best. If any veteran Artifact players have a more favorable opinion of the card, I'd love to hear that perspective down in the Comments.
Artifact Caduceus is big on defense, and its ability puts it squarely in the territory of dedicated Artifact strategies. To use it, you have to be willing to put it on the field without trading it up into a Rank 5, and you need to have more Artifacts at the ready, Special Summoning them to trigger Caduceus' draw effect.
Caduceus likely isn't for HAT decks, but it works nicely with big Beagalltach set-ups and it's especially good if you can get your opponent to swing into Malevolent Catastrophe. We saw some harsh Catastrophe plays in Feature Matches early on in Day 1 at YCS Philadelphia, and there were several matches where I personally saw Catastrophe and Caduceus create some nutty situations. Is the set-up and the risk of drawing a card that's even more difficult to deal with as a topdeck than Artifact Moralltach worth the risk? I'm not convinced. Artifacts may be at their best when they're just doing simpler stuff. But it's a question worth exploring.
Sylvan Cherubsprout garnered a fair amount of TCG hype when it was first leaked in the OCG, though it was largely overshadowed by the World Premiere Sylvan Princessprout once Primal Origin actually released. Of the three Sylvan decks we've seen take Regional Top 8 finishes thus far, all three ran double Princessprout, while just one ran a single copy of Cherubsprout. While Cherubsprout was initially seen as a gateway to Copy Plant and Spore, Copy Plant's been replaced in high-finishing Sylvan builds by the more synergistic Princessprout, while Spore's no longer seeing universal play.
Good card? Sure. But trends and World Premiere releases have definitely stolen some of its thunder.
On the other hand, Sylvan Sagequoia's a completely different story! While pre-PRIO Sylvan builds focused on Level 8's, and often had trouble getting Sylvan Hermitree or Tytannial, Princess of Camellias from the hand to the field, Sylvan Sagequoia's a Level 7 that you can Special Summon with ease: it drops straight from your hand whenever a Sylvan's sent to the graveyard outside of battle. With 2600 ATK it's a powerful beatstick, and since it's a Level 7 it gets you halfway to Summoning the new Orea, the Sylvan High Arbiter.
As if that wasn't enough, Sagequoia can excavate the top card of your deck digging for more Plants once a turn, and when Sagequoia itself is excavated you can use it to take back a Sylvan spell or trap from your graveyard. That works wonders with Sylvan Charity – arguably the best reason to play Sylvans in the first place.
The Sylvan decks of old were clunky, swingy contraptions that either hit big or missed entirely. Sylvan Sagequoia's a new breed of Sylvan card altogether: it's easy to use, fills several different roles, and mixes high utility with a synergy that bolsters everything you're trying to accomplish. It's a great card and it's one of the big reasons Sylvans are finally topping.
Ghostrick Doll does a lot of different things, and as a Level 2 it plays almost like a miniature Ghostrick Jiangshi. On offense it can help keep your opponent's monsters face-down. On defense, it can protect your Ghostricks by putting them into hide-mode and guaranteeing that they'll be face-down heading into your next turn, offering easy access to their effects. As long as you're flipping down at least two monsters total (Ghostrick Doll included), the average Ghostrick deck has a range of useful cards to search and Special Summon. If you manage to flip down three cards, you can search out Ghostrick Jiangshi and really start generating a ton of card advantage.
Several of the new Ghostricks in Primal Origin provide even more search power, and Ghostrick Doll's a big part of that. On the flipside, it also works really nicely with Ghostrick Night if you can keep one Ghostrick face-up: if you can flip Ghostrick Doll on your opponent's turn to set all their monsters, Ghostrick Night can keep them that way. It even works with not one, but two new notable Xyz. More on those later on!
Ghostrick Warwolf might not seem like much at first glance, but with the new Ghostrick search cards in Primal Origin it's really easy to get to, really early on in the game. The Ghostrick Field Spells and defensive traps can all keep it on the table turn after turn, and while 100 damage might not seem like much it adds up quick in a format where big backrows reign supreme. Combined with Ghostrick Night and cards like Ghostrick Doll, I think Ghostrick Warwolf actually has huge potential to spark a viable Ghostrick burn build.
Again, Soul Charge is a big part of that. With plenty of competitors paying down Life Points for big Special Summon plays, burn cards are better now than ever before. Other factors fall in your favor too, not the least of which being Ice Hand and Fire Hand. Warwolf's big enough to deflect attacks from Ice Hand should your defensive cards fail you, while the sheer number of defense position cards a Ghostrick strategy fields can stymie the Hands and keep your opponent from taking advantage of their abilities.
Whew! That's seventeen cards down, which puts us about halfway through the effect monsters I arbitrarily deem worthy of discussion. Check back for Part 2, where we'll delve into the more niche-y monsters and start looking at some of the esoteric highlights. See you then!