Normally this group of cards are some of the best-loved and most hyped in any TCG set, but for some reason this time around they've gotten a reputation for being sub-par. I don't think that's accurate, and I think Regional Qualifier and National Championship results are bearing that out: even some of the nichiest cards in these last twenty are making Top 8 impacts. There's at least one card here that I frankly didn't expect to see immediate Regional success, and needless to say, I'm thrilled to be wrong.
We'll get to that card in a bit, but for now let's kick it off with some of my personal favorites from Primal Origin!
Noble Knight Brothers is the coolest. One of the big challenges for the Noble Knight deck is that each of the Knights are deeply specialized; they're really good at what they do, but if you draw them when you don't need to do that particular thing, they're often not very useful. Most Noble Knight players look at me like I'm nuts, but there are well-acknowledged Noble Knights I've actively tried to avoid playing for a very long time. The idea of topdecking a Noble Knight Gwalchavad sends a stabbing pain right into my frontal lobe, just behind my eyes. Everybody plays that card but me. Ripped Noble Knight Medraut when you already had a field? How unfortunate. Noble Knight Drystan with nothing to destroy? So sad. These are the woes of even the most conservative Noble Knight duelist. (Like me.)
So imagine my glee when I first got my paws on the text for Noble Knight Brothers. Here's a card that, when Normal Summoned, can let you immediately make Artorigus, King of the Noble Knights with a dead-in-the-hand Level 4. Or field a bunch of damage by leveraging two Noble Knights onto the field that you wouldn't have had a use for otherwise. On top of solving generic nightmare scenarios with mismatched cards, the Brothers solve more specific problems too. Thanks to their Special Summon ability I want to play Ignoble Knight of Dark Laundsallyn for the first time ever in my dueling career. No more dead draw Level 5's you can't use, just pure recursion and free Noble Arms search power. Awesome.
Drew Noble Knight Brothers on its own? No worries, because these three dudes unite to create the Voltron of Giant Booties. 2400 DEF makes sense if you break it down to 800 DEF per brother, but honestly, what else has that much DEF off a Normal Summon? The answer's nothing, save highly specialized cards like Big Shield Gardna and Kozaky' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Giant Kozaky">Giant Kozaky. In an era where Ice Hand and Fire Hand are making DEF relevant again, those 2400 defense points go a long long way; there's actually nothing in the Traptrix Hand Artifact arsenal that can get over this thing without an effect or an Xyz Summon. Brutal.
And it just lets you get extra draws for free?! By putting key cards back into your deck, in a strategy that once struggled with running out of key cards. Noble Knight Brothers is just like Diamond Core of Koa'ki Meiru and Sylvan Charity: a one-card solution to all of the Noble Knights' biggest problems, and it does so many different things it's virtually nonsensical.
Hey, while we're considering running Ignoble Knight of Black Laundsallyn again, why don't we add in another card that works really well with it?! Noble Knight Eachtar is a Dragon Ruler for Noble Knights, hitting the field for free and pairing off with a Level 5 like Laundsallyn to 1-for-1 into Sacred Noble Knight of King Artorigus. You can bring it out from your graveyard or hand, so while you'd rather load it straight to the yard it's never really a dead or awkward topdeck. The Xyz and Synchro Summons you make with it can't be negated, which is amazing in a format where Black Horn of Heaven's one of your biggest problem-cards. While you previously would've had to risk as many as three cards to attempt a Sacred Noble Knight Summon, Eachtar lets you make a 1-for-1 and then ensures that it won't get Horned or Solemn Warning'd.
Let's be clear: just one of those two abilities would make this card playable. But both? Nutty. And it doesn't stop there.
Like Noble Knight Brothers, Eachtar got back! With 2000 DEF it brickwalls virtually anything but Artifact Moralltach in the top decks. Ice Hand and Fire Hand would have no ability to swing over it in Defense Position, but you hardly care about that awesome advantage because Eachtar's 1600 ATK means you'll often be playing the aggressor yourself. Press into Fire Hand? Opponent pops Eachtar? It doesn't matter, because you'll just bring Eachtar back for free anyways. That attack potential's even greater than it might first seem, since you can Summon Eachtar for free and then equip it with Gwenhwyfar, Queen of Noble Arms… also for free. Gwen then boosts Eachtar to 1900 ATK and gives it an effect that lets it destroy any monster it goes up against.
And the best part? Because Noble Knights already wanted to run Foolish Burial for Gwenhwyfar, Queen of Noble Arms; Lady of the Lake; and arguably Noble Knight Artorigus plus Black Laundsallyn, you already have the infrastructure to set up Eachtar in your yard on the fly. And if Foolish Burial's not enough?...
…Then you've got this thing. Noble Knights of the Round Table's actually seen some play in high-finishing Regional builds and even a couple of Regional Top 8's in smaller venues, offering four different effects depending on how many Noble Knight cards you have in your graveyard. Hit the right thresholds and you can yard Noble Knights for free, Special Summon a Knight from your hand and give it a Noble Arms, retrieve a fallen Knight, and on the high end just draw an extra card per turn. Sounds awesome, right?
Sure. But there are problems. See, one of the biggest issues with Noble Knights is their sheer volume of dead draws: sometimes you're going to draw a hand with multiple Noble Knights, but no Noble Arms; other times you'll draw Noble Arms, but no Knights to use them with; sometimes you'll just draw a bunch of unplayable cards that don't span one particular group, but happen to be dysfunctional when you have the precise combo of six useless options that don't go together.
Noble Knights love the mid-game. They love the opening and early game in the instances when they open well, but they hate those two phases of the duel when they start with a rough hand. Part of your job as a Noble Knight duelist is to build your deck to soften risks in those early game scenarios.
And Noble Knights of the Round Table sadly doesn't do that; it largely just adds to the problem, since it doesn't do anything until you have three Noble Knight cards in your graveyard. With different names. Once you do hit that threshold, it conflicts with Noble Knight Brothers' draw ability and Noble Knight Eachtar's Summoning. And the effect itself? Not as good as it looks.
The ability to kick Noble Knight Eachtar to the graveyard's great, if you haven't already placed it there. At that point you start yarding cards you might not actually be running, like Noble Knight Artorigus and Ignoble Knight of Black Laundsallyn. Don't have those? You'll want to burn any extra copies of Noble Knights of the Round Table so that you don't draw them, and from there you'll start kicking useful cards to the graveyard – stuff you'd often prefer to draw anyways. The problem is that unlike Foolish Burial, Round Table won't help you get Gwenhwyfar, Queen of Noble Arms or Lady of the Lake in place. Two of the three cards you're most likely to want yarded aren't compatible with Round Table, because they aren't technically "Noble Knights."
From there we turn to the six-Knight threshold effect, which lets you Special Summon a Knight from your hand in your End Phase, and then optionally equip it with a Noble Arms, also from your hand. If you want to burn two cards for next to no reason this effect's precisely what you're looking for, but the number of scenarios in which you'd want to do that are slim.
Reaching the nine-Knight threshold likely means yarding one of every Noble Knight card you play, including the Xyz Monsters. It's almost impossible to do. If you do get there, then you can take back a Noble Knight from your graveyard each turn, again in your End Phase. I guess that's cool? If it could happen. Ever. And don't even get me started on the "draw for free if you yard twelve Noble Knight cards" effect. It might as well say "draw all the cards you want." You're never going to get there.
So we've got this card you don't want to play multiple copies of, for fear it might appear in the early game. But it's only useful early on for its ability to yard cards you'll run into over the normal course of a duel anyways, so by the time you do draw it, it could be useless for a completely different set of reasons.
Something could probably make this card playable in the future. For now it doesn't seem worth running, for numerous reasons. I can't really complain, since this set already has two amazing cards for Noble Knights anyways.
Continuing the slide down the slippery slope of Noble Knight sadness, Avalon's almost impossible to activate, and not very worthwhile when it does go off. Another card that's blank in the opening and early game, Avalon would be far too risky even if its effect was better. The idea of wiping all your Noble Arms and all your opponent's stuff off the table, with your monster surviving thanks to Noble Arms of Destiny, then re-equipping all the Arms and attacking for game is super cool! But it's highly unlikely it would ever happen, and the fact that you could be destroying opposing Artifact Ignitions, Artifact Sanctums, and Artifact Moralltachs in the process really rains on this card's parade.
The art's really nice though, isn't it?
Moving along, Artifact Scythe was the Sneak Peek promo for Primal Origin and it's seen some significant play in National Championships: Francisco Castillo Saavedra played it in his Traptrix Hand Artifact deck when he won the Czech Nationals, while Andres Torres played it in his HATs to capture the Championship in Colombia (Alvaro Melgarejo took Top 4 in Colombia playing Scythe in a straight Hand Artifact deck, too).
While Artifact Achilleshield and Artifact Aegis packed defensive abilities and thus had high DEF, Artifact Scythe has a defensive ability backed by a powerful 2200 ATK. While Scythe won't destroy anything, it's awesome at shutting down decks like Geargia, and can stop key plays from Bujins, Artifacts, Mermails, and… well, pretty much anything else that's chalking up wins right now. It's especially good in the mirror where it can trap your opponent in a vulnerable position, leaving you to capitalize with Ice Hand and Fire Hand.
The fact that it's relatively obscure is awesome, because your opponents won't see it coming and won't know how to play around it. You can totally look at this thing and see how a cutting edge competitor like Saaveedra or Torres – players with proven records on the international level – would be able to use it to stay one step ahead of their opposition. Artifact Scythe deserves way more attention than it's getting, and I expect it to be a valuable tech choice headed into the North American WCQ.
When Sylvan Princessprout dropped I was all, "This card's just a better Copy Plant! It's Copy Plant with themed synergy!" And a lot of people were like, "Booooooo! It's not as good with Soul Charge!" Flames were fanned. In my general direction.
But now it's a two-of staple in every Top Cut Sylvan Deck we've seen so far, while Copy Plant sees no play whatsoever, so I think its viability is pretty well established. Yes, you have to set up Princessprout and excavate it to mimic a specific Level with its ability. But since Princessprout can recycle itself to the top of the deck with its first effect, and excavations are in such ample supply, it's not that different from Copy Plant. Meanwhile it gets you a free excavation itself, and works with stuff like Sylvan Charity to keep your deck on track. It's an obviously worthwhile card and it's a great upgrade to an off-theme monster that wasn't really a perfect fit to begin with.
Sylvan Princessprout taps into what players wanted to do with Sylvans, then gave them a better option that was easier and more themed. To me, that's really good card design.
Bujingi Sinyou actually got a lot of hype and praise when it was first revealed, and yet it's done virtually nothing in tournament play. The idea of "Honest for Bujins" had a lot of curb appeal. But when it came time to figure out how to fit it into the already jam-packed builds it just didn't come together. At the end of the day Bujingi Hare's more important, Bujingi Crane's easier to use, and Bujingi Turtle protects you from an entirely different category of threat.
Bad card? Far from it! But right now, existing Bujin builds just don't seem to need the level of focus and redundancy Bujingi Sinyou offers. That might change in the future, so keep an eye on it.
At the moment Vampire Vamp is decidedly the dud pull Secret Rare from Primal Origin, but I'm really a fan! Vampires have needed some other strategy beyond making Rank 5's with difficult Summoning sequences, and Vampire Vamp's effect gives you an entirely different path to victory. The Vamp gets big fast, and offers a quick +1 effect that opens up your opponent to damage; it can add up to a win with shocking speed. Searchable with Pyramid Turtle and Vampire Sorcerer, you can Summon Vampire Vamp with ease despite its high Level, thanks to both Sorcerer and Call of the Mummy.
The problem is that Vamp's usefulness is limited by the number of playable Vampires that you can Normal Summon. Really, the only non-Tribute Vampire you want to play is Vampire Sorcerer, so it can be tough to trigger Vampire Vamp's ability without resorting to lesser cards, or hoping for some luck off a Shadow Vampire or Vampire Duke (both cards that can be difficult to Normal Summon at Level 5). I almost want to build this deck with Vampire Hunter just because it's the best beatstick available. Needless to say that's a questionable idea at best and as such Vampire Vamp's not quite ready for the big time. It could have potential if we see more easy-to-Summon Vampires in the future, and I'm excited about the possibilities.
Gladiator Beast Nerokius is a house. Yes, Contact Fusing three Gladiator Beasts is always costly, but it's also achievable thanks to Gladiator Beast Darius. Once you Summon Nerokius it swings with the might of 2800 ATK, stopping your opponent from countering its wrath with Bujingi Crane or Bujingi Hare. It keeps Madolches from returning to your opponent's deck and triggering Madolche Ticket or Madolche Chateau. It stops recruiters. It swings through Dimensional Prison and Mirror Force. It even runs over Ice Hand and Fire Hand with impunity, negating their effects.
The new Gladiator Beast Augustus makes Nerokius even easier to Summon, and it can tag out to cards like Gladiator Beast Bestiari, Gladiator Beast Equeste, and Gladiator Beast Murmillo to make instant pluses that balance out the cards you invested for its Contact Fusion. On top of that a Bestiari tag out will give you instant access to Gladiator Beast Gyzarus, just in case your opponent has two cards left that you'd like to destroy.
It's really rad. Gladiator Beasts rallied towards the end of the last format largely off the strength of Gladiator Beast War Chariot. I could easily see them doing the same this WCQ season, thanks to War Chariot and the newfound power of Nerokius and Augustus.
This is the one we were waiting for, Penguin fans! Bolt Penguin might not look like much, but it's the second of two Normal Penguin Monsters, joining the Level 4 Flying Penguin. That means Penguin duelists can now use Rescue Rabbit safely and consistently; is a big difference-maker for the casual strategy. Drew your Rescue Rabbit and used it for Flying Penguin already? The Great Emperor Penguin's there to pluck two Bolt Penguins out of your deck, make a Rank 3, and get those awkward draws out of the way.
Between Bolt Penguin and Nopenguin, Primal Origin may be the biggest set for Penguin players ever. I can't wait to be bored enough to go rebuild my Penguin deck and just goof around with it.
Number 42: Galaxy Tomahawk isn't great, but it is different. There used to be some OTK's with this card that – to the best of my knowledge – no longer exist. Correct me down in the Comments if I'm wrong about that, but as far as I'm aware the card's now just a supplemental Rank 7 that can brickwall attacks with its 3000 DEF, and flood the field with 2000 ATK Battle Eagle Tokens to wipe away multiple monsters in one go. It's a cool source of Tribute fodder too.
It's a cool little niche card with a variety of purposes. It's no Number 11: Big Eye or Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack, but it's solid and it's unique.
This was the card I mentioned, that I was surprised to see in Regional Top 8 play. Rose Archer's been flying way under the competitive radar, but there it is mained in Christopher Pobee-Mensah's Top 8 Sylvan build from the Roanoke Regional last week. And really, why shouldn't it be? It's a one-shot hand trap Jinzo that works really well against basically everything but Artifact Sanctum, Solemn Warning, and Black Horn of Heaven, dropping out of nowhere to surprise opponents that have probably never heard of it.
It's great against stuff like Compulsory Evacuation Device, Call Of The Haunted, Dimensional Prison, and countless other 1-for-1 trap cards. It's even better against costed traps like Phoenix Wing Wind Blast and Raigeki Break, forcing your opponent to take a minus and accomplish nothing while whatever they were trying to spin or destroy runs roughshod over their field.
Even cooler? While Pobee-Mensah didn't run Meliae of the Trees, Rose Archer's a Level 3 Earth that you can play as an Xyz Material for that card. Pitch it for its effect, bring it back for free with Crane Crane, and you've got an instant Rank 3 play that could lead into Meliae or Soul of Silvermountain. Rose Archer's super-cool, and highly viable in a format where everything's running heavy backrows.
Gimmick Puppet Des Troy is another one of those signature Primal Origin problem solvers! Stuck with two Level 8 Gimmick Puppets in your hand? Need to get stuff going? Summon Des Troy, blow it away with its own effect, and drop those cards to the field for an Xyz Summon. With 2000 DEF it can brickwall attacks to buy you time as your hand comes together, and when you're ready to go off it's an easy minus that gets the aggression going.
It's even a target for Black Salvo, which was a popular but often unplayed card in previous Gimmick Puppet builds. Salvo now seems like an absolute must.
Don't let all the text fool you: ZW – Sleipnir Mail is really one of the simplest of the often extremely complicated Utopia support cards. Strap it to Number C39: Utopia Ray to boost it to 3500 ATK, and when your opponent manages to take Utopia Ray down you'll Special Summon it back for free. You effectively take a minus committing Sleipnir Mail to the field, but it can get you pluses through battle that may not have been possible otherwise. It can secure your field position, and it saves you from losing card presence later when it pops Utopia Ray back onto the field.
Note that you'll of course want to use it with any Utopia monster but the original Number 39: Utopia, so that your monster of choice doesn't return to the field and immediately destroy itself off a replayed attack.
Another Rank-Up-Magic Astral Force option for Crimson Knight Vampire Bram, Number 48: Shadow Lich can deal a little more damage than Ghostrick Alucard in certain scenarios. If your opponent doesn't have a set card to destroy it's easily viewed as the superior card, and because its effect works at Spell Speed 2, it's chainable and can be played in response to your opponent's moves.
This card's really, really, reeeeeally niche. But it's unique enough to deserve a nod.
The term "Hundred-Footed Horror" is just referring to the fact that his is a horrific creature with 100 feet. I'm sure. But the name still makes me giggle, and since they errata'd all the fun out of Nekogal #1 I'm going to choose to read this in a "that's what she said" tone.
So yeah! That's Primal Origin in its entirety. Or is it?! Did I miss one of your favorite cards from the set? Are there details I didn't discuss in the cards that did make the cut? Tell me all about it down in the Comments. Giant Set Reviews tend to make for awesome discussion, and now that my insane April and May are over, I can actually chat with you guys and enjoy them.
In the mean time, thanks for joining us for this truly enormous retrospective on PRIO! I don't know if you guys dig this set as much as I do, but I'm looking forward to a busy summer rebuilding some of my favorite off-the-wall strategies of the past couple years. Galax-Eyes and Penguins? Here I come!