While most players had pretty high opinions of Duelist Alliance and The New Challengers, Secrets of Eternity has been met with a more mixed reaction. Almost two weeks in, there's no single big money card on the level of Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss or Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss. Some of the most sought-after stuff in the set is obviously powerful, but isn't actually playable in a fast format like this one. And perhaps most troubling, while DUEA and NECH both made a big immediate impact by focusing on the debut of complete themes, many cards in SECE won't be useful until Secret Forces arrives in February. Burning Abyss and Qliphorts both get some awesome new cards, but the new offerings for Shaddolls have proven underwhelming to most players. Not many people are outright complaining about the set, but the consensus is that it's not as satisfying as the two sets that preceded it.

That was the mindset I had myself when I started writing this Giant Set Review. If you're new to these parts, I write a massive five-part analyses every three months to cover all the big booster releases. I make no promises of objectivity: the reviews are arbitrary lists of cards I want to talk about, usually because they're competitive, or cool and casual, or just plain funny. What usually happens is that I wind up talking about nearly everything in the release, and since I always give the entire set a fine-tooth treatment looking for killer ideas I often come across interesting design patterns that span the entire release.

Sometimes those observations prove to be a bit of a shock. This time around, the end result was that I emerged from this Giant Set Review with a surprising level of enthusiasm for Secrets, even though I went in less optimistic than usual. The truth is, while SECE might not be as influential in Championship competition as DUEA and NECH were, it takes legacy support to a whole new level by zeroing in on the problems that plagued old strategies, and then blows them away with one card. It also lays the groundwork for a ton of action in the not-so-distance future.

What am I talking about? Well, you'll get the idea as you read the SECE Giant Set Review. But for now let's dive right in, starting with the first monster cards in Secrets of Eternity!

#####CARDID= 17799 #####

I love that we're starting this discussion with Performapal Friendonkey. Frankly it would've made this list just for the art alone; that's a shady looking donkey by anybody's standards. But the fact that it actually makes at least some argument for Performapals as a playable theme means it's noteworthy for that reason as well. Up until now, Performapal cards were generally reserved for use as kindling. Or maybe doorstops? Like, if you took a bunch and wrapped them up in tape. Now, slowly, we're at least starting to get reasons to be interested in them for gameplay.

I've said many times before: any monster that revives another for a 1-for-1 Xyz or Synchro Summon when it hits the field, is generally worth paying attention to. Performapal Friendonkey takes that into fascinating new territory: those monsters are usually restricted to reviving cards that share their Level, to allow that instant Xyz Summon. But Friendonkey's neat because while it's Level 3, it can bring back anything from Level 1 to Level 4. So you could revive Performapal Mufflerlion or Performapal Hip Hippo for a Rank 3, or you could take the play into totally different territory entirely.

Friendonkey even lets you Special Summon from your hand should you draw it before setting up your graveyard, and it won't negate the Special Summoned monster's effect. There aren't many worthwhile plays here yet, but Friendonkey lays valuable infrastructure moving forward. It actually kind of has me wanting more Performapal cards.

#####CARDID= 17802 #####

Speaking of, while I expect Friendonkey to do neat stuff in the future, Performapal Trump Witch is actually really cool right now! When it's sitting in your Pendulum Zone, Trump Witch gives you a potentially useful Scale 4 and an ability that acts as a free Polymerization every turn. Her only limitation is that you have to fuse from the field. Still, it's a really cool effect and it's clearly just begging to be used as the basis for a Summoning engine since it's so repeatable.

If that Pendulum Spell effect isn't quite what you need, you can Summon Performapal Trump Witch and Tribute it off to search your deck for a real Polymerization. On its own that ability wouldn't be very impressive, but as an add-on to a card that already works as a turn by turn repeatable effect and one half of a Pendulum Scale, it's a really nice addition. Combined with Trump Witch's Level of 1 and its Spellcaster-typing, it has a ton of synergy with numerous themed cards.

#####CARDID= 17804 #####

The new Superheavy Samurai cards in Secrets of Eternity are geared towards a new way to play the theme. Previously, your goal was to Special Summon Superheavy Samurai Big Benkei from your deck with Giant Rat, or send it to the graveyard with an effect and then revive it with Call of the Haunted or Oasis of Dragon Souls. The new cards help you unleash Big Benkei from your hand instead, and reward you for keeping your graveyard clear of spells and traps.

Superheavy Samurai Soulpiercer is the first step of that process: if it's sent from the field to the graveyard, you can search your deck for another Superheavy Samurai. That gets you Big Benkei, or cards that will help you put it into play. The effect is an "If…You can" ability, so it won't generally matter how Soulpiercer hits the yard. You won't miss your opportunity to search with its effect, even if it's sent to the graveyard in the middle of a chain or another effect's resolution.

On top of that stellar search ability, Superheavy Samurai Soulpiercer has another effect: you can equip it from your hand or field to another Superheavy Samurai to let the equipped monster deal piercing damage. That's valuable, because when you unleash Benkei and start attacking with 3500 DEF, the one thing that slows you down is simple chump blocking. Soulpiercer sets everything up, and when it comes time to go in swinging it helps you finish things too. It's a really well designed card.

#####CARDID= 17803 #####

Once you've searched out Superheavy Samurai Big Benkei with Soulpiercer, you can Special Summon it with Superheavy Samurai Flutist: you Summon and Tribute it to Special Summon a Superheavy Samurai from your hand, giving up one monster and your Normal Summon to bring out a monster that would normally require two Tributes and as many as three Normal Summons. Flutist is a fast and efficient -1 that trades card economy for speed.

Once Superheavy Samurai Flutist is in the graveyard you can banish it when a card or effect targets one of your Superheavy Samurais. Doing so negates the activation, stops the effect, and destroys the source card as a +1. That free plus balances out the minus you took in Tributing off Flutist earlier, and it protects Benkei from stuff like Snatch Steal; Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss; and Phoenix Wing Wind Blast.

Again, this is another really well-designed card that fills several different roles to make the strategy work. Since it's searchable with Soulpiercer it's reliable, too.

#####CARDID= 17805 #####

While Flutist worked to both Summon and then protect Big Benkei, Superheavy Samurai Soulbeads is all about keeping Big Benkei on the field. Equip it to a Superheavy Samurai and it's sort of a Superheavy Noble Arms of Destiny, protecting the equipped monster from destruction effects once per turn. Or, you can keep it in your hand and when Benkei goes down in battle in defense mode, you can pitch Soulbeads as a 1-for-1 to revive it in attack mode. Since Benkei changes its position when it hits the field, it'll snap back into defense position and shield you with its 3500 DEF.

While these two effects are fairly similar, you can choose which one you want to play for various match-ups and situations. One of the key differences is that the equip effect is obvious, while the hand trap-esque ability has a big surprise factor. I love that unpredictability, but since your key defense position monsters are so huge on DEF, it's pretty unlikely most matchups will present a threat big enough to take one of them down in the first place. Still, options are good.

#####CARDID= 17789 #####

Finally, Superheavy Samurai Trumpeter is a Level 2 Tuner that you can pair with either Superheavy Samurai Big Benkei, or two Level 4 Superheavy Samurai, to make the new Level 10 Synchro Monster Superheavy Samurai Warlord Susanowo. While trading in a Big Benkei for the very similar Warlord Susanowo is questionable, Trumpeter's really awesome with Superheavy Samurai Scales from The New Challengers. You can use Scales' effect to Special Summon it, and then revive another Level 4 Superheavy Samurai for free to get 8 Levels of Synchro Materials. From there, Normal Summon Trumpeter as your Level 2 and Tune them all together to go into Warlord Susanowo as a simple -1. It's great to have that play as a backup win condition for when Big Benkei can't get the job done on its own.

That said, if you're trying an all-monster version of Superheavy Samurai you can also Special Summon Superheavy Samurai Trumpeter from your hand. You can even use it as Tribute bait for Benkei, then revive it instantly as a chump blocker or another play for Warlord Susanowo.

It's difficult to tell if there's really a working version of Superheavy Samurai that doesn't play spell and trap cards. But I think regardless of whether or not that variant's possible, the new cards work really well in a more conventional Superheavy Samurai strategy as well, adding a new level of redundancy the deck needed. You now have more ways to get Big Benkei into play; more ways to protect it; and Warlord Susanowo as a backup – a strong card that's very much like Big Benkei and uses the same support cards, but that comes out off different plays and broadens your range of options. Since you have more ways to field a win condition, the deck becomes more resilient and consistent. As a Superheavy Samurai fan myself, I'm really glad to see that we finally get that.

#####CARDID= 17806 #####

While Duelist Alliance and The New Challengers set themselves apart from previous releases by introducing full themes that made big, immediate impacts, Secrets of Eternity seems to slip back into the old model of slow-trickle archetypes that debut only in part, and then build toward a complete strategy over time. The first example is the Raidraptor theme, embodied here by Raidraptor – Vanishing Lanius.

Right now, Lanius' effect is pretty absurd. Even with the other Raidraptor cards in the set, it's difficult to gather several copies of Lanius and nearly pointless to throw them all onto the field at once. This effect will certainly have potential once we see more Raidraptor monsters. But for now, all we have are hints of what's to come.

#####CARDID= 17807 #####

Gem-Knight Lapis is the named Fusion Material for Gem-Knight Lady Lapis Lazuli, which singlehandedly makes Gem-Knights competitive on at least the local level. As such, it gets a shoutout. Lapis Lazuli's a win condition level card that combos with key functions of the Gem-Knight theme, so its Material is worth noting. We'll talk about Lapis Lazuli more in Part 3.

#####CARDID= 17763 #####

Of the new themes introduced in SECE, the Infernoids are the strongest and most complete! The majority of the Infernoids are Special Summon-only monsters which you unleash by banishing one, two, or sometimes even three Infernoids from your graveyard – easy – or from your hand (tougher). Because it's easier to Summon Infernoids once you've got the ball rolling and you're just replacing the ones in the graveyard with new Summons, there's an element of slow momentum in the early game that mounts to an explosive mid and late game.

All the Infernoids released in SECE are different Levels, with the smaller ones consuming fewer banished monsters. They each have a unique effect, but the majority also have a once-per-turn ability that lets you Tribute a monster to banish a card (or cards) from your opponent's graveyard. Depending on the Level of the Infernoid, that ability's restricted to just your opponent's turn, or can work on both players' turns.

Infernoid Antra's the smallest of the bunch. It clocks in at Level 2 with 0 ATK but 2000 DEF, and its ability punts a face-up card from your opponent's field to their hand or Extra Deck. That makes it a potent answer to Synchros, Fusions, and Xyz as well as certain Field Spells and Continuous cards. Antra's a great little answer to lots of different situations and helps you stay aggressive.

#####CARDID= 17808 #####

Sitting at Level 3, Infernoid Harmadik has the Special Summon-only requirement; the same ability to Tribute a monster and banish an opposing card from the graveyard; and the funniest name we've seen on a card since Punch In The Box.

Like Antra, Harmadik needs only one banished Infernoid to hit the field. It's got a little more muscle at 1600 ATK, and its effect destroys a monster at the cost of its attack for the turn. Together, Antra and Harmadik are a powerful removal engine.

#####CARDID= 17809 #####

At Level 4, the 1800 ATK Infernoid Patrulea resembles a simple beatstick, but like all of its brethren it can't be Normal Summoned. Like Antra and Harmadik, it can only banish a card from your opponent's graveyard on their turn. Its effect rounds out the arsenal of spot removal for the Infernoid forces, popping backrow cards regardless of their face-up or face-down position. Patrulea can't attack the turn you use its removal effect, same as Harmadik.

It's important to note that all three of these monsters, played correctly, grant immediate +1's when they hit the field. That's important, because if you have to banish a card from your hand to bring them into play, you'll stand a good chance of making back that minus. Once you start banishing Infernoids from your graveyard instead, those effects become hard pluses that build momentum and swing tempo very, very quickly.

#####CARDID= 17810 #####

Infernoid Piaty is a Level 5 with 2200 ATK, and it's here where the ante is upped: you need to banish two Infernoids to Summon Piaty. In return, Piaty's effect lets you banish a card from your opponent's graveyard once a turn on every turn, both yours and your opponent's. It's a dangerous, very opportunistic card: when Piaty deals battle damage by attacking over an opposing monster – usually a +1 through battle – you can send a random card from your opponent's hand to the graveyard. That converts your regular success in battle into a potentially brutal +2.

Note that the effect to send a card to the graveyard is optional, so if you're in a situation where you might actually benefit your opponent by yarding one of their cards, you can simply opt not to do so.

#####CARDID= 17811 #####

Skipping Level 6 for now, Infernoid Seitsemas boasts an impressive 2600 ATK at Level 7 and still only requires two banished Infernoids. Since you can only Special Summon Infernoids when the total combined Levels and Ranks of your monsters are 8 or lower, Seitsemas is beginning to hug an important borderline: by controlling Seitsemas, you generally limit yourself to just one more Infernoid. That alters your level of access to removal effects.

If you attack an opposing monster with Seitsemas you'll banish a card from the field at the end of the Battle Phase: again, this can create +2 situations much like Infernoid Piaty's effect. Since Piaty doesn't have to deal damage or destroy the monster it attacks it's a more flexible card, and contributes to what I imagine is a strong argument for Enemy Controller in this strategy.

#####CARDID= 17812 #####

Infernoid Attondel is the final standard Infernoid, a 2800 ATK beatstick that again requires two banishings and can remove one card per turn from your opponent's graveyard, on both duelists' turns. Its effect mimics Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning, letting Attondel make a second attack.

It's big, and it's effectively a damage-oriented monster that doesn't care as much about card economy as it does about smashing face. Sure, it can certainly turn into a +2. But it does that through brute force battle, not through clever effects and tricky maneuvering.

#####CARDID= 17764 #####

Infernoid Onuncu breaks all the rules. At Level 10 it can block you from Summoning more Infernoids entirely, so you want to Summon it last whenever possible. While the previous Infernoids were deficient in ATK or DEF, Onuncu is strong in both categories, with 3000 attack and defense points. You Summon it by banishing three Infernoids, largely relegating it to the late game or hugely ambitious plays earlier on.

When you Special Summon Onuncu it can clear the entire field of monsters save itself, creating opportunities to swing for 3000 damage. And instead of Tributing monsters to banish cards from your opponent's graveyard, Onuncu channels Gladiator Beast Heraklinos and then some; its ability lets you Tribute a monster to negate the activation of a spell, trap, or effect, then banishes the source card. It's a brutal one-shot control effect that works wonders in defending your 3000 ATK/DEF beater.

Note that while the Infernoids all offer useful abilities in return for Tributing monsters, the big reason behind those effects is field management; by Tributing away monsters you want to get rid of you don't just harass your opponent, but you clear away Levels and Ranks to keep yourself to the "8-and-under" limit. That lets you keep making unpredictable plays, keep using your removal effects, and trading in weaker attackers for better ones as you draw into them. That's the real stinger for the lower Level Infernoids that can only Tribute monsters on your opponent's turn; the bigger ones, which allow you to Tribute on your turn, allow you to make more moves by getting monsters off the field whenever you want, allowing for more Summons and effects.

The Infernoids are a deeply impressive new theme, and historically in the OCG they've been played with relatively few traps. If the same patterns emerge here, expect to see the low-trap trends we've seen the past few weeks continue to grow. That said, the Infernoids do have some promising support cards in the spell and trap department – we'll talk about those later in the Giant Set Review.

#####CARDID= 17813 #####

At the time of this writing, Qliphort Monolith was the most valuable card in Secrets of Eternity, bookending the terror that is Qliphort Scout. While Scout lets you grind a free +1 every turn just by keeping it on the field, Qliphort Monolith completes the opposite side of your Pendulum Scale and rakes in plusses of its own: with Monolith locked and loaded you draw cards to replace whatever Qlis you Tribute.

That's cool because while Qliphort Scout got you to Qli cards, Qliphort Monolith stands a better chance of getting you to whatever Scout can't search. By thinning Qli cards from your deck with Scout and Summoner's Art, you help to ensure over time that you have higher odds of drawing powerful off-theme spells and traps with both your normal draw each turn, and any draws you make with Monolith's effect. It also rewards aggression, allows you to build further momentum, and makes the strategy less linear.

Taking over as the low-Scale Pendulum Monster of choice from Performapal Trampolynx, Monolith has its ups and downs. Like Trampolynx it creates the opportunity for more free pluses. As explained, it gets you to cards Trampolynx didn't allow, since Trampolynx just let you grab more Qli cards with Scout's effect. But, Trampolynx lets you make Xyz Summons by getting Qliphort Scout off the field while Qliphort Monolith limits your ability to make non-Qli Special Summons even more. Don't get me wrong, I'd be surprised if Performapal Trampolynx survived now that we've got a more cohesive option: Qliphort Scout can search Monolith to get you more free cards, while Performapal Trampolynx was always much tougher to get to. But it's important to note that there are benefits and limitations to both cards.

I think Qliphort Monolith is superior, but it may take some players a while to make the transition. A lot of people are going to take an "ain't broke, don't fix it" type of view, and I think those competitors are going to be left in the dust at YCS Charleston.

#####CARDID= 17778 #####

Qliphort Stealth is valuable for a number of reasons. As a two-Tribute with 2800 ATK, it fits into the class of big finishers previously occupied only by Qliphort Disk and Qliphort Shell. While Qliphort Carrier bumped away monsters and Qliphort Helix destroyed backrow cards, Stealth can deal with any card by bouncing it back to the hand or Extra Deck – a level of flexibility that's tremendously useful in a faster era of competition, where making game as quickly as possible is key. Since your opponent can't chain to Stealth's ability it's also a more reliable form of removal and can deal with chainable cards that Helix couldn't deal with.

More than that, because Carrier and Helix's effects trigger when they're Tributed, and Stealth's effect triggers when it's Tribute Summoned, any chain involving more than one of those effects will always see Stealth's effect placed on the chain last. That means if you Tribute Carrier or Helix for Qliphort Stealth, you'll place Carrier or Helix's effect as Chain Link 1; Stealth's ability as Chain Link 2; and from there your opponent can't make their own responses because they can't chain to your second Chain Link. That protects the Carrier or Helix effect as well, letting you make big sweeping plays that take multiple cards off the field in one go and clear the way for damage.

Right now Qliphort Stealth seems to be a one-of in the early builds we're seeing, but I can't imagine that remaining the case for very long. Time will tell whether this card remains a nuanced singleton, or becomes a must-run in threes. For now it's a ludicrously powerful card that's an obvious must-run in Qliphorts.

#####CARDID= 17777 #####

Qliphort Cephalopod is another heavy-hitter clocking in at Level 7 and 2800 ATK, but it's far less popular than Qliphort Stealth. While burn effects are generally ignored in serious competition beyond Gagaga Cowboy, I think speed as a concept really comes down to damage, and we've already seen cards played in Qliphorts that prioritize damage over controlling the field: Qliphort Shell was a staple one-of before Secrets of Eternity, and Mystik Wok has seen some small instances of competitive success in big events. Those cards trade card economy to deal damage and heal it respectively.

Qliphort Cephalopod's cool because it accomplishes both of those tasks at once, gaining you Life Points and burning out your opponent. Its effect is stronger in slower formats where there's more time for monsters to stack up in the graveyard, and it's better in match-ups where more monsters are sent there – this definitely isn't something you want to draw when you're in say, a Qliphort mirror match. But since Qliphorts send so few monsters to the graveyard, even just four or five yarded monsters can put you a turn ahead on ending your opponent, while making you one turn tougher to kill. That could be a big deal in the right metagames.

We'll need to see how the shape of competition shakes out over the coming weeks before we can tell if Qliphort Cephalopod will be worth playing, and it's quite possible that by the time it's playable, most competitors will have disregarded it anyways. But I'd urge you to keep checking in on it. There's definite potential here given the right conditions.

#####CARDID= 17751 #####

Apoqliphort Skybase has seen a bit of debate. As the only other three-Tribute monster in the current Qliphort lineup it begs comparison to Apoqliphort Towers, a card that's had numerous detractors but also significant tournament success. The arguments against Skybase revolve around its slightly lower stats and the lack of Towers' stat reduction effect, making it easier for your opponent to attack. Since it's 1 Level lower than Towers its effect negation won't stop as many threats either, and its monster theft effect isn't permanent; if your opponent's monster survives to the End Phase you have to give it back, while Towers' ability was a straight +1.

…Or was it? Plenty of decks, namely Burning Abyss and Shaddolls, frequently won't blink at sending a monster from their hand to the graveyard for Towers' ability, since both decks have strong effects that trigger when certain monsters are yarded. That hard +1 might not actually be a plus after all, which was always one of the biggest qualms with Apoqliphort Towers in the first place. Meanwhile you can still Tribute the monster you take with Apoqliphort Skybase if it survives long enough, and if the monster you swipe wins you the game then all concerns of card economy go out the window anyways.

Personally I think Skybase could wind up being underrated. While it definitely doesn't have the brickwall potential of Towers, I think the two cards were created to accomplish two very different things, and I like any effect that can open up the field to surprise wins in this current era of speedy competition. We'll have to see what the future holds; for now I'm keeping an open mind.

With Infernoids and Qliphorts now out of the way, this is the perfect place to cut Part 1 of our discussion. Once we return in Part 2 we'll start looking at some of the more niche support cards in the monster portion of the set, and then we'll get into one of the highlights of Secrets of Eternity: the legacy cards!

Don't miss it, because we'll be looking at some of the coolest, most surprising cards in the set, going way beyond the Big Three to talk about some fan-favorite decks that are back and better than ever.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer