Occasionally, I'll diverge from my Under the Radar column to talk about something besides fantastic mashups and crazy decks. I'll still be highlighting decks that have the power to jump from the shadows and surprise your opponent for a victory every week, but sometimes I'd like to pretend I know more than how to successfully make a Cloudian Ninja Spirit Deck.

When I Was Your Age, Every Card Was Amazing
I mentioned this in Under the Radar a few weeks ago, and some of you think it should go without saying, but it's a very important fact: every card in Yu-Gi-Oh! is only as good as other cards allow them to be. That sounds a bit banal and elementary, but it's completely true. One card's strength will be relative to the strength of other cards: thus, depending on the situation, every card ever made has the potential to be useful.

Back before the game started moving at the speed of light, Seven Colored Fish was one of the best cards around because *GASP* you could Normal Summon a monster with an astounding 1800 ATK! 1800 attack points, ladies and gentlemen. Mechanicalchaser was printed shortly after, and it was deemed revolutionary because it had an extra 50 ATK. That alone drove it up to $300 on the secondary market at its peak. I literally watched someone get stabbed over that extra 50 ATK. With a knife. Yes, stabbed. Like, "stab" stabbed. I was twelve. 50 more ATK, people.

Stabbed.

As more and more powerful cards are released, older cards lose their power and their control on the game. If you didn't know, Smashing Ground and D. D. Warrior Lady were once considered overpowered and were both Limited. If you think that's crazy, did you know that Breaker the Magical Warrior was actually Forbidden at one point because it was deemed too strong and unbalanced? A Mystical Space Typhoon on legs was once considered unfair for competition. Nowadays, Breaker's barely even in consideration for the Side Deck of Spellbooks and other anti-meta strategies. It's ridiculous how many cards are subpar today, that would have literally ruined the game of Yu-Gi-Oh! if released a few years earlier.

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All this is to say, I genuinely believe every card has potential depending on the right situation. I don't think we're ever going to devolve to a state where Fissure and X-Head Cannon define a format, but within each and every card sleeps the ability to become the very best, like no card ever was.

If I Fits, I Sits
Think for a second just how many effects and interactions cards can have, and all the different things they can do. Gladiator Beasts tag-team and Special Summon out of the deck for powerful effects; Dragon Rulers truly get a second life beyond the graveyard; and Morphtronics adopt new abilities depending on their battle positions. Look at the overly confusing Number 107: Galaxy-Eyes Tachyon Dragon. Is there a more specific, more specialized effect than that?

Simply put, there are countless niches in Yugioh that different archetypes and cards can all capitalize on. New weird game mechanics are released each set. Whoever thought you could profit so much from banishing your own cards? Sacred Sword of Seven Stars was so good not just because it thinned your deck, but because it actually triggered the effects of your Dragon Rulers. If Sacred Sword discarded the card instead, it would've been decent but not nearly as powerful, and if it returned the monster to the deck to give you two draws, one has to wonder if would've ever found a home in Dragon Rulers to begin with.

If a card does something supremely unique that no other card does, it'll almost always become playable eventually. Look at many of the cards that have been considered total garbage and valued at roughly fifteen cents at one point, that then skyrocketed in price and playability. For example, consider Mystical Refpanel. It was viewed as trash for ages because there was no good way to maximize its potential, and then, the top deck of the format was playing anywhere from three to nine copies of cards that drew two cards. Using a Mystical Refpanel early in the game against something like Cards of Consonance meant a -1 of card economy for your opponent and a +1 for you. Especially in a mirror match of two equally skilled players piloting the same deck, a Mystical Refpanel resolved easily and was virtually impossible to come back from.

Another example is Maxx "C," the little Insect from Storm of Ragnorak that was openly disregarded shortly after its release. It was viewed as potentially useful, but certainly was not needed, nor played. Fast forward a few months, and this Secret Rare ballooned to over $115 dollars on the secondary market because everyone realized that basically every deck Special Summoned a lot, and maxing out on Maxx "C" would greatly help your competitive chances. Now Maxx "C" is just a Side Deck card and becoming less relevant every day in comparison to Effect Veiler, but the potential and uniqueness remains.

If you played this game a few years ago then you remember everyone's favorite deck: Dino Rabbit. I'd taken a short hiatus from the game and remember walking into my locals around the time of Photon Shockwave's release. Someone noticed my Kabazauls in the back part of my trading binder and immediately asked to buy the three copies for $20, a playset of a forgotten common I'd shoved in the back of my binder because I found the flavor text hilarious (I thought I was the only one whose sneezes were Mistaken for hurricanes.) A subpar Water Dinosaur went from worthless to crucial overnight. Twin-Headed King Rex was ok, but the extra 100 ATK the sneezing hippo provided made it a slightly better counter to Jurrac Guiba.

Soul Taker rose to fame in 2012 as a counter to Light Pulsar Dragon. The Spell's drawback effect, giving your opponent 1000 Life Points, happened to prevent Light Pulsar's revival ability from activating. Fast forward to 2014 and Soul Taker could not be more useless against the popular Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack and Bujin Yamato. Secret Rare Soul Taker from Gladiators Assault is still $70, but it won't be played in the near future. What will be the next spot removal card to rise in popularity? It depends on what the best deck of the format turns out to be.

Sleeping In The Shadows
While I'm not the conductor of the Hype Train, I tend to have some amount of foresight when it comes to picking up cards for the future. I bought eleven copies of Vanity's Emptiness for a quarter each when Royal Oppression was Forbidden, thinking to myself that a pseudo Royal Oppression you could turn off yourself could never be worse than a dollar. That isn't to say that I have dozens of every card that will eventually be good, but it's very hard for me to look at a card with a unique effect and condemn it as rubbish immediately. I've made insane profits off of Cards of Consonance, Dragon Ravine, Toon Table of Contents, DNA Surgery and Pot of Avarice over the years.

I should probably have typed the word 'virtually' before about half of my statements and decrees so far in this article. Malfunction, the Counter Trap, is a good example of a card that's simply not very good, and it's basically impossible for me to say it will every be even slightly useful despite it being so unique. I'm a huge proponent of never-before-seen effects, but I don't think something like Malfunction will ever be useful because its unique ability doesn't do anything to promote a strategy. For 500 Life Points, you negate a trap but return it to your opponent's hand instead of the graveyard; yes, it's a Counter Trap and can be used on your opponent's turn, but I don't think it's worth your time. On principle alone, I'd be contradicting myself to say it will always be worthless, but I'm also not going to advise you to order sixty copies just in case it ever becomes useful. While also capable of something unique, I don't think rubbish like Enervating Mist will ever become useful… but then again even the worst of cards can sometimes surprise you. Over the course of his dueling career, Vincent Tundo made a variety of broken FTK's using stuff like Card Shuffle.

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Some cards might seem terrible, and yet they may still harbor untapped potential. Give 3000 Life Points to your opponent with Gift Card? Normally a bad idea, but in combination with Hope for Escape, that could mean an extra card draw – maybe even two. That 3000 LP boost turns into burn damage with Nurse Reficule the Fallen One on your field. I always thought the spell card Spiritualism was beyond worthless, but now it's seen Regional Top 8 success since it can single-handily ruin a seemingly unbreakable Infernity field.

Rebound's a good example of a card that's just waiting to become the next high-demand sleeper pick. Maybe bouncing cards to the hand will never become a prime game mechanic, but if it does, my collection of twenty Rebounds is ready. I did the same thing with Debunk and turned my two dollar purchases into ten dollar profits. I can't guarantee Rebound will ever be useful, but I'm crossing my fingers.

Purely on principle alone, I'll never tell you that any card is completely worthless, but that doesn't mean I can advise you with a clean conscience to go pick up every copy of Sparks and Twin Long Rods #2 just in case they become the next Kabazauls. At the same time, I can't tell you to throw them away either; just focus your attention on more important cards. The real stuff I'm talking about – cards that could break the competitive scene some time in the future – are the ones I'd advise slowly stocking up on. Rebound, Marionette Mite, Light of Intervention and Chivalry, along with about ten dozen others, may be worth your time to pick up.

Just remember, beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson