When I first cracked open booster packs of Dragons of Legend, my mind was focused on getting one card… and for good reason. Soul Charge may not be what we remember from the original Yu-Gi-Oh! TV show, but it's the most powerful addition to the game in the entire 51 card set. For the price of a Battle Phase and 1000 Life Points per monster, Soul Charge is basically a generic Rekindling for any deck. But unlike Rekindling, the monsters you bring back don't get banished during the End Phase.

I have no problem making this assertion: Soul Charge is one of the best cards ever printed in the history of the game. Yes, the activation cost is hefty, but don't let that distract you from the insane power hidden within. It can turn an average play into an outrageous and overpowered combo with its revival power. I mean, Monster Reborn and Dimensional Fusion are Forbidden for a reason, right? How many times did you curse and shake your fist when your opponent flipped Return from the Different Dimension last year?

Yet at the same time, I have no problem making another assertion that may at first contradict my previous statement: Soul Charge is mediocre and in fact borderline terrible card in more situations than not. Sure, the Plant players are salivating at the combos they can accomplish with just a Lonefire Blossom and Soul Charge, but realistically Soul Charge won't be run at three or even at one in many decks because it's a combo-oriented card; a double-edged sword that'll kill you if you're not careful. Beau Butler discussed the card as a whole along with a few combo plays in his article last week, but I want to shed some light on some sleeper strategies that can abuse Soul Charge to complement that dialogue - plays that won't end in a Shooting Quasar Dragon.

One Card Combos?
Your mind's probably wandering to the ridiculous twelve to seventeen step combos you can do with Soul Charge, but it actually bolsters many strategies just functioning as a Monster Reborn. Soul Charge can revive (virtually) anything and doesn't take an extra turn or any card economy to revive a monster, often making it a better choice than Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders or Call Of The Haunted. It warrants play in triplicate in some decks to revive a key monster, but at the same time that doesn't mean Soul Charge deserves a spot in everything. You won't see me using Soul Charge on a High Priestess of Prophecy anytime soon.

If your deck thrives on keeping certain monsters on the field to counter your opponent's strategy, then Soul Charge is the quick and painless way to abuse whatever monster you need, up to an additional three times per duel. I'd never vouch for using stupid decks like Royal Magical Library spam, but Soul Charge increases the playability of every degenerate deck like it. If your strategy is effectively solitaire and ignores opponent interaction, go ahead and have a field day with Soul Charge. For example, Soul Charge is useful for anti-meta strategies that revolve around shutting down your opponent. Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo, Banisher of the Radiance and Thunder King Rai-Oh single handedly make some decks unplayable, and the ability to revive those cards at minimal cost could be backbreaking to your opponent.

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Next, consider a card like T.G. Hyper Librarian. Librarian is Limited to one for good reason; it gives a huge boost to any deck that Synchro Summons by awarding the player with free draws each time you play Yu-Gi-Oh: meaning every time you Summon monsters. Quickdraw Synchron and Junk Synchron combined with support cards like Level Eater and Doppellwarrior can produce entire fields of Synchros while strengthening their longevity by accumulating cards for following turns through T. G. Hyper Librarian. With Soul Charge, you're not limited to one hit wonder turns after you burn through your Librarian and your other Synchros like that. You can give up a meagre 1000 Life Points to have Librarian back for the following turn(s) and keep your options open for the future.

Additionally, losing your Battle Phase may be completely irrelevant in the right deck. Jeff Jones, Robert Boyajian and I popularized Pot of Dichotomy thanks to our Ghostrick Spirit decks at YCS Las Vegas and several Garden City Regionals; any strategy with Dichotomy will often forgo the Battle Phase anyways. Played in conjunction with Dichotomy, you can ignore Soul Charge's downside since you had no intention of battling during that turn anyway. Similarly, you can use both cards in decks beyond Ghostrick Spirits: control strategies like Evilswarms and Constellars that aren't desperate to use every Battle Phase to win. Dichotomy can be amazing in those decks because you already run so many different monster types, and Soul Charge can bring back either a Constellar Sombres or Evilswarn Kerykeion to make a boss monster in the same turn. If you're not going to attack, you might as well overlap the negative aspects of your cards.

You'll find dozens of niche uses for Soul Charge as you explore your options, and hopefully this one will make all you non-troll players smile: Soul Charge happens to be a good counter to annoying stall decks like Exodia and Final Countdown that use Hope for Escape as a Last Resort. Your opponent simply won't be able to use their comeback card if your Life Points are significantly lower.

Frogs Of The Lancer Variety
Let me be the first to say I thought Soul Charge would not be a good idea at all for Frogs, for the same reason that I believe Salvage is mediocre for Lancer Frogs. Salvage only makes good hands better, but the more I looked at Soul Charge the better it got. Bringing back Swap Frog, Sea Lancer or an Xyz or Synchro Material is great but may not convince you to run Soul Charge alongside your Frogs, but wait, it gets better.

Take this example for starters: you start with a Swap Frog, Sea Lancer, and Soul Charge. Opening Swag Frog is always a great start, but this opening combo is Frogs' version of the Dragon Shrine and Soul Charge combo for Dragons. Start by Special Summoning your Swap Frog, pitching Sea Lancer and yarding a Swap Frog from your deck. Bounce Swap Frog via its own effect and yard your third Swap Frog with your first Swap Frog. You'll have to take a 3000 LP hit with Soul Charge, but in doing so, you'll bring back Sea Lancer and two Swap Frogs to yard two Ronintoadins. Bounce both Swap Frogs to your hand and then pitch those for your initial Swap Frog again and yard two Dupe Frogs. Bounce your Swap Frog again, banish both Dupe Frogs for both copies of Ronintoadin, make Gachi Gachi Ganetsu and attach your banished Dupe Frogs to give Sea Lancer 1000 ATK and protection.

There's no combination of Salvage, Frogs or Sea Lancer that achieves this first turn powerhouse field without depleting your hand or forcing you to run subpar cards. To do the same thing with Salvage, you'd need to start with Swap Frog, Sea Lancer, any other Frog and Salvage. I'd rather run more powerful cards that don't rely on a full hand; cards that can be powerful at any part of the duel.

X-Sabers, XX-Sabers and PG13-Sabers
No one has seriously talked about X-Sabers since Rescue Cat and Cold Wave were Forbidden, after the 2010 World Championship Qualifier was dominated by The Shining Darkness. I know the die-hard X-Saber player will defend the deck until the cows come home, but eliminating Rescue Cat and Cold Wave kinda made it irrelevant. Now an X-Saber player has to play slower duels after setting up with XX-Saber Emmersblade and XX-Saber Darksoul. Let's just all be glad they changed the ruling on Darksoul so one copy couldn't search five monsters during your End Phase.

I know it's an unpopular idea because of consistency issues, but I like the X-Saber loop because… well fine, I have no good reason. I guess I'm just evil and like looping all the cards out of my opponent's hand. I played the consistent Wind-Up Loop deck that had an 87% chance of taking out at least four cards from your opponent's hand on Turn 1 for a month straight. The X-Saber loop reminds me of Wind-Ups, and Soul Charge makes the loop infinitely more consistent especially after a few turns have passed. Did you know that a Soul Charge and 2000 Life Points can eliminate every card from your opponent's hand? And you finish the combo with a XX-Saber Gottoms and Photon Strike Bounzer on the field. Plus another X-Saber of your choosing. Did I mention your opponent has no cards in hand?

Yeah.

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To pull that combo off and say it only cost you a one card investment, you'll have to start with several X-Sabers in your graveyard. Of course, you can still achieve the combo if you start with any of the listed pieces in your hand. I'll explain the one-card version, but feel free to substitute "in your hand" instead of "in the graveyard" for any of the combo pieces.

Start out with any Level 3 Earth Tuner (let's go with XX-Saber Fulhelmknight), two XX-Saber Ragigura and two XX-Saber Faultroll in your graveyard. A graveyard like that isn't hard to come by because Fire Formation - Tenki, XX-Saber Darksoul and XX-Saber Emmersblade provide you with a lot of consistency.

Soul Charge one XX-Saber Ragigura and the Fulhelmknight back, and snatch a copy of Faultroll from your graveyard with Ragigura's effect; of course, you'll immediately Special Summon the Faultroll because you control two face-up X-Sabers. Use Faultroll's effect to revive your second Ragigura and add your second Faultroll to your hand. Synchro Summon into XX-Saber Gottoms with your first Faultroll and your Fulhelmknight, finishing with Gottoms and Ragigura on field and your second Faultroll in hand.

Special Summon the second in-hand Faultoll (because you still have two X-Sabers on field) and bring back the second Ragigura, in effect returning the first Faultroll back to your hand that you used to Synchro into Gottoms. Tribute both Ragigura with Gottoms to pluck two cards from your opponent's hand, and then Special Summon Faultroll number one again. Tribute off Faultroll Number Two with Gottoms to pluck another card out of your opponent's hand, then use the remaining Faultroll to revive a Ragigura… which adds the other Faultroll back to your hand again. Special Summon it and - you guessed it - Tribute off Faultroll One and Ragigura to discard two more cards. Rinse, repeat and make your opponent hate you.

When all that's said and done, you'll finish with Gottoms, both Faultrolls and any other X-Saber from your graveyard as an established field. You can achieve this combo with just one Main Decked Regigura if you start with XX-Saber Faultroll and Soul Charge in hand, but I think it's more impressive to say 2000 Life Points and one card eliminates every card in your opponent's hand and leaves you with an impressive field.

Infernity Is Synonymous For Solitare
Oh look, another deck from The Shining Darkness that benefits heavily from Soul Charge! In April, Infernities took what seemed like a major hit with the Limiting of Infernity Barrier, but the deck's already proven successful on the Regional level in this format. Infernity draws its strength from its uncanny ability to open consistently, and Summon Xyz until they either have a field of Number 66: Master Key Beetle and Vanity's Emptiness, or an Infernity horde backed by Infernity Break and Infernity Barrier.

If I described every combo in Infernties, it would take about six articles because the particular processes for Infernity combos are so lengthy and boorish to detail. Depending on whether you start with Dark Grepher, Tin Goldfish or Armageddon Knight, the route to get to the same finishing field will be very different. Using Instant Fusion and Lavalval Chain, Infernity decks loop Infernity Archfiend and search new Infernity cards like Infernity Launcher or the defensive traps roughly one to two billion times per turn. A Key Beetle protecting Vanity's Emptiness backed by an Archfiend and Infernity Break is nearly unbeatable given the current shape of competition.

But with Soul Charge, you can maximize the outputs of your plays even if you don't open optimally. Sure, it's nice to start the duel with Infernity Archfiend, Vanity's Emptiness, Reinforcement of the Army and three more traps, but Soul Charge means any Necromancer or Archfiend in your graveyard is now live. Some Infernity builds have tried Archfiend Heiress and Archfiend's Roar to keep your Special Summons and searches alive and well, but Soul Charge eliminates the need for cloggy and slow cards.

For all intents and purposes, Soul Charge is Monster Reborn for Infernites and you can use three copies of it. Your Instant Fusion, Armageddon Knight and Sygian Street Patrol combos will still work seamlessly, but mathematically it's now much easier to start with at least one clear path into your long combo of at least a dozen Special Summons.

Even better than Monster Reborn, you can bring back an Infernity Archfiend, Infernity Necromancer and another Level 4 to keep your combos going. Just don't try to bring back two Infernity Archfiends and get both effects off at once. Despite some recent rulings confusion, you'll only resolve one Archfiend's effect if both are simultaneously Summoned.

Mermails, Mermails, Swimming In the Ocean
Mermail decks get absolutely crazy with the addition of Soul Charge. The deck's always been focused on successive turns of massive combo-oriented plays, and it rivals Dragons for the title of hardest deck to play at the moment. In September, we saw the infamous Mermail Abyssteus and Aqua Spirit combo that ended with a field of Bahamut Shark, Mermail Abysstrite and Mequipped Angineer. Substitute a Soul Charge for the Aqua Spirit and you can take the combo a step further. I was blown away when I found about this ending field.

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Starting with a Mermail Abyssteus, a Soul Charge and two Level 4 Mermails, you can pump out 5 Xyz on turn one. To make things as simple as possible, I'm going to use the full names of specific Level 4 Mermails in this example, though you can achieve this combo as long as at least one of them is a Mermail Abysspike. Bear with me through Mermail Abyssturge and Mermail Abyssnose and by all means substitute all three for Mermail Abysspike at the end of the day.

First, Special Summon Mermail Abyssteus by pitching Mermail Abyssnose, using its effect to search out and Normal Summon a Mermail Abyssocea. Use Abyssocea's effect to trade in Abyssteus for an Attack Position Mermail Abysshilde and Mermail Abysspike. Stack both Abysshilde and Abyssocea for Mechquipped Angineer and use its effect to switch Mermail Abysspike to defense mode.

You're doing that not to save Abysspike from destruction, but to send Abysshilde to the graveyard and then Special Summon your Mermail Abyssturge from your hand with Abysshilde's effect. Stack your newly-Summoned Abyssturge with your defense position Abysspike for Lavalval Chain. Use Chain's effect to send Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls to the graveyard. Now, you'll have a Mechquipped Angineer and Lavalval Chain on the field with Mermail Abyssteus, Mermail Abysshilde, Tidal, Mermail Abysspike and Mermail Abyssnose in your graveyard. Seems like the perfect time to play Soul Charge, right?

Give up 3000 Life Points to bring back Mermail Abyssteus and both Level 4 Mermails. Use that Abysspike to pitch any Water monster in your hand for any Level 3 Water in your deck. Whether you search out a Mermail Abyssgunde or Genex Undine is irrelevant because you just needed one more Water in your graveyard for Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls. Stack both Abyssnose and Abysspike for a Bahamut Shark, but don't activate its effect quite yet. First you'll have to banish Mermail Abysshilde and whatever Water monster you just pitched with Abysspike to Special Summon Tidal back from the graveyard. Overlay both Tidal and Abyssteus for Mermail Abyssgaios and finish by bringing out Mermail Abysstrite with Bahumut Shark for a full field of Xyz.

If that doesn't illicit at least one "neat" from Kelly Locke, I've failed as a Yu-Gi-Oh! player.

Of course, you're not limited to this particular set-up. If you're playing a mirror match or you're up against Dragon Rulers, you can do the exact same series of plays but substitute the Bahamut Shark for Abyss Dweller. Mermails can achieve similar results every duel because you're running triplicates of at lest 9 cards in the deck and can speed through the deck with Upstart Goblin and Reckless Greed.

Lavalvals (#4chainz)
Oh look, the deck has three more copies of Rekindling.

You're Going To Hear Them Roar
Where do I even begin with Dragons? From Chaos Dragons to Hopeless Dragons to Dragon Rulers, Soul Charge bolsters the strength any deck Dragon. Personally, I see the most potential in Hieratic Rulers because a Dragon Shrine combined with a first turn Soul Charge churns out several impenetrable set-ups.

On your first turn, yard a Labradorite Dragon and Hieratic Dragon of Tefnuit with Dragon Shrine. They won't be staying there for long because you'll revive both with Soul Charge immediately. Tribute your Tefnuit for Hieratic Dragon of Su and Special Summon a Second Labradorite Dragon from your deck. Xyz Summon Hieratic Dragon of Atum with Labradorite Dragon and your Su and Summon a second Hieratic Dragon of Su from your deck.

Stack the newly-Summoned Su with your other remaining Labradorite Dragon for a second Hieratic Dragon of Atum. Use the second Atum to Special Summon any of the four big Dragon Rulers from your deck. Banish both copies of Su that you detached for the costs of each Atum for a Dragon Ruler from your hand; stack both for a Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack; and Summon two Mecha Phantom Beast Tokens for the following turns. With both Atums still on the field, you can keep Special Summoning monsters from your deck on the following turn if your opponent has answers for Dracossack or the Tokens.

You can actually achieve the combo by substituting Su, Tefnuit and Hieratic Dragon of Eset into any spot that called for a Hieratic monster. Of course, any of the Dragon Rulers work for the combo so it's easy to open with, running 9 Hieratics, 4 Dragon Rulers, 3 Dragon Shrine, 2 Soul Charges and a partridge in a pear tree.

As further options go, you're not limited to the boring double Atum and Dracossack play when you start with a Soul Charge and a Dragon Shrine. You could end your opening turn with an Atum and a Stardust Dragon for guaranteed protection, or you could finish with an Azure-Eyes Silver Dragon if Blue-Eyes White Dragon fits your play style better.

And Finally… Inzektors
I for one was overjoyed when Inzektor Hornet and Inzektor Dragonfly were finally Limited to one after being the most annoying deck of 2012. Let me go off on a tangent for a moment by saying that Inzektors were by far my least favorite deck in the history of this game, because the strategy just punishes you for existing. Anyway, Wind-Ups won the WCQ that year, but Chaos Dragon and Dino Rabbit will be remembered as the decks to beat, leaving the bugs out to fry. Inzektors were just a thorn in everyone's side, and I thought once their best cards were hit to one, the deck would be irrelevant.

Strangely enough, they won YCS Seattle shortly after the F&L List beat them into the ground. How? I have no idea. I think Inzektors thrive best in undecided metagames, typically at the start of a format when no one's sure what to use in their Side Deck or how to prepare for matches at big tournaments. Two very similar builds of "Verdant Sanctuary Inzektors" topped a Garden City Regional and then a Tinely Park Regional in January, more because people were unprepared for the matchup than anything else.

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To make matters worse for Inzektors, the deck can brick pretty easily with so many synergy-driven cards. Upstart Goblin and Cardcar D were only so effective in thinning your deck for Inzektor Dragonfly and Inzektor Hornet, and once you went through all your Inzektor monsters, it was hard to win the game. Call Of The Haunted helped lengthen your duels and keep you in the fight, but a slow trap card prone to errant Mystical Space Typhoons could only achieve so much.

Now with Soul Charge, any Inzektor player can reuse Inzektor Dragonfly three more times per game, and have three more opportunities to blow up the field with its effect. Thanks to cards like Waboku and Threatening Roar keeping you alive, you may have the late game opportunity to pay 3000 Life Points, bring out three Inzektors from your graveyard, and start popping all the cards your opponent has face-up on the field. Inzektors punish your opponent for having cards on the table, but unlike Fire Fists' dependency on Fire Formation - Tenki you can start destroying cards with nothing but a yarded Hornet. Kuribandit and Mathematician already made Inzektors more consistent, but Soul Charge definitely extended the longevity of the strategy.

Back To That Opening Statement…
I've detailed some completely unfair plays where 2000 to 3000 Life Points produce an insurmountable field, but I can confidently say that more often than not, Soul Charge is a terrible card to draw. Early game, the price is small for some crazy plays. I'll take a 2K hit all day every day first turn if my Lonefire Blossom and Soul Charge makes a Shooting Quasar Dragon. But late game? To maximize the efficiency Soul Charge, you'll want to bring back several monsters at once and play for big combos. I mentioned at the beginning of the article that you could use Soul Charge just for one monster, but the exhaustive list of singular monsters you'd bring back is short. If you're only bringing back one card, you'll rarely maximize Soul Charge's value.

Despite assisting you in gigantic one-turn fields, Soul Charge can be the absolute worst card to draw when you're low on resources and Life Points. Lancer Frogs and Dragon Ruler variants can benefit heavily from Soul Charge but both decks are prone to taking a ton of damage early in the game. After using a Normal Summon on Swap Frog or Kuribandit, an opposing Dragon Ruler, Mermail or even Six Samurai deck could render your three copies of Soul Charge dead weight for future Draw Phases after you take hefty damage in your first couple turns. It's weird how drawing Soul Charge on Turn 1 is a blessing, but drawing it later is about as useful as skipping your Draw Phase.

Furthermore, you mustn't pretend Life Points don't matter. Sure, early in the duel your 2000 Life Point payment may net a Naturia Beast and Shooting Quasar Dragon but try not to get greedy unless you're certain the price is worth the final result. Unless you put yourself in a winning position, every monster you bring back brings you one step closer to your own demise.

For example, going in to time at Regional Qualifiers and Yugioh Championship Series happens way more often than you think. We've all seen the frustrated duelist with five monsters on board and ten cards in hand lose to the luckier player that scraped by with no cards in hand and just 100 more Life Points than their opponent. After all, Life Points are everything; they're how 99% of games are won. Hell, maybe bringing back that one extra monster leaves you exposed to defeat at the hands of Gagaga Cowboy or Number 82: Heartlandraco, two very popular cards in any deck that can churn out Rank 4's.

Additionally, Soul Charge leaves you even more vulnerable to Chain Burn. Your impressive Mermail field of five Xyz means nothing to a player that's nearly halfway through killing you without activating a card. And unfortunately, the rise of Soul Charge means that unexpected cards like Ceasefire, Lava Golem and Magic Cylinder can steal more victories despite what monsters you bring out. We've already seen those burn cards in Top 8 Main and Side Decks at Regionals like Tinley Park and Philadelphia in the past two weeks.

I don't think the disparity of power depending on when you draw a card has ever been so high, though anyone who's drawn a Trap Dustshoot without any other cards left in the late game may beg to differ. When you play Soul Charge, you have to be thinking ten steps ahead. You're going to see a lot of people play this card well, and a lot more squander the duel entirely, because they're nostalgic about Monster Reborn or just plain greedy. Try to be on the winning side of that comparison.

Just remember, beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson