Hello Metagame.com readers! It’s been some time since my first article was published, and the game has changed in many ways. We’ve been introduced to the new Advanced list, and the 50th Shonen Jump Championship has recently come and gone with what I feel to be the most interesting coverage to date—coverage that truly embodied the state and evolution of the game right now. Before I go into detail about the context of this article, it’s important that I outline a few things below.
Costa Mesa came and went in the span of a weekend, and since then we’ve faced many new changes. First and foremost, we are playing in the fastest format of all time. Stabilizing against cards like Dark Armed Dragon
, Escape from the Dark Dimension
, Return from the Different Dimension
, and Dimension Fusion
is almost impossible, and games are completed within just a few turns. Furthermore, the state of our game is held tightly together with many draw cards, including Allure of Darkness
, Destiny Draw, and an occasional strategy running Trade-In
. The idea is very intuitive: the more we draw, the more cards we have to choose from, and in the end, the faster we finish the game. Acknowledging this, we must ask ourselves, "how can we overcome the fast and efficient nature Dark Armed Return decks present to us?"
It boggles my mind how simply and easily we’ve accepted that Dark Armed Dragon is supreme as-is. Yes, it’s very powerful and brutally effective as we witnessed at Costa Mesa, but to just adopt builds we see makes me wonder. It’s almost as if we hope to win the die roll and pray we don’t draw a bad hand. Very few decks at Costa Mesa featured cards that gave one player a distinct edge in the mirror match. This article will be about cards that can give that edge to a Dark Armed Dragon player, both in the mirror and against other potentially effective decks.
The first card we’ll look at is Solemn Judgment, arguably the most versatile card in the game. Not only does it stop a Dark Armed Return player’s win conditions, it also puts you in total control of stopping one card your opponent possesses to give you a better shot at winning. At the same time, it allows you to win more efficiently. Solemn Judgment also helps against combo decks, such as Magical Explosion and the recent Exodia build that Chris Moosman piloted at the 50th.
The fact that we expect to just win running the same deck as our opponent astounds me. We run hardly any cards to put us in a favorable position: Solemn can do that for us. The life point cost should be a secondary worry to Dark Armed players. Dark Armed decks look for cards that fill one of two niches: winning more quickly and winning more efficiently. Solemn clearly helps us win more efficiently, while compromising many key cards and win conditions in the opponent’s deck. Look at the Costa Mesa coverage and point out one match featuring a Dark Armed Return that showed us a simple summoning and attacking strategy that led to the win (as opposed to attacking that was allowed through combos, special summoning, or cards like Return from the Different Dimension, Dimension Fusion, and Escape). Understanding this lets us fully recognize that Dark Armed Return is going to administer a lot of damage to us in one turn, which leads to a probable loss. If that one big turn never occurs, we will win.
Solemn Judgment keeps all of the aforementioned cards in check. Last time around, I spent a lot of time focusing on the idea of game position, and Solemn Judgment illustrates this principle to the fullest degree. When you set it, you can often stop your opponent from dropping a game-winning play, and when a player controlling a set Solemn goes for game, not much can stop him or her.
A second card that can give a Dark Armed player a huge edge in the mirror match is one that I consider a forgotten gem: The Transmigration Prophecy. Many cards in this game have to fulfill certain requirements to be played. These cards include the obvious Dark Armed Dragon and Dark Nephthys, the latter of which was run by Sang Bui at Costa Mesa. The Transmigration Prophecy helps to delay those cards from being summoned, and also fulfills many needs that you’ll face when playing against another Dark Armed Return deck.
The Transmigration Prophecy can put Destiny Hero - Dasher back into the deck, preventing the use of his special summoning effect. Unlike D.D. Crow, it prevents your opponent from playing Monster Reborn on your monster. The Crow can only remove monsters from your opponent’s graveyard, while the Prophecy can affect both. It also stops other forms of recursion such as Premature Burial. It completely compromises a few astronomically critical aspects of Magical Explosion strategies too, stopping Cyber Valley’s efforts to put Explosion onto the top of the deck as well as shutting down cards like Magical Stone Excavation.
Perhaps some of us would stop listing advantages of the card at this point, but there are two very key roles The Transmigration Prophecy can fill in regard to our own graveyard. First and foremost, it allow us to meet the special summoning requirement of Dark Armed Dragon itself, putting us into a winning position. Transmigration can also be used to put less ideal draws back into the opponent’s deck—heavy tributes and cards the opponent may not have the ability to activate, such as Dimension Fusion. With that said, The Transmigration Prophecy can potentially force the opponent to draw dead cards. It can even do the reverse, allowing us to put more win conditions back in our own deck or reuse favorable cards that could lead to a better game position. Transmigration is a wonderful piece of tech that can benefit us in many ways, and hinder the opponent just as much. It's hard to believe that players aren’t running it more often.
The last card I want to look at is Dust Tornado, which the brothers Bellido ran so brilliantly in Costa Mesa as an absolutely crucial piece of tech in their deck. In the mirror match, if a card is set face down, it’s either a bluff, a piece of a win scenario, or one of two traps: Torrential Tribute or Mirror Force. No player wants to stare down the latter two and thus Dust Tornado is big. This amazing card allows Dark Armed players to set up their win condition as well, with its effect to let you set something like Return or Escape. It lets us claim opposing cards through battle by ensuring that attacks go as planned, and also helps us to extinguish the explosive win conditions that our opponent tries to set up.
I think that Dust Tornado will see a lot more play thanks to duelists recognizing the niches it fills. In terms of its place in Dark Armed builds, it allows those decks to win with greater speed and efficiency. With its "set a spell or trap" effect, its controller doesn’t have to commit key cards to the spell and trap zone quite so much, something that Mystical Space Typhoon doesn’t offer. It’s interesting to note that both Bellido brothers—along with Andrew Taylor, Jason Holloway, and Jessie Sanchez—were the only ones to main deck Dust Tornado in the Top 32 of Costa Mesa (although eleven others did side deck at least one copy).
Coverage from Costa Mesa opened our eyes and revealed the progression of the current game as a result of the March 1st Advanced list. We were forced to confront the devastating speed and effectiveness of Dark Armed Return builds everywhere. Games lasted a few turns, and matches mere minutes. Conceding that fact, and recognizing the mirror match to be quite common in premier events, it’s important to look at new tech and cards that can give Dark Armed players advantages in the mirror match, as well as against other explosive strategies.
That being said, I hope that everyone reading this can appreciate Solemn Judgment, The Transmigration Prophecy, and Dust Tornado for what they are, and what they accomplish in the game right now. I further hope that some of you reading this will try to adapt these cards for yourself, or submerge yourselves deep within the card pool to find new answers and better prepare yourself for the mirror.