The Basics: Power Cards

Doug Zeeff

2/4/2013 12:56:00 PM
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With this new, twice-monthly series, simply titled The Basics, I'll be continuing the trend of my two Beginner's Guide articles, which can be found both here and here. The difference between this series and that guide is the target audience. The first two were aimed at people just starting out, and I think I did a fairly good job at outlining what a new player needed to know. This series, though, is going to not only be helpful to the beginners out there, but also the seasoned players that could use a refresher on some of the finer points of dueling. As you can tell by the title, today's discussion will be all about power cards. Don't know what those are? Allow me to explain.

Defining a Power Card
Some of you may have incorrectly called certain cards "power cards," while others may have never even heard the term before. As far as this particular article is concerned, I'm going to define them as the cards that...

1. Have minimal or no cost.
2. Can be used in a variety of ways.
3. Change the game in your favor if resolved at the correct time.

When we take a look at these three traits, several different power cards become apparent. Namely stuff like Monster Reborn, Dark Hole, and Heavy Storm. These all have no cost whatsoever; can be played in a variety of different ways - defensively and aggressively; and, in general, tilt the game in your favor. While some power cards bend those rules a little, such as having a minimal cost based on the deck they're in, most of them share these three characteristics. Now that we've defined what a power card is, let's take a gander at a few, as well as ways that you can get the most out of them.

I Have the Power!
Your impulse when you play effects this strong might be to use them the second you draw them. Say, for instance, you open up with Dark Hole and Monster Reborn against an opponent's Thunder King Rai-Oh. While it might seem like a good idea to Dark Hole Thunder King and Monster Reborn it back to your field, you've essentially wasted two power cards for a fairly small move. Saving your Dark Hole or Monster Reborn for the next turn when the opponent dropped another threat on the field would've been a much safer idea. In most scenarios, holding on to your power cards for as long as humanly possible is the best idea.

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 Monster Reborn
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Monster Reborn
Set Legendary Collection 3: Yugi's World
Number LCYW-EN058
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Target 1 monster from either player's Graveyard; Special Summon it.


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Continuing on, let's talk about why holding on to your best cards is so valuable. At the start of the game, each player has five cards in hand, with the turn player drawing to six. Chances are that if you Dark Hole that one Thunder King, your opponent will have a good shot at bouncing back since they still have five cards in hand. If they go into something bigger than Thunder King next turn, you'll lose Thunder King and you would have just wasted Monster Reborn and Dark Hole; you've given up three cards for no good reason. As the game goes on, each player loses more and more cards. The fewer cards they have, the more likely that they won't be able to counter your plays. For example, baiting out Solemn Warning or Torrential Tribute early on, just to secure a safe Monster Reborn later in the game, is a stellar idea. This isn't difficult to comprehend: if your opponent has gone through several of their trap cards that stop Summons and they're now low on resources, the chances of your Monster Reborn resolving successfully skyrocket.

There's a flip side to this, and it mainly revolves around one of the most commonly played spell cards of all time: Heavy Storm. By now you're probably aware that a lot of decks pack the powerful trap Starlight Road, which is the bane of Heavy Storm. If your opponent opens up with three back row cards, and you have Heavy Storm, you'd want to activate it sooner rather than later. In this situation, every turn you give your opponent is another that they can draw Starlight Road. Of course, you can also use the old trick of noticing how fast the opponent sets their whole back row to determine if they have protection, but that's a different story for a different day.

Knowing when to activate power cards is great, but it's a difficult skill to master. The Heavy Storm example completely changes when your opponent sets just one or two cards; in that case, you might actually want to hold on to it for a while. That brings up another topic, known colloquially as the "Pro-Set Heavy." This refers to a move popular in another era of dueling, but it's a good example of a play that's high-risk and high-reward. Basically, instead of activating Heavy Storm straight up, you just set it face-down and end your turn. From here, the opponent will likely not think you have Heavy Storm, because you wouldn't want to destroy your own card. That deduction leads them to become careless and set multiple back row cards themselves, often without protection. Next turn you just flip the Heavy up, and watch the horrifying look on the your opponent's face. Granted, this trick is slightly less effective in formats where we're allowed three copies of Mystical Space Typhoon, but it's still has rewards that are often too good to pass up.

Following Up
This is a skill that I've only recently focused on in my own dueling, and I have to say that it's improved my play to unprecedented levels. It's also a good indicator of when to activate your power cards, if you can't figure out when might be too early or too late. In layman's terms, if you're using a power card, make sure that you have a follow up to its resolution. Seems easy, and that's because it is, and yet I still see people randomly activating Heavy Storm on a full back row and ending their turn. So why's that a problem?

Well, what's the point of activating something that clears the field if you have nothing to take advantage of the fact that you just cleared it? In the example of Dark Hole, maybe your opponent will Summon another monster on the following turn, so your field clearing effect suddenly no longer affords you a clear attack. In addition, it's better to actually have something to do after you clear said field, like a big push or combo. This can even be said for non-power cards, like Mystical Space Typhoon, where you don't want to blindly activate them if you have no reason to.

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 Mystical Space Typhoon
$8.95
$5.76
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Mystical Space Typhoon
Set Legendary Collection 3: Yugi's World
Number LCYW-EN062
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

Target 1 Spell/Trap Card on the field; destroy that target.


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There are exceptions, though. If your opponent has Thunder King Rai-Oh on the field and nothing else, and you're under 1900 Life Points, you might have to use the Dark Hole to save yourself from losing. Remember to stay strong on holding out, though, as the only Life Point that matters is the very last one. In a dire scenario you might not have a follow up, but you have to just bank on your opponent not drawing something to win the game and for you to get something useful on your next draw.

Being Aware
One advantage that those who study successful tournament decks have over those who don't, is that they know the common cards played in different strategies. Going up against Dark World you shouldn't be worried about Heavy Storm, because they probably aren't running it. Outside of decks that stray from the norm, you can almost always expect your opponent to have a Dark Hole, Monster Reborn, and Heavy Storm in their deck. Those cards are includied in a variety of strategies because, like I mentioned before, they have no cost and push the game in the user's favor.

This affects you as a duelist because you have to be ready for commonly played cards. Is it the best idea to set your entire hand to your back row without protection? Not really, because even though the chances of your opponent having a Heavy Storm are slim they still could have it, and you might lose if they +4 off of your carelessness. Another example is going into a field full of monsters with no back up. You have to think about the possibility of a Dark Hole, Torrential Tribute, or Mirror Force. The best way to take advantage of that is to have a back up plan ready, so when they Torrential at what they believe to be the end of your Summons on any given turn, you just drop more on them.

Until Next Time
Like I talked about at the start of this article, this will be a series only put out twice a month, in addition to your regularly scheduled Low Key every Monday. I hope to deepen the knowledge of players new and old alike, and hopefully you learned something from this specific article dealing with power cards and their many intricacies. If you guys have any ideas for potential topics, please leave them in the comment section below!

- Doug Zeeff

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