Side Deck Theory: Vanity’s Emptiness

Kelly Locke

6/11/2013 2:00:00 PM
 Comments

When Starstrike Blast was released in November 2010, I certainly wouldn't have guessed that so many cards from the set would become relevant nearly two and a half years later. Droll & Lock Bird, Karakuri Shogun mdl 00 "Burei", and Vanity's Emptiness have seen a huge spike in popularity over the last few months. With Psi-Blocker starting to get some attention of its own, it's beginning to look like STBL is making a return to competitive play. Even Karakuris, a theme introduced in that set, are making an impact at Qualifiers this season. It's both odd and interesting to see how these cards have sat in binders and collections until very recently. Now they're among the most desired cards of the format.Dragunity Knight Vajrayana and Dragunity Knight - Gae Dearg are two more Starstrike Blast cards that flew under the radar for quite a while. These two Synchros are crucial to Tempest Dragunity builds which, like Karakuri, are doing fairly well at tournaments. We just posted a large number of deck lists from recent Regionals here on TCGPlayer, and among them were several Dragunity and Karakuri decks.

If you sift through the large number of Dragon Ruler lists, you can find some very interesting builds with great Side Deck tech. Usually that's what I'm looking for when new deck profiles pop up: cool pieces of tech outside of the Main Deck. What I've been noticing is an increased number of players using one of these older cards from STBL...a card that happens to be one of my all-time favorites. This week we'll take a look at the increasingly popular answer to the rampant special summoning in this format: Vanity's Emptiness.

Dragons And Airplanes
Let's go back to Dragunity for a moment. Back in 2011 when the Dragunity Legion Structure Deck was first released Royal Oppression was Limited. After being Forbidden in September, I was looking for some sort of alternative to mimic Oppression. What I found was a nearly year-old trap from STBL that could also shut down Special Summons. In reality, Vanity's Emptiness has more in common with the tricks you can pull off using Call Of The Haunted on Archlord Kristya and Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo than Royal Oppression. Chaining Call or Emptiness to an effect that would Special Summon a monster generally ends up stopping that Summon from occurring. Monster Reborn and opposing Calls resolve without effect if Kristya or Fossil Dyna are Summoned higher up on the chain. Jowgen the Spiritualist works just as well, and that card's now in the spotlight thanks to Spellbook of Judgment.

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 Vanity's Emptiness
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Vanity's Emptiness
Set Starstrike Blast
Number STBL-EN076
Type Trap Card
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Common
Card Text

Neither player can Special Summon monsters. Destroy this card when a card is sent from the Deck or the field to your Graveyard.


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Thinking of Vanity's Emptiness as a legal alternative to Royal Oppression is a bit inaccurate. Emptiness operates differently as a result of its wording, shutting down all attempts to Special Summon rather than negating effects that would do so. Because Oppression doesn't rely on a cost that can only be paid a certain number of times, Treeborn Frog and Blackwing - Vayu the Emblem of Honor are notorious for being able to bypass it. Emptiness isn't susceptible to those weaknesses, but it also doesn't destroy opposing Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossacks or outright negate Xyz and Synchro Summons. You'll have to use it preemptively, flipping it face-up when the opponent gets two monsters on the field and prepares to make a Summon from the Extra Deck. It's a little tricky, especially considering the card's second effect.

Vanity's Emptiness is a very fragile trap, and that weakness is largely what's kept it from seeing much play. Timing is everything; Emptiness is destroyed if a card enters your graveyard from your field or your deck. Preventing that from happening is fairly difficult, as even activating a single spell or trap will often trigger its self-destruct function when the chain its on resolves. Even worse: any opponent who's paying attention will recognize that destroying any other card on the field will grant them a quick +1 in card economy. When you activate Emptiness a single Mystical Space Typhoon can suddenly wipe away two of your cards. That's a big risk that goes well beyond the problem of being locked down by your own effect. A major problem with Royal Oppression is that you could easily lose to your own trap.

Yet, it's that very same weakness that ends up being Vanity's greatest strength. Compared to Oppression, the player using Emptiness has a much greater level of control over how long it stays on the field. You can use it to stop a card like Mermail Abyssteus from hitting the table, then use the effect of Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear, Sacred Sword of Seven Stars, or any of several Spellbooks to remove Emptiness and free up your plays. On the other hand, you can definitely play more conservatively if you'd rather keep your opponent's options pinned down next turn.

Playing Vanity's Emptiness requires the right field position to make it viable. Like Royal Oppression, you'll generally want to play it when you have a strong set-up that will require Special Summoning on the opponent's part to break. Emptiness can be played as a 1-for-1, preventing a single effect from resolving fully even if you expect it to be destroyed soon afterwards. But with a strong monster as your vanguard, and Emptiness in support, you can lead an assault on your opponent that will leave them scrambling for options. My Dragunity example comes to an end with a look at one such monster: Stardust Dragon. Stardust frequently encountered issues with Royal Oppression because, for obvious reasons, Oppression would keep it from returning to the field. That's not something you have to worry about with Emptiness, because when Stardust activates its effect it'll destroy the trap in the process. Your first reaction might be to view that as a conflict: why bother using Stardust to try and protect a card that won't stick around anyways? But protecting your trap isn't the goal here. In this situation, Emptiness supports Stardust Dragon rather than the other way around.

The interaction between Stardust and Vanity's Emptiness keeps you from losing too many cards to Emptiness' destruction effect. You can use Stardust to negate a Typhoon that would cost you two cards, and turn what would have been a -1 into an equal exchange. Still, this isn't the best combination you can have. Xyz Monsters are especially interesting because detaching a material won't cause Vanity's Emptiness to be destroyed - the materials aren't considered to be on the field. Evolzar Laggia and Evolzar Dolkka have great interactions with Emptiness for that reason. They can protect the card without tripping its destruction trigger. Evilswarm Ophion would probably benefit from Emptiness if it didn't carry a summon-inhibiting effect of its own. Other decks that can bring out an Xyz Monster and ride it to victory might find Emptiness to be a great tech choice. Even cards like Legendary Six Samurai - Shi En and Light and Darkness Dragon create some fairly strong locks.

Again, it's not actually necessary to use Vanity's Emptiness while you control a monster. There's nothing stopping you from using it to kill a Special Summon effect and then remove it afterwards. But if you're looking for a monster to compliment it, then look no further than Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack. While it doesn't actively protect the trap, Dracossack won't make it self-destruct. Dracossack's combination of built-in protection for itself and its Scrap Dragon-like effect make it extremely threatening on its own. A Turn 1 Dracossack backed by Emptiness is quickly becoming a favorite opening in the Dragon Ruler mirror match. At worst it's likely to bait out Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos' effect. At best, it completely locks up your opponent's plays. Best of all, your airplane is safe from Dark Hole thanks to your Mecha Phantom Beast Tokens, and to top it off, Dracossack can Tribute itself to destroy a card on the field. Regardless of the target, Emptiness will be destroyed and
open up your plays again.

Competing With Alternatives
Vanity's Emptiness is a great choice against Dragons, but it has some competition when it comes to full Special Summon negation. Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo is becoming increasingly popular as both an answer to Evilswarm Ophion and as a means of stopping Dragons in their tracks. It's weak, but it's tough to remove outside of battle. Whereas Emptiness is one Typhoon away from being destroyed, Fossil Dyna can stick around for much longer and it's easier to protect. You can also reclaim it from the graveyard with Call Of The Haunted in a pinch like I discussed earlier, letting you play it on a chain like you would Emptiness. Jowgen the Spiritualist has applications in Prophecy, but it's also slightly faster than Fossil Dyna in getting rid of monsters that have already been Special Summoned.

Where Vanity's Emptiness really shines is in combination with cards that will keep it on the field. Macro Cosmos prevents cards from going to the graveyard, so you can feel free to activate spells and traps without triggering Emptiness. It lets you continue to play the game while restricting your opponent's actions, bringing it that much closer in line with what Royal Oppression was able to do. White Dragon Ninja lets Emptiness stick around via its effect, and makes the Safe Zone plus White Dragon lock even stronger. In fact, that lockdown is actually fairly difficult for Dragons to crack even without Emptiness. Beyond Ninjas, Emptiness is often a better option for decks that like to retain their Normal Summon and can't afford to give up the opportunity to put a monster on the field.

Closing Thoughts
As pessimistic as this might seem, I honestly believe that many players won't recognize the usefulness of a card until they see its price start to rise. Over the last week I've been watching players discover Vanity's Emptiness for the first time only because it jumped in value on the secondary market. I'd rather not claim this as an 'I told you so' situation, mostly because I've been in this spot many times before. Still, it's great to see the card finally being played after discussing it so much. I'm sure we'll be seeing it in the future now that players realize its potential as an extremely effective Side Deck card. It has the utility to fit in just about everything, and can even work as a Main Deck pick if you have the space.

I definitely think strong Summon prevention is a must-have for this format, and Vanity's Emptiness is one of the best options out there.

Until next time then.
-Kelly

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