Two Game-Defining Cards From 2016

Doug Zeeff

12/30/2016 11:00:00 AM

As another year of Yu-Gi-Oh! comes to a close I wanted to take a look at two of the most game defining cards that tore up the competitive landscape. My criteria was pretty straightforward: the cards had to be out for most of the year, they had to be played in almost every format since their release, and they had to stay off the Forbidden & Limited List. Other factors that I considered were how impactful they were in decks that could use them and decks that they countered.

All things considered, I think the top two choices are quite clear.

Ironically, both cards come from the first major release of 2016: Breakers of Shadow. Heralded as one of the strongest sets in recent memory, BOSH brought us a ton of ridiculously powerful and controversial cards. It also propelled us into 19 days of a single deck format before the Adjusted List corrected the near-unstoppable Performage Performapal deck.

So without further ado, let's look at the first of my top two game defining cards from 2016!

 Solemn Strike
Solemn Strike122528
Set 2016 Mega-Tins Mega Pack
Number MP16-EN231
Type Trap Card
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

When a monster(s) would be Special Summoned, or a monster effect is activated: Pay 1500 LP; negate the Summon or activation, and if you do, destroy that card.

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Widely regarded as one of the strongest trap cards ever released, Solemn Strike continued the trend of insane traps carrying the “Solemn” mantle. Solemn Judgment plagued format after format before it was Forbidden, and Solemn Warning was always too good to be anything other than Limited. Solemn Scolding seemingly fixed the issue with Solemn cards by giving it the same stopping power but with a steeper cost.

And then Solemn Strike affectively reversed that progression, scaling back on sheer strength but also reducing the cost to match. For a mere 1500 Life Points, you could negate a monster's effect or Special Summon. Upon initial analysis, Solemn Strike actually does way less than Judgment, Warning, or Scolding. It can't stop Normal or Flip Summons at all, and it ignores interactions with spells or traps, too. In a vacuum it's got incredibly limited scope.

But Solemn Strike's negation scope just happens to be the perfect one for the past year of Yu-Gi-Oh. In the past, we saw years of decks with mediocre monsters backed by crazy spells and traps. Just play any “Goat Control” list from 2005 and you'll know what I mean. It's weird playing stuff like Graceful Charity, Premature Burial, Delinquent Duo, and Pot of Greed next to stuff like Exarion Universe and Tsukuyomi. That was basically how the game worked for years following, though, and I'd say that 2012 was the real turning point for that dynamic.

Flash forward to now and you'll find the opposite to be true. Outside of one-of's like Soul Charge and Vanity's Emptiness, monsters are the name of the game. Even some of the best spells out there right now are just designed to get you to your monsters! Solemn Strike won't negate spells and traps, sure, but you don't need it to, since there are so few of them worth negating.

Furthermore, Solemn Strike was also released as a direct counter to the Pendulum Summon mechanic. With Black Horn of Heaven and Thunder King Rai-Oh restricted to hitting one monster at a time, a card like Solemn Strike was needed to balance things out for non-Pendulum decks.

And it sort of Backfired thanks to Guiding Ariadne. By giving Pendulum players a clear path to the very thing that beats them, Guiding Ariadne made Solemn Strike a deadly card in Pendulum mirror matches for almost a year. It was played heavily in conventional, unlimited Performage Performapal lists, and was played after the Adjusted List as well. Even now we're seeing tournament topping Majespecter Metalfoes run Solemn Strike as well.

Part of Solemn Strike's perpetual popularity through 2016 is owed to its ability to not only boost the best decks, but help combat them too. There aren't a lot of cards like that, especially considering the variety of strategies that have been competitive over the entire year, so it's not surprising that Strike remained a top pick. It retained a lot of value on the secondary market after its Mega Pack printing, a feat that hadn't really been achieved before.

At many points Solemn Strike was thought to be way too powerful to be left off the F&L List. At others, people were dropping it left and right from their decks. But it's always been a competitive mainstay since its release, and it's a huge factor to consider when you're playing your cards into backrow.

In a year defined by monster effects, Solemn Strike's almost as impactful as Solemn Warning. There was a period were going first wasn't necessarily the correct choice because there weren't enough good traps to guard your field, but Strike's one the best ways to protect your board. I expect it to continue seeing play until we get a better trap card, or until it's hit on a Forbidden & Limited List.

 Twin Twisters
Twin Twisters122518
Set 2016 Mega-Tins Mega Pack
Number MP16-EN221
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

Discard 1 card, then target up to 2 Spell/Trap Cards on the field; destroy them.

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Interestingly, the same set that brought us such a great trap card also gave us one of the best backrow destruction cards of all time. If you've played Yu-Gi-Oh! long enough you've likely heard “this card is the next Mystical Space Typhoon” lots of times. I heard it with Dust Tornado, I heard it with Night Beam, I heard it with Twister, I heard it with Artifact Ignition, and I heard it with Storm. And yet, time and time again, all of those cards couldn't live up to the versatility and reliability of the decade-old MST.

Twin Twisters was finally an equal challenger, and in a lot of cases actually surpasses Mystical Space Typhoon. The biggest reason is that Twin Twisters, like Mystical Space Typhoon, is a Quick-Play. That's a huge deal that separates the good from the best, and it immediately makes Twin Twisters better than the many backrow destruction cards that came before it.

The other big deal is that it's a simple 2-for-2 of card economy, an upgrade from Mystical Space Typhoon's 1-for-1 trade. Twin Twisters offers all the benefits of opening with two Mystical Space Typhoons, with none of the drawbacks. If you need to blow up two backrows, Twin Twisters turns your least valuable card into a second Mystical Space Typhoon. But if you don't need to pop anything, Twin Twisters only takes up a single dead slot in your hand.

Additionally, Twin Twisters' discard helps a ton of different strategies. Burning Phantom Knights is the obvious example, loading up your graveyard with Burning Abyss and Phantom Knight monsters in addition to plowing through backrow. We've recently seen it in ABC-Dragon Buster decks to get the missing Union Monsters into the graveyard to summon their ace monster, a continuing theme that's popped up all year.

In some ways, Twin Twisters' existence justifies Heavy Storm and Harpie's Feather Duster being Forbidden. Card of Demise aside, most trap decks are going to open anywhere from two to four trap cards going first. Twin Twisters makes a huge impact on those fields, demolishing two traps instantly. Baiting a single backrow with a weak play and then following up with Twin Twisters has been a staple move since Breakers of Shadow.

Twin Twisters also forces players to think about how many backrow cards they're setting, just like Heavy Storm once did. If you set more than one backrow, your opponent is likely to blow them away with Twin Twisters. But if you just set one, you might not have enough disruption to deal with an onslaught of effects and summons.

Solemn Strike and Twin Twisters have remained popular for a full year, a rare accomplishment in the constantly growing game of modern Yu-Gi-Oh. I'm not sure if they'll continue to be played for all of 2017, but it wouldn't be shocking to see that happen. There were many years where “staple” spells and traps all came from sets long past their prime, but the past two years have really brought a bunch of great spells and traps that are going to be playable for the foreseeable future. For those reasons, I felt that Solemn Strike and Twin Twisters were the top two game defining cards of 2016, and I'd love to read your thoughts on this topic in the comments below!

-Doug Zeeff

Doug Zeeff hails from Michigan and is currently an English major in college. When he's not found emailing Konami about why there's not a single walrus card in all of Yu-Gi-Oh! you can find him regularly posting unorthodox, unfiltered semi-Yu-Gi-Oh! related content on his Youtube channel, Dzeeff. In his spare time he enjoys eating cheese, Overwatch, and, of course, playing Yu-Gi-Oh. Click here to follow him and his adventures on Facebook!

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