Spotlight: Artifacts

Doug Zeeff

1/16/2017 11:00:00 AM

When Artifact Sanctum and Artifact Moralltach first hit the dueling scene in 2014 there was an automatic shift in deck building, both with Artifacts and against them.

Those two cards changed competition in a lot of big ways, and they were often played in combination with Artifact Beagalltach and Artifact Ignition. Artifacts offered unprecedented disruption and mind games because they'd sit in the backrow waiting to be destroyed. Our own Jason Meyer predicted the fall of Mystical Space Typhoon in this article, a claim that was wild for the time considering Mystical Space Typhoon was a staple three-of in almost every deck.

One of the biggest impacts of Artifacts was a sudden fear of blindly targeting backrow for removal – it became extremely risky. If your opponent Mystical Space Typhoons Artifact Sanctum you can chain it to bring out Artifact Moralltach. The Sanctum's destruction effect activates to destroy one card, while the Moralltach's summon effect destroys another. That's a huge swing in card economy that's hard to come back from, and it partly explains the popularity of Artifacts in the latter half of 2014 all the way up to Artifact Moralltach's Limiting months later.

What's interesting is that we've seen Artifact engines pop up in a variety of decks the past couple weeks, even in strategies that you'd probably never expect. ABC-Buster Dragon strategies with Artifacts have appeared several of times, like Parker Thompson's Top 8 list that played three Artifact Sanctum and two Artifact Scythe. Mason Ventimiglia took a Frog Paleozoic deck with three Sanctum, two Scythe, and a Moralltach to a Top 8 finish as well.

But perhaps strangest of all is Rok Vujanovic's Top 8 Artifact Metalfoes list from last week! He played the seemingly standard three Sanctum and two Scythe, a trend that's sure to come up again and again.

Artifact Basics
The three Artifact monsters that are most worth discussing are Artifact Moralltach, Artifact Scythe, and Artifact Beagalltach. They're all Level 5 Light Fairies with respectable ATK or DEF, and all of them carry an interesting ability that lets you set them in your backrow, indistinguishable from regular spells or traps. Then, if they're destroyed there during your opponent's turn, you can Special Summon them from the graveyard.

Upon summon they have activated effects that are all pretty powerful: Moralltach destroys a face-up card your opponent controls; Scythe prevents your opponent from Special Summoning from the Extra Deck for the entire turn; and Beagalltach pops up to two of your face-down backrows, hopefully digging you out of a bad situation if you open with too many Artifact monsters.

The real awesomeness is Artifact Sanctum, sine it directly Special Summons an Artifact from your deck. It instantly lets you use any of their summon effects, and it comes with a built-in destruction effect if your opponent happens to hit it with Twin Twisters or Mystical Space Typhoon. The best part of that effect, and Artifacts in general, is that they keep your opponent from ever destroying your backrows. That's huge for decks running traps like Solemn Strike or Solemn Warning, and it's something that continues to remain relevant as Artifacts are included in trap-heavy deck lists.

 Artifact Sanctum
Artifact Sanctum82687
Set Primal Origin
Number PRIO-EN072
Type Trap
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Special Summon 1 "Artifact" monster from your Deck. You can only activate 1 "Artifact Sanctum" per turn. You cannot conduct your Battle Phase the turn you activate this card. If this card in its owner's possession is destroyed by an opponent's card: You can target 1 card on the field; destroy that target.

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Artifact Ignition has fallen out of favor these days, but it's still worth mentioning for its versatility. It's almost a straight upgrade from Mystical Space Typhoon, destroying a spell or trap as a Quick-Play Spell, but with a similar protection effect like Sanctum, preventing your opponent from entering their next Battle Phase if they destroy it. Not only that, but you also set an Artifact monster from your deck to your backrow after it resolves. That makes a combo any time you have Artifact Ignition and Artifact Beagalltach because you can destroy the Beagalltach, set another Artifact, and then when the Beagalltach revives itself you can destroy the newly set Artifact to get its effect, too.

As Level 5 Lights, you can use Artifacts for a ton of great Rank 5's like Constellar Pleiades, Number 61: Volcasaurus, and Artifact Durendal. Brilliant Fusion's commonly paired with Artifacts because you can overlay an Artifact and Gem-Knight Seraphinite for an Xyz Summon, although we haven't seen that topping events in a few months.

So the big question is: why Artifacts, and why now? Well…

Artifact Scythe Is The Bee's Knees
When Artifact Moralltach was Limited, players weren't about the future of the Artifact engine. At the time, Artifact Moralltach was the go-to Artifact three-of, and even when Artifact Scythe came out it was pretty underwhelming, only showing up in a few Side Decks.

Artifact Scythe's trigger effect stops your opponent from Special Summoning monsters from the Extra Deck for the rest of the turn, but you can't use that effect until after a chain resolves. In other words, you couldn't respond to Shaddoll Fusion with Artifact Sanctum to keep an El Shaddoll Construct from hitting the field; you had to flip the Sanctum preemptively just in case your opponent had Shaddoll Fusion.

But as the years went by Artifact Scythe got better and better. Pendulum Summoning made Scythe a fantastic choice against a ton of top strategies. The goal of all the best Pendulum decks is to destroy their own cards before a huge Pendulum Summon, so cutting your opponent off from the Extra Deck puts them at a severe disadvantage.

Right now, almost every strategy in competition relies on the Extra Deck. Metalfoes are obviously going to require their Extra Deck for Pendulum Summons, but even Frog Paleozoics and ABC's do basically nothing without Xyz. I've seen Artifact Scythe referred to as a “poor man's Dimensional Barrier,” but I think that comparison's less accurate than you might think. While both can lock cards out of the Extra Deck, Dimensional Barrier's limited to only one type of monster. Call Xyz Monsters against ABC-Dragon Buster and they'll make a Fusion, or call Pendulum Monsters against Metalfoes and they'll fuse or Synchro Summon.

 Artifact Scythe
Artifact Scythe105138
Set 2015 Mega-Tins Mega Pack
Number MP15-EN001
Level 5
Type Effect Monster
Monster Fairy
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 2200 / 900
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

You can Set this card from your hand to your Spell & Trap Card Zone as a Spell Card. During your opponent's turn, when this Set card in the Spell & Trap Card Zone is destroyed and sent to your Graveyard: Special Summon it. If this card is Special Summoned during your opponent's turn: Your opponent cannot Special Summon monsters from the Extra Deck for the rest of this turn.

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But with Scythe that's not true, because it turns everything off for the turn. Dimensional Barrier's also a global effect that impacts both players, keeping decks like Frog Paleozoics from calling Xyz Monsters because you'd hamstring your own Toadally Awesome. Scythe is one-sided, so there's no need to worry about your own cards.

Looking ahead, Artifacts are one of the best full stops to Zoodiacs, one of the most powerful splashable themes we've seen in a long time. If Japanese metagames are any indicator of our future, Zoodiacs are going to be everywhere. They rely on making cheap, one-card Xyz Summons that spiral out of control, but they're useless without the Extra Deck. Artifact Scythe's already a favored counter to Zoodiacs in Japan, but you can also run Artifacts with Zoodiacs to protect a Turn 1 Zoodiac board.

The downside to Artifacts is similar to most trap cards, and that's that they struggle against established boards. That's probably why Mason Ventimiglia ran one Moralltach in his Artifact engine, and I think it could become the standard. Artifact Moralltach provides non-targeting destruction on your opponent's turn, and it helps deal with fields that your opponent set up on theirs. Artifact Scythe definitely has more stopping power, but only if you can resolve it before your opponent goes off.

I believe Artifacts are only going to see more play over the coming weeks, and I can't wait to see how duelists deal with that on a competitive level!

-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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