Behind The Cards: Shambhala Subterrors

Franco Ferrara

3/16/2017 11:00:00 AM
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The Subterrors haven't seen much competitive play, nor much discussion beyond topics like "which World Premiere theme is the worst." While the Subterror cards have great artwork and manage to revive the almost forgotten “Flip” mechanic – Ghostricks don't count – the deck just hasn't reached the level of past Word Premieres like Burning Abyss, Kozmos, or even SPYRALS.

According to the early info Konami gave us, the story of the Subterror theme involves an attack on The Hidden City – the card that serves as the theme's central Field Spell. Konami also mentioned that the city's actual name was “Shambhala.” That leads us to believe then that The Hidden City Field Spell is a representation of the real-world city of Shambhala spoken of in Tibetan myth.

Shambhala means “the source of happiness” in Tibetan, and it's said to be the place where the teachings of the Buddha, Shakyamuni, can be found. It was described as a place of both spiritual and technological wonder; a place located somewhere in the highest peaks of the Himalayans, where the people themselves surpassed mundane human frailty as well as the need for materialism. In Shambhala, things are nearly perfect.

The concept of Shambhala is important to Tibetan mythology both as a cradle of Buddhist practice and doctrine, as well as its ties to stories predicting a great war in the future. It's hinted that Shambhala isn't just a city hidden in the highest of Mountains, but also a place within the self.

A City Hidden Within
The card art for The Hidden City spell card takes Inspiration from the mythological city it's based upon. The architecture looks similar in layout to a mandala. That's probably because of the city's reputation as a place of meditation and reflection. Ideally, a mandala is supposed to be the object which one meditates upon, and represents the universe in Buddhist and Hindu teachings.

In the myth of Shambhala, the greater city itself is circular in design with the capital, Kalapa, in the center. Kalapa's described as being surrounded by numerous smaller cities, and in the center of Kalapa is an ornate palace, home to the King of Shambhala. The palace features unusual windows that allow onlookers to stare into the cosmos and the stars. According to the stories, the King's purpose is basically to bring peace to the world when it falls into a time of darkness.

The building in the center of The Hidden City Spell card shows an ornate and oddly represented palace. Illuminated amongst the glowing green of the illustration, it dominates the card art. A volcano erupts in the background, while stalagmites and what can be described as rivers and greenery connect to the city.

 The Hidden City
$39.95
$12.15
$9.96
The Hidden City121341
Set The Dark Illusion
Number TDIL-EN085
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

When this card is activated: You can add 1 "Subterror" monster from your Deck to your hand. Once per turn: You can change 1 face-down Defense Position "Subterror" monster you control to face-up Attack or Defense Position. Once per turn, when an opponent's monster declares an attack: You can change 1 face-down Defense Position "Subterror" monster you control to face-up Attack or Defense Position, then you can negate the attack. You can only activate 1 "The Hidden City" per turn.


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While we fixate on Shambhala as a lost metropolis, it's worth noting that Shambahla's traditionally viewed as a metaphor for an inner happiness, and a sense of oneness that humanity must strive for; those spiritual achievements are akin to the center of Shambhala, the inner sanctum of the palace. Within the metaphorical palace lie the secrets that we desire, and comforts of the mind; a place where we can feel whole and at ease. The natural loss of humanity's innocence prevents us from entering and seeing Shambhala; one must regain their purity and innocence by facing up to who we are, and what we've become.

The Hidden City card could be using the symbol of an underground locale as a metaphor for Shambhala, and how – in spiritual terms – it's hidden inside each of us. It would explain why card art shows The Hidden City underground instead of nestled comfortably in the Mountains. It's sort of interesting that the glowing light of the City is green, too. Where there's good, there'll always be evil to balance it, and The Hidden City works with that concept by searching your deck for a “Subterror” monster with its effect.

Outside of the palace lies the city which is associated with the tangible and physical realm, said to have many roads in the myths. Each of the roads in Shambhala represent the different energy paths of the human body, as described in tenets of Tibetan Buddhism. Outside of the mystical aspects ascribed to the many cities of Shambhala, the real-world cities are said to be technological marvels with people that transcend our current intellect and understandings.

The Hidden City Field Spell has many paths in the card art, each with a glowing green hub of spiral-like structures surrounding a building; they appear unusual, and in their own way technologically advanced. Some of the structures even feature smaller spirals surrounding larger buildings, almost like smaller palaces.

Subterror Weapons
In the myths of Shambhala, there's a legend that describes how the demons that lived around its were first subdued. Those demons, when defeated, were said to become the servants of the people of the city, symbolizing the taming of their own inner demons, implying that they found strength from overcoming their own weaknesses. Those demons are of course societal in nature: greed, lust and so forth.

But some of the stories also speak of numerous guardians that protect Shambhala from unwanted and unenlightened trespassers. Those motifs could be translated into the card game, and may have given Inspiration to the the Subterror Behemoths and Subterror Hunters respectively. Each of the Subterror Behemoths debut in Yu-Gi-Oh! two at a time, and they're all named for different things. There's really no clear reference to what a Guardian of Shambhala looks like in the mythology, so we're left to use our imagination; it's wide open to interpretation.

In some of my books that mention Shambhala, they note that it's protected by several “Machines of War.” Each are described as being wheel-like in structure. Perhaps the Subterror Behemoths are a living embodiment of those weapons. One of them is said to fly and drop boiling oil onto enemies. Another is described as a giant sword that cuts through the earth, while another launches harpoons. Others include flaming discs and decapitating wheels.

 Subterror Nemesis Warrior
$1.51
$0.48
$0.05
Subterror Nemesis Warrior121338
Set The Dark Illusion
Number TDIL-EN082
Level 4
Type Effect Monster
Monster Warrior
Attribute EARTH 
A / D 1800 / 1200
Rarity Rare
Card Text

During either player's turn: You can send 1 "Subterror" monster from your Deck to the Graveyard; Tribute this card and at least 1 other monster so that the original Levels Tributed equal or exceed the Level of that "Subterror" monster in the Graveyard, and if you do, Special Summon that monster in face-up or face-down Defense Position. If a "Subterror Behemoth" monster is flipped face-up while this card is in your Graveyard: You can Special Summon this card. You can only use each effect of "Subterror Nemesis Warrior" once per turn.


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So what exactly are tools of mass destruction doing within the walls of an intellectual and spiritual utopia? It's mentioned that those weapons, while we could easily use them to dispatch the demons of the mind and body as well the enemies of Shambhala, can't make your victory any richer or any more complete than if you'd simply fought those battles yourself. Rather than relying on a simple and destructive solution, one should carefully make plans and find a better way to deal with one's problems. The weapons represent temptations – easy solutions to life's challenges – and they won't lead to Enlightenment.

Moving on, let's break down each of the Subterror Behemoths:

- Subterror Behemoth Stalagmo is named after stalagmites, the columns of calcified stone that taper upwards from cavern floors.

- Subterror Behemoth Umastryx's name appears to be a corrupted spelling of the spiny tailed lizard, Uromastyx. Its name means “whip scourge”.

- Subterror Behemoth Stygokraken is likely a reference to the word “stygian,” which means “pertaining to the river Styx.” The River Styx was both a personified deity and a mythical river said to be found in the Greek Underworld. The river parted the world of the living and the dead and was where the entity Charron, the ferryman, ferried departed souls into the underworld.

Stygofauna is also the name of certain organisms that live in underground lakes. While the legendary Kraken is usually depicted as a giant cephalopod, the word “Kraken” is commonly used to describe any large marine creature that appears along Norwegian coasts. The association with cephalopods is a relatively recent association postulated by writers, and not based upon “first hand accounts” which described the washing ashore of large cephalopods in the region. That explains Stygokraken's Sea-Serpent monster type. It's hard to tell if Stygokraken's swimming in anything, or just floating in one of the trenches of The Hidden City.

- Subterror Behemoth Ultramafus is named for ultramafics, which are igneous rocks – solidified magma – composed of mafic materials. They're dark in color and contain pyroxene minerals. As you can see in the card art, Ultramafus is volcanic in nature and even carries the Pyro-type for extra flavor.

- Subterror Behemoth Voltelluric is composed of the word voltage and telluric which suggest it's name is “electromagnetic force of the earth”. Visually, it seems to be living up to its name.

- Subterror Behemoth Dragossuary is a gigantic skeletal dragon living underground. An ossuary is a place underground where the bones of the dead are kept. This monster's very reminiscent of Castlevania bosses of the past, particularly Gergoth.

I hope you enjoyed today's article about the Subterrors! Do you think the theme will make a leap forward in competition when their final cards are released in Maximum Crisis? Do you prefer Subterrors to Ghostricks? Share your responses in the comments below.

-Franco Ferrara


Franco Ferrara is from Toronto, that's in Canada, and is a licensed gemologist, a sometimes jeweler and a decent artist. Beyond that, he dabbles in a wide range of eclectic hobbies and interests from fortune telling, studying the occult, cosplaying whenever possible, cooking and baking, and enjoying the best restaurants Toronto has to offer. He loves to cosplay at events even if he has the figure of an eggplant. He's a Swiss army knife of knowledge and abilities.


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