Side Deck Theory: Imperial Order

Kelly Locke

4/4/2017 11:00:00 AM

Imperial Order is back in the Advanced Format after more than a decade on the Forbidden & Limited List. In August 2004 it was among the first thirteen cards to be Forbidden. Prior to that List you could still play extremely powerful cards like Graceful Charity, Yata-Garasu, Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End, and Mirror Force. Looking back at the initial group of Forbidden cards it's interesting to note which cards have returned, which are still Forbidden, and those that came back for a short time.

Among the legendary ‘first-thirteen' Forbidden cards are three new erratas: Sangan, Imperial Order, and the OCG Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End. On the March 2017 F&L List Sangan lept from Forbidden to Unlimited, while Imperial Order moved to Limited. Doug wrote up a great article on what the new Sangan means for the game, but from a Side Deck perspective I'm much more interested in Imperial Order. It's a game-changing trap that challenges spell-heavy strategies in a way that's noticeably different from Anti-Spell Fragrance. It's poised to be a major player in the upcoming format, so this week we'll be taking a look at exactly where Imperial Order shines.

Royal Decree's Long Lost Synonym
Imperial Order is a spell-negating floodgate that's functionally identical to Royal Decree. Both Continuous Traps negate either spells or traps that are face-up on the field. Neither card negates or prevents the activation of spells or traps, and that positions them in a different space when compared to the most common forms of negation. Chaining Imperial Order to a spell activation will initially give you the same results as if you had negated that same spell with Naturia Beast or Dark Bribe; your opponent's Normal, Quick-Play, or Ritual Spell will be sent to the graveyard.

However, if you negate the activation of a card like Pot of Desires your opponent can still activate another copy. Negating the effect maintains that activation, and won't give your opponent another shot at playing the same card. Chaining Imperial Order to Pot of Desires robs your opponent of their draw effect and makes any additional copies in their hand completely dead.

Hard once-per-turn clauses aren't the only drawbacks for activating certain spells. Soul Charge takes your Battle Phase, Left Arm Offering prevents you from setting spells and traps, and Card of Demise stops your opponent from taking damage and shuts off your Special Summons for the turn. Imperial Order punishes your opponent for playing riskier cards and forces them to take all of the drawbacks while reaping none of the benefits.

 Imperial Order
Imperial Order129623
Set Duelist Saga
Number DUSA-EN049
Type Continuous Trap Card
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Negate all Spell effects on the field. Once per turn, during the Standby Phase, you must pay 700 LP (this is not optional), or this card is destroyed.

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Direct spell negation's hard to come by. There's plenty of themed options, but what if your deck doesn't have monsters with negation effects or some on-theme Counter Trap? Your generic options are either too forgiving to your opponent, like Dark Bribe, or too specific to justify their one-time use, like Magic Drain and Magic Deflector. Those cards do show up from time to time, but they're largely outclassed by their trap-negating counterparts. Royal Decree, Trap Stun, and Wiretap have been around for years, and it's about time we had a proper generic answer to all forms of spells.

Removal effects are the current answers to Field, Equip, and Continuous Spells. Mystical Space Typhoon, Twin Twisters, and Cosmic Cyclone have kept spells and traps from resolving for a long time, but they're limited to disrupting cards that need to stick around on the field to resolve. They're long-term solutions to cards you could negate with Magic Deflector. Imperial Order bridges the gap between removal and one-turn negation while offering coverage against Normal Spells. That differentiation is what makes it a standout pick so many years after its release.

Now Twice As Expensive
Imperial Order costs more than ever, and I'm not talking about its secondary market value. Its new errata changes its maintenance cost so that you must pay 700 Life Points in each Standby Phase. Those payments add up quickly and can total 2800 LP just four turns later. Conventional thinking regarding Life Point costs is that you only need 1 LP to win, and any payments or self-damage are acceptable so long as you win the duel. It's technically true: the only threshold you need to stay above is zero.

But in practice there are two important considerations before you load up on cards that cost Life Points. First, can you avoid taking further damage by paying LPs? And second, can you end games quickly in time despite the costs of your cards? Imperial Order shines in match-ups against spell-heavy strategies not only because you can play it as a one-time negation effect, but also because it's a limited-time floodgate. If your opponent can't play the game without resolving their spells you're free to push through their defenses and end the duel. That's the dynamic we've seen time and time again with floodgate cards, but Imperial Order puts you on the clock.

How long can you keep Imperial Order on the field? Assuming you don't take any damage or pay Life Points for any other card you can expect it to stay on the field for eleven turns. Each Solemn Strike you play burns two turns, and activating it later in the duel after you've taken damage will similarly lead to lower uptime. That's about five or six of your own turns at most, and that's a surprisingly short amount of time in a competitive back-and-forth duel. Your opponent might succeed in stalling out that length of time, especially if they can mount an offensive with their monsters and traps. Running into a Mirror Force trap could set you back enough that your own card will bring you down to 300 Life Points.

Imperial Order's risky it encourages your opponent to rely on their traps and monsters while stalling for an out. That actually works against you if you can't win the duel in the next few turns. You'll definitely want to side it out while going into a third game in time, but what if you end up in time after Imperial Order has been active for five or six turns?

 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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Taking Imperial Order off the field is tricky. It negates your own spells, so Twin Twisters is out of the question. You'll need to rely on monsters and traps to take it out before it wastes too many of your Life Points. It's possible that Imperial Order will be sitting on the field while your opponent doesn't have a spell in their hand or on their field.

An effect similar to Scrap Dragon, trap-based spell and trap removal like Dust Tornado or Typhoon, or trap negation pairs nicely with Imperial Order and should keep it from eating up your Life Points. It won't drain your Life Points to zero, but it will bring them down low enough for your opponent to sneak in game-ending damage.

Fitting Into The Current Competitive Environment
I'm not a fan of playing Imperial Order in the Main Deck so long as Paleozoics are so popular. That said, the Paleozoic match-up presents the greatest threat to spell-heavy themes. Imperial Order's a very one-sided floodgate for a strategy that plays only a small number of spells. Paleozoic Olenoides can destroy Order if it sticks around too long, and just activating the Continuous Trap will let you Summon a Paleozoic from the graveyard. It's a great fit.

Infernoids, and most That Grass Looks Greener strategies, are the big losers against Imperial Order. Negating Left Arm Offering or That Grass Looks Greener while shutting down every other spell in the deck forces your opponent to find a solution to your floodgate while simultaneously recovering from losing a key card. Imperial Order is partially Twin Twisters-proof: if your opponent tries to hit your backrow with a blind Twin Twisters you can simply chain your trap. Wiser players will try to bait out Order by playing their other spells first, then chaining Twin Twisters to Order's activation.

The Zoodiac engine has a one-card solution to Imperial Order: any Zoodiac monster. Zoodiac Drident isn't afraid of spell negation, so if you want Order to stick around for any length of time you'll need to keep some form of Summon or monster effect negation around. Still, you don't have to protect Imperial Order. Chain it to a single spell, negate that spell, and then leave it to bait out removal. It's a totally viable way to play the card.

Imperial Order's a tempting pick against Pendulum strategies, but it's competing against Anti-Spell Fragrance. Order doesn't stop your opponent from activating Pendulum Spells, so they can still Pendulum Summon. There are Pendulum match-ups where the spells themselves are the biggest threats, but those are far fewer in number. Most of the time you're just looking to stop your opponent from Pendulum Summoning.

The comparison to Anti-Spell Fragrance mostly ends at the Pendulum match-up. Imperial Order's vastly superior if you're drawing it later in the game. You can also chain it to a spell rather than flipping it preemptively, which sometimes lets you beat Twin Twisters. I don't think Order replaces Anti-Spell in any way. If you're already playing Fragrance you wouldn't want to drop your two or three copies to swap in a single Imperial Order.

There's no question that we'll be seeing Imperial Order everywhere over the coming weeks as players experiment with it, but it's hard to tell if it will see consistent play into May. Just having access to it is a boon for deck builders who are looking to cover up vulnerabilities to mass removal, or trying to counter spell-heavy match-ups. One way or another Imperial Order will be deciding duels – either in your favor, or against it.

Until next time then


Kelly​​ ​​Locke​​ ​​is​​ ​​a​​ ​​West​​ ​​Michigan​​ ​​gamer,​​ ​​writer,​​ ​​and​​ ​​college​​ ​​student.​​ ​​​​ ​​In​​ ​​addition​​ ​​to​​ ​​writing​​ ​​on TCGplayer,​​ ​​Kelly​​ ​​writes​​ ​​​​personal​​ ​​blog​​​​ ​​covering​​ ​​Yugioh,​​ ​​Destiny,​​ ​​and​​ ​​other​​ ​​hobbies.​​ ​​You​​ ​​can follow​​ ​​him​​ ​​on​​ ​​​​Twitter​​​​ ​​and​​ ​​check​​ ​​out​​ ​​his​​ ​​​​Youtube​​ ​​channel​​.​​ ​​​​ ​​He​​ ​​is​​ ​​currently​​ ​​studying​​ ​​marketing​​ ​​at Western​​ ​​Michigan​​ ​​University,​​ ​​and​​ ​​hopes​​ ​​to​​ ​​graduate​​ ​​before​​ ​​​​Dragon​​ ​​Ravine​​​​ ​​is​​ ​​Unlimited.

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