Side Deck Theory: Ash Blossom Changes The Game

Kelly Locke

5/30/2017 11:00:00 AM
 Comments

It's been nearly a month since Maximum Crisis launched in the TCG, making Ash Blossom & Winter Cherries a near must-play card. It's everywhere from Regionals to YCS tournaments, the majority of players in Top Cuts are playing three copies. Few tech cards see such ubiquitous play, and its prevalence is shaping the format by propelling some strategies forward and burying others.

Ash Blossom & Winter Cherries has incredible utility. I won't bother estimating just how many cards it can negate, but its wide reach gives it a stupidly broad range. If something searches a card or Summons a monster from your deck, or if it sends a card from your deck to yur graveyard, Ash Blossom can negate it. In short: it stops hundreds of relevant cards.

Utility in Yu-Gi-Oh! describes the diversity of situations in which a card can be played. It also considers the ways a card can be played, like Book of Moon's ability to Block Attacks or dodge some effects. Ash Blossom's utility is a factor of how many different effects it can negate, and the sheer volume of those cards at every level of competition. Yu-Gi-Oh! themes are built on a set of common principles: there's almost always some way to fetch themed cards from your deck, and Ash Blossom can negate that search whether it's adding a card your hand, Summoning to your field, or sending a monster to the graveyard.

For the last eight years, game design in Yu-Gi-Oh! has hinged on a simple ethic: you should never run out of monsters. Ever since Blackwings debuted the concept of fetching a new monster every turn - or even earlier with Elemental HERO - Stratos we've seen theme after theme replicating that mechanic. In today's game nearly all monsters are self-replacing, and the Pendulum mechanic s essentially a limitless stream of monsters.

 Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
$99.99
$73.14
$67.00
Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring131153
Set Maximum Crisis
Number MACR-EN036
Level 3
Type Tuner/Effect Monster
Monster Zombie
Attribute FIRE 
A / D 0 / 1800
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

During either player's turn, when a card or effect is activated that includes any of these effects: You can discard this card; negate that effect.
- Add a card from the Deck to the hand.
- Special Summon from the Deck.
- Send a card from the Deck to the Graveyard.
You can only use this effect of "Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring" once per turn.


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In other words, Ash Blossom is great in virtually all match-ups. It's hard to think of a situation where your opponent isn't searching cards to their hand or Special Summoning from the deck. Those are the two leading ways to access your monsters, and if they weren't enough Ash Blossom can also shut down decks like Lightsworns and Infernoids when they try to send monsters to the graveyard. Only a handful of cards like Gold Sarcophagus and Eclipse Wyvern play around it.

There are only a few hand traps that attack your opponent's supply line so directly. Droll & Lock Bird exists as an extreme answer to extremely search-heavy strategies, but it's often useless against decks that only need to search once per turn. While Lock Bird answers big plays, Ash Blossom is a better pick for everyday use. It's spotted in the Main Deck so frequently because there are no bad' match-ups for it, and that's not usually true for hand traps. Maxx C comes close, but there are a number of stun strategies like Barrier Statue Anti-Meta and pure True Dracos that can dodge it.

Ash Blossom trades destruction for wider coverage, so in some situations it might be played as a -1 of card economy. But most of the time you'll make an even trade, exchanging it with a one-time search effect. At best Ash Blossom is an interruption in a crucial play, or it can leave your opponent just out of reach of a combo card. It also helps simplify the duel, which is great when you've already established your field. It's arguably the second best hand trap when you're going first, and it's next to Droll & Lock Bird as the ideal draw if your opponent decides to push through Maxx C.

Playing In A Hand Trap Format
It's notoriously difficult to deal with hand traps in the first two turns of a duel. If you're going first and your opponent drops Maxx C you're usually out of luck. Going second puts you in a similar position, except now you're two turns behind. It's hard to come back when you've given up so much time by avoiding Maxx C, sticking to Normal Summons, or just not Summoning at all.

Interestingly enough, Ash Blossom negates Maxx C. If you're tired of losing because your opponent drew into their one-of hand trap, then Ash Blossom is here to make your tournament experience a little less frustrating, and much more competitive. It's unfortunate that's one of the only ways to beat Maxx C from the onset, and I continue to believe that the game would simply be better off without such a luck-based temporary floodgate.

There's no argument that Ash Blossom is less of a hindrance compared to Maxx C. It can only stop one effect, and provided there isn't a second copy you're free to make your plays without further interruption. You're much less likely to pass your turn after losing a search or Summon effect unless your opponent had perfect timing. That said, perfect timing isn't as difficult as it sounds. There are so many combos with known patterns and outcomes that timing an interruption is less of a tactical skill and more of a strategic one.

That's where things get complicated: decks that can't win against Ash Blossom are being forced further out of the game. True Draco Zoodiacs can use Ash Blossom at minimal cost. Their fields are being built from scratch with one card, so they can dedicate a huge part of their deck to disruption. Zoodiac players are easily defeating decks that lose to a single Ash Blossom or Ghost Ogre, but the former tends to hit more fragile decks considerably harder.

 Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
$7.12
$5.75
$4.05
Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit122297
Set 2016 Mega-Tins
Number CT13-EN012
Level 3
Type Tuner/Effect Monster
Monster Psychic
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 0 / 1800
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

During either player's turn, when a monster on the field activates its effect, or when a Spell/Trap Card that is already face-up on the field activates its effect: You can send this card from your hand or field to the Graveyard; destroy that card on the field. You can only use this effect of "Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit" once per turn.


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Which decks are being forced out? For starters, That Grass Looks Greener strategies seem to have hit rock bottom long before the June 12th F&L List. Grass is negated outright by Ash Blossom, so using Left Arm Offering to grab it isn't viable anymore. The odds of losing to a single hand trap are too great. Hinging your tournament success on a single card, when your opponent is playing three outs that are available on Turn 1, is a disaster in the making.

Decks making heavy use of Ties of the Brethren also take a big hit from Ash Blossom's widespread play. Essentially, you're at a huge disadvantage if a crucial card or combo falls apart against Ash Blossom. You can't rely on a single effect to carry you through a combo, so you'll need a backup. Decks that don't have multiple paths to their combos, or need a specific card to resolve before they can make their best plays, will have a tough time competing as long as Ash Blossom's popular. Resilience to Ash Blossom is one of many selection criteria for competitive strategies this format.

That Grass Looks Greener and Ties of the Brethren are hardly the only cards losing out to Ash Blossom. Notice the lack of Windwitch Invoked Artifact decks topping Regionals? Ash Blossom crushes the Windwitch engine and makes it harder to search Invocation. Negation of Swap Frog and Union Hanger has hurt Paleozoics and ABC's too. All of those decks are still being played, and ABC's continue to squeak by with tops, but they're much weaker with Ash Blossom running around.

Countering Ash Blossom
In the run-up to Maximum Crisis there was lot of hype surrounding PSY-Framegear Gamma. Gamma is a one-card solution to Ash Blossom and other hand traps, but you can only activate it when you don't control any monsters. So far it's shown up primarily as a Side Deck pick with a sole Main Deck appearance in Australia. It's easy to play around Gamma, and that's having a negative impact on its popularity.

That Grass Looks Greener and Pendulum strategies can use PSY-Framegear Gamma best. Your opponent can't wait until you commit a monster to negate Grass, so there's no reason why your own Gamma would be blocked. Pendulum decks can do much of their searching before Summoning a monster thanks to cards like Pendulum Call and Duelist Alliance. Metalfoes can also play Gamma if the opponent tries to negate Baobaboon's Special Summon effect.

There's a slew of cards that can negate Ash Blossom, but most of them can't be activated on Turn 1. Ash Blossom activates on discard, so blanket banishing effects won't keep it from activating. Evolzar Dolkka and Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon make short work of Ash Blossom, but you'll need to set or Summon them before taking an action that draws out the negation from your opponent.

I think we can expect Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring to be one of the defining cards of the next year; I just don't see any reason why players would drop it. Stopping Summons from the deck gets even more important in the post Link Summonig era, as every monster can contribute towards a Link Summon. For the time being Ash Blossom is a fact of life, and the closest thing to a staple hand trap since Maxx C.

Until next time then

-Kelly


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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