Side Deck Theory: Is Skull Meister Worth Playing?

Kelly Locke

8/22/2017 11:00:00 AM
 Comments

Skull Meister has a reprint coming next month in the Code of the Duelist: Special Edition alongside Solemn Strike. It seems like an odd choice at first glance – why is a barely used hand trap being reprinted, now of all times? Skull Meister was overdue for a reprint regardless, but for TCG players the timing might be suspect.

That said, if you've been paying attention to the OCG and the World Championship, you might have noticed that Skull Meister is seeing much more play lately. Coincidence? Or great planning on Konami's part?

Zoodiacs have kept Skull Meister from gaining much of a following here in the TCG. Its graveyard-negation effect isn't particularly relevant in the match-up, especially compared to other hand traps like Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit and Ash Blossom & Joyus Spring. But the OCG has utterly crushed Zoodiacs with their Forbidden & Limited List, and that meant they were absent from the World Championship too.

Is it worth playing Skull Meister ahead of potential F&L List updates in September or October? Skull Meister has some serious competition against other hand traps, but with an upcoming reprint it'll be among the most accessible and effective Side Deck cards this format.

One-Card Counter To True Draco Spell & Trap Effects
Skull Meister can negate any effect that activates in the graveyard–including both card activations and effect activations. That's a big deal if you've been frustrated with My Body as a Shield in the past. It's also a great way to negate True King's Return and other True Draco spell and trap cards. It's one of the few counters to those cards.

One of the reasons why Skull Meister is so popular against True Dracos is simply the fact that it's a hand trap. True Kings are loaded with spell, trap, and monster removal thanks to their own spells and traps, so most floodgates don't last long. Draconic Diagram can destroy True Draco Heritage or Disciples of the True Dracophoenix to destroy even the most ideal floodgate in the match-up: Mask of Restrict. Hand traps avoid all of the destruction from the on-theme effects of True Dracos, and really only have Solemn Strike to worry about.

Hand traps aren't nearly as impactful as a floodgate like Mask of Restrict. One strategy to keep those floodgates on the board is to use other cards to keep them safe. Hand traps like Ghost Ogre and Ash Blossom are useful for stopping Draconic Diagram short of resolving. Set Rotation's another option, but you'll need to have it set on your opponent's turn. Just setting a card exposes you to lots of removal cards. Likewise, Skull Meister's a bit stronger than other defensive cards simply because it doesn't need to be committed to the field. My Body as a Shield, Forbidden Lance, and Pianissimo are just a Twin Twister away from being mostly useless.

 Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King
$19.00
$14.40
$10.99
Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King131141
Set Maximum Crisis
Number MACR-EN024
Level 8
Type Effect Monster
Monster Wyrm
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 2950 / 2950
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

To Tribute Summon this card face-up, you can Tribute Continuous Spell/Trap Card(s) you control, as well as monsters. Unaffected by the effects of cards with the same card type (Monster, Spell, and/or Trap) as the original card type of the cards Tributed for its Tribute Summon. Once per turn, during either player's turn, if you control this Tribute Summoned monster: You can banish 1 Continuous Spell/Trap Card from your Graveyard, then target 1 other card on the field; destroy it.


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When you're on the offensive against True Dracos and not staring down a Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King, you typically want something to keep your cards safe from removal. Tribute Summons on your turn can break up your combos and stall your momentum. Skull Meister isn't the end-all solution for graveyard effects, but it can negate at least one of the True King and True Draco spell and trap cards. It's much more challenging to play Skull Meister effectively when Master Peace is Tribute Summoned with two spells or traps. Chain blocking lets your opponent choose which effect you can chain to, and most likely you'll end up having the option to negate the effect with the lowest impact.

There aren't many cards in the game that can deal with a Tribute Summon of Master Peace. In that situation you're looking at at least one piece of monster removal from a trap card, and the Quick-Effect of Master Peace itself, so protecting your monster with Pianissimo or Forbidden Lance isn't enough. Master Peace can be chained to Pianissimo to destroy the monster you were attempting to protect, and Forbidden Lance is powerless against monster effects. That leaves you at a toss-up.

But Pianissmimo can't protect spells and traps; Skull Meister's unique in its ability to keep your spells and traps safe from True Draco Heritage and Disciples of the True Dracophoenix. That's incredibly valuable for backrow-heavy strategies where My Body as a Shield, Forbidden Lance, and Pianissimo are largely unnecessary. Pendulum themes in particular will get more milage out of Skull Meister than nearly every other strategy.

Match-Up Utility In Dinos & Elsewhere
Skull Meister's utility extends to another major matchup in the OCG: True King Dinosaurs. Babycerasaurus, Petiteranodon, and Miscellaneousaurus are all excellent cards to negate with Skull Meister. It's great for Turn 1 disruption as your opponent attempts to set up their field, and you can negate the graveyard effects of Yang Zing monsters, including the self-Special Summon effect of Chiwen, Light of the Yang Zing.

Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring already covers most of those effects. The only cards that Skull Meister exclusively negates are Chiwen and the graveyard effect of True King Lithosagym, the Disaster, and neither of those effects are common enough to justify running an entirely separate card. Ash Blossom has the added utility of negating Souleating Oviraptor, Dragonic Diagram, and Fossil Dig so it's the better pick for the match-up, but because Skull Meister narrowly edges out Ghost Ogre there's plenty of reasons to play it as a second hand trap or a substitute.

If you're going to play two hand traps for the True King Dinosaur match-up, and Maxx “C” is already a given, then Ash Blossom and Skull Meister go right to the top of the list. The extra utility in the True Draco match-up is a big reason why Skull Meister's seeing Main Deck play in the OCG, although here in the TCG we're much more likely to side Skull Meister instead. That will almost certainly change if Zoodiacs take a hit in the near future, but in the meantime I'd expect most players to stick to Ash Blossom and Ghost Ogre as their go-to Side Deck cards.

 Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
$99.99
$73.14
$67.01
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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Lightsworn are usually best answered by Ash Blossom by negating deck mill effects, or with D.D. Crow. I'm actually a fan of D.D. Crow this format, particularly with Zoodiacs forced to rely so much on Zoodiac Chakanine. Ideally you'll use Skull Meister to negate Fairy Tail - Snow when it tries to Special Summon itself, but wouldn't you rather try to banish it instead? If your opponent can reload their graveyard they'll still have a Snow ready to go. Wulf, Lightsworn Beast and a handful of spells and traps could be banished from your opponent's graveyard by Crow long before Skull Meister would need to negate them.

Skull Meister does have its utility against True Dracos to fall back on. D.D. Crow's definitely lacking in that match-up, and it's also weaker against True King Dinos. There's a reason why Crow isn't seeing much play right now, but I don't think Skull Meister has the same issues. It's a great hand trap against two of the game's biggest match-ups, and an okay Side Deck pick for a handful of other rogue decks. Crow's a novelty at the moment, but Skull Meister could be second only to Ash Blossom in just over a month from now. Again, this is precluding Maxx “C” as the game's best hand trap.

The State Of Hand Traps
The outlook on hand traps is surprisingly narrow right now. Effect Veiler hasn't been relevant for a long time, and Flying “C” is now a liability thanks to Link Monsters. That leaves you with the ‘answers everything' Ash Blossom and Skull Meister or Ghost Ogre as backup to fill in gaps. Heavy Storm Duster has pushed disruption and negation effects back into the hand to avoid backrow removal, so we should be seeing more hand traps this format than we did before. Realistically the most playable hand traps are those I just mentioned.

And Maxx “C”. We can't forget about Maxx “C”.

Zoodiac combos are easier to disrupt under Link rules, and Ghost Ogre can dispatch important Links like Decode Talker without targeting them. The growing concern about the power of hand traps led many players at the ARG Invitational to side Appointer of the Red Lotus; for the low cost of 2000 Life Points you can pluck a card out of your opponent's hand. Even if it's only banished until their next End Phase, you'll have more than enough time to carry out your plays without a hand trap stopping your in your tracks. At best it forces out a Maxx “C”, and at worst you'll have perfect information about the contents of your opponent's hand.

I'm excited to see players put Skull Meister to use, but I'm not sure it'll happen anytime soon. We'll probably be waiting a while. The World Championship and current OCG tournaments remain a fascinating estimation of a potential future format for the TCG–and yet they're still simply potential outcomes. There's no way to know for sure what's coming on our next F&L List.

Until next time then

-Kelly


Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​ ​​​gamer and writer.​​​ ​​​​​​ ​​​In​​​ ​​​addition​​​ ​​​to​​​ ​​​writing​​​ ​​​on TCGplayer,​​​ ​​​Kelly​​​ ​​​writes​​​ a ​​​​​​personal​​​ ​​​blog​​​​​​ ​​​covering​​​ ​​​Yugioh,​​​ ​​​Destiny,​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​other​​​ ​​​hobbies.​​​ ​​​You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​ ​​​​​​Twitter​​​​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​.​​​ ​​​​​​ ​​​He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.


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