The Hand Trap Epidemic
11/1/2017 11:02:00 AM
“Hand trap” is a phrase commonly used to define monster cards that have
Quick Effects you can active from your hand. The early hand traps were
cards like D.D. Crow
, Gemini Imps
, Effect Veiler
, and eventually Maxx “C”.
Nowadays, a variety of hand traps pop up in almost every deck list that's
topping tournaments, especially since the revamp of SPYRALS; cards like
Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries, Ash
Blossom & Joyous Spring, Droll & Lock Bird, and even PSY-Framegear
Gamma – a monster played almost exclusively to counter opposing hand traps.
SPYRALS have dominated the OCG for weeks now, but there were a lot of
people claiming they wouldn't be as good in the TCG since our Advanced
Format is so different. But after looking at the insane results from YCS
Dallas and YCS London it's clear that SPYRALS are the deck to beat. What's
most interesting to me is the handful of decks that Top 32'd those events
that weren't SPYRAL builds. They pretty much all had the same thing in
A whole lot of hand traps.
We saw Trickstars, Invoked, Pendulum Magicians, and even Burning Abyss top
those two YCS events, and they all played a ridiculous number of hand traps
in the Main and Side Deck. The last time I remember seeing so many hand
traps was in the latter half of the Zoodiac era with Lunalight Blacksheep
and Elder Entity Norden. People were playing Maxx “C” as well as
Retaliating “C” and Flying “C”, and Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit often
paired with Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries. Outside of that period,
there haven't been a lot of formats where this many hand traps have been so
commonly played at every level of competition.
Why Is That?
The first thing that's worth looking into is why certain formats favor hand
traps over others. Simply put, the more pressure your opponent can put on
you from Turn 1, the more hand traps become a necessary evil. Zoodiacs with
Elder Entity Norden could easily draw 3 to 5 cards on the first turn,
setting themselves up with tons of backrow and removal options. Because of
that, duelists scrambled to find ways to counter that strategy going
second, which led to so many hand traps being played right up until Elder
Entity Norden was Forbidden.
SPYRALS are very similar, albeit a lot less consistent. There are plenty of
two and three card combos in SPYRALs that end with multiple Firewall
Dragons, SPYRAL Sleeper equipped with Last Resort, and
backrow. That opening is incredible and extremely difficult to come back
from. Even cards like Evenly Matched can only accomplish so much, so many
players realized it's a lot easier to stop SPYRALS from making their board
than it is to deal with the board itself.
It also helps that SPYRALs, more so than Zoodiacs, regularly auto-lose to a
well-timed hand trap. Specifically speaking, Droll & Lock Bird on their
first search. Many of the SPYRAL combos rely on searching the deck a ton of
times in one turn, so if you can hit them with Droll & Lock Bird
they're forced to end with a subpar board.
| Droll & Lock Bird
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During either player's turn, if your opponent adds a card(s) from their Deck to their hand (except during the Draw Phase): You can send this card from your hand to the Graveyard; for the rest of this turn, neither player can add a card(s) from their Deck to their hand.
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What separates SPYRALS from a deck like Zoodiacs is Zoodiac Drident, or a
similar card. While there certainly are cases where Droll & Lock Bird
doesn't prevent your opponent from getting to SPYRAL Sleeper, a vast
majority of the time it'll end their turn on the spot. By contrast, no
matter what you did to Zoodiacs it usually wouldn't stop them from ending
on Zoodiac Drident, which they could then use to disrupt your actual plays,
which made that deck a lot scarier.
That being said, even though SPYRALS lose to hand traps a lot harder than
Zoodiacs did, the deck is clearly still extremely powerful. Taking up
almost the entire Top 32 from two different YCS tournaments isn't something
Why Hand Traps Are Weird
Hand traps create this weird paradox in deck building, and I think we're
already starting to see it with SPYRALS. When you go second, you absolutely
want to see one, maybe even two hand traps in your opening hand. If you
don't draw any, your opponent – especially if they're playing SPYRALS -
will almost always win the game if they draw a playable hand. Because you
want to draw hand traps, you run as many in your deck as you have room for,
often somewhere around 9 to 14.
The ideal situation when you're going second is to have the extra hand trap
or hand traps to prevent your opponent from making a play, but also having
the right cards to make a follow-up play on your own turn. That's where the
paradox happens: hand traps are useless unless your opponent's making a
play. Sure, there are fringe uses for them like using Ghost Ogre & Snow
Rabbit as a Tuner, but overall you use them to stop your opponent from
That means when you go first and want to make moves yourself, hand traps
are usually going to be bricks. The one exception would probably be Ash
Blossom & Joyous Spring against an opposing Maxx “C”, but even that
isn't very likely to happen.
So hand traps create this situation where you don't want to draw too many
or too few of them. If you go first and open with four hand traps it's
going to be really difficult to win, especially with a combo deck like
SPYRALS – combo strategies need multiple cards to go off, none of which are
usually hand traps. With Zoodiacs it was easy because all the combos just
required a single Zoodiac monster; you could open with Zoodiac Barrage and
four hand traps and you'd be fine. But decks like SPYRALS don't have those
one-card combos. You always need two or three cards. You're bound to see
losses if you simply start with the incorrect number of hand traps.
That's why I'm kind of surprised at the success of SPYRALS. I'm not saying
that I have a better way of building them, but if you read check out the
YCS Feature Matches the entire strategy just seems so fragile. I felt like
I watched the infamous “summon SPYRAL Gear - Quik Fix, get Drolled, pass”
opening again and again. Compared to decks like Zoodiacs or Performapal
Pendulums, it just doesn't seem to have the power level that it takes to
capture 29 seats in the top 32.
Hand Traps And Rogue Decks
What I find curious about formats where hand traps are so good against the
best deck, is rogue deck positioning. In some ways, hand traps help rogue
decks fight against the most dominant strategy. By giving slower decks a
chance to stop the opponent before making a big board, those slower decks
are given a chance to make their own setup.
In other ways, formats where people Main Deck 15 hand traps really, really
hurt rogue decks. Part of the reason that rogue decks aren't usually the
most popular choice comes down to consistency and power: hand traps can rob
a rogue deck of the little consistency or power that they did have, so it
can be really frustrating for players who don't want to play the consensus
“best deck.” Outside of Droll & Lock Bird, the best way to counter hand
traps is to have more plays than your opponent can deal with. Rogue decks
can't always do that, so I feel like there's some false hope in formats
like the current one, where rogue duelists overestimate how much hand traps
are helping them.
I will say that if you can find a rogue deck that's good against hand traps
and can also get away with playing a lot of them, then you've got a fine
opportunity to be successful in tournaments right now. The best recent
example is probably
Ed Acepcion's Invoked list from YCS Dallas
For the Invoked deck to work, all you have to do is recycle the same
Aleister the Invoker every turn. That's a one card engine, so you can
afford to draw four hand traps in your opening hand and still have plays to
make. I believe the key to playing rogue decks right now is grounded in
hand traps, so carefully picking strategies that can use them without
getting destroyed by them is the best way to improve your chances.
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 Yu-Gi-Oh! content on his Youtube
channel, Dzeeff. In his spare time he enjoys eating cheese, Overwatch,
and, of course, playing Yu-Gi-Oh.
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