Side Deck Theory: Magical Spring's Perfect Pairing

Kelly Locke

11/22/2017 11:00:00 AM

I love exploring the concept of choosing to play second for a couple of reasons: first, it's a fun challenge, and two, a successful going-second strategy has competitive advantages that are hard to get elsewhere.

Having the first Battle Phase matters quite a bit for decks that want to end games early and push for huge damage on their first turn. Going second lets you assess your opponent's strategy, the strength of their opening hand, and ultimately react accordingly. Your first turn won't be a shot in the dark, so you can make your moves with some knowledge of how your opponent is likely to react. That's especially true if your opponent has almost all of their cards face-up, and if the remaining cards in their hand were searched by a card effect.

But going second is dangerous, and even having the first Draw Phase and Battle Phase might not be enough to push through your opponent's Turn 1 set-up. Uninterrupted combos let today's top strategies build boards that are incredibly tough to break, and they take more resources to tear down compared to simply stopping them early on in the play sequence.

At that point it's simply a numbers game: when a single trap or monster effect ends your opponent's combos you're almost always better off playing first, and that's been the case for quite a while. But I think Evenly Matched is helping to change that.

 Evenly Matched
Evenly Matched148377
Set Circuit Break
Number CIBR-EN077
Type Normal Trap
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

At the end of the Battle Phase, if your opponent controls more cards than you do: You can make your opponent banish cards from their field face-down so they control the same number of cards as you do. If you control no cards, you can activate this card from your hand.

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I discussed Evenly Matched in depth last week, and since then it's continued to be extremely popular at Regionals and YCS San Diego. No surprise there: Evenly Matched remains one of the best mass removal cards in the game, especially while decks like Pendulum Magicians and SPYRALs are building huge Turn 1 set-ups and committing a massive number of cards to the field.

That's had a huge impact on tech choices going into Games 2 and 3 as players look for ways to avoid losing their field to Evenly Matched. The Artifact engine is seeing play in part because it answers Evenly Matched, and Solemn Scolding is showing up in Side Decks as a means to protect Turn 1 boards.

We're returning to Evenly Matched again to highlight an interaction that showed up in recent Regional lists. Magical Spring is back and better than ever, because it finally has game-ending use thanks to another card that bypasses its drawbacks.

Matching Draw Power With The Game's Best Trap
I wrote about Magical Spring back in 2014 shortly after its initial release, but at the time, finding ways to capitalize on its effect was challenging. It launched just one set before the debut of Qliphorts in The New Challengers, and unfortunately it was horrifically unhelpful there. Giving Qliphort Scout and Skill Drain immunity from destruction was the last thing you wanted to do, and drawing more cards would rarely help you if your opponent already had multiple face-up spells and traps.

Ignister Prominence, the Blasting Dracoslayer changed the conversation a year later by offering Pendulum themes a way to spin opposing Pendulum Spells back into the deck. Cosmic Cyclone, but in the meantime Magical Spring was mostly limited to decks with non-destruction based removal.

Cards like Infernoid Devyaty, Baxia, Brightness of the Yang Zing, Nekroz of Trishula, and later Dragon Spirit of White, Dark Magical Circle, and Cosmic Cyclone made Magical Spring playable in various strategies by bypassing the non-destruction side effect. Even Solemn Strike brought Magical Spring into competitive play because, combined with mass removal, you could break your opponent's field and negate their next Special Summon. It didn't matter that your opponent got to keep their Pendulum Scales if their Pendulum Summon was negated. In some cases it actually helped disrupt their strategy by preventing Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer or Wavering Eyes from resolving.

There are times where making your opponent's spells and traps destruction-immune doesn't matter, and you'd rather get a Graceful Charity-like draw to accelerate your own strategy. Again, negating the outcomes of your opponent's spells and traps is often fine, so pairing Magical Spring with Counter Traps and Floodgates will let you leverage your draws into stopping power.

There's plenty of flexibility in how you use Magical Spring: you can either find ways to remove spells and traps without destruction, or play around your opponent's now-indestructible cards. That flexibility is one of the reasons Magical Spring has sat at the precipice of the competitive scene for so long – it's an outstanding card for the right match-up, and every so often someone puts it to work at a Regional with huge success.

 Magical Spring
Magical Spring92409
Set Duelist Alliance
Number DUEA-EN065
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

Draw a number of cards equal to the number of face-up Spell/Trap Cards your opponent controls, then discard a number of cards equal to the number of face-up Spell/Trap Cards you control. Until the end of your opponent's next turn after this card is activated, Spell/Trap Cards your opponent controls cannot be destroyed (by battle or card effect), also their activation and effects cannot be negated. You can only activate 1 "Magical Spring" per turn.

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Lately we've seen some success stories from players siding both Magical Spring and Evenly Matched. The rationale is pretty simple: Spring lets you dig through your deck searching for a massive Turn 2 field wipe, and Evenly Matched totally bypasses the no-destruction drawback by banishing your opponent's cards face-down. It's a devastatingly simple combo that really only requires you to start with Magical Spring in your hand, and leaves you with a massive lead in card advantage that's nearly impossible to come back from.

Most Pendulum Magician fields end with two cards in the Pendulum Zones and at least one face-up Pendulumgraph spell or trap. With three face-up spells or traps your Spring will let you draw three cards, then force you to discard one card, but ultimately it puts you extremely close to your Evenly Matched. With three Magical Spring and three Evenly Matched your odds are great, and there's always the possibility that your opponent will activate a fourth card to net you yet another draw. You can chain Magical Spring to Time Pendulumgraph, or a trap like Dimensional Barrier or Artifact Sanctum to pick up that third or fourth card, which can help you survive another while you wait for Evenly Matched.

Magical Spring's draw power is amazingly useful even if you don't get Evenly Matched immediately. Drawing into another Magical Spring can put even more cards in your hand during your opponent's next turn, but it's hard to keep yourself from getting knocked out of the duel if you aren't playing a ton of hand traps. The top concern with Magical Spring is never seeing enough face-up spells and traps to resolve it while gaining card advantage, but the second concern is drawing into a second copy. You'll almost always have to set up some defense to stay in the game, and that almost always requires setting spells and traps of your own.

When you're forced to play second you can put Magical Spring to use by leveraging its draw power to find combo pieces in strategies that aren't aimed at interacting with the opponent. Trickstars can use it to put more copies of Trickstar Lycoris in their hand and set up OTKs, and other strategies like Burn can draw more cards while hiding behind Battle Phase-ending spells and traps. Infernoids don't particularly care either about Magical Spring's drawbacks as they can use Infernoid Devyaty to nuke the field, and Spring brings them closer to the all-important That Grass Looks Greener.

In a Field Spell-heavy format there's plenty of match-ups where Magical Spring can see at least some use. With Set Rotation Limited it's harder for your opponent to disrupt both Magical Spring and Evenly Matched, and Spring plays well with tech cards like Destrudo the Lost Dragon's Frisson and Time Maiden. It's far less concerned with Droll & Lock Bird since it's a Quick-Play Spell, but it does lose out to Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring. Optimistically, I think some players will see this as another card they can use to bait out Ash Blossom rather than a problematic target.

Siding For Playing Second
The sheer power of opening with Magical Spring and Evenly Matched – whether you draw into it during the turn or not – is so great that some players are opting to let their opponent's play first.

It's a risky move, but one that has a massive potential payoff if you can resolve both cards, and it's a strong step towards building a Side Deck strategy revolving around playing second as often as possible, leveraging hand traps to keep yourself in the game when you don't draw Evenly Matched, and plenty of other cards that punish your opponent for overextending. The question is: how viable is that strategy, and which cards are needed to make it work?

Zaphion, the Timelord is another ‘better going second' option that helps dismantle opposing fields early in the duel. Its effect can wipe out Pendulum Magicians' backrow provided they don't have Time Pendulumgraph ready to take it out, which does happen with alarming frequency. That said, if Zaphion is sent to the graveyard you'll get to draw a card, which potentially puts you another card closer to Evenly Matched.

It's not much, but Zaphion becomes much more viable when you consider how well it plays with Magical Spring. If you open with Magical Spring and Zaphion, or draw it when your opponent sends Zaphion to the graveyard, you can activate it to draw three or four cards. From there you can end your Battle Phase, activate Evenly Matched, and go about your plays in the Main Phase 2.

 Zaphion, the Timelord
Zaphion, the Timelord136821
Set Battles of Legend: Light's Revenge
Number BLLR-EN032
Level 10
Type Effect Monster
Monster Fairy
Attribute WATER 
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Cannot be Special Summoned from the Deck. If you control no monsters, you can Normal Summon this card without Tributing. Cannot be destroyed by battle or card effects. You take no battle damage from attacks involving this card. At the end of the Battle Phase, if this card battled: Shuffle all Spells and Traps your opponent controls into the Deck. If this card is sent from the field to the GY: You can draw 1 card. Once per turn, during your Standby Phase: Shuffle this card into the Deck.

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Time Maiden is another excellent fit here, along with Metaion, the Timelord depending on the match-up. That's all on top of the usual picks: Raigeki, Dark Hole, Kaijus, and Cosmic Cyclone work well with or without Magical Spring, but they have nothing to lose from being played alongside it. In fact, Magical Spring will get you closer to the outs you need for specific threats, like Toadally Awesome, ABC-Dragon Buster, and those tough-to-beat SPYRAL fields.

Magical Spring is best sided for match-ups where there are enough face-up spells and traps in a given turn to draw at least three cards, but outside of Pendulum Magicians it's sometimes tough to see that set-up. Luckily SPYRALs tend to leave just enough face-up cards in their Spell & Trap Zone to make it work. Last Resort' rel="/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=SPYRAL GEAR - Last Resort">SPYRAL GEAR - Last Resort and SPYRAL Resort will typically stick around on your turn to protect your opponent's monsters, so you're just one activation away from a solid Graceful Charity-style Magical Spring.

Evenly Matched has really helped Magical Spring reach its full potential, and I think it's going to put decks like Pendulum Magicians into a difficult place moving forward. It's pretty solid against any strategy running Field Spells, including ABCs, but it's clearly at its best against Pendulum strategies. It's also probably the best way to overcome Turn 1 set-ups supported by Solemn Scolding, as Spring may or may not bait out the Counter Trap. We'll definitely be talking more about Scolding's place in the competitive environment. Magical Spring is far from the only card seeing an increase in play thanks to Evenly Matched.

Until next time then


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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