Siding For: SPYRALs

Kelly Locke

12/19/2017 11:00:00 AM

The SPYRAL match-up's arguably the most challenging match-up in the current competitive environment, and it's the defining force shaping major trends throughout the game.

SPYRALs post-Circuit Break are one of the best new strategies in the Link era despite the fact that they predate the mechanic by nearly a full year. That's largely thanks to SPYRAL Double Helix – the playmaker in a deck that was, for a very long time, just one step away from being amazing. It's support done right: Double Helix took an existing theme in a fresh direction after a massive rule change, and elevated it to a point where it could compete at any level.

Konami actually overdid the support for SPYRALs in this case. Double Helix totally broke the theme in a way we haven't seen in some time, and it instantly leapt to the mythical power levels of decks like Dragon Rulers and Spellbooks. For a while I didn't see much of a point in writing about the match-up expressly, since there was an F&L List on the way. SPYRALs had a relatively short stint as the deck to play, and that's probably for the best. Deck diversity at major events was almost non-existent in both the TCG and the OCG.

I've talked about SPYRALs extensively over the last month in the context of other Side Deck cards, but I haven't written about them directly. So I want to collect a lot of those concepts I've touched on in other pieces in one spot, and really put the spotlight on what it takes to beat the deck. Surprisingly, SPYRALs aren't the most difficult match-up for every deck this format. In fact, there are several strategies that make short work of SPYRALs despite its recent success.

What are the deck's exploitable vulnerabilities, and why are some strategies better at taking advantage of them than others?

New Changes, New Opportunities
The Limits on SPYRAL GEAR - Drone and SPYRAL - Quik-Fix helped to pull SPYRALs back into the realm of mere mortals like Pendulum Magicians, Pendulum Magicians, Paleozoics, and 60-card strategies. More specifically, the Limits reduced the deck's consistency and made one of it's most egregiously busted plays impossible; Machine Duplication isn't a concern in the current SPYRAL match-up, so cards that answer Drone and Quik-Fix without destroying them are more viable options. Setting aside SPYRAL Resort for a moment, you can see how cards like Effect Veiler and Breakthrough Skill are less punishing to play when your opponent is less likely to have a follow-up.

Drone and SPYRAL - Super Agent were literally made for each other, but with Drone Limited it's harder to Special Summon Super Agent. Breaking up that early game play leaves your opponent in an awkward situation where they're still short a monster for a Link Summon. Activating Super Agent when you don't know the top card of your opponent's deck is a risk, and guessing wrong could leave you locked out of your Extra Deck for that turn.

From the other side of the table it's clear that keeping that second monster off the field puts you in control of the duel, but that's easier said than done. SPYRAL Resort protects your opponent's monsters from targeting, so you need Summon negation or other non-targeting removal to interrupt their plays.

 SPYRAL Super Agent
SPYRAL Super Agent121342
Set The Dark Illusion
Number TDIL-EN086
Level 4
Type Effect Monster
Monster Warrior
Attribute EARTH 
A / D 1900 / 1200
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

If this card is in your hand: You can declare 1 card type (Monster, Spell, or Trap); reveal the top card of your opponent's Deck, and if you do, Special Summon this card if it is a card of that type. If this card is Special Summoned by the effect of a "SPYRAL" card: You can target 1 Spell/Trap Card your opponent controls; destroy it. You can only use each effect of "SPYRAL Super Agent" once per turn.

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SPYRALs won't usually lose to a Solemn Warning or Solemn Strike alone… although that's not to say it can't happen. There are too many cards that help SPYRALS build field presence – like Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow, One for One, SPYRAL GEAR - Big Red – and SPYRAL MISSION - Rescue Salvage plays and help blow through interruption. The deck's easier to stop now thanks to the Limits on Drone and Quik-Fix, but it's still the best deck in the game for a reason.

The search power of Resort and the wide spread of comeback options against disruption make floodgates and aggressive Side Deck cards the best way to win. Unfortunately when you're going second the only way to interact with your opponent is through hand traps.

Best In Class Hand Traps
This year has hammered home the vital role of hand traps, balancing the first turn of the duel. SPYRALs have a lot to lose from the big four: Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries, Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, and Maxx “C”. SPYRAL Resort's easily dismantled by Ghost Ogre to rob your opponent of a search and make your opponent's monsters vulnerable to targeting effects. It's probably the easiest hand trap to play besides Maxx “C”, but it's effectively useless if your opponent has another Terraforming or Resort in their opening hand.

Droll & Lock Bird solves that problem, and it also answers any remaining search effects your opponent may have. Activating it in response to a Terraforming is devastating, although again, it won't necessarily win you the game. SPYRALs have plenty of ways to play out their hand without searching, but it can definitely slow them down. Temporary floodgates shine in a match-up like this where your opponent's banking on monsters for the bulk of their defense. Interrupting their search effects goes a long way towards weakening their final Turn 1 set-up.

Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries is the most effective answer to SPYRALs over the course of the duel, and while it doesn't guarantee a game win it does swing things in your favor. Banishing your opponent's copies of SPYRAL - Double Helix puts them in an awkward position where they'll need to make a suboptimal Link Summon. There just aren't any meaningful Link 2 Monsters in the SPYRAL Extra Deck to recover from losing Double Helix, and when Link 3's and 4's are available those cards can only carry your opponent so far. Great SPYRAL players will find a way to make the most of their situation, but it's far from ideal.

Much like Ghost Ogre, the effectiveness of Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring depends entirely on when you use it. Prior to the F&L List you would always want to wait for Machine Duplication or Double Helix, but there's a reasonable argument for negating Quik-Fix or One for One if given the chance.

The ideal target is still Double Helix, which leaves your opponent with very few possible avenues to pursue after their Summon from the deck is negated. It won't stop your opponent from building up even more field presence, and it does nothing to SPYRAL Sleeper, but it will keep SPYRAL Master Plan trapped in the deck. Double Helix and Master Plan put your opponent up three or four cards, and that's more than enough reason to play Ash Blossom in virtually every deck this format.

Non-Targeting Outs To SPYRALs
SPYRAL Resort's near constant presence in this match-up means targeting effects will often be useless, and that's a liability you can't afford against SPYRALs. There's plenty of aggressive and defensive outs to SPYRALs, including the biggest mass removal cards in the game like Dark Hole, Raigeki, and Evenly Matched. To no one's surprise board wipes are amazing against a deck that depends on monster-based set-ups to stay in the game. Link strategies put an excessive number of cards on the field and add in protection as an afterthought. SPYRALs are mostly the same, but they do possess an uncanny ability to recover from mass removal. Cards like Evenly Matched and Raigeki should be part of your siding strategy, just don't expect them to be the end-all answer.

There are plenty of floodgate options to check out when playing first. You'll mainly want to avoid losing your continuous cards to SPYRAL - Super Agent, so the ideal floodgates are those that stop your opponent from playing Super Agent in the first place. Mistake is solid choice to shut down your opponent's search effects and likely leave them with no way to reach Super Agent. Likewise, Anti-Spell Fragrance shuts down key Turn 1 spells that can grab Super Agent, including Resort and Reinforcement of the Army. Imperial Order can be played almost identically, but it has the downside of negating any Continuous or Field Spells you might be playing yourself.

Set Shadow Specters
Number SHSP-EN076
Type Continuous Trap Card
Monster Trap
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

Neither player can add cards from their Deck to their hand except by drawing them.

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Skill Drain is seeing more play recently as an easy solution to SPYRAL combos, and while it won't stop your opponent from searching Super Agent it will negate its effect when Summoned. You can shut down your opponent's entire strategy by keeping their monsters negated, but with Skill Drain Limited it's hard to build around. It's a great pick for the decks that can afford to play it, or those that can simply establish large boards. Pendulum Magicians don't need their monsters all the time, and rarely use them on the field outside of select Synchros and Xyz. Skill Drain is definitely a solid Side Deck pick for that strategy.

The Artifact engine was a huge pick last month, but its fallen out of favor recently with players preferring cards like Mind Crush and Solemn Scolding to deal with Evenly Matched. It's still a viable option despite numerous inconsistencies, and I think at some point it will leap back up in popularity. Artifact Scythe remains an excellent out to SPYRAL plays, and Artifact Lancea does add another out to Evenly Matched in addition to punishing banish-heavy strategies like Infernoids. In the meantime, Mind Crush is an excellent out to Super Agent and Solemn Scolding counters, well, nearly everything in the game.

Speaking of Mind Crush, Psi-Blocker is yet another excellent temporary floodgate against SPYRALs. Calling SPYRAL Super Agent will keep your backrow safe and force your opponent to find another way to make SPYRAL Double Helix. Calling SPYRAL Resort could cripple their ability to put together a combo that turn, and calling Evenly Matched in general is a great way to keep your set-up safe. It's a really potent pick this format that isn't getting enough attention, although that might have more to do with the fact that it's hard to fit into most competitive strategies outside of Pendulum Magicians.

Targeting protection from SPYRAL Resort extends to all other SPYRAL cards, including their spells and traps. Spell Shattering Arrow has become one of the best problem solvers for answering both Resort and SPYRAL GEAR - Last Resort at the same time. You can also destroy SPYRAL MISSION - Assault with its effect, but that's mostly a bonus.

The real appeal of Spell Shattering Arrow is when your opponent activates SPYRAL Sleeper by targeting Sleeper itself. Normally that would destroy nothing as long as Sleeper is equipped with Last Resort, but Spell Shattering Arrow can swoop in and take it out despite the non-targeting protection. You'll still lose the cards your opponent targeted, but your opponent's spells are destroyed along with Sleeper.

Dealing With SPYRAL Sleeper
SPYRAL Sleeper isn't the end-all of the SPYRAL match-up, but removing it will make your life a lot easier. Its destruction Quick Effect and protection through SPYRAL Resort and SPYRAL GEAR - Last Resort make it immune to both targeting and destruction. Neither of those protections save it from being tributed by Kaijus, Lava Golem, or The Winged Dragon of Ra - Sphere Mode. Last week I wrote extensively about Kaijus and Lava Golem in this match-up, but I do want to touch on Sphere Mode since I missed it last time.

The advantages of Sphere Mode are fairly obvious: you can devour three monsters while preserving your Special Summons, and the monster you've given your opponent is almost entirely useless. If they can't make use of it – which is a bit unlikely – you'll have it returned to you at the end of their next turn. That trade is totally in your favor provided neither player is running The Winged Dragon of Ra themselves. The question is: is Ra necessary?

It's definitely a bigger risk to play a card that requires an even more specific field set-up than Lava Golem. Personally, I'm not sure if playing it's totally necessary. At most you're looking to break up one Link Monster and SPYRAL Sleeper, while the remaining cards are easily destroyed by battle or card effects.

However, a more important question might be whether you're willing to give up either a Normal Summon in the case of Sphere Mode, a Special Summon with Lava Golem, or nothing with a Kaiju. For most players it's the last option that's best for their strategy, and it's easy to see why. Hitting Sleeper with a Kaiju is enough to start committing cards to the board freely, and you'll need those Summons available to push through hand traps.

 The Winged Dragon of Ra - Sphere Mode
The Winged Dragon of Ra - Sphere Mode99961
Set Duelist Pack: Battle City
Number DPBC-EN001
Level 10
Type Effect Monster
Monster Divine-Beast
Attribute DIVINE 
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Cannot be Special Summoned. Requires 3 Tributes from either side of the field to Normal Summon to that side of the field (cannot be Normal Set), then shift control to this card's owner during the End Phase of the next turn. Cannot attack. Your opponent cannot target this card for attacks or by card effects. You can Tribute this card; Special Summon 1 "The Winged Dragon of Ra" from your hand or Deck, ignoring its Summoning conditions, and if you do, its ATK and DEF become 4000.

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There's another really cool answer to Sleeper with a non-targeting banish effect: Eater of Millions. For Trickstars it's a must-play tech choice, but it has so much potential beyond that one strategy. I'm a fan of it even in the SPYRAL mirror match, where any attack it makes will force your opponent to activate Sleeper preemptively. From there you're free to make plays in Main Phase 2, and that's more than enough time to put your own Sleeper in play. Better yet: Eater of Millions bait outs other removal or negation cards that could be played against Evenly Matched.

The SPYRAL match-up's arguably the toughest in the format, but the Limits on Drone and Quik-Fix have made them more vulnerable than ever to interruption. PSY-Framegear Gamma might possibly be the most important card in the match-up if your opponent can negate your own hand traps, and likewise, if you can play through theirs. If the OCG is any indication we can expect to see SPYRAL Resort end up Limited in due time, which will finally put SPYRALs in a place where they're still very competitive, but not nearly as unfair as they were this year.

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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