The Changing Tide Of Link Monsters

Kelly Locke

1/30/2018 11:00:00 AM

Link Monsters had a rocky start last year when Master Rule 4 went into effect. At the time there weren't many Link Monsters to choose from, and meanwhile all other Extra Deck Summoning methods were negatively impacted by the rule change. Until the release of Code of the Duelist there were exactly three Link Monster in the game, and decks that could play with those cards effectively, or could skirt the Extra Monster Zone mechanic entirely, had a distinct advantage.

The OCG LINK VRAINS Pack changed the outlook on Link Monsters by dropping twenty new Links that support specific themes or card types. That release is a fascinating look into what the future holds for Link Monsters and how Konami's approach to the new mechanic has radically changed since Starter Deck: Link Strike.

If I had to guess I'd assume that nearly every currently-known Link Monster was designed around the same time, but from our perspective the outlook on Links is totally different.

Earlier this month I spotlighted Heavymetalfoes Electrumite which is poised for a release next week in Extreme Force alongside eight other Link Monsters from the LINK VRAINS Pack. The community has been very vocal about the way these cards are being imported, and unfortunately it looks like we'll be waiting until at least May for the most-wanted Crystron Needlefiber to hit the TCG. The slower rollout isn't nearly as exciting as the OCG release, but Extreme Force will end up with the largest Link line-up of any TCG set to date.

This week I want to dive into the future of Link Monsters in Extreme Force and beyond. LINK VRAINS Pack seems to answer player complaints, but is there still more work to be done? It's by no means perfect, and I think it might even have a few unintended side effects.

Expanding The Link Toolbox
The most common complaint I heard about Links last year – especially in the weeks leading up to Code of the Duelist – wasn't that they negatively affected the game, but that there simply weren't enough of them to keep older strategies alive.

Pendulums were written off almost immediately when the new mechanic was revealed, and there are still plenty of other strategies that were effective prior to Links, but can't compete now. The decks that floated to the top of the competitive scene after Code of the Duelist were those that could leverage Missus Radiant and Decode Talker, and anything that couldn't found itself trapped behind an insurmountable obstacle.

The biggest challenge facing Fusion, Synchro, and Xyz-focused strategies is finding a way to emulate their former Summoning power without dumping too many resources into Link Monsters. That means finding ways to economically Summon Link-2 and Link-3 monstres with downward arrows. Otherwise your deck runs the risk of locking up the Extra Monster Zone after your first Xyz Summon, greatly reducing your ability build a strong field and making some combos impossible. With Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow Limited there are fewer pathways to Decode Talker, and that's made it even more difficult for various strategies to Link Summon and perform another Extra Deck Summon in the same turn.

 Decode Talker
Decode Talker138065
Set Starter Deck: Link Strike
Number YS17-EN041
Type Link/Effect Monster
Monster Cyberse
Attribute DARK 
A / D 2300 /
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

2+ Effect Monsters
Gains 500 ATK for each monster it points to. When your opponent activates a card or effect that targets a card(s) you control (Quick Effect): You can Tribute 1 monster this card points to; negate the activation, and if you do, destroy that card.

Store Condition Qty Avail Price  
Showtime Cards 1st Edition - Damaged 1 $1.71
IkalaGaming 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $3.20
Pastimes 1st Edition - Near Mint 81 $3.99
barncards 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $4.00
Cardshtuff 1st Edition - Near Mint 2 $4.00
Gwent Merchant 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $4.00
Dice Addiction Pro 1st Edition - Lightly Played 1 $4.04
EllenBaker Gaming 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $4.09
NCoastCollectorsMall 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $4.09
OmegaGaming 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $4.10

With Extreme Force we'll have access to three Link-2's that fit perfectly into single-Attribute themes, but it's a long way from a workable solution for so many other decks that desperately need Links to support their playstyle. LINK VRAINS Pack addresses that by introducing more Links with flexible, off-theme Summoning conditions. Heavymetalfoes Electrumite is perfect for Pendulum strategies and effectively ‘solves' the Master Rule 4 issue by itself. With that card, Pendulum Magicians, Zefras, Metalfoes, Odd-Eyes, Performapals, and nearly every other Pendulum theme in the game finally have their own go-to Link-2.

Synchro-heavy strategies also have a new staple Link Monster monster of their own: Crystron Needlefiber . It requires two monsters to Link Summon, including at least one Tuner, and gives dozens of Synchro strategies a path to competitive success in the Link era. It expands the Link-2 toolbox and creates opportunities for any deck playing Tuners to leverage those cards into two downward arrows and a set of awesome effects. Needlefiber won't be coming in Extreme Force, but hopefully it'll be on its way to the TCG soon.

While Heavymetalfoes Electrumite and Crystron Needlefiber open up the Link toolbox for two kinds of Monster Cards, other Links in LINK VRAINS Pack benefit Monster Types. Perpetual King Archfiend is Summoned with two Fiend monsters, Inzektor Picofarena uses Insects, Hieratic Seal of the Celestial Spheres uses Dragons, Qliphort Genius uses Machines, and Isolde, Two Tales of the Noble Knights uses Warriors. That isn't a comprehensive list, but it's a strong indication that Konami will be expanding the flexibility of the Link toolbox much faster than I anticipated. That's awesome, because my criticism of the Link mechanic essentially boiled down to a lack of Link Monsters to play with.

Nearly all of those Link Monsters provide an economical way to get beneficial Link arrows into play. They either replace some of their materials on Summon, replace themselves when they leave the field, or have another effect that keeps your card economy and momentum flowing. Decks that struggle to follow up on a Link Summon are quickly being left behind, and the new Links in LVP1 are helping to level the playing field in two ways: first, they're easier to Summon than Decode Talker, and second, they offer ways to pay for their investment.

There's a generic , Proxy Dragon-like monster on the way in the OCG with bottom-left and bottom-right Link arrows. It has the flexibility and ideal arrows we're looking for in a Link 2, but it lacks the great effects of LVP1 monsters. With intense power creep among Link Monsters this year it might be swept aside in favor of LVP1 cards, but it's the ultimate in terms of flexible Summoning and throws the door wide open for any strategy that can put two monsters on the field. The question is: will it still be worth playing when it arrives later this year, and how soon after will decks need to find new Link-2's to compete against the top strategies?

Much-Needed Support For Older Themes
Link Arrows and economical Link Summons are hugely important for making the modern Link era of Yu-Gi-Oh! as accessible as possible, but LVP1 and its imports in Extreme Force have so much more to offer.

Beyond the widely generic Links that primarily benefit a wide range of strategies, there's also a number of cards in this set that direct support to older themes. Most of them are easy to identify: just look for the monsters that require specifically named monsters rather than a monster Type or a kind of Monster Card. In Extreme Force those cards are Ritual Beast Ulti-Kimunfalcos, Zefra Metaltron, Steelswarm Origin, Gem-Knight PHantom Quartz, and the Link 3 Curious, the Lightsworn Dominion.

LVP1 wasn't just an opportunity for Konami to open up Link access to decks that couldn't effectively play Decode Talker or Link-4's, it also gave them a chance to provide retro support in a new way. Links are powerful vectors for retro support for two reasons: they solve a theme's problems with the Link mechanic, and they let players use any on-theme monster for an Extra Deck Summon. Even the least-useful themed cards now have a role they can fill, and that's given some strategies an entirely new perspective on previously poor support.

We've already seen what great Link support can do for a theme that predates Links. SPYRALs were launched from a local-level strategy to the most dominant deck in the game thanks entirely to SPYRAL Double Helix. These days SPYRALs are one of the best Link-heavy strategies in the game, and that's with just a single piece of support.

 SPYRAL Double Helix
SPYRAL Double Helix148406
Set Circuit Break
Number CIBR-EN099
Type Link/Effect Monster
Monster Warrior
Attribute EARTH 
A / D 1900 /
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

2 "SPYRAL" monsters
This card's name becomes "SPYRAL Super Agent" while on the field or in the GY. You can declare 1 card type (Monster, Spell, or Trap); reveal the top card of your opponent's Deck, and if you do, and its type matches the declared type, take 1 "SPYRAL" monster from your Deck or GY, and either add it to your hand or Special Summon it to your zone this card points to. You can only use this effect of "SPYRAL Double Helix" once per turn.

Store Condition Qty Avail Price  
OnePunchCollectibles Unlimited - Near Mint 1 $0.44
TrueTCG 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $1.43
Sunshine Games 1st Edition - Lightly Played 1 $1.50
GreedyPotCards 1st Edition - Lightly Played 1 $1.50
Dragons Den Cards 1st Edition - Near Mint 3 $1.50
Boomstick Trading 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $1.50
Supercube 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $1.92
Supercube 1st Edition - Moderately Played 2 $1.92
Top Caliber Unlimited - Lightly Played 1 $1.95
RainbowSteve 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $1.98

SPYRALs can leverage all of their SPYRAL monster into an outstanding Link Monster that further accelerates the deck's plays and launches their best combos. It's a style of support that's only comparable to Xyz Monsters, but supporting a theme with Xyz requires many monsters with similar Levels. Links are far more generic, and in many cases just straight-up better despite having a lower investment and being easier to play.

In the Synchro, Xyz, and Pendulum era we still saw plenty of spell and trap support for older themes. Those themes couldn't accommodate the strict Level requirements of those Summoning methods, and as a result it was likely harder to introduce a single card of support outside of a Main Deck card. Going forward a single Link Monster is a tremendously powerful piece of support, and perhaps the only one some themes need to propel them to Championship-level competition.

The LINK VRAINS Pack answers major criticisms of Link Monsters in a constructive way, but in doing so it's set a high bar for future releases. Co-linking and other Link Monster interactions ensure that decks like Pendulums won't stop at Heavymetalfoes Electrumite – they'll still be looking for new Link Monsters to build up co-Links and access Link 4's. LVP1 doesn't suck the air out of the room despite the power of those new monsters, and leaves the door open for new Links to build upon a more solid foundation. The Link era is here in force now, and the excuses for avoiding the new mechanic are quickly vanishing.

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​​​ ​​​Yu-Gi-Oh!,​​​ ​​​Destiny,​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​other​​​ ​​​hobbies. You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​ ​​​​​​ Twitter​​​ ​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​ Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​ . He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.

All original content herein is Copyright 2016 Ascension Gaming Network, Inc. TCGplayer® and MaxPoint® are trademarks of Ascension Gaming Network, Inc.
No portion of this web site may be used without expressed written consent. All rights reserved.
Magic the Gathering and its respective properties are copyright Wizards of the Coast
Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service