Side Deck Theory: Appointer of the Red Lotus
Appointer of the Red Lotus has drifted in and out of the competitive spotlight many times since its release in 2009. It's a rare piece of targeted hand control that can put a card almost completely out of your opponent's reach for a turn, and that has obvious value in a format where hand traps play such an important role.
It's also being played right now while Mind Crush – the former go-to hand control trap – is still missing in action. What's up with that? I have a couple theories.
But first, let's get some ruling questions out of the way.
According to the revised text in the PDF, Appointer would banish a card for almost three full turns. That's a massive improvement over the card's written text, so it's possible that some of its popularity over the last two weekends was due to players simply not being aware of the current text. Some players who attended Regionals over the weekend reported exactly that experience; they sided Appointer believing it would banish a card beyond their opponent's immediate End Phase.
From what I've gathered most events have been ruling the card correctly according to the text on all printed copies of the card and the text on the official card database. As always you should check with officials before an event just to be safe, but it seems unlikely that Appointer will be ruled any different going forward. So, one last time for clarity: the written and database texts are identical and are the actual way the card should be played.
Why Not Mind Crush?
Both Appointer of the Red Lotus and Mind Crush require each player to have at least one card in hand to activate. Appointer also asks for a 2000 Life Point payment and forces you to reveal your hand. These extra costs are important. Life Point payments are often overlooked because they exist apart from card economy, but with Solemn Strike and Solemn Warning played in nearly every trap line-up there's reason to be concerned. Appointer's a better fit for decks that trade their Solemns for Dimensional Barriers or other traps after Game 1.
The hand reveal cost of Appointer is a problem if you're revealing your own hand traps. It might be advantageous to go easy on the hand traps in games where you're siding in Appointer. Still, with Appointer on the field and a relevant hand trap at your disposal your opponent might not be able to push past your set-up even with the information on your hand. Appointer also has better synergies with hand traps, and you're less likely to have no cards in hand with a set hand control trap because of it.
Speaking of which, the way Appointer of the Red Lotus lets you choose a
target in your opponent's hand is vastly superior to Mind Crush's guessing
game. You don't need to know a single card in your opponent's hand to
activate Appointer, so you can trigger it in the Draw or Standby Phase to
banish a card immediately. That's especially useful when the only remaining
card in your hand is a hand trap. Playing Mind Crush in the same situation
would force you to hold onto that hand trap while you waited for your
opponent to reveal information about their hand.
Hand Trap Era
Speaking of which, Appointer gives perfect information to both players on their contents of their hands. That's helpful for picking a target to banish, and it's also useful for knowing what's left in their hand after you banish their card.
There's an immediate advantage in seeing which hand traps are available just from a mechanical perspective. Choosing to banish the most disruptive hand trap will help you avoid losing a crucial effect to Ash Blossom or Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit. What's more: you'll know which cards to play around for the remainder of the turn.
Appointer still has value beyond the turn you activate it. You'll know pieces of your opponent's hand and you'll be able to plan for their returning card. Banishing Maxx “C” before establishing a board with a flurry of Special Summons robs your opponent of their go-to answer for your plays while leaving them with a dead card when their next End Phase arrives.
Although Appointer takes an extra turn to set up as a consequence of being
a trap card, it's incredibly strong offensively because it banishes a card
for the duration of your turn and your opponent's next turn. Activating
Appointer on your turn will usually put you in control of the duel provided
your opponent's defense largely relied on their hand traps.
Zoodiacs highlight the other, perhaps more obvious use for Appointer of the Red Lotus: robbing your opponent of the one card they need to make a play or break through your field is devastating. Think about the reason we play cards to defend set-ups. Negation cards block the most dangerous threats to the field and throw a wrench in your opponent's plan. Appointer doesn't negate cards, but it can take them out of the duel for the turn. If that one turn is important enough then it doesn't matter if your opponent gets their Dark Hole or Kaiju back in their hand later. The damage is already done.
Your typical backrow answers a narrow set of threats. Solemn Strike and Dimensional Barrier are easily among the most versatile, but Appointer has even more utility. It essentially ‘negates' any card in your opponent's hand, and unlike other negation cards you're not left guessing if your opponent has another copy or a follow-up. You can make the right choice every time, and for players with intimate knowledge of the match-up it's not difficult to figure out which cards have been sided in.
Your opponent's sided cards are among the best targets for Appointer's effect, so you can counter side Appointer to preemptively kick away hand traps, Kaijus, and normal spells that hurt your strategy. You can also knock out traps and monsters if you open with Appointer when playing first. Otherwise backrow removal and Summon negation are probably the best ways to deal with those types of sided cards.
Past Turn 1 there are still places where Appointer of the Red Lotus is viable. Its impact is magnified in a simplified duel where both players have just a few cards. Banishing a topdeck can burn an entire turn and leave your opponent with no monsters. On the other hand taking a -1 to your card economy is risky. In nearly all cases you want to win the duel before your opponent gets their card back, and that can be difficult to do if you also have just a few cards yourself.
Appointer of the Red Lotus is a seriously strong trap that's faded in and out of competitive consideration. At some point we need to stop forgetting this card exists and start playing it more regularly, and I think this format is the perfect time for Appointer to begin a lengthy stay in the competitive environment.
Until next time then