Market Watch: The 2017 Set By Set Breakdown Part 2
Welcome back! In Part 1 of our 2017 Set By Set Breakdown we looked at the first of the year's booster releases: from the dizzying heights ofRaging Tempest and the surprising success of Fusion Enforcers and Star Pack: Battle Royal, to the grizzly impact of Duelist Pack: Dimensional Guardians and more.
Today we'll finish out the review with a look atPendulum Evolution, Battles of Legend,Code of the Duelist, Legendary Duelists, Circuit Break, and Spirit Warriors. It was a really strong year for Yu-Gi-Oh! with a lot of good choices for KDE, retailers, and the player community, and a lot of that was packed into the back half of the release schedule.
Let's kick it off with one of the most long-reaching releases in recent memory: Pendulum Evolution.
When it was announced that the OCG's Structure Deck: Pendulum Evolution was going to be repackaged as a booster-only release in the TCG, the groans from the global player community were audible. Players were expecting another release with key short prints leading to big money cards, which isn't an unfair expectation at this point.
But what we got was kind of the opposite! With a basically flat rarity structure nothing was out of reach for budget players, and the one big missing pieces of the Magician strategy Duelist Alliance, at the time a big-money Secret Rare was reprinted shortly after anyways. Meanwhile the rest of the pack was fleshed out with worthy reprints that fit the overarching Pendulum theme, bringing some solid cards back into circulation that would become relevant later in the year, especially the Zefra stuff.
As for the main attraction, Astrograph Sorcerer's a flashy boss monster that trended in and out of fashion all year long, while #2 through #7 on the list are absolute must-runs for the Pendulum Magician strategy. White Wing Magician emerged as a top pick as well, once players realized that it permitted double PSY-Framelord Omega plays that took the deck back into competitive territory, birthing its second major run in tournament play. Timestar Magician and Chronograph Sorcerer never made the competitive cut, but they're still Cards Of Interest based on their limited use overseas.
Pendulum Evolution could've been an absolute nightmare. Instead, it was one of the standout releases of the year. And it was followed by an even more surprising hit.
Battles of Legend: Light's Revenge
#7 Giant Rex
#8 Denko Sekka
#10 Galaxy Soldier
Inspired by some of Yu-Gi-Oh's biggest hero moments across different eras of the TV series, Battles of Legend: Light's Revenge wound up being one of the greatest tournament releases of all time. I'm not sure if many even noticed, but you look at the Top 10 and you can see just how freaking good this set was. It had a ton of killer reprints with great timing, and even brought us some new cards that were immediately seeing play. Literally the entire Top 25 from this set is made up of successful, tournament-level cards.
Anti-Spell Fragrance wasn't seeing major play when Battles of Legend first hit, but it Rebounded back into competition pretty quickly after it was dropped into budget territory. Spellbook of Secrets and Spellbook Magician of Prophecy were perfectly positioned to pave the way for Spellbook of Knowledge in Code of the Duelist a few weeks later, while Zaphion, the Timelord and Giant Rex both found competitive niches that lasted all year long.
PSY-Framelord Omega was a massive reprint of a most-wanted card that players needed in multiples and that they still want today. Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon was similar, albeit not quite as important at the time. Transmodify was used in ABC-Dragon Buster variants and remains an enabler for a lot of offbeat strategies, while Galaxy Soldier is still played in ABC's. Denko Sekka's shelved nowadays, but it's waiting in the wings for the next time a trap-heavy deck rises to the top of competition. And technically speaking, nothing's removed its boot from the throat of Paleozoics.
Seriously. Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, M-X-Saber Invoker, Minerva, the Exalted Lightsworn, Number 11: Big Eye, Different Dimension Ground, Into The Void, Infernoids, Ligthsworn, Mermails, Vanity's Fiend Battles of Legend was chock full of great cards, and it wound up being SO much better than most expected.
Code of the Duelist
#8 Lee the World Chalice Fairy
Code of the Duelist was the launch of Link Monsters in earnest, and while that was characterized at first by the domination of Missus Radiant in Zoodiacs, it gave way to other mainstream picks like Heavy Storm Duster and Ib the World Chalice Priestess. It took a while for Spellbook of Knowledge and Trickstars to catch on, but once we escaped the death grip of Zoodiacs, Spellbooks and Trickstars came into their own and still have leading roles in competition now.
Back to the Front was a miss in combo-driven competition where it was just too slow to have a big role, and Vendreads were a flop after their second round of support proved to be disappointing. But the World Chalice theme has skirted the fringes of competition for ages, and still pop up in Regionals here and there doing some impressive things. The climate of the game when Code of the Duelist was first released felt pretty narrow, but once Zoodiacs were taken out of the equation players revisited the set and found a lot of good stuff. It was a rocky start for Link Monsters, but eventually it all clicked into place.
Sidenote: if we were counting Special Edition promos in these Top 10's, Solemn Strike would've landed at Number 2 here, and Mistar Boy would've come in at Number 8. The reprint of Solemn Strike made it one of the biggest cards of the year, and Mistar Boy was so good that it actually launched Paleozoic Frogs back to the top of tournament competition for several weeks. While COTD suffered an almost inevitable stall-out the first time around, pushing it with excellent promos in a more open format was a great move, and really opened up the set to exploration.
Part of me wants to type WOMP! and move on to Circuit Break, but I imagine I owe a slightly longer explanation ofLegendary Duelists. The least competitive booster of the year, Legendary Duelists didn't really have anything for tournament play. It focused on fanservice releases instead, and it got chucked into the mix at a time when players were still navigating Link Summoning and many duelists were still feeling beaten down by Zoodiacs.
If it was intended as a light, fandom-driven ray of fun in the competitive post-season, I'm not sure Legendary Duelists connected. The new Cyberdark cards were legitimately cool, but this was the unhappiest time of the year for a lot of players, and the climate probably wasn't right for this kind of release. I think we can chalk this one up as an experiment that just didn't work as well as it could have.
#5 Quiet Life
#10 Vendread Striges
Circuit Break was fantastic for a lot of reasons, only some of which are really evident in this Top 10. Number 41: Bagooska the Terribly Tired Tapir is an awesome card that quickly became the Rank 4 Xyz of choice for almost any strategy that could make Rank 4's. Destrudo the Lost Dragon's Frisson didn't hit as hard here as it did in the OCG, in part because Life Points wound up being more important than usual in emerging SPYRAL and Trickstar heavy metagames. But it still saw a lot of play, especially before Set Rotation was restricted. Meanwhile Metaverse and Quiet Life saw similar speculation as generic, splashable picks, though neither really paid off in tournaments.
Hallohallo sold like Hallohotcakes, and you can search me for a reason why. As the first-ever Tuner Pendulum monster with no explicit drawbacks there were lots of factors that made it unique and generated discussion, but none of it justified the speculation we saw on the card. Maybe it'll pay off some time in the future.
Subterrors and Vendreads were both underpowered in this release, but enough people didn't seem to notice long enough for several of those cards to still sell a ton of copies. Meanwhile, some players were fully aware of that, but saw the theme's top cards as speculation opportunities. It's actually a bit surprising to see those cards outselling Lunalight Crimson Fox and Lunalight Kaleido Chick, since the Lunalight fanbase has always generated tremendous demand for new Lunalights. The deck actually managed to Top 8 at least a couple Regionals off the back of Fox and Chick, too.
Circuit Break was kind of unique for being so top-heavy. Evenly Matched, Borreload Dragon, and Akashic Magician were all huge, but their double digit price tags kept them off the bestseller list. SPYRAL Double Helix was one of the biggest cards of the year, but from there the set just offered a couple splashable cards and a whole lot of deep cuts that didn't leave much of a mark. It's kind of surprising to see that SPYRAL Double Helix and Lyrilusc - Recital Starling didn't make the Top 10, since both of them saw such widespread play at an approachable price point.
And finally, Spirit Warriors took an interesting turn when players widely rejected the short printed Magical Musketeers and just went all-in on Six Samurai nostalgia.
Eight cards from the Top 10 here are Samurai support, with Secret Six Samurai Fuma clocking in at Number 5 despite the $5-$6 price tag on that card. Six Samurai didn't manage to make a big tournament return, but the revisited theme was a massive hit anyways, dominating the Market Watch Top 10 for a surprising number of installments before the TCGplayer Marketplace normalized.
Meanwhile the new themes largely failed to materialize in competition. You'd have to look all the way down to Number 15 to find The Weather Painter Thunder, supporting an archetype that's miles away from competitive. The Magical Musketeers don't come into the picture until Number 20, with Magical Musket Mastermind Zakiel a card that probably isn't even played in a tournament-minded Magical Musketeer deck. We only saw one Magical Musketeer build in Top 8 action all year long anyways as the price point for cards like Magical Musketeer Caspar and Magical Musketeer Starfire fell victim to the holiday crunch.
Honest was a huge hit at Number 2, since Trickstars play it and the reprint was so affordable that speculators bought up dozens of copies. The demand for Scrap-Iron Scarecrow remains one of the year's biggest mysteries. Oldschool fandom and budget player enthusiasm really won the day on this one.
And that's all for Yu-Gi-Oh in 2017! Extreme Force arrives in less than a month, and Legendary Duelists: Ancient Millennium hits three weeks later, two releases that are still pretty undefined. There's a lot of potential in the OCG import portion of Extreme Force and we're probably going to see a new F&L list some time soon, so February's going to be a really interesting time.
What are you most looking forward to in the first months of 2018? Now that 2017 is officially in the record books, let me know down in the Comments.