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Thursday, December 2, 2010

American Ingenuity: A Look Back at TCG Exclusives Part 1

It was a pretty big deal back at the release of Strike of Neos when Upper Deck started giving us our own exclusive cards in the TCG. We were so far behind the OCG cardwise, it was nice to get something they didn't have (yet). Since Tactical Evolution, we've been getting about 10 exclusive cards per set, and they are usually full of new cards for undersupported deck types.

Strke of Neos
  • Grandmaster of the Six Samurai
Our first exclusive card. At the time of its release, the super rare version of this card was going for $50, and the secret rare version, much more. Without this card, Six Samurai decks would not have been anything at all. This card, along with two other TCG exclusive Samurai cards, made Six Samurai decks a big contender.

 Force of the Breaker
  • Volcanic Rocket
FOTB had a set of monsters that, when discarded, let you search your deck for a specific Field Spell card. It also introduced the Volcanic arch-type. Volcanics are based on the Continuous Spell Card, Blaze Accelerator. Volcanic Rocket acts as one of the aforementioned "Spell Searcher" monsters, and lets you search for Blaze Accelerator when it's summoned. A 1900 ATK monster that searches for the deck's back bone was a much needed addition to the Volcanic deck type.

Tactical Evolution
  • Gemini Summoner
  • Ocean's Keeper
  • Thousand-Eyes Jellyfish
  • Cranium Fish
  • Abyssal Kingshark
  • Mormolith
  • Fossil Tusker
  • Phantom Dragonray Bronto
  • Il Blud
  • Blazewing Butterfly
Here's where the support for unplayable deck types began, starting with Fish. It didn't make much difference, however, because aside from Abyssal Kingshark, none of the Fish support is playable. Ocean's Keeper deals piercing damage and when destroyed, lets you search for Thousand-Eyes Jellyfish or Cranium Fish. Cranium Fish can be Special Summoned by tributing Ocean's Keeper, and Thousand-Eyes Jellyfish can only be summoned that way. Their effects aren't great either, One lets you see your opponent's hand, and one destroys face down cards by discarding a water monster. Phantom Dragonray Bronto is a Gemini Monster, which means to get its effect, it must be summoned twice. An attack boost is not worth the trouble, especially since it has a "Goblin Attack Force effect" which switches it to defense position until the end of your next turn. As far as Fish go, Abyssal Kingshark is the star here. It's a 1700 ATK beater that can't be destroyed by non-targeting effects once per turn. That means cards like Bottomless Trap Hole, Smashing Ground, Mirror Force, and Dark Hole would be wasted on this card.

Now for the better exclusive cards. Mormolith is a card that can destroy all monsters on the field by tributing an earth monster, as long as the ATK of the tributed monster is higher than the DEF of the other monsters. It didn't see much play, but in the era of Monarchs decks, this card could wipe out all your opponents monarchs by tributing itself. Blazewing Butterfly was a big card for the new Gemini sub-type. If you could Gemini summon this monster, you could tribute it to Special Summon a Gemini monster from your graveyard and have that monster gain its effect. Being an Insect, this card would come in handy a few sets later. The best and most expensive monster to come from this set was Il Blud. Another Gemini monster, this card could Special Summon any Zombie from either player's graveyard. The Gemini factor wasn't a big deal, as Il Blud itself was a Zombie and could be Special Summoned in many ways. With this card and Card of Safe Return, Zombies were propelled to the top of the tournament scene.

Gladiator's Assault
  • Gladiator Beast Octavius
  • Gladiator Beast Torax
  • Test Tiger
  • Defensive Tactics
  • Dragon Ice
  • Tongue Twister
  • Skreech
  • Royal Firestorm Guards
  • Veil of Darkness
  • Security Orb
With a set based around the new Gladiator beast arch-type, of course we'd get some exclusive support. Not all of it was good, however. Octavius is a watered down Bestiari, which you need to discard a card every turn to keep on the field, Torax lets you draw a card when Special Summoned by the effect of a Gladiator Beast (but is useless after that), and Defensive Tactics is basically a Waboku that can only be activated when you control a Gladiator Beast. Although it goes to the bottom of your deck to be used again, there are other cards that do a better job of protecting your monsters. The best Gladiator Beast support here is Test Tiger. You can Special Summon it when you control a Gladiator Beast, and tribute it to shuffle a Gladiator Beast back into your deck and replace it with a new one and get the new monster's effect. This card, along with another Gladiator Beast and an Elemental Hero, would make Gladiator Beasts the top deck for many months.

Dragon Ice, Tongue Twister, and Skreech were the winners of the "Create a Card" contest, but their effects aren't very good at all. Veil of Darkness is like a Heart of the Underdog for Dark monsters, and Security Orb is a worse version of Enemy Controller. Volcanics decks got a boost with Royal Firestorm Guards, a card that, when summoned, acts as a Pot of Avarice for Pyro monsters and has a decent 1700 ATK.

Phantom Darkness
  • Dark Grepher
  • Darklord Zerato
  • Darknight Parshath
  • Deepsea Macrotrema
  • Allure of Darkness
  • Metabo Globster
  • Golden Flying Fish
  • Prime Material Dragon
  • Lonefire Blossom
  • Aztekipede, the Worm Warrior
This set included some of the best exclusive cards we've ever had. Dark Grepher, Darklord Zerato, and Allure of Darkness made a huge impact, and were essential components in the Dark Armed Return deck that ruled at the big tournaments. Lonefire Blossom is another great card that is still used today in one of the top decks. By tibuting a Plant monster (including itself), you can Special Summon ANY Plant monster from your deck. Back then, the main choice was Gigaplant, today it can be any of the great Plant monsters used in Quickdraw and Plant Synchro decks. Prime Material Dragon is a card that stopped Burn decks by turning damage into life points, and it can negate any effect that would destroy a monster. Before Stardust Dragon, this was the best way to go. This card was later used to counter Gladiator Beasts, and was used in certain Monarch decks.

Darknight Parshath expanded on the Parshath family, but didn't do much else. Deepsea Macrotrema and Golden Flying Fish attempted to give more to the Fish type, but only Golden Flying Fish had decent stats. A 1700 ATK monster that could destroy cards by tributing other Fish monsters. Metabo Globster lets you Special Summon 3 tokens when it's tributed for a Dark monster, but the tokens can't be tributed for a tribute summon. They could, however, be tributed for cards like Destiny Hero - Plasma. And finally, Aztekipede is like a smaller version of  Doom Dozer. Too bad Insects didn't have enough support to be competitive.

Light of Destruction
  • Guardian of Order
  • Aurkus, Lightsworn Druid
  • Ehren, Lightsworn Monk
  • Dark General Freed
  • Magical Exemplar
  • Maniacal Servant
  • Nimble Musasabi
  • Flame Spirit Ignis
  • Super-Ancient Dinobeast
  • Vanquishing Light
We'll start off with two great Lightsworn cards, Aurkus and Ehren. Aurkus protects all your Lightsworn monsters from being targeted by anything. He laughs in the face of Monarchs and D.D. Crow. Ehren sends any defense position monster she attacks back to the opponent's deck. This is a great way to get around monsters with DEF too high to destroy, or effects that activate when a monster is destroyed like Sangan or Mystic Tomato. Magical Exemplar is a nice addition to Spellcaster decks. She has a decent 1700 ATK and can Special Summon Spellcasters from you hand or graveyard. If Dinosaur decks were good, Super-Ancient Dinobeast would be a great card. With 2700 ATK and the ability to be tribute summoned by tributing only 1 Dinosaur monster, this card lets you draw everytime a Dinosaur is Special Summoned from your graveyard.

Guardian of Order is basically a big beater that can be Special Summoned if you contol more than one Light monster. Dark General Freed works alot like the Matchless General, but for Dark monsters. Maniacal Servent is an easy way to remove Dark monsters from your Graveyard, but there are much better reasons to do that than just to raise the DEF of a monster. Nimble Musasabi is like a reverse Momonga. It deals 500 damage when destroyed and Special Summons more Musasabi to your opponent's field. Ignis deals burn damage to your opponent, but not enough to matter, and Vanquishing Light works like a Saber Hole, except you have to tribute a Lightsworn monster to activate it.

The Duelist Genesis
  • Avenging Knight Parshath
  • Counselor Lily
  • Herald of Orange Light
  • Izanami
  • Maiden of Macabre
  • Hand of the Six Samurai
  • Cyber Shark
  • Grapple Blocker
  • Telekinetic Charging Cell
  • Charge of the Light Brigade
This set brought us Synchros, Tuners, and Psychics, as did the exclusive cards. Avenging Knight Parshath is a bad Syncrho monster which requires Light monsters to be used. Counselor Lily is a Tuner that gives a Synchro monster a mini Injection Fairy Lily effect. Herald of Orange Light works like the Purple and Green Heralds, but for monster effects, and it's also a Tuner. Izanami adds to the Spirit support included in this set. Maiden of Macabre is a Spellcaster that uses Spell Counters and gets stronger when it destroys a monster. Cyber Shark is a worse version of Cyber Dragon, and Grapple Blocker and Telekinetic Charging Cell add to the new Psychic type. Grapple Blocker isn't impressive, but Charging Cell makes it so you don't have to pay life points for the effects of your Psychic monsters.

The good exclusive cards in this set and support cards for Six Samurai and Lightsworn decks. Hand of the Six Samurai lets you tribute a Six Samurai monster to destroy a monster. With later exclusive Samurai support, this card and Grandmaster come together for a good combo. Charge of the Light Brigade is just what Lightsworn decks needed. By sending the top 3 cards of your deck to the graveyard, you can search your deck for one Level 4 or lower Lightsworn monster. This card was limited because Lightsworn decks were too good with 3 of these.

Crossroads of Chaos
  •  Rose, Warrior of Revenge
  • Seed of Flame
  • Cactus Fighter
  • Overdrive Teleporter
  • Rai-Jin
  • Rai-Mei
  • Gladiator Beast Retiari
  • Night's End Sorcerer
  • Tempest Magician
  • Treacherous Trap Hole
Rose, Warrior of Revenge was our first level 4 Tuner, and being a Warrior, it has a lot of support. Retiari was a welcome addition to the Gladiator Beast family, removing opponent's cards like Destiny Hero - Malicious and Plaguespreader Zombie from play. Night's End Sorcerer and Tempest Magician were a boost for Spellcaster decks and decks based around Spell Counters.

Overdrive Teleporter let you Special Summon 2 Psychic monsters for the cost of 2000 life points. That's pretty steep, but it made for easy Synchro Summons. Seed of Flame and Cactus Fighter added more support to the Plant type, but both monsters give your opponent tokens, and in a game of Synchros, that's not such a good idea. Rai-Jin and Rai-Mei are some very weak support cards for the Light attribute, and Treacherous Trap Hole can destroy 2 monsters, but only if you don't have any Trap cards in your graveyard. There are better ways to destroy multiple monsters, especially with Dark Hole now legal.

That's it for the first half of our look at TCG exclusive cards. Next time well look at the cards from Crimson Crisis to the new set Starstrike Blast.

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