Hello, Gaspar here again.
I had a bit of a little break, doing a few unspeakable things and being busy with a few others… But now I have pulled myself together again. For a while.
This article begins a series that deals with the cards of Yu-Gi-Oh! itself, in several ways. Not just complaining, but do not worry: there will be plenty of that too.
We’ll begin with the monsters and their sub-types, as that is a good starting point as any. Not all of them at once though, because it would be too long.
Effect and Non-Effect Monsters
Effect Monsters are monsters that have effects. Contrast them with Non-Effect Monsters, which do not.
Normal Monsters are Non-Effect Monsters that are not tied to any summoning mechanic – until Pendulums, anyway.
There’s barely reasons to use Non-Effect Monsters when there are so many Effect Monsters with the same stats, if not even higher, that also have positive effects and no downsides. Most of the Non-Effect Monsters that see play are spammed en masse due to cards like Rescue Rabbit, or the Pendulum mechanic abusing its unique special snowflake rules to create Normal Monsters that actually have effects if placed on a Pendulum Scale so that they are searchable with Painful Decision and Summoner’s Art. Or they are used as recurrable fodder that may or may not be fetched and recovered with support cards. And the ones that go in the Extra Deck are usually just the monster with the highest ATK available for an archetype, and that does not guarantee their usage.
There is not much to say about Effect and Non-Effect Monsters in general beyond the fact that there is rarely ever a reason to not use the Effect ones because, even when Non-Effect Monster support like Heat Wave exists, they are still playing with only half the Deck. Neither their ATK/DEF scores nor support compensates for their own lack of effects. And it is not going to get any better.
Gemini Monsters, by definition, are Effect Monsters treated as Normal Monsters while they are face-up on the field or while they are in the Graveyard. If you control a Gemini Monster and you can still Normal Summon, you can spend that Normal Summon to have 1 of those Geminis be treated as an Effect Monster and have it gain its effects as long as it is face-up.
Kinda confusing, isn’t it?
Konami was confused by that too, which explains why they had absolutely no idea on how to make them workable. Or how to localize their original name “Dual”. Because leaving it the same would have made too much sense or something.
What do I mean with “no idea on how to make them workable”? Well, Geminis do indeed have many support cards, but most of them are not exactly very… supportive.
Let’s begin with Energy Bravery. He is a Level 4 non-Gemini LIGHT Warrior with 1700 ATK. His effect protects Gemini Summoned Gemini Monsters you control from being destroyed by card effects. Which means he needs you to have a monster who needs 2 Normal Summons out before he actually does anything, and you still do not have him on the field yet – and even after you do, it is not an effect you can actually count on. Your opponent might not even be able to destroy the Geminis by an effect at the moment, and Energy Bravery himself is still completely vulnerable to anything. And this was all before the rise of non-destruction removal everywhere.
Gemini Counter flips your Gemini Monster face-down in order to negate an opponent’s Spell Card. As it stands, this means it rewards you better for not Gemini Summoning and instead summoning a second Gemini Monster than for Gemini Summoning a monster you already had out.
Then we have Super Double Summon. It lets you Normal Summon a face-up Gemini Monster you control… and at the end of the turn, it returns the monster to the hand. Which means the card not only does not help you at all once this turn ends, but it actually sets you back by undoing your field presence. Unleash your Power! unlocks the effect of every single Gemini Monster you currently have out and flips them face-down at the end of the turn, which could actually be an okay all-or-nothing sort of card if there were, you know, other reasons to use Geminis.
Gemini Booster turns any Gemini Monster on your field into an Effect Monster… once Gemini Booster is destroyed while on the field, but it will equip itself to a Gemini Monster first to give it an ATK boost. Its second effect only triggering when Booster is destroyed means it does not work alongside the Equip-based Geminis like Evocator Chevalier and Phoenix Gearfried to facilitate further Gemini Summons.
Their support goes against the point of Gemini Summoning, or detracts from Gemini Summoning, or does not help Gemini Summoning at all. It is simply not rewarding to use most of their support because it does not help you get towards the goal of unlocking the effects and using them to control the field.
Well, except for Gemini Spark, which treats the only Geminis you would use in a non-focused Deck as fodder, yet it is the best of the bunch because it needs zero actual investment. It skips unlocking the effects and goes straight to the field control part. Isn’t that lovely?
Any Gemini Monster that does see any sort of use, other than Neos Alius, only gets by due to being Normal Monsters while in the Graveyard, so you can revive them with cards like Swing of Memories or Daigusto Emeral, and it is never in a dedicated Deck. The better non-Gemini Monsters that do support Geminis in some way (Featherizer, Woodland Archer, Gemini Summoner and Superalloy Beast Raptinus) do not get off the ground due to the fragility of the mechanic. Featherizer and Woodland Archer feeling less like monsters and more like fodder does not make them a favor, either.
Their stats and effects and Levels are all over the place, but apparently you were meant to use them as a Deck even back then. Kinda hard when there is no nexus. The mechanic itself is rather restrictive too, so it is not hard to see why they are not very… good, nor coherent. It’s just a mess all around, and even Supervise doing everything under the sun does not help enough.
How could Geminis be done properly?
Well, to begin with, they should have had workable ATK and DEF, so that you can use them for something if you are not Gemini Summoning them as it normally takes two turns, or one turn and a card effect, to do so. But at the same time, they should not have had 1900 ATK from the get-go.
The effects you get by Normal Summoning a monster twice should be worth it. Do you really pretend me to Gemini Summon Phantom Dragonray Bronto just to make it become Goblin Attack Force, drawback still included? Or Magical Reflect Slime, whose low ATK makes sense for its effect yet it can still be destroyed by battle post-Gemini Summoning, which means I cannot actually make use of its effect unless I spend more cards onto it and risk a bigger loss when the inevitable removal comes up? The effects should not be on Magical Scientist’s power level either though, of course.
High-Level Gemini Monsters do not really work. You either have to Tribute Summon them and then Gemini Summon them, making them a tremendous chore and incredibly risky to use… or get them in the Graveyard and revive them for a quick and easy Gemini, making them cards you would not really want to draw if you could avoid it. Gigaplant and Il Blud and Doom Shaman are the only high-Level Gemini Monsters that work, and they all do the same thing: summon more monsters to Synchro or Xyz Summon while being easy to put on the field due to from-the-Deck summoners or being DARK and, therefore, easy to put in the Graveyard for a revival play. And it is much easier to summon Black Brutdrago, the Geminis’ own Synchro Monster, with any of the Level 6 summoners than with Tuned Magician, the Geminis’ Tuner monster… that still needs to be Normal Summoned twice in order to actually be a Tuner…
Now, let’s assume we corrected everything I mentioned above: coherent support, monsters worth Gemini Summoning with decent stats, and nothing such as being outclassed by generic Level 4 monsters even after the Gemini Summon. You would still have a pretty underpowered mechanic, but it might actually work once in a while if the game’s general power level went down.
Spirit Monsters are another sub-type of Effect Monsters. The majority of them are based on aspects of shinto, Japan’s ethnic religion, and a few cards that are not Spirit Monsters are also related to them.
As their name implies, their existence in the solid plane is fleeting. They return from the field to their owner’s hand at the end of the turn in which they were summoned or flipped face-up, and cannot be Special Summoned. Except for the one case that cannot be Normal Summoned and can only be Special Summoned. Many of them compensate for this lack of constant presence by having effects that activate upon being summoned (which means you can constantly play those effects) and/or decently high ATK, and not staying on the field keeps them safe from many of the opponent’s removal cards. They have a few support cards of their own too, and most of them capitalize on Spirits not staying on the field or give you a way to keep them on the field.
What is wrong with Spirits?
Well, aside from them still not having a card related to Amaterasu while a certain archetype got it in their fourth set, and a few Spirits not really being usable, nothing is particularly wrong with them. Spirits as a whole are less a monster sub-type and more an archetype that uses its upsides and downsides to create a rather unique playstyle, with some of them doing nothing beyond supporting Spirits and others being for more general use.
And then the Yosenju archetype came along, making Spirits completely pointless because Yosenjus do not have restrictions of any kind and have at least 2 search cards plus themed protection of their own. Great.
The last monster sub-type I am going to talk in this article is Union Monsters: they are monsters that can be equipped to another monster you control if you control both monsters on your field, and they can also be unequipped from a monster in order to be monsters again. While equipped to a monster, Unions usually grant it some form of protection (usually at the cost of the Union itself) and some bonus like more ATK/DEF or an extra effect.
Due to the way they work, Unions are probably the worst monster sub-type.
As I mentioned before, you need to control both the Union and the monster you want to equip it to so that you can, well, equip it. This means you have to spend several Normal Summons in order to simply get them out, as most cases are not going to involve something like Vampire Orchis summoning Des Dendle or Decayed Commander summoning Zombie Tiger. And those two combinations are definitely not worth the effort of getting 2 specific cards out, even with all the searching they got over the yars. Nor is any specific two-card combination, really. It is just too pretentious to expect it to even happen, and then it does not pay off well at all.
Machina Gearframe and Machine Peacekeeper are two of the best Union monsters… and it is not because they are Unions, but because they are easy-to-trigger searchers that search each other and also happen to be able to protect any Machine you want. The best Union Monster that feels as if it became one with the monster it is equipped to is Spirit of the Six Samurai, and that is mostly because of its own archetype’s support and playstyle – it is extra protection for Shi En, but even if it not equipped to him, it is still an extra ATK boost that gives extra draws and is very searchable, and its theme can easily summon it while also having another monster out so that it can actually be equipped.
Almost every single other Union Monster is just a very small ATK boost, or has an effect that might be good only with one specific monster due to that monster’s own effects. Very rarely it has both. Most of them are only equippable to one monster, which may or may not be able to stand on its own to begin with. And most of them only protect the monster from being destroyed by battle. They share a couple of issues with Geminis too: there are high-Level Unions who are simply too much trouble to bother with, and most of the support for Unions does not really help them.
And this is not even getting to the point of the whole set-up being incredibly vulnerable to removal.
So, what is wrong with Unions?
As a whole, pretty much everything. They take too long to do anything, they do too little, and they are too fragile. The very least they should be able to do is equipping themselves to appropriate monsters straight from the hand, and their protection effect should be consistent. Keywording all the text they have in common into “Union” would be nice too. Like, [Union with any monster] for completely generic ones, [Union with any Machine-Type monster] for ones like Heavy-Mech Support Platform, [Union with “Dark Blade”] for Pitch-Dark Dragon and Kiryu, you get the idea.
But even after the hypothetical fixes I suggested above, they would probably feel just like Equip Spell Cards you could mayhaps Special Summon.
In the end, Unions are not really a mechanic that would work as a Deck’s focus… Which is probably the reason why no series of monsters treats them as such even when actually featuring them in their ranks. And that is not a good thing, because it makes them feel rather pointless.
Well, that is it for the first part.
From the next time onwards I shall be dealing with the summoning mechanics that got their own cardboard colors. Whose articles are all longer than this, which is why I did not want to put them all together. First one up is about Fusion Monsters.