Name a More Iconic Duo …
- Thomas Rose
Some cards are great alone, but others shine brightest when they show up with a friend. The two-card combo has been a staple of Yu-Gi-Oh! for many years now, arguably stretching back to some of the very first sets of the game. It wasn't until a few years later that combo-based play really became the norm though.
This article is going to run through a selection of the most famous and infamous two-card combinations throughout the history of the game. Cards we always hear about together. So well-known in their time that you could go back to your friends after a YCS round, say their names, and your teammates would already know what happened.
To reach that kind of status, the combo needs to be not only powerful, but also reasonably frequently used, so I'll be looking specifically at combos where both pieces were played at three. One for One and Dandylion might have been a devastating pairing back in Tengu Plants, but both were limited, so they didn't meet that often.
In a five-card opening hand, the chances of drawing at least one each of two specific cards is approximately 9.8%, before factoring in any additional draw or search effects. Prior to the rules update in July 2014 players would still draw a card on that opening turn, bringing that chance up to about 13.9%. But there were fewer ways to dig for combo pieces at the time so those openings were typically less consistent despite the extra card.
The oldest combo that I have always considered to achieve this truly iconic status is a real classic. Many players today are familiar with the phrase "Troop Dupe Scoop." It is known even to some of those who weren't yet playing when Card Trooper was first released, back in 2007. The play is no more complex than summoning Trooper from hand, then using Machine Duplication to get a further two copies from the deck, then activating the effect of each. The payoff was an immediate 5700 Attack points, and subsequently drawing three additional cards as your machines get destroyed.
By today's standards this pair may not seem remarkable, particularly when considering that the strength of this move lay in sending nine cards from your deck to the Graveyard, which would be much more relevant in the 2020 meta. The overall power level of the game in 2007 was drastically lower than it's for modern decks. At the time attack points were paramount, and value could be realized over multiple turns. By contrast, modern effects that trigger on destruction, specifically from the field, have mostly become too slow for competitive play.
On the release of Order of Chaos, five years after Card Trooper, Wind-Ups brought one of the most devastating opening turns that the game had seen. Even by modern Yu-Gi-Oh! standards, sending four random cards from your opponent's hand to the grave is a devastating way to begin the duel.
The combo starts with the normal summon of Wind-Up Magician followed by the activation of Wind-Up Shark in hand. This triggers the Magician's effect, summoning a second copy of Magician from your deck. The on-field effect of Shark changes its own level to 3, allowing the second Magician to summon your Wind-Up Hunter. Hunter tributes one of you Magicians before being overlaid with Shark to summon Wind-Up Carrier Zenmaity. Hunter is detached for the effect of Zenmaity, summoning Wind-Up Rat from your deck to revive it from the grave. You can then tribute the spent Zenmaity to take another card, before Hunter and Rat are combined to repeat the process with each of the other two Zenmaity available. You can even tribute the second Magician for the last Hunter effect to keep a Zenmaity on board for next turn.
Even the limiting of Zenamity couldn't put a stop to this duo. Having lost the ability to rip four cards from hand, the pair turned their focus away from Hunter and instead to Number 16: Shock Master. The same two-card start could field an opening board of Zenmaity, Photon Papilloperative, and Shock Master. Preventing the opponent from using any spell cards for their first three turns was often just as good as discarding four cards.
In case taking four cards from your opponent's hand wasn't enough, the next combo could get rid of every card in your opponent's opening hand, including their draw for the turn. Debuting in 2017, the cards responsible are Trickstar Reincarnation with Droll & Lock Bird. When the activation condition is met for Droll & Lock Bird, the Trickstar player could first activate a set Reincarnation, then respond with Droll at chain link 2. By the time it comes to resolving the Reincarnation neither player can add any new cards to their hand, but the activated effect must still resolve as much as possible, so all cards are banished with no consolation.
Admittedly, there is far more scope to play around this opening compared to the Wind-Up loop. The combo cannot be used until their opponent activates a search or draw effect outside of the draw phase, unless the Trickstar player has access to a second copy of Reincarnation. When staring down an opening board including set cards from these contentious fairies, players learned to set normal spells and summon a monster before activating any search effects. Much like attacking with smallest monsters first to avoid Gorz, it quickly became ingrained in habit. However, despite the deck's absence from the 2020 meta, the pain of being unable to evade double Reincarnation still leaves a scar.
In 2019 we saw a new pairing show up format after format, and provide access to a selection of remarkable opening boards depending on the deck list they found themselves in. Interestingly, neither of the two pieces necessary to start these combos were released in 2019. But after receiving new support with the release of Legendary Duelists: Sisters of the Rose, we soon became acutely aware of Lunalight Kaleido Chick and Lunalight Tiger.
The combo reliably begins with Kaleidochick sending Lunalight Yellow Marten to the Graveyard, to be revived by the pendulum effect of Tiger, but from here there are a vast number of routes to take. Any way to get Yellow Marten back in grave allows its effect to be used, returning Tiger to hand and summoning itself back to the field. Critically, there is no "hard" once-per-turn limitation on the pendulum effect of Lunalight Tiger. Each time it can be replayed allows an additional use of its powerful reborn effect.
The two level 4s can be used as link materials to begin an Orcust combo though Knightmare Mermaid, or overlaid to Xyz summon a rank 4. Raidraptor - Force Strix offered access to Blackwing - Zephyros the Elite who, just like Yellow Marten, allows for an additional reuse of Tiger's effect. If the Lunalight player has further surplus Xyz material, then their opening moves could even be prefaced by summoning Outer Entity Nyarla and Outer Entity Azathoth to prevent the use of almost all hand traps.
The Lunalight engine's key strength was that it offered both raw resource generation and the powerful toolbox options available at rank 4. Turn one boards featured the likes of Abyss Dweller and Orcust Crescendo, and alternatively options like Gagaga Cowboy and Number 39: Utopia Double gave the deck unprecedented flexibility both in end match procedure, and when playing second into formidable boards.
What Comes Next?
As you might have noticed, the strength of these two-card combos has grown ever higher year after year. It's not just the power level that has been rising either. Modern decks boast a wealth of search-from-deck effects to increase the probability of hitting the combo jackpot. In recent years we have also seen significant advances in what can be used to start a two-card combo. Very few openings are now known by the names of just two cards, often because they can begin from such a wide range of starter cards. During some of the highest power formats remarkable boards can be created even from just a single card — such as Terrortop in either Zoodiac and Gouki.
With each new set release it's just a matter of time until we see the next two-part team making waves in the metagame. We can expect it to be even stronger than those that came before it. Thank you for reading, and please comment down below what your all-time favorite two-card combo is.
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