The ideology of a Hero is something that transcends the Yu-Gi-Oh Trading Card Game. They are a media staple, whether in movies, television, books, and many other sources of entertainment. It’s an easy archetype to fall back on. Yu-Gi-Oh is not unfamiliar to Heroes, with each of the seven animes being based on a singular main protagonist who has to save the world. Heroes are so popular that they have transcended the anime characters and have become their own full fledged archetype.
The HERO archetype is used by a few characters in the anime and manga. The biggest examples are Jaden Yuki and his Elemental HERO cards as well as Aster Phoenix and his Destiny HEROes. We’ve also seen other HERO variants like Vision HEROes, Evil HEROes, and Masked HEROes. An archetype as big as HERO seems likely to see competitive success. That’s why I’m here to go through the history of this archetype in the competitive meta and it’s evolution throughout the years.
Table of Contents
- The Elemental HERO Fusions
- The Best Masked HEROs
- HERO Beat (2011-2012)
- September 2013
- Masked HEROs (2015)
- Rainbow Neos Turbo
It took a while for Fusions to be usable in the HERO strategy. Monsters like Flame Wingman and Thunder Giant were not going to cut it. Eventually, the archetype got more generic Fusions. Each of these Fusions just needed any Elemental HERO and any monster that matched the Fusion’s Attribute. Cards of this quality were more likely to see play, so it was fitting they were the first Fusions to receive meta success.
There was also the Masked HERO cards that used Mask Change to summon. All you needed was the Quick-Play Spell and a HERO monster of the matching Attribute to summon a Masked HERO from the Extra Deck. There were various different options for Fusions between new Elemental HERO Fusions and Masked HERO Fusions.
The Elemental HERO Fusions
Elemental HERO Absolute Zero
The first in the Attribute HERO lineup is Absolute Zero. This HERO needed only an Elemental HERO and any WATER monster, making it fairly easy to summon. HEROs on their own already had a decent WATER monster with Bubbleman that was worth playing, especially as we received Xyzs, making Absolute Zero a good go-to for Miracle Fusion.
Absolute Zero gaining 500 ATK for each other WATER monster on the field was nice, but irrelevant. The best effect was when it left the field, it destroyed all of the opponent’s monsters. Basically, the monster was near impossible to out without the opponent losing their board of monsters. The effect was more lethal if you used this with Mask Change for a WATER Masked HERO I’ll get to in a bit. Absolute Zero might have been one of the best Attribute-based HERO Fusions.
Elemental HERO The Shining
The second Fusion, and the next best one, was The Shining. This one needed your standard Elemental HERO and any LIGHT monster. The typical LIGHT target used in HEROs early on was Neos Alius or sometimes Voltic.
Miracle Fusion was easily the best way to summon this, since Shining gained 300 ATK for each of your banished Elemental HERO monsters. It also replaced itself on destruction, recovering up to two of your banished Elemental HEROs. Both effects were easily setup via Miracle Fusion, making Shining a good beat-stick and recovery option once it’s destroyed.
Elemental HERO Great Tornado
The WIND Fusion is next, Great Tornado. This monster was accessible with your best Elemental HERO in the Deck: Stratos. It was limited most of the time, but you always wanted to get to it for what it offered to the archetype. Thankfully we had Reinforcement of the Army and E – Emergency Call to search for it.
For summoning your Great Tornado, all you really got was halving the ATK and DEF of all the opponent’s monsters. It made their monsters much easier to run over for some greater damage, something HEROs could do fairly well with their big Fusions. It doesn’t offer as much as Absolute Zero or The Shining after being summoned, but it hitting the board was typically worth it against an opponent’s established board of big monsters.
We now look at the Fusions you’ll more likely use Super Polymerization to summon. The FIRE Fusion for the archetype, Nova Master, was probably one of the better Fusions. You had a FIRE option in the archetype if you wanted that was decent with Heat, but it wasn’t common. It was still good to have in case you ran against anything using FIRE monsters. Dino Rabbit might be the most common opponent that had FIREs with Evolzar Laggia and Dolkka.
Nova Master had an effect as simple as Great Tornado, but something you could get value out of beyond the summoning of it. All Nova Master did was let you draw a card when it destroyed a monster in battle. It was good to gain card advantage off of, and its 2600 ATK made it easy to run over many boss monsters. At the time of HEROs being meta with Fusions, most the best monsters you saw on end boards had 2500 ATK or less. All these monsters were prime targets to destroy with Nova Master. It might have been harder to make, but it was a worthwhile addition.
The EARTH Fusion is next in the archetype, Gaia. The likely Fusion Materials you might use would be either Woodsman or Wildheart, but both were niche to use. This is another case of Super Poly being the go-to if you wanted to get this out, but EARTH is a more common Attribute, at least. This meant that it was easier to come up for summoning than Nova Master. You could also just use Maxx “C” with Miracle Fusion to summon this as well, since that was a staple hand trap for years.
Gaia’s effect sort of mirrored Great Tornado, just on a smaller scale. Gaia on Fusion Summon targeted a face-up monster the opponent controls to half its ATK and have this gain the lost ATK. It only lasted for a turn, while Great Tornado was a permanent change, probably making Great Tornado the preferred option. Gaia could still at least help run over a bigger monster. You’d want to have it as a Super Poly target, so it at least has its purpose.
The final Fusion for the archetype is the DARK-based Escuridao. This one was really only summoned with Super Poly. The issue here is that for a while, there was no DARK HERO worth running. The best was Necroshade, but it offered no value to the Deck. You didn’t want to use Level 5+ monsters in the Main Deck. I guess you got D.D. Crow or some Xyzs with Miracle Fusion, but Super Poly was the best option.
Escuridao’s effect didn’t warrant you trying to force a DARK monster when you didn’t have to. All Escuridao did was gain 100 ATK for each Elemental HERO in your graveyard. It can get decently sized with ATK, just not a powerful enough effect to try and rush to summon. At least DARK was a super common Attribute to see. It helped to have an out to Legendary Six Samurai – Shi En since it couldn’t negate Super Poly. It’s the easiest Super Poly target, just the worst effect of the six.
The Best Masked HEROs
Now there were several different Masked HERO monsters. A good chunk of these were never worth running. With that said, I’ll only go over the ones you might of saw in a HERO Deck and save the time going over the lackluster ones.
Masked HERO Divine Wind
The first Masked HERO is one you might of only seen in OCG variants. That’s due to the time of release, Stratos was banned in the TCG and there were no other good WIND alternatives. You at least had Form Change and any Level 8 Masked HERO if you wanted. Anyways, Divine Wind was one of two WIND Masked HEROs, and probably the better of the two.
Divine Wind had a couple of effects. The first prevented it from being destroyed in battle. It doesn’t seem too helpful on 2700 ATK, but at the very least it’s nice to have. It made the opponent only be allowed to attack with 1 monster a turn, making it hard for them to out your board. Divine Wind also made use of its 2700 ATK, offering a free draw for destroying a monster in battle and sending it to the grave. If it’s good on Nova Master, it’s good here with 100 more ATK. It could of seen more TCG play with Stratos legal, but it’s still fine.
Masked HERO Acid
Easily the best Masked HERO before the Structure Deck release, being played with Mask Change when there were few good targets. Acid was great as it destroyed the opponent’s Spells and Traps on summon. It also debuffed the opponent’s monster’s ATK by 300 each, but that was mostly irrelevant. If you summoned it using Mask Change on Absolute Zero, a debuff doesn’t matter if the opponent’s monsters are destroyed. It comes up if you use Mask Change on Bubbleman, but it was played due to its combo with Absolute Zero.
Masked HERO Dian
Another reason to use an EARTH HERO early on besides Gaia was Dian. Dian has a great 2800/3000 body, which made it great for its effect. Destroying any monster in battle and sending to the grave lets you summon any Level 4 or lower HERO from Deck. A great way to tutor Stratos out of the Deck for its search or backrow removal. Later HERO variants also had Shadow Mist for its Special Summon effect to search any of your Change Quick-Plays. It warranted using Mask Change and an EARTH sometimes or just using Form Change on a Level 8 HERO Fusion, the effect to summon your HEROs from Deck is very strong.
Continuing to use a LIGHT HERO in later years did give a good Mask Change payoff with Koga. Probably more common in the TCG after the Structure Deck release since you wanted more HERO names to make up for Stratos being banned. It was also still a good Form Change target. Koga gains 500 ATK for each of your opponent’s monsters, making this easy to get fairly high ATK. It also has a Quick Effect to banish a HERO from grave to debuff an opponent’s monster’s ATK by the banished HERO’s ATK, making it super easy to destroy stronger monsters. It was good for getting rid of strong monsters and getting massive damage, offering a solid niche.
DARK is why you used Mask Change in HEROs in later years, since it had two great Mask Change targets. The less common of the two was Anki. It could attack directly by doing damage equal to half its ATK. It was nice for guaranteed damage, but you would rather battle a monster. Destroying a monster in battle and sending it to the grave let you search any Change Quick-Play from Deck. Them being Quick-Plays means you could use them in the Battle Phase, getting a new monster to attack. It allowed for an easy OTK if you needed in a pinch, or at least massive damage. It wasn’t the DARK you’d always rather summon, but it warranted seeing some play.
Here’s the main event, the biggest reason to use Mask Change in HEROs over the years. Dark Law was the prime DARK target for HEROs. Its power warranted other DARK Decks using Mask Change II just to access it outside the HERO archetype, but in archetype you’re better off using Mask Change.
At the time of this being released, we also got a great target in Shadow Mist to summon this. In return, Dark Law banished any card the opponent would send to the graveyard. The one-sided Macro Cosmos is insane as graveyard reliant effects became more common. It also banished a card from the opponent’s hand if they added a card to hand via a card effect, making searching more dangerous as it got more common as well. Dark Law was the premiere Masked HERO, giving the archetype a new lease on life in the TCG after Stratos was banned.
HERO Beat (2011-2012)
A classic from this era, HERO Beat made great use of the Attribute-based Fusions and the new Xyz mechanic. Having some great Fusion options helped HEROs get a big boost into the meta. You also had the Xyz mechanic coming along to access some good Rank 4 options. The Deck had searching capabilities with Stratos, E-Call, and RotA to make it fairly consistent. You had Miracle Fusion and Super Poly for Fusion Summons. You could also use the classic combo of Neos Alius and Gemini Spark for removal and draw power. The Deck saw sparse success compared to other Decks, but it was good until 2013 with Dragon Rulers and Spellbooks.
Even if it wasn’t the best Deck really and it not competing with Dragon Rulers and Spellbooks, the Deck still took a massive hit in September 2013. This was when the OCG and TCG went by different Forbidden and Limited Lists. Even after a format where HEROs were never going to see real success due to the Tier 0 environment, Stratos was still banned. This might of been due to Konami being sick of the archetype after all these years. Still, it was unwarranted and killed HERO’s playability for years.
Masked HEROs (2015)
The HERO Strike Structure Deck gave the archetype a lease on life in the TCG once again and a boost in the OCG. Getting access to Shadow Mist and Dark Law was great for the archetype as graveyard effects were getting more reliant. Shadow Mist also gave A Hero Lives a big purpose as it summoned Shadow Mist from Deck to let it search your Mask Change cards. That and you also had cards like Goblindbergh, Summoner Monk, and Tin Goldfish to help summon your Shadow Mist. Shadow Mist also had the effect where going to grave let you search any HERO monster, helping try to replace Stratos in the TCG.
The Deck was able to top once again in a new era thanks to the archetype getting a new lease on life. The OCG also had Elemental HERO Blazeman to make the old Fusions still viable with Polymerization. Also some key differences in formats, TCG had Super Polymerization banned, but 3 RotA.
Rainbow Neos Turbo
One final Fusion variant of HEROs is the powerful Rainbow Neos Turbo. The Deck is mainly carried on the back of the power of Rainbow Neos. Rainbow Neos has a powerful effect that wipes the opponent’s graveyard, Spells and Traps, or monsters into the Deck depending on the cost you paid. It’s an insanely good card on top of a 4500/3000 body. The only negatives were that it needed an Ultimate Crystal monster and Elemental HERO Neos. The Ultimate Crystal monster could either be Rainbow Dragon or Rainbow Dark Dragon, as using Rainbow Overdragon is never worth it.
Having Neos Alius could sometimes help supplement an absence for the original Neos, but the main brick of the Rainbow Dragons still stood. Later ways to use Rainbow Neos Turbo could see you using Predaplant Verte Anaconda and Neos Fusion for your Rainbow Neos. That did see some TCG success before Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon, but it was an engine more than a HERO variant. A HERO variant focusing on Rainbow Neos Turbo did once top in the OCG in 2016, as shown above. It’s a cool little strategy I didn’t want to go without mentioning. This was also when the OCG had 1 Shadow Mist I’m sure, so that should be noted.
It was pretty cool to finally see HEROs use Fusion monsters just like the anime, even if it wasn’t the anime Fusions. I guess they at least appeared in the manga. The Attribute Fusions were a great addition to the HERO line-up, same for the Masked HEROs. The power of these cards were great at giving HEROs more success in the early to mid 2010s. Fusions were still used earlier than the HERO Beat Deck mentioned, but I’ll get to that next part. Next time we’ll see some of the more wild variants of HEROs throughout the game’s history. Some stuff you’d never expect before it happened.
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