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When it debuted in the Savage Strike booster set, the Time Thief archetype represented a spark of new potential for Xyz dueling, but it lacked the support to function at even a casual level. However, the new support coming out in the OCG’s Ignition Assault and Extra Pack 2019 rectifies many of the deck’s problems and allows it to perform much better. Should that support come to Western markets as well, Time Thief would enrich the TCG with a new fun deck, appealing to the slower pace and interactivity of past eras of Yugioh.
The central strategy of Time Thief is to disrupt the opponent’s plays with negation, quick-effect removal, and (their signature ability) stealing cards from the deck, graveyard, and field. A Time Thief user employs his or her effects carefully and waits until the opponent is vulnerable enough to attack, at which point the deck is capable of exploiting even a momentary chink in defenses by putting many monsters on the board or ending the duel with a single attack.
The first three Main Deck Time Thief monsters released each serve essential functions in the deck. Time Thief Winder grabs key cards and extends plays, Time Thief Bezel Ship provides graveyard disruption and more extending, and Time Thief Regulator is a powerful opener (though its revival effect is only marginally useful).
Time Thief Recorder is an interesting new addition to the deck. It can revive itself when your Xyz monster leaves the field, whether by battle or removal by card effect. You’ll usually find yourself triggering Recorder off of Redoer and provide an extender or a little extra defense.
The new Time Thief Start-Up is a mixed bag: it’s only good turn one and dependent on another monster. Its graveyard effect can be powerful, but it’s situational in practice. By contrast, Time Thief Hack is almost always good when it’s played. It protects and buffs all your Xyz monsters, not just the Time Thief ones. It allows Time Thief Xyz monsters to bypass monsters altogether, dealing direct damage out of nowhere.
Time Thief Flyback used to be the best Trap in the deck, but its necessity has been reduced somewhat due to the addition of Time Thief Perpetua (more on her later). But it can still it act as a substitute in her absence, and its graveyard effect is still useful, especially when paired with Bezel Ship. The title of best Trap is now with Time Thief Retrograde, which grants the deck some much-needed potent negation.
Once nothing more than material for Azathot, Time Thief Redoer is now more comfortable than ever being the centerpiece of his own deck. His detach ability can escape effects and attacks while vacating the Extra Monster Zone. He can also draw cards or pop cards on the field depending on his materials. His Standby “theft” fuels his detach effect and can annoy the opponent by stealing key cards, especially one-ofs. One can even see the card, read the opponent’s deck, and make better informed plays before the opponent even makes a move. For example, I once pulled a Kaiju off my opponent’s deck, and immediately used Redoer’s second effect to banish itself. The opponent was playing Graydle Kaiju and had no way to summon the Kaijus that were filling their hand. By constantly disrupting the opponent and avoiding their effects, Redoer perfectly exemplifies “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.
Time Thief Perpetua is by far the best card in the second wave of Time Thief support. While intended as a support partner for Redoer, her effects are just as powerful; she’s essential to making the deck run more smoothly. Her ability to summon any Time Thief from the graveyard during the Standby phase already brings so much utility. You can bring back a Winder for more searches, return a Bezel Ship for its disruption without banishing it, or even revive a fallen Redoer. She also has her Quick Effect, which is essentially a free continuous Flyback for Redoer. Redoer is most powerful with both a monster and a trap attached to him. Flyback could only guarantee that once on the field; Bezel Ship and Flyback’s effects were one-time uses that relied on the opponent’s cards. However, Perpetua can now supply Redoer with materials all duel long.
In the past, Redoer decks often had leftover extenders, but viable targets were scarce. Tornado Dragon fell to monster-heavy decks and careful usage of Spells and Traps. Abyss Dweller could be powerful, but was too fragile and difficult to protect. For a while Rusty Bardiche opened up zones and set backrow, but then it was banned in the TCG. Perpetua fills that hole perfectly, providing consistent bonuses that make a Time Thief board more consistent and more deadly.
Aside from its own unique gimmick, a Time Thief deck allows a player to more freely use a classic Rank 4 toolbox strategy. In the Main Deck, cards like Goblindbergh, Kagetokage, and other Special Summoning Level 4s contribute to making not only a Time Thief, but other Rank 4s as well. A small Zoodiac engine used to be popular, synergizing well with Winder and Bezel Ship’s detach effects. However, it doesn’t work as well now since that combo usually ended up making Bardiche.
Old staples like Tornado Dragon and Castel the Skyblaster Musketeer are still relevant and benefit from being merely complementary to the newly-grown Time Thief engine rather than having to carry it. However, by far the best new ally for Time Thief is Number 39: Utopia Double. An opponent with a subpar board is vulnerable to a 10k beater winning the duel outright.
Time Thief isn’t meta by any means. The deck has limited resources and loses to decks that gain advantage faster, like Strikers or Draco. These decks also mess with Redoer due to their low monster count, making it harder for him to steal a monster and use it to escape. On the opposite end, since its disruption is still comparatively limited, it also loses to high-octane offensive decks like Guardragon or Orcust that can play through a single negate and pop.
In general, since Redoer banishes itself so much during the opponent’s turn, he leaves the player more vulnerable to attack. This is especially dangerous without Perpetua or other monsters. Recorder can help mitigate this, but when faced with enough attackers, a Time Thief player may be in trouble.
One card the deck has to watch out for is Super Polymerization. All the Time Thief monsters are DARK and are either Psychic or Machine-types. The opponent can use Super Poly to steal their monsters to make Starving Venom Fusion Dragon, Predaplant Tryphyovertum, or even Mudragon of the Swamp. You may be forced to end your turn and hope you can survive long enough to draw an out.
Time Thief combines a slower-paced control strategy, a bit of classic Rank 4 toolbox, and a unique flavor and central gimmick all in one package. TCG players should hope that the OCG shares its new cards, especially Perpetua. While not necessarily competitive, the deck is extremely fun to play. It’s easy to learn yet hard to master, adeptly controlling without necessarily being suffocating. One only wonders if Konami has even more in store for one of its latest new archetypes.