Maya is an excellent strategist. That is fair to say, at least from Maya’s biased point of view. She could make a convincing argument with her dueling record from the past three books. Regardless, she is no stranger to making careful plans. But improvising a scheme in the proverbial heat of battle? And pulling it through? Now that is a test of skill. So Maya comes up with a bold idea at this very moment, brilliant or stupid, that profoundly changes the future course of events.
Maya challenges Pandora to a duel. “If you win, you can have me and Sofia together, some nice double booty.” – The Ghouls laugh at her immature joke. – “But if I win, you give Sofia back and surrender leadership of the Ghouls to me.”
Pandora, angry at losing his captive despite winning the last game, is too eager for compensation. “I accept. I need more than compensatory damages.” He orders Clarence to turn off the buzzsaws and unshackle him, but not poor Sofia, letting his ankles breath again. He silently speaks to his heart, “I’m getting too old for this. Maybe I should hang my oversized hat.”
Maya: 8000 | Pandora: 8000
MAYA’S TURN: “You know the etiquette; for there is honor even among thieves. Challenger goes first.” Maya this begins. “I Normal Summon Inspector Boarder (ATK 2000) and Set a card.” Her futuristic surfboarding policeman appears with a facedown card behind him for protection.
PANDORA’S TURN: “Running antimeta tech as usual, Maya? We Ghouls play outside the metagame.”
Maya disagrees. “No. You are the metagame.”
“I doubt that.” Pandora counters. “I activate Graceful Charity (Spell). I draw three cards and discard two. Next, Dark Magic Veil (Spell). I pay 1000 Life to Special Summon Dark Magician (ATK 2500) from my Graveyard!” The iconic sorcerer appears in the sinister red and brown version. I Set four cards and activate Card of Sanctity (Spell)!”
Maya springs her Continuous Trap. “I activate Final Attack Orders. Congratulations, you played yourself.”
Pandora has no idea what Maya is talking about, so she explains everything. “My version of Final Attack Orders is a very old edition before it got nerfed. We keep only three cards from our Deck but mill everything else. Your Card of Sanctity is also old edition. You must draw six cards but have only three cards in your Deck, so you Deck Out. You lose.”
Sofia stares dumbfoundead like Neo from the Matrix does in that one meme. “Woah.”
Maya: 8000 | Pandora: DECK OUT
“Unbelievable!” Pandora cries, falling to his knees. “How could you use such broken cards! That’s cheap!”
“I’m not screwing around but playing to win. You made me do this by chaining up Sofia for your cheap theatrics.” Maya says. “I think it’s time you hung your oversized hat. You’ll be happier under my leadership. I promise.”
Pandora casts his hat to her, sighing in relief. His servants, the Ghouls, violently reject the change in authority. They demand for a champion among them to rise and kill the usurper. Hassan and his militia try beating the Ghouls into submission, but the more tightly his forces squeeze around them the more rebellious they become.
A Ghoul jumps onto the stage, challenging Maya to a duel, which Maya happily accepts.
Maya: 8000 | Ghoul: 8000
GHOUL’S TURN: “I activate Pot of Greed (Spell)!” He announces, his voice deepened by a mic in his fearful mask. “Let me carefully explain what the effect of this card. IT can be activated only during your Main Phase. The player who activated this card must take the card from the top of their Deck and add it to their hand, and then immediately take the card from the top of their Deck and add it to their hand again. Then, I must place this card in the Graveyard.”
“Will you do this for every card you play?” Maya asks, clearly vexed.
The Ghoul gives a tentative cheeky answer. “Maybe?”
“Hassan, kill him.”
The Ghoul panics, fearing Hassan would blindly obey Maya because that is what he would do if Pandora told him to do something. “Okay! Okay! I’ll stop! Geez! By the ghosts of all the characters killed by George R.R. Martin, this mask is stifling!” He takes it off, revealing a pale face with blond hair on top. “I’m Adam. Nice to meet you.”
“I hope you don’t ruin this duel.” Maya warns him.
“I’m already ruining it, for you at least. Anyway,” He continues, his true voice a high-pitched nasal squeak. “I Normal Summon Babablazar (ATK 600), and use its effect to Special Summon Salamangreat Gazelle (ATK 1500) from my hand, and then I use its effect to mill a ‘Salamangreat’ card.” A fireball spirit and a fiery gazelle light the field with their presence. They seem to be made of blazing metal as if an alchemist forged them a minute ago.
Pandora had his migraines during the last duel. Now it is Maya’s turn to suffer. “By the Egytpian gods, you’re running a meta deck.” Maya sighs. “You’re already ruining this duel.”
Adam ignores her. “I network Babablazar and Gazelle to Link Summon Salamangreat Sunlight Wolf (ATK 1800)!” A blazing werewolf forged by alchemy jumps from the link network. “Now I discard Salamangreat Spinny from my hand to power up my Wolf’s ATK from 1800 to 2300. This triggers the effect of my second Salamangreat Gazelle, so I Special Summon it from my hand (ATK 1500)! And that triggers its effect, so I mill Salamangreat Falco. Then, I use its effect to Set the card I milled earlier. Finally, I activate Spinny in my Graveyard to Special Summon it.”
The product of this complex chain reaction is a small field presence, an armadillo and another gazelle. Maya looks at her wrist impatiently. “I don’t have a watch but I’m still looking at it.” She comments.
“You must be old!” Adam gawks as if he never saw a watch before. “What are you, a millennial? In this century, people check the time with iPhones.”
“You said something about how no girl ever dated you? I wasn’t listening.”
“Original.” Adam snorts before continuing. “I overlay Spinny and Gazelle to Xyz Summon Salamangreat Miragestallio (ATK 1800)!” A stallion made of blazing iron gallops through the overlay network into this dimension. “I detach an Xyz Material to use its Effect. I Special Summon Salamangreat Foxy (1200 DEF)! Then, I Set a card.” He ends his turn with another monster, this time a fox, and an extra backrow card.
MAYA’S TURN: Maya studies the situation. Adam made a pretty standard play regarding the Salamangreat archetype. He set up a decent field and his backrow card was most likely… of course. Maya begins, “I activate -”
“Oh, one more thing!” Adam points out. “The rules changed a bit a week ago. You can Extra Summon monsters of each card type – like Fusion, Ritual, and so on – once per turn. You can fill the field with a diverse army of Extra Deck monsters like before, but you can’t spam with Link Monsters anymore.”
“I guarantee people have found a way around it, but thanks for the tip.” Maya says, conceding gratitude. She already knows about the rule change but Adam’s thoughtful gesture is what counts.
“No problem! You’re gonna’ need it!” Adam beams, chipper as a puppy.
“I activate Soul Exchange (Spell)!”
“And I negate with Salamangreat Roar (Trap)!” Adam counters. His Sunlight Wolf vomits fire at Maya’s card, negating its effect and destroying it.
Maya shrugs it off. “No problem. Time for plan B. I Normal Summon Seven-Armed Fiend (ATK 650), and mill a Fiend from my Deck to use its Effect.” A hairy beastly devil emerges, a creature with six arms, and its head is even shaped like a hand. The monster decreases its ATK to zero and Special Summons two sentient forearms, the “Arm Fiend Tokens” (ATK 0). “I network Seven-Armed Fiend and its tokens to Link Summon Diabolus Ex Machina (ATK 0)!” The fiends dissolve and reconfigure into abstract sphere of black metal shards.
“Now for the wallop. I activate Underworld Circle (Continuous Spell)!” A barrier spins into place around the duelists and shrouding the field with a dark aura. All monsters on the field vanish in ghostly smoke, sent to the Graveyard, while monsters in both player’s Decks are banished. Diabolus Ex Machina, however, reconfigures. Maya pays the small price of banishing ten cards from her Deck facedown.
“Deus Ex Machina, attack directly!” Maya commands. “The black metal shards reveal themselves to be a swarm of tiny machines. They come together, creating a mosaic of the Devil’s face, for they are Legion. The face vomits fire and brimstone in the form of countless little machines, revealing its true power, its ATK skyrocketing to 9200!
Adam is done for – but he has a card ready. “I activate Extra Blowback (Trap)!” He sends five monsters from his Extra Deck to the Graveyard. Their spirits turn into parts of a mirror and, combined together, they reflect the attack back on the attacking fiend. The creature reels back and vanishes but is not destroyed. Maya returns it to the Extra Deck, disappointed but unfazed.
“So I’ll have to kill you the boring way. Time for plan C.” She says. “I set two cards facedown.”
As she ends her turn, three witches appear through a haze of green smoke: one an old hag in red, the other a large plump doyenne in yellow, and a seductive colleen in violet. Maya explains, “I can Special Summon these banished monsters in my End Phase: Red Hecate (1500 ATK), Yellow Hecate (ATK 1500), and Violet Hecate (ATK 1500), but I can’t draw next turn.”
“Do you have a plan D, E, F, all the way to Z?” Adam asks.
“No. What you see is what you get.” Maya assures him, but Adam does not believe her.