Released as a TCG exclusive alongside Spyrals, Subterrors are an interesting mix of monsters and monster hunters that make up the archetype.
Subterrors in terms of mechanics have two different focuses: the hunters have effects that summon the Behemoths to the field (mostly) and the Behemoths themselves have multiple effects that revolve around the flip mechanic. That’s right – FLIP effects. We’re going old school on this one.
So to understand the flow of the Subterrors, I want to go in a funny order of Support – Nemesis – Behemoth. I feel for this archetype that this provides the most context to the design and direction of its gameplay.
So Hidden City will search upon activation for any Subterror monster (whether that’s Nemesis or Behemoth) and adds to hand.
Hidden City also gives you a face up flip, which is once per turn, but does allow you to go into your Subterror Behemoth effects (more on those later).
It also has an interesting once per turn “Negate Attack” effect. You target an attacking monster your opponent controls, Flip a Subterror face-up, and negate the attack. It’s a defensive maneuver that allows you to spring your effects likes traps. All in all, Hidden City is a 3-of staple and does give you a glimpse at how the deck works. It’s a control based beatdown that uses card effects to flip and set to trigger your effects.
Now Cave Clash is an interesting one, a continuous spell that boosts your Subterrors by 500/500 for every set monster on the field (either side, any monster) and again, the boost is PER monster. So mix this with quaking mirror force and your monsters can end up getting pretty big. Also once per turn, when a Subterror does battle damage you can add a Subterror card from your grave to the hand except this card. Honestly this card doesn’t get a lot of love or see a great deal of play but I like what it does. Boosting is always good and given that cards being set is kinda the point here – this isn’t a janky extra effort or crazy out of place mechanic. It does fit in, the idea is that by flipping your monsters up and down you end up with one or two monsters with crazy high stats. And this includes Nemesis monsters since the card only stipulates that it’s for “Subterror” monsters. Once you start dealing damage – then you can start recycling and abusing effects.
Our first trap is Subterror Behemoth Burrowing and what it does is you banish a Subterror card from your grave to prevent Subterrors that are face down from being targeted or destroyed by card effects for the duration of the turn. If this card is destroyed, you get to add a Subterror card from your deck to your hand (card, not monster specifically). And finally you can banish this card from the grave to flip a face-up Subterror face-down.
Not a bad trap, pretty good. The protection can be useful, the surprise search is good and not restricted to who blows it up so you can pop it yourself in a pinch. Then flip support would’ve been better if it was reversed. Down to up to trigger effects is much better, but it’s what we got. If nothing else it allows you to reset your flip on the opponent’s turn to prep for your next turn.
The next trap is a doozy! Final Battle is easily a great support card. It takes care of a lot, the only problem is that it’s limited in its use. Fascinatingly this card resets after use – so awesome, also it corrects one of the biggest issues: fliping face-up. You might say that Hidden City does that as well, but sometimes your opponent might not want to attack into an enormous Subterror Behemoth just so you can get your effect – most players would just bypass (because who would knowingly attack into a set Flip monster?). This allows you to activate a flip at will. Flipping face down is there but unnecessary. The stat boost is neat though: you pick a Subterror monster and its ATK/DEF become equal to the total of both stats. So something like Subterror Nemesis Warrior goes from 1800/1200 to 3000/3000 because 1800 + 1200 = 3000 and then that value is applied to both stats. The final effect prevents Subterror effects from being negated.
So all in all there’s a full spread of coverage. Searching, stat manipulation, protection, and flips (both up and down). There isn’t much in the way of destruction or removal though. But really the most important part is facilitating the deck’s engine – which it does.
So our first hero is Subterror Nemesis Warrior, a lv. 4 earth warrior with 1800/1200 stats. He functions almost like a ritual for Subterrors. See, during either turn if you have this and another Subterror monster on the field: you can send a Subterror from your deck to the grave and you can then tribute Nemesis Warrior and another monster whose total levels match or exceed the level of a Subterror monster in your grave – summon that monster to the field. So you see what I mean? Kinda like a ritual. The summoned monster is placed in defense mode (face up or down, player’s choice). His final effect lines up better with the lore, if Nemesis Warrior is in the grave and a Subterror Behemoth is flipped face up, you can special summon Nemesis Warrior from the grave. In a sense it’s like when the monster reveals itself, Warrior will arrive on the scene to hunt it down. Cool effect, helps recycle Warrior and utilize him better to get through your Behemoths. Solid card.
Archer is a whole nother kettle of fish. If she attacks while you have another Subterror live on the field you can spin the monster you’re attacking back into the deck. This is great spot removal for problematic monsters or waste extra deck monsters your opponent has gone to the trouble of summoning. Her second effect is even more straightforward: if she’s destroyed by battle you can summon a Subterror monster from your deck. In a pinch, set her or (God help us) crash her into something to get a Behemoth on the field. It summons in defense mode, so be aware of that.
Easily the least popular Subterror Nemesis monster, Defender is a good theory but his execution is somewhat lacking. Essentially, he’s a re-targeting hand trap. When your opponent attacks or targets a set monster with a card effect, you can toss this from your hand to grave to select a different “appropriate” target. So he doesn’t negate, he doesn’t prevent destruction, he re-targets. If you have Archer on the field with say Voltelluric or Umastryx, yes you could throw attacks at the bigger bodies. But the problem is that as a hand trap, he’s only good for one use – unless Cave Clash is live and you’re dealing damage every turn to keep adding him back to your hand. Unreasonable. His next effect is that while you control a set monster, this card can’t be destroyed by battle or card effects. Why? What purpose does he serve? He has no interaction with the other Nemesis monsters and utilizing him with the Behemoths is convoluted at best. Regrettable because he could have been so much more. Bypass.
Oh Konami is about to make some money. Subterror Fiendess will make things happen for your Subterror deck. During either turn, when your opponent activates a card or effect – send this card from field or hand, target a Subterror monster, negate the activation and flip the Subterror monster into face-down defense position. Why is this on Fiendess?! This would’ve been fine and thematically logical for Defender to do this. Her next effect causes her to flip one of your face-up monsters face-down and then special summon a Subterror monster from your hand or grave in defense position (face-up or face-down, your call). So this is Konami literally saying “Defender was a mistake, play this instead”. I don’t typically mind if Konami makes a bad call but his name is Defender!! This girl is a Fiendess, give her some evil “fiendy” effect like banish or destruction or something! Fact is she’s fantastic for the deck and running her at less than three means you should quit Yu-Gi-Oh! and go play something else. Your Nana loves backgammon, go visit her because Yu-Gi-Oh! won’t miss you!! But silliness aside, she’s a powerful if not overdue addition to the deck.
So these are your supporting cast, some clearly more useful than others. The point of the Nemesis monsters is primarily to field the Subterror Behemoths. Through various means of setting up special summons from hand, deck, or graveyard the Subterror Nemesis monsters are not in themselves a win condition but a component in the larger scheme. And now onto the Subterror Behemoths!
The Subterror Behemoths are the heavy hitters of the deck. They have different levels and various effects. They do all have two effects that are shared between all Subterror Behemoth monsters:
1. If a face-up monster you control is flipped face-down and you control no face-up monsters: special summon this monster from your hand in defense position.
2. Once per turn you can flip this monster into face-down defense position.
And there’s where field presence and the deck’s gimmick all comes together. Use a Nemesis to field a Behemoth, then by incorporating the effects of your spells, traps, and monsters you flip your Subterror Behemoth face-down and you can then special summon another Subterror Behemoth from your hand. Rinse and repeat until you run out of monsters. And work in the Behemoths’ cheeky effects to (sub)terrorize (Eh? Get it?!) your opponent. So let’s see what we have to work with.
Stalagmo is your cover card, the face of the archetype, while not necessarily the “boss” monster, he is the most recognizable. A Lv. 10 earth, rock monster with 2800/2100 stats. Stalagmo is one way you generate hand advantage. Stalagmo allows you to discard a Subterror monster from your hand and draw two cards. But when Nemesis Warrior and Fiendess can summon from grave that “cost” becomes far less expensive. He’s a huge body that adds cards to your hand. Done.
Umastryx is probably one of my favorite Subterror Behemoth monsters. Why? Target and banish. That’s why. While you can’t completely abuse it because its limited both to once per turn and to monsters only – there is enough in this deck to flip this up and down on both turns every turn. Your opponent won’t have a deck left to play with when Umastryx shenanigans are going off. Also the 2700 defense makes him a solid wall between banishings. His Lv. 7 also makes things easy for Nemesis Warrior to get this guy to the field.
Stygokraken is a funny monster. Presuming that you have a full board of Subterror Behemoths and then either trip Ultramafus on the end phase of your opponent’s turn or bust out Swords of Consealing Light you could potentially have a flip effect Raigeki on your hands. The problem is how situational it is. I mentioned Ultramafus and Consealing because it only targets set monsters. It’s 2600 DEF is decent and lv. 5 makes him the easiest target for Nemesis Warrior. Also, my beef isn’t that you’ll never resolve his destruction effect – it’s that you’ll only see it’s full destructive power maybe once or twice unless you’re specifically playing for it. Mass destruction is fantastic and I believe that of all these enormous monsters one of them should have it. It’s just a little too awkward to really employ.
Subterror Behemoth Ultramafus is your themed Book of Eclipse (without the massive plus for your opponent). Ultramafus is tied for the highest natural ATK of any Behemoth monster. One should note that he flips everything face-down, not just the opponent’s monsters. So it’s not a bad tactical play to snap him via a Final Battle late into opponent’s turn to disrupt their field and reset your Behemoths for next turn. His 1800 DEF is light so it’s important that you don’t put him out there without a plan. His ludicrous lv means if you’re using Nemesis Warrior it’s gonna cost you another big Behemoth. So you may want to go a different route to field this card. But for the extra planning involved, this is a powerful disruption and one of few ways to try and get the most out of Stygokraken.
Ha! The Zombie Behemoth has an effect that prevents your opponent’s card effects from killing your Subterrors. That’s fitting. The 2400 ATK means that flipping him up on your turn gives you a measure of safety during the battle phase where you’ll inevitably be attacking with this card. His lv. 6 is easy to negotiate as well. Altogether a good card, well done. Also, looking at the artwork: Nemesis Defender is a dead man, his 2000 DEF isn’t stopping Dragossuary anytime soon and he looks to be alone, so no way to proc his effect. Lore-building!
So Speleogeist is the other half of the tie for top attacker. Boasting a 3000 ATK he is unfortunately edged out in the DEF stat by 400 points. This may seem arbitrary, but remember that Subterror Final Battle’s 3rd effect totals ATK and DEF so he gets just a little less out of it than Ultramafus does. Now, Speleogeist is a fiend type monster and his flip effect is target a face-down monster, flip it into face-up attack position and reduce it’s attack to 0. It’s limited to once per turn but here’s the thing, let’s say that you:
– get an opponent’s monster flipped face-down (by book of moon/eclipse, Ultramafus, whatever)
– so you flip summon Speleogeist, effect flips their monster and it’s left at 0
– you activate Subterror Final Battle – combine your stats, now Speleogeist is at 4400
That’s a bad hit, I don’t care who you are, that is unpleasant. Also, in a pinch you can use Speleogeist to flip your own monsters to trigger their effects. It may seem dangerous zero-ing your own monsters, but you can use their effects to flip themselves back down again (resetting their stats) or you could use them as fodder for Nemesis Warrior’s special summon ability.
Next up is Subterror Behemoth Phospheroglacier (Faws-Fer-o-Glay-See-R). Yes I spelled it phonetically because I have heard so many people absolutely butchering a very simple name. It’s “phosphorous” and “glacier”, c’mon people – we can do this!
Getting to the actual monster now, Phospheroglacier is a lv. 8 Aqua with 2600/2500 stats. This actually seats him in top spot amongst the other Subterror Behemoth monsters boosted by the effects of Subterror Final Battle with a whopping 5100/5100.
Now Phospheroglacier has a handy flip effect as well which you may or may not be familiar with. Lavalval Chain. Freaking awesome! Send one card from your deck to the graveyard. It doesn’t specify what type of card or even restrict it to Subterrors. Just one card. Clearly like all Subterror Behemoth monsters it’s held to once per turn, but even then, this is a powerful tool. Use this to dump Subterror Behemoth Burrowing to prep a reset, drop Nemesis Warrior for a special summon, or any Behemoth to queue up Fiendess. Great card, two thumbs up!
So finally we find ourselves at Voltelluric and he’s a bit of an odd one. A thunder type with 1900/3000 stats and an unexpected effect. When Voltelluric is flipped face-up Voltelluric will target a set monster on your opponent’s side of the field and take control of it until your next end phase. This can be useful situationally – use book of moon on their turn, flip Voltelluric up, swipe some beastie, then it’s your for the rest of their turn and until the End Phase of your turn.
Then use it for Nemesis Warrior or flip him up with an effect to put it to work for you in the battle phase or if it has effects of its own.
Voltelluric is definitely disruptive but again oddly specific. I want to love him for his monster steal but it just feel awkward. You have to use a resource to flip their monster and then flip yours to make the steal – provided you don’t have more pressing things to do.
Subterrors are a very unique archetype and is definitely something different if you’re looking for a new deck to try out. It typically has it’s share of problems as do most gimmick decks. Let’s be honest with each other: it’s a gimmick deck. You can brick pretty bad, Fiendess was a big upgrade, but the deck isn’t flawless. But it’s not bad – it’s certainly not Arcana Force. And it has it’s weaknesses – have you ever heard of “Light of Intervention”? It’s a really old continuous trap that basically prevents you from setting cards or flipping them face down. It will literally cripple the entire deck. But that said it’s a fun deck, a very different deck, and it’s got a lot of character in the cards. Most of the Subterror Behemoth monsters have the Nemesis in their artwork. And you could likely tell a story if you lined them up. The flip mechanic while dated seems so fitting for these hollow earth inspired gargantuan beasts. It’s like they’re “buried” until you unearth one and then the fight begins.
I also love the artwork. The dank, dreary backdrops give you the sense of traversing vast subterranean labyrinths, cautiously hunting these monsters that could very well erupt out of the floor, ceiling, or walls of the caves at any moment. The stark difference between Nemesis and Behemoth monsters both in stats and mechanics makes a lot of sense. I also appreciate that despite a wide variety of monster types everything is earth attribute. It reinforces the theme and concept behind the archetype. Even if it isn’t tier 0, I feel it is a very satisfying archetype in terms of atmosphere and design. Even if you don’t enjoy the gameplay, as a series, I believe there’s something for everyone.