In Season 2 of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, we’re introduced to Obelisk The Tormentor, one of three Egyptian God Cards. These three cards are the most powerful creatures in all of Duel Monsters, even stronger than the fabled Exodia. Merely creating them nearly killed Maximillion Pegasus. There’s an entire international crime syndicate that exists solely to steal them. Even if you summon one, if you aren’t one of the chosen few deemed worthy to wield such power the monster will ignore your commands. Summoning one will do this:
to your very fancy computer system. In short, these cards were bad-ass, and every kid watching at home couldn’t wait to get their hands on one.
Unfortunately, waiting was exactly what they’d have to do. Obelisk first appeared in the US dub on November 30th 2002. He wouldn’t get an English card until a little over 2 years later. But, tell me if you can spot a problem with this version:
As the helpful text in the bottom left corner explains, you aren’t allowed to use this version in a duel! True to flavor perhaps, but it couldn’t help but feel like a rip-off to many kids. An entire generation that grew up on Yu-Gi-Oh had to make do without any real version of this iconic monster. We wouldn’t get a real, tournament legal, lists-the-effects-on-the-card version until 2010!
Sadly, even once that day came there were problems. This is the effect text on the real version of Obelisk:
Requires 3 Tributes to Normal Summon (cannot be Normal Set). This card’s Normal Summon cannot be negated. When Normal Summoned, cards and effects cannot be activated. Cannot be targeted by Spells, Traps, or card effects. Once per turn, during the End Phase, if this card was Special Summoned: Send it to the Graveyard. You can Tribute 2 monsters; destroy all monsters your opponent controls. This card cannot declare an attack the turn this effect is activated.
If you don’t play Yu-Gi-Oh you might not have understood any of that, but I’d like to draw your attention to the first sentence. Same as in the show, Obelisk required 3 tributes to summon. Unfortunately, under normal circumstances you can only summon one monster per turn. While setting up the tributes needed for Obelisk was a breeze in a show with choreographed duels, in a real environment your opponent was likely to use a spell or trap card to destroy your monsters long before you could sacrifice them all for Obelisk. And even if you did manage to summon him, you went minus 3 by doing so. If your opponent ever destroyed Obelisk (say, by using the ubiquitous spell “Dark Hole”, which destroys all monsters) you would surely perish.
Ordinarily this would be the end of our story. Lots of anime all-stars arrived in the real game with a wet thud; Obelisk is hardly special in that regard. But in the summer of 2013 something incredible happened. That summer saw the arrival of the Dragon Rulers deck, one of the most powerful competitive decks in the history of the game. Dragon Rulers were absurd; they could all be special summoned using a built-in effect, bypassing the once-per-turn normal summon. That same effect let them be summoned from the graveyard, meaning destroying them didn’t even do anything. Using something called an xyz summon1 they could create Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack, a powerful creature that can target and destroy any card on the field. The metagame quickly adjusted to this powerful new deck, removing reactive spells and traps geared around destroying monsters that had quickly become worthless. In short, the game became a lot more powerful.
Powerful enough for a god. Those once ubiquitous mass destruction spells were Obelisk’s prime predator. Dracossack might be able to destroy anything it can target, but Obelisk reads, in part, “Cannot be targeted by Spells, Traps, or card effects.” The card disadvantage inherent in tributing 3 monsters doesn’t matter if you can just summon those monsters right back from the graveyard. Dragon Ruler decks, so powerful that they invalidated all previous competitive decks, were uniquely vulnerable to every 10-year-old’s favorite card. They had literally no response to our boy Obelisk except to ponder how life had gone so wrong that they were losing to such a silly card. Dozens of players won invites to that year’s national championship by summoning Obelisk, hopefully yelling in their best shonen voice “Obelisk! Use Fist of Fate!” while doing so.
Sadly, Obelisk was here for a good time, not a long time. Dragon Ruler decks adapted by adding synchro2 monster Black Rose Dragon. When Black Rose enters play she destroys all monsters, bypassing Obelisk’s protections. This development quickly sent Obelisk back to the trade binders from whence he came. But, for one glorious weekend, it was possible to live every child of the 2000s’ dream and become a Duel Monsters champion off the back of an Egyptian God Card.