Critter Format: A Blast from the Past


The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG has been going strong for many years. Naturally, the game has evolved a lot since it first hit the shelves. It's always fun and interesting to look back at older formats — and to play them with friends! Today, we'll be looking at Critter format, which is one of the first formats the game ever knew.


In this article we'll be looking at some "standard" choices for the format. One of the things I always found appealing about the format is that Metal Raiders introduced some pretty nifty tech cards and I could probably write many more paragraphs about those, but let us keep this introduction to the format short and sweet.

Exactly How Old?

Critter format is the format between the release of Metal Raiders in June 2002 and Spell Ruler (or should we say Magic Ruler?) in September 2002. Between those two releases, there also was Tournament Pack 1, which included Mechanicalchaser, which is usually ommited from the format. There is some debate as well about whether the Dark Duel Stories videogame promos should be legal or not, but they are often disregarded too.

So What Is a Critter?

The name of the format comes from the Japanese name of Sangan. This guy and Witch of the Black Forest were stars of the show, because they introduced the searching "mechanic." In the format prior to this one, commonly named the Yugi-Kaiba format or simply LOB format, players barely had any access to their Decks. The only way to do so was Last Will, which was borderline unplayable due to its old rulings.

Which Monsters Saw Play?

Another shift from Yugi-Kaiba format concerned the role of monsters. Prior to Metal Raiders, most of the monsters were just big beaters, and after maxing out on {c=La Jinn, the Mystical Genie of the Lamp} players had to resort to 1700 ATK beaters like Neo the Magic Swordsman and Battle Ox. There were only a few Effect Monsters in the game, with the most powerful ones being Wall of Illusion, Man-Eater Bug, and the occasional Trap Master.

la jinn the mystical genie
If yours is blue, that's a shiny genie

While the Effect Monsters stuck around, the 1700 ATK beatsticks were cut from Critter Format Decks to accommodate the new, powerful Effect Monsters from Metal Raiders. Not only Critter and Witch changed how resources could be managed, but Magician of Faith and Mask of Darkness allowed players to add back Spells and Traps from the Graveyards.

Players who did want to go for the big numbers had ways to do so through Muka Muka, Dark Elf and Jirai Gumo. But these cards all had some sort of restriction that made them more risky to play. Of course, bigger number are always an option. Summoned Skull is a pretty iconic card for the year 2002, and Barrel Dragon is one of the best high-level monsters available.

White Magical Hat and Masked Sorcerer were niche cards, but did allow for further manipulation of card advantage. Even if the opponent countered these cards, that meant they had lost some card advantage in doing so.

magical hat masked sorcerer
Hand Control would become an amazing decktype a few months later

What Spells and Traps Saw Play?

On the first Limited List, all the amazing Spells were already limited. Pot of Greed, Dark Hole, Raigeki, Change of Heart, and Monster Reborn were all sitting at only 1 copy, and Metal Raiders' new powerhouse Heavy Storm could only be played at two copies. Other Spells in the format include teched copies of Fissure, Swords of Revealing Light, or even a cheeky Soul Exchange.

Prior to Metal Raiders, the Trap line-up usually consisted of Reinforcements, Trap Hole, and Waboku. Reinforcements lost some of its impact due to battle no longer being the chief form of removal, and the low-ATK monsters not being able to compete with the bigger ones, even with a 500 boost. Some new powerful Traps were added to the arsenal such as Mirror Force (limited to one copy per Deck), Robbin' Goblin, and Solemn Judgment. Early decklists and tournament reports barely ever mention Solemn Judgment, the most powerful card of the new Counter Trap game mechanic. But that might as well be because it was an Ultra Rare, or people just failed to realize how useful this card actually is.

solemn judgment
God says no. We'll never get sick of that joke

What Is Playing Critter Format Like?

Critter format games will almost always start with a slow war of attrition, which can even last the entire game. Every turn, the turn player will have to make the choice of which monster they'll want to put on board, which creates little decision trees. Will you set Man-Eater Bug or Sangan on the first turn? Setting Man-Eater Bug will let you clear a monster, but setting Sangan opens up your decision tree even wider.

An important element is that Life Points are a resource, and should be taken into account when calculating card advantage. Protecting yourself from 3000+ points of damage with Mirror Force can seem like a great choice, but why not preserve your Mirror Force for later in the game? Using Trap Hole on La Jinn is often a great trade-off, but what if you know your opponent is playing Tribute Monsters? You could take the 1800 points of damage hoping to get more out of your Trap Hole.

The late game sometimes gets very messy, as both players have probably taken quite some damage and have built up their backrow, with potential Solemn Judgments easgerly awaiting for their turn in a Heavy Storm-related battle.

Heavy Storm
Even today Heavy Storm remains highly controversial

What Is Playing Critter Format Worth?

Personally, I think prehistoric, simple Yu-Gi-Oh! is always great fun. The format is perfect for playing in between rounds of a local, when you're getting food with your friends and not don't want to play current format, or while waiting for your flight for your next YCS trip. The format is also pretty good for teaching new players the bare basics of the game, whereas Goat Control or Speed Duel might be a bit more complex.

In terms of financial value, the format is dirt cheap. Barely any cards are worth more than a quarter of an euro, with notable exceptions being Raigeki and Solemn Judgment. I ran the following sample decklist through the Cardmarket Shopping Wizard. I set the language to English and the card condition to at least Light Played or better.

wizard result 1

wizard result 2

The result? Ordering this Deck costs less than €20, and you can get two two identical copies for less than €30, both times including shipping. Of course, many of the cards are going to be low rarity. If you're into that sort of thing, you can have a lot of fun building a max rarity version of the format, or even a historically accurate one.


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AleksVin96(2020-06-21 16:12)

Will you guys also write about 03 Hand Control and 04 Full Power Chaos Format (both with Yata)?

Keita2014(2020-06-19 17:39)

I really love these historic format articles.

RyanAtlus(2020-06-20 10:51)

My shedule for the next few weeks is pretty packed so I won't be writing any articles soon, but feel free to suggest formats. ;)

Keita2014(2020-06-22 13:45)

RyanAtlus. I am really interested in March 2010 Edison format. Many players told me that it is one of the most fun formats in the game's history. Sadly, I haven't a deep knowledge of the format, so an article would be very helpful. Also, thanks for the articles you have written up to now. They are amazing.

RyanAtlus(2020-06-22 21:51)

Edison was definitely great, it was actually already scheduled in! (spoilers!)

Rosashop(2020-06-18 09:52)

Old good memories here !
I started to play since the 2 starters and LOB

Osmium-76(2020-06-18 09:01)

Next time I am going to activate Solemn Jugement I defently will say "God says no". It's ridicoules! ;D

Venonat(2020-06-18 03:08)

I just saw now who the author is. I linked your own group :P
But it's a good one!

Venonat(2020-06-18 01:25)

I love this format! Just started this year. We also have a group with tournaments:
Https://www. Facebook. Com/groups/1058980394474990/

Personally I'm a fan of Soul Control variants.

Also, just to confirm, the DDS promos weren't legal until after PSV:
Www. Youtube. Com/watch? V=4NfNM_YyRzE

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