September 2020 Forbidden and Limited List Analysis
- Thomas Rose
After an almost nonexistent Forbidden and Limited update in June which saw just three changes, and without any tier two events, updates to the official banlist will always bring out excitement. Despite affecting fewer cards than any new set would introduce, you can expect to see big changes to the metagame.
Block Dragon had a target on its back for some while. If we hadn't been stuck without events this year, I wouldn't have been surprised to see it banned even sooner. It feels like Konami was holding out to try and give Adamancipator a bit of time to wreak havoc at full power, even if only through remote duels. Block Dragon, however, cannot exclusively blame those excavating geologists for its newly forbidden status. It's really a marvel that any card exists unrestricted with an effect that adds up to three useful cards from deck to hand — we can ignore Ojamagic — less still one which can special summon itself from hand or graveyard. Overall a solid decision, the Dragon won't be missed.
Jet Synchron and Mecha Phantom Beast O-Lion share a joint fate, again due to other cards released this year. Much like Firewall Dragon, Konami has made it clear that Crystron Halqifibrax won't go down without a fight. This year we have already seen five of the best generic tuner monsters being forbidden in a bid to balance Halqifibrax. Perhaps this cause is slightly more justified than the chaos that surrounded Firewall. Players who invested in Duel Overload have yet to see any opportunity to play the all-powerful Link-2 combo machine at a YCS. Konami seems hesitant to directly impose F/L sanctions on cards that are yet to make their tier two debut. This could be a wise plan given the backlash among the community at previous instances where new cards were restricted before they could be used. Any other year might have seen Halqifibrax taking the fall itself, but given the circumstances, hitting the peripherals instead seems like a reasonable alternative.
I expect we will see a significant uptake of Plaguespreader Zombie among combo decks, now that the best alternatives are removed. Players can even make use of its distinctive summoning requirements to utilize unwanted copies of Red-Eyes Black Dragon or Dark Magician in hand, a purpose which Jet Synchron would not allow.
Even more so than the scapegoating of low-level Tuner Monsters, Called by the Grave did not deserve this fate. The card has certainly been popular, but game breaking? The lingering double-edged negation has provided some interesting gameplay since its release in the meta-shaping Flames of Destruction more than two years ago. It may be cynical to suggest, but I fear that this decision is the latest in a series of F/L changes highlighting the conflict between sales and game balance. Much as we saw the limiting of widely accessible Dinowrestler Pankratops and Red Reboot in the eve of Lightning Storm, a main booster Secret Rare. I wouldn't be surprised to find Crossout Designator taking a similar slot in the upcoming Phantom Rage, which releases in November. I hope, for my wallet's sake, that I am proven wrong in this regard.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that I am excited to see more copies of Cir and Graff, both now semi-limited, along with the complete unrestriction of Tour Guide. Sadly, I'm unsure just how much of an impact the Burning Abyss monsters themselves will make. Dante and pals have really struggled to make much of an impact this year with new releases just offering more powerful engines to play with. The closest we saw to top-flight success from Burning Abyss was the Cherubini Turbo deck that finished as runner up at YCS Utrecht. This is quite the achievement, but I'm not convinced that additional copies of Cir or Graff would have made it into that deck even if they were available. Perhaps they will adequately bolster the more trap-focused variants that have retained some popularity.
Conversely, Tour Guide is a monster that I expect we will be seeing more of in the coming months. A one-card combo starter, with an interesting array of options to summon from deck is a valuable tool to a wide array of decks, far beyond the scope of just Burning Abyss. Regardless of my doubts about the significance of these deregulations on Burning Abyss, I'm still going to be working out how best to reconfigure my build!
Possibly more surprising than my excitement for Level 3 Fiends is my happiness about the return-to-two of both Toadally Awesome and ABC-Dragon Buster. I have played both of these decks extensively and they are some of my all-time favorites. I was sad to see them being hit as a precaution to the Master Rule update, but I expect to see both back at three before the year is out. They still won't affect the meta even then.
Seeing Widow Anchor now off the list doesn't seem overly worrying. The deck was already playable with two, but the third is nothing more than a minor incremental improvement, a much safer decision than risking a reintroduction of Engage. I would have loved to see some restriction to Mystic Mine alongside this change, but I think we'll get by just fine regardless.
Two of the remaining newly Unlimited cards are those which give me slight nervousness. Each of them will either have negligible impact on the game (ideal) or find their way into FTK-like combo decks (less ideal).
Pantheism of the Monarchs saw itself being limited around the rise of Monarch first-turn-kill decks featuring Life Equalizer and Magical Explosion. Pantheism lacks a once-per-turn clause on its draw effect and thanks to this has appeared in a number of similar decks since then, albeit only in the OCG, which still has access to Chicken Game. Great news for Monarch players, the rest of you just leave it alone please. It's for the best really.
Secondly Evigishki Gustkraken gives even more cause for concern. Many players may not remember the two successive banlists that saw the limiting of both Gustkraken and Mind Augus. Neither card had ever seen great success as part of a conventional strategy, but each of them opened up a whole world of infinite combos. They presented the game with a selection of interesting but wholly uninteractive FTKs. Fortunately times have changed since then, hand traps are now far stronger and more widespread. I'm certain that Gustkraken back at three will still facilitate some five-card hand loops. However, I'm hoping that a critical mass of ways to interact with such a combo means that it will be nothing more than an interesting theory.
No Longer Forbidden
I wanted to save the most exciting category for last. Cards that were previously forbidden come with all the excitement of new releases, but combine that with a pinch of nostalgia, and the prestige of a card so powerful it needed to be locked out of the game entirely.
First up is Makyura the Destructor. While the TCG card database has yet to be updated to show any change to Makyura's effect, I can only assume that we will soon hear that it has been changed in line with the OCG erratum. The changes not only limit a player to activating a single trap card from their hand that turn, but also can only be triggered when sent to the graveyard from a Monster Zone. These two restrictions combined are quite sufficient to reduce an age-old harbinger of FTKs to a shell of its former self. Personally I would far rather see a new version created as homage to the power of the original, as we have seen before. Nobody wins when a forbidden card gets nerfed beyond playability in order to release it. It just spoils the fun for those of us who enjoy Traditional format.
With Heavymetalfoes Electrumite still safely locked away I see no issues testing the waters on Double Iris Magician. Maybe it'll be good, maybe it won't do much at all. So long as it isn't excessively overpowered, it's a step in the right direction. Keeping a nice rotation of the tools available to Pendulum decks helps to keep their gameplay feeling fresh. Good for people using the deck and more interesting for those playing against it. Kirin can stay banned forever though.
Awakened from its sixteen-year slumber, I'm as confused as anyone on why Harpie's Feather Duster has returned to one before Heavy Storm. Arguably the former represents slightly more controllable evil, given that it is technically searchable. Another consideration is that the two are functionally identical in the intended use case, but Duster risks no unintended synergies in combos that want their own spell or trap cards destroyed. The card itself will likely see side-deck play as its primary use — a fourth Lightning Storm. It won't even be much different to the other three, as most of the times when it will be activated, its controller will have no other cards anyway.
The last card removed from the forbidden section is probably the most worrying, even if I am excited to capitalize on its questionable release. The Phantom Knights of Rusty Bardiche was one of my favorite cards throughout 2019. But after banning The Phantom Knights' Rank-Up-Magic Launch and seeing the card continue to overperform, it was unsurprising to see it take the hit. Now it's back, alongside the recently unrestricted Rank-Up-Magic, and threatening to cause problems yet again. Again we are suffering a conflict of sales against game balance: a card that was previously considered too strong is being reintroduced because the next main booster set contains support cards that will make it even stronger. Don't expect it to stick around for too long!
The most interesting thing I have noticed about this Forbidden and Limited update, and the OCG update released alongside it, is that both lists primarily feature changes that converge the TCG and OCG formats. In recent years we had seen the Eastern and Western games become ever more divergent. Commonality appearing in our card restriction, and the latest main booster set forgoing all world premier cards in favor of twenty imports of previously OCG exclusives … Could this be a sign of intent to converge the two into a singular global Yu-Gi-Oh! format? That would certainly be an exciting prospect. Maybe we will even get to play Maxx "C" again.
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