The 2020 Ban List Update: Aftermath
- Marijn van Duivenboden
On December 15 Konami released the new Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden & Limited list. After a stale format featuring synchro combos and hand loops, change was needed and the ban list provided change aplenty. Hitting all the top decks and multiple key cards means some strategies just couldn't recover.
Now a couple of weeks have passed and we've seen some events with this new list. The Extravaganzas took place all around the world and the winning/topping deck lists have been shown. Let's take a look back at the cards that were hit and what that meant for the meta. After that we'll analyze the format we're currently in.
Farewell and Goodbye
When people mention "problem cards" they talk about very specific points of problems. The whole deck is strong, but there's only one card that makes it insane. This ban list was focused on most of the cards that were real problems. Starting off at the top: Dragon Buster Destruction Sword prevented your opponent from special summoning from the extra deck while equipped. It proved quite easy to abuse this card even when not playing Buster Blader. Union Carrier carried this card for nearly a year up until it finally got banned. This card saw play in multiple strategies throughout 2020 because it was so easy to get out and because it wasn't stopped by Dark Ruler No More or Forbidden Droplet.
The second banned card was a star in synchro decks: Linkross. While people often say Crystron Halqifibrax is the problem, and by all means it is, Linkross actually was an extremely big part of the problem. People overlook the impact of the card, but Linkross enabled so many combos. The entire level three synchro engine was only able to happen because of Linkross. Martial Metal Marcher had never seen play before the release of Linkross. The entire hand loop combo of Dragon Link required Linkross. Herald of the Arc Light only got summoned because it was that easy with Linkross's tokens. The list goes on and on. I'll go more in-depth in the aftermath part of the article.
The card at the center of this format was easily Smoke Grenade of the Thief. This card came all the way from 2003 to be a problem in 2020. Looking at your opponent's hand and discarding a card is pretty good. Combined with cards like Vylon Cube and the Infernoble archetype, this was the first time in seventeen years the card was abused. Leave it to the Yu-Gi-Oh! players to find something broken, right? This card pushed the limits of the format to its ceiling. Both Dragon Link and Infernoble, the two top decks, were abusing this card.
And that's it for the banned cards. To everyone's surprise one card jumped the gun and wasn't banned. Very Fun Dragon, also known as VFD, also known as the True King of All Calamities. This card has been a problem for quite a while now. Being able to shut down your opponent's turn is pretty insane. The reason why it's not banned is quite simple: Virtual World. This deck was just released in the newest set Phantom Rage and more support is coming. It's not unusual for a new deck not to be hit in any way. It is quite surprising, however, that they left such a powerful card unchecked in a brand new open format.
Some people were skeptical if the list was good enough. A lot of powerful cards were still legal to play like Crystron Halqifibrax, Isolde, Two Tales of the Noble Knights, and True King of All Calamities. However, in the weeks after the ban list dropped multiple events followed. The worldwide Extravaganzas saw quite interesting results. The format turned out to be quite different from what we expected.
After the list dropped, much was unclear. What is the best deck? How do combos play out? What's next? With the release of Genesis Impact one thing was clear: Drytron was going to be a tier one contender. This brand new ritual deck is extremely consistent and has the ability to link-climb with ease. It combos really well, but it's not as explosive as the decks we have known in the past like Dragon Link. Actually, what happened to the decks from last format?
Infernoble is pretty much gone. Without Linkross the synchro plays are limited. Without cross the deck misses two whole negates on its end field. Next to their combo being ripped open, it also misses Smoke Grenade. This significantly weakens their end field. Both knowledge of your opponent's hand and giving them one less resource to break your field with proved to be the key to its tier one status last format. Whether you like them or not, it seems to be the last we are going to see from Infernoble for a while.
Dragon Link is a different story. Without Linkross and Smoke Grenade the deck has to evolve. But there are plenty of routes to go. Without those cards the deck can freely evolve again because there is now a lot of space in both main and extra deck. Herald of the Arc Light, Martial Metal Marcher, Linkross, and Crystron Halqifibrax all leave the extra deck and the main deck gets free space with the removal of the Rose Dragons and Vylon Cube. The deck is far from dead though. With Guardragon Elpy still at large this deck is extremely viable. Spamming dragons always is a good thing in Yu-Gi-Oh! and the early builds we've seen so far prove just that. With some minor adjustments the deck can still end on a very strong board with multiple negates. Even without Dragon Buster Destruction Sword the deck can lock you out of your extra deck with Amorphage Goliath.
Hat Trick Trap Trick
So the only viable deck at the moment is a ritual deck? Well, not exactly. What the Extravaganza event showed us is that people are taking a couple of steps back. It seems like it's time to leave full combo behind and return to the basics. It's time for a slow format!
Traps are back. People realized that without hand loops going around it's perfectly fine to adopt slower control strategies. Decks like Subterror, Paleozoic, and Eldlich saw increased play. Heavy-impact cards are the hype at the moment. It's time to trade cards and go plus again. Without combo decks there is no need for high amounts of hand traps in your deck. This leaves a lot of room for deck building and cards like Ice Dragon's Prison, Torrential Tribute, and Dogmatika Punishment quickly began to enter main decks again.
All those developments leave quite a diverse meta. There are multiple perfectly viable decks out there at the moment. Some of course slightly better than others, but the options are limitless. There are no insane combo decks to auto-lose against and you can side deck pretty generically.
The Future Is Now
Without in-person events the game is quite different. It's great to see Konami working on official remote events and supporting remote locals. I was skeptical myself at first, but after I gave it a shot I had a blast. I attend weekly remote locals and I'm fully enjoying the game. The meta right now is great. The feeling that your deck just isn't good enough to even play is completely gone and it's fun to build decks again. Almost everything is viable at the moment in some form or way. I never expected to play in a trap format ever again, but here we are. Yu-Gi-Oh! never fails to amaze me and excite me for the next game.
It's time to duel!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.