The Eternal Format: A Very Playable Year

There have been many formats players like to go back to or reminisce over how good and fun they were. Goat, Edison, HAT, and many more from the game's history. One of the latest additions to this list is the entirety of 2019: what's commonly called the Eternal format. But was it really as good as we remember?

mobilize - engage

What Is the Eternal Format?

The term Eternal format refers to a period of time that lasted from around January 2019 to November of that same year. Some people also refer to it as "TOSS"—standing for Thunder Orcust Striker Salamangreat, which were the most prevalent decks throughout the year. After the hellscape that was 2018, Firewall Dragon had shown itself to be an obvious problem during the entire year, together with Topologic Gumblar Dragon and Number 42: Galaxy Tomahawk, making for a myriad of loops, turn one kills, and unbreakable boards.

However, January 2019 came and with it the long awaited banning of Gumblar, alongside Grinder Golem and Number 86: Heroic Champion - Rhongomyniad. With all the absurd combo enablers gone, not to mention the release of Savage Strike in February, the game turned into a vastly different beast.

Fantastical Dragon Phantazmay Pot of Extravagance Salamangreat Sunlight Wolf
The difference each set brought to the format made it feel extremely alive

Throughout the year, several ban lists and incredibly impactful set releases happened. Players had the feeling of the game being completely different every week or so. We saw the release of incredibly powerful staples that see play to this day. Cards such as Mystic Mine, Fantastical Dragon Phantazmay, I:P Masquerena, and Pot of Extravagance were released during what we refer to as the Eternal format. This series of events changed modern Yu-Gi-Oh! forever. While the radical change the game experienced can be traced back to Dragon Rulers, I argue the Vrains era of the game has had a similar, if not bigger, impact. All the years of Gouki combos, Firewall loops, and Isolde shenanigans coalesced into the Eternal format. Close to the end of Master Rule 4, the link era gave us a full year of being able to play almost anything.

After a year full of highs and lows, of trading YCS wins and top cut spots, the format came to a close in January of 2020. This ban list ended everything 2019 was. One of the biggest lists ever, not only did it hit all the four top decks extremely hard, it also severely crippled more rogue-ish strategies that were getting sporadic wins and tops. We saw the banning of Heavymetalfoes Electrumite after pendulums were doing very little on the competitive scene. We also saw Dragonic Diagram go to one, ending True Draco's reign as the best rogue deck since Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King was banned. But we also got a bunch of cool stuff to play with, so not all's bad.

Heavymetalfoes Electrumite Sky Striker Mobilize - Engage! Thunder Dragon Colossus
At the end, some of the game's strongest cards saw their banning when the year ended

What's So Special About This Time

If you played during this time, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. The sheer variety not only in the amount of decks that could top an event, but in the varying builds these had, made this format a total joy to play. While Thunder Dragon was arguably the most powerful deck of this era, it only got two YCS wins during this time. Decks such as True Draco, Altergeist, Subterror, Pendulum, and a long, long etcetera traded top cut spots and even wins.

And as I've already stated, this was not limited to the regional level, but the highest levels of competition had a wide diversity as well. Hell, Thunder Dragon, arguably the strongest of the four big decks of this era, only got two YCS wins. During this time, it really felt like no matter what your deck choice was, you had a shot at doing well at any event. A great deal of experimentation took place, with decks such as Lunalight Orcust or True Draco Sky Striker discovered very late into the format's life. However, is this variety true?

After all, we wouldn't be talking about these four decks as a separate entity were it not for their dominance over the rest. And indeed, across top cut charts and day two representation at any sort of event, Thunder Dragon, Orcust, Salamangreat and Sky Striker absolutely dominated, taking upwards of 75% of the top cut, if not its entirety at times. While the remaining percentage was extremely varied and interesting, there must always be a better deck. At the end of the day, no matter how much you had playtested your crazy Zefra deck as a great meta call, sometimes your opponent would just drop a Thunder Dragon Colossus on you, backed by a dozen negates and impervious to most hand traps.

Why Do People Remember It so Fondly?

Well, to a certain degree, it's purely nostalgia. It was a long period of time during which Yu-Gi-Oh! was breaking attendance record after attendance record (God, remember Düsseldorf 2?). But mostly, it was the last big format we had before … Well, you know before what. Truth is, the Eternal format wasn't all that great. Decks were extremely costly at times (Thunder Dragon requiring a goddamn prize card for its optimal build at a certain time), top cut was plagued with the same decks and sometimes your opponent would just resolve Sky Striker Mobilize - Engage! six times per turn and you wouldn't have a lot of fun during that game. And while the decks were roughly similar in terms of power level, you'd eventually get sacked by a Thunder Dragon player opening insane and ending your life.

Chaos Dragon Levianeer Danger! Nessie! Sky Striker Mobilize - Engage!
At times, the format was anything but affordable

Overall, while this period in the game's history was great and almost everyone I know remembers it fondly and had a lot of fun during it, we really should get over it. People are still crying about Colossus being banned, or Heavymetalfoes Electrumite needing to come off the list because pendulums suck. Seriously, let it go. It's been over two years at this point. Yes, it was fun. Yes, the decks were cool. But time passes. The game needs to change, that's a simple reality. And players need to change with it. Is this a way of telling you to please stop playing Invoked? Maybe. But it's also a way of telling you that while the Eternal format was great, it's over. We don't need every format to be like that. Sky Strikers are good, especially now with Destiny HERO - Destroyer Phoenix Enforcer. Salamangreats lose to Nibiru, the Primal Being as hard as they did two years ago, but at least they have Accesscode Talker now. Thunder Dragon and Orcust … Well, moving on.

In conclusion, the format was really good, but not as good as you remember. Seriously, look at top cut charts at the time and tell me a four deck top 32 isn't just the most boring thing on the planet. We just got double that in the last Remote Duel YCS. Stop looking back, and look at today and tomorrow. The game is just as good, if not better, than back then.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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Ruggwain(13.01.2022 20:43)

Good article, the banlists were actually the thing that made me quit the game. As you say we lost a lot of good cards, and a lot of good cards unfairly. There were times during the eternal format where sky strikers had 0 cards hit and my roach deck I made for laughs and kicks had 11 cards hit. Konami gained a real fetish for hitting rogue and generic cards that year and I will never understand why,

Lorek(08.01.2022 08:34)

I loved the article. Me was playing Cyber Dragons at the time. It had a good spot in the meta, especially when Mermaid combos where a thing. One time I even managed to outgrind a Thunnder Dragon player at a Regional event. I even attended YCS Düsseldorf with it and it was a really fun time then. I only wished Nächster would had been released by then. Fun times but also very expensive times if you wanted to play top meta.

yocool13(07.01.2022 21:53)

Personally, I really enjoyed this format because I was the one resolving Engage six times per turn. :) After they (and other Sky Striker cards) got reprinted in Battles of Legend: Hero's Revenge.

Throrma(07.01.2022 20:19)(Edited: 07.01.2022 20:19)

I beginned the game in this era and I don't say I loved it, but I like the decks it gave us. I just had a bad day when they completely destroyed them with the banlist while in ocg they didn't and there these decks are not even rogues. Well that's a completely different format and it's not relevant to compare however I think it wouldn't change the meta here to getting limitedly back the bans.
I like the today's decks too and I like playing now, but I have an unexplainable feeling that something is wrong.

tureerut(06.01.2022 18:31)

I agree on all the line. Actual variety and interactions is what the game needs. The time of 5' combos leading to victory has to be erased.
Too many people care about winning and forget about playing.
It's not a matter of casual Vs competitive.

KleinCards(06.01.2022 17:43)

Format was sooooo inexpensive after the mega tins. Every deck core was like at most 40 to 50 dollars, most expensive cars was phantasmay. For me the most fun time was after the mermaid ban in October.

Shoul(07.01.2022 11:20)

Engage costed 50€, dangers costed 30€ per copy, thunder dragons were expensive. -I don’t think everything was cheap.

MarkusLight(06.01.2022 17:04)

I rly enjoyed the format as long as it lasted and had a quite fun time playing lightsworn chaos an all time favourite to me. I vivedly remember outing two Colossus with Instantfusion and Monster Reborn via Thousand-Eyes Restrict and having my Opp speechless. What a fun time. Also 2019 I went to the the DM and had an overall cool time.

BryanBuck(06.01.2022 12:36)


Throrma(07.01.2022 20:06)


Lorek(08.01.2022 08:29)


Hahn9(06.01.2022 08:39)

I came back to Yugi during this format and everyone at my locals stomped me with this exactly 4 decks (+ Altergeist) all the time. I picked up the most affordable one for me, Salamangreat, learned how to play it and ended up loving this deck. However, the format as such was a pain in the ***hole.