Has it really been three months since the last Forbidden & Limited List update?

I think the whiplash from this year's just completely fried the part of my brain that keeps track of time. I was shocked to see Yu-Gi-Oh content creators talking about a new banlist this week–after all, we just had one, didn't we? As it turns out our last F&L List update was almost exactly three months ago, and this one is apparently timed to lead into bigger remote dueling events.

The latest Forbidden & Limited list update that dropped this afternoon is a mixture of long-overdue updates on largely irrelevant cards, with a smattering of extremely important changes for Infernoble Knights and combo strategies. It's not a terribly long list, and there's still plenty of changes that could made, but it's hard to justify a huge shakeup at a time when big tournaments are only being hosted remotely. I think we would have seen more attention paid to up-and-coming strategies like Zoodiacs if Regional and Championship-level tournaments were still being held regularly.

The new list has barely cooled off since it hit the ground, and I have some equally hot takes about some of the changes. These are my five initial reactions to the new banlist and my opinions on how they'll affect remote dueling going forward.

You Can Actually Play Yu-Gi-Oh Against Infernoble Knights Now

Smoke Grenade of the Thief was printed in 2003's Legacy of Darkness at a time when nobody could have predicted where Yu-Gi-Oh was going. Imagine traveling back to 2003 and telling players that this Equip Spell was actually one of the most brutal cards in the game to play against–they'd have no idea how to trigger its effects multiple times per turn.

Do you destroy it yourself with Heavy Storm? Maybe wait for your opponent to target it with Mystical Space Typhoon? Of course, modern players understand that if an engine gives you the opportunity to abuse a nearly two-decades old card, you take that opportunity and run with it for as long as you can.

Infernobles are in a questionable place without the ability to drop multiple cards from their opponent's hand. The deck's definitely worse off as a result, and the additional loss of Linkross means it's probably back to the drawing board for some Infernoble combos. I don't think the deck's bad, or even mediocre, but it's certainly more 'fair' than other strategies. And in Yu-Gi-Oh it's never fairness that wins games: it's the busted, broken, and downright unfair strategies that end up on top of tournaments.

Infernobles are no longer in the latter category, and that's definitely going to hurt their competitive prospects going forward.

Burning Abyss Are Back–Again?

Every time Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss and Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss move down the banlist I get flashbacks to times when I had to try and deal with multiple copies of Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss in 2014.

That deck was terrifying at the time, but despite the return of nearly all the strategy's cards there's little evidence that Burning Abyss can compete with the decks of today. I think a big part of the problem with Burning Abyss is that its toolset is just so limited. You can play non-Burning Abyss monsters in your Main and Extra Deck, but you'll need to be really careful with them to avoid nuking your own field. Other decks have more summoning power, more recursion, and a better Extra Deck toolbox without those considerations.

A Burning Abyss engine with Cherubini, Ebon Angel of the Burning Abyss combined with Phantom Knights could become a more popular choice now that Linkross is Forbidden. The engine's solid, but it does have trouble breaking boards and playing second. You can set up multiple copies of Phantom Knights' Fog Blade on Turn 1 while picking up a bunch of cards using both Burning Abyss and Phantom Knights, although I'm not sure how much better that strategy gets with one additional copy of Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss and Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss per deck.

I think we'll see another wave of players trying to get Burning Abyss off the ground again, but I'm not convinced it'll take off this time either.

The Floodgate Arms Race Is On

Dragon Buster Destruction Sword was always an insane card in Buster Bladers, but the Buster Blader deck had a clunky and inconsistent core engine to balance that out. Union Carrier changed that by putting Dragon Buster Destruction Sword in the hands of every combo deck that could reliably Link Summon it, and for many decks it became a key part of their optimal Turn 1.

There was very little counter play against Dragon Buster Destruction Sword, and Union Carrier restrictions were largely irrelevant, so seeing it land on the banlist this year isn't a big surprise. It's unfortunate that the Buster Blade deck lost what's perhaps the best card in the theme. I'm no stranger to losing key cards in unrelated decks as collateral damage–Dragon Ravine long run on the banlist still feels like an injustice–and it still stings every time.

The kind of playstyle that Dragon Buster Destruction Sword previously fit into–the "floodgates are win conditions" strategy–doesn't stop existing just because one floodgate gets Forbidden. Players are already talking about the next best options, including True King of All Calamities. True King of All Calamities was already a better pick for decks that couldn't summon Union Carrier, stuff like Orcusts; or those that would rather summon a Rank 9 Xyz, like Virtual World.

Other decks losing their ability to shut out the Extra Deck means that the very same strategies leaning on True King of All Calamities not only get better, they're also in control of the next big go-to floodgate monster. Granted, there's still plenty of combos that end in a field of three or four negations, but True King of All Calamities is unique in its ability to fire off its effect before Dark Ruler No More resolves.

Combo Decks Head Back To The Drawing Board

Konami isn't quite ready to ban Crystron Halqifibrax, but they're slowly working on its friends and immediate combo pieces.

Crystron Halqifibrax favorite tuners are mostly Forbidden already, so the next step of the "get players to stop playing Crystron Halqifibrax without actually banning it" process was to target the Link Monster that helped carry some of its biggest plays: Linkross. I actually really like Linkross design in a vacuum: you're trading a Link Monster that likely already used its effect for tokens to make a Synchro.

The pattern of using Links to fuel Synchros is present in both Linkross and Crystron Halqifibrax, and honestly it's pretty cool. I think Synchro decks could use the help, even. Unfortunately Linkross restrictions didn't go far enough, so you could turn its tokens into a Synchro and then use that Synchro as a Link Material. Martial Metal Marcher will never be this popular again.

There are so many combos out there that rely on Linkross to enable huge end boards loaded with negation and floodgates. Without Linkross in the mix we'll see an immediate reduction in how good those combos are, and I suspect most decks will transition to summoning Predaplant Verte Anaconda and Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon if they can't play True King of All Calamities.

From my perspective that change is a huge deal: I'm so tired of seeing more casual strategies inflated by their ability to make Linkross-fueled end boards. Every one of those decks was just a vector of delivery for a Crystron Halqifibrax/Linkross combo, and I think that does a disservice to the variety of playstyles this game is capable of supporting.

Dinosaurs, Eldlich, And Zoodiac Win Big

Linkross might be gone, but Dragon Link hasn't slowed down at all. Dinosaurs, Eldlich, and Zoodiacs are all happy to see other combo strategies taken down a notch, and control strategies are, well, pretty much the same as always. It's tempting to imagine that something like Subterrors or Altergeists will suddenly start outperforming its limited showings last format, but I think we'll mostly see players stick to what's already winning Remote Duel tournaments. In particular, Zoodiacs and Eldlich Zoodiac variants have been performing well online, and I expect them to have a huge showing at upcoming events.

The decks that lost the most from the new banlist aren't necessarily the decks that lost cards. Actually, it's probably the decks that didn't get cards back that are hurt the most. There's new Metalfoes support coming next year, but Heavymetalfoes Electrumite is still Forbidden. The World Premiere Myutants were hoping for more copies of Emergency Teleport–which was probably a longshot anyways–and Infernity were looking to grab another Infernity Archfiend or Infernity Launcher. For now those decks aren't going anywhere, but there's always March to look forward to.

I don't expect to see a lot of huge changes in how the format plays next week, other than a significantly more fair Infernoble match-up and a different line of combos from decks that were abusing Linkross. This list isn't a shakeup, and I don't think we can expect those kinds of changes until players are dueling in person again. Unfortunately a lot of the more recent degeneracy among the game's top decks stems from recent releases, so it's unlikely that Konami will make adjustments to True King of All Calamities or Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon for a while yet.

Until next time then

-Kelly