If you're like me your brain's been going non-stop since Friday, and there's a pretty good chance that a ton of people have been messaging you on your platforms of choice to discuss the new Advanced Format that goes into effect today. The latest F&L List is one of the biggest we've seen in years with immediate impacts on all the top decks, and everybody's got their own interpretation for how it's all gonna shake out.

 

Today's the big day, so I want to get right into it and talk about some of my takeaways from the new format. There were some clear winners and some clear losers, but there's a lot of grey in between and lots of debate on even some of the biggest topics.

So let's dive right in.

The Top Four Decks Are No More
On the surface, the new F&L List took a sledgehammer to ThunderDragons, Sky Strikers, Salamangreats and Orcusts, knocking one big card out of each deck and creating a few subtle shifts that are less dramatic. Whilethose changes may have looked equal on the surface, the impact on each strategy's actually a bit different.

We can start with Thunder Dragons, because it's the easiest deck to cover:without Thunder Dragon Colossus the deck has no reason to exist. Colossus was an easy boss monster with a high impact on the game, but it was also the clear gateway into Thunder Dragon Titan, now the deck's last remaining powerhouse. Konami killed two birds with one stone, and the result is a deck that no longer stands as a solo strategy. We may see minimalistThunder Dragon engines survive – something that's are recurring theme in this discussion – but Thunder Dragons are the clear front-runner for the title of Biggest Loser coming off the format changes.

Sky Strikers may be the runner-up to that title. Without Sky StrikerMobilize - Engage! the deck is both less consistent getting started, and less powerful in terms of the long grind and resilience. It really takes abeating from all angles. Even as a splashable suite Sky Strikers are far less powerful, and while Sky Striker Mecha - Hornet Drones could still see play as a combo extending card there are probably just better options. If there's a future for Sky Strikers withSky Striker Ace – Rozeand the upcoming Link-2 SkyStriker Ace – Zeke, the resulting deck's going to look very different from what we're usedto.

That's not to say Sky Striker players won't try to adapt. You're still oing to see Sky Strikers in tournaments for at least a few weeks, since many duelists will want to give it a genuine go and others simply won't be ready to leave their favorite deck behind, especially with April 1 and theMaster Rule update looming on the horizon. But the new format's going to reward early adopters and I don't think the players who stick with SkyStrikers will do particularly well in the grand scheme.

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Salamangreats and Orcusts are a little more interesting, since neither deck was so obviously blasted; instead, both decks are just much tougher to play. On the Salamangreat side we may see a few high-profile players continuing on with the strategy, but Salamangreats were already pretty niche over the last few months. The deck's core play isn't possible anymore with Salamangreat Miragestallio gone, forcing players to settle forsuboptimal combos. The deck won't attract new players, it'll bleed all but the most dedicated devotees, and at some point the elite few who can still make the deck work are just going to pick something that's easier and more consistent. That's kind of a shame, since the budget reprint of CynetMining is only arriving in Duel Overload a month from now.

I think the same can largely be said for Orcusts. If there's one deck outof the four that's getting a lot of buzz for possibly surviving the F&LList it's definitely this one, largely because Orcustrated Babel is stilllegal.Mekk-Knight Orcust Girsudoesn't land until May. So right now, that leaves Orcust players with a deck that can do okay fielding a simple Galatea board, but that struggles to find another combo extender to make Dingirsu, the Orcust of the EveningStar.

It's not impossible; the deck can still make Dingirsu and even True King ofAll Calamities. But the problem is that the core combo's easier to disrupt, and everything you actually want to do costs an extra card or two. That can work, and we're going to see players make it work. But at some point I think it's going to become clear that all the effort you have to put in to make those plays just isn't worth it; while Orcusts won't disappear from tournaments overnight, I think the deck is still over in the long run.

This one's really on the player base; if enough current Orcust players want to keep plugging away, the deck will survive. I just think that's a bleak future and many players aren't going to stick by it when they start to consider better options. Orcusts feel really average now, and "average"never cuts it in Yu-Gi-Oh.

The Fascinating Death Of True Draco
It's not uncommon to see Forbidden & Limited Lists built around a sort of cascade effect; over the last few years, we've seen that R&D understands that if they smash the top strategies, or even the top end field cards in a dominant combo deck, players will often flock to the next most obvious powerhouse. As such, we've seen them reliably punish those next-best options to keep competition from being flat and predictable, andTrue Dracos were clearly the focus of that this time around.

True Dracos didn't just lose copies of Dragonic Diagram and Card of Demise,they also lost Sky Strikers, which had become an integral part of the strategy. And that's fine, that's pretty straightforward. What's interesting to me about Sky Strikers and True Dracos both taking big hits at the same time is that it actually has a really big impact on floodgates, especially There Can Be Only One. Right now it looks as if there's really only one strategy left at the top that can run that card, and for me, it helps make a strong argument to launch that long-time fan-favorite to new heights.

More on that in a moment. First, we've gotta acknowledge…

Consensus Candidates Four Days In
There's lots of debate right now. Are Orcusts still the best deck? CanPendulums survive? Will your favorite rogue deck be viable? This format raises a lot of questions. At the same time there are some conclusions lots of people are agreeing on, including a handful of decks that are very likely to take up strong roles in tournaments.

The decks that keep coming up are SPYRAL, as boosted by Magicians' Souls;Heroes, benefiting from Elemental HERO Sunrise and Elemental HERO LiquidSoldier; Dinosaurs, bolstered by True King Lithosagym, the Disaster;Altergeists, the most established deck to avoid new restrictions; and Subterrors, occupying a strong control position and wielding – that's right– There Can Be Only One.

All five of these decks are popular candidates for similar reasons: they all have established track records in the last few months, which makes them much more approachable to invest both time and money in. They're known quantities, so they feel safe and it's easy to find older content and advice on how to build and play them. You can hop over to the deck archive here on TCGplayer and find lists that are basically ready to play.

None of the decks are cheap, either: the price of Magicians' Souls andElemental HERO Liquid Soldier have been a tender spot for a lot of players this week, while Altergeists, Subterrors and Dinosaurs all benefit from Pot of Extravagance. Literally all five of these decks want to run at least a few $70+ cards. But local and even Regional level players could get by without Pot of Extravagance, giving less invested players a lot of choice in the new format.

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From there the sleeper hits get a little more complicated. Madolchehas a successful track recordonthe competitive fringe in 2019, but of all the Pot of Extravagance decks it's by far the priciest. The deck has plenty of validity in a vacuum, but at some point the reality of the economics kicks in and I don't think it'll wind up seeing as much playas the five consensus decks. Combo strategies are a toss-up and a bit of an unknown right now, with both Dragon Link and Monster Mash featuring BlockDragon and Burning Abyss crying out for testing. They're probably the biggest wild card in this format.

Looking further off the radar my favorite dark horse picks of the moment are Gren Maju, an explosive and proven strategy that loses nothing but one Danger! Nessie! at least on the surface, and – wait for it – Plunder Patroll. I don't think Plunder Patroll's winning a YCS, at least not before we get more cards in ETCO, but abusing Danger monsters is going to be low key powerful moving forward, and Plunders may be a solid runner-up in that category behind Gren Maju.

Remember when Gren Majureached the Finals of a YCSand thenwon another one a month later? David Mendoza's list is looking really relevant right now.

Heroes May Be The Deciding Factor
Specifically Masked HERO Dark Law. Heroes may prove to be the most consistent "Big Turn 1" deck in the game moving forward, rivaled by SPYRALas the most threatening "Smash Your Big Board" strategy. If that happens then the consistent presence of Dark Law's control effects lays a big hurting on anything that relies on keeping monsters in the graveyard.

There are some challenges that could keep that from happening. ElementalHERO Liquid Man's been selling like hotcakes in the TCGplayer Marketplace, but that doesn't change the fact that playing Heroes is a pricy endeavor.Not only is Liquid Man hugging $75 at the time this was written, ElementalHERO Sunrise is $10 and Vision HERO Faris is $20, while Evil HERO MaliciousBane and Evil HERO Adusted Gold look to be settling north of a hundred bucks. It's possible that Heroes may have a muted impact just based on the availability of the key cards.

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At the same time I think there's also some degree of skepticism aboutHeroes in general, a deck that's produced occasional results and has some awesome cards, but has never really gone the distance as a standalone strategy. Heroes in their glory days were just support in stuff likePerfect Circle Monarchs and Air Blade Turbo;while we've seensomesmall triumphsinthe last few months,you've gotta be really sure about something to place such a big bet.

If Heroes become a top contender they could have a tremendous influence on the shape of competition. If they miss the mark, that failure sends the format down a different rabbit hole. Whether or not you want to play Heroes yourself it's definitely a deck to watch.

The TCG Didn't Follow The OCG's Lead On Semi-Limits
Getting off the topic of specific decks, can we just take a moment to breathe easy and reflect on this?The last OCG Advanced Format dropped a few weeks agoand it was weird; while both the TCG and OCG F&L Lists had downplayedSemi-Limited cards for several formats, the OCG's January 1 list roared back to Semi-Limit a whopping 14 cards, restricting eight and moving six more from Limited to Semi.

The general perception is that Semi-Limiting a card doesn't really accomplish much, especially as a restriction; it's an unpopular measure in the eyes of many players, myself included, since it's largely ineffective.The TCG R&D team's done a great job the last few years creating effective lists with minimal changes, favoring the Semi-Limited status as a sort of intermediary space used before a card is moved off the list, or pushed deeper into restricted territory. So the idea that we'd be mysteriously thrown back into the F&L Dark Ages was concerning.

But the TCG blew past that confusing blip and continued with its successful formula. The three Semi-Limits we got are clearly testing the waters onDeep Sea Diva and Tour Guide, while theso-old-it-doesn't-have-a-once-per-turn-clause Mind Control is probably sticking around just long enough to keep Dingirsu in line before going to1. It all feels like good decisions to me and I think we all like it when the Advanced Format philosophy makes sense and aligns with player values.

There Are Lots Of Events Coming Up
Not only do we have a wide-open format right now, we've got a ton of events headed our way: in the Americas alone we've got UDS Invitationals in Tulsa and Bogota, February 15 and February 29 respectively. The long-awaited TeamYCS in Las Vegas is nestled right between them on February 22, and it's already locked and loaded to be one of the most competitive and FUN events of the year. From there we're looking at YCS Rio De Janeiro March 14 andYCS Charlotte two weeks later. That's a slammed schedule and we're not even looking at the European counterparts.

The Ignition Assault Sneak Peek is this weekend, and February has nearly 20 Regional Qualifiers scheduled leading straight into OTSChampionships too. Whether you're a local level player, a Regional competitor or you're chasing a Championship, you're going to have a lot of opportunities to throw down and really get your hands dirty in the new format.

And with that in mind, it kind of leads into one last thought I've been having.

The Next Two Months Are A Proving Ground
This format's only guaranteed through March, which means the next one will probably line up with the arrival of the Master Rule update, AKA MasterRuler 5 on April 1. Speaking to a lot of people around the time the MasterRule update was first revealed, I had the attitude that Konami could take await-and-see approach in the early days of April, let some chaos happen, and then quickly eliminate anything that was problematic. It didn't seem like a bad approach.

But now that we've seen the changes set up in this format I think they're aiming higher than that. Konami's clearly lined themselves up to see what happens over the next two months and then take swift action, and I think they're going to do whatever they can to make this a smooth transition into a new era of Yu-Gi-Oh.

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There are going to be some tough calls there; with new cards coming out forSky Strikers and Orcusts, it's unclear how either theme will be handled. We may see those decks treated with kid gloves and favored as continued competitors, or the R&D team may simply decide that those decks have had their time and the game's better off without them. My fingers are crossed for the latter. Pendulums have already been treated pretty roughly by the Master Rule update, and now Heavymetalfoes Electrumite is Forbidden.Will cards like Double Iris Magician return to even the scales? Do they even need to? Could we just wind up in a combo format again courtesy ofDragon Link?

With so much data coming out of all the tournaments over the coming months there's going to be a lot for Konami, and all of us, to chew on. We're going to be working overtimeto keep the deck archive up to datewith all the latest results. But it looks like Konami's putting themselves in a focused position to deliver the best experience possible in April. And while lots of small details could go either way, it's a reassuring prospect at a pivotal point in Yu-Gi-Oh's history.

So let's get personal: how does the new format affect you? Do you know what you want to play? Are you sticking with your current deck, or taking up anew one entirely. Are you diving n now, or holding off to see some tournament results first? What's your approach when these heavy-hitting F&L Lists shake things up.

Let me know down in the comments, and thanks for reading!

-Jason Grabher-Meyer