Extreme Force features Link Monster imports from the OCG's LINK VRAINS Pack,including the extremely powerful Heavymetalfoes Electrumite, and theF&L List appears to be directly responding to the new releases.Pendulum Magicians took aggressive hits while Qliphorts had a few of theircards returned.
Other product-focused changes include the Limit on Monster Reborn followingthe release of its OCG art in the TCG, the return of Solemn Judgement inthe wake of the Wave of Light Structure Deck, and ArtifactMoralltach's move to Unlimited with the new Artifact Mjollnir debuting inEXFO. There are plenty of other easily explainable changes: Future Fusion,Brain Control, and Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier all have new effectsthat are a significant downgrade since they were first Forbidden.
Even more long-overdue changes – some already made in the OCG – havefinally come to pass: Level Eater, Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow, andGrinder Golem moved up the List with both Gofu and Grinder Golem surpassingtheir OCG restrictions. It's harder to make Link Summons now, and LevelEater's new restriction makes the freshly-playable Linkuriboh far lessabusable. Instead, cards like Scapegoat are now the premiere way tofacilitate one-card Link Summons in strategies that struggle to flood thefield with monsters.
The most interesting changes on this List are the adjustments to SPYRALs,Pendulums, and ancient tech choices that have defined formats both recentlyand in years past. It's a fascinating and shockingly lengthy list that'sbeing received favorably – so far. Let's dig in and talk about theindividual changes that are making the most noise.
SPYRALs Out Of Vacation Days
The Limit on SPYRAL Resort had been expected since it was similarly Limitedin the OCG. Restricting Resort does two things: first, it cripples theSPYRAL deck's consistency by reducing the number of search cards, andsecond, it breaks the biggest card advantage play in the deck.
SPYRAL Master Plan's second effect must search a SPYRAL Resort toactivate, so if there's only one copy of the Field Spell in your deck it'slikely that Master Plan simply won't be able to activate. You'll probablyend up using SPYRAL Resort to search a combo starter before you can evenstart thinking about Summoning Master Plan with SPYRAL Double Helix.
SPYRALs are definitely hurting after losing their best play, but thatdoesn't mean the deck is dead. The heart of the SPYRAL Deck, and its realstaying power, is largely built on the strength of SPYRAL Sleeper. LikeMaster Peace, the True Dracoslaying King, it's still an impressivelypowerful card even when it's much more difficult to Summon. Fix theSummoning problem and you still have a viable strategy, right?
Well, not quite. In this case the Limit on Resort not only makes Sleeperharder to search and Summon, but that also means Sleeper – in addition toother SPYRAL cards – are less likely to have immunity to targeting effects.Without that Sleeper's a sitting duck, and cards like Effect Veiler aresuddenly relevant again.
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Looking at the SPYRAL arsenal it's difficult to see exactly where the deckgoes from here. Some SPYRAL builds have managed to find limited success inthe OCG, but that's only with help from Grinder Golem, Blackwing - Gofu theVague Shadow, and a noticeably larger pool of Link Monsters to kickstartplays.
The Dragon Ravine engine along with Destrudo the Lost Dragon's Frissonseems like a must now, especially with Terraforming still Unlimited in ourversion of the game. For now I expect to see Dark variants of SPYRALsmaking moves on the competitive scene, and I wouldn't be surprised to seeit topping Regionals.
Pendulums Lose Their Consistency
Two key cards for Pendulum Magicians are now Forbidden: Double IrisMagician and Performapal Skullcrobat Joker.
Losing both cards simultaneously is a massive blow to Pendulums and a majorthreat to their consistency. Pendulum strategies are particularly demandingregarding viable Turn 1 or Turn 2 hands. There's a lot that needs to goright: you need two Pendulum Monsters with the proper Pendulum Scales andmonsters worth Summoning. Consistency and search power make up for themassive field investment necessary for even basic plays, and that's whyPendulum Magicians, Metalfoes, and Performage Performapals were sosuccessful.
With much of their consistency shot and the ability to search TimePendulumgraph and Star Pendulumgraph limited to Duelist Alliance, thePendulum Magician strategy needs new ways to set up Pendulum Scales andsearch key spells and traps. Draw power's more important than ever, makingPot of Desires even more of a must-play in current builds. HeavymetalfoesElectrumite helps, but seeing Time Pendulumgraph is still largely a matterof luck.
Without it Pendulum players are forced to rely on hand traps, defensivemonster effects, and negation bodies like Mist Valley Apex Avian. Zefranui,Secret of the Yang Zing and Zefra Divine Strike are another option, andthey're even better with Elecrumite in the game.
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There's also the still-remaining interaction between Black Fang Magicianand Witch of the Black Forest. When Star Pendulumgraph is buried in thedeck you can use Witch to search your other Pendulum Magicians when it'sused in a Link or Synchro Summon, then bring it back to the field withBlack Fang Magician's effect. As for the Pendulum Scale, Odd-Eyes ArcPendulum Dragon easily replaces the Scale 8 once provided by Double IrisMagician, and its effect is noticeably better thanks to HeavymetalfoesElectrumite.
The hits to Pendulum Magicians have certainly hurt their consistency, butthe F&L List does nothing to touch the deck's real advantagegenerators. Both Pendulumgraph cards are still Unlimited, and withHeavymetalfoes Electrumite the deck's still very competitive. It's a bitweak in Games 2 and 3, especially with Evenly Matched also skirting theList, but I won't hesitate to call it one of the best decks in the gameright now.
Maxx "C" Exits The Advanced Format
Maxx "C" is arguably the best hand trap in the game thanks to its turn-longduration, extremely punishing draw effect, and its coverage of one of themost-used mechanics in the game: Special Summons. It's been on the radarfor the F&L List since it first started seeing play as a must-run inmid-2011, some several months after its release inStorm of Ragnarok. For several years now I've been calling for itspermanent move to the Forbidden List due to its extreme power andundeserved influence over the course of the duel.
There are very few cards in the game where simply having them in your handputs you in a massively advantageous position. Hand traps are, in manyways, just too strong against current strategies this format. Actually, I'dargue that hand traps are too good against almost any strategy at any timein the game.
Maxx "C" is the worst offender among them with a floodgate effect thatshould give your opponent the option to continue to SpecialSummon, but it rarely works out that way. Combined with our massive pool ofoutstanding hand traps Maxx "C" has always been a hard stop to SpecialSummons that's almost never played as a -1 of card economy.
What if Maxx "C" was a normal trap? Or if it could only be activatedafter a Special Summon like Droll & Lock Bird? There are anynumber of ways Maxx "C" could have been balanced, or given your opponent areal choice as to whether they wanted to continue Special Summoning or not.
The reality is that Maxx "C" exists only as an instant game-ender againsthighly aggressive Special Summon-heavy strategies, but Konami's newreleases over the years has shown that players like to Special Summon, andstopping them from doing so just isn't fun. Instead, we need to fix thecore of the problem: the excessiveness of Summons reaching a point where acard like Maxx "C" is necessary.
'Solemn Brigade' Unlike Any Before
The return of Solemn Judgment is sure to turn some heads, but as Imentioned earlier it's a clear attempt to push the recent CounterFairy-based Structure Deck. That said, Solemn Judgment also opens up someinteresting build decisions.
We now have at least four competitively viable Solemn cards: SolemnJudgment, Solemn Warning, Solemn Scolding, and Solemn Strike. Choosingbetween them and matching the right card with the right strategy wasalready tricky enough before Judgment entered the equation. Now we have yetanother Counter Trap to add to the mix, and its one that offers itsimpressive coverage for a steep price.
Solemn Judgment doesn't have the coverage of Solemn Scolding, but it doeshave the advantage of being playable alongside other set cards until youneed it. It's much more difficult to predict, and its effect is still agreat counter for trap cards that can be activated from the hand.
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Evenly Matched is a huge threat right now that's easily solved by SolemnJudgment, and there are more cards like it on the way later this year. AddGuiding Ariadne into the mix – now better than ever thanks toHeavymetalfoes Electrumite – and the Life Point cost vanishes.
Paying out so many Life Points presents an opportunity for Trickstars, so Ithink we'll primarily see Solemn Judgment as a going-first Side Deck answerto Evenly Matched in decks that need it. It's yet another negation effectin an era of intense interaction from hand traps, and fresh competitorshave arrived since it was last legal.
It'll be interesting to watch Solemn Judgment trend up and down as thecompetitive scene changes. There's a not-so-small chance that it might seeso little play that it's Semi-Limited later this year.
A Bittersweet Day For Links
As the first imports from LINK VRAINS Pack roll in, so does thefirst-ever restriction on a Link Monster in the TCG. Firewall Dragon wasbroken without a hard once per turn clause attached to its effects, andLimiting it helps to cut back on insane combos that weren't healthy for thegame.
Other Link Monsters weren't hit directly yet still lost a lot of theirviability. Cards like Linkuriboh and Akashic Magician are no longer aspowerful without Level Eater and Grinder Golem, and with Blackwing - Gofuthe Vague Shadow out of the picture there's a real challenge for non-Linkstrategies to come up with solutions for the Extra Monster Zone.
Plant Links are a popular strategy in the OCG, but they were hitpreemptively here with the loss of Dandylion. It's a rather shockingchange, honestly, although it makes sense within the context of tacklingother easy ways to Summon Link Monsters.
Konami's aggressively pushing in-theme solutions to Link Summons, whichputs Pendulums at a steep advantage. Not only do they have one of the bestLinks in the game, but it's also available anytime they can field twoPendulums. There are dozens of other themes that wish they could Summon anoutstanding Link 2 as easily as Pendulums can Summon HeavymetalfoesElectrumite, and I fully believe it will be the driving force for PendulumMagicians and Zefras this format.
Apoqliphort Towers has descended from the Forbidden List to once againfrustrate players with its incredible immunities! Towers is actually notmuch of a threat these days thanks to Kaijus, Number S39: Utopia theLightning, and Link Monsters, although it can still catch players bysurprise. Its Limit is far less important than Saqlifice's return toUnlimited status, but it's still not enough to push Qliphorts back into thecompetitive scene.
Ultimately Qliphort Scout is still Limited, and a well-timed Cosmic Cycloneis all it takes to nearly auto-win the match-up.
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Qliphort Genius just isn't enough to lift the deck out of its currentdepression. It's among the worst of the imported Links and doesn't help thestrategy build a strong Turn 1 set-up. Qlife's End fromInvasion of Vengeance is just too slow, and worse yet Qliphortscan't take advantage of Heavymetalfoes Electrumite due to their Summoningrestrictions while in the Pendulum Zones.
There's only one form of support that Qliphorts need: moving Qliphort Scoutto Semi-Limited or Unlimited. I'm not sure when or if we'll get thatchange, but until then it's hard to imagine a successful Qliphort buildthat doesn't instantly lose to spell and trap removal.
Quick Thoughts On This Lengthy List
Surprisingly I don't really have much to say about Monster Reborn. It'scome and gone in the past and probably won't stick around for long. I fullyexpect it to go the way of Snatch Steal: legal for a few months beforereturning to the F&L List.
Reborn will absolutely steal games, and it puts Pendulum strategies in anawkward position where their graveyards might be somewhat lacking. Mostimportantly, the ability to return your or your opponent's Link Monsters tothe field is game changing, and it makes Link-4's much stronger wheneveryou can return them to the field. Cards like Borreload Dragon will requiremuch more care to play effectively, as your opponent's Monster Reborn canswing the duel in their favor.
There's also not much to say about Ojama Trio and Ceasefire. Ojama Trio'stoo risky with the Link mechanic in play, and Chain Burn in general is justworse than Trickstars.
On the other end of the spectrum, Preparation of Rites just moved toUnlimited from Semi-Limited, potentially making Ritual strategies likeCyber Angels competitive again. It's worth checking out, although a singlesearch spell isn't likely to move the entire deck into the competitivespotlight. That said, Archlord Kristya's a fantastic target for MonsterReborn.
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Bottomless Trap Hole and Torrential Tribute are well-timed to promote playof Hey, Trunade! The retrained version of Trunade only affects set spellsand traps, so it's an ideal choice against Solemns, Trap Holes, and othertraps that respond to Summons or activate in the Battle Phase. TorrentialTribute's astonishingly strong in the Link era, and an interesting choiceagainst decks running Scapegoat.
Card Trooper's back while Machine Duplication is legal; something I neverthought possible. It's a cool way to mill a ton of cards and set up a LinkSummon or Rank 3 Xyz. That said it's fairly inconsistent and requires othergood Machine Duplication targets to work effectively, and there are bettermill cards available these days through the Lightsworn engine or with ThatGrass Looks Greener.
In a similar vein, Artifact Moralltach and Thunder King Rai-Oh are bothhitting Unlimited after spending a very long time on the List. Moralltach'salso reliant on the often-inconsistent Artifact Sanctum, and Rai-Oh's justa tad too slow outside of some Pendulum strategies.
Overall I'm a huge fan of these changes with one exception: Droll &Lock Bird should have been restricted in some way. Its interaction withTrickstar Reincarnation's unacceptable, and I'm astonished that Konami'sallowed it to exist for so long despite overkilling other hand loops in thepast.
Trickstars will continue to be successful in part thanks to that combo,while Pendulums – both Magicians and Zefras – will win a majority of thetime when they can dodge both Droll and Evenly Matched. Or at least that'smy quick outlook just a few hours after the announcement of the F&LList.
I'm looking forward to trying new things with Pendulums, experimenting withZefras, and going back to an old favorite of mine: Qliphorts. There's a lotto explore in Extreme Force still, and the Link mechanic remainsfresh as we head further into 2018.
Until next time then
Kelly Locke is a West Michigangamer and writer. In addition to writing onTCGplayer, Kelly writes a personal blog covering Yu-Gi-Oh!, Destiny, andother hobbies. You can follow him onTwitter and check out his Youtube channel. He also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.