The last time we did this we were discussing the September 2013 F&L List, a complicated beast that had to clean up after one of the most deranged formats of all time. The era of Dragon Rulers versus Spellbooks – which kind of just became the era of Dragon Rulers pretty quickly – was a difficult time for many duelists. Namely anyone who didn't want to play Dragon Rulers. The September 2013 list was the first time the Advanced Format had split between the OCG and TCG in over half a decade, and with changes like Heavy Storm being Forbidden and a massive wave of hate for splashable trap cards, it raised a ton of questions.

Not only did that list tackle Dragon Rulers and Spellbooks, but it made a ton of preemptive tweaks geared toward secondary challenges that would've hampered competitive play otherwise. It was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, F&L Lists of all time: a whopping thirty-eight cards were restricted, while nine more were released.

Most of the changes were pretty clearcut to me, and it was admittedly kinda fun making merry of the fact that the list caused so much rageface amongst certain groups that didn't really get it. But it was even more fun delivering real answers to those questions and promoting understanding; I don't know if any single article on TCGplayer has ever garnered such a response from the readership. The discussion really helped a lot of people connect with the game they love, and to me that's one of my core functions: it's my job to help you get more out of the game, and helping you understand why things happen is always a great way to do that.

Today's Discussion Won't Be Nearly So Grand
When the TCG shifted over to a four month format for September 2013, and then a three month format in January, the general theory was that KDE intended to make format shifts less high-impact; that they'd reserve F&L List revisions for tweaking the existing play environment, instead of just flipping the table every six months. There was really no two ways about that: when you invest your time, money, and heart into building a deck, it sucks when someone strips all the best cards out of it and tells you that you have to start playing something else. I'm of the opinion that customers like buying cards, but they don't like to feel as if they're being forced to buy them, and I'd guess that everyone at KDE probably feels the same.

Toward that end, the new format this week only restricts seven cards – way down from the thirty-eight restrictions we saw back in September! Meanwhile it loosens the shackles on three more: Necroface, Magical Stone Excavation, and Primal Seed. The changes to this list aren't drastic, though there was a surprising volume of snark and anger in the first days following its posting: jimmies were rustled to an almost shocking degree. In fact, part of the backlash seemed to be from people who'd grown so accustomed to the nuclear holocaust-style world-shattering lists of the past that they actually seemed to prefer that approach. It's been like watching someone try and shake free of Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological phenomenon where kidnap victims come to love their kidnappers.

If I could? I'd give each and every one of those people a hug, and tell them how it's all gonna be okay. That the bad times are over now, and we're never going back to that dark, dark place.

So let's start on today's journey through a veritable forest of obscenity-laden forum posts! Virtually incoherent status updates! And tweets so angry it's tough to believe they packed so much angst into just 140 characters! We'll start with easily the most common question about the new list.

Mad In Massachusetts asked…

"This by far is 1 of the most ridiculous list ever like who the hell plays empty jar I'm done playing geargia and bujins now."

I'd assume that Massachusetts means he's done, and is going to go play Geargia and Bujins now, but the lack of commas – so often a symptom of internet rage! – do make his statement a bit ambiguous. To give an impression of how common this misunderstanding was, here are two more comments just like it:

"Thank you...we all knew how rampant Empty Jar was and how it continued to top every event. Now can you go ahead and ban some Cloudians? They're too op."

"What the f*ck morphin jar 1 & 2 banned c'mon man."

A lot of people saw the newly-Forbidden status of Morphing Jar and Morphing Jar #2, and assumed that those changes were made to restrict deck-out decks; strategies that aim to use those two monsters with other cards to deck the opponent, while aiming to avoid all interactions between players. And sure, that deck is – in theory – not very good for the game. Non-interactive decks are inherently frustrating to play against, and rarely win events; they exist almost entirely just to knock competitors with more conventional strategies out of contention.

But as many posters pointed out, that wasn't actually the point of the change. The real problem was an upcoming card in Primal Origin currently fanlated as Jackpot 7:

Jackpot 7
Normal Spell
Shuffle this card into the Deck. When this card in your possession is sent to the Graveyard by your opponent's card effect: Banish this card. If you have 3 "Jackpot 7" banished by this effect, you win the Duel.

There are two big variants on the Jackpot 7 deck in Japan. The first chiefly relies on Burglars' rel=" Scorpion Burglars">Dark Scorpion Burglars, Creature Swapping it to your opponent so you can crash a bunch of disposable attackers and token monsters into it. Because your opponent controls Burglars' rel=" Scorpion Burglars">Dark Scorpion Burglars, you can send Jackpot 7 to your graveyard and banish it, because the Burglars' ability is considered to be "your opponent's card effect."

The second Jackpot 7 strategy revolves around Flip Effect monsters like Morphing Jar and Morphing Jar #2, again using Creature Swap to put a monster on your opponent's field so you can flip it up and down with effects. This strategy's kind of hit-or-miss; it's regarded by many as less consistent overall than the Dark Scorpion variant, but it has seen its share of play overseas.

Even amongst players who understood that the problem was Jackpot 7 and not deck-out strategies, the change caused some confusion: why would KDE stop the less consistent Morphing Jar variant, but leave the Dark Scorpion deck? Viewed in that light it's a bit beguiling, but take a step back and the answer's clear: the Morphing Jar deck's a potential FTK, while the Dark Scorpion version gives your opponent at least one turn to set up a defense. OTK's are one thing, but FTK's are a whole 'nother problem, and the FTK issue's much more of a concern due to the sheer level of frustration it causes. Makes sense, right?

#####CARDID= 1544#####

Moving on! Raging In Rhode Island queries…

"Ok so f*ckin' Woflbark got hit to one, y tha f*ck didn't they hit crane to one for bujinns??"

Probably for at least two reasons, Raging! While Fire Fists and Mermails had both won YCS tournaments prior to the new F&L List being published, Bujins had seen no such success. They did take YCS Chicago, but that happened after the list dropped; the deck was modestly successful at that point, but hadn't really seen many Regional Top 8's or YCS Top 32's until the weekend of YCS Sao Paulo (which also may have taken place after the list was finalized – we don't really know).

At the same time, Primal Origins has new Bujin cards! And while those new cards have a lot of potential, it kinda would've sucked if Bujins got nerfed before they actually did anything, and then had to rely on new cards just to break even. Fire Fists and Mermails both won Championships and received minor slaps on the wrist. Karakuris and Harpies won Championships and weren't hit at all. While it risks looking like a cash grab in the eyes of some players, would it really have made sense to thump Bujins when they hadn't won anything bigger than a Regional?

Curious In Connecticut asked…

"What's up with April 1st to July 13th?"

Good question! And delivered without flecks of angerspittle hurled onto your keyboard! Well done, sir.

This was a big question that many people figured out on their own, but to be clear: the new F&L List lasts for three and a half months instead of a more even number because the North American WCQ – the last WCQ of the 2014 season – takes place on July 11th. Tweaking the format length ensured that all players in all TCG territories compete in the same play environment, give or take a few promo cards.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, Madly Missin' Him In Mississippi cried out…

"WHERE'S Dark Magician of Chaos?!? WHY ISN'T HE BACK YET?!?!?"

I have to admit, I did not anticipate this question! But I'd imagine that DMOC's not back for two big reasons: first, it's historically enabled a ton of different OTK's, all keying off repeated Special Summoning to abuse its effect. Second, even when DMOC was being played in non-OTK decks in the past, it tended to make recursion cards into serious problems. Right now we've got Call Of The Haunted at three, Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders Limited, and a number of other Special Summon effects.

While power spells are few and far between, a number of balanced spell cards might still be problematic if you could reuse them with DMOC. On top of that, effects that can load Dark Magician of Chaos to the graveyard to set those combos up are much more common now than they were back when DMOC was last playable: Lavalval Chain alone would make it much easier to abuse.

Keeping DMOC out of the Advanced Format keeps a number of OTK genies stoppered away, while letting cards like Call and Redox to dodge more restrictions. It also ensures that future recursive Special Summoning cards aren't inhibited: make no Mistake, Dark Magician of Chaos is so powerful that it would restrict future card design. But speaking of crazy OTK problems...

Accusatory In Alabama asserts:

"YEAH! Let's make crazy OTK's by bringing back Primal Seed! How STUPID did Konami just become?"

Oh, Primal Seed. If you're not familiar with it, this card can only be activated when you control Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning, and it's only relevant when you have at least two cards banished. It's the basis of a couple different OTK scenarios: if you control a card like Macro Cosmos or Banisher of the Radiance, you can activate a spell card, resolve it, banish it, and then bring it back with Primal Seed. When you resolve Primal Seed you'll banish that as well, so if you've got two Primal Seeds at once you can use one to return your victory-inducing spell card and get the other Primal Seed to your hand. Activate that win condition spell and play the second Seed to get back both cards, and you have an infinite loop.

Recycling Sparks? That's game. Recycling Limiter Removal? Beaver Warrior OTK with DNA Surgery on the field! Terrifying, right?

Well, no. It's really not, actually. Take the Sparks combo, which is easier than the Limiter Removal + Machine attacker combo, since it doesn't require you to successfully field a monster nor make a successful attack. That combo requires Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning, Banisher of the Radiance, two Primal Seeds, and Sparks. Then you need a Light and a Dark in your graveyard so you can banish them to Special Summon the Soldier, and you need your opponent to not have Solemn Warning, Compulsory Evacuation Device, Bottomless Trap Hole, or anything like them.

That's a five-card combo that involves a Limited card, and a bunch of stuff that's awful to topdeck. And it needs graveyard set-up. And for your opponent to have no answers. Know what else is a five-card OTK that doesn't matter?

Exodia. And that deck's more consistent than anything you could make with Primal Seed.

#####CARDID= 11076#####

I love this list because it doesn't just sideswipe anything clean out of competition. While the list did deal a blow to Fire Fists with the Limiting of Coach Soldier Wolfbark; to Fire Kings with Rekindling; Mermails with Mermail Abyssgunde; and Infernities with Infernity Barrier, all four decks are still competitive. Joe Bogli, arguably the most notable Fire Fist player today, stated in a post-event interview after YCS Chicago that he'd continue playing Fire Fists, likely just subbing in Call Of The Haunteds. The deck doesn't lose much.

Fernando Toro, who finished Top 16 at YCS Chicago with Infernities, stated post-event that he'd continue to play Infernities with only one Barrier. As he put it, a number of possible changes like further restrictions on Infernity Archfiend or Infernity Launcher would have killed the deck, but a lot of Infernity duelists were only running two Barriers to begin with. (Ironically, Toro wasn't one of them – he played a full three Barriers but was still confident in the deck moving forward.)

There was a long period of time where Mermails just didn't play Mermail Abyssgunde, and while Fire Kings get a mid-game and late game boost from Rekindling, it's a similar situation to Infernities and Infernity Barrier: many Fire King decks were only running one or two copies of Rekindling anyways. Again, the solution may be as simple as a Call Of The Haunted or two. (Seriously DMOC Guy; we're never getting DMOC back.)

So In The End
If the past format had one major competitive flaw, it may be that the top decks just weren't as complicated as the top strategies in some highly skill-driven eras gone by. +1 Fire Fists and Bujins? They don't offer anywhere near the number of decisions and branching plays of say, a TeleDAD deck or Dark Armed Dragon Return. The popularity of Reckless Greed and Upstart Goblin served to simplify competition even more, as thousands of duelists sacrificed variety in their play patterns to make fewer moves more consistently.

But that may change in the coming weeks. If Fire Fists gravitate back towards 3-Axis and Mixed Fire Fist builds, those decks will require more decision making. If the Sylvan deck becomes a threat as of Primal Origin, that strategy will offer much more complexity. Meanwhile, Rank 4 decks continue to create skill-driven choices largely through the Xyz toolbox – a factor that's becoming more and more complicated each week, as Rank 4 toolbox decks become more successful.

This past format certainly wasn't "unskilled" – we saw a lot of the same competitors topping repeatedly in a short period of time. But the format was less demanding at the entry level, and we may see the shape of competition swing in the other direction over the next two months.

What do you think? Are there still elements of the new F&L List keeping you up at night? Post your questions down below and let's see if we can tackle them together.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer