It's times like these where all I can say is "Wow," mouth agape, maybe with a tear in my eye, and just stare.

 

Sometimes a new Forbidden & Limited List impacts a deck, or maybe a whole set, and sometimes they bring old themes back into competition, but it's very rare that we see annihilation of this magnitude. The January 2020Forbidden & Limited List left virtually nothing unscathed, reshaping competitive Yu-Gi-Oh! in the most earth shattering way possible.

If you haven't gotten around to seeing the list yourself, check it out here and prepare to marvel in wonder and awe. The best of the best decks of 2019- including Orcusts, Sky Striker, World Chalice, Pendulum Salamangreat,Thunder Dragons, and even True Draco were all curbed at different levels of severity, and none escaped the wrath of the new format.

Even major Side Deck cards like Red Reboot and Dinowrestler Pankratops wereLimited, crippling their roles as consistent answers to certain matchups.All in all, over thirty cards were moved around on the Forbidden, Limited and Semi-Limited Lists, making this format change one of the rare few that stand apart for sheer scope, much like the September 2013 List.

It's a lot to wrap your mind around, and if you think you've come up with the best deck moving forward… I have some bad news for you: everyone else has the same clean slate. There are lots of powerful strategies that can compete in this environment, and even if you settle on one for yourself plenty of players are going to just keep finding the next big thing. If there's one dominant strategy that outpaces everything else, it's going to take a while to find it because there are just so many candidates to test.

Reality Is Only How You See It
In my mind, no card is ever truly worthless. Sure, something likeGryphon Wing or Zoodiac Ratpier are relatively useless given the current state of the Forbidden & Limited List, but if you've been around long enough to see the repeated reinvention of Burning Abyss, you can attest to the power of a few well played cards.

That all said, several decks are now unplayable in the forms we got used to. Namely Sky Strikers and Thunder Dragons. Don't get me wrong, crafty players can often adapt to big format changes and find new ways to keep playing their favorite strategies, but I don't see a way for pure SkyStrikers or pure Thunder Dragons to survive now; Sky Striker Mobilize -Engage! and Thunder Dragon Colossus were the most important cards for each of their respective decks and now they're both Forbidden. There's really no getting around that.

Take away the keystone cards and any strategy crumbles. Sky Strikers may sneak a win here and there with a bevy of traps or a well-timed Sky StrikerMecha - Widow Anchor, but Engage! always started the duel, searched keycards you needed to fulfill your strategy, thinned the deck, and kept the entire game afloat. Despite all the other Limits that past formats hurled at Sky Strikers Engage was the real lifeblood of the deck. You could argue how good Strikerrs would be if Sky Striker Mobilize - Engage! was Limited instead of Forbidden, sure. But with 0 copies per deck, good luck winning any games.

Thunder Dragon Colossus was a similar blow. Yes, the other Thunder Dragoncards are still amazing and they can earn you impressive card economy, and yes you can flood the field with lots of small bodies and have a chance at some unique Xyz and Link plays. But you'd be kidding yourself if you tried to say that Thunder Dragon Colossus wasn't the deck's main course. Colossus was often the entire strategy by itself.

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Simply put, the deck doesn't exist in the same capacity anymore. There's no gentle way of saying it: Colossus has left a hugewhole in what we've largely known Thunder Dragons to be. Whatever Thunder Dragon strategy comes next may have success on some level, but it'll be such a deviation from the past builds that it'll be unrecognizable by comparison. It's like banning Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss and trying to keep "BurningAbyss" alive.

You could do it, but oh boy would that be hard and oh wow would that deck ook weird.

Other top decks like Orcusts, Pendulums, True Dracos, and Salamangreats canfunction similar to how they did in the past, but each of those decks will be fighting an uphill battle. The cards removed from those strategies were all focused on generating consistency rather than raw power. For example, Forbidding Orcust Harp Horror makes it a lot harder toset up an optimal Orcust board one the first turn; you can still make strong plays thanks to cards like Orcustrated Babel, Dingirsu, the Orcust of the Evening Star, and other supporting cast members, but you need to usedifferent supplementary cards to get there, and you're probably going toneed more of them to combo off.

The same goes for Pendulum decks - the consistency of HeavymetalfoesElectrumite is no more and Pendulum players are going to have to accept higher risks of brick hands in the long term. But Pendulum is such anebulous term in modern Yu-Gi-Oh, there will inevitably be some Pendulum mash-ups out there that can still function. They just won't be doing itwith Tempest Magician. True Draco have Card of Demise and Dragonic DiagramLimited, but True King Lithosagym, the Disaster could usher in a new breed of deck. I'll even say Salamangreats could still work, though their consistency has definitely been cut short.

No matter which way you look at it, the decks that have consistently dominated competition over the last year are either gone, or decimated to the point where consistent tournament wins are almost impossible.

Everyone Is Friends
If you're left asking yourself what to play, it's fine if you feel a little lost in the new format. There's a huge realm of possibilities out there, and for a lot of players that's the ideal situation. But if you're not that kind of duelist and nothing creative comes to mind, then just look at the decks that have had success over the past few months that were left unscathed by the Forbidden & Limited List. History's a great starting point.

For example, take a look at thisMonster Mash deckI wrote about a few weeks ago. Outside of a Danger! Nessie! and Sekka's Light, the deck remains unchanged under the new F&L List. In fact it actually got a little boost with Tour Guide From the Underworld bumped up to Semi-Limited, making the theme more predictable in early turns. Dead deck? Not in the slightest.

And you don't have to look any further than our very own Doug Zeeff if you're thinking about other rogue strategies like Altergeists. In the last few months,Doug made it the Top Cut of the ARG Invitational, a Regional Qualifier, the UDS Invitational and YCSPortland with a deck that's completely unaffected by the new format. I can't speak for his Altergeist list right now, but I'd bet money that his Altergeist core remains the same and the deck's just better now going against a weakened field.

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The same goes for a bevy of other decks:Lair Infernoids,Madolches,Fluffals,ABC Dragon Buster,Cyber Dragons,Heroes,Mekk-Knights,SPYRAL,Dinosaurs… there are literally dozens of different decks that have found success in the last few months even as the best decks raged on capturingChampionships. If you think you're better off perfecting your performance with an established deck rather than creating a new one, at the very least take a look at ourDeck Archive to see the vast range of unique strategies that did well in the back half of 2019.

If I had to choose a deck to play, my default would be Paleozoic Frogs because that's just the way I am, but in my defense, the deck did get as light boost with Dinowrestler Pankratops and Red Reboot now Limited.Sadly, I think Altergeists are an objectively better strategy than my trusty Frogs, but in the days following a new Forbidden & Limited List it really is open season. Prove me wrong and win an event with Frogs.

I'm not saying anything and everything is going to work, but without any major impediments in the way, there's a good chance that deck that's felt like it's been just inches from greatness could put in some serious work at your next event. After all, we've seen rogue decks find plenty of success if they can lock down opponents or OTK unsuspecting rivals in a flash.

Thanks! I Hate It
I have very few complaints about this F&L List, but I'd be remiss to not point out how weird it feels for some of these cards to be Unlimited.Dark Armed Dragon hasn't seen competitive play in quite some time, but now you can have three in one deck? Same with Morphing Jar #2? Players who've been around as long as I have remember these as really powerful, really problematic cards.

That said, I've been a big advocate of Tribe-Infecting Virus coming off theForbidden & Limited List for a solid five to ten years now, and I've finally got my wish! What am I going to do with it? I don't know, play it in Fableds and Mermails? I never had specific plans for Tribe, but hey, it's an option now if I ever want to go back to it.

It truly is strange to see cards that were once such a scourge get safely unrestricted, but that's the nature of an ever-evolving game. Cards likeSolemn Warning and Soul Drain looked they could have been permanentlyForbidden just a few years ago, and now they hardly elicit yawns when they come back to three per deck.

It's not without precedent, and it actually goes pretty well the vast majority of the time; we've seen plenty of clamor for cards to be locked away forever, only to have the same cards back at three years later. ElShaddoll Construct, anyone? I can only imagine what we'll be saying about some of these cards in a few years when they inevitably come off theForbidden and Limited List, but until then, happy dueling!

Just remember: beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson


Loukas Peterson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, hoping one day to run in5th Congressional District on the platform of "Fabled Link Monsters forEveryone." You can find him onTwitter or building a bonfire in his backyard to attract the local wildlife for an audience with his ukulele. Hailed as the only person capable of cooking Minute Rice in 56 seconds, Loukas is always looking at expanding his backyard to house every dog in the world without a home.Well, and those with homes already.