Greetings, readers!

For the better part of 2017, Zoodiacs have been the centerpiece of dueling,but as of last month, the Yu-Gi-Oh playerbase is finally able to playZoo-less games.

The excitement shared by the community over what strategies are possible ina world where Zoodiacs aren't viable has been palpable. It's as if everyonehas been interrupted from a deep slumber, delighted to awaken and find thatthey can build decks again.

All of this was made possible by the September 2017 Forbidden & LimitedList. I figured that the release of a new list is as good a time as ever todiscuss the philosophy of F&L Lists. Thus, today's article will do justthat. I'll discuss the goals of an F&L list, dispel somemisconceptions, and analyze how well the September 2017 list achieves thosegoals.

And just for fun, I'll suggest my own recommendations to further thosegoals at the very end. Enjoy.

Goals Of The Forbidden & Limited List
What should an ideal F&L list do? That's always been, and always willbe, a controversial subject.

Different subsets of the playerbase wish for different things. A Konamishareholder may not want exactly what a competitive player who travels topremier events wants, and that player may not want exactly what the localregular wants. Sometimes, every party benefits from the same decision. Forexample, putting Zoodiac Drident and Zoodiac Broadbull to zero benefits theshareholder's profitability, the competitive player who wishes to innovatefor a deck advantage, and the local regular who wants to play against fivedifferent decks at his tournament store, rather than five Zoo decks.

However, not all goals will always benefit all parties. There has to becompromise. As a competitive player who travels, there are certainly somechanges I'd love to see to benefit my Yu-Gi-Oh! experience. On the otherhand, I acknowledge that these changes would also make the barrier to entryfor even just playing the game too high, which would in turn hurt sales andeventually take away the game that I love!

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The goals that I'll outline are my best attempt at a compromise. I drawthese goals from the following sources:

-From my casual experience as a former locals-only goer, who wishes fordiversity

-From my competitive experience as a traveling premier event player, whowishes for decisions-based match outcomes

-From my corporate experience as a consultant, who understands the needs ofmulti-million dollar entities

-From explicit statements Konami representatives have made, either inarticles or in person, about the goals of the Forbidden & Limited list

Based on these factors, I consider the following the most important goalsof a new F&L list:

1. To keep the metagame evolving by eliminating dominant strategies

Although single-deck formats are still formats where considerable evolutionand innovation can take place from week to week (see Dragon Rulers 2013),eventually, all metagames reach a point of stagnation. At such a point, itis time to shake things up by eliminating the deck with the highest winpercentage and the deck that is most played in order to allow newstrategies to fight for the throne.

2. To eliminate individual cards that result in non-interactive games

Sometimes, a card may not define the most dominant strategy, but it maydetermine the outcome of far too many games, regardless of what strategyit's used in. The most complained about examples are ones that forceplayers to play the game we call, "Better Have It" - where a player isrewarded with victory simply for drawing a card, and the opponent notopening with an answer to that card.

3. To increase the percentage of games that are determined by decisionsin either deck building or technical play

A common thread that weaves through nearly every format immediatelyfollowing a change in the F&L list is that players' decisions determinethe outcome of games again. The goal is for games to not be determined bywho went first, or who drew X key card in a mirror match in a stagnantformat, or whether a choice in a 50/50 guess scenario was correct.

4. To prevent the possibility of a particularly nasty future cardinteraction that greatly restricts duels

Because we always know the majority of future releases in advance, we cananticipate future problems and prevent them from ever occurring throughchanges on the F&L list. One example of this was when Morphing Jar wasForbidden before the release of Jackpot 7.

5. To shorten the existing F&L list as much as possible

This goal has been expressed by Konami's TCG R&D department in pastarticles. By keeping the F&L list short, the number of rules thatplayers must memorize decreases. That lowers the barrier to entry for newerplayers, who are likely to be overwhelmed by all the restrictions andmechanics they must learn.

6. To promote the sale of future product

Power creep, or the progression of power from older strategies to newerones, sometimes needs to be helped along by the F&L list. It'snecessary that power creep takes place in the Advanced Format, or else thegame would stop selling and our beloved hobby would be no more.

7. To expand the virtual card pool

I created this seventh criterion because I realized that an example I hadin mind didn't entirely fit into the first six. If the literal card poolwere, say, 8000 cards, that information alone would not tell us how many ofthose 8000 are truly viable options in deckbuilding. Is The MonarchsStormforth at 0, 1, 2, or 3? Hundreds, or even thousands, of cards may beeliminated from the virtual card pool, depending on the answer to thatquestion. Thus, another goal of the F&L list should be to keep thevirtual card pool wide.

Common Misconceptions
Season after season, I see the same misconceptions lead people into makingfalse conclusions about the impact of a new F&L list. When a new listis in effect, everyone wants to be able to predict what will happen next.This information is valuable to players, who wish to succeed in the newformat, as well as to card dealers, who wish to make the right investments.Since it would be impractical to identify all of thesemisconceptions, I will address what are by far the two most common.

1. Players overestimate the impact of a single change to help a deck

Year after year, the masses assume that because individual cards werereleased from Forbidden or Limited status, or that the best deck was hit,that it meant certain engines would be viable again. That's sometimes thecase, but most often not. Be wary of committing the following errors inthought:

-Not recognizing the problem with a deck. When Destiny Draw returned to 3,players attempted to revive Destiny Hero-based engines. That fruitless useof time and money could have been avoided, had players considered the realproblem with the Destiny Draw engine to begin with. It wasn't a lack ofDestiny Draws, but power creep itself, that made the engine unviable.Making a low-powered engine more consistent wouldn't address that problem.Another example of this undeserved hype occurred with Blackwings,Lightsworn, and Six Samurai, when Kalut, Lumina, and Smoke Signal wereunlimited in March of 2013.

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-Not recognizing the relative position of the deck in question. It's notenough if the deck in the first position is hit. It's not enough even ifthe deck in the first three positions are hit. With rareexception, a weak deck will still be a weak deck after a new F&L list.Perhaps the most classic example of that is Gladiator Beast. After itsprime, players – I myself am guilty – returned to GBs every timethere was a new list. That continued far longer than it should have. Theone principle to remember here is thatjust because the best deck is no longer viable does not mean thatanything is possible.

To cite an example more relevant to 2017, a lot of hype surroundedTrickstars with the recent list. Investing time or practice into the deckis unwise, and something that can be avoided if players think about whatthe real issue with Trickstars is: did Zoodiacs really keep them out of aleading competitive position, or did the inherent problems with the enginekeep them from achieving that? My recommendation is to make it a practiceto ask that type of question about any deck you consider following adrastic change in the competitive landscape.

2. Players underestimate the impact of a single change to hurt a deck

This second misconception addresses the opposite scenario of the first,where players misjudge how much or how little a change can hurt a deck.Konami misjudges this as well, as evidenced in how they sometimesunder-restrict the engine they're trying to hurt (Zoodiacs), or overkill adeck with more limitations than necessary (Wind-Ups).

Understanding whether a change is make-or-break comes with understandingwhat aspect of a deck is really centralizing competition. In the case ofZoodiacs, I saw many people including Zoodiac Barrage on their wishlist ofcards to hit. But is an extra summon really what put the deck over the top?If you think about it, Barrage didn't serve a substantially different rolefrom Shuffle Reborn, Enemy Controller, My Body as a Shield, and so on inZoodiac Decks.

No, the actual problem with the deck was Zoodiac Drident. That card, likeThe Monarchs Stormforth last year, singlehandedly determined that entiredecks couldn't be played. It doesn't matter that Barrage got the follow-upDrident, or allowed you to push through a Drident, or let you revive aDrident. The problem was Drident. Until Drident was dealt with, it shouldnot have been safe to assume that the deck was done for.

When the first Dragon Ruler format was drawing to a close, and the nextF&L list that would Forbid all of the baby dragons was known, a playerasked me, "What are you going to do in September after they kill yourprecious deck?" Why, I was going to continue playing Dragon Rulers, ofcourse. While many tried to switch to decks like Blackwing, Mermail,Geargia, and other rogue strategies, the fact remained that there werestill twelve monsters you could include in your deck that each had inessence three effects, a large body, the same Levels, and tremendoussynergy. That example serves to illustrate that as many as four or morecards in an engine can be Forbidden and it still won't dethrone a topstrategy. The question to bear in mind is what a deck really depends on tokeep its dominant position.

Sometimes Konami makes meaningless adjustments to the quantity of a card,without realizing that the card's existence, not its legal quantity (1, 2,or 3), is what makes it powerful. When Infernity Barrier went to 1, myfriends and I joked, "This sounds less like they want to stop Infernity,and more like they want to teach everyone the correct ratios to play inInfernity." Similar jokes were cracked about Elder Entity Norden.

One final factor to consider when it comes to misjudging the impact of alist is the rubber band effect that takes place in response to a listchange. Players will adapt if there is room to adapt, so the question ishow adaptive can an engine be? An example where this question was relevantinvolved Burning Abyss in light of the August 2016 list. Beatrice and Cirmay have gone to one-per-deck, but were the second copies of those cardsreally the extent of its potential? BA thrived on flexibilty, and sureenough, it won ARG Oklahoma right after that list dropped anyways.

On the other hand, Monarchs and Kozmos also had cards go to 1, but thosecards – stuff like Pantheism of the Monarchs and Kozmo Dark Destroyer –didn't leave any room for a rubber band effect. Nothing Monarchs could docould adjust for a lack of multiple Pantheisms, any more than anythingKozmo could do could adjust for a lack of multiple Dark Destroyers. Therewas no redundancy to fall back on.

When asking whether a deck is really made viable orreally put out of commission by a particular change on the list,consider all the matters that have been discussed in this section.

The September 2017 Forbidden/Limited List
And now, to evaluate the September 2017 list!

To 0:
Daigusto Emeral - This was long overdue. The card's been used almostexclusively in strategies intended to be one-sided since it was released.

Denglong, First of the Yang Zing - I could take it or leave it, but Isuppose it fulfills goal #4.

Dinomight Knight, the True Dracofighter - Goal #1, 6, and 7.

Grandsoil the Elemental Lord - Goal #4, primarily.

True King Lithosagym, the Disaster - This was an odd choice to me. WhileLithosagym is above the proverbial Jedi curve of card power levels, itdoesn't strike me as substantial enough to warrant Forbidding, or evenLimiting.

Zoodiac Broadbull - This change serves multiple goals. Even if all otherZoodiacs were gone, this card must go to 0 in order to satisfy goal #4. Itenables too many degenerate strategies.

Zoodiac Drident - Goal #1 primarily, and possibly the single mostpredictable pick for the List along with Broadbull.

To 1:
Ignis Heat, the True Dracowarrior - I believe this decision was made out ofa trigger-happy attempt to curb the influence of True Dracos. However, it'shitting the wrong card. Ignis is very much balanced out by the fact thatit's blank when you draw it and you're going first.

Miscellaneousaurus - A Lonefire Blossom with a handtrap effect. A necessaryLimiting.

Zoodiac Ratpier - This card serves as one of the stand-out exceptions towhat I said earlier about trying to adjust the quantities of a card whenthe problem is a card's very existence. In the case of Ratpier, its powerlay in exactly how many could be played - the opposite of cards likeInfernity Barrier, Norden, and Drident.

Dark Hole - Unneeded, but also inconsequential.

Gateway of the Six - I think this change is on the risky side. While itserves to expand the virtual card pool, goal #7, it putsgoal #4 at jeopardy with a potential future interaction.

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Interrupted Kaiju Slumber - This card is self-regulating in that itrequires you to run several subpar cards and have a certain numberof copies in your deck just to activate it. This would have been fine leftat 3.

True King's Return - The True Draco cards are no doubt good; each has threeeffects. However, Heritage is the card to worry about. Without DinomightReturn is fine at 3.

To 2:
Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning
Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier
Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer
T.G. Hyper Librarian
Brain Control
Burial from a Different Dimension
El Shaddoll Fusion
Preparation of Rites

I won't remark on these cards individually, but say in summary thatKonami has a tendency to test the waters with cards they intend to removefrom the List entirely by first putting them to 2. That's in line with goal#6. If changes are made too suddenly, a potential oversight couldunnecessarily hurt sales. These cards can and likely will go to 3 on afuture List.

To 3:
Debris Dragon
Honest
Rescue Cat
Rescue Rabbit
Summoner Monk
Witch of the Black Forest
Charge of the Light Brigade
Dragon Ravine
Wavering Eyes

These changes were all understandable, as power creep and the recent rulechanges have rendered many of these cards no longer playable. Yes, evenWavering Eyes is no longer a good card. Its former strength lay in the factthat it searched Monkeyboard, which turned into both of your PendulumScales. Although Jeff Jones won the Orlando UDS with 3 Wavering Eyesmained, he was clear in his statement that the card's use was a concessionto the mirror match and nothing more.

Dragon Ravine and Charge of the Light Brigade to 3 are both changes thatwill only improve the consistency of decks that are currently popular at amore casual level, while possessing the potential to one day impact higherlevels of competition.

Additional Recommendations
So here are the changes I would have implemented, had I full control overthe F&L list myself. I already know from past articles I will get a lotof heat for my views, but I'm fully convinced that the drastic changes Isuggest would have a lot less impact on the game than people realize.Again, I think the dissent comes in large part from those who thinkaccording to the misconceptions I outlined in today's discussion.

I'm an advocate for a short F&L List, and I believe it's very muchpossible to have a short List without significantly affecting competitiveplay. I'm also an advocate of no Semi-Limited category. I do believe thecategory has its use, specifically for cards like Zoodiac Ratpier, wherethe exact number of legal copies determines the strength of the card. Butat this time, I don't think any card needs such a restriction. RecklessGreed would be the first card, if any, I would put in that category.

To 0:
Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal
Chain Material
Daigusto Emeral
Imperial Order
Jowgen the Spiritualist
Life Equalizer
Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King
Nekroz of Unicore
Ojama Trio
One Day of Peace
Royal Magical Library
Shooting Quasar Dragon
T.G. Hyper Librarian
Zoodiac Broadbull
Zoodiac Drident

To 1:
Ancient Fairy Dragon
Anti-Spell Fragrance
Artifact Sanctum
Card of Demise
Ceasefire
Chain Strike
Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss
Dragonic Diagram
Firewall Dragon
Gozen Match
Infernity Necromancer
Instant Fusion
Mistake
Performapal Monkeyboard
Rivalry of Warlords
Terraforming

To 3:
Artifact Moralltach
Atlantean Dragoons
Book of Moon
Bottomless Trap Hole
Brain Control
Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier
Burial from a Different Dimension
Butterfly Dagger - Elma
Card Trooper
Charge of the Light Brigade
Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
Compulsory Evacuation Device
Dark Armed Dragon
Dark Hole
Debris Dragon
Deep Sea Diva
Divine Wind of Mist Valley
Dragon Ravine
Elder Entity Norden
Honest
Ignister Prominence, the Blasting Dracoslayer
Infernity Barrier
Interrupted Kaiju Slumber
Inzektor Dragonfly
Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer
Mathematician
Maxx "C"
Metamorphosis
Mind Control
Necroface
Neo-Spacian Grand Mole
Night Assailant
Preparation of Rites
Rekindling
Spellbook of Judgment
Summoner Monk
Symbol of Heritage
The Tyrant Neptune
Thunder King Rai-Oh
Tribe-Infecting Virus
Upstart Goblin
Wall of Revealing Light
Wavering Eyes
Wind-Up Carrier Zenmaity
Wind-Up Magician
Witch of the Black Forest
Zoodiac Ratpier

It would be excessive to explain each of these choices individually, soI'll make a few sweeping statements. First, there are certain cards whosegood effects are easily checked by the mere fact that they're NormalSummoned monsters. Whether it's Mathematician, Deep Sea Diva, Card Trooper,Tribe-Infecting Virus and so on, the very fact that the price of the NormalSummon has become so expensive in exchange for a monster has rendered thesecards fine at 3.

Think about it this way: Denko Sekka's at 3, and gives you better value foryour Normal Summon than just about every monster on the F&L list.

Second, many of these cards are long overdue for freedom simply becausetheir effects aren't even good anymore, regardless of cost. Whether it'sMetamorphosis, Rekindling, Grand Mole, or the Wind-Ups, these cards – forwhatever reason – are being rolled out super slowly. I find it unlikelythey will remain limited for good. Anything broken that you try to come upwith for the overdue cards simply requires you to run too many bad cards ina bad deck to pull off.

Third, there are certain cards that should never have been hit to beginwith because they were never good. Butterly Dagger - Elma was Forbidden toprevent a combo that never would have existed. If you askaround, the average duelist will cite some sort of Gearfried Exodia deck asthe reason for Elma's ban, but in reality, there was no format where thestrategy was ever viable leading up to its restriction. In any case, thereal problem with that strategy is not Elma, but rather Royal MagicalLibrary, which has only ever been used in degenerate decks. Another exampleis Necroface. There was never ever any point in time where the card wascompetitively viable.

Fourth, all fifteen cards that I'd Forbid are used with the intent toremove interaction from duels.

Fifth, I put Upstart Goblin back to 3. This was the decision I deliberatedmost. On one hand, one could argue that it takes away from deckbuildingskill because it gives players three fewer decisions to make with theirdecks. On the other hand, it rewards players who use all three copies overthose who do not use any for testing to the point that they identified theworst three cards in their deck, while also punishing those who use allthree copies but didn't test adequately. That perspective is the reason Iultimately think that it would favor skill to bring the card back to 3.

Thanks everyone for reading! My articles are almost always inspired byquestions from readers, so please feel free to share your thoughts andqueries down in the Comments. Stay tuned for more articles in the nearfuture.

-Johnny Li