Timing was an important factor. This year brought about the end of three-month formats, introducing a new system where Konami randomly drops a new F&L List any time they see fit. I'm a fan of variable-length formats, but there needs to be communication from Konami to prepare the player base for impending changes. I can't think of any other games where major balance updates occur at random times with no prior warning.
How many players bought the latest Mega Tins, or singles from the Mega Packs, with hopes of building last format's dominant decks? How many were new players, who had no idea that Konami was not opposed to obliterating several strategies in a single List? Even veterans could have been caught off-guard. After all, the last four or five Lists have been extremely kind to current competitive themes. Why would this one be any different? With no warning ahead of time, many players saw recent investments destroyed.
That said, this List is long overdue. I couldn't be more satisfied with the changes made to last format's top decks, and I think it's a great place for the upcoming format to start from. My only concern is that without telegraphing the impending release of next format's list, Konami's setting themselves up to make more players agitated and upset by changes three, four, or five months from now.Moving Into A New Year
That made several of the most competitive weapons in the game worthless at higher levels of competition where gear stats mattered. The player base could have complained that their favorite weapons were being phased out to sell the next expansion, but that didn't happen. Players embraced the change, welcoming a new era of competitive play that wasn't defined by the same tired guns and the same old tactics.
The point of this isn't to shame Yu-Gi-Oh! players for being upset about new changes – after all, we tend to be a bit more invested into game monetarily – but instead to argue that the game absolutely does need a complete refresh periodically. Over the last year Konami has balanced the game by letting new releases do much of the work. That's typically a recipe for long-term power creep, but I think Konami managed to avoid it surprisingly well. That said, competition was becoming increasingly stagnant. Time and time again the same decks rose to the top of major tournaments. Thirteen months of Shaddolls, Burning Abyss, and Satellarknights gets old at the six or seven month mark.
A complete refresh is...refreshing! Format-shattering F&L Lists are one of the reasons I like playing this game so much. It's not always a money grab – at a certain point you have to let go of the current top decks to keep the game playable and interesting. Imagine if Dragon Rulers were still around in a form competitive enough to consistently top events. Players were tired of that just a year and a half later, let alone nearly twice that amount time. The question is: how long should Konami keep highly competitive strategies around before saying "No more!" and slamming them with restrictions? Hopefully that's something they're working towards figuring out.
Before we shift gears and talk about some of the actual changes, I'll make one last comparison to Destiny: Bungie previewed the majority of the major changes well in advance of the actual patch. This is another thing I'd like to see Konami do, and I think it'd set them apart from other games with restriction lists. If players had known that Shaddolls, Qliphorts, Nekroz, and Burning Abyss were all being hit by a F&L List in the next two months, would that give players more time to adjust? There's a lot of money on the line investing in a Championship-level strategy. I'd prefer deck building to be less of a Gamble, if possible.Dragon Ravine Is Still Semi-Limited
With no competitive Dragon strategies anywhere to be seen there's no potential for Dragon Ruler-like abuse. What could possibly be holding Konami back on this card? Destruction Swords? Probably not, though there is some fun synergy with the Buster Blader tie-in theme from Breakers of Shadow. It's definitely not enough to keep the card Semi-Limited.Welcome To The Pendulum Era
Who am I kidding? Exciton was perhaps the only card holding back decks like Majespecters, Magician Pendulum, and Performapals. Now that it's gone those strategies have little to fear from Rank 4 decks, and can commit their Pendulums to the field without carefully counting cards or relying heavily on monster negation to keep them in the game. Plenty of duelists have already pointed out that Konami's reason for taking Exciton out of the game is purely business-motivated. The new sets support Pendulums, Exciton counters Pendulums, thus Exciton must go.
But it'd be one thing if Exciton was only a counter to Pendulums. That's not the case. It's an amazing card with a busted effect, and it absolutely should have required more Xyz Materials to Summon. Make no Mistake: Exciton would have earned its place on the F&L List even if Pendulums weren't a factor.
Rank 4's, and Xyz Monsters as a whole, aren't going anywhere. Unlike Synchros they don't require specific cards to Summon, so they'll remain the most-played Extra Deck monster type in the game. However, you'll be seeing them much more frequently in Pendulum strategies. Xyz Summoning with a Pendulum Monster removes that Pendulum from the pool of monsters you can Pendulum Summon next turn, creating a unique balancing aspect that helps prevent the Pendulum mechanic from being too overpowered."Yu-Gi-Oh! Never Changes, But Decks Do"
Nekroz can barely Summon Nekroz of Trishula anymore now that Shurit, Strategist of Nekroz is Forbidden. Searching it might have been a struggle anyways since Nekroz of Brionac and Reinforcements of the Army hit the Limited List. Nekroz of Unicore joins them, further reducing the consistency of the deck. Still, plenty of other deck-searching effects remain for Nekroz to abuse.
El Shaddoll Construct and El Shaddoll Fusion were vital parts of the Shaddoll strategy, but Shaddoll players will have to look for alternatives this format. Construct is the biggest loss, making Light attribute monsters useless for conducting Fusion Summons. What's next for this deck? Could it be played with a different attribute fueling most of its Fusion Summons, or is it definitely crippled? Shaddolls are a flexible strategy, so salvaging something remotely competitive out of these hits is a distinct possibility.
Burning Abyss take relatively minor hits on this list, losing nothing to Forbiddings. They're probably the most playable of the bunch next to Satellarknights. With only a single Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss I can see players turning to Fiend Griefing to pick up the slack. Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss scraped by with only a Semi-Limit. I fully expected it to be Limited right alongside Graff. Konami's mercy has offered Burning Abyss another shot at the spotlight next format, but they'll have to build specifically with the Kozmos match-up in mind to succeed.
Overall I'm extremely pleased with this F&L List. I'm slightly less excited for the next format, but that's solely due to the upcoming releases. Kozmos have absurd OTK potential that promises to keep matches short. Nekroz of Valkyrus might not be around to slow the format down, so expect most duels to be decided in a single Battle Phase or Pendulum Summon. This first month will be a mess of tech choices trending up, down, and out as players identify which match-ups are most common and which cards have the best utility. It feels like a whole new game, and I'm incredibly excited to explore it.
Until next time then
Kelly Locke is a West Michigan gamer, writer, and college student with too much free time on his hands. Besides playing Yugioh, Kelly posts Let's Play videos of Minecraft on his Youtube channel and plays a possibly unhealthy amount of Destiny. He is currently studying marketing at Western Michigan University, and hopes to graduate before Dragon Ravine is Unlimited.