In early 2011 a TCG World Premiere hand trap called Maxx "C" debuted in Storm of Ragnarok. It got a lot of early attention as a competitive counter to combo decks, especially Plant Synchro and Six Samurai, but over the years it became more and more of a staple. It wasn't effective in every match-up in every format, but by the time Link Monsters were introduced there was no denying it: Maxx "C" had become one of the game's best cards, and you absolutely had to play it.
Maxx "C" hit the Semi-Limited List in 2016, moved to Limited in 2017, and finally landed on the Forbidden List in the TCG in February of 2018. Morer than three years have passed since then, but that hasn't stopped players from arguing that Maxx "C" should return–and not just to the Limited List.
Instead, some players are advocating for Maxx "C" to return straight to Unlimited status. Their argument is that there are plenty of benefits just waiting to be realized by returning Maxx "C" to the game. But just how real are those benefits, and are they worth the tradeoffs?
Let me outline my position up front just in case it wasn't clear from the title of this article: I'm not a big fan of Maxx "C", but there's also no perfect answer to the situation it's prescribed for. Combo decks are out of control, and Links have made game-ending Turn 1 boards part of everyday life. Maxx "C" is an attractive solution to that problem, one that the OCG is currently using in Asia, but I don't think it's ultimately the best answer.
Instead, I think Maxx "C" would just exacerbate other negative aspects of the current Yu-Gi-Oh format, while failing to reduce the success rate of combo decks. Maxx "C" should remain Forbidden–at least given the game's existing card pool. Let's talk about why.
Obsensibly, Maxx "C" came into existence to counter combo decks, and it's actually extraordinarily successful at doing so. There are few other cards that can totally stop your opponent from making plays without actually locking them down.
Droll & Lock Bird
Maxx "C" doesn't say you can't do something–it's not a preventative floodgate like Droll & Lock Bird or Dimension Shifter–but most duelists will react to it as if it were. Combo decks will stop summoning as quickly as possible to avoid letting their opponent run away with the duel. Drawing more than a couple of cards with Maxx "C" will almost always translate to a win.
Again, Maxx "C" is really good at countering combo decks. It's a game-winning card in a match-up between a combo deck and a control strategy like Altergeists, Eldlich, or Subterrors. If one player can control the rate of summons with a single hand trap, that's undeniably powerful, and it's fair to say that Maxx "C" gives low-summon strategies a massive boost. It's a fantastic tool for reducing the pace of the game–if you manage to draw it, of course.
So what's the problem with bringing back Maxx "C" to give control strategies an edge? Well, for starters, there's no guarantee that combo decks would actually see less play. That sounds unintuitive, but the reality is that we don't have significant evidence that shows Maxx "C" making a difference in the number of combo decks that exist in any given format.
Combo strategies excelled when Maxx "C" was legal in the TCG, and they've continued to perform well in the OCG despite its near-staple status there. I'm not arguing that Maxx "C" isn't an effective way to win duels against combo decks, just that it hasn't demonstrably impacted the success of those strategies.
Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
The best combo decks of a given format can often still outplay Maxx "C", which further reduces its usefulness as a massive equalizer against all combo decks. Not every combo strategy's impacted equally: some decks can deploy negation effects extremely early in the duel, stop in the middle of a combo when Maxx "C" is activated, or OTK through Maxx "C" regardless of how many cards their opponent draws. It's only that last category that has really fallen off in recent years–far fewer decks today can afford to let their opponent draw into a copy of Nibiru, the Primal Being.
Maxx "C" is effective at stopping most combo decks in their tracks, but not the ones you're probably facing regularly at events. Local-level combo strategies that can't stop their plays and don't have quick access to negation effects will become irrelevant in competition if Maxx "C" makes a comeback. The gulf between the game's best combo decks and every other combo strategy end up widening significantly in a format where Maxx "C" is playable.
If one player can bypass Maxx "C" while the other can't, and the other player is already running a superior engine, then the outcome of the duel will be decided incredibly quickly. Unlike Nibiru, the Primal Being, Maxx "C" can be used to defend set-ups, and that's one of the reasons why it's actually a boon for combo strategies with lots of existing draw power and hand activations.
Even if Maxx "C" were completely effective at balancing combo strategies, would that mean it should be brought back?
Consider the argument: an Unlimited Maxx "C" would make non-combo strategies more competitive by introducing a hand trap that punishes Special Summons. If one card can make such a big difference–and I've already outlined why that's not necessarily true–isn't that more of an incentive to keep it out of the game? It's a question that I've personally struggled with because, to some extent, Yu-Gi-Oh is a game that's balanced competitively around a handful of key cards.
Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
If you like how the game is defined around a small number of cards like Forbidden Droplet, Effect Veiler, Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, and Nibiru, the Primal Being, then introducing Maxx "C" as another point to anchor the game around will feel natural. If you're not a fan of an overabundance of powerful staples and the continued reliance on the same set of tech cards, then Maxx "C" returning will feel like Konami is doubling down on exactly the kind of deck building environment you've grown to dislike.
Whether you're a fan of standardizing a set of must-play tech cards, or you're looking for a little more variety in hand trap choices–or possibly even regular trap cards–it's clear that Maxx "C" would instantly become a pivotal card in any format that it was legal in. It's the type of card that would drive deck building decisions and entire deck choices, although as I mentioned earlier it likely wouldn't impact that actual number of successful combo decks in the game.
Is it the kind of card you'll want to face off against, time and time again, forever? It's really hard to imagine any card actually power creeping Maxx "C" in terms of its ability to shut down combo decks.
Maxx "C" has only become better as more and more hand activated effects have been introduced. The biggest offender is Nibiru, the Primal Being, but Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring is also broken with Maxx "C" in the mix. Back when Maxx "C" was introduced you were hoping to draw into D.D. Crow, Swift Scarecrow, or Effect Veiler.
Those cards weren't guaranteed to save you from losing that turn, and they were played in few enough numbers to avoid being oppressive. Over time, more generic hand traps like Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit helped ensure that resolving Maxx "C" had a higher chance of shutting down your opponent's plays. With Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring and Nibiru, the Primal Being there's no question: if you get to draw more than a couple cards, the duel's probably over.
Nibiru, the Primal Being feels like a fair compromise for not having Maxx "C". You can't use it to defend your own set-ups, so combo players can't expect to go first and play Nibiru, the Primal Being simultaneously. There's a delicate balancing act where Maxx "C" could help fuel combo strategies instead by delivering much-needed draw power. If there's one type of deck in this game that effectively leverages five or more draws in a single turn, it's a deck that's loaded with summoning power and monsters with inherent summon conditions.
I don't think I want to play in an environment like the OCG where so many hand traps are legal alongside Maxx "C", and I suspect a lot of other players won't enjoy that style of play either. Is there room for Maxx "C" in a world with fewer hand traps? Maybe, but I doubt we're going to get there in the TCG anytime soon.
The problem of combo decks can't, and probably shouldn't, be solved by a single card. There would need to be major changes to the game's core mechanics to offset the intense power creep that we've seen over the years, but a sweeping change like that might not be coming for years. At any rate, Yu-Gi-Oh continues to grow its player base despite the ever-increasing power of combo decks, and I'm not sure that Konami is willing to stuff Maxx "C" in the faces of combo fans just yet.
Until next time then