The April 2014 Forbidden and Limited List doesn't change much, but its impact is still worth discussing. The next month and a half leading up to Primal Origin's release might simply be an extension of the current format rather than something wholly different. I usually look forward to new formats because they offer new strategies to explore, so I was somewhat disappointed to discover that April would likely be "more of the same." Still, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I don't think too many people are changing their entire deck in response to the new list, but it's definitely time to reevaluate your Side Deck choices. Your match-ups probably won't change too much: Geargia, Mermail, Fire Fist, Bujin, and other popular strategies aren't going anywhere. What will change are the cards those decks play. In some cases it's a forceful change, like in the case of Fire Fists, Infernity, and Mermail. Coach Soldier Wolfbark and Mermail Abyssgunde are moving onto the Limited list next month and they'll take with them the builds of Fire and Water we've been seeing recently. It's enough to make the playability of some cards shift around a bit. This week we'll take a look at a few popular Side Deck cards from March and discuss whether or not they're worth playing from next week onward.

D.D. Crow Is Less Powerful...For Now
As Abyssgunde and Wolfbark hit the Limited List, D.D. Crow's utility drops notably. While it's not as popular as Maxx "C", Crow has been showing up in regional Side Decks fairly frequently. It's a not just a counter to Abyssgunde and Wolfbark; Crow's also effective against a variety of other strategies. It has great utility in a format where so many graveyard-dependent decks are being played. Fire Kings, Bujin, and Mermail have a lot to lose from a well-timed Crow. Then there are dozens of rogue decks that are equally vulnerable to it.

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There's a lot to be said for D.D. Crow's effectiveness. Losing a key monster can be devastating, especially if you're in the middle of a combo. When Wolfbark tries to Summon a monster from the graveyard, Crow both stops the play and puts the targeted monster out of reach. While Effect Veiler might have provided a similar result, banishing the only Beast-Warrior currently in the graveyard means your opponent can't use Wolfbark's effect again next turn either. This takes a bit of pressure off you in the immediate run, and it forces your opponent to redevelop their graveyard. It's a major setback that buys you time and reduces your opponent's available plays. Crow doesn't work that effectively every time you play it, but when it does it's simply incredible.

There's no doubt that D.D. Crow's a strong Side Deck pick right now, but the question is: will it continue to be worth playing in April? Probably not. Even if Fire Fists return to playing Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Spirit, the deck will only have a couple cards that Crow's useful against. The same goes for Mermails, which now have just a single Mermail Abyssgunde for Crow to counter. There's always Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls, Mermail Abyssturge, and Salvage targets to banish, but is that worth playing Crow over something like Debunk? Not particularly. The same can be said for Bujin, where once again Debunk and Soul Drain are simply better options.

Where Crow is awesome is in the post-Primal Origins format. Sylvans and Artifacts are both incredibly susceptible to graveyard banishing, and Crow's chainable effect can counter many of their best plays. Even Madolche struggle against it. A typical play in which Madolche Angelly is used to Summon Madolche Hootcake often puts just a single monster in the graveyard for Hootcake's effect. Banish it and you'll leave your opponent's pancake owl totally powerless.

Debunk Remains Amazing
Need a counter to Mermail, Bujin, Dark World, Fire King, and dozens of rogue strategies? Wishing you could still run three Soul Drain? If so, then Debunk is exactly what you need in your Side Deck. Numerous Regionals over the last two weeks have seen Top 8 showings from players siding two to three copies of this powerful trap. It's an answer to a ridiculous number of cards, many of which are critically important to a variety of different decks. Take a look at Bujins: Debunk negates all of the commonly played Bujingi monsters. It's the best way to deal with Bujingi Crane and Honest outside of Mind Crush.

Soul Drain would usually be the go-to counter for most of these decks, but given that it's currently Limited we'll have to make do with alternatives. Then again, is that really a bad thing? Debunk has its own advantage over Soul Drain because it can be played in decks like Bujin and Mermail without disrupting its controller's effects. It's very similar to playing D.D. Crow over Dimensional Fissure, or Effect Veiler over Skill Drain. Cost, chainability, and effectiveness are all exchanged in varying amounts in each situation. What works for one deck might not work for another, and that's something worth keeping in mind.

Debunk's massive utility will certainly keep it in Side Decks for most of the next format. I'd argue that besides Maxx "C" or potentially Mystical Space Typhoon, Debunk will end up being the most-sided card over the summer. Take a look towards Primal Origins where Bujins continue to receive support, Artifacts are released, and Sylvan grow a few much-needed offshoots. All of these decks are vulnerable to Debunk and Soul Drain, with the latter essentially shutting down those strategies until it's destroyed.

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Mermails have a lot to gain from siding Debunks, even against strategies that don't play a lot of graveyard effects. Since Debunk can negate Maxx "C" it's a great counter side against that particular hand trap. On top of that, Mermail players can't really use Soul Drain because it disables a number of their monster effects. As a result, Debunk becomes a powerhouse in the mirror match with the ability to negate and banish a wide range of cards.

Both Imprisoning Mirrors Are Worth The Space
Light-Imprisoning Mirror became a popular Side Deck card earlier in the year as the result of increasingly prevalent Hieratic and Bujin match-ups. Mirror turns off the effects of Light-based decks that activate on the field or in the graveyard and brings their plays to a grinding halt. Sure, cards like Bujingi Crane, Effect Veiler, and Honest can still activate despite the Mirror being on the field, but it stops a massive number of other card effects. If you're not running Light monsters yourself then Light-Imprisoning Mirror has no effect on your own strategy. That's a big advantage over other Continuous traps like Skill Drain or Soul Drain that can adversely affect your own cards.

Hieratics are still worth siding for going into April. They may have lost some of their consistency, but the deck's explosive potential can easily sweep Game 1's. Light Mirror shuts your opponent down before they can get their combos going, often letting you seal the duel before they can resolve even one of their monster effects. Bujins will undoubtedly be one of the biggest match-ups of the format and Mirror's incredibly effective against them. The best they can do when it's active is play defensively and try to get to an out.

I've been siding Light-Imprisoning Mirror for the last three months due to its sheer effectiveness and ease of use. I regard Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror the same way, and I'll always make a point of suggesting them for Light or Dark match-ups. They're just too good to pass up...at least in my opinion. While Light Mirror has seen plenty of action throughout this format, Shadow Mirror has been surprisingly underplayed. Inzektors, Dark World, and Infernity players have been exploiting this trend and scoring Regional tops because they just aren't being sided against. Simply put: the willingness of players to completely ignore Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror is baffling.

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D.D. Crow is one explanation for this phenomenon. It's great against all the Dark decks I mentioned and offers a bit more utility, making it a solid pick over Shadow Mirror in the Side Deck. But as Crow's playability drops in the format for lack of use in other match-ups, will players start using Mirror again? Probably. Infernity may not be what it once was, but come April I suspect we'll be seeing lots of Dark decks – including Blackwings – being run in decent numbers.

Closing Thoughts
Primal Origins is going to have a big impact on the game. It's the last set of the Zexal era, and it has a ton of support for older themes that in many cases boost their consistency. In the meantime we're still looking at a Tenki-fueled format full of very powerful Side Deck cards. I think Debunk stands above the rest, but it's not a suitable answer to Fire Fist. Overworked will probably remain the go-to counter for that strategy, just as it has been the last few months.

Other than newly-Limited Main Deck picks and Side Deck choices, the next format may look pretty much the same as this one. Debunk continues to be incredible, both of the Imprisoning Mirrors are excellent, so it's really only D.D. Crow that's likely to fall out of favor. We're still weeks away from PRIO with tons of Regional events to get through. That's plenty of time for people to innovate new solutions to last-format's problems.

Until next time then

-Kelly