It's been just about a full six years since The Duelist Genesis came out in 2008, reshaping the game. The introduction of Synchro Monsters revolutionized every level of play, changing duelists' approach to deck building, how we think about the extra deck, the importance of boss monsters in the Main Deck and a handful of other aspects. Not only that, but with the way Dark Armed Dragon, Gladiator Beast Heraklinos and Judgment Dragon were dominating the game at the time, Synchros had to have an even greater power curve to be relevant and catch on.

Stardust Dragon, Red Dragon Archfiend, Thought Ruler Archfiend, Colossal Fighter and the rest of the first wave of Synchros all had powerful effects and good stats, because they basically had to. Free negations, free destructions, free Special Summoning and type-wide protection on that level of availability were incredible. While most of those monsters have fallen out of favor for now, the game's still functionally played from the Extra Deck through a combination of Synchros and Xyz Monsters.

In the course of those six years since Synchros made their debut, only four Synchros have ever been Forbidden. With an effect that ripped apart your opponent's hand, field and graveyard at the same time, Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier couldn't be left roaming around, so it got the hammer. Dark Strike Fighter was an out-of-the-blue OTK machine thanks to Synchro Cat and Blackwings, earning it a spot on the list as well. Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier had to go away because of how nuts its bouncing effect became, even after only one turn on the field; its ATK wasn't very high, but the utility was bonkers. Not to mention it had Ice Barrier in the name, and those Synchros always end up getting pushed around somehow.

Well, okay, maybe not Gungnir, Dragon of the Ice Barrier.

All three of those Forbidden Synchros have such objectively powerful effects that it probably won't be possible for them to come back in the foreseeable future. The fourth, though, managed to pick up a hall pass and sneak out of detention. Goyo Guardian's back this format, swinging its Jutte to-and-fro with an unparalleled zeal.

A Feudal Effort
When Goyo Guardian was first Forbidden back in March of 2011, it was for good reason. An easy 2800 ATK in that format was unbelievable, just because of the number of ways to Summon it, and the speed with which you could. Emergency Teleport was the fastest thing around at the time, spawning the deck most people remember as "TeleDAD." With no shortage of Level 4 monsters, and Emergency Teleport snagging Krebons from the deck for no cost whatsoever, Goyo could pop out at any minute to lay down some Edo-period police brutality and make up for the initial -1 by stealing a monster.

In terms of countering the popular Synchros of the time, Goyo Guardian was about as good as things got. It couldn't do much against another copy of itself, but most other monsters crumbled under its overwhelming Kabuki prowess. 2800 ATK's historically been kind of a boss-monster benchmark throughout the course of Yu-Gi-Oh, and Goyo lives up to that, rivaling Dark Armed Dragon and Dark Magician of Chaos in striking force. Even now, most big monsters sport somewhere between 2600 and 2800 ATK with few exceptions.

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The main thing that's changed since 2011 when Goyo left the scene is the overflow of monsters that have built-in +1's or more. After Goyo was Forbidden, Order of Chaos hit us all with Inzektors and all the insanity that was Inzektor Hornet. Then came Fire Fists, Mermails and Dragon Rulers, not to mention Geargia. With triple Dimensional Prison and Mirror Force available, Bottomless still around, Warning and Torrential on standby and the pantheon of monsters that all do well generating a strong card economy, Goyo Guardian's in-battle +2's just aren't as fast or impactful as they used to be. Not to mention there are just some monsters not worth taking anyway.

Consider how many monsters in 2011 had effects that triggered from being destroyed by battle – it wasn't many. Now Fire Hand and Ice Hand are all over the place, one of which kills Goyo outright. Just because they exist in the game, actively trying to smash into a face-down monster with Goyo becomes a Gamble if you aren't sure what your opponent's playing yet. There aren't many cases outside of the Hands that would make that an issue, but with the popularity of the Hands overall it's a definite problem.

Then there are monsters that Goyo Guardian couldn't let you take even if you wanted to; More Pendulum Monsters are going to be coming out in droves pretty soon, to add onto Stargazer Magician and Timegazer Magician. Because Pendulum Monsters go to the Extra Deck face-up when they're destroyed instead of the graveyard, Goyo can't Special Summon them back to your side of the field. Depending on how well Pendulums take off, that could render Goyo about as effective as a bulkier Summoned Skull for some of the time it's on the field.

Despite that, Goyo Guardian could have an impact on the game just because it's legal again. Breakthrough Skill is popular right now, and it's effectively a non-issue for Goyo even though it can prevent a monster from being taken. The worst-case scenario there is that Goyo gets its effect negated, runs over a monster and you still come out +2 from that trade because Goyo's huge. If it starts seeing marginal play, we could see a transition from Breakthrough Skill back to Fiendish Chain since it's comparable negation that also puts Goyo's battle phase on lockdown. Lightsworn probably won't be able to make that jump if they run either traps at all in the first place, but most other decks have the option.

And there are some monsters that specifically get hit by Goyo Guardian's sticky fingers harder than others. Madolche trigger by making contact with the grave, then bouncing back into the deck, but they trigger at the same time as Goyo Guardian and form a chain. In most cases, when Goyo kills a Madolche in battle, it'll be because you're attacking, meaning you get to throw Goyo's optional effect onto the chain second, snagging whatever you battled to your side and preventing your opponent from recycling it. Taking a Dragon Ruler means your opponent can't do anything with it on the following turn, even though it goes back to their hand on their next End Phase. Taking Lightsworn monsters from your opponent can keep Judgment Dragon off your back for a minute, but then you'll have to start milling to keep them around, so that's neither here nor there. The real big-money hit against Lightsworn is Eclipse Wyvern, since it's mandatory to activate it and banish a Dragon, but they'll never get that monster back thanks to Goyo's revival on Wyvern.

Patrolling The Environment
Finding a place to sneak Goyo into right now is The Tricky part, since Tuners aren't so popular anymore, and the ones that are have a hard time putting Level 6's on the field. Dragon Rulers have access to Level 1 and Level 4 Tuners in Flamvell Guard and Debris Dragon, with White Stone of Legend tagging along in some niche builds, but the rest of their monsters are too high in Level to make Goyo (Debris can only go for Dragons anyway). Outside of using a Level 1 Tuner with Mythic Tree Dragon and then another Level 1 Tuner with the resulting Level 5 Synchro to go into Goyo, there's really no way to do it.

Sylvans could make Goyo Guardian with Sylvan Princessprout and Spore, and try steamrolling the field that way, though they have better options in most cases. The only time that really shines is in the mirror match, since Goyo Guardian can swing over Sylvan Hermitree and Sylvan Sagequoia to keep your field full of bodies. Depending on what you excavate afterward, Goyo taking a Hermitree could lead to additional draws and really snowball your economy. Grabbing your opponent's Orea, the Sylvan High Arbiter is huge too, even with no Xyz Material. Getting to arrange your top few cards is obviously tremendous, but doing it with your opponent's Orea means you didn't have to invest any monsters into the initial Summon.

Arguably, Lightsworn have the easiest time going into Goyo right now of any YCS-level deck, thanks to Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner and Minerva, Lightsworn Maiden. Lumina's always given the luxury of trading dead cards in your hand for live Lightsworn monsters, but with Minerva, Lumina can turn into a Goyo on the spot. Playing in the Lightsworn mirror and potentially stealing your opponent's Lumina; Eclipse Wyvern; or Michael, the Arch-Lightsworn's only about two steps from offering a handshake.

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It's not particularly relevant to the format right now, but it would be hard to pass up talking about it: Heraldic Beasts make Goyo into an absolute nightmare. I can see how that sounds something like a fusion of nonsense and more nonsense, but hear me out a minute. Goyo Guardian can take Xyz Monsters, but they leave any material they had in the graveyard and come back as normal monsters in most cases. Heraldic Beast Twin-Headed Eagle changes that dramatically, since it can load two Heraldic Beasts from the graveyard onto any Xyz you control. It's hard to say what Tuners would be most plausible in a deck that also facilitates Heraldic Beasts, since it's such a wild card deck with no tournament history, but the prospect of running over a Number 101: Silent Honor ARK and loading it up with material from your graveyard is so exciting that it's hard not to want to try and make it work.

Shogun' Love It
While Goyo Guardian isn't as unilaterally applicable as it used to be, it can go into most any deck that can push out Synchros, and there are still a good number of monsters with taking. There are counters to the monsters that give Goyo problems, and Goyo itself can be a hard-stop to a couple of the format's most likely tournament toppers. It'll be interesting to see how many duelists pick up Goyo going forward, and how many stick with it after the format develops. If you're using Goyo, what are you playing it in, and when do you find yourself making it the most? Are you one of the fearless types that smashes into a face-down monster with three set backrow, or do you play hyper-cautious and wait until you have your own set counters?

No matter how it gets played, as a Six Samurai duelist, I know I'm glad Goyo's back and I can't be the only one.

-Beau