One of the great things about a Forbidden & Limited List is its ability to refresh the format and set a new tone for competitive play. New card releases just aren't enough to upset the game's best decks, and a change of pace is definitely needed after a few years of the same handful of strategies topping tournaments. Sometimes an F&L List doesn't quite get the job done, and instead makes only minor adjustments without really upsetting the status quo. Other lists, however, completely change the landscape of the game at all levels of competition.
This week, we're counting down the game's biggest F&L Lists in terms of the absolute number of changes on each list. While some lists have had as few as three changes, the lists in this article all have more than thirty changes each! More changes doesn't necessarily mean that the gameplay is dramatically different from format to format, but as you'll notice below, there's still a strong correlation between the two.
The July 2019 Forbidden & Limited List arrived at the end of the 2018-2019 competitive season, which saw decks like Thunder Dragons, Orcusts, Sky Strikers, and Salamangreats dominating tournaments for months. A few of these decks had already been hit in the runup to the World Championship Qualifiers, including Armageddon Knight, Sky Striker Mecha - Hornet Drones, and Lady Debug. This list took the extra step of hitting even more on-theme cards, as opposed to off-theme tech picks. Altergeist Multifaker, Slamangreat Gazelle, Salamangreat Circle, and Sky Striker Mecha Modules - Multirole were moved to the Limited List as Konami directly attacked the game's biggest themes.
The best tech cards of the format didn't escape Konami's notice, either. Some of the strongest decks in the format included hybrids like Crusadia Thunder Dragon Danger, which Dakota Angeloff used to win the North American WCQ just a few weeks prior. The Danger! engine took its first round of hits that month, while other key Dark and Chaos cards like Eclipse Wyvern and The Phantom Knights of Rusty Bardiche hit the Forbidden List. Black Dragon Collapserpent and White Dragon Wyverburster also landed on the Limited List, alongside a huge number of support cards like Trickstar Light Stage, Terraforming, and Metaverse.
The thirty-one changes on the July 2019 List continue to influence the way we play Field Spells. The list also moved a significant chunk of the Limited List back into play, reintroducing Dark Hole, Monster Gate, Rekindling, Solemn Judgment, and Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier to the Unlimited List. Danger! cards would receive even more restrictions before the end of the year, but Bardiche would eventually move off the Forbidden List. Finally, Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms was returned to the Advanced Format on this list, and it remains the only Level 7 Dragon Ruler that's legal to play.
These next three lists are tied at thirty-two changes each. The September 2017 Forbidden & Limited List buried the Zoodiac theme by banning both Zoodiac Broadbull and Zoodiac Drident. The era of Zoodiacs came to a close, while True Dracos would continue to see play until Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King was banned. That said, True Dracos wouldn't emerge entirely unscathed. The ban on Dinomight Knight, the True Dracofighter and the Limit to Ignis Heat, the True Dracowarrior and True King's Return put a major dent in the deck's competitive viability without pushing it completely out of the spotlight. Zoodiacs weren't as fortunate, but they've had their time to shine in 2021.
Ignis Heat, the True Dracowarrior
Remember Denglong, First of the Yang Zing? It's been Forbidden for four years now, and Yang Zing have accomplished virtually nothing in the meantime. It's also one of the few cards that was Forbidden on this list that hasn't been moved down — even temporarily. Grandsoil the Elemental Lord is Unlimited, Daigusto Emeral, True King Lithosagym, the Disaster, and Dinomight Knight are Limited, and Zoodiac Drident was Limited for a brief period as recently as the last format. That leaves Denglong and Broadbull as the long-term residents of the September 2017 F&L List, and I'm not sure we'll ever see them leave.
On the April 2015 Forbidden & Limited List, Konami finally placed the four Dragon Rulers on the Forbidden List. Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos, Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders, Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms, and Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls had been Limited previously, but that wasn't enough to keep them from seeing play. Their ban finally allowed Dragon Ravine to return to the Advanced Format after being Forbidden for over a year, and Sacred Sword of Seven Stars also moved from Limited to Semi-Limited.
Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders
At the time, decks like Qliphorts, Burning Abyss, Shaddolls, and the new Nekroz theme were the decks to beat on the competitive scene. Nekroz were extremely powerful out of the gate, so Preparation of Rites was Limited and Nekroz of Brionac received a shockingly-early Semi-Limit in an attempt to slow them down. The biggest change to the game was the Limit to Vanity's Emptiness, a format-defining card that drove tech choices and build decisions. With Vanity's Emptiness on its way out, and Skill Drain joining it on the Forbidden List, combo strategies had significantly more power. As you might expect, Nekroz would go on to dominate the competitive scene thanks to incredibly powerful cards like Djinn Releaser of Rituals.
If July 2019 was the beginning of the end for Thunder Dragons, Orcusts, Sky Strikers, and Salamangreats, then the January 2020 Forbidden & Limited List was officially their reckoning. Orcust Harp Horror, Salmangreat Miragestallio, Sky Striker Mobilize - Engage!, and Thunder Dragon Colossus all landed on the Forbidden List at the start of 2020. The sweeping changes to the game's top decks forced players to either radically alter their builds, or find a new deck entirely. One of the strategies that players might have flocked to was Pendulums, but the ban on Heavymetalfoes Electrumite and the Limit to Servant of Endymion ended those dreams. True Dracos might have seen success in that format if Dragonic Diagram wasn't also Limited on the same list.
Servant of Endymion
The January 2020 F&L List was supposed to set up the next year of dueling, but within a few months, nearly all major tournaments had been postponed. In-person play ceased as the pandemic continued to spread. The April 2020 List was less about shaking up the format and more about addressing Crystron Halqifibrax, so it's the January List that largely defined the 2020 competitive scene. The June list adjusted just three cards, while September made a few more changes to address Halqifibrax and the overperforming Adamancipator deck. But January still set the pace of 2020 by Limiting Red Reboot, Sekka's Light, Card of Demise, Dinowrestler Pankratops, and all of those themed cards I mentioned earlier.
The largest Forbidden & Limited List in Yu-Gi-Oh's history arrived in September 2013. This list changed the game by separating the TCG and OCG F&L Lists and ending the consistent six month format. Previously, the TCG and OCG shared a nearly-identical F&L List, but that changed in 2013 following the titanic clash between Dragon Rulers and Spellbooks in the post-Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy format. These two decks were so incredibly powerful that they pushed almost every other deck out of competitive play, so the format desperately needed a hard reset that brought the hammer down on both decks.
The September 2013 List addressed the game's best strategies by banning all four of the 'baby' Dragon Rulers, along with the unbelievably powerful Spellbook of Judgment. But these hits were just the start. There are forty-seven changes on the September 2013 F&L List, and fifteen of those were bans. From powerful draw spells like Card Destruction, Super Rejuvenation, and Pot of Avarice, to staples like Monster Reborn and Heavy Storm, this list made massive changes to the typical spell line-up at the time. The game's best floodgates were also Limited, including Macro Cosmos, Dimensional Fissure, and Soul Drain. Single-use traps like Compulsory Evacuation Device, Bottomless Trap Hole, Torrential Tribute, and Eradicator Epidemic Virus landed on the Limited List in an effort to make more space for upcoming tech choices.
Like other F&L Lists, Konami also targeted other decks that players might flee to after the decks to beat were restricted. Fire Fists, Mermails, and Elemental HEROs all took hits on the list, despite their poor performance since Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy. Dragon Rulers would go on to be a deck to beat until the end of 2013 — because of course they would — and over the years, nearly all of the cards Forbidden on this list would return to the Advanced format. Only the most insane cards, like Number 16: Shock Master, Ultimate Offering, and Spellbook of Judgment remain Forbidden today.
More changes on the banlist doesn't always translate into a vastly different format, but after the September 2013 list, Yu-Gi-Oh felt incredibly different. Yes, Dragon Rulers would continue to dominate tournaments, thanks to a little help from Dragon Ravine, but there was a massive shift in spell and trap line-ups that followed from that list. It's hard not to radically alter the game when you're making changes to nearly fifty cards. The September 2013 list is by far the biggest F&L List in the game's history, and it's easily among the most important in the history of the game, thanks to the precedent it set. Outside of the Link mechanic, it's the biggest reset button Konami has ever pushed.
Until next time then.