The Asian OCG's getting their first Forbidden & Limited List update of2020 next month, and the TCG is likely to follow a little later intoJanuary.
The OCG list itself is a little confusing: there are over a dozen cardsmoving to Semi-Limited, and about half of them are hitting the F&L Listfor the first time. It's a little weird from the TCG perspective, where our Semi-Limited List has been shrunk to a small handful of cards over the last couple of years. Of course, the OCG card pool isn't what we're used to: not only are there a handful of Link Monsters that we still don't have access to, but there are plenty of new cards in Ignition Assaultthat are changing dynamic between control and combo strategies.
This week we're diving into the OCG's F&L List for January 2020 to get some perspective on the state of competition in Asian regions. Orcusts are intensely popular overseas, and Salaman greats, Thunder Dragons, Pendulums and Sky Strikers are also among the top picks for competitors. Overall the top decks aren't too different from what we're seeing here in the TCG, but tech cards like Maxx "C", Crystron Halqifibrax, and Raigeki Storm make a huge difference in exactly how successful each one is.
A Little Too Dangerous
A surprising number of changes on the OCG's new F&L List address theDanger! theme without actually restricting any of the theme-stamped cards directly. The TCG had its own run in with Danger Dark World last year, and the strategy was even topping YCS Chicago earlier in 2019.
Dangers are unquestionably some of the game's best extenders, and that's equally true in the OCG. The entire Danger line-up debuted in the OCG this past September, and their October F&L List didn't do much to address the influx of new extenders. Their upcoming list, however, tackles that problem head-on by restricting support cards and Extra Deck monsters that fuel Danger-infused strategies.
The Beginning of the End and Allure of Darkness were ostensibly casualties of the debut of the Danger theme in the OCG. While Allure of Darkness can be played in virtually any Dark theme- - and it sees plenty of action inTCG Orcust builds - The Beginning of the End is only practical in decks with a significant Danger line-up. It rarely takes more than a couple of turns to land seven Darks in the graveyard, and players rarely lost any card advantage thanks to the draw effects attached to each Danger monster.Dark-heavy strategies are still plenty strong, but they won't be able to consistently blow out the duel by drawing three cards off a single spell that has virtually no drawbacks.
The TCG hasn't made a move on Allure of Darkness yet, but I don't think there's any chance that they'll restrict The Beginning of the End as long as there are already Danger monsters on the List. The TCG's Semi-Limit onDanger! Tsuchinoko?!, Danger! Nessie!, and Danger! Jackalope?! has been successful in curbing the power of the Danger engine.
I imagine the OCG took a different route given how new the Dangers were to players in those regions, and they might be trying to keep the theme on theUnlimited List by any means necessary. A full Danger line-up can still be competitive in the TCG, and I imagine the same is true for the OCG. Time will tell if restricting these two draw spells will actually make a difference in the way Dangers are played.
Playing Catch-Up With The TCG
I'd guess that most players in the TCG, myself included, wouldn't have guessed that Topologic Gumblar Dragon was still legal in the OCG. TheJanuary Forbidden List is shocking, but not because Gumblar and OuterEntity Azathot were deemed too strong for the 2020 format. It's shocking that both cards weren't already Forbidden.
Gumblar hasn't been legal for play in the TCG since January of this year, and Azathot was indirectly hit when The Phantom Knights' Rank-Up-MagicLaunch was Forbidden. The new extenders in the OCG probably contributed to Gumblar's demise, although it's surprising to see that it lasted so long regardless.
The TCG decided to keep Outer Entity Azathot legal by crushing all of the cards used to Summon it during the opponent's turn. Tellarknight Ptolemaeuswas Forbidden long before Azathot arrived in the TCG, but it was largely hit in the OCG as a result of the way it interacted with Azathot's floodgate effect. The Phantom Knights' Rank-Up-Magic Launch was Forbidden directly to stop players from ranking up Time Thief Redoer into Azathot, but as a result the Phantom Knights ended up taking two direct hits on themed cards.
Phantom Knight players lost two of their best cards in the TCG: The PhantomKnights of Rusty Bardiche and The Phantom Knights' Rank-Up-Magic Launch.The OCG managed to avoid gutting the Phantom Knights theme by attacking Azathot directly, but Bardiche presents another balancing challenge that's yet to be fully addressed.
Tackling The Game's Best Decks
There's already been a lot of discussion on the many Semi-Limits that were made on this F&L List. Initially the prevailing narrative was that Orcusts got off easy, and some argued that the deck was even improved bythe changes. Orcust Harp Horror and Orcust Galatea's move to theSemi-Limited List was met with criticism that accused the changes of not being enough to reign in the deck's power.
They're absolutely right that these changes won't cause a drastic swerve in the way Orcusts are played. Forbidding Knightmare Mermaid totally changed the deck's priorities, but neither of these changes are likely to usher in a new era for Orcusts. Still, I'd argue that the changes aren't meaningless, and the idea that the deck's better off now thanks to theSemi-Limit on Mathematician is even further from the truth.
Orcust players used to be able to get away with a minimal lineup of Orcust monsters thanks to Knightmare Mermaid's ability to pull Orcust Knightmare straight out of the deck. With that route gone Orcusts have had to significantly increase their Main Deck counts to compensate, and in some cases they've even had to play Orcust Brass Bombard. Restricting the theme's best card to two per deck doesn't make Orcusts that much less consistent, but it does increase the odds that you can dispatch both copies before your opponent can begin spamming Galatea. Even when your opponent can resolve Galatea there's now even less of a chance that they'll have a second copy waiting in the graveyard.
OCG players will need to be more strategic in using their remaining copies of Orcust Galatea. Like Orcust Harp Horror the typical Orcust deck list plays three copies of Galatea in the Extra Deck for a reason: it's not just a great Link 2 with an important deck-searching and recycling effect, it's also a key material for Dingirsu, Orcust of the Evening Star. There will unquestionably be times where the Orcust player simply runs out of Galateas in the same way they would run out of Harp Horror, and that's exactly howKonami is balancing the theme.
Mathematician's return isn't too surprising either since Orcust players are looking for a very specific ratio of Normal Summons. Scrap Recycler's already outclassed it in Orcusts specifically. Ultimately I don't thinkit'll make much of an impact in the long run, and in the meantime it's a boon for strategies that lack convenient access to Scrap Recycler.
The fresh Semi-Limits on Thunder Dragonroar, Sky Striker Mecha Modules -Multirole, Salamangreat Circle and Altergeist Meluseek are a little more questionable. The TCG's been aggressively downsizing its Semi-Limited List by moving cards to Unlimited or Limited, and there's an argument to be made that the Semi-Limited List is ineffective as a tool for balancing the game.
The impact of Semi-Limiting a card versus Limiting it is extraordinary, and it's very difficult to tell what actual impact any of these changes will make. A good experiment features controls and an extremely limited set of variables. Placing more than a dozen cards on the Semi-Limited List all at once will make drawing conclusions nearly impossible. It'll be tough to know what worked, and what didn't.
New Year, New Toys
The return of Zoodiac Drident is fascinating, but keep in mind that ZoodiacBarrage is Limited in the OCG. The Zoodiac deck probably won't reappear overnight as long as the rest of the deck's key cards are Limited or Forbidden.
That said, Zoodiac Drident could end up being shoehorned into various strategies despite Barrage's restriction. I wouldn't expect a similar change in the TCG for now, but it's worth asking how Drident would stack upin today's game. Dinowrestler Pankratops is a much more splashable piece of removal with significantly more ATK, and it doesn't take up a slot in theExtra Deck.
Nekroz, meanwhile, are slowly but surely making their way off the F&LList in both the TCG and OCG. Dinosaurs are also making headway towards being fully Unlimited again. Babycerasaurus is finally off the Limited List in the OCG, but it still has one more step to make before the entireDinosaur line-up is free. Keep in mind that while Dragonic Diagram isLimited in the OCG, True King Lithosagym, the Disaster is Unlimited there.The Dinosaur deck has plenty of potential, so Babycerasaurus hitting theUnlimited List is a fairly big deal.
I'm excited to see Tour Guide From the Underworld heading towards theUnlimited List after guiding so many other monsters to the Forbiddenrealms. Tour Guide's move to Semi-Limited or Unlimited makes perfect sense for the TCG: it's a marginally better Draconnet for decks that can make useof Sangan better than Galaxy Serpent. However, Draconnet itself is actuallyLimited in the OCG, which makes Tour Guide's move very interesting. There's apparently less harm in doubling the number of Tour Guides per deck.
Draconnet's ability to make a Level 5 Synchro reliably is probably part of the issue here. Ib the World Chalice Justiciar is just phenomenal, and it's arguably better than anything Tour Guide and Sangan can Link into. Still, Sangan can search Maxx "C" in the OCG, so there's even more reason to play it there.
The new F&L List seems to be handing a bit more power back to control strategies, especially with the Semi-Limit on Red Reboot. I'm not sure if that will happen now that Raigeki Storm is available, and it'll be interesting to see how the TCG reacts to it next month.
Until next time then
Kelly Locke is a West Michigangamer and writer. You can follow him on Twitter for more updates and check out his Youtube channel. He also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.