Some of the most popular cards in the game headlined the new Forbidden& Limited List: Sky Striker Mobilize - Engage!, Thunder DragonColossus, Orcust Harp Horror, Salamangreat Miragestallio, andHeavymetalfoes Electrumite each represent one of 2019's top strategies.
TheForbidden List reads like a who's-who of dominant decks in the competitivescene, not just from recent tournaments, but extending over the last coupleof years. The severity of those hits – largely comprised of full-on bansinstead of Limits or Semi-Limits – led to players labeling this format as a'kill List' that's finally buried decks like Sky Strikers, Orcusts,Salamangreats, Thunder Dragons and Endymion.
I'm hesitant to write off any of those decks before we've had a fewweekends to see what they can still accomplish. We've been down this roadwith Sky Strikers and Orcusts before: hits that were supposed to weakenthese strategies in previous formats only morphed them into somethingdifferent instead. We've seen Orcusts adapt to deal with the loss of SummonSorceress, The Phantom Knights of Rusty Bardiche, and Knightmare Mermaid sofar. I won't be surprised if the deck continues topping events withoutOrcust Harp Horror.
The F&L List will have a massive impact on the new format even if thetop decks aren't quite gone. There's no doubt that the old guard has lostsignificant consistency, even if that means some 1-card combos simplybecome 2-card combos instead. But at the same time, another set of changesis affecting the way we deal with backrow, and making backrow even deadlierthis format.
The Limits to Dinowreslter Pankratops and Red Reboot have reduced thenumber of anti-backrow tools we have at our disposal. Meanwhile, SolemnWarning and Soul Drain have returned to Unlimited status, which has puteven more power in the hands of backrow-heavy strategies.
Solemn Warning and Soul Drain Unlimited Again
For the first time in years, every 'Solemn' Counter Trap in the game isUnlimited.
Solemn Judgment, Solemn Warning, and Solemn Strike are finally together onthe Unlimited List in what appears to be a response to the popularity ofhand traps. Counter Traps were once the go-to "stop your opponent fromdoing a thing" choice back before the rise of Effect Veiler and Maxx "C".Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring brought the utility of Solemn traps to thehand, and made even more negation available to players before their firstturn.
Solemn Warning's move to Unlimited is a mixed bag. On the one hand there'splenty of negation to go around already, including Solemn Strike, SolemnJudgment and the single copy of Solemn Warning we could already play.Justifying Solemn Warning over other Counter Traps or negation effectsisn't a simple calculation. It's not strictly better than alternatives inevery situation or every match-up, but it's still a fantastic Counter Trapthat's significantly cheaper to activate than an early-game SolemnJudgment.
Life Point costs exist in a totally different context today compared to thelast time Solemn Warning was Unlimited. The reason is the new end of matchprocedures. Warning is safer if you're heading into a potentially long Game2, though both cards will put you dangerously close to losing to aBorrelsword Dragon attack.
Other trap options this format don't carry the steep Life Point costs. LostWind and Infinite Impermanence won't suddenly become useless once you hit acertain LP threshold, but they also don't negate Summons of any kind. Infact, Solemn Warning's especially interesting since it negates just aboutany kind of Summon. Only Solemn Scolding offers more coverage againstsummons, spells, and traps, but its conditions make it challenging to playin any deck that might set other cards. What Solemn Warning offers againstits biggest competitors – namely all the other effect negation cards beingplayed this format – is its utility against spells and traps that summonmonsters.
While Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring negates cards that Summon monstersfrom the deck, and Ghost Belle & Haunted Mansion negates cards thatSummon from the graveyard, Solemn Warning does both and more by negatingany activated effect that could summon a monster. Solemn Strike can dosomething similar, but it can't negate spells and traps like InstantFusion, Void Feast, Monster Reborn, Altergeist Manefestation, Sky StrikerMecha - Hornet Drones or World Legacy's Secret. Solemn Warning alsoaddresses Normal Summons and Flip Summons, although Solemn Strike istypically just as good.
I'm not sure that Solemn Warning will be a must-play with so many cardscompeting for backrow space, and that's probably why it returned to theUnlimited List this format. The reality is that high value traps like LostWind, and negation effects that are playable before your first turn likeInfinite Impermanence are simply better picks for the majority of playersrunning fewer than ten traps.
Soul Drain used to be one of the most popular floodgates in the game, butit stopped seeing play in favor of other, more predictable floodgates afterit was Limited. Playing a one-of floodgate is much more challenging thanrunning a full playset of another. You can build your deck around There CanBe Only One, or develop a siding strategy that lets you effectivelyleverage Macro Cosmos and Dimensional Fissure. However, when you're sidingin a single, unsearchable floodgate you can never be sure you'll actuallysee it. Choosing to build around a card you might not even draw, especiallyif you're weakening your own strategy to do so, is a liability most deckscan't afford.
It's now much easier to build a siding strategy with Soul Drain in astarring role. Its ability to shut off effects from monsters in thegraveyard and removed zone makes it an interesting alternative toNecrovalley, especially against cards that activate when they're banished.Thunder Dragons would have been an ideal match-up for Soul Drain to shinein, but with Thunder Dragon Colossus Forbidden it's hard to imagine anyonehaving the confidence to play that deck going forward. It's still a strongpick against Orcusts, though Imperial Iron Wall and its hand trapcounterpart Artifact Lancea are arguably even more effective.
Are Solemn Warning and Soul Drain worth playing at three? While theireffectiveness is largely dependent on match-up, it's hard to shake thefeeling that these cards aren't must-plays like they used to be. It's asign of the times, and a shift in focus from field-activated traps to handtraps. Moving these cards to Unlimited is a signal that these cards won'tbe defining the next format, but don't count them out: Soul Drain inparticular has a ton of potential when there are still plenty of decks thatrely on the graveyard.
Limits On Anti-Trap Techs Create New Opportunities
Red Reboot and Dinowrestler Pankratops were Side Deck staples up until thispoint, and they'll likely still see play as 1-ofs in Side Decks. Theycertainly didn't get any worse by being Limited, but you'll probably wantto find replacements if your deck's vulnerable to popular floodgates or hastroubles getting past large backrows.
Combo players will need to find a different way of pushing through theiropponent's interruption, and there are plenty of existing options to choosefrom. Evenly Matched is looking better than ever this format with two fewercopies of Red Reboot to stop it from crushing early-game investment. It's afantastic choice for the going-second combo decks of the new format, andit's poised to be exceptionally popular against any deck that can't puttrap negation in play by the end of their first turn. There's been so muchfocus on negating monster effects that there hasn't been a strong demandfor trap negation in Turn 1 set-ups until now, but with Red Reboot Limitedthe need to answer Evenly Matched is very real.
Lightning Storm is coming in Ignition Assaultnext week, and it'spoised to create a huge shake-up in how combo decks address backrow. ButLightning Storm isn't a catch all, and it's certainly not a directreplacement for Red Reboot. Unfortunately there's just nothing availablethat can imitate Reboot's ability to answer Infinite Impermanence on Turn1. That fact alone will make Impermanence an unreasonably popular techchoice going into this format, as if it somehow wasn't already popularenough. Imperial Order, Secret Village of the Spellcasters, and Anti-SpellFragrance thrive in an environment with more spell-based removal, and fewercounters like Dinowrestler Pankratops.
It's not just tech cards that benefit from the changes: backrow-heavystrategies are in a better place thanks to the new Limits too. All of themwill need to find answers to Lightning Storm and Evenly Matched, but that'shardly an impossible task. Spells are generally easier to deal with anywaysthanks to the many excellent Anti-Spell floodgates in competitive play, buttraps are even a problem for Altergeists and Subterrors.
Those two decks are among the big winners of the new F&L List, madeeven stronger by virtue of their primary competitors taking significanthits to their best cards. Many of the game's most popular strategies arenow easier to disrupt, and that's made individual traps more impactful peractivation. Control strategies have the reigns for now – at least untilanother combo deck breaks the format. But that might come much sooner thanyou think.
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.