In years past, we duelists have been accustomed to a new Forbidden and Limited List every six months, sometimes cursing the stale format well before March or September rolled around. I for one am overjoyed (as if the news was still fresh) that we can expect a reset button for competitive play every 3-4 months instead of merely twice a year now. As we've seen with Plant variants, Wind-Ups and Dragon Rulers, the F&L list is nothing more than a slap on the wrist for some decks. More often than not though, a new List shatters a deck entirely and cripples it worse than, well, Fableds every stinkin' list.

If we look back to the competitive scene in 2009, Blackwings were everywhere. You, your friend, your mom, your neighbor's cat, the kid that smells like sardines at your locals: everyone was playing the deck. Crimson Crisis gave us just a taste of the Blackwing theme, and then Raging Battle pushed Blackwings to the point of insanity with Black Whirlwind and Blackwing - Kalut the Moon Shadow, just to name a few amazing cards. I know I've suffered defeat at the hands of Blackwing OTK's both with and without the help of Dark Strike Fighter, and I was pleased as pudding when a majority of the busted Blackwings had their feathers plucked.

DECKID=100045Blackwings were completely crippled to the point of unplayability, but the tides of fate slowly changed for them. If you didn't already know, Blackwings have been getting a slight boost on the F&L list every few months for the last several years.

First, Icarus Attack got bumped from Semi-Limited to Unlimited, and in more recent Lists Blackwing - Kalut the Moon Shadow and Black Whirlwind migrated from Limited to Unlimited as well. With Dark Strike Fighter getting an effect change, we may even see that card back to legal status in the TCG, meaning Blackwing - Gale the Whirlwind may soon be the only card left restricted.

Blackwings! All On The Floor
Blackwings are arguably one of the most diverse themes in the history of Yugioh because subsequent variants of the deck have fun amok for five years. Yes, there was the incredibly unfair and lethal version with Dark Strike Fighter that could easily dish out 8000 damage, but Blackwings' paths to victory have been vast. I can sit here all day and tell you about my Hieratic Prophecy and Frog Prophecy decks, but I think Blackwings have Prophecy beat.

Blackwing - Vayu the Emblem of Honor spurned multiple variants all by itself, with one "Vayu Turbo" abusing Dark Grepher, Burial from a Different Dimension and Blackwing - Sirocco the Dawn. But if you wanted to hamper your opponent's Special Summons, you could always switch over to an anti-meta version with Royal Oppression, Vanity's Emptiness and Cards for Black Fathers that's been proven to work on the competitive scene. There's no way to put it lightly: Blackwings have arguably the best support of any archetype ever, allowing them to be so versatile and swap parts of the deck in and out while still abusing a few core cards. You can call me crazy, but my name's Loukas, so joke's on you.

Black Whirlwind's an instant +1 whenever you Normal Summon a Blackwing monster, plain and simple. You can actually work your way from Sirocco all the way to Gale via one Black Whirlwind and a string of Normal Summons, or you can use your newly fetched Blackwing for an Xyz or Synchro play. This card's a recurring Reinforcement of the Army, and if you open Blackwing - Shura the Blue Flame or Sirocco in conjunction with Black Whirlwind, the odds of victory will be in your favor. Your chances for winning only go up the more Whirlwinds you draw.

Bujin decks have Bujingi Crane, but that card carries a restriction: you can only use one per battle. Blackwing - Kalut the Moon Shadow's different since it adds 1400 ATK to any of your Blackwing monsters for the entire Battle Phase. Not only can you use several Kaluts at once, but you can boost a Blackwing when you're making a direct attack, unlike Bujingi Crane or Honest. Couple Kalut with Bora and you have a monster that punishes your opponent for setting monsters in defense.

Delta Crow Anti-Reverse and Icarus Attack are the two key destruction cards for Blackwings. Though Icarus Attack technically isn't a "Blackwing" card, I'm pretending it is because no other deck can abuse it like Blackwings. Anti-Reverse pops your opponent's set spells and traps if you have a Blackwing on the field, while Icarus Attack converts any Winged Beast into shrapnel to take out two cards on the field. Blackwings have a renewable searcher, a pseudo Harpie's Feather Duster, three on-theme Honests and the best 2-for-2 destruction card in the game.

Without detailing the rest of the cards, I've hopefully sold you on the deck and convinced you I'm not crazy. Because I'm Loukas.

Blackwings! Give Me Some More
Because Blackwing - Gale the Whirlwind is Limited, you simply won't have access to OTK's that involve vomiting your entire hand onto the table; your plays will have to be much more deliberate and methodical. As I mentioned earlier, one of the best Turn 1 plays starts with Blackwing - Shura the Blue Flame or Blackwing - Sirocco the Dawn and Black Whirlwind; you'll have access to nearly every Extra Deck monster with one of these combinations.

When Shura runs over something in battle, you can Special Summon any Blackwing with 1500 or less ATK from your deck. In the past, I was accustomed to bringing out Blackwing - Vayu Emblem of Honor to make an Ally of Justice Catastor in Main Phase 2, but your options aren't as limited anymore. Bujin decks with triplicates of Bujingi Crane will be running amok in this new format, and Armades, Keeper of Boundaries keeps that pesky deck at bay. If you'd rather make an Xyz instead, Shura can bring out Blackwing - Kochi the Daybreak to give you access to Ice Beast Zerofyne, Gagaga Cowboy or everyone's favorite: Evilswarm Excition Knight.

A lot of players make a grave Mistake using Kochi and Vayu, and I'm the first to admit I was confused when reading those cards. Vayu says it can't be used as Synchro Material while on the field, but that part of Vayu is actually an effect and can be bypassed. Whatever monster Shura brings out from the deck has its effects negated; that's why Vayu and Shura can make Armades and Catastor. Sadly, Kochi's text reads as a condition, so when it's Special Summoned you can't Synchro with Kochi. Personally, I think those two restrictions are terrible for the cards and limit their playability, but Vayu extends your plays from the graveyard and Kochi still allows for Rank 4 plays.

How do you run over virtually every monster in the game? Kalut the Moon Shadow, of course. When you Normal Summon Shura, you'll trigger your Black Whirlwind (or Whirlwinds if you're lucky) to snag a Kalut from your deck and boost Shura up an astounding 3200, 4600 or even 6000 ATK! If you open with a Whirlwind and Sirocco, your strongest Blackwing Normal Summon, then can just Normal Summon Shura the following turn.

What I've detailed so far are just standard Blackwing plays; you're not limited to opening plays surrounding Black Whirlwind paired with Shura or Sirocco. Blackwing - Gale the Whirlwind and Blackwing - Bora the Spear can both be Special Summoned from your hand while you control a face-up Blackwing monster, meaning you can Xyz and Synchro Summon freely without being dependent on Shura killing something in battle. Blackwings have an amazing toolbox of Extra Deck monsters for every situation, with cards that go the extra mile thanks to Blackwings all being Winged Beasts. Ice Beast Zerofyne is a giant blanket of negation for everything else on the field, and Diamond Dire Wolf can actually blow up another one of your Winged Beasts instead of suiciding just to kill a card on field.

However Premium Gold brought us two new cards Blackwings can abuse. The first is Number 82: Heartlandraco, and if you're heart hasn't melted from its cuteness, then I hope you'll love this adorable Dragon for its effect. While you control a face-up spell it can't be attacked. (Did someone say Black Whirlwind? Hint: I did.) Unlike The Legendary Fisherman, Draco's invulnerability to attacks doesn't mean your opponent can attack you directly. In fact, you can detach a material from Draco to allow it to attack directly. Gagaga Cowboy's famous for stealing games, inflicting damage when you can't attack over monsters for the final damage. Draco's similar to Cowboy because you can dish out 2000 damage despite a full field of opposing monsters in your way.

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Contrary to the adorable Heardlandraco, Beelze of the Diabolic Dragons gives me nightmares. You can Summon the Level 8 Synchro easily in two different ways. First, Normal Summon either Sirocco or Kochi and follow that up with Gale or Bora respectively, to make the indestructible Beelze. First of all, Beelze can't be destroyed by battle or card effect, and secondly, whenever you take damage, your Dragon gains ATK equal to the damage you took.

Some naysayers will be quick to point out that a Number 101: Silent Honor ARK or Spellbook of Fate can easily rid the field of your Dragon, but the ability to not die by card effects or by battle is nothing to laugh at. You'll often push through for a ton of damage before your opponent eventually finds one of their few outs to this behemoth.

Blackwings! Woah-Oh-Oh-Oh!
Maybe you still have nightmares of Dark Strike Fighter OTK's like I do, but hopefully I've given you enough reasons to try Blackwings anyways. I've touched on their massively powerful recruiting and destruction cards (Icarus Attack and Black Whirlwind,) and their amazing combos with all the crazy Special Summoning (Bora, Shura, and Gale), but the deck isn't purely anti-meta or combo-centric. I played a handful of one-of cards to go the extra mile, too.

For example, Blackwing - Blizzard the Far North is a one card Synchro Summon. Sure, you can't Special Summon it with Shura, but when you Normal Summon Blizzard, you can Special Summon any Level 4 or lower Blackwing from your graveyard. You can immediately Synchro Summon into the Level 6 Blackwing Armed Wing with piercing damage, or bring out Vulcan the Divine and bounce a card from either side of the field. What I like to do best is to bring back Gale from the graveyard and use its effect to chop a monster's ATK in half. Then I follow that up and return Gale to my hand with Blackwing - Zephros the Elite's ability, and bring back Gale once again and use its effect to cut down another big monster. I can then use Zephros and Blizzard to make my Vulcan the Divine and remove a third threat, and attack with Vulcan and Gale to take out the other halved monster.

Vayu's neat because it can Synchro Summon from the graveyard. Don't have any monsters left on your field? Banish Vayu and Sirocco to bring out the Level 6 Armed Wing, or banish your Armed Wing and Vayu for the Level 7 Blackwing Armor Master. Yes, their effects are negated, but you're getting free monsters so stop complaining. Thanks to Vayu manipulating the graveyard, I believe you'll have enough control to get three Dark monsters in your graveyard and bring out your boss monster, Dark Armed Dragon.

One card you may be surprised to see in here is Dark Eruption, and I don't blame you if you were slightly taken aback. It's rare to see Eruption in Blackwings, but I just love recycling my Gale and Kaluts so much, I felt like I had to play at least one copy. It can also recycle your Kochi to make Syncho plays and manipulate your graveyard so you can drop the Darkest of all Armed Dragons.

Just remember, beat your opponents before they beat you.

-Loukas Peterson