Hey guys, we're back! Today I wanted to drop an update to my previous "5 Rules For Success In The New Format" from April. The game's changed quite a bit in the last two months, largely due to the speed of global playtesting available through simulator play, and a multitude of well documented tournaments held online. While online competition might not carry the same level of satisfaction as playing in person, there's still quite a bit to discuss; the game's changing at a rapid pace.

We're going to look at some key things to keep in mind when you're building your decks for the coming weeks, as we slowly get back into the groove of real-life competition. I always find it's helpful to have a starting point for the format, and these are my initial thoughts.

Let's dig in!

Did The Forbidden & Limited List Matter?

You might be surprised at my opinion, but the minor changes made on the latest Forbidden & Limited list actually had some large-scale ramifications for deck building. While there were exceptionally few changes on this list, just three, their impact will be felt in the coming months as we get reacquainted with the decks those changes support.

First off, spell and trap removal's going to become even more important than before. With Altergiests back at full power thanks to Altergeist Multfaker now unlimited, you can definitely expect to see more of those spooky Spellcasters running about. That means more trap cards to try and play around. Ritual Beasts also present a lot of disruptive traps that are all searchable with the strategy's core engine and key combos; if you can fit cards like Cosmic Cyclone into your deck you'll be much better off against strategies like Altergeists and Ritual Beasts, but you'll also get a sizable boost in the Eldlich matchup too, and even against Adamancipators if they're playing the [Dragon Buster Destruction Sword] lock.

Interestingly, at the time of writing this, Altergeist had won the most recent Luxury Championship Series with the new F&L List in effect, demonstrating that it's not to be taken lightly. As a deck that has a slow, steady and snowball-like approach to the game, Altergeist is naturally complimented by a card like Mystic Mine, giving you even more reason to be concerned. If you aren't packing spot removal you're in for a bad time.

What About Nekroz?

There was a time when the entire game revolved around making sure your deck could effectively disregard Nekroz of Unicore's ridiculously powerful floodgate effect. While that's no longer the case, we may return to that standard in the near future. The Dragma theme debuts in Rise of the Duelist, and it's a terrifyingly good combination with the Nekroz theme; knowing that they have a searchable, reusable floodgate is something that will eventually warrant respect. While Nekroz is probably going to be irrelevant for serious competition right now, it can't hurt to dust off your copies of Book of Eclipse or your neglected Kaijus so you'll know where they are when you need them.

It's hard to say just how powerful the Nekroz Dragma deck will be, or if it'll be disregarded like so many other hyped decks of the past, but one thing's for sure: you don't want to be caught off guard without at least some kind of gameplan for Nekroz moving forward. This is one matchup where familiarity's your friend, so if you're unfamiliar with how the deck works, definitely give it a look because you don't want to be that guy who gets ruined by a Nekroz of Trishula he didn't see coming.

Seriously, don't be that person.

Please.

The Side Deck Problem

If you look at all the different Side Deck cards that players are rotating through right now, you could get dizzy pretty easily. There are hundreds of viable options, and all of them have their own pros and cons. Similar to what I said back in April, Side Decking's going to become more complicated as we progress through the coming months.

Do you side to beat the combo version of Eldlich and Adamancipators, disregarding cards that beat rogue strategies in favor of making those matchups easier? Do you play to break boards or side to prevent them? At what point in a given combo is it correct to use a particular hand trap? Is Token Collector actually an Ultra Rare, or is that an elaborate lie to get Zach to sift through 40 thousand bulk cards looking for it? WHO KNOWS!?

Jokes aside, you always want to have a comprehensive plan when you're building your Side Deck. Especially in a format where you could so easily find yourself staring down a fistful of negates and going to Game 2 without playing a card, you need to have a concrete plan of action in place before you dive into your side. You never want to find yourself between games in a tournament wondering, "What exactly do I do here?"

Regardless of the deck you're piloting you're going to run into essentially one of two different types of play right now. Either your opponent's going to be running a combo strategy, which means you'll want lots of hand traps or a bunch of board breaking cards; or you'll be facing a deck that's trying to grind you out in the long game, in which all of those redundant cards will lead to less consistent draws as the game goes on. It's an interesting problem to deal with. It's similar to the Nekroz format of 2015, where you either had to side carefully and build your deck to beat Nekroz, risking the rogue matchups in the process, or build for those rogue matchups and risk a tougher time with Nekroz .

That said, there are serious pitfalls to both options. If you side into lots of hand traps and then draw a bunch of engine cards, you're not doing much to stop that combo. However, if you side into those board breaking cards and the game comes down to a simplified grind, you're risking a high number of draws that don't do much for you because you're not trying to play through an established field.

It's an interesting problem to face; neither approach is wrong, you just have to find the solution that works best for you and the metagame you anticipate. The worst thing you can do is just not have a plan in place. When you grab your Side Deck you want to be switching cards like a machine, knowing precisely which cards to rotate in and which to rotate out. The only way to really have that nailed down is to play against the most popular decks as much as possible and develop a set of plans matchup by matchup. That way you have a foundation to build off of when you face something unexpected.

We're In A Cyclical Format

What's a cyclical format? It's pretty straight forward: a cyclical format occurs when tournament competition is played in cycles, where trends have a cascading effect where they react to and reinforce one another. Those pushes and pulls cause decks and tech picks to cycle in and out of the tournament scene.

Think back to 2017, a simpler time when I played Lightsworn and weighed less. That era's largely viewed as the much-loved Zoodiac format, though I'd argue it was more like a bunch of mini formats all under the Zoo umbrella. I make that distinction because that format, similar to the one we're in now, was very cyclical. We'd rotate through a set number of "known" trends and patterns. That is; strategies we knew to be strong and efficient, but had to be constantly rotated due to the shifts in the game.

In the last few months we've seen that manifest in a few ways. Different variants of Eldlich like Synchro and Invoked versions succeed when they're not respected as much, and people stop teching to beat them. The same goes for different builds of Adamancipators. When Adamancipators were the top contender, the general player base found that the most efficient way to deal with the deck was to main a lot of hand traps to combat the Adamancipator deck's ability to generate several sequential pushes, giving way to the Invoked Eldlich deck that became popular because it could fend off those hand traps, while using hand traps itself.

Then we saw the Synchro Eldlich deck take up a frontrunning position over the past few weeks, due to its ability to not only play a heavy hand trap lineup to beat Adamancipators, but also a compact engine full of high value starters and extenders that let it make extremely powerful fields and initiate grind games with minimal investment. That caused cards like Token Collector to gain credibility, since it essentially shut down the opponent's core combo plays while interacting with Nibiru, the Primal Being.

Interestingly, Sky Strikers and Salamangreats have both seen massive success as the format's progressed, because they're both great at using Accesscode Talker's game ending strength, and they lend themselves to a heavy defensive lineup that makes their core engine strong enough to close out duels. A brief spike in popularity for those decks caused another round of minor shifts in the format as players looked to combat those strategies as well as Eldlich and Adamancipator; we saw players slim down on hand traps, and they focused more on engine cards so they'd have more of a chance to actually play, and less of a chance to brick on a hand full of useless defensive cards.

I mention all of this because we're at a point where Adamancipators may suddenly pop back up and I'll be screaming into the abyss again. Because competition is shifting more toward spell and trap removal due to the popularity of Altergeists, Sky Strikers and Salamangreats , there's less room for those hand traps that shut down Adamancipators. That means the remaining Adamancipator decks will have an easier time comboing off. That then leads to players playing more hand traps, and the cycle begins again. The takeaway? Be ready for your deck to undergo some massive changes at a moment's notice due to the speed with which this format evolves.

I hope these points I've highlighted for you today are helpful; they're just a few of many possible variables to keep in mind when you're building your strategy moving forward, so you'll want to stay flexible in both your play and your mindset. The game's always evolving and you don't want to get left behind.

Until next week, stay safe and play around Nibiru, the Primal Being. Because I seriously can't.