Thoughts On The F&L List, And What We’ll See This Format

As we’ve always heard, both from a handful of players and straight from the horse’s mouth: the TCG and OCG are separate entities. And it’s true – we have mechanics, rulings, exclusive cards, core set releases and other aspects that have variated the two games. But one of the arguably most defining aspects of competition has usually remained identical: the Forbidden and Limited List.

And until a few days ago players placed their faith in the OCG list, testing their new decks and preparing for YCS Toronto. There are staggering differences that now truly distinguish our games, and some players aren’t quite thrilled.

But I am. This was the major change needed to truly separate our games, and it’s as it should be: the OCG has always been months ahead of us, and the two card pools are vastly different.

Whomever constructed the TCG F&L List did an excellent job tying up loose ends, and a good amount of thought was clearly put into each aspect of the list, which I want to quickly present somewhat in order of importance:

1. The new list addressed issues in current, competitive metagames.

2. It also took note of decks that were highly competitive in pre-Tachyon metagames – decks that weren’t adequately addressed by the March 1st 2013 list, and took measures to ensure we didn’t revert back to the game as it existed before Cosmo Blazer.

3. It hit a card that helped define the past few formats’ central theories of deck building, in order to allow an entirely new approach: [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd]. The creators of the list also considered the repercussions of doing that by limiting staple traps so backrows wouldn’t be overwhelming. (Opening with [ccProd]Thunder King Rai-Oh[/ccProd] and five set cards over and over would be pretty boring.)

4. The list cleaned up some cards that are mechanically imbalanced or abusable; stuff like [ccProd]Elemental HERO Stratos[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Gateway of the Six[/ccProd]. Stratos in particular is redundant at 1 in the same way [ccProd]Sangan[/ccProd] was – there were a plethora of cards that could toolbox it. Between [ccProd]Reinforcement of the Army[/ccProd], [ccProd]E Emergency Call[/ccProd], and [ccProd]A Hero Lives[/ccProd], Stratos could keep a constant cycle and provide heavy damage monster access like [ccProd]Blade Armor Ninja[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Heroic Champion Excalibur[/ccProd].

And though most of these cards weren’t immediate threats in the past few formats, the List was adjusted in ways that would have given them massive potential. Let’s face it, a card that can be used multiple times in the same turn to OTK or lock the field isn’t healthy. For those saying “But Sams weren’t relevant!”, I’d like you to imagine yourself going to Toronto a week from now if Gateway was untouched. First round, opponent wins the roll, drops Gateway, and proceeds to put his hand on the field, including but not singularly limited to [ccProd]Legendary Six Samurai Shi En[/ccProd], [ccProd]Naturia Barkion[/ccProd], [ccProd]Naturia Beast[/ccProd] and several backrows.

Not fun, regardless of what you might think of the deck as a whole.

Overall…
I love paced formats, I love resource management, and I love this list. Backrows are relevant, but the format is in no way based on “set five, pass” like some people are thinking.

Your backrow resources are precious, now with all staple traps having some form of F&L limitation; the player who has more knowledge and better judgment about when it’s appropriate to set their cards versus when it’s optimal to activate them will be the player usually winning. You can keep track of what backrow cards your opponent has or hasn’t used, and that adds a new poker-like depth of strategy.

There also aren’t any general staples you can “rip” to drastically shift game position. And my favorite part? Players have to do more manual labor with deck research and playtesting, since we can no longer just pull an OCG deck list off Shriek and mirror the results of Japanese players.

We can be innovative! Yes, there are still straightforward-to-build decks that players will turn to, like 4-Axis Fire Fists or Infernities. But we still have a variety of tools and strategies at our disposal to deal with them. As always, competitive players will observe the trends and adapt to beat them.

So Where Does This Go?
In preparation for YCS Toronto, I’ll mention some of the most promising trending concepts we might come across, as well as the best tools and best approaches you can take in dealing with them.  It’d be impossible to cover all the options people are currently considering in one article, so we’ll keep it to the current few most popular and talked about.

Here are some strategies I think we’re likely to see…

Infernities: Transmodify and the new Archfiend support help break this deck. Infernities are unfortunately the number one strategy that’s terrifying to lose the dice roll to, particulary due to its newfound consistency in putting its whole hand on the field and generating two to three copies of [ccProd]Infernity Barrier[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Infernity Break[/ccProd], rendering your strategy useless.

Despite being a deck that can lose to itself (Infernities really struggle when they open with a monster-heavy hand), it’s the singular entity no sane player really wants to deal with. Because when it goes off, it goes off.

Solution: I have a mantra when dealing with explosive decks like this: outside of hand traps, always gear yourself towards the post-setup. Side Deck choices that are useful when going second will always be key: [ccProd]Maxx “C”[/ccProd], [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd] and even [ccProd]Droll & Lock Bird[/ccProd] are all choice hand traps, and Infernity plays tend to be linear, so they put your opponent in a bad spot regardless of how skilled of a player he may be.

For Games 2 and 3, always remember the weaknesses of the strategy you’re siding against: in the case of Infernities, they NEED an Infernity monster to play [ccProd]Infernity Barrier[/ccProd]. That means [ccProd]Lava Golem[/ccProd] defecates on their strategy, since its inherent Summon circumvents Barrier and can remove the monsters making Barrier playable. There’s virtually no answer to it, and once the Infernity monsters are gone, your opponent’s most problematic backrows are worthless.

Blackwings: This strategy’s almost back to its full glory.  With three [ccProd]Blackwing Kalut the Moon Shadow[/ccProd]; three [ccProd]Black Whirlwind[/ccProd]; and three Icarus attacks, the only thing still missing are your second and third copies of [ccProd]Blackwing Gale the Whirlwind[/ccProd].  And they have new playthings, too; specifically speaking, the XYZ toolbox.  Since most Blackwings are Level 4, you can make free Rank 4’s thanks to [ccProd]Black Whirlwind[/ccProd] and the built-in Special Summon of [ccProd]Blackwing Bora the Spear[/ccProd].

Major aspects of this strategy?  The ability to terrorize and control your opponent’s field – both their monsters and their backrow – with [ccProd]Icarus Attack[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Delta Crow Anti Reverse[/ccProd]; spamming the field with beatsticks  that allow for Rank 4’s and Synchro Summons;  always having a Kalut in hand. The deck can variate from turbo to control, but even the control builds have explosive potention with Whirlwind at 3.

Solution: The deck has a damn solid strategy with few holes in and of itself, but it’s by no means unbeatable. The major weakness here lies in matchups. For one, the deck has a terrible time dealing with monster heavy decks like Chaos Dragons, Agents, and so on. Icarus is rather useless against strategies that can generate free monsters as +1’s, and in combination with a lack of backrow targets to Icarus Attack and break even with, its trap resources are often used in vain, with little other choice. Icarus and Anti Reverse thrive off of heavy backrow decks, but are virtually dead draws against the opposite spectrum.

Remember that when your opponent’s trying to use Whirlwind’s effect, the Blackwing they Summon needs to be face-up at resolution in order for Whirlwind to “see” the monster’s ATK. So if you remove that monster from the field in response to its Summon, your opponent won’t get their search effect nor the snowballing momentum that would result from it.

Be wary of backrow cards – you WILL be seeing Anti-Reverse and [ccProd]Icarus Attack[/ccProd]. Side [ccProd]Starlight Road[/ccProd]s or [ccProd]Trap Stun[/ccProd]s, but set just one of those cards alone if your opponent’s already set a card.  You’ll take some damage early on, but once you set the rest of your backrow next turn, you’ll be a lot safer and you’ll dodge the risk of an upset in your End Phase.  [ccProd]Mind Crush[/ccProd] does an excellent job dealing with problem cards like Kalut, and can also hit multiple copies at once.

If you’re running a Light/Dark or Fairy based deck, [ccProd]Consecrated Light[/ccProd] is relevant again. Just be sure to remember your opponent can still get around its effect by setting and tributing a Blackwing to destroy it with Icarus, so don’t get comfortable having it around.

Spellbooks: With [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd] being the only card in this deck that was restricted on the new F&L List, the Spellbook strategy essentially reverts back to the state it was in during the pre-Tachyon days. People feel safe playing the deck, since we all know it was effective before Judgment was released and it’s something many players still feel familiar with. We’re likely to see people sticking to their comfort zones and playing this, especially since many still have their previous builds constructed and ready.

[ccProd]High Priestess of Prophecy[/ccProd]’s important again, [ccProd]Eradicator Epidemic Virus[/ccProd] is no longer an imminent threat, and [ccProd]The Grand Spellbook Tower[/ccProd]’s draw effect greatly benefits from the slower pacing of this format.  Spellbooks have a few more more aggressive qualities now, but also have pacing flaws. [ccProd]Spellbook of Fate[/ccProd]’s a lot less menacing since Jowgen the Spiritualist is no longer the key setup card with Judgment out of the picture; the two cards were somewhat of a soft lock, and now Fate needs to be played more thoughtfully rather than serve the singular function of protecting [ccProd]Jowgen the Spiritualist[/ccProd]. There isn’t one particular ‘scariest’ aspect any more, but [ccProd]Spellbook of Wisdom[/ccProd] will be a nuisance card, largely due to the increased popularity of set backrow cards.

Solution: Getting rid of [ccProd]The Grand Spellbook Tower[/ccProd] is a big priority; letting it sit on the field guarantees your slow demise. Save your [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd]s for it whenever you can, and make sure that when you activate Typhoon, it’s Chain Link 2 or higher.  Doing so will make the Tower’s destruction effect miss its timing.  That’s often pretty easy to do, just by waiting for your opponent to activate the Tower’s effect in their Standby Phase.  It’s a convenient Chain Link 1 for you to respond to.

Without Tower’s help you can whittle your opponent down, so you’ll always be at the advantage; your opponent will more than often have cards that require some sort of setup and are dead otherwise, while most of your cards will be immediately useful. That’s the major flaw with Spellbooks – every card your opponent has is a lot less menacing when you know there’s something like a 50/50 chance it’s just another search or recycle card. On top of that, without Judgment to refresh their hands, there’s conflicts within the deck’s own engine. Commiting Spellbooks to the field means one less card to hoarde in hand for Priestess’s summon effect, but it’s also sometimes necessary. There’s additionally no way to directly “plus” more Spellbooks to hand except off of Tower’s effect, which isn’t guaranteed to dig one up.

Side Decking for the Spellbook matchup, [ccProd]Zombie World[/ccProd]’s an interesting option, especially for anyone running Zombies themselves.  It lets you [ccProd]Book of Life[/ccProd] monsters from your opponent’s grave, and you can play it over your opponent’s Tower without triggering  its destruction effect. Most importantly, it stops your opponent from activatng [ccProd]Spellbook of Fate[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Spellbook of the Master[/ccProd], since both require a face-up Spellcaster.  [ccProd]Chaos Hunter[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Imperial Iron Wall[/ccProd] keep High Priestess and Fate from activating, too. And all these cards affect your opponent, not their monsters, so [ccProd]Spellbook of Wisdom[/ccProd] isn’t a concern.

Mid-setup interruption can ruin the Spellbook player. Their strategy requires  a combination of cards that serve cogs to get their machine running. [ccProd]Mind Crush[/ccProd] can take a key card from your opponent and ruin their turn, and with the amount of searching the deck does, you can always play [ccProd]Mind Crush[/ccProd] because you’ll always know what’s in your opponent’s hand.

Dragon Rulers: The big, scary Dragons are ironically nowhere near as terrifying without their babies, but there’s still something here. With more backrow cards in the picture, making Rank 7’s not only takes more resources and happens at a slower pace without the extra cycles of the mini Dragon Rulers; the likelihood of whatever you Summon getting removed from the field immediately is pretty high as well.

The deck now involves a lot more innovation and hybrid deck building to make Dragon Rulers dominant again, and there’s a few variations of Dragon Rulers mixing in Plant or Chaos elements. From [ccProd]Card Trooper[/ccProd] to [ccProd]Lonefire Blossom[/ccProd], the deck is still finding its way.

Dragon Rulers feel a lot more like Chaos Dragons now, in the sense that you typically hoard your bigger beaters in hand more than often, and wait for an opening to OTK or at least put in a good amount of damage to field resources or lifepoints.

This greatly contrasts the way they previously worked: once upon a time, you could dump your entire hand to the grave with the help of mini Rulers, and contstantly spam from there with seemingly infinite resources. But now, there’s a lot more resource management involved, as the deck can quickly burn out of fodder to cycle. You have to know when it’s appropriate to push or use an effect of theirs.

Solution: Hand traps are still too relevant right now. [ccProd]Maxx “C”[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd] are still Main Deck staples in my book, and will help greatly in dealing with decks that aim to win with aggressive pushes. You of course need to pair something to dissipate that aggression alongside [ccProd]Maxx “C”[/ccProd] – [ccProd]Threatening Roar[/ccProd], [ccProd]Battle Fader[/ccProd], [ccProd]Swift Scarecrow[/ccProd], [ccProd]Tragoedia[/ccProd], and so on. What you’re playing determines which solution will synergize best.

Don’t forget about [ccProd]Chaos Hunter[/ccProd]. I love this card as an answer to our re-incarnated (ha ha) Dragons. The deck CAN spam Summons, but again, the resource cost of doing so is much higher than before. Hunter effectively stops your opponent in the middle of their OTK sequence, forcing them to change their play in order to get rid of it. She’s also bigger bodied than [ccProd]Tempest Dragon Ruler of Storms[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Redox Dragon Ruler of Boulders[/ccProd]. Depending on the situation, responding with [ccProd]Chaos Hunter[/ccProd] to these two cards tends to force your opponent to waste fodder to make Summons, with little to no payoff. If played correctly Hunter can put in a good amount of work, especially with backrow protection. Hunter being a hand trap is a great bonus, not having the weakness to backrow solutions and no vulnerability to [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd] and [ccProd]A Wingbeat of Giant Dragon[/ccProd].

If your deck doesn’t rely on building your graveyard, the single copies of [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd] that are still allowed can put in a good amount of work. Anything that denies or inhibits the Dragon user’s graveyard access will give you an edge.  If you’re running a Light or Dark based deck, be prepared to encounter [ccProd]Koa’ki Meiru Drago[/ccProd] and ensure you have the tools to remove it. Otherwise, forget the rest of the dragons. That card will singehandedly bone you.

Fire Fists & Decks Like Them: 3-Axis isn’t a thing any more with [ccProd]Brotherhood of the Fire Fist Spirit[/ccProd] newly Limited. But we now have the previously OCG exclusive [ccProd]Coach Soldier Wolfbark[/ccProd] for 4-Axis builds. In addition to this, there’s several other decks that use the [ccProd]Fire Formation Tenki[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Brotherhood of the Fire Fist Bear[/ccProd] engine, namely Constellars and Bujins. We’re all familiar with this, and they’ve received somewhat of a buff with Storm out of the picture.

Solution: Again, hand traps work wonders. The way Fire Fists in particular function, there isn’t anything specific in the side deck that you should dedicate to them. Veilers will help control them and keep them from popping something you want to protect, and [ccProd]Maxx “C”[/ccProd] gives you pluses off of Wolfbark plays. Save your [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoons[/ccProd] for when they matter, like interrupting Tenkis or chaining them to common backrow picks like [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd].

As far as Bujins go, watch out for the [ccProd]Black Garden[/ccProd] OTK you might run into, and be careful about putting tokens on the field. Let me give you a quick overview of what this OTK does, for those who might not know:

1. The Bujin player begins with a [ccProd]Bujingi Crane[/ccProd] in hand and a Bujin on field from a previous turn, or they have an active [ccProd]Fire Formation Tensu[/ccProd].

2. He summons a second Bujin and Xyz Summons [ccProd]Bujintei Susanowo[/ccProd]. There’s now at least two Rose Tokens on the field from Black Garden’s effect, in attack mode (800/800 ATK/DEF)

3. Susanowo uses its effect to search a Crane. The Bujin player now has two Cranes in hand.

4. Susanowo attacks a Rose Token and drops Crane. It doubles Susanowo’s original ATK, so despite Garden’s effect cutting Susanowo’s ATK in half, that Crane will pump it to 4800 attack points. Susanowo can attack a second time due to his [ccProd]Asura Priest[/ccProd]-like effect. The second Crane is then activated dropped, dealing a killing blow.

This OTK is consistent enough to see play, but there are several ways you can stop it. One of the easiest ways to cut it off early is to keep pressure on your opponent, forcing him to use Crane on defense instead of saving it. Remember, the OTK requires two Cranes since the ATK boost only lasts for the Damage Calculation of one singular battle. Your Bujin opponent usually doesn’t have more than one Crane in hand at a time, too, so putting a second beater on the field can get rid of Yamato before your opponent’s strategy takes off. This is easy to do with Dragon Rulers.

Getting rid of Susanowo is another strong option, whether it be through non-targeting backrows like [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd], [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd].

And, of course, having MST’s at the ready for [ccProd]Black Garden[/ccProd] itself stops the issue from the source. Save your MST and chain it to [ccProd]Black Garden[/ccProd]’s effect on the Summon of your opponent’s monster. The Rose Token Summon is an effect that starts a chain, and continuous spells and traps need to be face-up at resolution to correctly resolve their effects. This is all in case your opponent has another copy of Garden ready. It’ll at least stop one of the Tokens from being generated, which can in most cases stop the OTK even if they have a second copy.

Aside from that OTK potential, Bujins on their own don’t have any other threatening qualities to be too concerned about right now. At least not until Shadow Specters.

The Final Verdict?
These decks are far from representing everything we’ll see at YCS Toronto. Next weekend will surely be an interesting melting pot of strategies, and I’m pretty excited to see what Day 2’ll come down to.

What else do you think we’ll see pop up in competition? What tools or strategies will you have ready in order to deal with them? Feel free to Comment below and discuss!

As always, it’s been a pleasure, and I couldn’t mean that any more right now. I’m terribly excited with this list’s announcement, and I hope you guys are, too.  If not… there’ll always be December for a fresh start.

-Amanda

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