I officially look forward to every January now.
Not since the January 2020 list have I ever been so pleased with one of Konami’s famous Forbidden & Limited List updates. Back then, everyone was so glued to their 2018 decks that they dragged us kicking and screaming into 2020, straight through the entire year 2019, with 9 new cards moving to Forbidden status (or ‘bans’ as they’re often known), each targeting (and nearly murdering) a different deck. The majority of those changes are still in effect as of writing, but some are being undone by next month’s new list update. That list had 32 changes, this one has 25, but we’re pretty used to lists having closer to 7 changes on them, so these January shake-ups are my new favourite thing and I hope we just get one every year now.
Today I’m going to discuss what I believe to be the reasons behind what was, and what wasn’t, changed. Konami have continued to stick to their apparent policies (that I only speculate exist) of not banning Secret Rares in the newest products, and leaving Starlight Rare cards alone. With the exception of Arise-Heart and Lightning Storm, they still haven’t touched a single one, and as a consumer of the game I appreciate that it means my purchases feel extra safe. It’s certainly preferable to Master Duel’s ‘we’re going to pre-hit Ultra Rares’ or ‘never hit an Ultra Rare ever’ strategy that has Circular at 3 and Diameter at 1 on that game.
So let’s dive into it. I’m gonna start with the Unlimits, since those are usually the easiest. That does include cards that stayed at three, and there are thousands of those, several of which I feel like they probably should’ve changed, but that’ll be another article I make depending on how this one goes.
First off is Infernity Archfiend. This card is very old, but still instills fear in me when I see it returning to 3. Already at 3 in the OCG along with a more healthy amount of Launcher, and not ruining the game over there yet, my fears are likely unfounded, but it still sets off red flags when I see it. These cards from the days before once per turn effects (hard or otherwise) are always just playing with fire, so we’ll see what happens I suppose.
Kashtira Unicorn. I’m surprised this thing wasn’t at 3 already with Arise-Heart banned. This card is unbelievably frustrating to play against, one of the best starting cards ever made, but without its oppressive boss monster people don’t really play this deck all that often anymore, and when they do, they don’t feel threatening. I really don’t think much more explanation is needed for this beyond ‘Arise-Heart was banned and it worked, unlike Kitkallos.’
Mind Control. We have Change of Heart legal and people barely even play that. The Kengine deck is a lot cooler now though. With 3 Mind Con, 3 Enemy Controller, Change of Heart, 3 Thrust, 3 Talents, and a certain unbanned Equip Spell we’ll get to later, you can really do some cool stuff with those guys now.
Pot of Desires. Well, there was a pretty prevalent rumour that Pot of Greed was coming back to 1, and it did not. However, the idea of a spell that brings your hand from 5 to 6 via draw 2, now that we did get one more copy of. The idea that it makes your deck functionally 2 cards thinner we got too from another change a little further down. So in a way, we kinda did get Pot of Greed back. I’m a bit in disbelief that we have 3 Desires and 3 Prosperity again.
Spellbook of Judgment. Haha… hahaha… hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…
Spright Starter. Well dang, Purrely Spright are eating good. Tearlaments ended Spright’s tenure a bit before their time, and Arise-Heart ended the year 2023 before it even started. A lot of really interesting decks and matchups didn’t get to exist or be explored. Even that new Superheavy Samurai deck got to exist for barely long enough to have a cup of coffee. Remember the tellarknights? Me either. I think it’s great to give some of these Decks a chance to actually exist, hopefully before it’s too late and the game has another one to two deck format that locks them out of it.
Upstart Goblin. Hey look, Pot of Greed got unbanned. Also, see Spellbook of Judgment. This is also really, REALLY cool for Gold Pride decks.
On to the Semi-Limits.
Dinowrestler Pankratops. We still have 3 Kashtira Fenrir, so I suppose this is just the direction of the TCG. I’m personally for it, as I prefer counterplay and board breaking to interruptive play and floodgates. I want us both to play cards/our Decks, rather than stop your Deck from playing. This card should be at 3, and is another shining example of why Semi-Limited cards shouldn’t exist. The amount of formats weakened by the pit stop of cards going to 2 before 3 (or 1) I’ve lost count of.
Speedroid Terrortop. A card going from 4 to 5 never hurt anyone. There are plenty of stronger Rank 3 engines in the game now as it is, and Terrortop has always been one of the coolest ones. I’m a big fan of Terrortop, Taketomborg, the dice, and Stardust Charge Warrior as a way to just start off your turn with some free resources. Jerome once demonstrated this at a YCS back in the day and it was one of the coolest decks I’d ever seen.
Purrely Sleepy Memory. This sleepy little guy is just not allowed to remember things. It makes sense to me that they want you drawing fewer cards, the OCG made this same choice, and the deck is getting a lot of help (particularly in the loss of its superior adversaries).
Finally, into the real meat of things:
Orcust Harp Horror. One of the famous 2020 Casualties, this returning was probably the most popular change on the list. I know personally dozens of players who wanted this card back on every list for multiple years. The most powerful extender in the Orcust deck, these days we have a lot more ways to interrupt its ability to create unbreakable fields that are too difficult to contest. Between the additional graveyard disruption in the game and the new wave of board breaking cards like Dark Ruler No More, Kashtira Fenrir, and Forbidden Droplet, things are a lot healthier for a card that frankly wasn’t the biggest problem to begin with. I was surprised to see it go, and more surprised to see it gone for as long as it was. I didn’t mind not having to play against Orcust though; it’s not a very fun deck to sit across from for me.
Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders. The third Dragon Ruler makes its triumphant return, this time in a game without Drident or Barrage. An incredible EARTH for the VS deck, one famously lacking in earths, at least on this side of the Pacific. This one is basically ‘the Monster Reborn one’ that uses EARTH monsters to summon itself as well. Like all Dragon Rulers its stats add up to 4600, but this one’s primary focus is on the 3,000 defense points, so it’s only got 1600 ATK. It’s a lot more dangerous than Blaster or Tempest for the game as a whole, but in a ‘post-Talents’ world, we’ve already gotten back things like Yata-Garasu and nobody cared, so at this point I’m just waiting for Magical Scientist to be honest.
Rescue-ACE Air Lifter: Rescue-ACE has always been a cool deck, but finally with support from Age of Overlord, it became a great deck too. A personal favourite of mine is to run Impulse and Fire Attacker in non-R-ACE decks, such as Altergeist, to get a free body going 2nd that also draws 2 and discards 1. This is particularly great after we get a certain new trap card coming in the upcoming Maze of Memories. The other neat card was Air Lifter, the deck’s level 4 that adds a spell from the deck to the hand. This is how most of their combos started, and with the help of EMERGENCY! from Duelist Nexus your plays would reliably get through. It’s unfortunate to see the deck take a hit in this way, instead of just going after EMERGENCY!, but it makes sense. It’s a bit frustrating from a player’s perspective to see that the loss of these two means going more into the Diabellestar stuff, meaning a once cheap(ish) deck suddenly is very expensive, to do effectively the exact same thing.
Unchained Soul of Sharvara. Unchained were a joke when they came out. Like S-Force, Dual Avatar, and many other archetypes that just have all the ‘pieces’ a deck gets these days, like a deck summon, a search, a boss monster in the extra deck, and so on, what has separated one Yu-Gi-Oh! deck from another lately has been its identity-granting gimmick. For Unchained, this was the destruction of their own cards, something card design has gone out of its way to stop you from doing to yourself after learning the lessons of interacting with your own board via bounces and pops (such as Brionac, or Heavy Storm) the hard way over and over and over. Sharvara released this year in Duelist Nexus, and gave the deck another starter card to pair with Tour Guide that would initiate anything the deck needed it to, while being heavily accessible in order to pivot into an unbelievable extender as well. If that weren’t enough, it also has a trigger effect in the Graveyard to help the grind game even more. I personally prefer hits that aren’t part of a deck’s identity or core goals, and would’ve liked to see Tour Guide to 1 instead, but unfortunately, it’s not my list to make. This was probably the most brutal hit on this list to a specific deck.
Sunavalon Dryas. I don’t think any card has been read less times than this, except MAYBE Golden Castle of Stromberg. For literally years now people have just been summoning in defense mode against the Sunavalon Rikka deck and this card has been punishing them, and it’s going to continue to since it’s still at 1. Losing access to the other two at first glance seems like a big deal but looks to me like more of a vanity hit than anything, to show that they acknowledge the deck exists, and is winning things, but that they don’t feel like too much needs to be done. Aromage Jasmine stayed at 3, even with unbelievably cool new Aromage cards on the horizon as well.
Sunvine Healer. I must admit that, like everyone else, I am not great at playing against the Rikka deck. Every game they do something new I didn’t think they were going to (or even knew they could) do. With that said, most combos do use things like Dryas into Sowing into Healer, Loci, and Sunseed Twin, which does turn the two links into Jasmine, and then the Twin and Loci into 2nd Healer and 2nd Dryas, so that line will stop here with those hits. I’ve seen people play 3, but it’s been used more in time than anything else, and I guess it’s so it can’t be both in game 3 at a tournament? Again, I would have much sooner just hit Aromage Jasmine, or Petal, or Konkon, or banned Mudan, or a myriad of other things, before hitting this card, but it’s not rare that Konami’s listmakers impress me with their insight, and I look forward to seeing the impact this change had, as I’m not fluent enough with the deck to know myself what difference it’s even going to make. Maybe Jess can tell me sometime. I don’t think Rikka are at all dead with these two hits. I think you just play 3 Loci and Sowing, you wouldn’t even play Twin with these kinds of hits. 1 Dryas means this Healer hit was even less necessary. Would you even play 2 anymore?
Snatch Steal. There are those of us who remember this card coming back once in 2015, and what a mistake that was. Rumour has it the logic was that it could take a Nekroz of Clausolas that had been summoned with Djinn Releaser to turn the floodgate on its own master, only for the rule to actually work the other way around and still have the now controller of Clausolas still pinned down by the Releaser’s effect. Here we are in 2023, with a similar scenario. This card is an equip, so people are pretty up in arms about things like Hidden Armory (one of the game’s weaker cards) as if we haven’t had 3 Triple Tactics Thrust to get Change of Heart for ages now. We have 3 Enemy Controller, 3 Mind Control, Change of Heart, and 3 Triple Tactics Talent. On the surface, Snatch Steal, with its weakness in being interrupted by destruction effects, or even having the very real possibility of me getting my monster back, is 14th in line to even make my Deck List, and despite loving the Kengine, which benefits tremendously from monster control effects, I still wouldn’t play 14 of them, so this thing felt effectively useless to me at first. Then I remembered that Clausolas thing, and re-read some of the more difficult to deal with monsters. Snatch Steal is a continuous effect to change control, which is a fancy way of saying its effect doesn’t activate (the card itself still does, to target and equip to a monster). This means that Expurrely Noir cannot resist the change of control, and is forced to detach a pair of materials on the card – a strength the other 13 control changes lack. Because of this I can absolutely see myself side decking the 1 of Snatch Steal and I’m thankful for the opportunity to do so. I can’t help but feel like the reason I can is the move to Forbidden status of a certain Link Monster further down this list.
Gozen Match. Rivalry of Warlords, There Can Be Only One – These three are all just different flavours of the same card, so we’ll discuss them all together. These cards create interesting dynamics and make matchups behave super, super interestingly. Decks tend to fall into categories like being more aggressive vs being slow and controlling the pace of things (yet they’re known in card game theory as control and beatdown decks respectively, which is, to me, amusing) and while multiple Yu-Gi-Oh! decks can fall into category A or B, not all A’s beat B’s or vice versa, because of those identity gimmicks mentioned in Sharvara above. There are however instances in which decks A1 and A2 are effectively the same deck and lose to the same cards (think Harpie’s Feather Duster or Red Reboot) and B1 could be such a deck, but B1 loses to A2 and not A1 because of something like Gozen Match, where all of A2’s cards are the same attribute, and none of B1’s cards are. These dynamic-shifters help decks A1 and A2 have separate identities in the metagame, and it would be really, really cool if that’s how these cards got to exist. Instead, people play ‘stun’ decks based around summoning few monsters with oppressive floodgate effects and back them up with all 3 of these cards, as no matter what you’re playing, one or more of them is going to completely and utterly dominate you. These otherwise interesting cards are almost exclusively used (i’ve seen Rivalry used in Altergeist and Rikka, but it’s not like Zoodiac players were using them to help with Kaiju) for evil, and it made the game unplayable for a large number of people, who, like myself, rejoiced when they saw these hits. It’s a darn shame. I will also note that these things are unnecessarily complicated from a rules perspective and cause constant headaches, so these hits are welcome above hits to similar cards like summon limit if for that reason alone.
And lastly, the cards we can no longer put into decks.
Agido the Ancient Sentinel and Kelbek the Ancient Vanguard – like the floodgates, I’ll tackle these two together. Kelbek is a much stronger card than Agido on this side of the Pacific since Agido isn’t a hand trap here like it is in Japan, but these cards and the fact they interact with both players, warp the entire format around them. Cards like this are always a problem and the speed, information, and enforced deckbuilding rules these two caused and continued to cause after their initial hits were all above and beyond anything one could consider reasonable. I’m kinda glad to see these go before those new Lightsworn cards come out too.
Mathmech Circular. I’ve never liked this card because it allows for you to play a deck with a tiny yet incredibly resilient engine that you can back up with a crazy amount of hand traps and non-engine staples, allowing for very fluid and easy side decking, and no bad matchups. I’m completely surprised to see this hit, I cannot imagine why they did it, nobody was even playing Mathmech, maybe they thought with the other hits people would try again, or there’s some nefarious stuff coming out, but I can’t exactly say I’ll miss this card, as it was incredibly frustrating playing against Mathmech, where you figure out a way through, play perfectly, they fall for a bait or something, and then oops they also had an ash so you lose. Stupid deck, exists because of stupid card.
Isolde, Two Tales of the Noble Knights. MAN. Mikanko can’t catch a break, but would you say it’s worth trading this for Snatch Steal? This card allowed an EXODIA deck to go undefeated for more than half the first day at a YCS in the last 3 months. Infernoble, Mikanko, the Kengine, WAY too much was being abused by this thing. I’ve said for years that you can’t trust Link VRAINS Pack cards; all of them shouldn’t exist, especially the ones from LVP1, and this is no exception. It even added follow-up for the next turn. This is about as ‘good riddance’ as you can get (with apologies to Aaron Wray).
So there you have it, my initial thoughts on this new list. Feedback depending will determine if I expand on anything, do a follow up article, or do another edition of this on the next Forbidden & Limited List update. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or on Discord, as feedback is always appreciated but especially so in this case. I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday season and I look forward to 2024 at YGOrganization.