Hello Everyone! Before I begin this article, I think it would only be fitting to introduce myself. My name is Alex "Thunderpants" Vansant. Some of you may know me from events and YCS/SJC coverage or from my Youtube channel. My early credentials include managing to consistently get 9th-16th back when there was merely a top 8. Of course, when they created a top 16 cut, I became the master of 17th-24th. So yes, I've definitely had my share of "rough beats". My more memorable creds include 2, 5th place finishes (at Indianapolis and Nashville respectively), and most famously 3rd place in Toronto. I have also won the side event points playoffs on numerous occasions, consistently securing the prize cards. Though I am most known for my Machina Gadget deck, I have also made many accomplishments with a very wide variety of decks. I have been playing since Legend of Blue Eyes, so I feel confident saying that I am qualified to report my opinion on this game. It is up to you to interpret it and discern its worth. In addition to analysis game itself, I would also like to discuss how it fits in with your life as a whole. Anyway, without further ado, I give you my first article.
In case you haven’t heard, there will be a new banned and restricted list taking effect March 1st. For some, this is a scary time because there is no established “best deck”. However, some people take advantage of this time to use their innovation and dominate the young format. You may notice that new formats showcase many “pros” doing well. Look at Lazarro Bellido winning Toronto or Jeff Jones winning New Jersey. Early formats give good players the chance to interpret the seemingly unknown sea of decks and set the meta. So how do you, using the words of Atreyu, become the bull? First, you must understand what the ban list has done to the game. Secondly, you must think about what everyone will think is the best deck. Finally, it is up to you to decide what you personally think is the best deck and proceed accordingly.
For the first step, let us look at the changes that the ban list are bringing to the table. In order to not beat ban list analysis to death, I will only go over the most relevant cards. I will leave it to the many other “experts” to chew the fat over seemingly irrelevant cards. First, lets look at the ban of Goyo Guardian. It may seem like an unreasonable ban at first, but think about how it can affect the game. Without Goyo Guardian, that leaves your only staple Lv 6 Syncrho Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier. With so many decks relying on Lv 6 Synchros, that means something will have to fill the void. In some cases, it may be beneficial to think about decks that have their own such as Blackwings with Blackwing Armed Wing or Plants with Iron Chain Dragon. Perhaps you will have to run Gaia Knight, Force of the Earth as a default, but it is nowhere near as game changing as the hulking 2800 attack and powerful effect of Goyo Guardian. So this means running Lv 2 Tuners in a deck that relies mostly on Lv 4 Non-Synchro monsters may be a weak choice. Cold Wave being banned is also huge because it increases the power of defensive decks. To balance this out, Gold Sarcophagus is back at 3 which will allow aggressive decks another opportunity to get to their ever important Giant Trunade. For now, Trap Stun and Royal Decree will suffice, but not for all decks. Mystical Space Typhoon may become a staple and Dust Tornado may be a good supplement.
Blackwings and plants both seem to be demolished with Dandylion and Blackwing-Kalut the Moon Shadow at 1 and Icarus Attack and Debris Dragon at 2. I feel both of these decks are still very strong even with these changes. However, Book of Moon being limited to 1 may be the true downfall to these decks if it does happen. Cutting off easy Blackwing-Shura the Blue Flame plays and being the driving force behind the Plant backrow, Book of Moon’s limit will prove quite daunting. That’s not to say that it didn’t greatly harm Gravekeepers, X-Sabers, and just about any other deck that sits back on Spells and Traps. Royal Tribute going to 2 will not be a huge issue for Gravekeepers, rather the Book and Solemn Warning restrictions will prove the bigger problem. Card Trooper going to 2 helps Lightsworn, Plants, and most machine decks and can make people pay for summoning 1900 ATK stun monsters. Spirit Reaper going to 2 could help Zombies as well as a slew of other control based decks. Chaos Sorcerer going to 3 could also be a huge boost for Twilight decks (as is Gold Sarcophagus). Skill Drain to 3 may also be more important than it seems. Gateway of the Six going to 1 will slow down but not kill Six Samurais, they are still alive and well. Skill Drain will manage to appear in top decks this format (if only in the Side Deck) on a consistent basis, that I can guarantee. In my opinion, the most important cards to look out for are Gold Sarcophagus, Chaos Sorcerer, Spirit Reaper, Trap Stun, and Mystical Space Typhoon.
Given that information, you can draw some rough conclusions as to what people will try to play blindly into this upcoming event. Back row power was limited by the restriction of Book and Solemn Warning which gives Frog Monarchs, Genex Frogs, and Fish OTK a nice boost. They aren’t just decks that people will think are good, but will actually BE good in the future. They will be limited by the Gravekeeper players who will still be in full effect. Don’t forget that Royal Tribute to 2 is not their main Achilles heel, it is the restriction of Book and Warning. It may also be hindered by the indirect increase of popularity in Mystical Space Typhoon through the banning of Cold Wave. Machine decks will see a lot of play, whether its Stun Gadgets, Machina Gadgets, Karakuris, or flat out Machine OTK. Card Trooper to 2 will be a huge advantage though I think Overload Fusion to 2 will only indirectly increase the popularity of Machine decks through hype rather than actual effectiveness. Six Samurais are the X-Sabers of last format going into this event. They were barely touched by the list (like when the only thing to Sabers was banning Rescue Cat) and will likely see a lot of play in the upcoming events. X-Sabers will as well since they have been a powerhouse deck for the last two formats. Finally, expect to see a lot, and I mean a ton, of Gladiator Beast players. Why? Not because they have been made better by the list, in fact they were made significantly worse (Cold Wave, Warning, Book). Gladiator Beasts have consistently done well at the beginning of formats because they are a simple and cheap deck that can get the job done. Unfortunately, they tend to top more based on their mass quantity than their effectiveness. Their success in young formats is a self fufilling prophecy since people will look to the past and decide that since it has done well in young formats of the past, it will do well now. They did gain a key card, Forbidden Lance. Then again, so did almost everything. Expect not to encounter many Plant and Blackwing players in the beginning of this format since people probably assume they have been hit hard by the list. Infernities will remain basically as they were in the last format, so don’t forget about them. Here are a few questions that you should ask yourself in order to find out what is going to be played. What is the area in which I am playing like? What has won there in the past? What is the player base’s economic standing? What will be the most expensive decks and will people be able to afford them? What are the indirect effects of other decks coming in and out of the format? The more you think about the way the list will affect decks, the more you can realize this last step to thinking like the pros.
What deck do I think is the best? Personally, I will not divulge this information. This is partly due to a lack of true testing, selfish purposes, and a Socratic view that rather than simply giving you a black or white answer, I want to give you the tools to figure it out yourself. It will be different for a lot of people, but in the end it makes sense to think critically and come to your own personal conclusion. If someone argues against your view, give examples and reasons as to why you believe you are right. Treat the challenge of your opinion as an opportunity to evaluate your thinking. Here are a few questions that you should ask yourself when trying to draw this conclusion for yourself. What do I think the meta will be like? How can I make a deck choice that counters this? Will that method be able to last the length of the tournament? How can I find synergy between all of the cards in my deck? When preparing for specific matchups, what cards come in and out of my side deck? If I cannot afford certain cards, what can I play as a substitute and will that nullify the purpose behind my current deck or make it weaker than an alternative? Are decks of the past that are considered to be dead really dead? Am I trying too hard to be innovative? Hopefully these questions will help when trying to draw this conclusion. Make sure you make good tech choices, if any, and stick to your game plan for how a deck should work. In my Machina deck, I only ran 2 fortresses. People wondered why, but the reasoning was simple. Not only do I play so many cards that hinder special summons, but it doesn’t synergize well with the theme of the deck, which at the time was to keep a constant stream of monsters as I sit back on Spells and Traps. Just because everyone thinks something is right, doesn’t mean it is. However, do not let innovation blind you. Doing something to be original isn’t always the best choice. Playing Shrink is great, but there is no need when Forbidden Lance is all around better. I hope my first article was helpful for you while preparing for this upcoming format shift. Until next time boys and girls, T-Time is over.