The Introduction of Block Format into Yu-Gi-Oh


Hey everybody! I hope you all enjoyed the holiday season and the month off of competitive Yu-Gi-Oh as much as I did! This weekend marks the kickoff of the 2015 season with the ARG Circuit Series Orlando. It is the only event after the recent Forbidden and Limited Limited List change, but before the new set is released.


A friend of mine made an interesting observation. He said that it seems like Konami has given us a block format, similar to that of Magic, but without actually telling us that. Having thought about it, there’s quite a bit of validity to his statement.


Previously, the ban list had been used to keep the game fresh and ensure that any given format wasn’t like its predecessor. They would often leave the top deck of a format unplayable in the next format. Tele-DAD and Plants are two examples of them doing this in the past.


September 2013, we saw the most radical banlist change in the game’s history. They banned over 20 cards at once, an absolutely unprecedented amount. Since then, every list has been very minor. Most of them did not actually change the format very much; they only fixed holes in the game like banning Return From the Different Dimension or Super Polymerization.


It makes sense for Konami to want to try and avoid outright killing the top deck of a format. Most people (me included) don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to be able to play the deck for a relatively short amount of time before being expected to spend hundreds of dollars once again if they still wanted to compete at a top level. Taking this approach could result in fewer people finding the game worth it and their player base might begin to dwindle. The switch to three-month formats would magnify this effect, as people would be expected to buy a new deck twice as often if they wanted to remain competitive.


Konami’s solution to this appears to be very similar to the approach that Magic the Gathering takes in order to deal with this problem. Instead of letting a banlist, or set rotation in Magic’s case, define the format, they’ve begun to let new sets be the defining factor in formats.


They start out by giving us a base set. The base set for this “block” was Duelist Alliance. This introduced Shaddoll and Burning Abyss as the two leading archetypes for the entire block. It’s possible that they intended Satellarknights to be a third main archetype, but that it just wasn’t as powerful as the other two.


The ban list after the pack was first introduced didn’t change very much. Shaddoll was originally significantly more powerful than Burning Abyss, primarily due to Super Polymerization. Once they put this card to one, their power was roughly equal. If one was better than the other at this time, the difference wasn’t very obvious.


Despite the format technically being between ban lists, the format was more revolution by the release of the New Challengers. This is actually a big change from older Yu-Gi-Oh. Instead of Konami hitting the top decks, they actually gave them both more support in the next pack. They also introduced another main archetype; Qliphorts. I’ll come back to this shortly.


This has resulted in a defined three-deck format with Burning Abyss, Shaddoll, and Qliphorts as the top decks. The January banlist has been out for roughly two weeks now and once again we see a continuation of the developing trend of not hitting the top decks. They left Burning Abyss and Qliphorts completely untouched and only hit Super Polymerization in Shaddolls.


Next weekend, a third set is released; Secrets of Eternity. Again, all the top decks are getting support, immediately following all of them being relatively untouched by the banlist. This absolutely did not happen for older formats.


As I have said, this trend is similar to that of Magic the Gathering. They release a base set that introduces the dominant archetypes. They then build on the archetypes over the next couple of sets. I don’t keep up with releases in the distant future, so I don’t know much of anything about the set after Secrets of Eternity, but it seems likely that they will continue with this trend of building the core archetypes.


I suspect the trend will continue to follow Magic’s model. There they rotate out the sets and introduce a new base set. While Yu-Gi-Oh doesn’t do set rotation, it’s likely that they will try to yield the same effect with either the April or July banlist and outright kill most of the top decks. Then they will introduce a new base set in the weeks following that.


It’s hard to say whether or not this will happen on the April list or the July list and Qliphorts make it harder to guess. Two of the three core dominant strategies came out a full three months before the third, Qliphorts, was released.


If we look to Secrets of Eternity, they’re now introducing Nekroz. To me, this seems to suggest the beginning of a pattern.


Introduction of Burning Abyss and Shaddoll

Expansion of Burning Abyss and Shaddoll. Introduction of Qliphort.

Expansion of Burning Abyss and Shaddoll. Explansion of Qliphort. Introduction of Nekroz.


Here’s where we are right now. If I had to guess, it would stand to reason that the pattern would continue as:

Elimination of Burning Abyss and Shaddoll through ban list.

Expansion of Qliphort. Expansion of Nekroz. Introduction of a new archetype.

Elimination of Qliphort.

Expansion of Nekroz. Expansion of the new archetype. Introduction of a second new archetype.

Elimination of Nekroz.



The power curve plays an important role in this trend as well. There weren’t huge changes on the July ban list. Instead, the release of more powerful cards dictated the beginning of the format. It wasn’t that HAT and Gears got hit to unplayable, they were reduced in power. Then Shaddoll and Burning Abyss were released. After Gear’s reduction in power, Shaddoll and Burning Abyss were more powerful.


The power curve is something that has been occurring in Yu-Gi-Oh for years. It’s the reason we don’t use Smashing Ground to clear threats and Spirit Reaper as a power play anymore. Instead we end with double Dante. Cards get increasingly powerful over time, because they have to in order to maintain this type of format structure. It seems likely that this trend will continue to happen.


Instead of an outright banning of Burning Abyss and Shaddoll in April, we’ll probably seem some minor hits. Perhaps they’ll hit something like Tour Guide, but leave the rest of the deck untouched. Then they’ll continue to release cards that are more powerful. They will be powerful enough to make it so the minor reduction in power through a hit like Tour Guide will be enough to make whatever the new cards are better than the old Burning Abyss strategy.


Since Konami doesn’t want to outright kill a deck as it alienates anybody who was playing that deck, they’ll only do it in extreme situations. This type of pattern means that players will have to make an original investment into a base set. Now, instead of killing the deck outright with the banlist, they’ll build upon it in the next set. This encourages the players to build on their existing strategies, which sells more products on their end.


This means that they won’t have to buy a new deck outright (and lose the players who refuse to do this to remain competitive) and can just get the new cards. Since they’re only getting a fraction of the deck at a time, it’s likely at a cheaper cost to the player than if they had to buy a whole deck at once. This means that more people will be willing to spend the money once the next set comes out.


Then the power curve means that when it’s time to phase the new deck out (which they’re naturally going to want to do so that you continue to buy their cards), they don’t have to kill the deck and alienate the players who were playing it. The new cards will be better, but they could still play the older cards if they wanted.


A prime example of this is Mermails. It was the top deck in the January format last year. When the April list was released, they put Gunde to 1. It didn’t outright kill the deck and anyone who was playing Mermails could still play it if they chose to, but new cards like Soul Charge and Artifacts allowed other decks to be more powerful.


Mermails also demonstrate how the power curve exists in today’s game. This most recent list put Gunde back to 3, but I find it unlikely that they will return to their previous status as a top deck. Shaddolls, Burning Abyss, and Qliphorts are all better decks.


So what can you do with this information? There are actually a couple of different applications.


The first of which is investing. You can use this pattern to predict card prices. I find it likely that the April ban list will likely reduce the power of Burning Abyss and Shaddolls, much the way hitting Gunde to 1 reduced the power of Mermails, so that the game’s power curve can take over and newer strategies will be stronger.


Qliphorts will probably survive an additional list and Nekroz a list after that. This pattern can save you lots of money selling off things you might otherwise expect to be hit. You could even buy up cards from people rushing to get rid of cards because they didn’t see this pattern.


At any point the power curve could shift this balance. The people making the cards can’t always perfectly predict how they will affect the game. Sometimes they’ll release a card that has a stronger impact than they expected. Minor corrections to problem cards on the ban list and stronger core sets might result in a core set archetype being better than an archetype that had already been given an expansion.


You can also apply this pattern to how the format will develop. It stands to reason that Burning Abyss and Shaddoll will be at full strength after this set, but that Qliphorts will still have more support coming and Nekroz will have support coming for even longer. This means that it’s likely that anything that has received support for a longer period of time will be a better deck, but that each base set will be better than the last base set.


Personally I don’t plan a deck for an event, I plan for a whole format. Had I known that Shaddolls would not have been hit harder than they were in October, I might not have played a Shaddoll deck at full power at the events shortly before the list was released. I expected them to hurt the deck and thought I didn’t have a reason to save anything. When the list didn’t hurt the deck, I didn’t have an advantage saved for Dallas and didn’t top. Having identified this pattern, I can now factor this in and save some ideas for the upcoming format instead of assuming that the list will cripple the deck.


The institutions within a format are one of my favor aspects of Yu-Gi-Oh and I love identifying patterns like this. One could easily use these patterns to take advantage of the market and know how the format will progress. I hope to see you all this weekend at ARG Circuit Series Orlando. Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Latest posts by Patrick Hoban (see all)




    Good to see you.I can’t express myself very well in English.I like your article.I would like to know more about you and your match.I don’t know how to get in touch with you.I want to chat with you about this game.I wish to make progress together with you! Thanks!

  • Andy

    I have this idea about bringing in new cards while allowing older cards to have chance to shine despite having power creeps. Konami can design cards that are more powerful but have inherent weaknesses to older cards (extremely weak). For example – an archetype that is superior in every sense but self destruct when opponent gain life points.

  • jbmansley

    Shaddoll, Burning Abyss and Qliphorts will all be unplayable in a few months. No deck will last more than a few months with how often Konami is releasing new sets and with 4 ban lists a year.

    If you wanted to be a competitive player the last 2 years, you would need at least 4-5 decks worth close to or well over $1,000.

  • Jeorg Talbert

    I like your thinking… But it also sounds like you may just be a bit sore after not topping for once at Dallas. Try not to overthink things… Even if that’s what you do best.

  • Alec Kenneth Featherston

    I know this is what everyone says, but I think that power creep is becoming a problem and that we need a formula for new formats so that older cards don’t end up losing their value entirely. There are some decks that are too far gone and will never be good again. But that doesn’t have to be true for the rest of the decks that still have hope, and the rest of the decks to come. Yugioh is fun now, IMO. But How much more broken can the game get without becoming un-fun? Most of the top decks can fight on two turn clocks with their strongest hands; the only thing preventing an OTK based format are floaty meat shields (Dante, Saqlifice), stun-based creatures that can be summoned as part of an engine (like Winda), and traps, which are not as strong because they are not part of an engine. The very best traps in the game are one shot cards that only delay the opponent long enough for you to win instead.

    I don’t really think the game can get any faster; a deck that could win turn 1 most of the time would have to have exceptional resources and an incredibly diverse set of outs to the numerous forms of defense in yugioh (stun creatures, stun s/ts, spot removal s/ts, floaty creatures, hand traps). New decks outclass older decks by having a) superior tools to dismantle defensive setups / immunity to those set ups b) superior set ups and c) superior card economy. As decks acquire new tools, we will start to hit some pretty absurd ceilings in terms of strength of answers, strength of immunity, and strength of card economy.

    Instead of creeping the new decks gradually over the older decks, what I think we need to do is just bite the bullet and cripple older decks to the extent that they cannot compete with newer ones, so that new decks can be printed on a similar power level to that of decks of the previous format. In this way we will have a format where the new decks are the only playable decks in the format. In fact, I don’t really see a reason not to just key word ban entire archetypes for this purpose.

    This can be balanced by creating a new format alongside the rotating format that has older decks at more or less full power level. Mermails entirely unhindered, 3-axis entirely unhindered, full power geargia (though that barely competes in the OCG), Infernity, perhaps mildly nerfed inzektor, semi-nerfed wind-up (hand loop variants), semi-nerfed dragon rulers, dragunity, etc etc. By making a rotating format and an “eternal” format, you can have new decks and cards enter the fray in eternal, while not having new decks that inherently overpower decks in this eternal format because of power creep (power creep being unecessary). This eternal format would creep, but very slowly, and would be regulated by a banned list.

    I think everyone would be happy with this. There would be a format where everyone can play their favorite deck (though obviously some would turn out better than others, and this would shape the meta game), and another format with fresh new decks that would be much more heavily influenced by new set releases, driving sales.

    Also, if they had an eternal format, they could make sets that would only be legal for the eternal formats, creating legacy support for older archetypes to mix up the metagame, instead of shoehorning those cards in with each new set.

    To keep both formats relevant, there would be tournaments for both tournaments and maybe draft format. To be a complete competitive player, you would have to have an eternal format deck, a rotating format deck, and draft skills, but if you didn’t want to invest that heavily you could just play the format you want.

    • Jeorg Talbert

      Not bad. But it sounds like you have a lot of money…. (and an already established card-pool).

      • Alec Kenneth Featherston

        Lol I don’t I play nothing but rogue but I have nothing against meta decks. I just enjoy the challenge of deckbuilding.

        • Cardtheorist

          Haha me too, and I did have great success against the meta, beating out the top decks quite consistently, but around the Shaddoll period, it was really tough. The power ceiling just got too high.

    • Blargh1111

      The problem with this is the same problem that Magic has with their eternal formats, not only are the card pools much more expensive on original investment (If I remember correctly an average RUG Delver list at its peak was 2-3 thousand), It is also very rare that eternal formats actually recieve cards that are relevant (The rarity of cards like Jeskai Ascendancy and True-Name Nemesis, that synergize very well with the cards in older formats are the main cause for this), and therefore it is not often you get to play the newer cards, and thus that causes most people to not want to play said format.

    • Nick Hytrek

      This is my opinion of the eternal format, change it up a bit and release it’s own legacy set with say around 200 cards. then have those released every 3-4 months with an entire arch-type and a good amount of indirect support, including any new legacy support you would want to include, All of these cards in the legacy sets are on rotation with 3 or 4 sets at any given point legal. so after a new set releases the oldest set is dropped, but don’t worry in about a year or two you reintroduce an arch-type into the sets. On the most basic scale this would be the Konami’s reprint sets as well. So anything released in legacy sets is legal in advanced play therefore giving you two different relevant formats. Imagine a full powered blackwing, mermail, wind-ups, firefist, spellbooks, infernities, and geargia format. The following format would drop a deck or two that is really competitive but reintroduce them a year or two later in the new reprint set. Also keep in mind the cards for these arch-types do not need to come from the set for the card to be legal, in fact this is a last minute thought, but why not do legacy support for the eternal format with all the holo cards in alternate art just for collector’s value.

    • Austin Kirkham

      I agree so much with this i wrote a article about it!

  • So you’re basically saying that you don’t figure out better ideas as you go, but that you know about better ideas and purposely save them for later to continue having an advantage over other decks? Interesting

  • Kent

    one of the best post ever

  • Mike Ross

    I couldn’t agree more Mr.Hoban. Would you say that this also gives the lower decks a chance as well?

    • Alexander

      lower decks are worse than better decks by definition. What it means is that Konami should continue to release better decks, while slowly reducing the power of previous decks. It does not mean crystal beasts or harpies stand a chance.

      • TOX1C

        It doesn’t make them “good” or “relevant “in the meta but it gives older decks a longer lease on life and more value for the consumer. They are consitently releasing support for older decks, to increase value of older decks. Decks now can be good or great for longer and the slower change of the meta gives older decks a better chance overall, even if they aren’t competitive.

    • Nikolas Paulsen

      He made this article about the meta. The leading decks of the different “blocks” and that the format of the meta will change with a new “block”. Since Yugioh is a product from Konami, Konami will push the main archetypes of each “block” and doesn’t care as much for the smaler decks as they do with the main ones.

  • Davide Quartieri

    Andrea Ippolito be like 🙂 .