The past year of Yu-Gi-Oh has been kind of a wild ride, with several different decks emerging as the best during the course of the year and the competitive scene constantly adapting to accommodate and combat them.
Although formats are often determined by the banlist and most recent set releases combined, this year was particularly dependant on set releases given the introduction of the Link mechanic. With this in mind, we’ll be using the major set releases as our focal points for the last year of Yu-Gi-Oh.
Pre Raging Tempest
With the first banlist of the year coming into effect on the 31st March, there was a whole quarter of the year dominated by a solved meta that carried over from late August the previous year.
The strongest decks of this format included the likes of Metalfoes, Paleozoic Frogs and ABC. Metalfoes were the best performing of these three decks, largely thanks to the incredibly obnoxious Majespectre Unicorn – Kirin.
Kirin single-handedly warped the format thanks to his searchability from Majespectre Raccoon – Bunbuku and put decks that weren’t able to effectively deal with him in a terrible position to just out-control or straight up murder them.
One of the best examples of a deck from this period is Bohdan Temnyk’s 2nd place YCS Sydney Metalfoes list. It’s very safe and does what it wants to do a vast majority of the time. Of particular note are the two Lava Golems and three Holding Legs in the side deck, which were the two cleanest answers to ABC and Paleo Frogs respectively.
Putting a Lava Golem on top of a Bujintei Tsukuyomi and ABC – Dragon Buster was just one of the most satisfying plays of the format. All this combined with the synergy with Kirin and Metalfoes Mithrilium made Lava Golem an unsung hero.
Post Raging Tempest
The February release of Raging Tempest pulled the reigns in on Kirin with the release of the best deck for the next six months – Zoodiac.
Being able to delete the incredibly sticky Kirin from the game with ease through Zoodiac Whiptail’s effect and having an insanely powerful engine, meant they were either incorporated into the existing Metalfoe lists to combine their strengths or played as a standalone deck.
One of my favourite lists from this pocket of the format was Billy Brake’s 2nd Place YCS Prague Infernoid Zoodiac list. This list just included three of every single good card in the game, including Zoodiac Barrage, Speedroid Terrortop, Zoodiac Ratpier, That Grass Looks Greener and Fairy Tail – Snow.
As it turns out, jamming the most consistent engine in the game with a bunch of other vaguely synergistic ceiling cards will let you win a bunch of mirrors and top 2 a YCS. This was probably assisted by the fact that Billy Brake is a total sweetheart and one of the best players the game has ever seen.
Six weeks into the Raging Tempest format: Lo and behold! Kirin is dead, along with Vanity’s Emptiness, one of the best floodgates in the game. Aside from this, changes were minimal. Maxx “C” became a one-of blowout card, and Imperial Order replaced Vanity’s Emptiness as the limited floodgate we would be annoyed about.
Zoodiac were suddenly the uncontested best engine in the game until the release of Maximum Crisis six weeks later, which was no surprise giving their success in the OCG.
Leo Anaya’s 2nd place YCS Denver Zoodiac list was a great example of the high ceiling Zoodiacs we saw until Norden was banned.
Abusing the insane power of Norden to cycle Lunalight Black Sheep and Daigusto Emeral while searching Fusion Substitute AND drawing multiple cards without hand trap interaction lead to one of the more obnoxious pockets of the Zoodiac format. Mainly due to the fact that these combos would take FOREVER.
Fortunately, Konami deleted Norden from the game within two months or so, causing the Zoodiac strategy to shift slightly again.
Post Maximum Crisis
The release of Maximum Crisis saw Zoodiac gain even more powerful tools in the form of Zoodiac Chakanine and Hammerkong, as well as the introduction of the True King/Draco engine, which saw a lot of play at all levels. These two archetypes would dominate the next few months of the game, for better or worse.
Rafael Reich’s South America WCQ list is a great example of the standard Zoodiac list used for the rest of the year, as the Norden draw combo was no longer playable.
Lists like this took advantage of a heavier trap lineup and interesting extenders in cards like Shuffle Reborn, which saw a lot of play considering its relative obscurity prior to this.
True Draco Zoo was also a particularly dominant deck, seeing similar amounts of success to standard Zoo, largely due to the stun potential of a Master Peace + Drident on turn one. The release of Baobaboon in the Maximum Crisis Special Edition powered the deck up even more, giving it a free Invoker and the ability to redraw cards if they resolve a Draconic Diagram.
The list shown below is one used by Patrick Hoban prior to the release of Baobaboon and is just super clean and simple.
Post Code of The Duelist
Code of the Duelist marked the beginning of a new era with a rules change as we received our first round of real Link monsters that aren’t Decode Talker.
At the time, this set had little impact on the competitive scene as Missus Radiant filled in the gap that was required for Zoodiac to abuse the extra deck again. You could argue it made it even stronger given how much more robust and powerful she made the boards Zoodiac could create.
This format also saw the rise of Demise True Draco, which was a control deck that aimed to abuse Card of Demise, which is still at three for some reason.
This deck saw more success in this format than pre-link, as it was able to punish players trying to abuse the new rules with more inconsistent, powerful decks.
Just before the release of Circuit Break, Konami decided to delete Zoodiac and True King Dino decks from the game by banning all of their key cards.
This was a good idea. It was just far, far too late.
With this weird, six week break before Spyrals could break the game everyone started playing fun stuff, which was nice. This Spellbook Windwitch Invoked list is pretty rudimentary, but is a great example of some of the jank people could play when Drident was no longer oppressing the game.
Post Circuit Break
I spy with my little eye, a format with far too many bad puns and too few good decks in the meta game.
Reminiscent of the Pepe and early Zoodiac formats, this format revolves almost entirely around the incredibly powerful Spyral deck.
Even after emergency limiting Spyral Quik-Fix and Spyral Gear – Drone after the deck took 29/32 spots at the first YCS of the format, the deck has absolutely dominated the game by creating powerful boards and being able to OTK very consistently.
Thanks Double-Helix, you really are to blame for all of this.
Decks this format are either Spyral decks built to beat the mirror match or a rogue deck designed to beat Spyral; the common denominator between these two being the massive increase in hand traps such as Droll & Lock Bird and Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries to shut down the Spyral game plan before it is able to go off.
It’s a sad state of affairs to be honest, with games often being “you either have it, or you don’t” scenarios rather than requiring skillful interactions from both players. Not to say there isn’t skill involved with the deck as it is difficult to pilot, but it is so unbelievably fragile and powerful that games are often decided by a single hand trap.
Going into the new year, we have the Wave of Light Structure Deck and Extreme Force in early February, both of which made some impact on the OCG format when they were released. With any luck, they will do the same for us.
Hopefully, the promised January banlist will bring balance to the format and destroy the Spyral menace once and for all.