Side Deck Theory: Adjusting To The F&L List

Kelly Locke

11/8/2017 11:00:00 AM

The Forbidden & Limited List announcement last week came as a surprise to much of the community: myself included.

I'd already committed to a long winter of nothing but SPYRAL-dominated top cuts and quite possibly a boring, stagnant format. I was optimistic that innovators would find a great match-up to push back against SPYRALS, but that was never guaranteed to happen; it's hard to know whether an Artifact-supported Invoked deck with precisely tuned hand trap ratios would have given SPYRALS a run for their money. That was asking a lot of players though, when the safest option for high level competitors was to simply use SPYRALS yourself.

We'll never get the answer to that question, but I'm not at all upset about that. The Limit on SPYRAL Quik-Fix and SPYRAL GEAR - Drone has reeled the deck back in line with other competitive strategies this format. There's a lot of discussion about whether these were the correct hits, and if you're interested in the perspective of some of the game's best players I highly recommend you check out Jason's article from last week .

As of this week I'm not too concerned if the hits were ideal; I'm focused on finding a siding strategy that works in a format where SPYRALS are taken down a notch.

The SYPRAL Era Is Over Already?
It's astonishing that SPYRALS took such a huge hit so early after rising to the top of the competitive scene. Zoodiacs ran roughshod over the competition for the first half of the year, but SPYRAL Double Helix has only been out for a little over two weeks.

We were only just starting to develop Side Deck strategies that would help even the playing field against the game's top deck to beat. That said, I don't think anyone was particularly enjoying playing the 10+ hand traps required to stay alive in a SPYRAL-dominated game. Maybe that played a role in the decision to hit SPYRALS so early, or perhaps it's just an added benefit.

How competitive are SPYRALS with just a single SPYRAL Quik-Fix and SPYRAL GEAR - Drone? I definitely think they're hurting, and it might be enough to push them out of Top Cuts for the time being. The Limit on Drone was a massive hit to their consistency, and while the deck is at home playing a slow game of attrition there's something to be said for the number of games won by overwhelming opponents through insane Turn 1 combos. With that play now less powerful thanks to a Limit on Quik-Fix, and its consistency reduced with only one Drone available, it's highly questionable if SPYRALS can emulate at least some of their prior success using a totally different approach with a smaller pool of key cards.

There's yet more bad news for the SPYRAL Main Deck on this F&L List. Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow's Limit challenges SPYRAL players to look elsewhere for quick access to Link Monsters, and that's a bigger problem with fewer SPYRALS in the deck. Set Rotation is also gone, but I'm not too sure if it helped SPYRALS more than hurt them. They're less likely to have their Field Spell Zone locked down now, though in exchange there are fewer ways to reach SPYRAL Resort.

 Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow
Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow129995
Set OTS Tournament Pack 4
Number OP04-EN011
Level 5
Type Tuner/Effect Monster
Monster Winged Beast
Attribute DARK 
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

Cannot be Normal Summoned/Set. Must first be Special Summoned (from your hand) while you control no monsters. When this card is Special Summoned from the hand: You can Special Summon 2 "Vague Shadow Tokens" (Winged Beast-Type/DARK/Level 1/ATK 0/DEF 0), but they cannot be Tributed or be used as Synchro Material. You can banish this card and 1 or more face-up non-Tuners you control, then target 1 "Blackwing" Synchro Monster in your Graveyard whose Level equals the total Levels the banished monsters had on the field; Special Summon it, and if you do, it is treated as a Tuner.

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This F&L List means two rather obvious things for the SPYRAL match-up: it's easier to win, and you're less likely to see it. SPYRALS aren't a bad deck by any means, but players will start transitioning back to Pendulum Magicians, Invoked, Trickstars, Paleozoics, ABCs, and True Draco variants. Highly competitive events are bound to become more diverse again even if SPYRALS stay at the top. As far as siding strategy goes we're reverting to pre-Circuit Break diversity with a fresh pool of cards and one new addition to the top tables.

Which Decks Are Back At The Top?
The big winners of the F&L List are those decks that couldn't compete in the SPYRAL-dominated format, had more to lose to Set Rotation than to gain from it, and didn't need Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow to launch combos. Pendulum Magicians are certainly at the top of that list, having lost essentially nothing on this List while several other competing strategies were nerfed (directly or indirectly). Pendulums didn't get a power boost from Circuit Break, but they didn't need one. It's still one of the most consistent decks in the game, and each new Link Monster is keeping Dimensional Barrier even further away from Main Deck play.

Invoked and Trickstars made Top Cut showings at YCS events despite SPYRALS, so they're clearly on the path to success through the rest of this year. No big surprise there: decks that did well in difficult environments tend to also do well immediately after a F&L List update. It's hard to imagine a better situation for these two strategies, especially with Set Rotation nearly out of the game. Artifacts are still very potent too, and both Invoked and Trickstars can easily put that engine to use. If Set Rotation isn't simply replaced by spell and trap removal it could be swapped out for Artifacts or Magic Deflector

Destrudo the Lost Dragon's Frisson added extra power to ABCs among a handful of other strategies, and even with Set Rotation Limited there's still plenty of decks that will continue playing the Ravine-Destrudo engine. Again, decks like ABCs and SPYRALS are both winners and losers with Set Rotation's Limit. There's one less way for them to reach their Field Spell, but Gateway to Chaos and Oracle of Zefra are no longer a concern. That's a very encouraging sign for strategies that rely on Field Spells, and it also makes Destrudo a bit more attractive despite Dragon Ravine being a harder to search.

 Evenly Matched
Evenly Matched148377
Set Circuit Break
Number CIBR-EN077
Type Normal Trap
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

At the end of the Battle Phase, if your opponent controls more cards than you do: You can make your opponent banish cards from their field face-down so they control the same number of cards as you do. If you control no cards, you can activate this card from your hand.

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Links were slowed when Gofu hit the Limited List, but Scapegoat is still around and already saw Top 32 play at YCS London. There are few decks that can use Scapegoat as effectively as Paleozoics: possibly the best sleeper pick of the format. Scapegoat's tremendously helpful for Summoning Firewall Dragon, allowing you quickly amass card advantage by recycling nearly everything. Paleozoics can also aggressively leverage Evenly Matched when playing second to even up the field, and that alone makes numerous match-ups more winnable. It's an extremely solid deck this format, and well-worth siding for.

Reevaluating Hand Traps
As the threat of SPYRALS subsides, traps are likely going to trend out of Main Decks with players moving their least-used copies into the Side Deck. You're less likely to lose to a Turn 1 SPYRAL combo, so running more than ten hand traps isn't as appealing as before. That's not to say hand traps are suddenly bad, or not worth playing. They're still outstanding, but there's a bit more wiggle room and a bigger incentive to stick to the hand traps with the highest match-up utility.

With SPYRALS on the decline Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries is probably on its way out. It was already losing steam before the F&L List announcement, and as SPYRALS fall off in play it's difficult to justify siding a hand trap specifically for that match-up, not to mention the added bulkiness that comes with siding Ghost Reaper. Sacrificing Extra Deck space is rarely worth it outside of a few select strategies with room to spare. With Links competing for the same space you're lucky if you can fit more than a couple Link Monsters into traditionally non-Link strategies.

The aggressive force of Evenly Matched also reduces the need to load up on hand traps, and especially those that have some effect on your opponent's commitment to the field. Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit shines because it can cause some cards to not resolve, and also because it actually deals with the card in question. You don't need to follow up on Ghost Ogre in the same way you do with Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring. Evenly Matched is that follow-up in the most extreme form, so Ghost Ogre appears to serve only niche roles by breaking up the occasional combo that Ash Blossom can't stop.

Droll & Lock Bird seems to be fairly well situated for the remainder of the format. I imagine we'll continue to see it in Main Decks, but with SPYRALS backing off a bit it's easier to slot it in the Side Deck without worrying about a Game 1 blowout. Keep in mind that one of Droll's biggest advantages over hand traps is its floodgate-like effect. SPYRALS could easily push through a single Ash Blossom last format with Machine Duplication or Double Summon, but Machine Duplication is now useless and Double Summon is harder to use effectively with fewer Main Deck SPYRALS.

The competitive scene post-Circuit Break is a very different place with or without SPYRALS. Double Helix and Evenly Matched weren't the only game changing cards in that set, and I think we're going to become acutely aware of how much Links advanced in CIBR over the coming weeks. It's interesting to see that as the hype train rolls back, there's a renewed interest in taking a second look at nearly an entire set of overshadowed cards.

Until next time then


Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​ ​​​gamer and writer. In​​​ ​​​addition​​​ ​​​to​​​ ​​​writing​​​ ​​​on TCGplayer,​​​ ​​​Kelly​​​ ​​​writes​​​ a ​​​​​​
personal​​​ ​​​blog​​​ ​​​ ​​​covering​​​ ​​​Yugioh,​​​ ​​​Destiny,​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​other​​​ ​​​hobbies. You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​ ​​​​​​ Twitter​​​ ​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​ Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​ . He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.

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