Black and White: The Forbidden and Limited List
Joe Frankino

If you're just starting out with the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, you may be in for a surprise when you show up to your first official tournament to find out you can't use some of the most powerful cards in your deck.

When you're playing with your friends, you can play with whatever cards you like as long as you follow the standard rules of the game: no more than three cards with the same name; Fusion, Synchro and Xyz Monsters go in the Extra Deck; and so on. But when you play at your Official Tournament Store for ranking and prizes, you have to follow the tournament's format.

Each format uses a list of cards that restrict how many copies of certain cards you're allowed to use. This list is called the Forbidden and Limited List, and if you play the game competitively, you're probably very familiar with it.

On this week's Black and White, we discuss the Forbidden & Limited List: why it's there, what purpose it serves, and my thoughts on some related issues.

Forbidden & Limited Lists (n. pl.)
The Forbidden & Limited Lists (hereafter referred to as The Lists) can be found on the official Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG website on this page. They've been updated numerous times throughout the years as more and more cards have been released.

Cards on the Forbidden List can't be included in your deck at all. If a card is on the Limited List, you can only run one copy of it in your deck, and if a card is on the Semi-Limited List, you can only include two copies of it in your deck. Cards that don't appear on any of the three lists may be run at the maximum three copies allowed.

There are two formats for constructed tournaments are possible: Traditional and Advanced. Most tournament's that you'll attend are Advanced Format. Regional Qualifiers, Yu-Gi-Oh! Championship Series events, Ultimate Duelist Series Qualifiers and Invitationals, and OTS Championships are all held under the Advanced Format.

Under the Advanced Format, there are a number of cards on all three of the Lists. In the Traditional Format, all cards on the Advanced Format's Forbidden List are instead on the Limited List. The cards on the Forbidden List are among the most powerful cards to even be released in the TCG.

So… Why Are There Lists?
At first glance, you may wonder why the need for these lists exist. Why can't we play the best cards in the game? Why can't we play some other specific cards that may not seem powerful but are still on these lists?

There's a few places where Konami has given insight towards this. Let's take a look back at a few articles on Konami's Strategy Site from years ago. There are three to look at, one here about why certain cards were placed on the lists in March 2012, this one about why certain cards from that time weren't hit, and this one about the hidden factors regarding the lists. Ignoring the dated references like Spore and Glow-Up Bulb, you can get an idea for what the philosophies are behind why cards are placed on the list.

Looking at the explanation in the first article, most decks back in the day started with the same 20-or-so core cards before you decided what monsters you were going to run. In terms of a TCG, having players only use a small portion of cards is a problem for a few reasons. It means a whole bunch of other cards are being ignored, which isn't good for diversity and makes for a poor tournament environment. While some players enjoy one-deck formats, not everyone does, and part of the Forbidden & Limited List's goal is to balance out the experience to allow for other decks to compete.

#####CARDID= 17318#####

Now, why there are “one-deck” formats in the first place is up for debate. Are there cards so powerful that running them is a requirement? Or, have players convinced themselves of that because of overrepresentation in tournaments, leading to the perception that “all the winning decks do this, so my deck has to do it too,” which causes them to top en masse because there's so many of them, further perpetuating the idea?

It's certainly a debate worth having, but I'll leave that to someone that can actually top events! Regardless, the Lists are intended to curb actual overpowered cards or perceived power cards, as both can have a negative impact on diversity and the overall player experience.

Ok, So, Is The List Being Updated Soon?!
Good question!

At the moment, the latest &L list was updated on August 29 2016, which is over six months ago; the longest list we've had in a while. I frequently see people asking about the list and it seems like a huge preoccupation in the community, so I'd like to bring up a counterpoint:

While shaking things up on the list would be nice – for instance, bringing back some Forbidden cards or bringing some Limited cards up to two or three – a lack of update isn't going to stop you from enjoying the game in its current state. With the amount of products released over the year, there's no shortage of variety being injected into the TCG. Remember: the lists are only one control over the environment; they change cards that are already in the card pool.

New products like booster sets, Structure Decks, the smaller releases like Fusion Enforcers are all additions to the card pool and allow for new strategies all on their own. A single “format” doesn't last for more than a few weeks since new cards change the environment and the possibilities so fast I sometimes have trouble keeping up myself.

“But Joe! Zoodiacs are busted!”
Apparently. Special Summoning a whole bunch of Xyz Monsters off a single Zoodiac Ratpier for little investment is certainly appealing, and as many players have figured out, the entire setup is vulnerable to board wipes and anti-Special Summoning cards like Vanity's Fiend, Vanity's Emptiness, Dimensional Barrier and such. Cards like Dark Hole, Raigeki and Torrential Tribute – which were nowhere to be seen for months – made a comeback once Zoodiacs took over the competitive scene.

But it's all cyclical; players find answers to the answers, and more adaptation happens. With Raging Tempest only a month old, it seems a bit too soon to put any Zoodiac card on any portion of the F&L List. In fact, even when group of cards needs a correction on the list so soon after a release, it takes an extraordinary circumstance for a corrective measure to be taken while that product is still the latest one…

Remember That There's Still a Business Side
Let's jump back a year when Performage Performapal decks were running rampant. YCS Atlanta 2016 saw 29 of the Top 32 decks using the Performapal Pendulum strategy. In this year's YCS Atlanta, the field was more diverse. Granted, the pure Zoodiac strategy took just about half of the Top 32 with variants taking up most of the remaining spots, leaving only five decks without any Zoodiac cards. But before you say “It's Performage Performapals all over again!”, I'd like to offer a counter to the argument.

Look at the variants of those non-pure Zoodiac decks. There's Kaiju in there, Metalfoes, Infernoid and Invoked. Those are four wildly different strategies. It just so happens that the Zoodiac engine is so compact and requires so few cards, that they can splashed into other decks with little issue. That's what's happening here.

The Performage Performapal deck did one thing and had very similar lines of play to make the same ending field with little variation. The “little variation” is a red-flag in terms of gameplay and tournament play. That's the kind of thing the Forbidden & Limited List is intended to fix, but in March 2016 when Breakers of Shadow was still the latest product on the shelf, taking corrective action against those cards would hurt the sales of any business selling those cards: both big retailers and your local hobby stores.

#####CARDID= 19635#####

That's probably why the never-before-used and hasn't-been-used-since Adjusted List came into effect for a short while; it gave local stores the option to allow players to continue using the overpowered cards in Breakers of Shadow like Performapal Monkeyboard and Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer without limit, while still curbing their impact in the tournaments they would be most used in – Regionals, YCS, OTS Championships and so on.

So, if you're expecting an immediate corrective measure to curb Zoodiacs in the near future, I personally wouldn't count on it. They're too new, and while the cards are finding their ways into a multitude of decks, Zoodiacs aren't forcing players into a single strategy. It's just not as problematic as Performage Performapals were last year.

So… When Is The List Getting Updated?
Ah, the age-old question. Of course, I have no idea, but I can take educated guesses just like everyone else, right?

Take into account that it would be very unusual to have a list update between the start of the National Championships and the last World Championship Qualifier. Changing the play environment in the middle of the championship season would be a huge PR blemish and likely won't be done unless absolutely necessary. At the moment, the earliest National Championship is scheduled for April 22nd with several still left to be announced, so if there's going to be a list update, it has to be before then.

But if there isn't, I would expect the current list to remain in effect until after the final World Championship Qualifier is completed, and I think that will actually be the case. A Forbidden and Limited List update happening at the same time as this year's Starter Deck would make the most sense since I expect a whole lot of things about the TCG will be turned on its head when the new Starter Deck drops. Naturally I don't know specifics, but once Konami releases info, I'll be sure to talk about it here as I'm sure there will be a whole bunch of questions once things are finally brought to light!

If you have any questions about Forbidden & Limited Lists, game mechanics, card interactions or tournament policy, send me an e-mail (one question per e-mail please!) to askjudgejoe@gmail.com and your question could be answered in a future edition of Court of Appeals!

-Joe Frankino


Joe is a judge and player from Long Island, New York. He streams video game nonsense once a week at http://twitch.tv/crazdgamer and writes non-TCG things at http://crazdgamer.com.