A New F&L List For A New Era Of Links
A new Forbidden & Limited List arrived the same day Extreme Force hit shelves in the TCG, and it couldn't be more relevant given the set's support for current and older themes.
Extreme Force features Link Monster imports from the OCG's LINK VRAINS Pack, including the extremely powerful Heavymetalfoes Electrumite, and the F&L List appears to be directly responding to the new releases. Pendulum Magicians took aggressive hits while Qliphorts had a few of their cards returned.
Other product-focused changes include the Limit on Monster Reborn following the release of its OCG art in the TCG, the return of Solemn Judgement in the wake of the Wave of Light Structure Deck, and Artifact Moralltach's move to Unlimited with the new Artifact Mjollnir debuting in EXFO. There are plenty of other easily explainable changes: Future Fusion, Brain Control, and Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier all have new effects that are a significant downgrade since they were first Forbidden.
Even more long-overdue changes some already made in the OCG have finally come to pass: Level Eater, Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow, and Grinder Golem moved up the List with both Gofu and Grinder Golem surpassing their OCG restrictions. It's harder to make Link Summons now, and Level Eater's new restriction makes the freshly-playable Linkuriboh far less abusable. Instead, cards like Scapegoat are now the premiere way to facilitate one-card Link Summons in strategies that struggle to flood the field with monsters.
The most interesting changes on this List are the adjustments to SPYRALs, Pendulums, and ancient tech choices that have defined formats both recently and in years past. It's a fascinating and shockingly lengthy list that's being received favorably so far. Let's dig in and talk about the individual changes that are making the most noise.
SPYRALs Out Of Vacation Days
SPYRAL Master Plan's second effect must search a SPYRAL Resort to activate, so if there's only one copy of the Field Spell in your deck it's likely that Master Plan simply won't be able to activate. You'll probably end up using SPYRAL Resort to search a combo starter before you can even start thinking about Summoning Master Plan with SPYRAL Double Helix.
SPYRALs are definitely hurting after losing their best play, but that doesn't mean the deck is dead. The heart of the SPYRAL Deck, and its real staying power, is largely built on the strength of SPYRAL Sleeper. Like Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King, it's still an impressively powerful card even when it's much more difficult to Summon. Fix the Summoning problem and you still have a viable strategy, right?
Well, not quite. In this case the Limit on Resort not only makes Sleeper harder to search and Summon, but that also means Sleeper in addition to other SPYRAL cards are less likely to have immunity to targeting effects. Without that Sleeper's a sitting duck, and cards like Effect Veiler are suddenly relevant again.
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Looking at the SPYRAL arsenal it's difficult to see exactly where the deck goes from here. Some SPYRAL builds have managed to find limited success in the OCG, but that's only with help from Grinder Golem, Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow, and a noticeably larger pool of Link Monsters to kickstart plays.
The Dragon Ravine engine along with Destrudo the Lost Dragon's Frisson seems like a must now, especially with Terraforming still Unlimited in our version of the game. For now I expect to see Dark variants of SPYRALs making moves on the competitive scene, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it topping Regionals.
Pendulums Lose Their Consistency
Losing both cards simultaneously is a massive blow to Pendulums and a major threat to their consistency. Pendulum strategies are particularly demanding regarding viable Turn 1 or Turn 2 hands. There's a lot that needs to go right: you need two Pendulum Monsters with the proper Pendulum Scales and monsters worth Summoning. Consistency and search power make up for the massive field investment necessary for even basic plays, and that's why Pendulum Magicians, Metalfoes, and Performage Performapals were so successful.
With much of their consistency shot and the ability to search Time Pendulumgraph and Star Pendulumgraph limited to Duelist Alliance, the Pendulum Magician strategy needs new ways to set up Pendulum Scales and search key spells and traps. Draw power's more important than ever, making Pot of Desires even more of a must-play in current builds. Heavymetalfoes Electrumite helps, but seeing Time Pendulumgraph is still largely a matter of luck.
Without it Pendulum players are forced to rely on hand traps, defensive monster effects, and negation bodies like Mist Valley Apex Avian. Zefranui, Secret of the Yang Zing and Zefra Divine Strike are another option, and they're even better with Elecrumite in the game.
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There's also the still-remaining interaction between Black Fang Magician and Witch of the Black Forest. When Star Pendulumgraph is buried in the deck you can use Witch to search your other Pendulum Magicians when it's used in a Link or Synchro Summon, then bring it back to the field with Black Fang Magician's effect. As for the Pendulum Scale, Odd-Eyes Arc Pendulum Dragon easily replaces the Scale 8 once provided by Double Iris Magician, and its effect is noticeably better thanks to Heavymetalfoes Electrumite.
The hits to Pendulum Magicians have certainly hurt their consistency, but the F&L List does nothing to touch the deck's real advantage generators. Both Pendulumgraph cards are still Unlimited, and with Heavymetalfoes Electrumite the deck's still very competitive. It's a bit weak in Games 2 and 3, especially with Evenly Matched also skirting the List, but I won't hesitate to call it one of the best decks in the game right now.
Maxx C Exits The Advanced Format
There are very few cards in the game where simply having them in your hand puts you in a massively advantageous position. Hand traps are, in many ways, just too strong against current strategies this format. Actually, I'd argue that hand traps are too good against almost any strategy at any time in the game.
Maxx C is the worst offender among them with a floodgate effect that should give your opponent the option to continue to Special Summon, but it rarely works out that way. Combined with our massive pool of outstanding hand traps Maxx C has always been a hard stop to Special Summons that's almost never played as a -1 of card economy.
What if Maxx C was a normal trap? Or if it could only be activated after a Special Summon like Droll & Lock Bird? There are any number of ways Maxx C could have been balanced, or given your opponent a real choice as to whether they wanted to continue Special Summoning or not.
The reality is that Maxx C exists only as an instant game-ender against highly aggressive Special Summon-heavy strategies, but Konami's new releases over the years has shown that players like to Special Summon, and stopping them from doing so just isn't fun. Instead, we need to fix the core of the problem: the excessiveness of Summons reaching a point where a card like Maxx C is necessary.
Solemn Brigade' Unlike Any Before
We now have at least four competitively viable Solemn cards: Solemn Judgment, Solemn Warning, Solemn Scolding, and Solemn Strike. Choosing between them and matching the right card with the right strategy was already tricky enough before Judgment entered the equation. Now we have yet another Counter Trap to add to the mix, and its one that offers its impressive coverage for a steep price.
Solemn Judgment doesn't have the coverage of Solemn Scolding, but it does have the advantage of being playable alongside other set cards until you need it. It's much more difficult to predict, and its effect is still a great counter for trap cards that can be activated from the hand.
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Evenly Matched is a huge threat right now that's easily solved by Solemn Judgment, and there are more cards like it on the way later this year. Add Guiding Ariadne into the mix now better than ever thanks to Heavymetalfoes Electrumite and the Life Point cost vanishes.
Paying out so many Life Points presents an opportunity for Trickstars, so I think we'll primarily see Solemn Judgment as a going-first Side Deck answer to Evenly Matched in decks that need it. It's yet another negation effect in an era of intense interaction from hand traps, and fresh competitors have arrived since it was last legal.
It'll be interesting to watch Solemn Judgment trend up and down as the competitive scene changes. There's a not-so-small chance that it might see so little play that it's Semi-Limited later this year.
A Bittersweet Day For Links
Other Link Monsters weren't hit directly yet still lost a lot of their viability. Cards like Linkuriboh and Akashic Magician are no longer as powerful without Level Eater and Grinder Golem, and with Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow out of the picture there's a real challenge for non-Link strategies to come up with solutions for the Extra Monster Zone.
Plant Links are a popular strategy in the OCG, but they were hit preemptively here with the loss of Dandylion. It's a rather shocking change, honestly, although it makes sense within the context of tackling other easy ways to Summon Link Monsters.
Konami's aggressively pushing in-theme solutions to Link Summons, which puts Pendulums at a steep advantage. Not only do they have one of the best Links in the game, but it's also available anytime they can field two Pendulums. There are dozens of other themes that wish they could Summon an outstanding Link 2 as easily as Pendulums can Summon Heavymetalfoes Electrumite, and I fully believe it will be the driving force for Pendulum Magicians and Zefras this format.
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Qliphort Genius just isn't enough to lift the deck out of its current depression. It's among the worst of the imported Links and doesn't help the strategy build a strong Turn 1 set-up. Qlife's End from Invasion of Vengeance is just too slow, and worse yet Qliphorts can't take advantage of Heavymetalfoes Electrumite due to their Summoning restrictions while in the Pendulum Zones.
There's only one form of support that Qliphorts need: moving Qliphort Scout to Semi-Limited or Unlimited. I'm not sure when or if we'll get that change, but until then it's hard to imagine a successful Qliphort build that doesn't instantly lose to spell and trap removal.
Quick Thoughts On This Lengthy List
Reborn will absolutely steal games, and it puts Pendulum strategies in an awkward position where their graveyards might be somewhat lacking. Most importantly, the ability to return your or your opponent's Link Monsters to the field is game changing, and it makes Link-4's much stronger whenever you can return them to the field. Cards like Borreload Dragon will require much more care to play effectively, as your opponent's Monster Reborn can swing the duel in their favor.
On the other end of the spectrum, Preparation of Rites just moved to Unlimited from Semi-Limited, potentially making Ritual strategies like Cyber Angels competitive again. It's worth checking out, although a single search spell isn't likely to move the entire deck into the competitive spotlight. That said, Archlord Kristya's a fantastic target for Monster Reborn.
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Bottomless Trap Hole and Torrential Tribute are well-timed to promote play of Hey, Trunade! The retrained version of Trunade only affects set spells and traps, so it's an ideal choice against Solemns, Trap Holes, and other traps that respond to Summons or activate in the Battle Phase. Torrential Tribute's astonishingly strong in the Link era, and an interesting choice against decks running Scapegoat.
Card Trooper's back while Machine Duplication is legal; something I never thought possible. It's a cool way to mill a ton of cards and set up a Link Summon or Rank 3 Xyz. That said it's fairly inconsistent and requires other good Machine Duplication targets to work effectively, and there are better mill cards available these days through the Lightsworn engine or with That Grass Looks Greener.
In a similar vein, Artifact Moralltach and Thunder King Rai-Oh are both hitting Unlimited after spending a very long time on the List. Moralltach's also reliant on the often-inconsistent Artifact Sanctum, and Rai-Oh's just a tad too slow outside of some Pendulum strategies.
Overall I'm a huge fan of these changes with one exception: Droll & Lock Bird should have been restricted in some way. Its interaction with Trickstar Reincarnation's unacceptable, and I'm astonished that Konami's allowed it to exist for so long despite overkilling other hand loops in the past.
Trickstars will continue to be successful in part thanks to that combo, while Pendulums both Magicians and Zefras will win a majority of the time when they can dodge both Droll and Evenly Matched. Or at least that's my quick outlook just a few hours after the announcement of the F&L List.
I'm looking forward to trying new things with Pendulums, experimenting with Zefras, and going back to an old favorite of mine: Qliphorts. There's a lot to explore in Extreme Force still, and the Link mechanic remains fresh as we head further into 2018.
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 Yu-Gi-Oh!, Destiny, and other hobbies. You can follow him on Twitter and check out his Youtube channel . He also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.