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Baneful's Column
January 27, 2014

Baneful's Take III: The Ban List

Of all the Yu-Gi-Oh! related subjects, the most controversial one by far was "the ban list" (The Forbidden and Restricted List). For newer players who don't already know every so often Konami (and it's factory of elves) works tirelessly to periodically release a list of cards that you cannot use in your deck or you can only use one of, usually to rein in on cards that are too powerful. So, yes a tough topic. This is the topic that will get forum and blog comments flowing for pages. It's one that will also result in nasty, sometimes vulgar, rhetoric (including ad-hominems like "you just want the card banned because you lose to it and need to learn how to play better"). It's controversial and widely talked about for a reason.

It's like debating in politics whose opinions should be made into enforceable law or in video games on who has the more powerful console with the better games. We don't just want our opinions to be solely exuded by our own personal lifestyle. We want to establish objectively and firmly over all who disagree that some methods of play in YGO are acceptable whereas others aren't. We're not simply saying which cards we don't like to play against. We're asserting which cards other people should not have the right to use. We want to say to people: "if you use this card, you will be kicked out of tournaments".

That's not to say that it's entirely a wrong thing to do. There needs to be a law in place and we all can't just go around running 3 copies of Raigeki in our decks. I just think the nature of aggression and imposing our opinions over others comes with that territory. In some way that aggression is fun. It's a much wanted exertion of authority and it's masculine to the core. Like American football, debating the ban list is a sport of aggression. It's a sport that brings out the animals in us, which is good for sport so long as the sport has sportsmanship.

I may as well throw my hat in the ring too. I'm not going to comment too much on the most recent ban list, but rather the idea of the ban list in general. This is because of a recent decision. The decision to revise the list every 3 months (four times a year) instead of every 6 months (two times per year) makes a real difference. Exemplified in the most recent list we saw, changes feel organic rather than violently jerked around to shift the balance of the meta.

The transition from format to format is smooth and seamless rather than dramatically changing overnight. Before this, aside from declaring an "emergency ban" on Cyber-Stein in one instance, Konami did nothing as overpowered cards were ravaging the game. There were many lame-duck formats where players knew there was a fundamental imbalance yet had to patiently wait another 5 months for anything to be done about it. With that fixed, contention amongst the community should be reduced as ban list revisions are no longer a monumental event, but rather a common occurence.

There are two principles I personally believe that the ban list should follow. First, even if a card has a low probability of being extremely overpowered, it is still extremely overpowered and should be banned. Second, banned cards should remain banned, and balanced re-makes of those cards should be released.

Cards like Sinister Serpent or Tribe-Infecting Virus may be less impactful than they are today. Actually, a lot of what was broken in 2004 wouldn't be as much today due to the fact that the pace of gameplay has gotten faster over the years and there's a lot more powerful cards out there. Still, there are circumstances in which these cards can be broken. There's circumstances that nearly all of the banned cards can be broken. They are usually banned because of loophole in the card description: usually one that allows infinite usage. Going back to the two, Sinister Serpent can become broken again the second there are more tier-one cards that come out which utilize discards and Tribe-Infecting Virus allows mass destruction as well as the effect being used more than once per turn.

The best bet would be to release balanced versions of these cards. I agree that Tribe Shocking Virus is a crippled version, but actually good (though not overpowered) alternatives can be made. For example, Butterfly Dagger Elma could be balanced again if an alternative were released with a "once per turn" limit. Monster Reborn could be balanced if the Special Summoned monster had to be placed in Defense Position and/or the monster's effect would be negated for one turn. Yata-Garasu could be balanced if it was not able to activate it's effect two turns in a row.

Cards like Deck Devastation Virus and Royal Tribute are prime examples of the problem with a conventional mindset toward the ban list. These two cards lack prevalence in the meta, but are still overpowered. These two cards (probably a dozen others could have this rule applied to them as well) are mostly not too harmful. They may destroy 2 monsters and that's it. But the issue is if you happen to have a hand of: "Maxx C, Sangan, Effect Veiler, Black Luster Soldier, Call of the Haunted and Mystical Space Typhoon". By your opponent activating one of those 2 cards, you lose half to two-thirds of your hand without you doing anything wrong. These cards can become an easy -3 or even -4 for you without them doing anything. Sixth Sense takes a risk too, but is banned not because of the broken payoff but because of the liklihood of it to happen.

Delinquent Duo was banned because it was consistently broken, but since these 2 cards are only broken like 3% of the time, they aren't percieved as a threat. It's still not fair to the people who are unfortunate enough to lose the duel because they started with such a disadvantage. Even a game won by sheer luck 1% of the time did too much. It can severely mess up a tournament ranking of someone who won 3 games in a row due to skill but misses the playoff rounds due to something totally out of their control (whereas the other players who did make it to the playoffs made it because they did not have to face up against luck cards).

The person who drew that opening hand did nothing wrong, except face a Gravekeeper and be unfortunate enough to draw 4 monsters opening hand. Cards like Dark Hole and Heavy Storm punish recklessness, but cards like Royal Tribute don't really discourage any kind of playstyle, as much as they do destroy deck types. Yes, can cards like Necrovalley and Dimensional Fissure be gamebreaking against the wrong deck, sure. But they are possible to counter and the damage isn't entirely done the second they are activated. You still have a fair chance of winning.

We need to base our criteria of what makes a card ban-worthy on what the card objectively is – not on how we subjectively percieve it. Poor design choices such as luck-based effects with disproportionate pay-offs and effects where usage is not limited or restricted are an issue whether they are prevalent or not. All cards need to be judged by this metric. Sure, contexts change. The release of Tour Guide made Sangan more powerful. If more targets for Deck Devastation Virus were released, it wouldn't make the card any more broken; just more usable. How many people use a card has nothing to do with the design of the card itself. Even if the ban list were to reach 200 cards, by this measure, there's no word limit like there is writing a newspaper article so all cards which are poorly designed may as well be banned.

And that's all I have to say on this topic. I'll put it to rest now.

Contact: banefulscolumn@gmail.com



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