A conversation recently with a very intelligent
player, Pharaoh Atem (who incidentally handles all
of the set files and translations for Yu-Gi-Oh
Virtual Desktop, and moderates DuelistGroundz),
created a number of unintended consequences.
I tend to treat conversations with solid thinkers as
bolts of inspiration; some of my most closely-held
theories of the game came during heated debates with
playing philosophers such as Evan Vargas, Hugo Adame,
Dale Bellido, Lazaro Bellido, and Matt Peddle.
He alerted me to a forum on Pojo.com where people
talk about ideal Ban/Forbidden lists. I went to the
forums to post and contribute, and learned quite a
bit from players that stretched the gamut from
inexperienced but sharp theorist to casual local
stores player (with terrible spelling and grammar).
Comparing their perspectives to the top Yu-Gi-Oh
players in the game, and to my own framework for
theorizing about the game, has inspired me to take a
crack at the ideal Forbidden list.
I realize, almost immediately, that in terms of
changing the game this is a fruitless endeavor. But
I hope insight into the way I rationalize the key
points of the game helps all of you become better
and sharper players and thinkers. I may be wrong,
but I like to think I use solid logic to reach most
of my conclusions.
Let's begin. I am throwing out every assumption I
ever made of the game, other than the principles
that drive deck creation from high level tournament
A Side Note: Thoughts on the 3-0 Format
Pharaoh Atem came up with an interesting concept
back in the day called 3-0. This means you either
leave a card unrestricted because it's balanced, or
ban it entirely. No such ideas of limiting a card to
1 (meaning it's broken), because such cards should
be banned anyways. The only cards allowed to stay at
1 in this type of format are cards that abuse
themselves with multiple copies (Two Green Baboons,
Two Night Assailant, Stratos searching Stratos).
I agree with this principle up to a point. I believe
cards should never be semi-limited. The line between
allowing 1 copy, or 2, or 3 copies versus 2 is far
too thin for anyone to rationally expect. And since
removing all restrictions period is far too
momentous to expect the designers to lend an ear to,
I will be going with the same 1/2/3 format (even
though I don't believe in semi-limiting a card).
Before We Begin, The Philosophies that Drive Top
Let's analyze the top cookie-cutter decks from the
dawn of competitive Yu-Gi-Oh (the first Shonen
Jumps). I'm not going to go into individual card
choices, or explosiveness, but rather basic game
The first top level cookie-cutter deck was
Scapegoat control. This deck featured multiple
copies of Scapegoat with multiple copies of
Metamorphosis. Scapegoat created 4 tokens at the
cost of one card
(-1). Metamorphosis created a Thousand-Eyes Restrict
at the cost of another card (-1). Thousand Eyes
would then absorb an opponent's monster, costing
them the card (+1). It would require monster removal
to destroy, leading to an overall exchange of two
cards for two cards with 3 sheep token remaining.
Thousand Eyes Restrict drove the format.
This analysis, however, ignores the fact that
oftentimes the opponent invested quite a bit to the
board. In these cases, Thousand Eyes Restrict would
either absorb multiple monsters or absorb a monster
like Jinzo, skewing the trades even more in the
Restrict player's favor.
Around this time, young Evan Vargas inadvertently
stumbled upon a very advantageous combination. It
involved Soul Exchange + Thestalos the Firestorm
Monarch. The trade would involve a Soul Exchange for
the opponent's monster, then Thestalos for a card in
hand, leaving a 2400 Monarch on the field. At this
primitive stage in the game's development, everyone
focused on the Soul Exchange part rather than the
Monarch part. Also, at the very same tournament,
wizened grizzly Mike Rosenberg (we miss you!)
inadvertently stumbled upon another very
advantageous combination. His deck focused on the
interaction between Tsukuyomi and a flip effect
monster such as Mask of Darkness.
Once Scapegoat was restricted and the deck's win
conditions were banned, the next evolution of
the game involved Spirit Reaper backed by lots of
monster removal. Here, the trade would often involve
something like Cyber Dragon (a strong body on the
field) plus Spirit Reaper (indestructible by
battle). Cyber Dragon would swing into a monster
like D.D Assailant, then Spirit Reaper would attack
for a card in hand (+1). Later, Reaper would have to
be destroyed by something like Sakuretsu Armor (1
for 1). Spirit Reaper drove the format.
Along this path, people realized flip
monsters leading into either a Tsukuyomi reset or a
Monarch summon was incredibly powerful. So “Flip
Flop Control” was born. Players would open with a
set flip effect such as Dekoichi, then set a
defensive trap. If the opponent was unable to handle
this, a Tsukuyomi was summoned the next turn to
reset the flip effect. So Dekoichi, for example,
when defended by traps, gained a +1 on the draw
(canceling itself out), then dealt 1400 a turn until
it was removed. Dekoichi and Monarchs
drove the format.
Finally, the culmination of all of these
epiphanies resulted in the most powerful CC ever
created up to this point, close to unbeatable by
tier 2 and anti-meta decks. Chaos Return had a
three-pronged setup for completely decimating the
opponent. It retained the advantage of Dekoichi into
a Monarch (which happened to be Zaborg), but had a
far better mid to late game because of Chaos
Sorcerer (let's ignore Return). Sorcerer would
summon, removing the opponent's monster. With 2300
attack, it became very difficult to destroy.
Chaos Sorcerer drove the format.
Once the ban hammer dropped on Chaos Sorcerer,
players adapted by creating disgustingly fast
combinations based around Card Trooper. T-Heroes,
Trooper Duplication, and other such strategies
revolved around this card. It was a 400 attack
Machine that could send 3 cards to the graveyard to
boost to 1900, pushing monsters off the field. When
destroyed by any condition, it would net a card.
This let players fearlessly summon it as an instant
self-replacing monster. A Machine Duplication would
turn one into three, capable of doing 5700 damage
while gaining a card's worth of advantage. Card
Trooper proved to be a problem card.
Also around this time, the Perfect Circle archetype
became (along with Gadgets) the living embodiment of
my floater theory. Perfect Circle was entirely based
around summoning repeated floaters for Raiza the
Storm Monarch and Light and Darkness Dragon.
When Dark Armed Dragon came out, the game got the
most powerful floater in the history of the game.
Judgment Dragon was a bit less powerful, but still
incredible. The advent of synchros brought Colossal
Fighter, which is undestroyable by battle in this
current game. So here we have a list:
Thousand Eyes Restrict, Spirit Reaper, Dekoichi,
Monarchs, Chaos Sorcerer, Card Trooper, Dark Armed
Dragon, Judgment Dragon.
What do all of these cards have in common? They are
all floaters (no matter their attack score). This
means they generate at least one card's worth of
advantage (to pay for themselves), while still
retaining a body on the field. Each of these cards,
at bare minimum, pay for themselves and then require
Thousand Eyes absorbs a monster (1 for 1) while
being undestroyable by battle.
Spirit Reaper removes a card from hand (1 for 1)
while being undestroyable by battle.
Dekoichi flips to draw a card (1 for 1) and stays
unless destroyed by battle.
Monarchs are summoned to get 1 card or 2 and then
stay, virtuably undestroyable in battle (back then).
Chaos Sorcerer is summoned to remove a monster (1
for 1) and is virtually undestroyable.
Card Trooper deals 1900 damage a turn while drawing
a card when destroyed.
Dark Armed Dragon removes a card to destroy some
while being nearly undestroyable by battle.
Judgment Dragon destroys a card(s) while being
nearly undestroyable by battle.
Here it's been proven time and time again that
the concept of the floater drives every top tier
deck. This would be more than fine if decks
could counter with alternate strategies. However,
many times the cookie-cutter becomes dominant
because your own floaters are the only way to
Examples: Your TER or BLS is the only way to kill
their TER without losing advantage.
Your Smashing Ground + Reaper, Chaos Sorcerer, or
Monarch summon is the only way to neutralize their
Your Monarch summon is the only way to kill their
Monarch. Alternatively, you can summon Sorcerer.
Your Dark Armed Dragon is sometimes the only way to
kill their DaD or Judgment Dragon without losing
advantage (Synchros can, as well, but this is a new
The reason the cookie-cutter deck has always been so
popular is that the chains it creates make
unwinnable combinations for the opponent. I am going
to give the opponent a baseline, balanced hand in
each of these scenarios to illustrate the power of
the floater. Let's assume this example case has:
D.D Assailant, Sakuretsu Armor, Smashing Ground,
Dust Tornado, and Reinforcement of the Army. This is
a relatively balanced, good hand no? And Warrior
Toolbox has always been a good deck. Let's see what
VS Ideal Scapegoat Control: DDA is summoned
and swings into set Scapegoat. The player then sets
Sakuretsu Armor. The Scapegoat player uses
Metamorphosis on a Sheep token, absorbing D.D
Assailant while retaining 5 cards in hand. It
attacks, the hero uses Sakuretsu Armor. It is now 5
cards in opposing player's hand + rock solid
defenses versus four for the hero (after a draw).
VS Spirit Reaper: DDA is summoned vs a set
monster and reveals Reaper. The player then sets
Sakuretsu Armor. The opponent plays Smashing Ground
and Mystical Space Typhoon. Reaper hits, removing
Dust Tornado from hand. It is now Spirit Reaper and
four in hand versus hero's Rota, Smashing Ground,
VS Dekoichi: DDA is summoned versus a T-set.
It attacks into Sakuretsu Armor. The player then
sets Sakuretsu Armor and passes. The Dekoichi player
attacks for 1400 and sets a spell/trap card and
another monster. Player Rotas for a DDWL and is
Bottomlessed. Or he can set it. Next turn Dekoichi
player will tribute for Zaborg.
The point is that strong floaters make cookie-cutter
strategies far too powerful. The goal of my list is
to remove easy access to floaters, while leaving
cards with similar power levels unmolested. First,
rather than assume every card on the current list is
there for a reason, we have to address base game
mechanics and decide which ones should be allowed,
and which ones should be contraband.
Back with more in my next article.
Jae Kim is a creative contributor to Pojo.com.
You may contact him (every e-mail will be answered)
at JAELOVE@gmail.com. He can also be found
contributing to the Message Boards and the Card of