The Forbidden and Limited List has been an essential part of Yu-Gi-Oh! for what seems like the game’s entire history. However, early on it was just a Limited List. That would all change in 2004 with the introduction of one deck: Chaos.
Table of Contents
As I discussed in the last two segments of the History of the Meta, Beatdown and Hand Control were the two biggest decks of 2003. After the 2003 World Championship ended, the meta game remained largely the same for the rest of the year outside of a few new staples. However, this all changed seemingly overnight with the release of the TCG’s tenth booster set in early 2004: Invasion of Chaos. Invasion of Chaos introduced a powerful new set of monsters that could be special summoned simply by banishing one Light and one Dark monster from the Graveyard. While Special Summoning is commonplace in the modern game, at this point it was almost unheard of for monsters to be able to Special Summon themselves. This marked a significant paradigm shift in the speed of the game, starting the move away from Normal Summoning being the primary way to summon monsters.
The Chaos Monsters
The core of the 2004 Chaos deck lay in two different Chaos monsters from Invasion of Chaos: Black Luster Soldier Envoy of the Beginning and Chaos Emperor Dragon Envoy of the End. Black Luster Soldier was unique at the time for being a monster with two separate, but useful effects. It also was notable for having considerably higher attack than previous monsters used in meta decks. This, coupled with being able to attack twice in a row, made it a very dangerous threat.
While Black Luster Soldier marked a significant upward shift in power, it couldn’t be properly compared to that of Chaos Emperor Dragon – Envoy of the End. Chaos Emperor Dragon had the ability to destroy all cards on the field and in both player’s’ hands when summoned. During this meta, a total wipe like this was extremely difficult for a player to recover from. Chaos Emperor Dragon’s effect is even more powerful when considered with how easy it makes achieving the Yata Lock. While previously the lock was only attainable through destroying the opponent’s hand with individual card effects and Yata was more often used simply as another Hand Control aspect, Chaos Emperor Dragon allowed for a relatively consistent achievement of the complete lock. All a player who had Chaos Emperor Dragon needed was a Sangan or Witch of the Black Forest on the field when Chaos Emperor Dragon’s effect is activated, allowing that player to search out Yata-Garasu and then summon and attack with it, achieving the lock.
The Fuel of Chaos
While the Chaos monsters were extremely powerful, they couldn’t be run in a deck with just any random cards. Chaos decks heavily encouraged mixing a variety of different Light and Dark monsters which was opposed to a deck like Hand Control which primarily focused on Dark monsters. The first and foremost of these Light monsters was D.D. Warrior Lady, released in Dark Crisis. D.D. Warrior Lady had the advantage of being both Light attribute and being able to banish a monster it battled with. Because this banishing triggered whenever D.D. Warrior Lady battled, whether it was attacking or being attacked, it served as a powerful defensive card and could be used offensively as well by intentionally attacking into a threatening monster to banish it, regardless of that monster’s attack. Due to D.D. Warrior Lady’s popularity in the deck, Shining Angel was used to get it out faster and more consistently. One of the other major Light monsters that saw usage in 2004 Chaos decks was Reflect Bounder. Reflect Bounder served a more defensive purpose than D.D. Warrior Lady, but still could control what the opponent could do in terms of battle, making building a field presence easier.
For Dark monsters, Mystic Tomato, Don Zaloog, and Spirit Reaper all still saw use as holdovers from the era of Hand Control. However, as Chaos proved to be the more dominant strategy, they took the back seat and were usually only run at one or two copies each. Breaker the Magical Warrior also saw almost universal usage during this period. Combining together 1900 attack and the ability to destroy a Spell or Trap made him extremely powerful, especially for the time.
In addition to these extremely popular Light and Dark monsters, a wide variety of different Light and Dark tech choices were used by players of the deck, especially at the local level. Examples of other Light monsters used included Thunder Nyan Nyan for its attack power, White Magical Hat for its hand control ability, and Magician of Faith for its ability to recycle spells. The Dark monsters used were largely the same as those used to bring the 2003 Hand Control deck to success including Don Zaloog, Spirit Reaper, and Mystic Tomato.
The final major tech card in 2004 Chaos Control was Magical Scientist. Although this card initially rose to prominence through a Burn deck focused around it, its ability to Special Summon any number of Fusion Monsters in a turn for low cost gave it great versatility. A player with Magical Scientist could summon a variety of useful fusion monsters and if they were sent to the Graveyard before the end of the turn they could be used as fodder for summoning a Chaos monster. One of the most popular monsters summoned with Magical Scientist’s effect, outside of explicit Light/Dark fodder for chaos monsters, was Thousand-Eyes Restrict. While this card only saw minor usage through Magical Scientist’s effect in 2004, it would foreshadow much more widespread play in the 2005 format.
While Regionals had started to occur by 2004, their results were not as well-documented and verified as Regional events would be in later years. Because of this, we will be looking at the top two Chaos decklists from the Battle City Amsterdam tournament that occurred in September of 2004, just a few weeks before the end of the full power Chaos format.
Our first decklist is from Oscar Taieb who got second place.
Obviously, the first thing to note in this deck is how almost entirely composed of single cards, except for Mystical Space Typhoon and D.D. Warrior Lady. This is largely due to the high number of high power essential “staple” cards that had landed on the Limited list by this point. Beyond that most of the main deck is composed of relatively standard choices for a Chaos deck, with a relatively even amount of Light and Dark monsters as well as all of the most powerful limited spells and traps of the time. The main interesting choices in this decklist are the inclusion of Kycoo and Berserk Gorilla in the maindeck. Berserk Gorilla gave decks the ability to beat through almost every other level 4 or lower monster that saw widespread play at the time, making it a valuable asset for keeping the opponent from amassing too many monsters. Kycoo also was not an extremely common card choice for the maindeck, usually being relegated to the side deck. However, considering the complete dominance of Chaos in the meta, including answers in the maindeck seems a very reasonable choice.
As for his side deck, its most interesting feature is the inclusion of a zombie core. This would allow the deck to be transformed from a standard Chaos Control deck into a Zombie Chaos deck in games two and three.
The next we will be looking at is the deck for the first place player at the event, Friso de Boer.
Friso’s deck, at least at first glance, seems quite notably different from Oscar’s. However, both decks still maintain largely the same core of Spells and Traps as well as a decent number of Light and Dark monsters to fuel the two Chaos monsters. The most notable difference in the monster lineup with this deck is the lack of D.D. Warrior Lady, an essential staple at the time. By opting for White Magical Hat as a Light target over D.D. Warrior Lady, the deck focuses much more on hand control than a standard Chaos deck. Friso’s deck also makes use of Creature Swap to take advantage of the fact that his deck runs mostly weaker monsters, allowing him to leverage the powerful creatures that his opponents would no doubt summon against him. The final notable cards in the maindeck are the inclusion of Waboku and Scapegoat. While both of these cards saw play in older formats, they were sensible inclusions to counter the extremely powerful Chaos monsters from performing one turn kills.
His side deck includes a variety of different cards, but mainly they are counters to Chaos decks in the form of Kycoo and Soul Release, which could banish the required Light and Dark monsters from the opponent’s Graveyard. He also is running Electric Snake, a familiar side deck card from the Hand Control era along with Despair from the Dark which functioned similarly to Electric Snake in that it would Special Summon itself when discarded from the hand. These cards made it so that not only were discard effects such as the Hand Control spells neutered, but also to counter the hand destruction of Chaos Emperor Dragon which would be completely and utterly devastating otherwise.
The Forbidding of Chaos
Due to Chaos’ almost immediate dominance of the emerging competitive scene of Yu-Gi-Oh!, the game saw the appearance of the first “Tier 0” format. This is a term that gets thrown around occasionally in the modern Yu-Gi-Oh! Community and usually refers to a meta where 1 singular deck dominates over half of all wins in tournaments. Chaos definitely fit this definition around 85% of decks at the 2004 U.S. National Championship including both Chaos Emperor Dragon and Black Luster Soldier, with many of those focusing on them in a Chaos deck. While decks before Chaos did not have the greatest variance compared to later metagames, there was still a distinction between Hand Control and Beatdown strategies and a relatively wide variety of different tech choices that were used within those two strategies. Chaos, on the other hand, was largely identical amongst almost all of the top lists that came out of the major events of the time.
To curb this growing dominance that Chaos had, Konami instituted the first ever Forbidden List. Instead of just limiting a card to only one copy per deck, they forbid the usage of certain cards entirely. This was first implemented in the OCG (Japan and East Asia) in March of 2004. However, their first Forbidden list did not put either of the Chaos monsters to 0, instead opting to only get rid of extreme game swinging cards that could be splashed in any deck. The main cards of note here were Yata-Garasu, Fiber Jar, Raigeki, Harpie’s Feather Duster, Delinquent Duo and Imperial Order. Because of this new Forbidden List, all of those cards were unplayable at the 2004 World Championship making Yata Lock not a legal strategy, unlike its status in the TCG at the time.
Following in the footsteps of the OCG’s Forbidden List, the TCG announced its own Forbidden List at the end of August 2004, one month after the 2004 World Championship. This list would not go into effect until the beginning of October, but it was notably more harsh towards Chaos than its OCG predecessor. It forbid Chaos Emperor Dragon, Sangan, and Witch of the Black Forest in addition to the cards I mentioned above, the exceptions being Delinquent Duo and Fiber Jar remaining legal for play. The TCG Forbidden List also got rid of Dark Hole, Graceful Charity, United We Stand, and Mirror Force. However, within the next two iterations of the TCG’s Forbidden/Limited List, these last four cards would all see a return, at least for a time.
The introduction of the Forbidden List not only started to move the meta away from dedicated Chaos decks, but also noted a distinct shift in how all future Metas would generally transition. Instead of metas shifting due entirely to new and more powerful cards being released, they would shift because older decks would get their key cards removed from the cardpool entirely, forcing a shift. Whether or not this has been good or bad for the game has been largely onto the format in question, but it is undoubtedly a key force in how the competitive metagame for Yu-Gi-Oh! has been shaped over the years.
Chaos After the Ban
While the first Forbidden List took out the arguably more powerful half of the Chaos duo that had shaped the metagame for the majority of 2004, Chaos was still a powerful deck. As it had remained free of the Forbidden section, Black Luster Soldier moved into the spotlight, becoming the main focus of Chaos decks. Dark Magician of Chaos, another monster released in Invasion of Chaos also saw a slight uptick in usage. It was more prominent due to its powerful ability to recover the powerful spell cards that the game was starting to shift its focus back towards. However, Dark Magician of Chaos did lack the easy summoning condition of Black Luster Soldier and Chaos Emperor Dragon, preventing it from fully catching on as an essential card.
The nail in the coffin for the 2004 iteration of the Chaos Control deck was the forbidding of Painful Choice and Magical Scientist in the April 2005 Forbidden/Limited List. With these two cards gone from the game, the ability to rapidly fill the Graveyard with monsters to summon out Black Luster Soldier was greatly stunted, turning him from the main goal of a deck into a more uncommonly summoned ace monster. The forbidding of Magical Scientist also got rid of the main way that Thousand-Eyes Restrict had been summoned up to this point, motivating the shift towards alternative strategies for summoning out this extremely powerful creature. This would lead to the shift in the meta that eventually transitioned Chaos Control into Goat Control. While Black Luster Soldier was run in every Goat Control deck, it wasn’t the focus in the same way that it had been in 2004.
However, even this would end when Black Luster Soldier met the same fate as Chaos Emperor Dragon in the October 2005 Forbidden/Limited List. While Chaos monsters, including Chaos Sorcerer and later Black Luster Soldier again when he came off the Forbidden List in 2011, would see play into today’s game, they would never be the dominant force that they were before the first Forbidden List. In addition, the most powerful of the Chaos monsters, Chaos Emperor Dragon, still remains on the TCG Forbidden/Limited List as of the August 2016 list. However, even if he is released from the Forbidden section of the list, he will almost certainly do so with the change to his card text that already exists in the OCG. This severely neuters his effect, preventing its controlling player from activating other cards on the same turn, solidly preventing it from ever being able to become the deadly threat that he was upon his initial release.
While the deck did not survive past the initial Forbidden Lists, the evolution of the 2004 Chaos deck will be the subject of our next article: Goat Control, the namesake of one of the most famous periods in the history of competitive Yu-Gi-Oh!