While the state of modern Yu-Gi-Oh! is largely unrecognizable from what it was ten years ago, one particular era of the game has persisted in the community’s memory. This format is named after the major deck that dominated the metagame of the time: Goat Control.
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In 2005, competitive Yu-Gi-Oh! was coming out of its first experience with a meta dominated by a single, powerful deck, known by many as Chaos. This deck was able to rely on the field control offered by three copies of D.D. Warrior Lady, while building up enough Graveyard presence to Summon one of the two Chaos monsters available at the time. After surviving two consecutive Forbidden Lists, however, Chaos lost many of its power cards to the April 2005 Forbidden List. Cards like Raigeki, Harpie’s Feather Duster, The Forceful Sentry, and Imperial Order were Forbidden all at once, while D.D. Warrior Lady and Mystical Space Typhoon went down to Limited. To make up for all of these lost power cards, the deckbuilders of the time turned to other cards that had been largely set aside in prior formats due to the existence of much more powerful alternatives.
The Reversal of Powercreep
The cards used to fill in the gap left by the first two Forbidden Lists were, although less powerful than their predecessors, still strong cards overall. In place of Raigeki and Harpie’s Feather Duster, cards like Heavy storm and Lightning Vortex were played. These two cards are great examples of cards that are very powerful in their own right, but still objectively worse than the cards that were previously widely used. Delinquent Duo, interestingly enough, was the only member of the original Spell Ruler hand control trio of Spells to survive into this format, with The Forceful Sentry and Confiscation sitting squarely on the Forbidden List despite Delinquent Duo arguably being the most powerful of the three as it eliminated two cards from an opponent’s hand.
Perhaps the most notable shift in the meta between the 2004 Chaos format and the 2005 Goat format was the vastly increased use of Flip monsters. Before 2005, the only widely used Flip Effect monster was Magician of Faith, and often at only a single copy. However, with the elimination of the majority of the game’s extremely explosive power cards that could turn the advantage of the game in a single play, the advantage of using the slower Flip monsters grew. In addition to multiple Magician of Faith that most every deck ran at the time, other Flip monsters such as Night Assailant and Mask of Darkness started to see usage. To complement these monsters, decks started to run multiple copies of both Book of Moon and Tsukuyomi. Both of these cards share the ability to flip a monster facedown. While Book of Moon had the advantage of being usable on either player’s turn while leaving the Normal Summon free, Tsukuyomi’s ability to return to the hand allowed its effect to be used turn after turn.
Finally, due to the slowing down of the game, traps were often utilized in greater quantities than they before. Classic traps such as Mirror Force, Torrential Tribute, and Ring of Destruction remained in use as well as Magic Cylinder starting to see more main deck play. Several new traps also started to get used including Sakuretsu Armor which made battle more dangerous as well as Raigeki Break and Phoenix Wing Wind Blast which both helped to maintain field advantage.
A distinct shift in the overall strategic goal of the game also shifted in this period. While Chaos Format had largely been defined by a wide variety of different board wipes and huge advantage shifting single cards, these cards had become far less available. Instead, games largely became a back and forth of small scale card and field disadvantage.
While powercreep had gone backwards in terms of what staple Spells and Traps were used, one key combo of the format was still extremely powerful: the goat combo the deck is named after. The basics of the combo involve two cards: Scapegoat and Metamorphosis. To perform the combo all a player had to do was use Metamorphosis to tribute a level one Scapegoat token in order to summon the powerful fusion monster, Thousand-Eyes Restrict. Because of how easily this combo gave players access to Thousand-Eyes Restrict, the meta game had to form around it. Scapegoats went from being a card that only really allowed a player to stall while they tried to draw into their power cards into a potential power play on its own.
While it is no doubt true that the ability to summon Thousand-Eyes Restrict is what pushed Scapegoat into being the meta defining card that it was during this format, it is also important to note how powerful Scapegoat was at this time even without Metamorphosis. During the April 2005 format, the amount of mass monster destruction cards available was extremely limited. Dark Hole, Raigeki, and Chaos Emperor Dragon had all been banned and even the powercreeped version of this stronger cards, Lightning Vortex, was Limited to 1 copy. As a result, summoning 4 monsters with 1 card, even if they had no offensive capability by themselves, was a powerful stalling tactic.
Finally, the Metamorphosis/Scapegoat combo was a major factor in why Flip monsters gained prominence. Aside from being more viable in the slowed down pace of the Goat Format, flip monsters also gained more utility due to the rise in popularity of two cards: Tsukuyomi and Book of Moon. Both of these cards allowed for monsters to be flipped face-down, the obvious use of which being the recycling of flip monsters’ effects. However, these cards saw a particular rise in usage during the Goat Format because of their ability to flip Thousand-Eyes Restrict face-down. If a player flipped their own Thousand-Eyes Restrict face-down, they could then reuse the effect and steal another of their opponent’s monsters. It also had the use of being able to flip an opponent’s Thousand-Eyes Restrict face-down, allowing for it to be properly killed.
While Scapegoat and Metamorphosis were essential staples in most decks of the time, there were also a variety of different tech cards that were widely used to counter this strategy. The first of these was Asura Priest. Asura Priest was extremely useful because it could destroy a full board of Scapegoat tokens by itself, an indispensable ability without other easily accessible mass destruction cards. Asura Priest was also useful because of the fact that it was a Spirit monster, meaning it could be kept in a player’s hand as a tool for whenever they would next summon Scapegoat tokens.
The next major tech card used during the Goat Format was Airknight Parshath. While Parshath had seen limited usage since his release, it was during Goat Format that he really shined as a card. The popularity of Scapegoat made the presence of defense position monsters with 0 Defense a very common occurrence, meaning that Parshath could be used for both easy damage as well as generating card advantage for the player controlling it.
The final major tech monster was, as I mentioned above, Tsukuyomi. Tsukuyomi, like Asura Priest, is a spirit monster. Instead of this being a strict disadvantage like it would be in any faster format, the ability of Tsukuyomi to return to the hand every turn proved to be a boon to the card as this allowed it to potentially be reused at any time. The ability to flip power monsters like Thousand Eyes Restrict or Magician of Faith face-down in order to reuse their effects made Tsukuyomi an absolutely indispensable pick for almost every Goat Control deck.
Despite the 2005 Format being remembered as Goat Format, a large number of tops, especially in the first half of the format, were won by decks that did not focus on the quintessential goat combo. However, a deck that did was the 2005 U.S. National Championship winner, Max Suffridge.
Let’s first break down the main deck choices Suffridge made here. Most noticeable are the choices of cards he ran at more than 1 copy. First off, he ran 3 Scapegoat and 2 Metamorphosis. This should be relatively apparent for its usage in the Goat combo. In addition to those cards, he ran two copies each of Magician of Faith, Gravekeeper’s Spy, Book of Moon, and Nobleman of Crossout. All of the cards share the quality that they either are Flip Effect monsters or have directly to do with Flip Effect monsters. The deck also shows off the increased use of traps over previous formats.
Another interesting component of the deck is the Fusion cards used. While most of the choices in the Fusion deck had stayed the same since the days of Magical Scientist, there are a few new Fusion Monsters that had been released that are of note. The first of these is Ojama King, able to be summoned using Metamorphosis on Jinzo. It prevented an opponent from using Scapegoat by blocking off their monster zones, countering one of the strongest plays at the time. Another new Fusion was Dark Blade the Dragon Knight, which could be summoned off of Airknight Parshath and served as a more powerful form of Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer.
The side deck used here is also interesting to note. While side decks of previous formats had largely been random due to the very narrow scope of the meta, there were a variety of different decks that saw competitive play during Goat Format, making the Side Deck a more important part of deck-building than it had previously been. Some card of particular note include Chiron, Mobius, Giant Trunade, and Raigeki Break, all of which served similar purposes in allowing a player to more aggressively address decks that played a large amount of continuous Spells and Traps. This was particularly relevant when playing against Stall/Burn decks that used Messenger of Peace and Gravity Bind to great effect. Mystic Swordsman LV2 was also an important card against the various Flip Effect control decks that were popular at the time while also being able to kill floater monsters like Pyramid Turtle or Giant Rat (both popular in Zombies and Warriors respectively) without allowing them to Special Summon. Finally, we see he used Poison of the Old Man and Messenger of Peace, allowing for a back-up burn strategy to help win the game when entering overtime in a match.
The other deck we’re going to look at is Brian Long’s Goat Control deck from Shonen Jump Boston in September 2005. This list is interesting to note as it comes from the last large tournament of Goat Format, before the September 2005 Forbidden List came into effect. Because of this, there are some late format releases that were added into the deck.
Overall this decklist is very similar to Max Suffridge’s deck outside of some ratio shifts. As this list comes from the final days of Goat Format, the meta had fully evolved to the point that decks started to see certain tech choices to respond to the prevalence of other Goat Control decks in the meta. The most prominent of these choices are the choice to run 2 Airknight Parshath and Different Dimension Capsule. Parshath was particularly powerful as a meta call versus Scapegoat tokens. Different Dimension Capsule also was an interesting choice that seems to correspond to the slow pace of the format, making a two turn wait time for a search of any card a viable option.
The main new card that we see in this late format Goat Control deck is Exarion Universe. Exarion Universe was the epitome of a powerful monster built for the Goat Format. However, it was released in September and so only saw usage in the meta for an extremely brief period before the shift in the meta away from Scapegoat made the card almost instantly obsolete. There is also the inclusion of Brain Control, which although not radically different in purpose from Snatch Steal, was still a new staple that didn’t see usage until the end of the format.
The Legacy of Goat Format
The time of Goat Control, while impactful on the metagame, was short lived. In the September 2005 Forbidden List, the key pieces of the deck were all heavily hit on the list. Black Luster Soldier, Delinquent Duo, and Graceful Charity, the biggest generic power cards left in the game at that time, were all Forbidden. Furthermore, Tsukuyomi, Book of Moon, Scapegoat, Thousand-Eyes Restrict, and Metamorphosis were all Limited to 1. This extremely aggressive banning was unique from the previous two lists in that it seemed to be specifically and directly hitting certain decks more than others as opposed to simply just hitting overpowered generic staple cards.
There was also another factor that guaranteed the death of Goat Control’s slow format: the release of Cyber Dragon. While Goat Control had slowed the game down to trading card advantage, the introduction of Cyber Dragon in late 2005 gave decks the ability to bring out a powerful monster going second without using their Normal Summon. This made the potency of weaker Flip effect monsters and Scapegoat tokens much less as boards of actually powerful monsters could be much more easily established.
After these heavy blows to the deck, it would never see mainstream competitive play again, with the deck being fully killed in the September Forbidden List in 2006 where Thousand-Eyes Restrict and Tsukuyomi were banned. Although Thousand-Eyes Restrict has since come off the Forbidden section of the list as of 2016, Metamorphosis remains Forbidden and even if it were to come off the list, it is unlikely a slow control deck like Goat Control would ever truly see a competitive comeback.
While a near permanent stay on the Forbidden and Limited List would prove fatal for almost every other deck to meet that fate, Goat Control would come back in a different way. Although there’s no concrete date for when it came back, players started to adopt Goat Control as a legacy format around the Xyz formats of 2011 and 2012. As the game started to speed up more rapidly than it ever had before, the slowest format in the game’s history up to that point became appealing to many players. A large factor in it gaining traction was the much larger competitive Yu-Gi-Oh! Community by this time, both online and in real life. The increased prevalence of online card purchases also made it much easier for players to get a hold of the older cards that were used during the Goat Format. All of these factors came together to make easily the most enduring alternate format in Yu-Gi-Oh! History, with many players playing Goat Format both casually and in some specific Goat Format tournaments.
Tune in next time as we start our look at the other three major decks that existed during the Goat Format: Zombies, Machines, and Warriors