Bushiroad is a unique company in that they tend to not outright ban cards unless there is either a change in design philosophy, a design mistake that was not caught in design, or a card was misprinted and there are reasons it cannot be errata’d or limited. (For instance, there are a few cards that are banned not because they are powerful but because they extend tournament times and cause logistical issues with the playing area, and some other restrictions are made not to heavily dampen the power level of the deck, but to diversify the decks being played in that series.) Instead, they like to use what is known as the Choose system, which allows a user to pick one of two or more cards that have been selected so that players have more deckbuilding freedom. But humans are humans, and they are bound to make mistakes. The option of a ban list is a tool for a company to stop a problematic card. It is akin to a fire extinguisher in that it’s there to protect when used fast enough, but you really hope you don’t have to use it.
Let’s cover each card point by point, starting with the unbannings.
(Under One Roof, Misaka & Kuroko) – This card has had a long time vocal fanbase eager to have this card removed, and while it may not have been done with the timing Railgun players were hopeful for, it finally has been removed from the list. It was first restricted in August of 2011, which makes it 5 whole years this card has been on the ban list. What it did back then is hardly noteworthy now, but it is worth noting that Railgun at that point in time was taking the majority of top cut positions, and continued to compete even after this banlist to the point it got restricted further the following year. The card was first put on the banlist for being the only non-Climax Combo card that had a reliable finishing effect, and while this is still a good card for Railgun, the single point of damage isn’t as powerful as many of the finishing effects nowadays. The combination of being a finisher and heal still isn’t that common, though, and while [Last Shot, Sinon] may boast a better combination of abilities this card could come in at Level 2 and still has a niche even today as being one of the finishers of choice (the other being Touma) for the Index deck.
(Supreme Overlord Laharl) – This card has seen some tumultuous twists and turns, going from a restriction of 2 in August 2012 to being completely banned the following August, all for being the only set to counter Rewrite. In December 2014, it had a slight release in the midst of all the Nisekoi carnage by being allowed at 1 again, and almost two years later it’s finally off. Laharl’s powerful toolboxing and healing was the main reason it got hit in the widesweeping bans of August 2012, and jockeying with Rewrite caused it to get an even harsher hit. The Choose 1 of 3 has been lifted since then, but it took this card some time before it finally came off. Anti-heal effects, found in Suisei no Gargantia, Vividred Operation, Kill la Kill, Kantai Collection, Rewrite, and Little Busters have been very powerful and popular, especially Kantai’s since it doubles as an advantage engine and it was the Choose 1 of 3 choice more often than the other two. This diminishes the power of Laharl, and the toolboxing effect in a set that really doesn’t have many finishers means that it essentially stonewalls against anti-heal.
Next, let’s cover the cards that got added.
(Smiling Until Her End, Mayoi Hachikuji) – Mayoi was really added here to force a few different options into the deck. As one of the few finisher healers, she was vital in keeping yourself out of kill range while punishing an opponent all in one card, especially since she could target who got the Shot effect, which in most cases was (Tales of the Past, Shinobu Oshino), a card that couldn’t be targeted by an opponent. In addition, Mayoi sent herself to memory afterwards, which would prevent clock kick or on-reverse effects during the opponent’s turn, despite not comboing with the other card on the list. While she may be weaker in context to the next card, it is difficult for Monogatari players to choose between the two due to Mayoi’s role in the deck.
(Middle School Student, Shinobu Oshino) – Her second effect is the main reason to play her, though being a Level 0 attacker isn’t that bad either. Shinobu is clearly the better card of the two, allowing Monogatari to reuse their Mayoi Level 0 if need be, saving characters from on-reverse effects (while adding to hand), and reusing on play effects like Heal late game. Considered to be a staple by many, it’s understandable why she’s on here.
(Power of Smile Rin) – This is a dangerous card, despite anti-damage. If you start the turn with 7 stock, you can play 3 of these, play the climax, and have enough stock to utilize all three Rin’s restand effects. Her on play draw 2 ditch 2 stock 1 also let you filter out cards you didn’t want while giving you a slight refund on stock, effectively going three cards deep into the deck. The mainstay finisher of the Triad Primus deck, this card went on to define the powerful endgame that deck had. If it weren’t for Koume, Rin would be undeniably the go-to card for many players of Cinderella Girls.
(Miria Akagi) and (Loves Horror, Koume) – Both cards need to be talked about at the same time, because together they provided a dangerous engine. Miria Akagi can grab Minami Nitta from the deck, while Koume can grab her climax, which made it a very consistent early game. It’s worth noting that Koume has no real direct replacement, while Miria’s job can be done by the Yellow Producer and Power of Smile Rin’s job can be done by Anastasia, both of which are slightly weaker, but at least there’s a comparative role. Koume’s ability was the first free mill/search effect that had no upfront costs. If you wanted to mill 4, you usually had to pay 1 stock for a Brainstorm, or discard a card to utilize an Azusa-clone effect. Also, having no upfront costs made Koume a dangerous card, and a key card in Triad Primus decks, where having the correct climax at the right time was important. Together, they made decks too consistent and too easy to play, and while Koume was rightfully added Miria was added alongside to prevent non-Triad Primus decks from abusing their combination together.
Now, for the cards that are still left on the list. These will be brief.
(Anzu in a Swimsuit) – You can’t really talk about the reason this card is on the Choose 1 of 2 list without talking about the other card, (Xylophone Fortune Telling). Anzu’s ALARM allowed you to heal her if she was the top card of your Clock, and normally this would be occasional, but Xylophone Fortune Telling let you pick any two cards from your Clock to heal, and you could easily combo the two to heal 3 if she wasn’t at the top card but very close to it. This combination was put on February 2013 for reasons related to making the game last longer, and hasn’t been off since.
(Take a Break! [Commonly translated as Rest!]) – This card’s been here since August 2010, the very first Neo-Standard ban, and it’s never coming off. This is an efficient heal that compresses and lengthens the game in high amounts, which is one of Bushiroad’s reasons for banning or restricting a card.
(World with Faded Colors) – Haruhi’s had this on the Standard Banlist since August 2010 but it got banned in Neo-Standard in August 2011 because it would loop Trouble Girl, Haruhi for healing. While Zero no Tsukaima’s Event has been taken off, this one will stay for a bit longer. For some who aren’t familiar, this Event could sacrifice and bring back the same <Brigade Chief> with a field combo so it would effectively read, Pay 1, salvage 2. This is the main reason why it’s still banned, though it has the potential to come off and be limited.
(A Maiden’s Heart, Marika) – Yeah, this one’s not coming off for quite some time. The end result of what made Nisekoi powerful (though it was not the driving engine, just the finisher), this card was hit in the only emergency ban ever in December 2014, and while it was allowed in a mono-Marika deck at 4-of for a bit it also lost that right and now sits at 1-of unconditionally. While anti-damage and sacrifice Backups are present Marika’s damage potential is still looming, and it’s for this reason that Bushiroad is very cautious when considering whether to limit her to 2.
(Pendant of Promise) – There’s five links in the name depending on where you click, there’s so many of them. Anyways, in addition to Marika causing havoc, a Choose 1 of 3 was implemented for the series as well. This card is so vital to the deck that it effectively banned the other two cards in the Choose 1 of 3 in the <Key> deck, (Two of a Kind, Raku) and (Angel in White, Kosaki), though with the Extra Booster the <Sweets> deck now runs the latter. The cards chosen were very important, as they still wanted the deck to shine and thus did not ban perhaps the most defining card of the deck, (A Maiden’s Heart, Kosaki). This Choose 1 of 3 is effectively a ban for the main deck, though, and remains as an example to Bushiroad.
(Akinari Kamiki) – A pre-emptive ban from Bushiroad at August 2012, given what they knew about the Persona 4 Ultimate Booster, since it contained a card that could potentially be used with Akinari to perform a lesser version of the most dangerous deck in Standard, which is still destructive. It’s never coming off for the foreseeable future.
(Changing Clothes, Cyrille) – Cyrille’s reason for being on the banlist since August 2012 was because she took up way too much time in tournaments. When a cancelled attack meant a heal, even for 2 stock, it’s obvious it’ll take up a lot of time. It’s there for that reason, and I don’t see it ever coming off.
(Cordelia’s Garden) – Yeah, same reason as Take a Break! It’s not coming off despite the extra stock to play just because it’s a heal card that extends games and slightly compresses. Not happening.
(2nd Hiyou-class Light Aircraft Carrier, Junyou) – Kantai’s drunk Light Carrier can go home because she was just too good. At a time when Level 2 was a transition level even fodder like utility 1/0s had 2 soul for one total stock, and being untargetable put it over the edge. It was first put on a Choose 1 of 3 in August 2014 alongside the next card, but December 2014 put an end to her reign. May she drink at home in peace.
(Akagi-class Aircraft Carrier, Akagi Kai) – Correctly identified as the go-to finisher alongside Musashi, Akagi Kai was a dominant force because not only was it a dangerous Clock Kicker but its draw 2 ditch 1 ability allowed the player to draw into Compass more often than not. And given how cheap the Compass was, even with Akagi Kai draining the stock each turn, you could survive more turns to dominate the board. The reason this stayed on the list while Musashi did not is because with anti-damage creeping up in the format, Musashi’s inability to side attack hurt her brand, despite comboing well with anti-heal.
(7th Kagerou-class Destroyer, Hatsukaze) and (2nd Akatsuki-class Destroyer, Hibiki) – The two anti-cards that were part of a dominating Kantai performance in 2014. These two were finally hit in February 2015, as Bushiroad tried to let them evade the banlist twice because they really wanted these abilities to be utilized. In the end, Hatsukaze’s natural support with her anti-salvage, and Hibiki’s practically free anti-heal combined with a pseudo-change made the deck too consistent and rigid, and had to be restricted to allow more cards to see play.
(Sealed Fist, Action Mask) – This card was an awkward one. Before even hitting the playable market it got an immediate restriction. Normally, Bushiroad would errata a card if it was not printed the way they want it to be, but this one happened to be a special promo: a Blu-Ray promo. There wasn’t going to be any way to redistribute this one, and thus the 1/0 with one more soul than was intended was restricted to one.
I tend not to have a major opinion on a banlist. Typically, I see it happen, try to understand the reasonings behind it, and play to it.
Bushiroad has several branches, but there is no way that the any part of the world can compete with the number of players Japan has. Despite being based in Japan, Bushiroad does keep an eye on overseas playing habits, but since Japan is the region with the most players it makes sense to gather data from the area with the most players. In addition to being local, the fact company members attend the events allows the data collection to be in-depth and trustworthy. Not to say that reports from outside of Japan are untrustworthy, but they don’t have a staff member at every single Level 2 or higher event to watch and take notes outside of Japan. This obviously has the unfortunate side effect of having the majority of Japanese thought control the banlist to a degree, but it’s the most reliable way Bushiroad can obtain the data necessary to make changes to the banlist.
[Regarding Yami + Arle]:
(Golden Darkness) – To Love-Ru’s signature finisher, so much so that there are vocal minorities that have called for this card to be restricted or limited in a Choose 1 of X. While the latter can indeed happen, I don’t expect this card to be restricted to anything but 3 copies, if there are any, and here’s two reasons why. Firstly, it’s the Resonance card you have to reveal for a few cards. If you restrict this card down to 2 (and even 3) copies or lower, you don’t just ban one card, you ban several. It’s too broad of a change. Secondly, similar to the limitation of Misakuro, what then? What does the deck have left? It’s the lifeblood of the deck and one of the reason it works, and restricting or banning the card effectively bans the deck. I don’t see Golden Darkness ever hitting any restrictions, and would be a massive nerf for the deck if it was chosen as one of the Choose 1 of X.
(“Bayoe~n” Aruruw) – Pardon my transliteration of the name, every time I see her name I’m reminded of Eruruw’s sister from Utawarerumono. Anyways, Arle doesn’t really have the problems of Golden Darkness. She’s not the Resonance target for other cards, and can be limited to 2 without much problem at first glance. But why would she not be hit in my mind? It’s because she’s a combo card. While stronger than Golden Darkness in offensive power and in Shots (there are 6 of them with 3 Arles as opposed to 5 with 3 Yamis), the thing that comes to mind is that she needs to combo and isn’t a one-card engine. Arle needs you to have the climax in hand already since she doesn’t dig for it, and you need 2 (Whimsical, Carbuncle) in the back row if you want all 3 Arles to be untargetable like Golden Darkness is. The fact you need all of this set up to be able to perform the same as playing 3 Golden Darkness is what makes me think that it is not a key card to be hit in a Choose 1 of X or restricted. Similarly to TLR, I can see cards in Puyo Puyo I would put on a Choose 1 of X if I wanted to restrict them, but neither Golden Darkness or Arle would be touched in either case.