One Piece TCG has been busy these past few weeks, with cards being banned, restricted, and, in the end, unrestricted.
I briefly observed the community reaction and players' positions on Bandai's decisions, and decided to bring some reflections and information about what happened so that we can debate them and speak our minds. I'll also bring you a broad view of the current meta and which are the popular decks this season, which the community is calling "OP-4.5".
Which Were the Cards Banned and Restricted? And What Happened?
For those who don't know or don't keep up with Bandai's social media accounts, this past week, on November 6th, we had an official Bandai announcement updating the banned and restricted list. They were:
This list caught many players off guard, as it created a very bad precedent for the game according to the community: a leader was banned. Another point that stood out was that only red cards were banned/restricted. Even though there are cards that are considered a problem by most players, like Charlotte Linlin OP03-114, these went by unscathed in this update. The new list of banned/restricted cards was effective from November 10th, 2023 onward.
Two days after this news, after many negative comments and a lot of resistance from the community, Bandai went back on their decision and officially announced that this list would be revoked on December 8th, with the release of the new set, OP-05 - Awakening of the New Era.
What remained in the community was a deep distrust in Bandai, and the fear that bans and restrictions that were decided on a whim would happen again - and that they might impact the game negatively once again.
Now that we're all caught up on this subject, let's break it down.
Red's Power and the Need to Control It
It is a known fact that Red has dominated the One Piece TCG metagame since it was released, and the first card from the first set ever released is still one of the strongest leaders to this day: Roronoa Zoro OP01-001. Ever since then, Red has been getting stronger by the set, until after OP-03 - Pillars of Strength was released. In OP-04 - Kingdoms of Intrigue, this color got less support, and consequently new deck archetypes were born and shared a spot under the spotlight. However, even without support, Red remained at the top of the tournament rankings.
Even with the first restrictions coming along (Marco OP02-018, Edward.Newgate OP02-004 and Radical Beam!! OP01-029), this color remained strong and its main deck (Edward.Newgate OP02-001) was still the best deck.
Notwithstanding, other leaders (Trafalgar Law OP01-002 and Roronoa Zoro OP01-001) proved to have a consistency that other colors struggled to keep up with, as it had cards such as Curly.Dadan OP02-005 and Nami OP01-016.
The problem, according to the community, was banning characters with a "searcher" trait, as they're called popularly, because that didn't affect only one leader, but instead the whole color, removing consistency instead of reducing power level. However, even though it got such a heavy hit, Red was still powerful and brought good results in tournaments that happened right after these initial bans. We'll discuss them later on.
Banned Sealed Product
Also on November 10th, 2023, a premium product was released, one that was highly expected by many players: the Ultimate Starter Deck - Three Captains (ST10), or just "ST10". This product comes with three leaders and counts with powerful new cards, besides "reprinted" cards that were very popular inclusions in the main decks; Roronoa Zoro OP01-025, lovingly nicknamed "Rush Zoro", and our dear navigator, Nami OP01-016.
This product costs more than the usual preconstructed decks, but it has a foil DON!! deck and a functional deckbox. However, the grievances the community had with this product is that it was being released with a banned card (Nami).
That created a huge rift in the entire community. While the validity of these bans and restrictions was still being discussed, the opinion that it was wrong to ban a card that was in a product that was about to be released was unanimous, which might have pressured Bandai to go back on its decision.
All that was remained was the fear among the community that this type of thing would happen again, considering another premium product like this one has already been announced for 2024.
What Bandai Ignored
Anyone could see that Red was too strong and needed to be reared in. However, the community also sees this same problem in other cards that have reached top cuts in events too many times, many times even more than red decks.
Charlotte Katakuri OP03-099 is a leader that has been bringing in results ever since it was released, and it gains more support as each set is released. Its strongest card is Charlotte Linlin OP03-114, which has an extremely powerful effect, and which many believed should be restricted after Edward.Newgate OP02-004 was, claiming that this would weaken the deck, but not completely remove it from the top.
This negligence towards community feedback, added to the fact that products are scarce in some regions, has really pushed away players and made it harder for new players to get into the game (this second point, notably, is also something that should be the distributors' responsibility), creating among players a rising concern about the future of the game where they live.
How Is The Current Metagame?
We've had, recently, some big One Piece TCG tournaments, and it was very clear Charlotte Katakuri OP03-099 dominated them. There were tournaments in which this leader occupied 5 spots in the Standings, showing the community was right to be concerned about this leader.
However, it isn't only Katakuri that has been gaining space. New decks such as Donquixote Doflamingo OP04-019 and even the already popular Nami OP03-040 occupied slots on the podium. Trafalgar Law OP01-002 didn't stay behind and even won some of these competitions, as it has always been a great Katakuri "counter", which then inspired the debate whether this deck is really this powerful even with bans or if it is just taking advantage of a favorable meta.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the once-very-popular Roronoa Zoro OP01-001, which drastically worsened since the bans, ended up not showing up at all in tournaments, and proved to be weaker in matches that were favorable before.
The metagame space is more diversified; no doubt about it - which confirms once again Red needed to be reared in, but the way it was reared in is what made players suspicious.
OP05 and What To Expect in the Future
I believe that, when these bans and restrictions are revoked (which will happen alongside the new set release), it is possible we'll have a meta in which Red is no longer as prevalent, because other colors like Yellow, Blue and Purple will get a lot of support from the new set, and already have new leaders that are considered favorites to the title of the meta's "Tier S" leaders.
We know, also, that the West gets sets some time after the East, so, we keep up with set spoilers that will only reach us in six months. Like so, there are already cards in the OP-06 set that are considered too strong and the concern regarding preparing yourself to build a deck with them is common among players, as the community doesn't consider what happened to be an isolated mistake.
How to Enjoy OP04-4.5
Before we go, I'd like to highlight two leaders I see having moderate success among players that don't really care about the meta.
These two leaders have become quite popular lately, because, as the rest of the previous meta, they were heavily punished by Red's aggression.
Magellan OP02-071 became a much better leader now that we got Purple support with ST10, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it among the most popular decks in OP05, which will bring even more support to this color. Magellan is a very fun leader to play, using cards such as Magellan OP02-085, which delays your opponent's DON!!, which is a unique, and quite interesting mechanic to use!
Arlong OP03-022 was already an interesting leader, but it got even more effective now without Red's constant presence, as it can build a consistent board before other colors like Black and Blue can remove it, which was something Red could handle really well. Arlong also provides a solid base for those who want to use the new Yamato leader, which will be released in OP06 and already has countless fans!
Even though these events have had a negative impact on the game, the community remains solid and wants to play this TCG, something that is reflected by the popularity this Eiichiro Oda work has worldwide. The community also believes that, with the release of OP05, this game's accessibility will be better, reducing the cost of some "staple" cards that have been more expensive than they should be.
But what about you? What did you think of the bans? Do you think they should ban more cards? Or less? Comment down below which card you'd like to see restricted and which (if any) should go alongside the others that will be returning on December 8th!
See you next time!