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The "Yata-Garasu Lockdown", nicknamed "Yata-Lock", was an infamous Deck build whose goal was to empty both the opponent's field and hand, followed by Summoning "Yata-Garasu" and attacking with it. Upon dealing battle damage, "Yata-Garasu"'s effect would cause the opponent to skip their next Draw Phase. Without their usual normal draw, the opponent would then be required to to start their next turn without a single card to use on their field or in their hand, forcing them to pass their turn. On their next turn the player could then Summon "Yata-Garasu" and attack again, and repeat. The opponent would never be able to play a single card for the rest of the Duel, effectively locking them out of the Duel and guaranteeing the player a win.
"Yata-Garasu" has been Forbidden since the very first Forbidden list introduced in September 2004. During the time the lockdown was still usable in Advanced Format, it was very easy to accomplish, requiring access to as few as 2 cards in the hand or field (by comparison, Exodia requires five).
Most Common Method
Before the banning of "Yata-Garasu", the most common method to create the lockdown involved gathering the following cards:
- "Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End", in the player's hand
- "Sangan"/"Witch of the Black Forest", on the player's field
Strategy: With "Sangan" or "Witch" on the field, Special Summon "Chaos Emperor Dragon" and activate its effect. This will get rid of all cards on the field and in both players' hands, including "Sangan" or "Witch", allowing its effect to add "Yata-Garasu" to your hand. Normal Summon it, proceed to your Battle Phase, and use it to attack directly. This completes the lockdown, as now the opponent has no cards to play and will not get any cards to play on their next turn (since their Draw Phase will be skipped). If you Summon "Yata-Garasu" and attack again on your next turn, and repeat, they will never have any cards to play for the rest of the Duel.
"Sangan" and "Witch of the Black Forest" are both currently Forbidden in addition to "Yata-Garasu" in all regions. "Chaos Emperor Dragon" is currently Forbidden in the TCG, but has received an errata in the OCG to alter its effect's behavior (see Retirement below).
- You will generally want to Special Summon "Sangan"/"Witch" in the same turn that you pull off the lockdown, rather than Normal Summoning it on the previous turn and leaving it vulnerable. A straightforward way to do this is with "Monster Reborn".
- Cards like "Foolish Burial" and "Painful Choice" can send needed cards from the Deck to the Graveyard, allowing for easier retrieval with "Monster Reborn" or "Monster Reincarnation". "Painful Choice" is also good for sending DARK and LIGHT monsters to the Graveyard to satisfy "Chaos Emperor Dragon"'s Summoning condition.
With the advent of the January 2015 banlist in the OCG, "Chaos Emperor Dragon" received an erratum that prevents other card effects from being used in the turn its own effect is activated. In this setup, this would prevent "Sangan" or "Witch" from adding "Yata" to the hand, making this particular method no longer possible.
This method is best in environments where only 1 Forbidden card is allowed in the player's Deck, such as in most video games (where the player can often unlock the ability to put a single Forbidden card in their Deck as a completionist reward).
The following cards must be gathered:
- "Yata-Garasu" (required)
- "Sky Scourge Norleras", in the player's Graveyard (required)
- "Phantom of Chaos", on the player's field (strongly recommended)
- A card whose effect can place "Yata-Garasu" on top of the Deck (required)
Strategy: Similar to the first method, "Phantom of Chaos" must be on your field while you can still Normal Summon; you can either Summon it the turn before and protect it, or use a card like "Double Summon" or "Call of the Haunted". Next, use whatever card effect you have to place "Yata-Garasu" on top of your Deck. Activate the effect of "Phantom of Chaos", banishing "Norleras" in the Graveyard to copy its effect. "Norleras's" copied effect will empty both players' hands and fields, then allow you to draw 1 card (this will be "Yata-Garasu"). Now you can Normal Summon "Yata", enter your Battle Phase, and attack directly with it, completing the lockdown.
- Ways to place "Yata" on top of the Deck include:
- Get "Yata" in your hand and "Plaguespreader Zombie" in your Graveyard. Use "Plaguespreader's" effect to Special Summon itself from the Graveyard by returning "Yata" from your hand to the top of the Deck. "Yata" can be searched from the Deck and added to the hand with "Aratama" or "Tour Bus To Forbidden Realms".
- Get "Yata" in your Graveyard, then use "A Feather of the Phoenix" to put it on top of the Deck. A card like "Foolish Burial" can search out "Yata" from the Deck and send it to the Graveyard.
- "Lavalval Chain's" effect can search "Yata" from the Deck and place it directly on top of the Deck; however, as you cannot use your turn's Normal Summon to help Xyz Summon it, you will likely need to Summon it the turn before and use another card to protect it.
- It is possible to directly summon "Norleras" instead of relying on "Phantom of Chaos" to copy its effect, but the latter is much easier to pull off.
- "Ocean Dragon Lord - Neo-Daedalus" can also empty both players' hands and fields, while "Huge Revolution" empties only the opponent's hand and field, but both effects have much more difficult activation requirements and so are not recommended.
- It is not strictly necessary to empty the opponent's hand; as long as the opponent has no cards that can get rid of "Yata-Garasu", they will never be able to draw any and the lockdown will remain intact. However, video games that reward the player for pulling off the lockdown require the opponent's hand to be empty in order to receive the achievement.
- Note that "Yata" can be surprisingly hard to get rid of, as it returns to the player's hand during the opponent's turn instead of staying on the field. Even if the opponent has a powerful card like "Dark Hole" left in their hand, it will be useless.
- Several card effects can empty ('nuke') both players' fields, such as "Black Rose Dragon", "Evilswarm Exciton Knight", "Judgment Dragon", "Demise, King of Armageddon", "Final Destiny", and so on. If the opponent has few or no cards in their hand at this time, they may not be able to access anything that can stop "Yata".
Some cards have effects that activate from the Graveyard, allowing them to potentially break the lockdown even after the opponent's hand and field have been emptied:
- If "Necro Gardna", "Bacon Saver", or "Electromagnetic Turtle" is in the opponent's Graveyard, its effect can negate one attack from "Yata-Garasu" even after the opponent's hand and field have been emptied. This allows the opponent to enter their Draw Phase next turn for a potential comeback.
- Several monsters including "Return Zombie", "Treeborn Frog", "Destiny HERO - Malicious", "Spore", "Tasuke Knight", "Noble Knight Eachtar", "The Phantom Knights of Shadow Veil", "Stegocyber", and especially any of the four "Dragon Rulers" have effects that can Special Summon themselves or another copy of themselves from the Graveyard. This will block "Yata" from inflicting battle damage and allow the opponent to enter their next Draw Phase. The effect of "Mezuki" works similarly.
Some cards can protect the opponent from having their hand or field emptied:
- Some cards, like "Trifortressops", are unaffected by monster effects and so will not be sent to the Graveyard while the lockdown is being set up. As above, this will block "Yata" from inflicting battle damage.
- If the opponent controls a card like "Dandylion" or "Lightpulsar Dragon", or they have a card like "Despair from the Dark" in their hand, then they will be able to Summon a monster(s) in response to their field and hand being cleared, again blocking "Yata" from inflicting battle damage.
- Many cards can negate whatever monster effect is used to try to empty the hand and field, such as "Divine Wrath", "Skill Drain", and especially "Effect Veiler" or "Breakthrough Skill".
It is also possible to avoid the lockdown entirely by getting rid of its key cards before the strategy can be assembled. Most notably, if "Yata-Garasu" is banished, then there is no easy way to get it back, since it cannot be Special Summoned.
It is worth noting that the vast majority of the above cards did not exist until after "Yata-Garasu" was Forbidden. At the time the lockdown was playable, almost nothing at all in the game could stop it.
In most video games, if the lockdown is successfully performed (specifically, if the player damages the opponent with "Yata-Garasu" while the opponent has an empty hand and field), then the opponent will automatically surrender the Duel at the start of their next turn. This applies to both human and CPU players, and will occur even if not surrendering would have been beneficial (such as if the player had no cards left in their Deck and would have lost had the opponent not surrendered). This particular lockdown is the only known way to get an AI opponent to surrender.