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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 begin their next turn with no cards to play either on their field or in their hand, forcing them to pass that turn. On the player's next turn, the player could then Summon "Yata-Garasu" and attack again, and repeat. The opponent would never have any cards to play for the rest of the Duel, effectively locking them out of the Duel and guaranteeing the player a win.
"Yata-Garasu" became Forbidden on the OCG's very first Forbidden list in March 2004, retiring the lockdown from all OCG official formats. The TCG Advanced Format would follow suit in its own very first Forbidden list introduced in October 2004, leaving the TCG Traditional Format the only official format where the lockdown is still usable.
Before the banning of "Yata-Garasu", this was the most common method to create the lockdown. While it was still usable, it was very easy to accomplish, requiring access to as few as 2 specific cards in the hand or field (by comparison, "Exodia" requires five).
The following cards must be gathered:
- "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 while the opponent controls no cards and has no cards in their hand. This completes the lockdown.
- 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.
On September 15, 2016, "Sangan" received an erratum in the TCG that prevents the monster they search from using their effects in the same turn; this prevents "Yata" from activating their effect to skip the opponent's Draw Phase that turn. The strategy remained possible with "Witch of the Black Forest" until July 6, 2017, when "Witch" also received the same erratum in the TCG, thus retiring this method of the lockdown from the TCG Traditional Format and therefore all official formats.
As of the retirement of the original method, this method is currently the most viable way to perform the lockdown in the TCG Traditional Format. As a side benefit, it can be pulled off with "Yata-Garasu" as the only Forbidden card, allowing it to work in some 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). This strategy generally requires access to 2 specific cards in the hand or field and 2 specific cards in the Graveyard.
The following cards must be gathered:
- "Yata-Garasu" (required)
- A card whose effect can place "Yata-Garasu" on top of the Deck (required)
- "Sky Scourge Norleras", in the player's Graveyard (required)
- "Phantom of Chaos", on the player's field (strongly recommended)
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. ("Lavalval Chain" has since become Forbidden in addition to "Yata-Garasu", but a majority of video games were released before this change.)
- 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 can activate any time 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 "Rainbow Kuriboh", "Return Zombie", "Treeborn Frog", "Destiny HERO - Malicious", "Spore", "Glow-Up Bulb", "Tasuke Knight", "Noble Knight Eachtar", "The Phantom Knights of Shadow Veil", "Stegocyber", "Cyber Dragon Core", 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 against 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.
- Some cards (like "Dandylion", "Lightpulsar Dragon", "Despair from the Dark", "Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss", or "Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss") can Summon a monster(s) in response to being sent to the Graveyard, again blocking "Yata" from inflicting battle damage.
- Some cards (like "Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss", "Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss", or "Zaphion, the Timelord") can add a card to the hand in response to being sent to the Graveyard, preventing the hand from being emptied.
- 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 worth noting that the vast majority of the above cards did not exist until after "Yata-Garasu" was Forbidden. Before then, almost nothing at all in the game could stop the lockdown.
In most video games, if the lockdown is successfully performed (specifically, if a player damages their opponent with "Yata-Garasu" while their opponent has an empty hand and field), then the opponent is programmed to 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 performing the lockdown had no cards left in their Deck and would have lost had their opponent not surrendered). This particular lockdown is one of the two only known ways to get an AI opponent to surrender (another way is to get rid of one of the AI opponent's "Exodia" cards).