I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and is enjoying the holiday season so far. It's crazy to think we're only probably about 3 weeks away from getting a new ban list so I thought I would take the time to discuss what I could see happening in terms of what gets hit, etc. I chose to call this "Insight" as opposed to "Prediction" since I'm not outright saying (intentionally) "well this is what I think will happen", rather, something more along the lines of "this is my rationale for why I think this could happen, but if it doesn't, it wouldn't surprise me." After all, predicting what Konami will do for our ban list has become much harder to do over the past few lists.
1. Vanity's Emptiness
I haven't seen much in terms of articles or videos of list predictions for this format yet, but I know this card in particular has been discussed over the past few lists. With special summoning being a forefront strategy for basically every deck, you could say this is the ultimate generic floodgate card in the current game. Some see Emptiness and hate on it (probably just because it's so expensive) while others feel it is just a necessary evil. Without a card like this or Oppression in the game, spammy decks would be free to just OTK as long as they could get through the other backrow. A part of me could easily see this card going to 1, but I also believe they haven't milked the card enough quite yet by providing an easier-to-obtain form of it considering it is so sought-after. But then again Konami has shown that they don't care in the past. I would argue that Emptiness is harder to obtain than Dante, not because of its rarity or price, but because people are more inclined to hold on to a set of Emptiness over Dante, simply because Emptiness is much more generic whereas Dante only goes in 1 deck (2, if you consider Shabyss to be a completely different deck than regular Abyss). I've personally gotten rid of my common playset because I don't want to take that chance of it going to 1, and if it stays at 3 I can easily re-obtain them. If it goes to 1 then everyone will be dumping off their extras where it will then be incredibly easy to obtain (like what happened with Soul Charge).
I remember there being a time when both BLS and DAD basically saw no play, but now BLS is often run in Shaddoll and Abyss, while DAD can be seen in Shaddoll due to Eclipse Wyvern conveniently being a Light. At the right time, BLS can win games all on his own or is a perfect comeback card. This could lead to the notion that the card is sacky. I think it just may be BLS's time to be on the chopping block once again not because of its power alone, but as a way of indirectly hitting Shaddoll and Burning Abyss. It could be argued that once the additional Qliphort support and Nekroz comes out that decks running BLS could naturally get phased out due to power creep, but any deck that runs Darks and Lights can easily splash BLS in as a standalone easily-summonable boss-monster; its presence would always be felt as long as those decks had any sort of viability.
3. Fire Lake
This card just recently came out but its impact has immediately been felt. This can be viewed as an Icarus Attack on crack and bad for the game due to it being a frequent 1-for-3 exchange. It is virtually impossible to establish a field against an unopposed Lake, and an end phase Lake play can absolutely destroy decks like Satellas that rely on their backrow presence to compete with today's meta. Regardless of its power and destruction though, I would be surprised to see this card get hit due to it being in a deck Konami is still pushing support for. It could be argued that BA is so good because of Lake. I know it was still a good deck prior to NECH, but it does give the deck a large bit of power all on its own. Some may say "well they hit Geargiagear even though they got more support", and yes that is true, but when you compare the two Geargiagear required absolutely no set-up, whereas Lake does (even though it's incredibly easy to fulfill its requirements). Geargia support came in the form of a structure deck where people would probably buy 3 anyway so they could either build the deck or obtain some reprint, but Abyss support is coming out in actual sets, where people may be less inclined to purchase it if they had no interest in the other decks that were being supported for in the set. What I am trying to say is that it would be a greater financial risk to hit Burning Abyss right now than it was for them to hit Geargia at the time that they did.
4. Shadow Games
Shadow Games could be viewed as a card that is too versatile due to the versatility of the Shaddoll monsters. Shadow Games can be an MST (Dragon), a Rota (Hedgehog), an Upstart (Beast), a wall (Falco), graveyard manipulation (Squamata), or a momentum changer (Falco+Beast plays etc). That is a lot out of 1 card and since it has been hit in the OCG, people have said it could see a hit for us as well. I could see it going to 2 to little effect but would be very surprised to see it go down to 1. We still have a little more Shaddoll support on the way to consider. I personally don't think they will touch this card, at least for January.
5. Artifact Engine
I think there was a period of time where the Artifact engine was frequently seen or splashed into decks and people felt that they should be hit. Nowadays we see the occasional Shaddoll Artifact deck top but nothing compared to how it was pre-NECH. Like Shadow Games, the OCG has Moralltach at 1. I think they will keep the entire engine intact over here as Sanctum would be one of those cards the casual crowd would ooh and ah over as a tin reprint, even though it may not be seen that often competitively.
I feel a bit silly even bringing this card up, but because I have heard talk of how people "could see Math going to 1", I guess it doesn't hurt to talk about it and look at it from both perspectives. I am not discrediting Math man's impact on the game, as a lot of monster effects do occur when they are sent to the grave by a card effect. With a 1500 body and the draw effect on top of it, it's actually really good at the cost of your normal summon. Like BLS, it is indirect support for Shaddoll and Burning Abyss. The difference between Math and BLS though is that Math most likely isn't completely shifting momentum around or outright winning games. I would say by today's game's standards it is actually pretty balanced and I could see this fitting nicely as a tin reprint as well. I would be surprised to see a hit on Math, but if they did I could at least see the rationale behind it and wouldn't completely be "WTF??" like I know others would.
What Could Come Back?
I think we could agree there are a lot of cards that could come off the list to minimal effect and history has proven this; looks at things such as Tsukuyomi, Magician of Faith, and Mirror Force going to 3. Goyo is good but not nearly as absurd as it once was. Even Raigeki went from being a blowout card to a board/tempo-control card since the majority of the competitive monsters now are floaters. With the shorter formats I think Konami can take more "baby-step" unrestrictions like they have been and take things like Sinister Serpent, Tribe, Thousand-Eyes, etc and try them at 1. If they break the format then it is simple enough to ban them again but I think in the majority of cases some of these cards could go to 3 with almost no effect. Obviously I'm not saying "put Ring to 3" or anything absurd like that.
Overall, I actually don't envision much happening on this ban list at all. There may be a couple "!!" changes but I think it will be pretty tame. People will still want to play Abyss, Qliphs, and Nekroz. Shaddolls could go either way, and Satellas will still be Satellas- there, consistent, and with the ability to win, but there won't be a time where it is just straight dominant like how it was after the first ARG they did exceptionally well at.