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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Engineering a Competitive Deck: The Fundamentals and History of Yu-Gi-Oh! by iamsixxy

I'm going to be doing my next few articles on Deck Building and some of the fundamentals/ideologies you should be aware of when deck building. The six cards you draw maybe a lot more important than the remaining thirty-four in a match-up, but you want to build your deck in a way that will consistency give you a beautiful opening six. A lot of this may be second nature to some but I still see a lot of people failing in this critical department.

But before I dive too deep into this, I am going to make note of something: I will not be giving too many examples or hypotheticals. The hypotheticals I use may be viable for this point in time, but I fear that many readers will misinterpret them and will not see how the evolution of gameplay affects them. Scenarios are subject to change depending on the format, meta, cards your opponent has in hand, content of their graveyard, removed from game, variantion of the deck the opposition is running and tech pieces. Some plays that would have been great in the past are not now and vice-versa. For all of those reasons and more, I see hypotheticals doing more damage than good. I also warn that this is also not a recipe on how to engineer a Tier 0, but it may lead to such an innovation.

This article is about the mentality you should have when building a COMPETITIVE deck. If we are going to be talking about the fundamentals of COMPETITIVE deck building, it would be useful to look at the evolution of the competitive deck. This brings us all the way back to late 2002, early 2003 when the adventures of Yugi Moto are all the rage and the TCG is just being introduced. At this point in time, even with an incredibly small card pool, there were A LOT of decks running around. All of the decks at the time pretty much just followed this criteria, a handful of 1900 beat sticks, some shiny tech, all of the spells and traps on the Limited List and maybe a Jinzo. This trend continued up until the 2003 World Championship where Ng Yu Lueng's Hand Control deck annihilated the competition. Ng Yu Lueng's deck was the first real competitive build and would be predecessor of the modern Control build. It would also go on to be the most netdecked deck of all time. This started a chain reaction and a revolution of intelligent deck designs began. Unlike today, decklists that were 4-6 cards different could be extremely different. However, while the deck that bought Ng Yu Leung a World title opened the flood gates, it would eventually lead to the creation of second most dominate deck of all time, a true Tier 0, a deck that's archetype is appropriately named because of the state it would send the game into, Cookie Cutter Chaos Control. CCCC was so powerful, so destruction, so unlike anything before it that banlists had to be introduced to halt its dominance.

The banlists and formats over the next five years would give rise to a lot of wonderful decks and create a "Golden Age". Some of the decks that would get lumped into this Era of gameplay would be Monarchs, Toolboxes, Goat Control, T-Heros, Airblade-esque Turbo Decks, Perfect Circle, a plethora of Return Decks and Gladiator Beasts. However, the "Golden Age" would all come to an absolute end in the late Summer, early Fall of 2008 with the introduction of Synchro Monsters. The Synchro Era meant the downfall to the majority of viable decks from the Golden Age that the banlists didn't eradictate, it would cause the emergence of heavily archetype related decks and would lead to the creation of the most dominate deck to date, Teleport Dark Armed Dragon or simply TeleDAD. Tele-DAD was of course nailed by a banlist and future variants would be renamed DARK Synchro to avoid confusion.

Now that you're somewhat up to speed, you must understand that the state of the gameplay in a Post-TeleDAD, Synchro Era the is dominated by archetype related decks. I find it rather funny that the term "Cookie Cutter" fell off, as it is so fitting for the majority of decks today. A "Cookie Cutter" is essentially a basic template of a widely used deck, and all of these archetypes have basic template that usually only need to a few tech pieces to be considered a viable deck. Deck building today is a lot simplier than it used to be as, some of the archetypes that see mainstream popularity, Blackwings, Gladiator Beasts, Lightsworn, X-Sabers are designed so incredibly with built in synergy and consistency that the decks generally build themselves. However, even these archetypes, regardless of how powerful their inter-mechanics are, just like every other deck, must adapt to fit the formats and metas.

As I mentioned in a recent video, "Making Reads In Competitive Play", metas are rapidlly developing and always changing. Before going into a competitive duel, you should apply this Test to the deck you plan on using:

Question 1: "Do I know what the current meta?"

Question 2: "Am I running a deck that stacks up against the current meta?"

Question 3: "Can my deck consistency defeat the meta decks?"

Question 4: "Are there any tech pieces I should consider that would compliment by Main for the current meta?"

Question 5: "Is my side deck constructed in a way to compliment my main in the case of any bad match-up?"

I left these Questions out of the video, but in a Synchro Era they have come extremely important,

Question 6: "If my deck has the ability to Synchro, Contact and/or Fusion Summon and do I have access to every card in my Extra Deck?"

Question 7: "Is my Extra Deck constructed in a way that it will compliment the deck that I am running?"

If you answered NO to any of the above criteria then your deck is not viable nor healthy for competitive play in the meta you plan to use it in. It will more than likely flop outside of stacking and luck. You should never build a deck around the concept of luck nor should you stack, as it is a serious offense in organzied play.

I see a lot of people completely diving over meta predictions and being baffled as to why their decks rarely pan out. If you're playing at a Local tournament, you should be familiar with the decks and players that make up your local meta. If your local is dominated by Dark World, then you ought not use X-Sabers. If you are planning to make meta predictions for a larger event such as a Regional, Shonen or National Championship, you are doing to be to familiar with the decks that are dominating Regionals throughout the World. You can find a plethora of information on what's topping Regionals by looking around Forums such as DuelistGroundz and Pojo as well as Yu-Gi-Oh! Related Channels on Youtube.

Another reason for your deck flopping may have been because you weren't playing it right. On the most basic of levels, you never want to use a card unless you are about to establishing a set up, protecting your setup, cementing your setup, stopping an attack that will reduce your life to 0 or chaining a card that will enable you to gain plus'. An example of this would be, say they have "Gorz the Emissary of Darkness" and an "Emissary of Darkness Token" to your "Blackwing Armor Master" and facedown "Icarus Attack". They activate "Smashing Ground" and you chain Icarus and release Armor Master, destroying their monsters. Of course, there is a lot more that goes into playing a deck properly, but that's diving into more advanced gameplay.

In my next article, I'll take the Tests that I laid out above, explain them a bit more and then apply them and build a deck from the ground up right in front of your eyes. If you have an questions about any of the fundamentals of engineering a competitive build, leave a comment in the box below and I'll address those concern in my next article as well.



  1. good article Kyle, keep up the good work!

  2. Great article, i'm always looking for ways to improve my game, be it tech picks, helpful meta predicting tips or even basic play tips. while i may know a lot of this stuff, the stuffi don't know from other's experience is really worth it.
    i'm looking forward to more of your articles in future.


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