Side Decking 101

Today, I’ve decided that I wanted to talk about one of the more subtle fundamentals in Yu-Gi-Oh--how not to side. Side decking can be a very complicated thing, but it doesn’t have to be. I often see players lose entire games because they don’t know how to do it. Incorrect siding includes putting in cards that are less than stellar when going first or second, siding too many cards for a specific matchup, which effectively ruins the foundation of your own deck, and siding the wrong cards altogether. I’m going to delve into each of these problems, and provide some insight on how you should be thinking when building and using your side deck.

maxx cSo first things first: you have to realize that certain cards suck when going first, while other cards suck when going second. Examples of side deck cards that are mediocre or worse when going first include: Maxx “C,” Effect Veiler, Storm (I’ll elaborate on why I chose this one later), The Monarchs Storm Forth, Raigeki, Denko Sekka, etc. These cards are all terrible when going first for the same reasons, too. For instance, Effect Veiler is bad when going first because you have no way of using it on your first turn, except maybe with Shaddoll Fusion. We all know that hand traps are used for slowing down your opponents on their first turn, since you didn’t have a chance to set backrows yet. On top of that, you only get five cards when going first, so your other four cards would have to be pretty ideal to make your hand a good one. The same thing can be said about Maxx “C,” Raigeki, The Monarchs Storm Forth, and Denko Sekka. You don’t want to open with cards that have no effect on the game until your opponent gets a turn. You should always be aiming for good, consistent hands. If you were going second, you would want all of these cards.

In the case of cards like Raigeki and The Monarchs Storm Forth, you would rather just have actual traps if you’re going first. The aforementioned spells deal with monsters after they have already hit the field and used whatever effects they have. Your goal is to deal with monsters before they get to resolve their effects or even come out in the first place. On the contrary, I love cards like this for going second because they can break up established fields. There’s nothing better than tributing your opponent’s Dante for Majesty’s Fiend, or dropping Denko Sekka on three backrows. However, if there are no monsters to tribute, and no backrows to be frozen, then these cards aren’t doing anything but adding to your bad hands. And don’t let me get started on how bad they are if you’re using a combo deck. Since everything requires more than one card to function, you don’t have too much room to draw non-combo pieces.

Bottomless Trap HoleMoving on to cards that are mediocre or worse when going second, we have: Bottomless Trap Hole, Solemn Warning, Vanity’s Emptiness, Chain Disappearance, Skill Drain, Thunder King Rai-oh, etc. The concept is simple: you don’t want to draw any of these cards when your opponent already has a field of monsters. What good is a Vanity’s Emptiness against two Dantes? How about Chain Disappearance after they’ve already resolved a Tour Guide? And who would ever want Solemn Warning after there is already 5000 points of damage sitting on the other side of the field?

I learned this stuff back in the mid 2000s, when the greats were siding out Trap Dustshoot after winning game one because they knew they would be going second in game two. There was a chance that the Dustshoot would be dead immediately, and therefore it would just contribute to a bad hand. I carry that logic with me every time I dive into my side deck.

If you take all of the cards I named and switched them with going first or second, they become infinitely better. Skill Drain is amazing if you go first because you get a chance to set it before your opponent could have possibly resolved a real monster’s effect. Chain Disappearance is great when you can set it on the first turn, too. You’ll be able to catch the monster brought out by your opponent’s Tour Guide, which will almost always end their turn. It completely stops them from establishing a field, but it sucks once they have already established a field.

You can also side incorrectly by putting in the wrong cards altogether. For example, I used to side Rivalry of the Warlords when Burning Abyss first came out, because it made it impossible for them to win. They would get stuck with either a Dante or Alucard on the field, and nothing else. Even if they didn’t Xyz summon, it wasn’t like a few low attack fiend monsters threatened me. If they used Phoenix Wing Wind Blast on it, they would have to kill me that turn. Rivalry happens to be pretty effective against established fields, especially when they’re all different types, so when you spin it to the top of my deck, I’m just going to redraw it and flip it on your new field. The game has changed, however, making Rivalry of the Warlords an awful side card against Burning Abyss. Now, a BA player could just summon two monsters and set a Lake to get rid of the continuous trap. Unfortunately, there are people who still have not learned that continuous cards traps are not the ideal solution to BA problems.

shadow mirrorSome Qliphort players still side Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror against the deck, knowing that all BA players bring in three Fairy Winds, and already have three Mystical Space Typhoons and three Fire Lakes. That’s just not smart thinking. It would be more effective to side Ojama Trio and maybe even Flying “C” before you considered Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror.

The next and last topic is over side decking, which is just as bad as siding in cards that are not effective when going first or second. Sometimes, we overthink the matchups and end up with too much hate towards one particular deck. You’ll see this a lot with Shaddoll players who side too heavily against Qliphorts. It’s okay to side three Mystical Space Typhoons and three Fairy Winds, but once you start adding Dust Tornadoes and Twisters on top of that, you’re going to end up with too many cards that do the same exact thing. This will undoubtedly lead to getting beat down by monsters. If you’re swapping ten cards from your side deck into your main, you should probably reevaluate your strategy.

I remember when Satellarknights first came out, everyone—including myself—was siding infinite floodgate cards. Now, while this could win you some games, it can also lead to some pretty pathetic losses, too. If your opponent ever resolves a big monster, you might have a hard time dealing with it. After all, a Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror does not deal with a Shaddoll Construct’s 2800 attack.

Another good example comes from this past weekend. I was watching the live coverage from ARGCS Atlanta, and there was a match where a player drew three copies of Storm against Ben Leverett in game three, and it outright lost him the game. I understand why you would want to side Storm if you’re using Qliphorts, but three of it is certainly going overboard. You have to ask yourself if you would ever want to open with more than one copy of it. The answer is always going to be no, unless your other four cards are insane, in which case you would probably win anyway. By siding in too many cards that essentially do the same thing as several other cards in your deck, you tend to ruin the foundation. Ruining the foundation means you have ruined the consistency, and now your deck is fragile. It would have been the same result if he showed a hand that had a mixture of Mystical Space Typhoons, Storms, and Night Beams, too. I understand wanting to clear backrows, but what if that was all your deck could do—clear backrows? Of course there will be some games where your draw the perfect curve, and you clear the backrows and resolve several Scouts, but this is not a perfect world, and you should not side as though it is.

Until next time, duelists! Remember, Play Hard or Go Home!

-Frazier Smith

-The Dark Magician


Frazier Smith

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