Long gone are the days of 120-card Fusion decks, where the trendy thing to do would be to pack three of every fusion card into existence into your deck for pretty much no reason. No, Master of Oz and Flame Swordsman weren’t likely ever come up and especially not in multiples. Outside of a few select cards like Cyber Stein and Metamorphosis, what we now call the Extra deck was very limited in scope and there wasn’t really a need to limit its use since you weren’t really all that likely to use it very much in the first place. This all changed near the end of 2008 with the introduction of the Synchro mechanic. The ability to use three of anything and everything you wanted proved to be too much and the Extra deck was capped in early 2009. Today I’m going to talk about how a rule change made in November of 2009 that allowed for a player to have Extra Deck monsters in their side deck is undervalued in today’s game.
This rule change allowed for people to exchange cards between their Side deck and Extra deck as you would in between games with a normal side deck card. Outside of siding the occasional Chimeratech Fortress Dragon to accompany a pair of Cyber Dragons, this addition to the rules hasn’t ever been taken advantage of, but I believe it is currently undervalued and today I’m going to argue for why people should take advantage of it more than they currently do.
The Increased Card Pool
Have you ever heard the saying “there’s no such thing as a free meal?” Well similar to how that saying implies that even though you may not directly be paying for a meal, someone is, and that someone has reasons for doing it that they believe will be beneficial, there’s no such thing as a free card. All cards have a cost associated with them. Even if you don’t have to pay any life points to activate a card, they all cost a minimum of taking up one spot in your deck. When you choose to play one card over another card, you’re not just getting all the benefits that come with that one card, you’re also giving up any benefits that would have come with any other choice that could have taken that spot.
To say that it is worth it to side deck an extra deck card is to say that that extra deck card has more value to us than any other side deck option we had at our disposal.
Every three months a new set is released and with it more options become available. A spot in our deck is worth more with each new card that is released, because when a new card is released that means we have all the options we could have already picked from and some new ones as well.
It is because a spot in any section of our deck, whether it be the main deck, side deck, or extra deck, that it is entirely possible that up until this point or very recently, it wasn’t worth it to incorporate extra deck cards in our side deck. We already have fifteen cards that we can use as extra deck cards, but not as side deck cards in our Extra deck. It may have seldom been worth it to give up that side deck spot, as we already had access to extra deck options. Here are the reasons why I think it is now worth it.
The Role of Specialization
When you’re building your main deck, having cards that will be generic is a positive attribute, because if you have cards that are good in one specific scenario you’ll end up drawing them a lot of the time when you don’t want to and they won’t be as good. That’s why people choose to play things like Mirror Force over things like Shrink when deciding how they’re going to protect their monsters. All that has to happen for Mirror Force to be good is for your opponent to attack. For Shrink to be good, your opponent would have to attack with only one monster on the field while you also have a monster on the field that had more than half of its attack points. Shrink has a lot more narrow application for when it would be good, so it would make sense to play something that is broader and can be drawn in other scenarios.
This isn’t really the case with the extra deck. You can have something incredibly specific like destroying monsters that have had their attack modified, but you’ll never have to risk drawing it when they don’t have a monster with a modified attack. The only risk here is that you played too narrow of a card when another card would have been more useful. That seems like an inherently lower risk than drawing a specialized card, because if you draw it that card cannot be any other card, but if you have the ability to go into your extra deck, you still have 14 other options, even if that one wouldn’t work because it had a narrow application.
The phrase “narrow application” seems like it has a negative connotation associated with it, but it really shouldn’t. To say something has a narrow scope is just to say that it’s specialized. Let’s say that you want to unscrew a screw. What do you do? Get a screwdriver. But what if the screw in question is a Phillips head and you have a flathead? You have a screwdriver either way, but you’d be a lot better off with a more specialized tool. And that’s the entire point of a side deck. It just gives you more specialized tools for the job.
As I was saying, every three months they release a new pack, giving us access to all the options we had before as well as new ones. These new releases have increasingly specialized purposes. Before the extra deck was all about generic options that had a broad scope for the simple fact that that’s all that was available. Stardust Dragon was good because stopping stuff that destroys is good. Thought Ruler Archfiend is good because stopping targeting effects is good. But what about a card like Number 103: Ragnazero? Destroying a monster that has a modified attack is a lot more narrow application, but that’s just another way of saying it has a highly specific purpose. Since our card pool is getting increasingly diverse as new cards are released and more specialized tools will allow us to better handle whatever is thrown at us, it then seems to follow that siding a card like Ragnazero or Steelswarm Roach to combat Qliphort’s attack modifications and pendulum mechanic might be a logical conclusion.
Let’s say that I side deck Mystical Space Typhoon to counter your Mistake or Vanity’s Emptiness. What has to happen in order for me to get the most value? Firstly, you would have to draw your floodgate. If you didn’t draw a floodgate but I drew MST, I could still get some value out of my MST. But in order for me to get any value out of my MST, regardless of whether or not you drew a floodgate, I would have to actually draw my MST.
That isn’t the case with extra deck cards. As we discussed, our side deck is to give us a more specialized toolkit. Siding extra deck cards will allow us more specialized tools without actually having to draw them. I can use Ragnazero to destroy your Qliphort equipped with Saqlifice, without having to draw Ragnazero. All I have to do is be able to put two level 4 monsters on the field. If I’m playing Clown Nekroz for example, I’m much more likely to be able to put two level 4 monsters on the board, which could be accomplished any number of ways, than I am to draw a specific card I sided in, that can only be accomplished by actually drawing into it.
Similar to how there is a decreased risk with using extra deck cards that are too narrow compared to using main deck cards that are too narrow, siding extra deck cards allows you a more specialized toolkit without risking the consistency of your engine. Let’s say I want one of the functions of my side deck to be to out Mistake. I now have a tradeoff to make. I could side fewer outs and risk not seeing them often enough, or I could side more outs and risk seeing them too often. If I side three MST, they’ll have Mistake sometimes when I don’t have one of the MSTs. If I side three MST and three Typhoon, now I’m risking having too many. If I have a hand full of MSTs and Typhoons, even if my opponent never has Emptiness or Mistake on the field, I can’t actually do anything without having some Nekroz cards in there. Every card like MST I have in my hand is one less card I have to be able to advance my game state once the floodgate is gone.
In order to side in those six outs to floodgates, I have to take things out in between games. The more cards you side in as counters to what they have, the more engine cards you’ll have to take out to fit them. Let’s say instead I side deck a second Diamond Dire Wolf or a second Exciton Knight to combat the anticipated Mistakes of Shaddoll. Well chances are you have Rhapsody also in your extra deck. It’d be pretty low risk to drop Rhapsody for games 2 and 3 against Shaddolls in favor of a second Diamond Dire Wolf. The Rhapsody probably wouldn’t have come up anyway, and now you don’t have to sacrifice the consistency of your engine by making cuts to cards like Reinforcement of the Army or Upstart Goblin, because siding extra deck cards allows you to cut extra deck cards instead and extra deck cards rarely function as a means of keeping your engine consistent.
The true value of siding extra deck monsters is a fairly new concept, but I think it has the potential to be an impactful one going forward as new cards are released that give us increasingly specialized options at our disposal. I hope to see everyone in Indianapolis this weekend for the first Circuit Series of season three! Until next time, play hard or go home!