I feel as though we can never discuss side deck theory enough. When you think about it, understanding the side deck is an integral part of being a good player because you naturally play more games with it than without it. And without realizing it, many players have built their main decks to do things that their side decks are supposed to take care of. In my last article, I spoke about understanding combo decks and what you should not do when constructing one. This article will elaborate on the concept of trusting in your side deck, which will aid in constructing your main deck.
If you recall, I mentioned that the format is broken up into two categories: Nekroz and Anti-Nekroz. Every deck that is not blue will inevitably be focused around beating it. That means lots of main decked hate and plenty of backrows. Cards like Mystical Space Typhoon, Raigeki, and Dark Hole may be good against those decks, but they can be lackluster against Nekroz because of how it plays. Typically, the deck doesn’t leave several cards on the field, and it does not play many backrows. From a deck building perspective, this is quite the conundrum. You don’t want to give away easy wins because of the Djinn lock, but you don’t want to draw things like Dark Hole and Raigeki if you are forced to go first. Sometimes, you don’t even wanrt those cards going second because they might clear their field with the effect of Valkyrus.
Let’s think about this for a minute. If you main Dark Hole, Raigeki, or MST and are forced to go first, drawing any one of those cards means you essentially started the game with four cards. In all honesty, even outside of the Nekroz matchup, drawing those cards when going first is like a -1. You can’t use them on anything, and they are completely dependent on what your opponent does/draws. So if he doesn’t draw a backrow, that MST will be dead for the entire game, and any good player will notice it after his plays start to go through. This is why it bothers to me to see players maining cards that should be sided.
And I know what you’re thinking—“I don’t want to lose every game one when someone draws a main decked Mistake,” but let us think about that logically. First, you are making the assumption that you will draw the main decked MST when you need it in those specific situations. Secondly, you are omitting the fact that it will be terrible in the most relevant matchup in the format. You must always consider the overall utility of a card that you choose to main. If you find that you are siding something out in almost every game, that means you should probably not be maining it in the first place. Also, as you traverse through the tournament, assuming you are doing well, you will play more Nekroz decks. If there’s one thing that Nekroz players love, it’s going second, which means making YOU go first. I wish you the best of luck in beating the most played deck in the format with four cards.
I will take this time to elaborate on what I mean by trust. Trusting your side deck is simply understanding that you will play up to two more games, and that you have nothing to worry about because you sided correctly for this exact moment. This is why I strongly believe in testing more game twos than game ones. Mathematically it just makes sense. You have to give yourself the best possible chance of winning the tournament. Are you making your main deck to beat the tier 2 decks, and trusting your side deck to beat the tier 1 decks? That seems backwards. The vast majority of players will gravitate towards playing with tier 1, so you should be building to deal with tier 1.
The other option that players go with is building some sort of half and half version of their deck where it tries to deal with both combo decks and non-combo decks. This is when you see people maining just one or two copies of MST, and a few floodgates, too. These builds aren’t much better. In fact, they’re arguably worse. At least if you pick sides, you’re more likely to win those games against the decks that you built your deck to beat. If you do a half and half version, you are going to have tournaments where you draw all the wrong cards at all the wrong times. On the contrary, you could also have tournaments where you will draw all of the right cards at all of the right times. Personally, I would never want to depend on this type of coin flip method for success.
The next point I want to make is that everything described above is only meant for tournaments with 8+ rounds. This means you should not apply the same logic here to the logic you would use at a local. On the local level, you’re playing four or five rounds of swiss with a cut to Top8 usually, which means you should be building your deck based on whatever you know your local players to use. For instance, my local is currently full of Satellarknight decks, so you might see me maining Denko Sekka and MST there. If there were to be a YCS tomorrow, I might not feel too inclined to do that. It’s also worth mentioning that since Solemn Scolding is seeing play in Nekroz, the merits of maining cards like MST and Denko have gotten better, but it’s still very debatable. The community is split between those maining Scolding and those maining several outs to Djinn. Until one build becomes standardized, I would recommend foregoing those high variance cards in the main.
I really hope this article helps someone out there. Until next time, duelists! Remember, Play Hard or Go Home!
-The Dark Magician