$300 Budget, Theory and a LOT of Text

Before you start reading this extremely large wall of text, understand that I have recently spent 60+ hours in airports and aeroplanes and so this has been a long-term cumulative project. I was extremely bored and this gave me something to focus on. As such, it is completely based on theory and next to no actual testing has been conducted. I apologize in advance for its length and the fact that it may deteriorate into a tl;dr moment towards the end.

Also for the purposes of this article, and as the title suggests, I am classing budget as between $200-300.

Playing for Advantage or Playing for Position? A Cheap (ish) Way to Play the Format.

Within Yu-Gi-Oh you essentially have two different ways to go about setting up your field; that of playing for card advantage and that of playing for position upon the board. This may seem redundant as I'm sure at least some of you don't quite see any major distinction between the two. Whilst it is true that playing for card advantage may eventually see you advance your position and setting up a strong footing may lead to advantage, these two are NOT synonymous with each other. How many times have you lost a game when you had far more cards than your opponent? Either your position was not strong enough, despite any numbers advantage you had, to sustain your remaining in the game or your opponents position was simply stronger despite them having fewer available resources.

I'll provide you two examples to illustrate exactly what I am trying to get across. Take the following two cards: Cardcar D and Book of Moon.

Cardcar D: This card burns your normal summon, blocks you from special summoning prior to activating its effect and immediately ends your turn. In Return, you draw two cards and therefore gained a +1 in terms of immediate card advantage. However, in doing so, you do not have a monster on field and have therefore either weakened or failed to advance your current position on the field.

Book of Moon: This card is an inherent -1 in terms of card advantage. However, if used correctly, it has the ability to interrupt or completely shut down your opponents play for the turn allowing you to capitalize on this once they are forced to end without gaining any foothold on the board. Dissimilarlu to Cardcar D, you sacrifice immediate card advantage in order to block your opponent and advance your position over theirs.

I think that these two cards best explain the distinction I am going for. Of course, the +1 from Cardcar D will most likely see your position strengthen over the following turns and the disruption of Book of Moon will probably allow you to remove those resources from your opponent, however the difference has been highlighted. So, this then begs the question, which is better? Unfortunately, it is very difficult to say. Playing solely for card advantage may mean that you cannot get set up once your opponent has and conceding resources to your opponent may allow them to break through your defenses and Overwhelm you. Therefore, I believe that if you can achieve both you will go a long way towards beating your opponent.

How do we go about this when position may be gained irrespective of card advantage? In order to properly address this question I believe it is necessary to redefine our concept of card advantage. If I provided the following definition of card advantage I do not think many people would disagree with me:

"Card Advantage is dictated by how many cards you have in comparison to your opponent. Therefore, if you have 6 cards total between your hand and field and your opponent has 4 cards total, you have a +2 in terms of card advantage"

Simple, fairly standard definition of the term, right? I would also argue that this is a far too simplistic way to look at the game and current state of the board. Keep that qualifying word 'current' in mind as I explore what I believe to be a far wiser definition as it will become extremely relevant. So, we know from above that you have a +2 in terms of card advantage. However, imagine the following game state:

Your Hand: Elemental Hero Neos Alius and Dimensional Prison
Your Field: Elemental Hero Stratos, Bottomless Trap Hole, Solemn Warning and Starlight Road

Opponents Hand: Dark Hole, Pot of Duality
Opponents Field: Royal Decree and Cyber Dragon

Your opponent has 3 cards they can use (as Royal Decree is simply sitting there) whilst you have only 2 cards you can use and none of them are actually going to DO anything. In terms of useful cards, you have 0 whilst your opponent has 3. The game progresses and they attack over Stratos with Cyber Dragon.

Net-Advantage: You - 5. Opponent - 4. You are +1.
Useful-Advantage: You - 0. Opponent - 3. You are -3 under this new definition.

If, for your turn, you draw another trap, then your 'Useful Cards' pool remains at 0 and your opponents remains at 3. Your opponent draws and may be at a +4 in terms of this new definition. However, that is only the current situation. If, for your following turn, you draw Mystical Space Typhoon, then you destroy your opponents Royal Decree and unlock the use of your traps.

Your Hand: Elemantal Hero Neos Alius. Dimensional Prison. Random trap from the turn before.
Your Field: Bottomless Trap Hole, Solemn Warning and Starlight Road

Opponents Hand: Dark Hole, Pot of Duality, Random card from the turn before.
Opponents Field: Cyber Dragon

Net-Advantage: You - 6. Opponent - 4. You are +2
Useful-Advantage: You - 6. Opponent - 4. You are +2 under this new definition.

The fact that you "broke" through your opponents setup means that, where you were once down in useful advantage, you are now currently ahead. This is nothing more than an extremely, and I stress the word extremely, simplistic example about the fluidity and adaption, on a turn by turn basis, that I wish to bring to our new understanding of card advantage. Instead of simply counting the cards and stopping at that, we need to account for which resources are actually resources and which ones are dead. What this example also outlines, again rather simply, is that playing for position can be extremely dangerous as, if your opponent overwhelms your setup, they will then have far too many resources for you to adequately counter. Therefore, the proposed new definition of card advantage is:

"Card Advantage is the number of cards you can use, in the CURRENT turn, to advance or maintain your board position in relationship to the number of cards your opponent can utilize towards the same purpose"

Now that we have this new definition, how do we go about implementing it? Perhaps more importantly for some duelists, how do we go about achieving this somewhat affordably as per the title of this article? I provide the following deck list for consideration..

'Position is Power, Power is Advantage - Malefics'

Monsters: 13

3 x Malefic Cyber End Dragon
3 x Malefic Stardust Dragon
3 x Thunder King Rai-Oh
2 x Cardcar D
2 x Ancient Gear Gadjiltron Dragon

Spells: 13

3 x Geartown
3 x Forbidden Lance
2 x Necrovalley
2 x Terraforming
2 x Pot of Duality
1 x Book of Moon

Traps: 14

3 x Skill Drain
3 x Dark Bribe
2 x Solemn Warning
2 x Dimensional Prison
2 x Compulsory Evacuation Device
1 x Solemn Judgment
1 x Starlight Road

Extra Deck: 6

3 x Stardust Dragon
3 x Cyber End Dragon

Alternatives to Cardar D

1-2 x Doomcaliber Knight
1-2 x Beast King Barbaros

Assuming you purchased this list in the lowest rarity possible, the cost breakdown would be as follows:

Monsters: $143.40
Spells: $37.30
Traps: $56.49
Extra: $51.90

This brings the total cost of the deck, at the time of writing this article, to $289.10. If this is too expensive, you can substitute the Cardcar D's for Doomcaliber Knight and/or Beast King Barbaros which would drop the total cost to slightly below $200. This is more than reasonable given that most players would already have a lot of these cards as they are used almost universally in a lot of decks.

Now, don't get my wrong. I am not saying, or even trying to imply, that this deck is Tier 0 or even 'the best' deck. Rather, I am providing an alternative deck to those used predominately at YCS' around the world that is capable of setting up board positions that will take down the current 'best deck'; and, perhaps more importantly, do so within a decent budget. I will attempt to provide you some relevant evidence to support this claim. In order to do this, let us examine the Top 16 from the latest YCS in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, I was only able to find 14 of the lists and therefore the lists I will discuss are:

First Place: Karakuri Geargia
Second Place: Chaos Dragons
Top 4: Karakuri Geargia
Top 4: Zombie Monarchs
Top 8: Agents
Top 8: Gravekeeper's
Top 8: Dino-Rabbit
Top 8: Agents
Top 16: Gladiator Beasts
Top 16: Wind-Ups
Top 16: Agents
Top 16: Machina Gadget
Top 16: Obelisk Lancer Frogs
Top 16: Guaiba Agents

Alright, so let's look at some common main decked card trends.

I apologize for any error in numbers. They're correct to my knowledge. All averages are worked out based on 40 card decks.

Effect Veiler/Herald of Orange Light

Used by 10/14 decks.

Total of 25 copies used.
An average of 1.78 copies per deck.

Compulsory Evacuation Device

Used by 9/14 decks.
Total of 14 copies used.
An average of 1 copy per deck.

Starlight Road

Used by 7/14 decks.
Total of 9 copies used.
An average of 0.64 copies per deck.

The above are all dead cards against this deck. They are either a minus 1 on activation (Compulsory) or sit dead unable to be activated (Starlight Road). Therefore, Game 1 this deck is able to render an average of 3.42 cards completely dead in the average deck. Essentially, this equates to 1 in 12 draws being completely unusable. Whilst this does not seem like much currently, it does not take into consideration the following information:

- Without effect, the highest normal summonable monster is the 1900 attack body of Thunder King Rai-Oh.
- Without effect, the highest special summonable monster is the 3000 attack body of Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning.
- Without effect, there are were a total of 230 monsters with less than 1900 attack (this does not include Rescue Rabbit, Cardcar D or similar for obvious reasons. This means that if this deck is able to set up a position with Skill Drain then a further average of 16.42 cards in each deck will be useless in that current game state.
- With Necrovalley active, cards like Monster Reborn, Chaos Sorcerer, Call Of The Haunted, Wind-Up Rat etc cannot be used. In this position, it would mean that a total of 59 cards additional cards would be dead; leading to an average of a further 4.21 useless cards per deck.

Therefore, if this deck is able to set up a position in which it has Skill Drain, Necrovalley and, essentially, any single main-decked monster, the opposing deck would have an average of 24.05 cards that would be useless and therefore discounted under our new working definition of fluid useful card advantage. This equates to higher than every second draw being useless given an average setup of this deck.

In terms of cards that can actually be used, this deck plays a total of 11 cards that are essentially a -1. Field Spells sit there and are unable to actually be used at that given time and therefore the deck relies on Geartown replacing itself with an Ancient Gear Gadjiltron Dragon and Necrovalley making an average 4.21 cards dead for the opponent whilst it is active. Similarly, Skill Drain sits there as a floating -1 that does not generate advantage by itself once activated and, again, the list relies on the fact that it can render 16.42 monster cards dead in an average deck when staring at the huge bodies that this deck puts on the field. Lastly, there is the inherent -1 of Dark Bribe. However, as I outlined above, this deck is completely reliant on rendering the opponents cards useless by setting up specific board positions in which the opposing player is unable to utilize the resources they have in hand or on field. Therefore, Dark Bribe falls into the same category as Book of Moon which was discussed above; the initial negative taken is offset by the fact that the opponents play is completely stopped and the resources they expended can be stripped from them on the following turn.

It would be unfair to talk about the cards that are weaker against this deck without also discussing the commonly played cards that hurt it. So, please take a look at the following card trends.

Mystical Space Typhoon

Used by 12/14 decks.
Total of 32 copies used.
An average of 2.28 copies per deck.
Only 8 of the 12 decks that mained this card ran the full 3 copies.

Bottomless Trap Hole

Used by 9/14 decks.
Total of 17 copies used.
An average of 1.21

Dimensional Prison

Used by 6/14 decks.
Total of 14 copies used.
An average of 1 per deck.

Mirror Force

Used by 3/14 decks.
Total of 4 copies used.
An average of 0.28 copies per deck.

Torrential Tribute

Used by 10/14 decks.
Total of 18 copies used.
An average of 1.28 copies per deck

Solemn Warning

Used by 11/14 decks.
Total of 21 copies used.
An average of 1.5 copies per deck.

Solemn Judgment

Used by 9/14 decks
An average of 0.64 copies per deck

Luckily, an activation of Warning or Judgment can put the opponent in danger territory for a Malefic Cyber End Dragon! Whilst the following is pretty redundant, every deck but 2 ran Heavy Storm and all decks ran Dark Hole so it essentially adds an average of 2 cards to every deck that hurt.

As you can see, the cards that hurt this deck the most are cards like MST and Bottomless Trap Hole/Solemns etc that can clear monsters and break your setup. The deck plays such a low monster count that, without protection through Lance and Bribe, you can find yourself struggling against back row heavy decks; unless you can just beat face with Ancient Gear Gadjiltron I guess! The numbers for the cards that hurt the most break down as follows:

115 commonly played cards that hurt this deck heavily.
An average of 10.19 cards that specifically hurt per deck.
This is essentially 1/4 draws that will be a card that can potentially hurt without adequate protection.

This obviously doesn't count all the cards that can possibly hurt; it only counts the major problem cards and those that are played commonly throughout the meta. If you scroll back to the discussion of cards this deck can make dead given a decent setup, you will note that the cards are spread 24.05 to 10.19. This means that, if this deck is able to setup as theorized, for every card your opponent draws that will hurt, they should be drawing 2 or more that are dead. This would equal an extremely rough estimated opening hand of 3 dead cards, 1-2 useful cards and 1 miscellaneous card. These seem like decent odds.

Now, to summarize this incredibly monumental wall of text. As I stated previously, I am not trying to suggest that this deck is Tier 1 or the best deck. However, I am stating that if this deck sets up it is incredibly obnoxious. It CAN render over half of an average deck weak or completely useless. It CAN set up fields that will make your opponents advantage gained through cards like Dark Bribe useless through negation and prevention of cards like Skill Drain. For anyone with <$300 to spend, I feel that theory suggests this deck can hold its own to a surprising degree; at least game 1. I may discuss game 2 and beyond as well as some additional choices in the future.

Thanks for reading and, again, I apologize for the large word count here!