Go With the Flow

Frazier SmithGreetings, duelists! We have two bigger events left in this short format—ARGCS Vegas this past week, and YCS Chicago two weeks after that. If you’re planning on attending one of these events, then I have some advice that I think will help you. I’m sure you’ve noticed the recent popularity of Mermails, which can be directly attributed to Patrick Hoban, but there also seems to be a steady surge of Bujins, Harpies, Dark World, and other oddities, too. With this slight increase in other, completely different decks, I feel there couldn’t be a better time to discuss how to prepare for shifting metas. I also want to provide some tips on the idea of making changes to your deck right before an event, and weeks before an event.

For starters, let me just say that over the course of my career I have been a victim to every form of manipulation you can imagine when it comes to changing your right deck before an event, and it is not fun. I can recall going into several events with confidence, only to lose it all to the criticism and scrutiny surrounding certain card choices. I wasn’t just listening to anyone, either, in case that’s what you were thinking. I was listening to reputable sources in my circle; these people had several tops, wins, or some combination of both. This, of course, led to me making huge changes that were untested and based solely off of my friends’ “theory-oh.” Needless to say, I didn’t do so well in those tournaments (except on maybe one rare occasion). Take it from me; do not change the core of your deck on the night before. If you were comfortable with your choices in every instance leading up to the event, and they have showed you legitimate success (beating randoms on DuelingNetwork does not count, just by the way), then never be afraid to stick to your guns.

However, the meta does change /slightly/ with each tournament, and adjustments must be made. The same combination of 40-cards that worked at the last event might’ve become sub-optimal by the time the next one rolls around. Be conscious of that. Most of the changes should take place in your side deck—to be honest—but maybe a few main deck changes are warranted as well. I remember in 2011, when Billy Brake won YCS Toronto with Plants, and then added proceeded to add an extra[ccProd] Maxx “C”[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Caius the Shadow Monarch[/ccProd] to his main deck for his follow-up win at YCS Ohio. This was a genius decision because he knew there would more Plant players at the next event, and Maxx “C” was the deciding factor in the mirror match. Caius became a better card because it dealt with opposing [ccProd]Thunder King Rai-Oh[/ccProd]s, [ccProd]Sangan[/ccProd]s, and [ccProd]Gorz the Emissary of Darkness[/ccProd]. He didn’t bother to change the core of the deck, and that’s the point. It only took a minor tweak, the same high skill level, and a little luck to win back-to-back YCS tournaments.

On the plus side, some decks will simply become better picks for an event because of the results from the last. For example, if Hieratics and Mermails became the two best decks, one could say that Evilswarm would be a good meta call. If Bujins and Noble Knights were ever to become the best decks, then Prophecy would become a good meta call, and so on and so forth. Don’t put your deck down the second it becomes viable.


Some of us like to play the same deck throughout an entire format. There is nothing wrong with that, either. In fact, I think it builds confidence and knowledge on specific matchups and strategies that other players might not be aware of. If you switch your entire deck for every event, you may never get a chance to fully master it, and that one misplay you made could’ve been the difference between scrubbing out and topping. At the same time, if your deck is currently tier 3 or lower, you may want to reconsider it for competitive play. If you’re out to have fun, then play whatever you want at that point, but for those of us with the competitive nature, stick to one of the higher tier decks.

One of the biggest decisions to make during shifting metas is whether you want to maindeck hand traps or not, and how many of each to include. This is especially tricky during the beginning of a format because there’s no physical evidence telling you what the most popular deck will be. Sure, there might be an obvious best deck from the start, but for the most part, you will be guessing what everyone else is going to play. A great example of this comes from my YCS Toronto experience in 2013, where I played against Madolche, Dragunity, Mermails, Constellars, Evilswarm, Karakuri, and a few other homebrews. There is no way I could have predicted so many different decks. Not only that, but there’s also the fact that you could get paired up against the most random things, instead of the meta that you planned for. Therefore, be wary of overanalyzing the meta.

I personally love hand traps, but they suck in metas where there are too many different decks, or if the best deck is still undefined. Effect Veiler is the safest choice if you feel that you absolutely must play some form of hand trap, though. It at least can be used against a variety of things and in tons of situations. Maxx “C” is the more devastating hand trap; however, the risk of running into a deck that really doesn’t utilize special summons can be quite annoying.

The final thing you must avoid when learning to go with the flow of the meta, is to never assume that your local Yu-Gi-Oh scene gives an accurate portrait of the entire community. This used to happen to me all the time. I would go to locals for weeks leading up to an event, and there might’ve been ten-too-many Geargia players there, which had me tweaking my deck too much to beat it. Upon arriving to the event, I realized that Geargia wasn’t nearly as popular in everyone else’s local area, and maybe I shouldn’t be maining cards like [ccProd]Nobleman of Crossout[/ccProd]. Don’t be deceived by what you’re used to seeing around you; the meta is different everywhere (except in those rare one-deck formats). I try to keep my side decks as generalized as possible for this very reason.

Learn to predict trends and go with the flow of the format. Many people have gained success through mastering this skill alone.

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

-Frazier Smith

-The Dark Magician

Frazier Smith

Latest posts by Frazier Smith (see all)