The Evolving Deckbuilder: Thinking outside the Box

Hello fellow Yu-Gi-Oh players. My name is Robert Timothy Russo. I am from New Jersey and have been playing yugioh for the past 6 years and have been a regular on the YCS circuit for the past 2 years. You may recognize me from my top 4 at YCS Virginia, Top 32’s at YCS Charlotte, and the recent North American WCQ in Pittsburgh.

Today I will be talking to you about the importance of thinking outside the box in deckbuilding, even when the choice seems obvious to most that does not make it optimal. This is something I pride myself on as a player is my ability to take different decks and innovate them to defeat the current metagame. Typically this is easier at the beginning of the format whether it be my X-Saber build that changed the March 2010 format, or older examples like Jonathan Labounty’s PCM deck maining Phoenix Wing Wind Blast. Usually by the middle of the format people have settled into the "standard build" of there respective deck and often are afraid to innovate and try things against the norm. If there is one thing you take away from this article it should be this: Never be afraid to innovate, and never be afraid to question every card in your deck.

In the past this concept aided players like Jerry Wang with his Cyber Valley DAD deck, and more recently helped me top the NAWCQ. I decided to play plants, the most anticipated and consensus "best deck" of the format. However my build was far from standard and was built to anticipate the mirror match and beat it.

Before I go any further here is my main deck from the event.

Monsters: 21

3 Reborn Tengu

2 Lonefire Blossom

2 Effect Veiler

2 Tour Guide of the Underworld

2 Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter

2 Debris Dragon

1 Spore

1 Glow Up Bulb

1 Dandylion

1 Maxx "C"

1 Caius the Shadow Monarch

1 Sangan

1 Gorz, the Emissary of Darkness

1 Genex Ally Birdman

Spells: 12

2 Pot of Avarice

2 Pot of Duality

2 Mystical Space Typhoon

1 One for One

1 Book of Moon

1 Mark of the Rose

1 Mind Control

1 Book of Moon

1 Monster Reborn

Traps: 8

2 Solemn Warning

2 Dust Tornado

1 Call of the Haunted

1 Mirror Force

1 Torrential Tribute

1 Solemn Judgment

Now on the surface this deck seems like the standard plant deck with a few tech choices. Mark of the Rose, Pot of Duality, Genex Ally Birdman, and Maxx "C" would all be defined as "unorthodox" before the NAWCQ. Maxx "C" became a popular choice to help top the mirror matches explosion. Mark of the Rose, allowed me to take control of opposing librarians and use them to draw extra cards as I went off. Duality, while slowing the deck down, added a lot of consistency to my draws and set up explosions a turn later. In hindsight Birdman was a poor choice even with its synergy with tour guide and tengu and I feel as though I should have cut it and played 40 cards.

However, the most important part of this deck are the cards I chose not to play, and if you didn’t notice what they were they are: Dark Hole, and Giant Trunade. I’m sure at this point a lot of you are thinking, blasphemy! Or how stupid! But when constructing this deck I made some difficult choices and decided that in the expected metagame these card choices were suboptimal in the plant mirror match.

For Trunade, most plant decks only set 1-2 backrows at a time and taking a -1 from Trunade. In the mirror match this can cause you to lose games unless you have a game winning explosion right there. Since the mirror is typically more of an advantage grind for me I chose to play dust tornados to remove my opponent’s backrows for good and play a slower game without the risk drawing a card that would be mediocre in a lot of situations in the mirror match. While this choice worked well in the mirror it eventually cost me against T.G. in top 32 and had I seen that matchup prior to the event as more of a threat, I most likely would have chosen to main trunade to combat it.

As for Dark Hole, the plant mirror consists of floater battles with Tengu, Sangan, and Tour Guide. These cards float on the board until a game winning synchro push can be made. Once one player makes this push it is often impossible to recover even if you do not lose all your lifepoints. Dark hole simply wipes out a board of T.G. Hyper Librarian, Formula Syncrho and other synchros that have already generated advantage. Additionally, Dark Hole does little to set up your explosion, particularly game 1 where Thunder King Rai-Oh and Banisher of the Radiance are rare. In game 1 I like to optimize my decks ability to do what it does best, explode, and not waste slots on reactive card choices, like Dark Hole.

In conclusion, I again want to reiterate the importance of innovation in this game and at times questioning even the most basic "staples" in the game. I feel like the game has evolved beyond the point where you can simply start a deck with X card and never question why it is in your deck. If it does not meet the criteria of what your deck is trying to do you should not be playing it in most situations. Again, just because a choice seems obvious it is not necessarily the correct choice.

Thanks for reading guys; be sure to stay tuned for my next 2 articles on an old favorite, X-Sabers, and the new Sept. 1 banlist once it is announced.

-Robert T. Russo