The Importance of Efficient Side Decking Part Two

Greetings duelists! Sorry for the delay between part 1 and part 2 of this article which has taken me about a month to complete. Since the Rhode Island YCS I’ve been very busy with my personal life and preparing for nationals. I finally have some alone time and thought that this would be a great time to expand on part one of my June 30th article!

In my last article, I discussed the importance of side-decks and the impact they can have on a match’s outcome. I discussed the important fact that matches can be won because of side decks alone and that side decks should be thought out thoroughly because you play more sided games than games with your original 40-card main deck.

What really got me thinking about the importance of side decks was when Roy St. Clair got a player profile on the Konami website for the World Championships of 2009 after making it to the top 4 of the most important tournament of the year. When asked about why he chose to play the deck he played (Blackwings), his response was quite simply: “ I realized quickly that Side Deck choices are incredibly important, and I picked Blackwings because they’re good at incorporating necessary cards from the Side Deck.”

At the time, Blackwings were an incredibly good deck choice because they can incorporate cards like Skill Drain, Deck Devastation Virus, Delta Crow - Anti Reverse, etc into their side deck and make them have the best game two’s and three’s in the game. This important factor is what led Roy St. Clair to an almost record-breaking performance for Americans on the World-Championship Level.

Have any of you ever thought about the fact that decks like Dragunity are incredibly powerful in game one, and then wondered why they haven’t really had any YCS-level success? This is quite simply caused by what I like to call “Dragunity Syndrome”. I use this term for any deck that has an incredibly good game one versus most decks, but loses to almost every card that could possibly be in someone’s side deck, even if those cards are in that person’s side deck for different matchups. Cards like Thunder King Rai-Oh, Bottomless Trap Hole, Dust Tornado, D.D. Crow, Effect Veiler, etc are in many side decks because they are useful against a handful of decks and when decks are very immune to common side-deck choices, they immediately fall out of contention and lose to decks that have slightly worse game one’s but much better game two’s and three’s.

Blackwings is one of those decks that has always had the best game two’s and three’s in the game and this is why for a very long time, they were the deck to beat, even when they lost Dark Strike Fighter, 2 Black Whirlwinds, 2 Blackwing - Gale the Hurricane’s, and so forth. The simple fact that a deck can utilize incredibly powerful cards for game two and the fact that decks like Blackwings are immune or essentially immune to most commonly side decked cards (at the time) is what made the deck such a force to be reckoned with.

The reason that T.G. had such an incredible amount of seemingly random success at the World Championship Qualifier just a couple weekends ago is in fact, not random at all. It is due to the fact that people mained and sided cards for matchups like Plants, Fabled, Sabers, GK, GB, etc and disregarded the fact that T.G. even existed. Now that the deck is at the level of popularity that it is, you can certainly expect it to take the backseat to decks like Plants and GK due to the simple fact that people are prepared for it now. After the WCQ, I changed a total of 4 cards in my side deck just because of the T.G. matchup alone. Those 4 cards means that I have a 40+% chance of drawing one of those cards in my opening hand against them giving me a much greater chance to beat them now, then I would have had at the WCQ. Cards like Forbidden Lance, Thunder King Rai-Oh, D.D. Crow, and Royal Decree will see a lot more play in side decks in comparison to cards like Maxx “C” or Chain Disappearance.

To be blunt, the less popular a deck is, the better chance you have to top with the deck as long as you can build a consistent, powerful version of the deck for the tournament that not many people will be prepared for. Gladiator Beasts, for example, can never be the best deck of any format anymore, due to the simple fact that Konami decided to release Gladiator Taming. As soon as GB sees any level of competitive success again, players will immediately start siding three copies of this quick-play Brain Control and make quick work of any GB player.

The next point I wanted to briefly touch on was what to side in and out when you dive into your side deck for a game two. A common mistake I see people make is that they remove 6 or 7 monsters and only put in 1 or 2 leaving them with a 14-monster Plant Deck for Game 2 or an 11-monster GK deck for game 2. Mistakes like this are crucial and will cost you several games if you are not weary of them. Something I like to do is plan what I will side in and out for each matchup and then pile my deck into Monster-Spell-Trap and see what the ratios look like for game 2. For example, if I take a Main Deck that consists of a ratio of 18-14-8 it is because my ideal hand would be to open with 3 monsters, 2 spells and 1 trap. If, for any reason, after game 1 my ratio has changed to 13-15-12, then I must take into account the fact that my ideal starting hand is no longer going to be statistically probable. It is important to take into account the fact that when you side in a lot more traps than you do monsters, that you are changing the way your deck functions. For example, game 1 with my plant deck, my current ratio is 17-12-9. Statistically I should open with about 3 monsters, 2 spells, and 1 trap. I consciously side so that for the mirror match, my ratios go to 16-11-13. This is quite a drastic difference, but it is one that I deem necessary to be successful for game 2. In game 2, where the games are simply a lot more prolonged, a lot more simplified, etc, it comes down to who can simplify the gamestate in their favor through the use of Debunks, Chain Disappearances and D.D. Crows, and then who can take advantage of this simple gamestate the best. For this reason, I realize that I would want my ideal starting hand to contain 2-3 monsters, 1-2 spells, and 2-3 trap cards. instead of the usual 3-2-1 when players do not have as much main-decked hate to counter your combos.

To conclude, simply be aware of what your deck looks like after game 1 for every possible important matchup. There is no such thing as being overly prepared, and seeing what your deck will look like game two should only take a couple minutes. Good luck and happy dueling!