Do You Even Side, Bro?
The current Yu-Gi-Oh! format is a unique one, filled with competitive decks that aim to end the game quickly and with no mercy. The key to avoiding a quick loss and a merciless defeat often does not lie in your main deck or even your extra deck. That's right: The true key to success often lies in the cards you choose to side in between each round of play.
An appropriate yet effective side deck can—and will, more often than not—be the deciding factor in the outcome of a duel. That being said, it takes a level of research and caution to build a respectable side deck.
The Side Deck Needs to Consider Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Some players see others using certain cards, and they will add them based on that, but why add two extra draw cards if your deck is not weak on drawing? It is important to know the strong and weak aspects of your deck and anticipate how to play to your strengths while avoiding weaknesses.
It is equally, if not more, important to be able to do the same in regards to your opponent's deck. When we side, we side to make our deck stronger against a foe's deck, but we also side to eliminate advantages our opponent might have.
My Top Four Must-Have Side Deck Cards
I am about to present you with four cards that are vital to a good side deck. You will be familiar with some of them, while others may seem downright strange to you. These are generic cards, but let's remember that the term "generic" is a good one in Yu-Gi-Oh!. While in the real world that term often means lower quality, in Yu-Gi-Oh!, it simply means it will work with any deck.
These cards are going to let you counter some nasty situations and avoid taking major damage, all the while inflicting that punishment on your opponent. So let's look at cards that will keep your victory train from getting derailed.
- XYZ Encore
- Chain Disappearance
- Anti-Magic Arrows
- Gravedigger's Trap Hole
This quick-play spell card happens to be one of those cards I am certain you have never heard of. While not as prominent as they once were, XYZ monsters remain among the most overpowered and easily utilized monsters in the game. Even though they don't see the play they used to, the ones that do make it to the field are often ridiculously hard to deal with, often having omni-negates and super high attack potential: Toadally Awesome, Draco Future, Hope Harbinger, and the list goes on and on.
These cards hit the field and wreak some royal havoc if they are not stopped immediately. In most cases, swinging over these beasties is just not a viable option. XYZ Encore gives us an edge since we no longer have to swing over the monster but just deal with the material that created it. Let's explore the card text.
"Target one face-up XYZ monster your opponent controls that has material, detach all XYZ material from it, and if you do, return it to the extra deck; then, if there is a monster card in the graveyard among the detached material, special summon as many of these monsters as possible from the graveyard to your opponent's field in face-up defense position. Their levels are reduced by 1 on the field. Cards and effects cannot be activated in response to this card's activation."
XYZ Encore vs. Toadally Awesome
Let's look at what many consider the most lethal XYZ out right now: Toadally Awesome!
- We go first and set our XYZ Encore to the trap zone and pass.
- Our opponent gets two level 2 aqua monsters on field and makes the Toad. This creature is an omni-negate that can steal cards it negates and play them on their field.
- But we flip Encore. Now the town material are discarded to the graveyard, and Toad goes hopping back to the extra deck.
- The two material cards come back, but now they are level 1 and cannot be used to summon Toad again.
In Yu-Gi-Oh!, getting our opponent to overreach and use more resources than needed is a great way to get to that victory circle, and Encore does just that. It pulls the boss monsters off the field and forces the opponent to rethink their strategy.
Ever wanted to cripple your opponent's deck before they even get going? Of course you have! We all have! Most Yu-Gi-Oh! decks in the current format require a starter card to get their engine up and running. In most cases, this card is a low rank, low attack monster card. Cutting off this card will often force the opponent to rethink their strategy, pass their turn, or even in some cases scoop the game and move on to the next.
Cutting off that starter card is a great way to disrupt your opponent's game play, and Chain Disappearance can do that—and do it with added flair.
"When a monster(s) with 1000 or less attack is summoned: Banish that monster(s), then your opponent banishes all cards with the same name as that card(s) from their hand and deck."
Remember, most decks that utilize starters are going to run them at 3 to increase the chances of drawing into them early on in the duel. Let's look at how this can really affect game play.
Chain Disappearance vs. Burning Abyss
So we are playing Burning Abyss, or BA for short. This deck thrives on monsters going to the graveyard and plays several cards that are starters. Graff, Scarm, and Rubic are all prime candidates, but they are also prime targets for Chain Disappearance.
- So our opponent summons one—let's say Graff.
- We flip over our Chain Disappearance and banish Graff from field.
- Now our opponent must banish all copies of Graff they have in hand and deck. Graff is no longer a viable starter because we have removed all copies from the game.
Any deck running 1K or fewer starters falls victim to this card. For example, Sharks with Beautuniful Princess, Spright, Salamangreat, and even Speedroid all fall prey to this card's ability.
A lot of times, cutting off a starter and removing all copies of it will net you a victory because the opponent will just scoop the hand. It's hard to play a Yu-Gi-Oh! engine when the keys have been taken away from you.
This card has probably gone under your radar. As a player who often plays OTK decks, I can assure you this card makes facilitating that OTK so much more effective. Being able to swing with a big monster like Maju or Five Headed Dragon without worry from the back row is such a good feeling.
"At the start of the battle phase: For the rest of this turn after this card resolves, spell and trap cards and their effects can not be activated. Cards and effects cannot be activated in response to this card's activation."
Talk about a wow factor! What does this mean? Let me break it down.
Anti-Magic Arrows vs. Burn
You are playing a Burn player, and they are notorious for setting Magic Cylinder and various Mirror Force cards. You are sitting on two summoned Blue Eyes White Dragons poised and ready to attack, but your opponent has a mighty back row set, and you are certain any one of them will either send that 3K damage back to you or send your dragon to the shadow realm. The solution is Anti-Magic Arrows.
- Enter battle phase and drop Arrows. Now swing. It doesn't matter what cards are lurking in that back row, because your opponent can't activate them, anyways!
- Your opponent is going to eat 6K of ouch, and regardless of Cylinders or Mirror Forces defending them, they are powerless to stop it.
I am an avid OTK player with Machina and Numeron, and this card has saved me numerous times from getting myself into a bind when I play highly defensive players. Having that added assurance that my opponent can't just flip a trap and ruin my battle strategy is great.
Gravedigger's Trap Hole
Let's face it, handtraps are running the show in the current Yu-Gi-Oh! format. Ghost Girls are more common than ever before, and cards like DD Crow and Niberu are stirring strategic minds into a frenzy. Having a card that helps combat these types of cards is vital, and Gravedigger's Trap Hole does just that. The best part is we not only stop their handtrap from getting to us; we also inflict 2K damage.
"When your opponent activates a monster effect in their hand or GY, or when your opponent's banished monster effect is activated: Negate its effect, and if you do, inflict 2000 damage to your opponent."
Gravedigger's Trap Hole vs. Ash
This card does what I call multi-tasking.
- Let's say you throw down Reinforcements and get Ashed.
- This card negates Ash and does 2K damage, but it is also a vital card for keeping effects that activate in the graveyard at bay.
Tearlament cards get stopped in their tracks because of this card. Gravedigger's Trap Hole can change the very outcome of the game.