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How to Build a Competitive Yu-Gi-Oh Deck

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Self proclaimed dark writer, mad scientist, anime fanboy, and gaming enthusiast. Witness the latest creation from my lab, and enjoy ^_^.

These cards want win.

These cards want win.

Everybody hates losing. Failing once can humble us, failing twice makes us examine ourselves. Failing consecutively can break the spirit and make us lose our enjoyment of something we care about. In the worst-case scenario, it causes us to surrender, to quit, to bow our heads in shame from that thing we once cherished. But often, what we need for success is something so simple. It could be luck, it could be in finding a way to defeat the opponent. But what if it's something even simpler than that?

What if the key to victory lies in the cards we hold, in rearranging those cards and developing the habits to gain the cards we need? Knowing how to manage the decks you already have and the methods to accurately gather the cards you need will help you create more competitive Yu-Gi-Oh decks.

Rule 1: Remember the Basics of Construction

All instruction books that accompany starter decks explain the basics. A Yugioh deck contains more than 40 cards. 20 of those slots belong to Monsters, 10 to Spells, 10 to Trap cards, and any beyond 40 should maintain the 2:1:1 ratio. Often neglected is the importance of keeping your deck at or around 40 cards. As an old friend once explained to me, imagine you're playing a card game where one golden card can guarantee you victory. Wouldn't you want to draw that golden card every time to achieve that instant victory and satisfaction?

Unfortunately for you, 39 cards must stand between you and that golden card. Now, taking into account this scenario, why would you want to decrease your chances of drawing that golden card by adding more obstacles? Each card you add beyond the 40 minimum takes you one card away from drawing that boss card you need to emerge triumphant. If you can afford to add cards that give you more draws, that will be even better since it'll bring you even closer to the golden card. Your 40 card deck which includes draw cards such as Jar of Greed, Cardcar D, or Allure of Darkness turns it more into a 38 or 39 card deck, bringing you even closer to the cards you need.

I, myself, have a fetish for bird women.  You should see how my girlfriend cosplays for Valentine's Day ^_^.

I, myself, have a fetish for bird women. You should see how my girlfriend cosplays for Valentine's Day ^_^.

Rule 2: Eliminate What Doesn't Work

Let's say you're running with a Harpie Deck because you want to take advantage of their new support released in the Lord of Tachyon Booster, or you love birds, or you have a fetish for bird women. Whatever the case, there's this new card you've got, Simorgh, Bird of Ancestry, and the card looks so awesome and has such cool effects that you can't help but place it in your deck.

There's just one problem, each time you draw this perfect card, it stays in your hand. You fail to special summon it with Monster Reborn, you never get the tributes established to summon it, and when you do it falls into a Bottomless Traphole or faces a Solemn Warning. Either way, it never makes an impact on your game.

If such is the case with any card, ditch it and replace it with something else. The card may fit your theme and make your deck look cooler but if you're getting tired of obnoxious know-it-alls or that weeks dueling comedian giving you deck tips, I suggest you eliminate what makes you feel good for what produces results. With that said, pretentiously throwing away a card you added after one match is the equivalent of throwing your deck across the room.

Experienced duelists can tell after 3 matches if a card works, inexperienced duelists should test a card for 5 matches. If you love a card so much, surround it with platinum and sport it as a necklace. Do not, under any circumstances, let that card drag down your strategy if you desire victory.

Rule 3: Avoid Situational Cards

A similar circumstance arises with Spell and Trap cards. Most duelists find it difficult to choose between Stamping Destruction and Mystical Space Typhoon (MST) in a Dragon deck. The former destroys a Spell or Trap Card if you have a Dragon Monster fighting for you and inflicts 500 damage to the opponent. The latter is a Quick-Play Spell that destroys a Spell or Trap Card.

If you want to remain competitive, MST should win every time. When looking at two cards with similar effects, ask yourself, "What functions would these two cards have in my deck?" Then ask yourself, “Which card achieves that function the most efficiently?” Needless to say, more proficiency lies in possessing the option to destroy a Spell or Trap Card regardless of what type of monster is on the field.

The same remains true for cards competing with Call of the Haunted. Always choose Call of the Haunted over reviving traps that bring back only one type of monster, such as Glorious Illusion, Dragon's Rebirth, Limit Reverse, or Amazoness Willpower. Remember, the fewer restrictions to activate powerful effects, the better.

Remember kids:  Always say "No" to Stamping Destruction, especially after you lose a Duel.

Remember kids: Always say "No" to Stamping Destruction, especially after you lose a Duel.

Rule 4: When in Doubt, Go to Staples

For those unfamiliar with the term, staples are cards which one can... staple into any deck to make them better. Whether a Spell, Trap, or Monster Card, staples transcend deck themes and will strengthen your strategy until you find the cards necessary to abet what you're running.

Below is a small list of Monsters, Traps, and Spells considered staples for any deck type. Of course, new ones will be released as the game develops, and there exists staples for specific deck strategies. Future Ban/Limited lists may affect this list; afterall, who knew the Tour Guide from the Underworld would ever lose her lover, Sangan?

Type of CardCard NameWhat it Does


Soul Charge

Perform a Kaio-ken to summon your monsters from the Grave, even if the pain burns you and prevents an attack afterwards.


Dark Hole

Sucks all Monsters laughing at your losing streak into eternal darkness.

Quick-Play Spell

Mystical Space Typhoon

What else can destroy a Spell or Trap but a magical tornado from space?

Quick-Play Spell

Forbidden Lance

A cute maiden dances with a lance, the Monster watching lowering its guard while so distracted it's unaffected by Spell and Traps.


Call of the Haunted

Brings back one of your old friends to terrorize your opponent, but more often for you to hide behind when cornered.


Bottomless Traphole

Allows you to laugh at your opponent's pretentious move while their Monster falls into an endless abyss.


Solemn Judgment

Stops all self-Summons and Spells and Trap Cards. Don't be afraid of losing those lifepoints.


Solemn Warning

Judgment won't stop a Monster revived by a Spell or Trap Card or Monster Card effect. This card will.


Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter

Doggy mauls any card when disturbed from sleeping and destroys three of your favorite shoes, speeding up your deck. Buy him; leave the leash at home.


Effect Veiler

Performs a funny dance while dying, distracting your opponent's monster from using an effect during their turn.


Battle Fader

When your opponent attacks, he flies from your hand; you both try to figure out what the world he is. Your opponent's about to say something, but by then the Battle Phase's over.


Gorz the Emissary of Darkness

You get beat-up, then this guy jumps down with his high attack and stupid expression and says, “What happened?” He apologizes by creating another Monster who represents the anguish you endured.

Rule 5: Know Your Card's Rulings

It's always embarrassing to use a great card you've been using well forever only for your opponent to say, “You can't do that.” Even worse, he gets the judge in on it too, who also declares, “You can't do that.” The ruling ruins your entire plan; your deck never feels the same again.

Before you decide to invest in a card, make sure its rulings don't make the card more of an impediment than a benefit. Make sure you either research your cards' effects or ask a veteran or judge if you're ever confused about the card text. Even little squabbles you encounter with your friends should be addressed by an outside, more experienced party, even after your group comes to a consensus that makes sense.

Remember, Colossal Fighter can continually revive itself after getting destroyed in battle, yet Spear Cretin must have a target first before it hits the grave, even though both effects activate in the Graveyard. “It makes sense,” is never a good argument for a ruling, because rulings can change with the seasons to balance the game against new techniques and cards released.

Rule 6: Research! Research! Research!

In order to get better and develop your talents, you must fill yourself with knowledge that works. You must research decks similar to yours, talk to people running similar decks, and ask advice from veterans in the game. Your goal isn't to copy someone's work but to take aspects from other strategies to improve your own.

The most enjoyable spice of the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG is everyone bringing his or her individual strategy to the table and asking others how to enhance their skill in a game you all love. Also, the twist you create in your deck may be that one winning element missing in others. By doing more research, you'll improve your knowledge of the game, be able to identify when other players perform illegal moves, and probably make some friends along the way.

Good Luck, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Happy Hunting out there.

Good Luck, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Happy Hunting out there.

Reap Rewards That Well Outshine the Risks

The Yu-Gi-Oh Trading Card Game is a popular, world-wide phenomenon which managed to produce comparable popularity to Magic: The Gathering, another widely celebrated TCG, in such a short time. With the dynamics of different card types interacting with each other, the recording of life points, card rulings, new card types released (Synchro, Xyz), new sets exemplifying old card types, and a ban/limited list to keep the game balanced, Yugioh can be a challenging endeavor for a newcomer.

Playing the game for fun, making new friends, traveling to new places to meet others with similar interests, and simply challenging oneself make these obstacles worthwhile. It takes a good risk/reward system to give any game presence and replay value. A few risks associated with bullies, jerks, and loquacious pricks always exists. Yet with this game, if one is willing to proceed on the journey of self-improvement, you can reap rewards that well outshine the risks, just as the Sun outshines the Moon.

Once you've mastered the tips in this article, I suggest advancing your game by reading: How to Build a Competitive Yu-Gi-Oh Deck (Advanced), which covers determining your deck's theme, net advantage, and improving the probability of drawing the cards you need, among other things.


Wallelujah on December 26, 2019:

Where is ash blossom and joyous spring? It's a hand trap that literally serves solemn judgment but for free!

Zeron87 (author) on July 01, 2019:

Grayson Adkins: Thanks, man! And you're even more awesome for posting your appreciation.

Ryan Johnson: What type of combo deck are you looking for? Do you have any preference? As a matter of fact... LULZ... You just gave me an article idea.

Ryan JOHNSON on July 01, 2019:

Could you help me build a combo yugioh deck

Grayson Adkins on June 20, 2019:

You are awesome

Zeron87 (author) on February 24, 2019:

Atlantian Darkmagician master: Thanks for commenting! About your deck... It looks a little "heavy," as in you have too many high level monsters. I suggest you either go the Blue Eyes White Dragon route, the Dark Magician route, or specialize in one of legendary knights (all three is also... kind of heavy and will prove to be too situational of a deck). You can also choose to predominately go with a Blue Eyes or Dark Magician deck but use the Legendary Knights (one mind you) as a tech.

I'll jump right to the heart now instead of skipping around the bend and say: You need to narrow down the theme of your deck. You can find out more about deck themes in my Part 2 of this hub.

Hope my comment helped, buddy, and happy hunting out there!

Zeron87 (author) on February 24, 2019:

se7enstring: Thanks for the comment, man! If you're trying to build friends in the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG, I'd definitely say it's just as viable now as it used to be, even more so since playing online brings more people together than before. If you're ever in the neighborhood of YGO Percy, hit me up via my email. I'd love to play a game ^_^