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How to Build a Competitive Yu-Gi-Oh Deck

Updated on February 20, 2017
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 Yugioh 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 Card
Card Name
What 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 identity when other players perform illegal moves, and probably make some friends along the way.

Final Word

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.

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

Which rule do you consider the most important?

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Are you Ready for Part 2?

Once you've mastered the tips in this hub, the writer suggests advancing your game by reading the sequel: How to Build a Competitive Yu-Gi-Oh Deck, Part 2, which covers determining your deck's theme, net advantage, and improving the probability of drawing the cards you need, among other things.


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    • profile image

      omniknight 2 years ago

      Great article, well-written and entertaining

    • Zeron87 profile image

      Zeron87 2 years ago

      Thanks buddy ^_^. If you need dueling tips, techniques, or more laughs, be sure to check out my others.

    • profile image

      Alex 2 years ago

      Yea i live in Cali n wanted to see if you would critique my deck. But if you are interested my email is

      My theme is evilswarm and i play every sat. Want to see if you can give a prediction on my avergage.

    • Zeron87 profile image

      Zeron87 2 years ago

      Sure buddy ^_^. Evilswarm, in my opinion, is one of the best stun archetypes, but I'd love to see a Bujin vs Evilswarm matchup one day. Since I run Hieratics, you guys cause a lot of problems for me :P, lol. If you could, go to Pojo forums and message Mist87.

      I'll take a look at your deck there.

    • profile image

      Metalian 16 months ago

      Hi! I play Yugioh since the beginning with some breaks among all those years, but i never stopped loving this game. Now i play online, because due to lack of time i cant go to nearby shops for tournaments etc. I still have a zombie deck in real, but most of times all of those years i was playing relinquished deck. I tried to build a new one but it doesnt work as i would like especially after the new ban list (one Tour Guide, one Preparation etc etc). Would you suggest any ideas please? Τhanks in advance!

    • Zeron87 profile image

      Zeron87 13 months ago

      Thank you for taking an interest in my hub :). Unfortunately, Zombies aren't what they used to be, but I can promise you there are still some archetypes that'll give your opponent a migraine with a brick on top. Vampire Zombies can snatch opponent's monsters and bring themselves back if destroyed; if you're into low level monsters, the Wights gain attack for every Skull Servant in the Graveyard and special themselves from the graveyard by banishing each other; the Onis (Blue-Blooded, Red-Headed, Yellow-Bellied) would work great if your going for an Xyz build. However, I think the most competitive Zombies now are the new Shiranui Zombies, who banish each other for effects and to bring themselves back from the Grave.

      The biggest problem with Zombies now is their once proud skill, the ability to keep popping their heads from the Grave, is now a stapled game mechanic for the Pendulums (Just replace the Graveyard with the Extra deck...)! However, that doesn't mean the archetype is dead (no pun intended).

    • profile image

      Hilly Bobby 10 months ago

      How do you build a good elemental hero deck

    • Zeron87 profile image

      Zeron87 10 months ago

      Elemental Hero decks, unfortunately, don't have the bite they once did to keep-up with the current meta. If you're going the fusion route, you're better off trying Fluffals to be competitive, but if you just love ya Heroes, the anti-meta route is where most people are cashing their cards. A Masked Hero Deck with Elemental Hero (EH) Shadow Mist, Dark Law, and Acid (and of course, Mask Change), devastate the worst decks you'll fight these days (Dark Law devastates Graveyard reliant decks/ Masked Hero Acid hurts Pendulums).

      If you insist on using Elemental Heroes though, I'd personally try to focus around Absolute Zero. He's one of those darned if you touch him/darn if you don't cards (Unless, of course, Pendulums @_@).

      Good luck buddy. Hope I answered your question, and thanks for the comment.

    • profile image

      frostygiants 3 months ago

      Hi! I recently got back into Yugioh and I was wondering, if any, what would be the best deck type for someone whos got a knack for getting her cards sent directly to the graveyard?

    • Zeron87 profile image

      Zeron87 2 months ago

      @frostygiants: You mean YOU have the habit of getting your cards sent to the graveyard? In that case, I'd suggest a deck that gets stronger the more cards you have in the grave: Lightsworns or Wight Zombies. Lightsworns appear to be timeless, as Konami keeps releasing support for them. Wight Zombies are older, but the more Skull Servants you have in the graveyard (or cards with the Skull Servant name), the stronger King of the Skull Servants becomes, and it's easy get one with 4000 or 5000 attack in that deck. Basically, both decks will have you laughing as your opponent destroys your cards, because it'll only fuel your strategy.

      On a more modern note, if you're not scared of the Synchro mechanic, and for a more competitive route, I'd recommend Yang-Zing. And if you feel MORE ambitious (maniacal laugh): Yang-Zing-Metalfoes (Synchro-Pendulums). The Yang-Zing are more complicated, but whenever they're destroyed, they special each other from the deck, and the Metalfoes destroy cards you control to gather their support Spells and Traps from the deck (to make a long story short...). In my part four of how to Defeat Annoying, Popular Decks, I cover the Yang-Zing. You should check it out ;). Hope this helps, and thanks for commenting!

    • profile image

      MusicMaster 6 weeks ago

      What would you suggest for someone that's trying to create a Dragon/Machine or Machine/Warrior deck? Also, are there any cards based around music, acting, or "the arts" in general?

    • Zeron87 profile image

      Zeron87 6 weeks ago

      @MusicMaster: Thanks for commenting! And all very interesting questions ^_^. When I think of Dragon machines, the first thing that came to mind was the Chimeratech archetype. They recently received a lot of good support, can OTK out of nowhere, but are actually machines that look like dragons... If you're looking for a competitive archetype that blends machines and dragons seamlessly, your best bet are the Speedroids. All of the little monsters are machines, but their boss monsters are synchro dragons (forms of Clear Wing Synchro Dragon to be precise.)

      Warriors/Machines? Again: Machines that look like warriors: Superheavy Samurai. Warriors and Machines together... is a bit harder. You might have to invent that one buddy ;). The best thing I can think of is a level 4 deck, maybe a mix of Geargia and level 4 warriors? I could even see you making an Earth-themed Warrior/Machine deck.

      As for cards based around the arts and music, there are plenty, especially since the release of Arc V (the protagonist and his friends are dueltainers, meaning they're performers with Yugioh monsters instead of hardcore duelists). The Abyss Actors (actors), Symphonics (musical instruments), Performapal (circus animals), Performage (stage magicians), Melodious (singing), Aquaactress (Spongebob's acting troupe, but seriously, acting), and probably more I can't think of now. Hope I answered your questions. Best of luck, buddy!

    • profile image

      Lmao 5 weeks ago

      Hey! I want to build a synchro deck, but I really don't know where to start. I know mostly which spells and traps I possibly need, but I'm kind of stuck on the monsters. I kind of want to build a deck around Black Rose Dragon because it's my favorite synchro monster! Also is there any synchro monsters/monsters that is just generally good in any deck? Great article by the way!

    • Zeron87 profile image

      Zeron87 4 weeks ago

      Lmao: Thanks for the comment, and the compliment ^_^. Let's see... If you want to make Black Rose Dragon deck that takes advantage of all its abilities (its ability to blow the field and reduce an opponent's monster's attack to zero), then the archetypes I recommend are Naturia and classic Quickdraw-Plant Synchro. Naturia have more stun, anti-meta options and greatly surprise your opponent if you use Antjaw currently (Naturia turbo is one of my favorite rogue decks), while Quickdraw-Plant Synchro as access to Quasar Dragon easily and Turbo-Junk extra deck options, even though in this age of dueling you'll lose resources quickly... Both can easily synch for 7 though so it's your choice buddy.

      As for monsters... Unfortunately, the era of Monster staples for all deck types is kind of over. It all depends on what archetype you choose, but if you want to make a dedicated Black Rose Deck, then Glow-up Bulb, Spore, Dandylion, Spore, and Mathematician are going to be needed whether you go the Naturia or Plant-Synchro route.

      As for Synchro monsters (Extra deck options period), that's an entirely different story ^_^. T.G. Hyper Librarian, Formula Synchron (If your deck can handle him); Armades, Keeper of Boundaries; Scrap Dragon, Stardust Dragon, and Beezle of Diabolical Dragons (the best wall, like ever) are all Synchro staples. If you have a deck with Earth monsters that synchro summon (like the one you'll basically be making), then the Naturia Synchro monsters are also staples (All of them. They all gangsta). Hope I answered your questions, buddy, and thanks again!

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