Skip to main content

How to Build a Competitive Yu-Gi-Oh Deck

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

I consider myself a gaming enthusiast, from chess and checkers to Yu-Gi-Oh TCG, console gaming, and beyond.

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.

Scroll to Continue

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 ^_^

OddEyesHeroDragon: Sounds like a hub topic. I'll definitely look into it :).

jmithporter: And thank you for your support. Keep shuffling those decks.

Atlantian Darkmagician master on February 13, 2019:

Here’s my deck

My main deck:


Divine Serpent Geh


Magical exemplar

Fabled ashenviel

Blue eyes white dragon x3

Dark magician x3

Magicians rod x2

Legendary knight timaeus

Legendary knight hermos

Legendary knight critias

Dark magician girl

Absolute crusader x2

Sorcerer of dark magic

Magicians robe x2


Thousand knives

Dark magic attack

Illusion magic

Dark magic circle


The eye of timaeus

The claw of hermos

The fang of critias

Legend of heart

Magical dimension


Eternal soul

Magician navigation

Dark renewal

Black illusion

Magical hats

Crush card virus

Mirror force

Compulsory evacuation device

Threatening roar

Extra Deck:

Amulet dragon

Doom virus dragon

Mirror force dragon #op card I recommend, is summoned by using fang of critias on mirror force.

Rocket hermos Cannon

Goddess bow

Red eyes black dragon sword

Time magic hammer

Dark magician the dragon knight

Dark magician girl the dragon knight

Dark paladin

Ebon high magician

Blue eyes twin burst dragon

And finally, blue eyes ultimate dragon.

se7enstring on February 05, 2019:

Great job, thank you for continuing to support the game. I have a soft place in my heart for YGO TCG; cherished fragment of childhood. I even used to craft my own trading cards for my brother and I to play. I want to seriously get back into this hobby and work my way up to playing competitively. I realized, besides playing guitar and or socializing with other already-CLOSE fellow musician friends, I have no social life. I am a college full-time student out here in the south east coast USA. Anyone want to link up and duel for fun, please hit me up. (currently I play virtually via Duel Links)

OddEyesHeroDragon on December 27, 2018:

hello. thank you for the article that you posted. I was wondering if you could give some insight on how to build a good Galaxy Eyes dragon deck.

jmithporter on August 13, 2018:

Great Article..Well done.

Zeron87 (author) on June 17, 2018:

Travis: Of course, following the tips in my How to Build a Competitive Yu-Gi-Oh deck series will help you build a Dragon deck, but you also have to ask yourself what type of Dragon deck are you trying to make? Are you going the route to make a deck that takes advantage of a Dragon deck's mechanics, or is there a certain style of play you have in mind? Remember: most Dragon decks are all about overpowering your opponent with their overpowering attack, but most Dragon themselves lack protection from Spells and Traps. The key will be your balance between your high level monsters, your means to bring them to the field, and your Spell and Trap support for protection. For more contemporary, competitive builds, I suggest looking at Red Dragon Archfiend, Hieratics (They have a Link coming, but right now are a little meh), Red-Eyes, or Blue-Eyes. The Dragunities (Half a dragon deck) also have some support coming, Felgrands (Half Dragon/half warrior) can do some damage too if you play them right.

SmoothHumor: Ditto on what I mentioned above to Travis. Take two of my Competitive Deck series and call me in the morning ^_^. But seriously, a lone structure deck probably won't do you much good :(. Big Blue is a pretty heavy monster, so you'll want to use the smaller monsters in his family to help you summon him quicker. If you don't have them (or enough in your structure deck), you'll want to look into getting Maiden with Eyes of Blue, B.E. Alternative Dragon, Sage With Eyes of Blue, White Stone of the Ancients, and Blue Eyes Chaos Max Dragon. Another good combo I recommend is the Blue Eyes Spirit Dragon to Azure Eyes Silver Dragon combo for protection (for that one big weakness of Blue-Eyes decks).

On another note: Jeremy Gill, another hubber on here, has hubs covering what cards you should use for specific decks, and I think he's covered Blue-Eyes.

Hope these tips helped!

SmoothHumor on June 13, 2018:

Hey man, I recently got back into yugioh after many years. I just bought a saga of blue eyes white dragon structure deck and I've been getting my ass kicked every time I play. I honestly it's making me not wanna play anymore. Idk if you have any suggestions on what cards to switch out or to add. Or maybe a different deck to buy. Anything would be helpful thanks.

Travis on June 11, 2018:

How do I build a great dragon deck

Card Creator on March 27, 2018:

Thanks again for your help a while back for getting me up to speed with my Toon Deck!

Zeron87 (author) on March 17, 2018:

L-Dubb: Recently, no. The most recent Blackwing support I remember are the Assault Blackwings, which were primarily a group of new Synchros to the club that specialized in destruction and bringing back their buddies from the Grave. If you don't already know about them, I'd try looking them up. Unfortunately, the best new Blackwing, Gofu the Vague Shadow, was banned thanks to Link-abuse. Hope this tip helped ^_^!

L-Dubb on March 15, 2018:

Hey I run a blackwing deck is there any new cards

Zeron87 (author) on February 12, 2018:

AsianNerd: Take a look at How to Build a Competitive Yu-Gi-Oh Deck, Part 2, bru. The link is at the end of this article, right above the comments section. I touch on probability concerning drawing the cards you need in that article.

AsianNerd on February 04, 2018:

How to proportion my deck so I have a percentage probability of getting the base cards I need to complete my combo.

Zeron87 (author) on January 16, 2018:

Yugi Moto: No, Jar of Greed isn't. It's a Trap card that lets you draw 1 card from your deck. You must be thinking of Pot of Greed, that staple Spell everyone would use like a hammer at a construction site if it wasn't banned that lets you draw two cards for no cost.

Yugi Moto on January 15, 2018:

Isn’t jar of greed banned

Zeron87 (author) on January 01, 2018:

Bugattilover16: Thanks for commenting! Unfortunately, I would need to know a little more information to give you a suggestion. It all depends on your play style in general. Do you simply want to play for fun? Are you very competitive? Do you gravitate towards themes that showcase your personality? Do you enjoy working for your victory, or just want to create a strategy not requiring much thought? There are many different archetypes to fit these playstyles, which is one of the things that makes this game so great.

I mostly play Wind monsters and stuff that's bird-themed. Why? The strongest monster I had when I first created a Yu-Gi-Oh deck was Empress Mantis and I had the Rising Air Current as a Field Spell, and I just kept growing cards to fit that theme since. Go to your local comic store, buy yourself a starter deck, and see where things go from there. Build upon that, and you'll discover your playstyle, and consequently the deck you should run.

I will give you THIS recommendation though: Understand Links, the newest Yu-Gi-Oh mechanic. You don't need to play a Link deck, but understanding them will help you with the current state of the game. You'll get your hands on a rulebook with a starter deck too, which will explain all the different summoning methods (In a very beginner-friendly way. I've seen it.), so yeah.

Welcome to the jungle, bugattilover16! Hope to see you around ^_^.

bugattilover16 on January 01, 2018:

hey im new to yugioh and i was wondering if u could give me a few suggestions on decks i should run.

Zeron87 (author) on December 29, 2017:

slender kid: If you're goal is to reduce your deck number, it CAN be a good card (If you want to run 39-37 card deck). However, using the card nets you +0, meaning you don't really gain anything using it, because you would have drawn the next card in your deck instead of the Jar. I would recommend using draw cards at least giving you a +1 (Allure of Darkness, Cards from the Sky, etc.). Upstart Goblin would also be a better choice, because even though you're still netting 0, it's still faster than a Trap.

KeZzA287: Ah, the ole' Red-Eyes Deck. Remember, unlike a Blue-Eyes Deck, with Red-Eyes you're trading speed and power for burning your opponent (the trademark card of the deck, Red-Eyes Fusion, restricts you to that fusion summon and no others that turn.) Getting the Xyz, Red-Eyes Flare Metal Dragon, is a good opening move to burn let your opponent burn, then just be ready to back him up or protect him. Also remember, Archfiend Blackskull Dragon can burn JUST by battling (granted you have Red-Eyes in grave), and Meteor Black Comet Dragon burns just by its summon.

Cards you should always run:

Red Eyes Insight, Return of the Red-Eyes, Black Metal Dragon, Red-Eyes Fusion, Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon

Cards to never run:

Black Dragon's Chick, Inferno Fire Blast, B. Skull Dragon, Meteor B. Dragon

Hope these tips help, and thanks for your comments!

slender kid on December 27, 2017:

hey should I use a jar of greed that lets me draw a card or is it bad?

KeZzA287 on December 26, 2017:

Trying to build a red-eyes deck do you have any tips or must have cards?

Zeron87 (author) on December 22, 2017:

Preston: You're welcome, Preston ^_^. I'll be sure to keep the tips coming. I hope my advice helps you get your groove back.

Preston on December 16, 2017:

Cool thanks I am really competitive and have recently been loseing many this will help they seem like really good tips. So thanks

Zeron87 (author) on December 02, 2017:

CHAOS419: If you're including BLS: Envoy of the Beginning, then I'm assuming you're trying to make a chaos level 1 deck? Most of your Kuribohs are Light monsters so you wouldn't need help there... To balance out the Dark side of the deck, try adding in some Ghostricks, Kinka-Byo (revives your level 1s from the grave), Battle Faders, and Jester Confit. Mystic Piper would also help your deck (draw power). Naturally, you'll want to us Where Arf Thou? and One for One for Spell support.

Something else to think about: I'm a little prejudice here (Wind monsters FTW) but the Lyrical Luscinias are an archetype Level 1 Wind/Wing Beast monsters that Xyz summon, so you might want to take a peek at them, too. Hope these tips help, and thanks for commenting!

CHAOS419 on December 02, 2017:

Hey there, you mind if you help me out with something? I'm trying to build a sort of hybrid deck of level 1 monsters, mostly kuribohs. The only high level monsters I would add would be Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of The Beggining, Dystopia the Despondent and Winged Kuriboh Lv 10. I was wondering if you have any specific cards that could support this deck concept. Thanks.

BEWARE DANGER on November 08, 2017:

Fascinating article man, good job.

BEWARE DANGER on November 05, 2017:

You could use spell-shattering arrow, the only probelm with that is it doen't work on traps

Zeron87 (author) on November 01, 2017:

Hello, Julian Collazo, and thanks for commenting on my article! Sounds like you just gave me a hub idea ;). But to answer your question now: What type of win condition best fits your style? Do you get pleasure from overpowering your opponent with strong monsters? Do you hate direct confrontation so prefer sniping them effect damage? Or are you like me: a control freak who loves their opponent asking them do anything (Why I love Apex Lock and Ritual Beasts). Whichever style of interaction you prefer when dueling, you should find decks playing in that manner.

Hope I answered your question, Julian, and happy hunting out there!

Julian Collazo on October 26, 2017:

Does anyone know what to search up for tips and best theme for you not videos either just reading I can’t watch videos

skullz0013 on June 28, 2017:

Play six samurai after march rules change, they will be broken, easy to use, and consistent

jeff2099 on June 05, 2017:

thanks for this as I have had these problems before

Zeron87 (author) on May 21, 2017:

General legomaster: Pot of the Forbidden? The best deck I can think of for that to work in consistently is the Prediction Princesses. They're a Ritual deck that specializes in using flip-effect monsters. I personally wouldn't use the card in any other deck, considering its high level and it needing to be flipped makes it an easy target for card effects (Maybe a tech in Ghostrick, Subterrors, or Flip effect burn, maybe :\?). A Prediction Princess deck can flip it itself, then flip it back facedown, constantly. You'll have a once per turn Raigeki/Giant Trunade/Pot of Greed. Hope these tips help, and thanks for the comment ^_^.