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How to Build a Competitive Yu-Gi-Oh Deck (Advanced)

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

The writer's favorite Yugioh monsters.  Notice a pattern?

The writer's favorite Yugioh monsters. Notice a pattern?

The Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game is an ever-evolving hobby. New sets are in constant release, the banned/limited list influences the flow of tournament play, and players invent new combos and decks to remain competitive. Many aspects change the game on a monthly basis, but none as influential or groundbreaking as the contributions of the players.

How one approaches Yugioh determines one's overall experience, whether one wants to make fun decks, trade, and socialize, or desires to be competitive, learn techniques, and win tournaments, there is something for everyone. Having fun is a state of mind, but matching wits with your peers requires a different mindset. It takes discipline, knowledge, and a swing of probability (a.k.a luck), more so than the next guy or gal to win.

Of these three, knowledge often proves the most lacking, and earnestly so. From goodhearted players not gifted in verbal or written communication to the impatient who make a question carrying a rock up a hill with leg weights to the selfish who withhold information to keep competition low, acquiring knowledge can often be taxing and disheartening. This article provides advanced techniques for competitive deck construction and aims to provide you with the knowledge or generosity other sources may lack. Before we really delve in, however, you might want to read my previous article: How to Build a Competitive Yu-Gi-Oh Deck.

Rule 1: Determine Your Deck's Theme

After following the tips in the article recommended above, our next step should be determining the theme or purpose of your deck. The theme of your deck is different from what type of deck you run (Blue-Eyes, Kozmo-Metalphoes, Stun-Yosenju, etc.). The theme of your deck is an objective you can work around to achieve victory, similar to a complete opening in chess, or a specific sniping position in a Call of Duty game.

For example, the writer specifically runs Ritual Beasts. As any player who has suffered through predominantly female jungle tribes obsessed with green who enslave animals like kawaii Pokemon trainers, there are many combos present in the deck, but one theme primarily exists in it: Ulti-Gaiapelio, the 3200 attack beaststick-effect-negating boss of the deck. When he hits the field, the writer is almost guaranteed a smooth ride the rest of the game, and that’s the definition of a deck theme.

Whether it’s a boss monster or a particular set-up of cards, your deck theme should secure you an advantage over your opponent once established. However, unless your theme contains a win condition (a setup or play that guarantees victory, like Exodia, Spirit Board, etc.), your entire deck should not be built specifically for that theme, for then it will be predictable and easily countered by your opponent. Remember: themes support strategies, strategies should never support themes. A team supporting each other is always harder to beat than one supporting a single star player, an iron-clad philosophy for deck construction.

Remember kids:  If your Blue-Eyes Chaos MAX Dragon asks you what is your deck's theme, you better not say: "It's Blue-Eyes."  That will make him angry.  No one wants to make a MAX dragon angry.

Remember kids: If your Blue-Eyes Chaos MAX Dragon asks you what is your deck's theme, you better not say: "It's Blue-Eyes." That will make him angry. No one wants to make a MAX dragon angry.

Rule 2: Know Your Combos

Even if you plan your deck as meticulously as Scrooge counting his gold before he was scared-straight by three phantoms, duelists play and fold by the moment, that moment what they choose to do with the cards they draw (a.k.a. the Hand). Knowing the combos of your deck and including the cards to run those combos gives you further direction when you don’t draw the “perfect” hand to establish your theme.

Consider this: Your deck is the road trip plan for your opponent’s defeat. A plane ride represents your deck’s theme, the most efficient way to reach your destination. But what if you miss that plane (as will often happen in a duel) or something unexpected happens to the flight? You can wait for the next one (hold your hand until you get the parts needed), but you’re not flying a luxury liner here.

This is The Amazing Race, and your opponent wants to reach the final destination just as bad as you, only his or her final destination is your defeat. The combos in your deck are the alternate routes, or backup plans, when you miss that plane ride. The more you recognize combos, and the more they’re accessible via your deck construction, the more effective you’ll be as a duelist.

Net advantage is definitely vital for deck construction, but the writer knows it effects immediate plays more than your overall strategy. Unfortunately, that's not the point of this hub. The writer will cover how to make better plays another time.

Rule 3: Understand Net Advantage

It’s time to explore the fun part: numbers! As mentioned in the writer’s previous article, cards that need less requirements are better than those needing more (Remember, always say no to Stamping Destruction), but things get complicated when you have cards offering significant advantage with a heavy cost over those directly offering what you want for free. Right? Riiiiiiggghhht? I mean, why use Interrupted Kaiju Slumber (I.K.S) when Dark Hole does the same thing for free? To understand net advantage, you must first accept no card is activated for free.

When calculating a card’s net worth, know that anything you lose puts you in the negative (-), anything you gain puts you in the positive (+). Activating a Spell or Trap already puts you in the negative, because you’re losing the card activated! So, what’s the true cost for activating Dark Hole vs I.K.S?

  • For Dark Hole: Activating, -1 / Your monsters destroyed, 0 to -5.
  • For I.K.S: Activating, -1 / Your monsters destroyed, 0 to -5 / Kaiju special summon, +1.

Realize this is just a single turn advantage, granted no players have cards that activate when destroyed, and not counting the +1 you’ll get for banishing I.K.S later. By itself, despite its requirements, your gaining more with I.K.S than with Dark Hole, making it have more net value than Dark Hole. Determining what you’re actually gaining and losing when playing a card is crucial in knowing whether to include it in your 40 card limit.

Important Note

Even if a card grants you negative net advantage, remember that cards possess what the writer calls potential net advantage depending on the situation. For example, determining whether to Dark Bribe a Dark Hole depends on potential net advantage. It may seem like a bad idea to -1 yourself while granting your opponent a 0 (-1 for the lost of their Spell or Trap; +1 for the card drawn), and the writer argues it would be if you have only one monster on the field. However, what if you have two or three monsters or a powerful one you invested 3 resources to make (3 monsters or a Ritual summon)?

In that case, your losses would well outweigh those of your opponent, and negating Dark Hole would prevent that greater loss. The same argument can be made for Twin Twisters. Netting -2 hurts hard for its activation, but the alternative is you netting less later by losing a field of monsters to a Drowning Mirror Force or your opponent netting advantage by drawing or special summoning with a Trap Card.

Card NameWhat it doesLossGainNet Advantage

Twin Twisters

Sacrifice your most prized possession to summon two magical tornadoes




Soul Charge

Put your hand in your opponent's face while you cheat to respawn up to five monsters. For each one you bring back, your hand gets gnawed.


+1 to +5

0 to 4

Pot of Desires

Put ten of your cards in the incinerator to draw two. Your opponent cringes from your insanity. Good.




Fire Formaton - Tenki

Remain in a Ginyu Force pose to get a Beast-Warrior to your hand




Metalfoes Counter

A biker from the refinery comes to avenge his fallen comrade




Kozmo Farmgirl

Spock and Leia's daughter calls down the Enterprise to save her or uses the force to call her companions

-1 (1st effect ), 0 (2nd effect)

+1 (1st effect), +1 (2nd effect)

0 (1st effect), 1 (2nd effect)

This is what happens when your Voldemorting ends in an epic fail: Half your head gets attached to a pot, and you create a very controversial Yugioh card.

This is what happens when your Voldemorting ends in an epic fail: Half your head gets attached to a pot, and you create a very controversial Yugioh card.

Using Probability Against Your Opponent

Your opponent is just as human as you are, so they're also bound by the rules of probability. If your opponent plays a card you know they have 3 or 2 copies of, realize this decreases the chance they'll come across it again in the population size, unless they search for it. Keep this in mind when weighing what play they'll make next, or when determining the best method to cripple their draw/search engine.

Rule 4: Be Aware of Probability's Influence

The theme of your deck could only need three cards (Quasar in Quickdaw-Synchro) or, heck, only two (Electrum OTK); however, even if you have all cards needed for the play maxed-out in your deck (3 each), that only give you a 7.5% chance of drawing for each piece turn 1. So, how do you improve the odds of drawing the pieces you need to advance your plays? There are two ways to do this: include more draw cards in your deck, or include searchers to get precisely what you need:

For a Draw Engine

The writer won’t get too technical with the math, because he can’t. He wants to be a Stephen King, not a John Nash Jr., but he can tell you this: The chances of you drawing a card in a 40 card deck is 1 in 40, or 2.5%. Each time you draw a card, it increases the chances of drawing a card you don’t have by decreasing the “population” size of your deck (like limiting the number of people in a crowd to more easily find Waldo.)

All the crazy math in the world will tell what any sensible player inherently knows: The more you draw, the more your chances improve of drawing key cards. But what happens when your drawing is restricted by a specific population of cards needed in your deck (Allure of Darkness, Cards of Consonance, etc.)? A pure Dark build with 20 monsters gives you a whopping 50% chance of drawing a Dark monster to use Dark Allure without tossing your hand in a wastebasket. However, having 10 or 7 Dark monsters changes the chance significantly (25% or 17.5%). Understanding basic ratio/probability can help you determine whether it’s more beneficial to squeeze more Dark monsters in your deck or whether you should hunt for a draw card less restricted by your deck’s population.

For Searchers

Understanding the value of searchers lies in seeing their relation to other cards in the deck, and for those you not yet introduced to this beautiful concept: a searcher is a card that allows one to retrieve a card from the deck and add it to the hand. A searcher represents a symbol for any card it searchers for. In layman’s terms: Fire Formation – Tenki (a continuous spell that searches for a Beast-Warrior type), is, in effect, any Beast-Warrior type monster in your deck, increasing the chances of you drawing a Beast-Warrior turn 1 by 2.5%.

Therefore, having 3 Tenki in a deck with 15 Beast-Warriors boosts your initial probability of drawing a Beast-Warrior from 37.5% to 45%! So yeah, but I bet you already knew this, right? Not the numbers, but who wouldn’t know more searchers in the deck equals a greater chance of getting a card? The secret to probability and searchers lies in the error players often make when trying to fulfill their 20:10:10 card ratio by adding cards giving less to their strategy.

For example, a player might have 16 monsters in their deck vital to their strategy, but they need 20, and they need no other monsters to make the deck run. To fulfill their quota, they will add monsters until they’ve made their quota, snatching 10% of chance from drawing monsters they need that they already have! Instead, using 3 searchers to find any of those monsters adds that probability to their vital population (If the searcher just affects 3 cards, that increases the chances of drawing that single card to 15%. If it searches for more in the population, then that’s even better). This even adds open slots for your Spell/Trap quota, enabling room for that Divine Strike or Breakthrough Skill you dreamed of adding.

If your opponent happens to have the spirit of an Egyptian pharaoh, the spirit of his former-favorite card, a Mayan dragon, an astral spirit, or versions of himself across the multiverse on his side though, probability won't help you.  Best of luck.

If your opponent happens to have the spirit of an Egyptian pharaoh, the spirit of his former-favorite card, a Mayan dragon, an astral spirit, or versions of himself across the multiverse on his side though, probability won't help you. Best of luck.

Rule 5: Know Your Deck’s Weaknesses

As the famous Chinese military commander Sun Tzu once said, “If you know yourself and the enemy, you need not fear the outcome of a hundred battles.” Even if you run a top-tier archetype, if a single card can shut down your deck, and if you have no counter against the card, then you might as well be running Lord of D. with Flute of the Summoning Dragon.

Knowing your deck’s weakness is half the battle; adding cards that stop those exploits is another. Running Burning Abyss? Include some Spell/Trap destruction to stop Macro Cosmos or Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror. Having a blast with the Pendulum mechanic? Be ready to bait or destroy monsters possessing Spell/Trap-negating abilities like Toadally Awesome, Naturia Beast, or Cyber Dragon Infinity. Researching what popular tactics or cards can be used to hinder your strategy and including cards or knowing plays to counter those strategies will enable you to not only have options in bad situations, but also give you a fighting chance where the unprepared duelist would be ready to resign.

The Golden Rule: Always Have Fun

The Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game can seem intimidating in its current form. With so many mechanics, rules, and strategies to choose from, many newcomers fear the game is too complicated for them to enjoy, while returning players believe it has evolved too far from its simpler roots. Some current duelists take a “sink-or-swim” mentality to the game, withholding knowledge or making players suffer through poor deck decisions in their attempt to separate the more dedicated players from the casuals. However, the only dedication needed for this beloved pastime is the desire to have fun.

Sharing what we know with others improves the overall enjoyment of those intimidated by the game while creating a pool of better, more competent players. The writer knows as the challenge increases, the fun increases, and the game will evolve to greater heights as players become vessels filled with knowledge able to bring our beloved card game to levels never seen before. But it all starts with vets like the writer not fearing competition, but in sincerely desiring a stronger, more relaxed player base. ^_^

And the duelists played on...

And the duelists played on...


Atlantian darkmagician master on February 13, 2019:

If you like tributes go for lair of darkness, it turns all monsters on the field to dark types and allows you to tribute your opponents monsters for card effects. I just spam it with consecrated light to keep things at a stand still and destiny hero defender to add as high defence and make my opponents deck run out quicker

Ridley12 on November 14, 2018:

Honestly, one of my best decks for this era of Link Summoning(besides my Ancient Gear deck) is my Monarch deck for the sole reason of not having an Extra Deck. So I think the main focus is to lock my opponent out of using their Extra Deck.

Zeron87 (author) on February 26, 2018:

Alias #6: You're welcome ^_^! Sadly, it's true. Staples are called staples for a reason... But the evolution of the game has made competitive decks so furious, without some solid staples like Raigeki, Ash Blossom and Joyous Spring, or Solemn Strike, to name a few, you're deck will fare poorly, unless you choose to play with a pool of friends who are non-competitive.

To keep my sanity so I don't become one of those players who never smiles with a bad case of shuffle-hand, I've developed the habit of making mostly fun decks I play casually with my friends, but in also keeping some serious deck when I want to get competitive. That way I can keep using my Big Bang Shots (Falcon Control) as well as my Raigeki (Kaiju-Stun).

Alias #6 on February 24, 2018:

Thanks for the tips. I realized that all i need to do is to use the really messed up cards like raigeki or negate effect.

It spoils the game (a little) but it's needed to compete. Cards like moon mirror shield can only can only be avoided by using something like twin twisters or a tribute (lava golem ) I finally came back to the game after a few years and I found that the game no longer revolves around the same tactics it used to. I just don't like the "luck" part of it.

ILLEGAL-CARD-USER-.EXE on November 11, 2017:

I built my deck thinking of onl,y power, yet it is better than my friends decks by a long shot.

Zeron87 (author) on October 06, 2017:

Thanks for the comment Derek, and for being a regular reader of my articles ^_^! To answer your question, I think it all depends on what you mean by "simple." If you mean decks using traditional cards, then it would be very hard for you maintain pace with even an amateur version of today's decks that don't use Xyz, Synchro, or Pendulum mechanics. However, if you mean any decks that uses older mechanics (not Xyz, Synchro, or Pendulum), then there are plenty of new decks that, believe or not, can keep pace with newer mechanics.

Kozmos, Monarchs, and Fire Kings never need to use the Extra Deck to win duels. The Fluffals only Fusion Summon, so does the new Red-Eyes support, and the Destiny Heroes, even though they've gone a more Anti-Meta route, are still viable. As for Rituals... The Cyber Angels, Shinobirds, the new Blue-Eyes support, the new Vendreads... I could go on with Ritual decks, but there are plenty of them for you to choose from.

One of the best things about the Pendulum era is Konami revamped a lot of old mechanics by playing with the effects. Check out my How to Defeat Annoying Decks series for more information on these types of decks ;). Thanks again for your comment, Derek. Happy hunting out there.

Derek on September 05, 2017:

Great job explaining the advanced tips to build a deck. I really enjoy your articles. Just a question would it be wise to play a simpler deck using normal summoning monsters and spells and traps and fusions and ritual monsters but exluding synchro,xyz,and pendulum cards? I'm wanting to create a real challenge for myself I usually use a starter deck,not for tournaments,for duels with friends and I do well but I want to build a deck to my style. Thank you for your advice. Keep up the amazing work.