Jeremy enjoys dueling in between working as a chemical analyst and campus building manager.
Why Should You Cycle a Deck?
In Yu-Gi-Oh, the ability to predict which cards are coming helps duelists formulate their strategies. Although players don't want their deck to completely run dry (which will result in a loss), rapidly cycling through (sometimes called "deck thinning) helps them determine what cards are coming and lets them access their win-condition plays faster.
In fact, the automatic-win achieved by gathering the five Exodia cards in one's hand heavily relies on quickly browsing through the fluff to find the golden quintet. In more general terms, cycling adds to your hand and helps ensure you never run out of options. So how can we efficiently skim through our decks?
Here are the ten best card cyclers in Yu-Gi-Oh!
- Witch of the Black Forest
- Cardcar D
- Allure of the Darkness
- Volcanic Shell
- Nimble Momonga
- Gold Sarcophagus
- Thunder Sea Horse
- Fire Hand/Ice Hand
- Upstart Goblin
- Magical Hats
10. Witch of the Black Forest
Don't panic, all of today's entries are (as of this writing) legal. Witch of the Black Forest was long banned for her great ability but is now completely unrestricted in official play.
Her effect simply lets you add a monster with 1500 or less DEF from your deck to hand when Witch is sent from the field to the graveyard. The great thing is this triggers whether Witch was destroyed, tributed, or used as material in a fusion/synchro summon. If you're using an Exodia strategy, this quickly lets you accumulate the Exodia components; be sure to check out Witch's counterpart Sangan (which searches for 1500 or less ATK) for more cycling maneuvers.
9. Cardcar D
For the sake of diversity, I try to make most entries in my countdowns unique, but occasionally there's so much overlap I can't resist reusing a monster. Cardcar D appeared in our best draws countdown, and it beautifully cycles through any deck.
You normal summon it and tribute it during your main phase one to activate its effect. The downsides are it immediately ends your turn and you cannot special summon the turn you do this, but you get to immediately draw two cards! You're also putting a monster in the graveyard, useful for graveyard-dependent effects. Be sure to set some traps to survive until your next turn and make good use of your expanded hand.
8. Allure of Darkness
Several spells (like Trade-In) exist that require you to discard a specific type of card in order to draw two. Allure of Darkness actually allows you to draw the two cards first, then banish the required dark-attributed monster. This lets you potentially save powerful monsters in your hand you would have otherwise used to meet the requirement.
Just be confident that, whether before or after the two cards, you'll end up with at least one dark monster in hand; if not, Allure mandates you send your entire hand to the graveyard. Use alternatives like Cards From The Sky for non-dark decks.
7. Volcanic Shell
With pitiful battle stats, Volcanic Shell won't be winning any fights, but you can (once per turn) spend 500 life points while it's in the graveyard to add another copy of itself to your hand.
Eventually, with the forfeit of 1000 Life Points, this can add two fodders cards to your array. Additionally, Shell's 0 DEF can be surprisingly useful with effects like that of Masked Chameleon, and its unique pyro type can diversify several builds.
6. Nimble Momonga
If you're worried about the life drain of cyclers like Volcanic Shell, stock up your reservoir with the abilities of Nimble Momonga. When it's destroyed by battle, you can special summon any number of Nimble Momonga from your deck into a face-down defense position, and you gain 1000 life points!
This buffs your health, fills your field, and gains another 2000 life points if the other two Momonga are also destroyed in battle. Your hand won't be any fuller, but your life and field will thank you for employing these valuable critters.
5. Gold Sarcophagus
A card that has at times been limited for its power, Gold Sarcophagus is currently completely unrestricted in its usage. Activating it lets you choose any card from your deck to be banished face-up until two of your standby phases (the starts of your turn) pass, at which point the chosen card will be added to your hand.
Although you have to wait a bit for the reinforcements, and your opponent will get to see what you choose, it's only a matter of time before your chosen card arrives and helps you claim victory. Useful for any build, but Exodia decks particularly enjoy the powers of Gold Sarcophagus.
4. Thunder Sea Horse
A modernized version of the classic Thunder Dragon (in itself a good cycler), Thunder Sea Horse offers even better abilities. You can discard it to add two level four light-attributed thunder-typed monsters of the same name with 1600 or less ATK from your deck to your hand.
Sure, there's quite a few restrictions on the monsters to pull from, but the effect lets you add more Thunder Sea Horses, who will later (the effect is once per turn) add even more monsters to hand. In total, you can grasp a whopping six cards through their abilities, but be aware that each turn you trigger the effect, you won't be able to special summon monsters.
3. Fire Hand/Ice Hand
Because they completely rely on each other, Fire and Ice Hand share a ranking. Like Nimble Momonga, their effects activate when they're destroyed, but these handy monsters helpfully trigger through both battle and effect damage. Check 'em out:
- When Fire Hand is destroyed, you can target and destroy an opposing monster, then summon Ice Hand from your deck.
- When Ice Hand is destroyed, you can target and destroy an opposing spell/trap, then summon Fire Hand from your deck.
Not only can this combo ultimately pull five monsters from your deck, but it'll also massacre a heap of enemy monsters, spells, and traps along the way. Do your best to ensure your Hand army remains in the deck, and (ironically) not the hand, as they must be specially summoned from the deck when the effect activates. Alternatively, use one of the Hands as material for a powerful rank four xyz monster.
2. Upstart Goblin
Another entry that has at times flirted with the ban list, Upstart Goblin is about as simple as you can get. Your opponent gains 1000 life, but you draw a card. Upstart works great in decks where you haven't quite reached your 40-card deck minimum and can't find anything else you want to add: simply use Upstart to help you reach the meat of your build rather than adding in a throwaway card.
The 1000 life point offering is regrettable, but crafty duelists can turn even this into a benefit with cards like Bad Reaction to Simochi, which alter enemy life gain into corresponding effect damage.
1. Magical Hats
An often-forgotten old defensive tactic, Magical Hats both stalls foes and gives the uncommon trait of pulling spells/traps from your deck. During your opponent's battle phase where you control at least one monster, activate Magical Hats to choose two spells/traps from your deck and shuffle them face-down on your field as 0 DEF monsters. Your actual monster is shuffled face-down with them, preventing opponents from knowing the genuine from the decoys. Even if they get lucky and attack the right creature, you'll still have two walls ready to absorb hits.
Beyond its obvious defensive offerings, the card places any two spells/traps into your graveyard, perfect for graveyard-dependent effects. Many cards bury the graveyard with monsters, but few can fill it with non-monster tricks as quickly as the classic Magical Hats.
Cycling-oriented Exodia decks remain a viable option in competitive play and often catch opponents (who have prepared for a different type of game) off guard. Of course, non-Exodia archetypes can always use some extra cards in hand to round out their strategies, reminding us that winning Yu-Gi-Oh duels involves more than summoning the strongest monsters.
As we look forward to future deck-cycling effects, vote for your favorite entry, and I'll see you at our next card countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
BEWARE DANGER on May 21, 2018:
Thanks for the reply
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on May 20, 2018:
Thank you! And yes, those are definitely great suggestions.
Nimble Momonga and Cardcar D have more subtle uses than, say, the overwhelming powers and stats of dragons, so sometimes they don't look great at first, but they're still worthy cards that fit into many decks.
BEWARE DANGER on May 19, 2018:
Nice, another well written article man. I still use cards like cardcar D, gold sarcophagus and witch of the black forest in my defense deck to try to get to exodia as quick as possible but I still don't see that much potential in upstart goblin so I never have used it in any of my decks. But the thing is I just don't get why cards like Nimble Momonga and Cardcar D don't get that many votes as they should get. Also would cards like balance of judgment and magic mallet and card of demise count in this list?