Side decking is as fun as it is integral to the game of Yu-gi-oh! It’s also part of the game that can take you from a player who doesn’t really care or can’t get over a hump to being one that can turn the tide of a match and get a few more wins to notch in your bedpost.
The side deck is a 15 card pile of cards that you can hot-swap into your deck between matches to give yourself an advantage over your opponent. There’s often a slew of cards that can swing the match to you and game 2 is often the most intense and fun one.
There are 3 primary ways you can use your side deck.
This is where you side indirectly for the matchup – adding in a card that “turns off” your opponent’s deck. This is something like siding in an Anti-Spell Fragrance for pendulum or Royal Decree for trap decks. This is the category you’ll look into the most as you look to patch up the holes you have against certain matchups. A good example of this is using a 3 of hand trap in your main deck such as Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring and having D.D. Crow in your side deck if you run into a graveyard-centric deck.
This is a bit more big-brained than the usual siding, you’ve got to sometimes think about what your opponent could side in against you and side for that. My favourite yet inconsistent and average example of this is siding in Pot of Acquisitiveness against a potential Ghost Reaper. (Don’t actually ever do that, even in ABC).
The least common of side deck strategies is to side deck an entire 15 card engine into your deck. Picture this, you’re running Salamangreat and your side deck is another Cyberse core, such as A.I. to go second and blow your opponent out. It’s very rare for this to be effective and any more than a meme but if you can fit 2 15 card engines into one deck, maybe one for going second and one for going first you could get away with some classic memes.
What to side?
Side decking correctly requires you to know the matchups you’re going to face and more importantly, the matchups your chosen deck will struggle with. If your deck has a good matchup with a meta deck that you know you’ll run into you won’t need to dedicate too much of your side to hard countering it. If you’ve got a very weak matchup against a meta deck you may find that siding your outs is a better strategy than waiting to side.
There is, like anything in life a fine balance that you’ll have to discover when it comes to flex and side options. This comes through testing and understanding and accepting your chosen decks weaknesses.
So what do you side?
Side for going second
The most common use for side decks is to add cards into your deck that will help you go second and disrupt or control your opponent’s plays. These cards are best left out of your main deck if you’re playing a go first deck. For example, you shouldn’t generally have cards such as a Lightning Storm or Evenly Matched in your deck if you’re choosing to go first whereas, these cards are perfect to add in going second against back row heavy decks.
Side for going first
If you’re playing a pure go second OTK deck, your opponent may choose to make you go first in the second game to put you on the backfoot – if you can anticipate this, or, if you yourself choose to go first to put them off.
A common big brain play that can always make you feel good is when you lose game 1 and you anticipate that your opponent will anticipate that you want to go first, you can instead make them go first with the gamble that they will side to go second and will open up with 1 or 2 sub-par go second cards in their opening 5 cards whilst you’re prepared and you get the extra 6th card advantage. Be careful of the galaxy brain players who will anticipate your anticipation of their anticipation and side to go first against you. Children’s card game by the way.
You can side in dedicated going first cards such as Solemn Judgement & Strike. This will give you some easy built-in disruption.
Side for Rouge and Mystic Mine Decks
Fun Fact: Mystic Mine is at 3 and Brilliant Fusion is banned. This is the least fun fact of all fun facts and it’s something that needs to be accounted for, there’s always the potential for rogue decks that can frustrate and blow you out and you’ll need to dedicate at least 3 slots in the extra deck to account for this, even if you’re main decking spell and trap removal. It’s also good to have something like Ash Blossom at the very least. Hand traps are what I like to call gatekeepers in that a lot of rouges and weaker strategies can just lose an entire match to 1 hand trap so it’s good to have your side deck ready to squish these bugs, even if you’re playing rouge yourself (which I encourage).
There’s plenty of options when it comes to side decking. There’s also a lot of theory and options going into it. Stay tuned for the next edition where will talk about how to whittle down your options into a succinct and effective side deck. I might even make a video.
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