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 Side Decks – YCS Chicago Top 4 Breakdown

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PostSubject: Side Decks – YCS Chicago Top 4 Breakdown    Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:09 am

As the days tick down to the US World Championship Qualifier (WCQ) in Minneapolis, I thought it would be interesting to focus on side decking strategies. Instead of focusing on an opinion-based deck-by-deck breakdown I want to take a different approach: I took the side decks of the Top 4 competitors from the Yu-Gi-Oh! Championship Series tournament in Chicago a few weeks ago, and I stripped them down to individual cards so we can discuss each card in brief. While some cards are trending downwards, others have seen big upswings in popularity; I'm going to talk a bit about why, and how that information can be valuable to you as a Duelist.

This is a long one and the weekend is fast approaching, so let's get to it!

Cyber Dragon: Though Gadgets haven't been a big part of the Top 32 field at either of the two YCS tournaments we've seen so far, Cyber Dragon remains one of the most commonly-sided cards of the format, sided in eighteen decks at Chicago (two more Duelists mained their Cyber Dragons). Cyber Dragon into Chimeratech Fortress Dragon remains a common move against Machine decks, but it's also useful as Synchro fodder, tribute fodder, and as an answer to Consecrated Light. With all that said though, some notable Duelists that made the top cut at Chicago didn't play it – we'll talk about that more a bit later.

Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter: Ryko has the distinction of being a strong answer to two of the three cards most commonly sided against Infernities: Royal Oppression and Consecrated Light. The latter has become ubiquitous in this format – seventeen competitors sided it in the Top 32 of YCS Chicago. Seven of the Top 32 couldn't run it themselves (because they were playing Infernities or Blackwings), so really, only eight competitors across the entire Top 32 made the choice not to side Consecrated Light.

Ryko destroys those cards and is itself difficult to side against: while a Duelist up against Quickdraw can easily side into Nobleman of Crossout to stop Ryko, there's no actual guarantee that an Infernity Duelist will side into Ryko in the first place: there's very little room to plan around it. That factor, combined with its high versatility (it can, after all, destroy alot more than just Consecrated Light and Oppression) made it a top pick for four of the five Infernity Duelists in the Top 32, as well as Frog FTK Duelist Dharmish Patel. Jae Kim sided three copies too, protecting his Frog Diva strategy from stuff like Mask of Restrict while using Ryko as tribute fodder.

Thunder King Rai-Oh: Another fixture of the format, Thunder King Rai-Oh remains a popular side deck choice despite growing education about how to play around it. Like other top picks, versatility and high utility make Thunder King a strong choice: no matter what the situation, it's a 1900 ATK beat stick at worst. Locking down search effects like those of XX-Saber Darksoul, Infernity Archfiend, and Black Whirlwind, and stopping popular Special Summons and Synchro Summons, Thunder King is a popular choice for decks like Blackwings, Gladiator Beasts, and Synchro Cat – decks with monster lineups flexible enough to allow two or three Thunder Kings to be sided in.

Consecrated Light: One of the most talked-about tech cards of the format, Consecrated Light just keeps getting better. A top choice for Duelists at YCS Chicago, it'll probably be even more effective at the US WCQ (since results from recent WCQ tournaments and Chicago itself will likely guide more Duelists to play Infernities). Beyond that, a strong Top 8 finish from Bobby Chambers in Chicago could lead to a resurgence in the number of Blackwing decks we see at the top tables. Consecrated Light is great against both decks, and despite an increase in Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter to combat it, Consecrated Light remains a tremendously effective side deck choice.

D.D. Crow: Moving along, similar things could be said about D.D. Crow. As more and more Duelists gravitate towards X-Sabers and Infernities, Crow gets to be an even bigger pick. Half of the Top 4 at Chicago sided a pair, while Billy Brake main decked his third copy on top of that. Though Quickdraw – the deck that made Crow such a common sight in this format – is now seeing less play, the sheer number of X-Saber and Infernity Duelists likely to be in contention this weekend seem poised to compensate. With that said, it may be time to re-evaluate this card's stance amongst similar tech choices. More on that in a bit.

Hanewata: Gary Miotke clearly didn't want to lose to Frog FTK, and he was in good company! Jeff Jones, Bobby Chambers, Andrew Lindskog, and Travis Hilliard all sided Hanewata, as did Miotke, buying them a turn's reprieve when their opponents were locked and loaded for Mass Driver. Lifeforce Harmonizer, a similar monster that can also be discarded from the hand, also saw play in Chicago, but didn't make the Top 32. The reason? Hanewata offers a range of advantages that Harmonizer just can't match. First, while Harmonizer destroys the source of burn damage and Hanewata doesn't, Harmonizer can only deal with a single Driver – if your opponent draws a second copy, the Harmonizer player would still lose. Second, Hanewata's a Tuner, making it far more versatile. And finally, while Harmonizer is a Psychic-type, Hanewata is a Fairy – making it a natural fit for Herald Decks.

With continued growth in the Frog FTK deck's playerbase, and encouraging results from both the South American and Canadian WCQs, Frogs will be a big contender at the US WCQ this weekend. Hanewata's a great call for the tournament and should be on everybody's minds as they prepare.

Vanity's Fiend: Gary Miotke had an extremely defensive, disciplined playstyle in Chicago that I'd never really seen before from an X-Saber Duelist. He absolutely disassembled Bobby Chambers in his Top 8 Feature Match, poking his way to victory with X-Saber Airbellum and hiding behind X-Saber Pashuul longer than I thought was possible. Miotke brought a uniquely conservative approach to the format, and that allowed him to make some very different side deck choices that simply wouldn't work for a lot of other competitors.

One of those choices was Vanity's Fiend, a card both Miotke and Top 16 finisher Will Erker played a single copy of in their side deck. Both ran X-Sabers, and while Erker's deck was much more aggressive than Miotke's, each gleaned the same set of advantages from siding the Fiend. First, Vanity's Fiend locks out battle-ending Special Summons like Gorz, Tragoedia, and Battle Fader. It gives a superior degree of control when the X-Saber Duelist decides to go for game. Second, it acts as an alternative to Royal Oppression, rewarding early Special Summons in a similar fashion but without the same set of vulnerabilities. Oppression and Fiend will both stop your opponent from Special Summoning monsters bigger than the ones you've brought out, but Vanity's Fiend won't be destroyed by stuff like Mystical Space Typhoon. Like Oppression, it randomly screws over most opponents regardless of matchup, but it does so in a new way a lot of Duelists won't be ready to deal with.

King Tiger Wanghu: Played in triplicate by just one of the Top 4 X-Saber Duelists, a single copy of King Tiger was also sided by Top 32 competitor Christopher Burrows (an Infernity Duelist). King Tiger offers a lot of specialized power in this format, and though it's seen significant play in Europe, it seems under-explored here in North America. It's a combo-shattering tech pick against Infernities, where it can devastate monsters like Infernity Necromancer, Infernity Mirage, and the Infernity Tuners, eliminating them before their effects can be used (or Synchro Summons can be performed). Remember, since King Tiger's ability is a trigger effect, it activates immediately when a monster with 1400 ATK or less is Summoned – it steals priority in situations where the opposing player would want to activate the ignition effect of the monster Summoned. It's great against Frog FTK, Frog Monarchs, and Gadgets, too. Even with double and triple Book of Moon being so popular, King Tiger Wanghu seems hugely underrated, and the Top 4 showing speaks to its potential.

Gemini Imps: Though Gemini Imps made the Top 4, it was only run by one Duelist that made the Top 32 cut, and it doesn't seem like a good call. While teching against X-Sabers is a great idea, Imps can only stop XX-Saber Gottoms's effect, not X-Saber Airbellum's, because Imps can't be used in the damage step when Airbellum's effect activates. More versatile cards like Goldd, Wu-Lord of Dark World saw more play, and deservedly so. This one seems like a definite dud.

Fissure: Omar Beldon sided into Fissure with his Infernity deck, giving him two more answers to Consecrated Light alongside his three Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter. If you look at Beldon's side deck, you can see that at least half of it appears to have been selected specifically to shut down the cards his opponents would side against him in Games 2 and 3. With Rykos, Fissures, Dust Tornado, Book of Moon, and Hero's Rule 2 all poised to stop Royal Oppression, Consecrated Light, and D.D. Crow, Beldon was able to play Game 2 and Game 3 just as fiercely as Game 1 – a big factor in his eventual win at YCS Chicago. If you play Infernities or Blackwings, this is definitely a card to consider siding.

Book of Moon: All of the Top 4 Duelists at YCS Chicago mained a pair of Book of Moon, for obvious reasons: it weakens monsters, stops attacks, interrupts Synchro Summons, and shuts down continuous and trigger effects, making it one of the most useful cards in the game. Omar Beldon went so far as to play a third copy in his side deck, a decision mirrored by his teammates Dale and Lazaro Bellido. Book is a great answer to Infernities, interrupting the Infernity Launcher loop by turning a Tuner monster or Infernity Archfiend face-down so that the play sequence of Synchro Summons and deck searches can't continue. It's especially good for Infernities as well, where it's another out to those pesky Consecrated Lights most opponents will side against you. If you main deck two Books and have a little space in the side, packing a third is clearly a strong choice.

Saber Slash: Two of the three X-Saber Duelists in the Top 4 sided a single copy of Saber Slash. The one who didn't (Gary Miotke) main decked a pair instead. Slash is a great answer to a number of cards that can give X-Saber decks problems: everything from Thunder King Rai-Oh and Doomcaliber Knight to Royal Decree and Royal Oppression. Though Slash was quickly cast out of the average X-Saber Duelist's arsenal from the beginning of this format onward, it seems to be making a comeback. With Royal Oppression set to see more play this weekend than it ever has over the past few months, it seems like a good decision for the US WCQ.

One for One: Gary Miotke sided into this with his X-Saber Deck alongside two copies of Consecrated Light. It was a really good choice that gave him a third way to get to Consecrated without having to run a third copy. That gave him a lot of flexibility: if he drew Consecrated Light and One for One together, he could use One for One to bring out XX-Saber Ragigura – often much better than drawing two copies of Consecrated since the second copy could be a dead card. Fili Luna and Nehemias Diaz, two more X-Saber Duelists, also made the top cut with this sided tech.

System Down: As the Gadget matchup becomes less relevant in the face of more competitive decks, Duelists are devoting less space to it in their side decks. Understandably so: nobody wants to side five cards for a matchup they may only see once in a premier-level tournament. While most Duelists continue to side Cyber Dragon for its higher utility, Gary Miotke didn't play it, and instead opted to side two copies of System Down instead. This seems counter-intuitive at first: Cyber Dragon is a great card all-around that can make Synchro Summons and aggressive pushes, while System Down is more narrow.

However, System Down is also more effective in its specific context, devastating the Gadget Duelist's field and graveyard. Not only does it tech against Overload Fusion, it also removes a destroyed Machina Fortress from the graveyard, crippling what is often the Gadget Duelist's most effective weapon. It can't be stopped by Bottomless Trap Hole or Royal Oppression either: it's extremely reliable. As side deck space for the Gadget matchup shrinks, System Down's reliability becomes more and more attractive – it's definitely a noteworthy pick for this weekend.

Hero's Rule 2: This was a popular choice for both Infernity and X-Saber Duelists, seeing play in half of the Top 4 decks as well as those of Lazaro Bellido, Dale Bellido, and David Sanville. Hero's Rule 2 happens to be one of those rare cards that can tech opposing decks when sided in (negating cards like Infernity Launcher and Gottoms' Emergency Call), but that also stops opposing cards brought in against its controller for Game 2 and Game 3 (like D.D. Crow and Crevice into the Different Dimension). It seems like a must-run card for any Infernity Duelist, and it was certainly successful for X-Saber Duelists as well. Because it's such a dual-purpose card it actually winds up being far more versatile than it may look, and it can help turn a Game 1 win into a 2-0 victory really easily by stopping opposing tech.

Dust Tornado: Double Dust Tornado was a really common side deck choice for top finishers at YCS Virginia, and while the popularity of main decked copies gave way to a surge in the number of Trap Stuns played at YCS Chicago, the final results really don't lie. In the Top 4, eight copies of Dust Tornado were spread across three decks, with the conservative Gary Miotke being the only Duelist not to main or side any. More than a dozen Top 32 Duelists sided or mained double Dust Tornado, while one went so far as to run three copies. With Royal Oppression seeing more play in X-Sabers, and Oppression Blackwings seemingly making a comeback, Dust Tornado is going to be hugely important at the US WCQ. Given the trends, it could be better here than in any other recent premier tournament.

Light-Imprisoning Mirror: The favored answer for Herald of Perfection, Beldon and Brake each sided one copy, while Miotke sided two. Light-Imprisoning Mirror shuts down the effect of Herald of Perfection, as well as a number of its common cohorts like Manju and Senju. Though the Herald can of course negate the Mirror's activation, drawing it early will likely see it chained to the activation of Advanced Ritual Art or Dawn of the Herald before Perfection ever hits the field. Though Light-Imprisoning Mirror can be stopped by Royal Decree (very common in all versions of the Herald deck), it's interesting to note that Volcanic Queen and Lava Golem, possibly the best Herald tech that dodges Decree, didn't make it to the Top 32 at all. Whether this was because they proved to be too narrow, too weak to Archlord Kristya, or were simply underplayed is impossible to say.

Mind Crush: Mind Crush is another popular answer to Herald of Perfection, chaining to a Ritual Spell to strip the opponent's hand of Herald. It's also a popular answer to… well, just about anything else! XX-Saber Darksoul, Infernity Archfiend, Gadgets, Machina Gearframe, Black Whirlwind, Sangan… Whenever a card is searched from the deck, it can be discarded with Mind Crush. This breaks up key combos, stops format-dominating play sequences, and simplifies the duel in the process. If you're up against X-Sabers, Infernities, Heralds, Gadgets, or Blackwings, odds are good that your opponent will present you with an easy Crush call at some point. It's less useful against Frog Monarchs and Frog FTK, but it's still such a strong side deck pick that an increasing number of Duelists are main decking it.

Swallow Flip: Sided only by Omar Beldon in the Top 4, Swallow Flip also appeared in the side decks of the Bellido brothers (who played Infernities) and Fili Luna (X-Sabers), as well as Travis Hilliard (Quickdraw) and Chris Duff (Herald). Like Mind Crush, Swallow Flip disrupts key plays in a variety of matchups. It's most commonly sided against Gladiator Beasts, where it can negate the effects of Gladiators and then destroy them: it's an alternative to Mirror of Oaths that also works against Gladiator Beast Gyzarus. But it's so much more than that, which is why it's now seeing more play than Mirror (which was only run by one of the Top 32 Duelists). Swallow Flip will negate and destroy XX-Saber Hyunlei, Infernity Archfiend, Mist Wurm, Black Rose Dragon, Arcanite Magician, and even Gorz, making it useful in lots of clutch situations where Mirror of Oaths couldn't be activated.

Divine Wrath: Another side deck pick made only by Omar Beldon out of the Top 4, Divine Wrath can give any deck another answer to Herald of Perfection. Because Wrath is a spell speed 3 counter trap the Herald can't negate it, and it works especially well in Infernities, which often care a little less about their total hand presence than other decks. While Divine Wrath is usually placed into a side deck with the Herald matchup in mind, it also has a near-infinite range of uses against lots of different strategies.

Mirror Force: Beldon was the only competitor in the top 4 to side deck Mirror Force – the rest all mained it. Other Infernity Duelists either main decked their Mirror Force, or (like the Bellido brothers) didn't bother using it at all. Tray Massengale was the only other Duelist in the Top 32 to side the time-honored trap card – another Infernity Duelist. In a field where XX-Saber Hyunlei and Mist Wurm define the top two decks, Mirror Force might not be as good as it once was, but Beldon's superior results may indicate that siding the card is the way to go.

Crevice into the Different Dimension: Similar in purpose to D.D. Crow, but performing differently across a range of matchups, Crevice seems to be gaining popularity. And for good reason: while Crevice was arguably weaker than Crow in matchups featuring an array of monster Attributes, those specific strategies are becoming less relevant. Crow was the hands-down winner over Crevice against Quickdraw, where removing a single Dandylion on the chain was often so important, but Quickdraw isn't nearly as competitive as it once was. Meanwhile, Frog FTK, X-Sabers, and Infernities (all largely single-attribute archetypes) are poised to continue occupying more and more of the field, and Crevice seems like the superior card against those decks. Four Crows were played by two Duelists in the Top 4 at Chicago, while only one Crevice was run, but the latter could be a better call for Minneapolis.

Gottoms' Emergency Call: Speaking of “calls”, this one's become far less popular over the past several weeks. There was a time when double or triple Gottoms' Emergency Call was a side deck staple of this format, but you wouldn't know it just looking at the Top 32 decks from Chicago. The Top 4 spread was interesting – one X-Saber Duelist mained two copies, another mained three, while Gary Miotke didn't main any. That allowed him to play three Saber Hole and two Royal Oppression instead, though he did side one copy (the only sided Call in the Top 4). But with so many X-Saber Duelists in the Top 4, the real story lies beyond those last two tables in the rest of the Top 32 ranks, where only two competitors sided two or more copies of Emergency Call. What once was axiomatic is clearly no longer such a cut and dried affair.

Which is good. It's not a simple issue anymore. The average X-Saber Duelist is a lot more savvy than he was two months ago, and knows that he can force an opposing Gottoms' Emergency Call from his opponent by targeting it with XX-Saber Hyunlei's effect. At that point, it's a simple matter of the X-Saber Duelist chaining his own copy (the very card the opponent sought to beat by siding Call) to win out on the chain. Good X-Saber Duelists are holding their Calls in situations where they read the possibility of an opposing copy. It's become a textbook tactic, so it's far more difficult for Call to be sided effectively. Add in the rising popularity of Royal Oppression in X-Sabers and you have several strong reasons to seek other sided answers for the matchup.

Pulling the Rug: Six Duelists in the Top 32 sided at least one copy of Pulling the Rug, including a pair sided by Gary Miotke in the Top 4. But a whopping eighteen Duelists sided a total of 42 Masks of Restrict, which is now clearly the Monarch-killer of choice. While Pulling the Rug addressed the Monarch and Gadget matchups, Mask stops Monarchs and Frog FTK, the latter now being a far more relevant deck than Gadgets. Unless you're thinking of doubling up on the Monarch hate like Gary Miotke did (he sided two of each trap), Mask should probably be your pick.

Mask of Restrict: Mask went from nearly unheard of at YCS Virginia (no one in the Top 32 played it) to one of the most popular sided cards of the weekend in Chicago, completely shutting down two of the top decks provided it could be kept on the field. This Shift in side deck trends is a completely organic process – a very obvious byproduct of the rise in popularity of Frogs, and the falling popularity of Gadgets. This one's a winner, and really deserves consideration in anything beyond Infernities or Monarchs themselves.

Royal Oppression: And that brings us to the last card sided in the Top 4 of Chicago. We always wind up here, don't we? For the past couple years, virtually every format eventually arrives at a point where Royal Oppression becomes ubiquitous and starts seeing play everywhere, as Duelists try to outspeed their opponents to slap down the biggest monster first and then ride Oppression to victory. With Billy Brake main decking one Oppression and siding a second; and Gary Miotke just maining two from the outset; it seems like we've reached that old familiar stomping ground. With big showings from both Infernities and Frog FTK in the two most recent WCQ events, Royal Oppression is a no-brainer for X-Sabers and anything else that can support it. Be ready to deal with it, and be ready to play it yourself.

And that concludes our complete breakdown! With twenty-six different cards sided by the Top 4 Duelists of YCS Chicago, there are plenty of field-tested options for your side deck moving forward. Find the ones that are right for you, take advantage of the ones that work to beat rising trends, and victory will follow. See you in Minneapolis!

-Jason Grabher-Meyer

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