Side decking in Yu-Gi-Oh!,What You Need to Know

Brian Peterson

One of the most common mistakes I find newer players make (and seasoned players for that matter) is improper side decking. Making sure you have a good first game matchup is important and most of your tooling should be to get an edge over your opponent. The side deck is your greatest ally in helping you win games two and three. Let’s dive in and talk about what you can do to improve your side deck game and increase your win percentage.

For those that are newer to competitive play let’s take it from the top. Your side deck is an extra 15 cards that can be added to your deck between games one and two, and games two and three. Your side deck has to have the same number of cards in it when you finish side decking that it had when you started, meaning that if you put five cards in from your side deck you have to take five cards out of your deck. You are allowed to side cards for your extra deck as well but keep in mind your main deck still needs to have a minimum of 40 cards in it at all times so you can’t side in an extra deck card without taking one out of your extra deck.

To be an effective player when it comes to side decking you have to know the meta for the event you are planning on participating in, this applies from everything from locals to a YCS. Over the years I have found that I personally have struggled the most side decking when I am unfamiliar with the decks in the format I am playing in. Take time to learn what is being played and what the weakness is, if you are playing against Kozmo you should know that Imperial Iron Wall is effective and why it is effective or why Mask of Restrict is great in the Monarch matchup. Taking time to do your homework will save you headaches during an intense game and will win you matches.

When the time comes to create your side deck I am sure some of you are as lost as I was at my junior prom. The thing to remember when it comes to your side deck is you need to include cards that help make your match-ups stronger. If a card doesn’t make a match-up stronger it’s not worth side decking. I am aware that people (myself included) will sometimes put tech cards in their side, but for the purpose of this article which is to help you become better overall at siding we will save that topic for another time. Things to consider when determining if a card will help in a match-up here are a few simple questions to ask yourself:


  • Do I have Spell and Trap removal?
  • What is my worst match-up?
  • What is my best match-up?
  • What would be effective in multiple match-ups?

I know this part of the process is at times frustrating because you may have trouble knowing what is a good choice. I can promise you this will get easier with time and practice. Something to keep in the front of your mind when it comes to siding against a deck is to determine if there is a floodgate that works well against it but doesn’t hinder you much or at all. An example of this would be siding Mask of Restrict if I was playing Kozmo or playing Fog King if I was playing Monarch. Stay away from cards that only make a matchup better in a VERY specific situation. An example would be to side three copies of Barrel behind the Door to stop your Opponent’s Ring of Destruction (which is restricted to one, and in 90% of situations will not kill you)

Probable even harder to do that picking the cards for your side is knowing what to take out of your main deck to put in perfect side card in. This is by far the hardest thing to learn how to do when it comes to siding, you can always netdeck what to side, but knowing what to take out is where you show how experienced you are. Do not sacrifice consistency for a side deck choice. While it may seem like an easy choice to take out your draw cards to put your sides in this is a mistake I have seen players make for over 10 years. Now I know your probable raging at your monitor saying, “Well how do I keep consistency and fit everything in that I want to side?” Try to keep the number of cards you side between three to seven. If you are like most players and playing a 40 card deck siding in 10 cards is 25% of your total deck and that will almost always be a self-defeating choice. If you keep the number to around 4 you are only changing 10% of your deck.

Take a second to look at your deck and think of you played any card or held any card that just was ineffective so far. Please don’t just say “Well I played my bomb and they played Solemn Warning so it was worthless,” that isn’t what I am referring to. A truly ineffective card is a dead card, something you just hold for eternity. These should be the first cards you side out. If you still have a couple cards to side in you can start looking at your triple of cards, there may be one or two of those you could cut down to two copies and fit the rest of your side choices in.

A concept that took me a long time to grasp was that specific cards are better when you go first and some are better if you are going second. A painful example is with Anti-Spell Fragrance, against a pendulum heave deck this can be a blowout because you can’t play a scale facedown. If you are going first and you can play Anti-Spell you had a real advantage. Flipping the situation and your opponent goes first and sets up their scales and you were holding the Anti-Spell the whole time, well words can’t really describe the rage that most of us would feel. This is where a choice of Twin Twister may have been a much better call because we were going second. Take time to look over your side deck and determine if a card is a going first pick or going second pick.

The last thing I want to mention is that you have to test with your side. If you are not gonna side during a specific testing session that’s fine, you need to know how your game one match-up is. Make sure you set at least half your testing sessions to be full side sessions and you can also play with the 40-minute time limit if you are concerned you will not finish your match within time. Remember you only will have two to three minutes to side between games so knowing what to side beforehand will help take some of the stress off the siding process.

I promise that if you can make your side decking game strong you will win more consistently and often. The key is knowing your meta and practice, practice, practice. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below. Now get out there and get your duel on.


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