Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Side Decking with Patrick Hoban

I’ve never quite understood why Patrick Hoban can generate so many irate comments when he writes about Yugioh.  While I don’t agree with everything he says, the man’s game has earned my respect and I have become a regular reader of his writing. However, this time I found more than a normal share of Yugigold in his article on side-decking.  

Once you get past his rather convoluted writing style, he makes an excellent point: Don’t side so many cards into your deck! You spent hours play testing card choices, why would you want to destroy the synergy of your deck by swapping out 6, 8, or 10 cards?  Let your ____ be _____ .  Feel free to fill in your favorite archetype.  

With this inspiration and a generous amount of influence from ssjason19 (a.k.a my favorite yugituber), I present my tips on side-decking.  

1.       Side in kick ass cards only:  My definition of a kick ass card is one that you wouldn’t mind seeing three copies of on an opening draw.  Suppose you’re playing Karakuris and you open with three copies of Maxx C.  That’s pretty kick ass!  Suppose you open with three copies of Mind Crush. That’s pretty ass kick.  The cards you side in should be better than your main deck cards.  Why would you play them if they weren’t?  Believe me, people do. 

2.       Side in cards for the deck they have and not the deck you think they will have:  Even among elite players, most doolists do not side in three copies of a card (triples).  For example, I looked at all the top decklists entered on TCGPlayer from either the ARG circuit or regionals.  There were a total of 54 decks.  Each side deck had, on average, 8.9 ± 1.7 different cards.  In other words, most of the sided cards were either singletons or doublets.  You may really hate System Down, but how frightened should you be when people have (at most) only 1 or 2 copies in their side? In fact, many of the singletons simply filled out the main deck.  But that’s the point!  Be wary of the main deck not the side deck. 

I suspect that this diversity reflects the meta in general.  I haven’t done this analysis for other metas, but you would probably find a lot more triples when you have only 1 or 2 top tier decks.

Of course, triples were played.  The most common triple in the side deck was MST (30.4%) followed by Royal Decree (12.5%), Mind Crush (10.7%), XYZ Encore (7.1%) Electric Virus (5.4%), and Skill Drain (5.4%).  Which of these cards would you change your playstyle for?   Which would you side in counters for?  You would probably be wise to side in MST if your deck is susceptible to a continuous trap or spell card.  But it makes little sense to side in more than MST since your chance of seeing a Shadow-Imprisoning is really low.  If your opponent only has two to side in, the chances of drawing the card are low and not worth messing with your build.

Personally, I side in 3 MSTs for decks that will play Skill Drain.  I usually take out 3 copies of Trap Stun against “trap light” decks and 3 copies of Forbidden Lance against “trap heavy” decks.  The change is seamless and does not disrupt the deck synergy. 

3.       Side in triplicate: How many times have you heard “Man, I didn’t draw any of the cards I sided in.”  What did you expect if you only sided in 1 or 2 copies of a card?  If you want to get an idea of how hard it is to draw a singleton, look at the singleton traps in your deck.  How many games do you play Compulse or Solemn Warning?  Once every 4 or 5 games?  Now side in 1 card and hope to draw it in 1 of 2 games. 

As I mentioned above, even the best players don’t keep triples in their side deck.  20.7% of the side deck was dedicated to three copies of a single card.  That suggests that about 80% of the time, your opponent is siding in a card they probably won’t see. 

4.       Choose side deck cards based on meta groups not meta decks:  Of course, everyone is struggling a bit to choose side deck cards.  I try to simplify the process by looking at the following characteristics of the current meta decks:
a.       TRAPPING: Some decks rely on traps a great deal, others not so much.  Of the 54 decks that I looked at on TCGPlayer, 48 were listed more than once.  Of these the average number of traps per deck was as follows*:
Chain Burn
Fire Fists
Dragon Variants
 When I put these numbers together, I was a bit surprised at what I found.  For example, Spellbook players seem to be using more traps now than they did last format.  Their trap numbers are similar to Fire Fists and Constellars.  With the exception of Evilswarm and Black Wings, these numbers are lower than I would have guessed.  It has led me to reconsider how many “anti-trap” cards I will use.
b.      SWARMING: It’s a little harder to put a number on swarming but the decks that do so are pretty well known.  Dragons, Dragunity, Hieratic, and Karakuri are all spam happy decks. 
c.       EFFECTING: These are decks that rely on effect monsters. Fire Fists and Constellars are good examples of decks that fall hard to effect negation. 

Most Yugioh decks can be thought of as made up of different proportions of these three factors.  Cards that stop these effects are pretty well known.  Maxx C stops the swarms; Trap Stun stops the traps; and Veiler or Skill Drain stops the effects.  If you have means of dealing with these attributes, you are probably in good shape. 

So in an effort to take my own advice, the side deck for my Gears includes: Veiler x 3, Debunk x 3, Rivalry x 3, Gozen Match x 3, MST x 3.  If you would like another example, look at Paul Cooper’s Hieratic deck.

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