Side Decking in the Mud Format

Hey everybody! Nice to meet everyone reading this, I’m Matthew Kuhnel and I’m honored to be able to write Yu-Gi-Oh articles for Kirwan’s Game Store. I love this store and I love talking about Yu-Gi-Oh, so this opportunity is really a win-win for me. I’ve been playing Yu-Gi-Oh for a long time (since the beginning) and have only actually started venturing far to play it within the last year. I’m quite popular in the Upstate NY, Capitol Region area but that’s just because I’ve been a mainstay of this Yu-Gi-Oh scene for a few years. I attended Nationals this year after recieving my first ever invite (at KGS’s second Regional). Sadly I dropped after going 4-2-1 which you’ll probably tell me is able to make day 2, but the story is very depressing and involves miscommunication with a Judge who must not have been hugely knowlegable. Aside from YCS Meadowlands I haven’t been to any other HUGE events. This I plan to change, and hopefully I can record my experiences in these articles.
Experience and history aside I want to discuss this very young format, that despite being young, I do believe is very developed. If you’ve been playing this game for the past 2 weeks you may have noticed something, no deck is absolutely dominant. This is a great thing for players who love to play a lot of decks, but for players who like to have as close to a 100% chance of topping any given event (local and up) as possible this is actually a very bad thing. The reason being is that in the last format if you wanted the best chance of topping you could either run Dragon Rulers, OR run whatever deck you want, and optimize its Dragon Ruler matchup (see Samuel Pedigo’s Geargia). The same can’t be said about this most current format at all, this format isn’t one, two or even 3 dimensional, it’s a huge mess of potential. The state of the format makes my head spin, I’ve thought about so many potential decks that I eventually realised that this format can best be described as mud. To be fair it should be classified as a brown format (a mixture of all kinds of colors), but mud was the word that came to mind when I was talking to someone about my thoughts on this format recently, and I liked the term “mud format”.

My experiences in this format include five locals total. That’s not an amazingly good sample for data, but considering I’ve played against every deck that I consider good (minus Madolche and Hieratic) the data is actually pretty reliable to support the fact that this format is absurdly diverse. I won a local with Hunder Family, then got top 8’d in the next local with Hunders (lost to Prophecy), then proceeded to scrub out of a local with Mermails, moving into next week I won a local with Mermails, and then won another local with Mermails. Alright now this doesn’t look terribly good, but keep in mind that there were 3 Fire Fist decks fully built with Wolfbark at the tournament that I topped with Hunders, and Bujin, Prophecy, Hieratic, and Fire Fists were all in attendance at all of these locals. So even though Fire Fist are the most stable deck this format in my opinion given their huge amount of success at the local, and regional level (almost always topping); it can’t be said that they’re the BEST deck. Stability is different than domination, Dragons dominated Yu-Gi-Oh so much so that they demanded side deck attention in the main deck (Iron Wall and friends).

Okay most any deck is doable right now, so what? Well it creates a huge amount of problems when side decking, which is what I really want to talk about. In a format like this you need to side deck very broadly, especially at the regional level upwards. Generic sides like Dust Tornado, Smashing Ground, and Fencing Fire Ferret are all quite strong because they’re never absolutely dead in 6+ rounds of YGO, however the best sides in this format are more specific yet strangely diverse. Let’s go over some of the most popular sides in the game right now, and what they hurt.

dna surgery correct

 DNA Surgery

This is probably the single most popular side card for anyone not running Spellbooks. DNA Surgery is so good against so many decks, that it could be considered generic at this point. First and foremost it hurts Spellbooks, the deck that actually brought this common of days long past into the spotlight; Surgerying for anything not Spellcaster turns off the decks single best removal card Spellbook of Fate, as well as prohibiting them from activating Spellbook of the Master, and Spellbook of Power. The fun doesn’t end there, DNA Surgery hinders the up-and-coming much hyped Bujin deck. The Bujin game plan is usually to stick a Bujin Yamato on the field, and resolve his effect multiple times slowly turning Yamato into an unstoppable Voltron after amassing a graveyard full of Turtles, and a hand full of Cranes. The catch is that most of Yamato’s zoo of support cards have the stipulation that they can only activate if you control a “face-up Beast Warrior Bujin monster”, and of course DNA Surgery can turn the mighty Yamato into any type of your choosing, effectively shutting down a major aspect of the deck. Geargia are an honorable mention here. DNA Surgery doesn’t shut down Geargia Karakuri, it does however stop them from synchroing for any Karakuri synchro monsters, greatly diminishing their OTK potential. All in all DNA Surgery is a very, very good side with a ton of applications, the three decks mentioned it does very well against and it could very well have uses against other decks.

LightImprisoningMirror- correct
Light-Imprisoning Mirror
I really like this card right now, and it covers a lot of ground. First and foremost it hurts Bujin, stopping Yamato from ever getting to ramp into animals and stopping any of the graveyard animals from activating. It’s also a legitimate side against three reasonably popular “rogue” decks of the now. Hieratics can be a painful matchup for a lot of decks, and even worse, not many side decks are prepared to face this deck without specific thought; thankfully Light-Imprisoning Mirror is quite good in this matchup. Chaos Dragons have a huge fanbase (for whatever reason) and I’ve played against them a lot recently, the deck has a history with being “luck based” but thankfully most of the decks best monsters are shutdown by Light-Imprisoning Mirror. The best part is that it shuts off their Lightsworn mill engine, their Lightsworn spot removal cards, and the recurring effect of Lightpulsar, all of those factors being HUGE. Lastly is Constellar, a deck that is very powerful if it goes first, and sets up optimally. Light-Imp won’t stop Pollux, but will stop Sombre cutting off their recurring Xyz engine, Sheratan their searcher, and most importantly Pleiades, the decks win condition (most of the time). Agents are an honorable mention, I haven’t played them yet, nor do I expect to anytime soon but if you’ve got any around you remember the power of Light-Imprisoning Mirror.

Mistake-SHSP- correctMistake
Sadly this last card is in extremely high demand at the moment, making it harder for less financially inclined players to acquire. Even still, it’s a very powerful card that is useable in a ton of decks. At first glance Mistake seems pretty restricted in the decks that can use it, but the case is quite opposite. Mistake only truly shuts down a deck that needs to search every single turn, Prophecy and Bujin come to mind. Decks that search, but don’t use it is a means to victory can actually side into 2-3 copies of this card and come out on top vs. the decks that cannot side it. Fire Fists are a prime example of a deck that can work around Mistake very well, since all you need to do is resolve Tenki once to really get moving, you can Tenki into Bear set some protection + Mistake and keep the ball rolling by having Bear set things that AREN’T Tenki. It’s been a recurring theme in the Fire Fist sidedeck, and it’s a major addition to any deck that wants to winout in a grind game vs. Prophecy or Bujin specifically. However the card also has a hugely powerful presence in rogue matchups. If you face a Hieratic player and see that they’re running Duality, siding into Mistake when going first could slow them down enough to the point where you can win a pivotal game. The same goes for the 4-Axis Fire Fist matchup; most 4-Axis decks have been main decking x3 Pot of Duality, and although Fire Fists can themselves side into Mistake, if they don’t see it coming from you post-side it could end up beating them outright. All things considered I think it can be a fair conclusion to draw that Mistake is best used against Prophecy and Bujin at all times, and comes in clutch against a large number of decks in a going first scenario.

None of these cards are terribly surprising, but the reason being is that they’re just so good. Whether you’re checking out the winner of your last locals side deck, or the top 8 of a recent Regional you’re bound to find at least one of these cards in the side deck run in multiples. Something they all have in common is that they’re classified as “floodgate” cards, in that their purpose is to tell your opponent that they’re no longer allowed to play Yu-Gi-Oh so long as the card remains face-up on the field. An important point to take away from this, is that this is the most common way we side deck in Yu-Gi-Oh at the moment. Once upon a time it was more common to side into cards that you knew could trade favorably with the deck you were facing, for instance cards like Snowman Eater, Nobleman of Crossout, Soul Taker, Kinetic Soldier, and Legendary Jujitsu Master all had points in time where they were hugely popular side cards. Yu-Gi-Oh has evolved a ton in just the past year, though. Decks reach their win conditions faster than ever, and the majority of top decks can work around a wide variety of board states that are attempting to grind out a win so long as there isn’t some ridiculous defensive card involved (looking at you Spellbook of Fate). Since our decks can now reach their comfort zone so much faster than ever before, it makes cards that shut down our opponent completely that much more powerful.

So, if you’re having trouble with a deck look towards figuring out the decks number one weakness and exploiting it through a continuous card, the popularity of “floodgate” cards is at an all time high, and until we start seeing some hugely revolutionary deck strategies I think it’s safe to say that these types of cards will continue to have their space in the side deck.

For the last few months the #1 question I’ve had people ask me is “What are you playing next format?”.  As I stated in the article, from my current perspective I feel like anything is possible in this format and I still haven’t solidified a deck choice. There are two regionals on the regional list that I’ve got my eye on attending, and hopefully before the first one (in PA) I can give you guys a decklist of something that I’ve found myself comfortable with. Until then I’ll keep switching decks every week, week one Hunders, week two Mermail, week three is sneak peak but then I’m going to give Hieratic a shot.

Thanks for reading and thanks always to Kirwan’s Game Store, the best place in gaming.

Until next time, Matthew Kuhnel.

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Matthew Kuhnel

My name is Matthew Kuhnel, I've been playing Yu-Gi-Oh since its earliest days and love card games in general.

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