Side decking is one of the more difficult, nuanced areas of Yugioh! but is absolutely essential to doing well in events, especially when you consider that more games are played sided than not.
The current meta isn’t particularly refined, with True Draco, Pendulum Magicians, Paleozoic and spellcaster-oriented (Invoked/Windwitch) draw power decks being the most prevalent decks.
First, we’ll start with the essentials that cover many bases and should make the cut in most side decks:
- Cosmic Cyclone – This card is just very good. I don’t know what else to say. It hurts Pendulum decks, True Draco Spells and Traps and is perfectly fair removal against other decks.
- Dimensional Barrier – An excellent answer to Pendulum Magician decks and can see use against fringe decks such as Invoked, a very powerful card worth shoving in any sideboard.
- Chaos Trap Hole – Destroys big pendulum plays and negates the summon of Denko Sekka, not to mention fringe uses against Master Peace (not ideal honestly) and ABC decks; this card is very reasonable.
- Interrupted Kaiju Slumber + 3 Kaijus – Board clears are harder to acquire now that Dark Hole is limited, so Slumber and Kaijus are solid removal in lieu of that and are good in a variety of match ups when you need to go second.
- Ash Blossom and Joyous Spring – This card is often seen in the main deck, but is just as valuable in the side deck and hits powerful engine cards such as Card of Demise, Pot of Desires, True Draco Heritage and Wavering Eyes right where it hurts.
Now we’ll look at some of the more fringe options, worth considering based on your own deck and what you expect to be playing against:
- Breakthrough Skill – This card went from average to pretty good really fast. This card is useful against decks with Stratos-like summon effects and monsters with powerful effects such as Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon and Beelze, King of the Diabolic Dragons. Also offers some stability against backrow removal that isn’t Cosmic Cyclone; this card is really reasonable.
- Heavy Storm Cyclone – When going first, this card is really powerful. A nightmare for pendulum decks, trap-heavy decks (read:Paleozoic) and fair against field spells. Not insane most of the time, but definitely fine.
- Pendulum Storm – This card may as well read “perfectly answer the standard turn one pendulum magician play” as it does exactly that, killing both of their scales and their Time Pendulumgraph they will have set and ready to go. There are many good ways to target magicians, and this is one of them. This card is also searchable by Duelist Alliance, making Pendulum decks very good at killing each other.
- Pendulum Hole – This card wants to do the same thing as Chaos Trap Hole, except without the cost. Super powerful, except it is susceptible to Denko Sekka and Zaphion the Timelord, side deck staples of the best Magician builds. Once again, this card is searchable with Duelist Alliance so 1-2 of them in a Pendulum Magician side deck is perfectly fine.
- Denko Sekka – If playing Pendulum Magicians and not wanting to die going second, this is a card you just play 3 of. Putting your opponent in a position where they can’t interact with you has just always been good.
- Zaphion, The Timelord – Offering a really powerful removal effect and breaking even when answered, Zaphion is a really great card when playing high ceiling decks such as Pendulum Magicians. Get some, they cost like a dollar.
- Mask of Restrict – True Draco enjoy tribute summoning large men. This card says they cannot do that, therefore it is quite good. They are able to remove it by destroying a True Draco Spell with Dragonic Diagram though, so be aware of that when you decide to let it resolve or not.
Lastly, here are some kind of sketchy options that could be insane, or just very average. Don’t blame me if they suck, but do thank me if they’re great.
- Mistaken Arrest/Shared Ride – Excellent answer to a Wavering Eyes + Double-Iris Magician play, these cards can either deny insane amounts of value or generate you advantage. I’m leaning towards Mistaken Arrest, as pendulum decks often struggle when the game state gets very simple.
- Wavering Eyes + Archfiend Eccentrick – This does take up four side deck slots, but hear me out: pendulum players never play around Wavering Eyes from a non-pendulum deck. Why would they? The added value from Archfiend Eccentrick which is fine even when drawn seals the deal. This is a Double Dust Cyclone that adds a Mystical Space Typhoon. It’s probably bad. But man, can you imagine?
- Rivalry of Warlords/Gozen Match – True Draco decks play a wide variety of attributes and types, making these cards perfectly fine at locking them out; especially as Dreaith III begins to see more play. Why wouldn’t you play Mask of Restrict instead? Shh, these cards are meant to be kind of bad. As an upside, it has fringe uses against Windwitch engines to prevent them from summoning Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon.
Remember, the side deck is dependent on what decks you are expecting to be playing against and what you are actually capable of siding out of your main deck. Don’t side 10 cards for a match up if you can only take out seven. We’ve all been there, so try not to do it.
With this in mind, build yourself a sick side deck and go and murder your opponents.