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Baneful's Column
By Baneful
June 19, 2017

 May 2002 Yugi-Kaiba Format Guide


This is the very first format that started it all.  It’s the simplest format, so it’s more of a rainy day diversion rather than a highly competitive format, but it’s a more balanced format than you might think. Decks are very inexpensive to build.  Duels have a quick pace to them.  It takes very little time to learn; If you were to teach Yugioh to a beginner, this is probably the best way to start with the core basics of card advantage and life point advantage.


Card Pool


ˇ         Starter Deck Yugi (SDY)

ˇ         Starter Deck Kaiba (SDK)

ˇ         Legend of Blue-Eyes (LOB)


Very limited.  There are no more than 20-30 viable cards in this format


Forbidden/Limited List


Limited: Change of Heart, Dark Hole, Monster Reborn, Pot of Greed, Raigeki, Exodia Pieces.

Semi-Limited: Card Destruction, Swords of Revealing Light. 




Basic beatdown is the main deck.  Players could tailor it as they wish, but they shared the same 30-35 out of 40 cards.  The deck contains a balance of offense, defense and removal.


The dragon deck (with Lord of D, Flute of Summoning Dragon, Blue-Eyes White Dragon and Tri-Horned Dragon) has an offensive playstyle but isn’t very consistent.


Some players used 60-card decks and stalled with high-DEF monsters until the other player decked out, but I would refuse to play against anyone who did that (and if there’s ever a tournament for this format, the deck limit should be 45).


Below I built an example of a basic beatdown deck.




3 Summoned Skull

3 La Jinn the Mystic Genie

3 Battle Ox

3 Neo the Magic Swordsman

3 Wall of Illusion

3 Giant Soldier of Stone

3 Man-Eater Bug

1 Dark Hole

1 Pot of Greed

1 Raigeki

1 Change of Heart

1 Monster Reborn

3 Fissure

1 De-Spell

1 Soul Exchange

3 Trap Hole

3 Waboku

3 Reinforcement


How is card advantage attained in this format?

ˇ         Getting a 2-for-1 on Dark Hole or Raigeki. (via goading your opponent into overextending)

ˇ         Destroying monsters in battle with La Jinn or Summoned Skull. (via making the opponent waste their removal on your weaker monsters)

ˇ         Dealing enough damage to force opponents to use up their Waboku’s (via protecting your monsters in battle)




La Jinn, Neo the Magic Swordsman and Battle Ox are the 3 beat sticks.  Most people play all 9, but La Jinn is a staple at 3 due to its superior attack.  La Jinn is valuable for the reason that you can -1 the opponent by attacking their Ox/Neo with it.  You want to focus your trap cards on protecting your La Jinn and focus your removal cards on destroying the opponent’s La Jinn.  These monsters are the basic building blocks of the decks.  You win the game with 4-5 attacks from these.




Two-tribute monsters like Blue-Eyes White Dragon are not great in this format since monster removal is abundant.  Summoned Skull is the main tribute-monster in this format. How many you use is entirely up to you.  Using 2-3 copies gives you more muscle.  0-1 copies gives you less dead draws. 3 Summoned Skulls, 1-2 Judge Man and 3 Soul Exchange would constitute a “soul control” sub-engine.  It’s generally best to trigger off the opponent’s removal cards with your weaker monsters and then bring Skull out.


Defense Walls


While these high DEF LV4 monsters (Wall of Illusion, Giant Soldier of Stone, Mystical Elf and Spirit of the Harp) don’t have many offensive capabilities, they serve two purposes.  First, they force the opponent to waste their Fissures on them rather than your beaters.  Second, they protect your life points against swarms of enemy beaters attacking directly.  You generally don’t want more than one wall monster on the field because they can all be destroyed by Raigeki or Dark Hole.


Wall of Illusion is the best defense wall monster (use 2-3 of them).  It has slightly less DEF than the others, but that hardly matters since 1850 still not beaten by anything other than Summoned Skull.  It bounces the monster back to the opponent’s hand, reducing their field advantage and leaving them open for direct attacks.  Only use the other walls if you’re already running 3 Wall of Illusion and need more defense.


Flip Effects


They’re not strong but their effects can be useful.  If the opponent doesn’t attack them, you can flip them and them tribute them for Summoned Skull as a cost-less tribute.


Man-Eater Bug  - The best Flip Effect.  Everyone runs 3 since it gets rid of any threat and it reduces the opponent’s field advantage.  Try to save it for La Jinn or Summoned.  Be wary in setting it when the opponent has no monsters because an opponent’s Swords of Revealing Light can trigger it with no available targets.


Trap Master – Use 0-3.  Many use 2.  With very little Spell/Trap removal in the format, this is your main way of clearing Trap Holes and Wabokus.  Know what set cards to destroy and which cards are bluffs.   (i.e if your opponent hasn’t used that set spell/trap card against your La Jinn, it’s probably not a Trap Hole).  If the opponent hasn’t used Change of Heart yet, be careful of what spells/traps you set.


Hane-Hane – Use 0-1, preferably 0.  No real card or field advantage here.




Below are the 5 staples that every deck in this format should have (and all of them are limited to 1).  With exception to the first card on the list, the other four cards should only be used when you can (a) make the opponent lose card advantage, (b) when you can deal a lot of life point damage – but make sure the opponent’s chances of having a Waboku set is low - or (c) if you absolutely need to:

ˇ         Pot of Greed -- Play it as soon as you can.  Simple enough.

ˇ         Change of Heart – Only use it if you can steal tribute fodder for Summoned Skull or deal a lot of damage within a turn.  You can use this card to use an opponent’s Flip Effect against them, but that’s a byproduct: Don’t blindly activate it for this purpose.  You can also use this card to ram two opponent’s monsters of equal attack into each other.

ˇ         Dark Hole – You usually only use this card if your opponent controls 2+ more monsters than you do.  This is typically when you have an empty field and the opponent has two monsters.

ˇ         Raigeki – As with Dark Hole, you don’t use this card unless you can destroy 2 of the opponent’s cards.  The key difference compared to Dark Hole is that you use it when you have monsters on the board, so that they can attack directly for game.

ˇ         Monster Reborn – Summoned Skull is the best target 99% of the time.  It’s a game finisher, but you can also use it to bypass the opponent’s Trap Holes.


Swords of Revealing Light

ˇ         Very useful card.  Run 0-2.

ˇ         While a -1 in some sense, protection from battle is very valuable.  It puts less pressure on your traps, it gives you time to recover when at a a disadvantage, makes you more able to afford tributes and makes it harder for the opponent to gain card advantage through battle.

ˇ         As stated earlier, it can waste Man-Eater Bug and Trap Masters’ effects but be sure to use it before you set any cards the opponent’s Flip Effects can destroy.



ˇ         This card is a hard-counter to Swords of Revealing Light and is a dead draw otherwise.

ˇ         Some players use 0-1 Swords just to make the other player -1 on a dead De-Spell.

ˇ         I use 1 De-Spell as a balance between power and consistency.

ˇ         Only use this against a set spell/trap if you’re almost certain it is a bluff (i.e. you have been attacking for several turns and the opponent didn’t activate that set card yet).


Card Destruction

ˇ         It’s viable, but not great in this format.  It is a -1 in many scenarios.  Monster Reborn + Summoned Skull is the only combo with this card.

ˇ         If you suspect your opponent is saving their Raigeki/Dark Hole, Card Destruction could pre-emptively get rid of them.  However, otherwise, it could also let the opponent draw into those cards.

ˇ         If you were wondering about Exodia, this card is why Exodia is not viable at all.  People generally side their Card Destruction.


ˇ         Staple.  Run 3.  Good against La Jinns, Summoned Skulls, high DEF walls.

ˇ         When you can, preferentially use it on Main Phase 1 to lead into a direct attack.


Stop Defense

ˇ         Optional tech.  Run 0-2.  A good side option against defensive decks.

ˇ         An option against defense walls like Giant Soldier of Stone.

ˇ         Can trigger Flip Effects like Swords of Revealing Light does.

ˇ         Not the best way to get rid of Wall of Illusion (via battle) unless you have a higher monster count than the opponent.


Last Will

ˇ         Optional tech.  Run 0-2. 

ˇ         It’s not a powerful card because the ruling was different in 2002: The effect only activates if you activated Last Will before the monster was destroyed.

ˇ         Some players use this card in a situation where they’re sure the opponent will spring a trap against them (i.e. La Jinn against their Battle Ox).

ˇ         Even though the opponent can play around it, it remains viable because its one of the very few methods of Special Summoning.


Yami - It’s plausible.  Run 0-1, probably 0.  It helps your La Jinns, Neo, etc. but it also helps the opponents.




Trap Hole – Staple.  Run 3 copies.  Protects life points, removes a threat and detracts from opponent’s field advantage.  Save it for strong monsters such as La Jinn and Summoned Skull.  Using it against a Battle Ox or Neo is usually suboptimal.


Waboku - Staple.  Run 3 copies.  While a -1 by today’s standards, it was essential back then.  Life points are valuable in this format because players could be beat down quick.  Generally, it’s most advantageous to use in even battles (i.e. if two monsters have equal ATK, you can protect yours and have the opponent’s monster die).  You need to protect your life points but don’t waste it.  I don’t use it to protect from damage alone unless it’s 3000+ damage.


Reinforcements  - Staple.  Run 2-3.  While less versatile than Waboku because it requires a monster, it has numerous unique benefits.  It helps your Neo/Ox get over La Jinn and it helps your beaters in getting over high DEF monsters.  It protects your monster in an even-ATK battle when the opponent uses Waboku.  I would use this card as removal just to save my Fissure for Main Phase 1 so that I can get a direct attack in next turn.


Just Desserts – Optional.  Run 0-3.  Worthy side deck card.  Puts 1000-2000 damage on board, finish the opponent off for game.  Chainable against Trap Master.  The downside is that the card doesn’t help your field advantage.


Reverse Trap  - Optional tech.  Run 0-1. Counters Reinforcements.  A decent side option against Equips or Field Spells.


Dragon Capture Jar - Decent side deck card against Dragon builds but that’s really it.


General Rules in Playing This Format


Be conservative in playing monsters, but don’t be afraid to set your Spells/Traps. 


Mass removal (Raigeki and Dark Hole) can punish players for having 3+ monsters on the board.  Until the opponent activates those cards, your Monster Zone count is effectively 2.  However, if it’s almost certain the opponent has not drawn them yet, you need to weigh the benefits of swarming for an early victory versus overextending.


Conversely, there is no Heavy Storm in this format.  As a result, there is no penalty for setting your Spell Cards as bluffs.  If the opponent uses Trap Master, you should bluff.  If your opponent uses Card Destruction, you should set your powerful Spells to protect them.


Lastly, count the opponent’s card probabilities based on their graveyards.  The opponent has 9 basic removal cards: 3 Man-Eater Bug, 3 Fissure, 3 Trap Hole.  Keep count of what they’ve used and be wary of what they haven’t.  Also, make sure the opponent has activated their Wabokus before you try to deal massive damage.





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