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Getting In the Game: Card Choice

September 4, 2008

What!!? Summoned Skull is NOT Good?
I have been playing the game since the beginning, without any breaks. But I have seen other players try and get back in, only to find themselves completely out of date and rather outclassed by newer cards and combos. I hate to see people quit the game, so I thought that I would have an entire series of articles about players trying to get into competitive play. This is the first in the series.
The article today is going to be broken down into steps that you can take in order to choose cards from old sets as well as new so that you can play competitively without having a harsh learning curve.
Step 1: Find Your Inner Player
The first step in making a deck or even a comeback is finding out what is best for you. There are 3 general types of decks, with subtle differences as well as blendings between them. A control deck is focused on controlling your opponent's cards, forcing them to play the way that you want them to. Counter Fairies is a good exampled of a control deck. The next deck is an Aggressive or Aggro deck. It focuses on using powerful monsters with high stat values in order to attack an opponent. The third deck is a Stall deck. Stall decks use various spells, traps and monster effects in order to stop your opponent from doing any attacking in order for you to draw into a combo, usually Exodia or Burn.
If you like to attack and attack often, an Aggro deck is for you. If you like to dictate the terms of the duel, then control is your deck. Then if you like just watching your opponent stew with frustration as they are burned or Exodia'd to death, then a stall deck is appropriate for you.
You should not choose your favored deck type lightly, if you are trying to get back in the game, then you will unlikely be able to afford another deck should you change your mind. You should also do a little bit of research into which kind of deck is popular, as that way you won't pick a dud deck.
Step 2: Make An Accounting of Your Cards
This is harder to do than you might think. If you played before, then likely you know what cards were good back when you were playing, so take those cards from your collection. This way, we can easily see what cards are more likely to be good now. The next thing to do is to look on the banned list to see if any of your cards have been put on the list since you last played. This will narrow your card pool down even further so that you aren't building decks around cards that you can't even play.
Now, you should do some more research. Look on the forums to see if any of you cards are being discussed in the single cards or gossip forum. You can also check out the Card of the Day, as there are many different cards that experienced players take a close look at. The more recent reviews are better as then you have them in context with what is being played at the moment.
Once you have a card pool with some good cards, it is time to group them. You can group them by what they do, such as discarding cards, burning lifepoints and milling cards to the graveyard. You can also group them by monster type as well as support for that type or even attribute. Some cards, like Monster Reborn are so powerful that they are included in most decks, and are almost an auto-in for your fledgling deck.
Step 3:  Heavy Duty Research
As with most things in Yu-Gi-Oh!, the internet is your friend. Both Pojo.com and Metagame.com are great resources, both for searching out deck ideas as well as putting them into a larger arena where other players can help you. If you want to use new cards, then I suggest ideal808.com as it has the best selection of cards and card pictures readily available for viewing as well as purchase.
While you are researching you should be thinking about these three things. What deck you like to play best. What deck you can afford. What cards you have for the deck and which cards do you need.
Metagame often has a great selection of the best decks from major tournaments, like World Championships and Shonen Jump Championships. However, often these decks are not only expensive, they are fairly difficult to play and rather unpredictable in the hands of less experienced players.
Pojo's forum is often the best place to get started with an idea. here is a hint though, do NOT post a thread saying "Which deck is best?" You will be often ridiculed and receive no help. Instead, view the decks that were posted by fellow players. There are hundreds of decks to see. Remember, just because a deck is posted does not mean it is good or suited to your playstyle.
You should also see which decks include a number of the cards that you already have and divided into themes. This will help to reduce cost in the next step as well as help you to organize. It is more often than not good to pick more than one deck that you want to build, this way if you cannot get ahold of certain cards, then you always have a Plan B.
Step 4: Shopping
This is my favorite part of the process, as I enjoy just acquiring new or exotic cards for my collections and decks.
The most basic way to acquire cards is to buy a pre-constructed starter or structure deck, again, the newer the better. The deck will often come with many cards that are incredibly useful as well as give you a good starting base from which to begin modifying it or taking the cards that you need so that you may proceed to the building step of your deck. However, most of the cards in the deck are going to be useless, both in your particular deck as well as in trading.
The next way of course is to buy booster packs. These are generally cheap, going for anywhere from 3-4 dollars, so that if you buy a small amount of them you do not pay too much. Boosters are generally a good idea if you simply want to expand your card pool. They are not good however, for trying to get a specific card. You end up paying lots of money for cards that you don't need for your deck.
Choosing a booster is incredibly hard, as you don't know what is in them. Luckily, Pojo has expensive decklists for every set. You can even check out interesting cards on ideal808.com so that you can see their effects as well as pictures. Often boosters are themed, so that you can focus on whichever booster suites your deck best. In general, reprint sets are the best ways to get power cards as they are often of a lower rarity and each pack comes with more cards.
The next way to acquire cards is often the most expensive, buying singles. At this point you are paying for cards at a fixed price that rarely fluctuates. Online stores as well as local card shops often have a large selection of cards to choose from, and if you are willing to pay the price, they are a done deal. I actually recommend ebay for your card buying needs, as the price is not set, but fluctuates with the market. BEWARE, make sure to read the auction carefully before you bid, so you can make sure you get what you pay for. Many sellers simply include a card name in the title so that it appears in searches. They also include lots, which mean that you pay a certain amount and you have a chance to win one of a certain card, one of which is rare and the others aren't. Let me tell you, you WILL get the lower rarity cards.
Buying singles is prudent if you are looking for certain cards, or a specific number of cards. I would not recommend buying a pair of Dark Armed Dragon at $120 a pop. For larger value cards, it is often best to trade with your fellow Yu-Gi-Oh! players. It is fun, fairly reliable and gets you into contact with both more experienced players as well as players round your level, wherever that may be.
Some quick tips for trading. ALWAYS know the value of your cards. It is easy to be taken in by someone who says that your cards are worth far less than theirs. If you don't know prices, you can easily get ripped off. If you are looking for specific cards, look up their prices as well. Use ebay for prices, it is often the benchmark for "Street" prices of cards and people will agree on the price more readily. You can trade at local events, or anywhere that player congregate, like Regional tournaments. Just be careful, as thefts are likely to happen at bigger events.
Step 5: Hard Hat Construction
Your deck should now be mostly complete and all but in the card sleeves. Sleeves are not necessary for game play, but they help with protecting your cards as well as making shuffling easier. I recommend special Yu-Gi-Oh! sized sleeves, as the sleeve will fit better as well as shuffle and protect better.
For higher end cards, like Judgment Dragon, you do not even need to acquire them yet. You can use a "proxy", a card that stands in for another. This way, you can try out the card in your deck without having to spend the cash only to find out the deck doesn't work. You may not use proxies in tournaments, but in casual play you may ask your opponent if you may use proxy cards.
Once you have a deck assembled, it is time to count them. You should have between 40-42 cards for a competitive deck,a s fewer cards in the deck means that you are more likely to draw into the right cards for the job. You may have to make some painful cuts, but a 40 card deck functions better than a 60 card deck.
Once the deck is squared away, you should prepare your Extra deck if you require one. The extra deck holds your Fusion and Synchro monsters until they have been summoned. They do NOT go into your main deck. You should also prepare a side deck for competitive play, but we'll go over that in a later article.
Step 6: Test, Test and Re-Test
Testing is the most arduous part of the deck creation process, but the MOST necessary. You need to find out whether or not your deck works before you pay even more money to enter a tournament. You should also test with proxy cards before you even attempt to acquire cards to make sure your ideas work.
Testing involves a grueling series of matches in which you pit your deck against another player's deck. This is essential to find out whether the deck works or not as well as for you to get used to the operation of your deck. Each one is different and needs to be handled differently. If you go Aggro with a Gadget deck, you can expect to be handed defeats quickly, no matter how good the deck.
Testing is supposed to be long, and I find that 100 matches are good for knowing how goof your deck is against a certain deck. If your deck has won 60 or more matches, then you can deem the deck a success at dealing with that deck. you should not test with only one deck or player, some decks are better than others and the same goes for players. Mix it up to get more experience.
Testing does not have to and should not be limited to playing games though. Goldfishing a deck is playing without an opponent, to see if your deck can reliably pull off it's win condition. You just play the deck as if your opponent does nothing each turn. You can also use dry drawing, in which you draw a six card hand in order to determine whether or not you get a hand that does what you need it to. You should keep a tally of this as well, so that "good" and "bad" hands are kept track of. You should have about 80% good hands in order for a deck to be playable.
Testing is never complete, so even after you have deemed a deck worth playing, it is good to tinker with a deck, playing around with card choices in order to see which work best. This is the most important part for creating your skills as a deck builder. You should always try new cards, if just for fun.
That is all for this installment, it took a long time to write, but I hope that everybody can glean some basic information in how to pick cards and decks for you. You can email me at raptor1k@hotmail.com for questions advice or deck tips. I also run tournaments in Davis California on Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 12:30 pm respectively. If you are in town or passing through, stop by. You can meet great players, ask questions and even play in some low key tournaments.
Thanx for reading!




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