All top tier decks in Yu-Gi-Oh! must
absolutely contain two features. The
first is consistent access to
powerful floaters. A floater is a
monster that has either paid for
itself already (i.e Monarchs,
Elemental Hero Stratos, a flipped
Dekoichi) or a monster that is
implied to pay for itself at a
future date (Sangan, Card Trooper).
Floaters can also be created when
winning advantage through battle or
other options. If your XYZ-monster
gets an unprovoked swing at a
non-floater of your opponent's, it
has recouped its cost and is now
floating on the field.
The second requirement of top tier
decks is they must contain some
sequence of explosive plays that can
end the game on one turn. Let's dig
into Yu-Gi-Oh! history for examples.
Every Top Deck has always had
consistent access to a floater
In modern formats, every Top
Deck can win the game in one
The Scapegoat Era
In primitive, pre-Shonen Jump days,
Yu-Gi-Oh! basically revolved around
the two best floaters of all time
(Witch of the Black Forest and
Sangan). When the Scapegoat era
began to take hold, coinciding with
the start of the Shonen Jump
circuit, the first “floater
struggles” began to take hold.
In top competitive Yu-Gi-Oh! play,
all turns leading up to the final
explosive game-breaker (which can
take place on the first turn,
unfortunately) can be characterized
as a struggle to create floaters
without spending cards from hand.
Now in the Scapegoat era, the “one
explosive turn” actually revolved
around Delinquent Duo and Pot of
Greed. A well-timed burst of the
trinity could create an
insurmountable card advantage.
Players were constantly making rapid
attacks to avoid such topdecks.
Other than trinity bursts, the game
was very measured and floater
struggles defined the Scapegoat era.
Basically, the struggle fixated on
preventing Sangan's from searching
Sinister Serpent (the ultimate
floater), and preventing Magician of
Faith's from fetching Power Spells.
If you could manage these two feats,
you would probably win.
The main advantage engines were
supported by Scapegoat, which
constantly protected the life
points. Sheep tokens and Serpents
were turned into Thousand-Eyes
Restrict, a monster that instantly
floated upon absorbing a monster and
was immune to battle destruction
(for some reason, Tsukuyomi wasn't
teched until after Nationals).
Thousand-Eyes would be sacrificed
for Airknight Parshath, another
monster that would float upon a
successful attack and create
immediate pressure due to its
effect. Rinse and repeat.
Sangan into Sinister and Magician
into Spell into Thousand Eyes
Restrict. Thousand Eyes into
Airknight. Game Blouses.
Pot Duo Graceful. Or BLS into 6k
After this era, Yu-Gi-Oh! fell into
a very dark era where every set
sucked and players just traded
Dekoichi flips and Spirit Reaper
hits over and over. The game was
literally just looping Dekoichis
with Tsuyomi and summoning Spirit
Reaper until it was limited.
Then, a few cards were released that
affirmed the suspicions of classical
Yu-Gi-Oh theorists. Both Gadgets and
Gladiator Beasts actually end up
testing floating theory (breaking
news: it works).
When Gadgets were first released, I
predicted they would be tier 1 or
tier 2 until the end of Yu-Gi-Oh!
Each Gadget floats upon summon.
Success with Gadgets simply involves
finding a way to create a few
explosive turns (or grind your
opponent down with forced
Gladiator Beasts also inadvertently
tested floater theory. Because every
single dead Gladiator Beast could
later be retrieved by Equeste, any
duel versus GB's was a race to down
their life points before their
floaters would take over your
whittled down position.
Unlike Gadgets, however, GB's always
had access to two game-breaking
combinations. The first was the War
Chariot lock. The second was the
Secutor into Heraklinos + Chariot
gambit, which basically ended the
game. Not surprisingly, Gladiator
Beasts were top tier through
multiple formats (and probably still
are if correctly built).
Equeste looping everything.
Equeste + Chariot lock. Secutor into
Heraklinos into game, blouses.
Next, Tele-Dad would come to feature
the best floater in the game at the
time, the burly 1800 ATK Elemental
Hero Stratos. Stratos has basically
anchored numerous top tier decks
over multiple formats (the sure sign
of a top card).
Disturbingly, the later builds of
Tele-Dad that featured Royal
Oppression actually started the
trend of solitaire Yu-Gi-Oh!.
Solitaire refers to spots where a
player can win the game on the first
turn (i.e modern Samurai decks,
Infernity decks, Tele-Dad with
By using Dark Grepher's special
summon ability, a Tele-Dad player
could create a board of Stardust
Dragon + a few Synchros + Dark Armed
Dragon with a set Solemn Judgment
and a set Royal Oppression. Again,
this was game blouses and a bit too
consistent with three copies of RoTA
and three copies of Solemn Judgment.
Stratos, Sangan, Dark Armed Dragon
DaD followed by Solemn Judgment.
Unbreakable setups with Stardust,
Solemn, and Oppression.
By this point, Konami realized what
top players realized. Every new set
featured some method of obtaining
floaters and then another boss
monster (that was also a very
powerful floater). Examples include
lucksack Lightsworn with Wulf and
Judgment Dragon, X-Sabers with
Darksoul and Faultroll/Rescue Cat,
Infernity with Launcher (again
playing solitaire), Blackwings with
Shura and Black Whirlwind, all the
way to the modern game.
The modern game has taken the
solitaire bit too far. The
Gravekeeper play with Royal Tribute
was outlandish. Dark World's ability
to see the hand was also silly. The
current Samurai plays (as evidenced
at YCS Indy) are absurd.
In fact, while I'm done whining
about design flaws in Yu-Gi-Oh!, I
think the one thing they should fix
is the ability to win the game on
the first turn due to some absurd
combination of special summons. A
blanket prohibition on special
summons during the first turn should
to the trick.
I also find it very interesting (and
poorly thought out) that Black
Whirlwind was limited but now every
top deck seems to have a card like
Black Whirlwind. I think all cards
that function similarly to Black
Whirlwind (Windup Factory, Gateway
of the Six, Gates of Dark World, etc
let me know if I missed any since I
don't play) should be limited or
Anyways, thanks for taking the time
to read this history. The goal was
to basically affirm that top tier
Yu-Gi-Oh decks require a combination
of strong floaters and game-breaking
win conditions. In the next
installment, we'll see how we can
use this information to make better
decks and realistically identify if
our favorite archetypes can win a