Imagine this common scenario: you’re dueling someone, and about half-way through the game you realise your losing. Badly. Not because your deck is bad, but simply because you don’t have the specific cards to stop your opponent’s plays. We’ll all been there; every player has a match-up that they don’t do so well against, and it really sucks when you only had to swap certain cards to have potentially won that game. This is where having a side deck comes in pretty handy. For the players reading this who don’t play competitively, a side deck is a set of fifteen cards that, in Games Two and Three of a Match, you can swap out for other cards in your Main Deck to have a better edge on your opponent.
There are typically 3 ways to side-deck; either you put in cards to stop your opponent’s deck from making their plays, you put in cards that’ll stop what your opponent put in to stop you, or you put in cards that’ll change your strategy completely, throwing off your opponent. The most commonly used method is the first: siding in cards that’ll help you stop your opponent from doing their shenanigans. The only problem with this? You can only have fifteen cards in your Side Deck. With the variety of decks being played this format, a lot of players can find it difficult to choose exactly what cards to put in their Side Deck to combat whatever they may face it tournament play.
Choosing the right cards to add to your side deck
The trick is to pick cards that’ll be good against many different match-ups. There are some cards that are good against virtually deck, like Effect Veiler or Maxx “C”, and these are cards I recommend every player run in multiples, either in their Main or Side Deck, for the simple fact that they’re amazing. Every deck this format uses monster effects and every deck special summons, so why not take advantage of that? Speaking of Special Summoning, a great card against almost every deck this format is Vanity’s Emptiness, which has shot up in price recently because of its overwhelming popularity. Even if your own deck Special Summons a lot, Vanity’s Emptiness can stop your opponent from beating you while you draw into your own plays, or, in the best case scenario, you establish a massive field presence and on your opponent’s turn flip Vanity’s Emptiness up to stop them from doing anything to stop it.
Another good example of a versatile Side Deck card is Mind Crush. Many decks this format add cards to their hand from their decks to set up for their bigger plays, and Mind Crush is an excellent way of getting rid of your opponents’ key combo pieces. A favourite play of mine is in the Blackwing match-up, using Mind Crush on the declaration of my opponent’s attack and calling Blackwing-Kalut the Moon Shadow so they can’t run over my monster and lose their Kalut. Mind Crush can also work against decks that have to reveal monsters in their hand to special summon them, like High Priestess of Prophecy in Spellbooks, Mermail Abyssmegalo in Mermails, and Wind-Up Shark in Wind-Ups.
“But Alex”, you say, “What about more specific cards for more specific decks?” Obviously, you should put cards in your Side Deck to stop decks that you have a hard time against. A good card against Blackwings, Dark World and other DARK themed decks is Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror, which stops all Dark monster effects that happen on the field or in the Graveyard. Hate other effects that activate in the graveyard like High Avatar Garunix or any Atlantean? Cards like Soul Drain, Macro Cosmos and Dimensional Fissure stop those decks in their tracks since their monsters can’t go to the graveyard to activate their effects. If you play a deck that has only one Type or Attribute of monster, you might find it good to Side Deck cards like Gozen Match or Rivalry of Warlords to stop decks that play many different kinds of monsters.
Things to remember when putting togheter your Side Deck
Those were only some suggestions of cards you could put in your Side Deck. Obviously, you’re not going to run something like Dimensional Fissure if you’re playing Dark World or Mermails. When putting your Side Deck together, it’s important to remember certain things. One, put in versatile cards, meaning cards that can help you out against a lot of different match-ups. Two, only put in cards that’ll help against decks that you have a bad match-up against. If you’re playing Wind-Ups, you don’t really need to Side Deck cards for the Evilswarm match-up. Three, don’t put in cards that’ll hinder your own strategy. Other than that, the choice of what cards to Side Deck is entirely up to you. Choose wisely – your Side Deck might be the one thing that can help you win in certain situations.