Yu-Gi-Oh!, as you probably know, is a fairly big thing. Released in 1996, the monster-battling Japanese TCG essentially took the world by storm upon its release, and has been ranked by the Guinness World Book of Records as the world’s biggest-selling card game. The manga off which it is based is written isn’t too bad. There’s also an anime, which I won’t be getting into, because I’m in a pretty good state of mind right now and I don’t want to ruin it.
I myself have been playing the card game since I was around six, and I like to think I’m not too unskilled at it, having played both casually and competitively (online, of course, because, while I love this game, it can be expensive as hell) for a fairly long time.
Anyways, getting to the point – my favourite decks. Yu-Gi-Oh! has an absolutely massive amount of cards available at the moment, and so, the amount of themes and variants with which one can build a deck is enormous. In this post, however, I’m only really looking at archetypes – that is, cards which share a name or directly involve each other with regards to their effects, working together to achieve victory a certain way.
So, here’s my picks…
#3 – Blackwings
Everybody loves Blackwings.
Released in Crimson Crisis waaayy back in 2009, Blackwings are an archetype of DARK-attribute Winged Beast-type monsters that immediately set a new benchmark for speed in Yu-Gi-Oh! The very year that they were released, these fine feathered fellows (I couldn’t stop myself) managed to top the World Championships. And that was before Konami began to churn out support like Blackwings churn out monsters every single turn.
Over time, Blackwings became one of the absolute biggest archetypes in the game, receiving a plethora of massive Synchro monsters and extensive spell and trap support. The deck centres on rapidly swarming the field and performing multiple Synchro summons in order to wipe the opponent out in one fell swoop (I swear that one wasn’t on purpose). In addition, it has equally potent defensive options in cards like Blackwing – Backlash to punish the opponent’s monster line-up and Delta Crow Anti-Reverse to destroy their backrow without warning.
And I haven’t even gotten to their searching capabilities yet.
In competitive Yu-Gi-Oh!, searching, or the retrieval of cards you need straight from the deck, is extremely in important in staying ahead of the opponent. Blackwings really, really have this covered. Black Whirlwind, which allows you to add a Blackwing from your deck to your hand with less attack points than one you just summoned, enjoyed a stint on Konami’s banlist for allowing this archetype to pull of some truly ridiculous, lightning-fast Synchro summoning moves. It’s undoubtedly a key card of the deck, though a case could be made for some others, such as;
- Blackwing – Gale the Whirlwind, one of the first Blackwings to be released. It’s a level three Tuner that you can bring out straight from your hand just by having another Blackwing. This, as I may not have made clear enough, is extremely fucking easy to do.
- Blackwing – Vayu the Emblem of Honour lets you Synchro summon a Blackwing using monsters in your graveyard.
- Blackwing – Blizzard the Far North is a Tuner that lets you summon another Blackwing from the graveyard, essentially giving you a one-card Synchro summon.
- Blackwing – Armour Master is indestructible by battle, packs 2500 ATK, and reduces enemy monster’s attack to 0 after it battles with them.
- Assault Blackwing – Onimaru the Divine Thunder gains three thousand ATK when it attacks, if it’s summoned using only Synchro monsters. ‘Oh, that’s alright,’ you say. ‘How would I manage that?’ By accident, I reply, because it’s so goddamned easy.
- Blackwing – Gofu the Vague Shadow, I dunno. Ultimaya Tzolkin, maybe? Is that what this is for? It helps with an Assault Blackwing deck, I guess.
These are just some of the myriad ways an enemy Blackwing deck can ruin one’s day, or if, like you’re the one playing them, can ruin the day of others. And, on top of everything else, they’ve got generic Winged-Beast support, top of the list being Icarus Attack, which lets you tribute a Winged-Beast monster (any Blackwing at all) to blow up to of your opponent’s cards. Pendulum Scales? Gone. Shady looking face-downs? Gone. I run two or three at all times. It’s hilarious.
They’ve even got their own draw 2 card, Cards for Black Feathers. ‘But Cormac,’ you say, ‘It stops you Special Summoning!’ That’s true. But. Blackwings are also all DARK-attribute. Oh, look, Allure of Darkness is at three.
AND ON TOP OF ALL OF THAT, YOU CAN SPLASH IN DARK ARMED DRAGON.
Of course, I’ve got personal reasons too. Blackwings were the first competitive deck I’ve ever come into contact with, and ever since the first time I was absolutely eviscerated by them, Blackwings have held a special place in my heart.
Reasons to Play:
- Constant support, as Konami treats them like their favourite child,
- Varied and interesting plays,
- SO MANY SUMMONS,
- Access to massive Xyz and Synchro toolbox.
Star Cards: Assault Blackwing – Raikiri the Rain Shower for its awesome destruction effect, Black Whirlwind for searching, Raidraptor – Force Strix because haha I don’t have money and this isn’t even a goddamn Blackwing.
#2 – Lightsworn
Like Blackwings, I think it would be a fairly accurate statement to say that this next archetype have had a pretty good old time of it.
They started off in Light of Destruction way back in the GX era, the set which brought us such metagame-defining cards as Honest, Gladiator Beast Gyzarus and, uh, all of those Arcana Force cards I suppose. With their fast, risk-all playstyle, Lightsworns soon became extremely popular, both as a deck of their own and, more commonly nowadays, as an engine for other archetypes.
Lightsworn’s gimmick, for want of a better word, is milling, or sending cards straight from your own deck to the graveyard. That’s what I meant earlier when I said ‘risk all’ – when you’re playing a full-on Lightsworn deck, it’s make a big play or lose. All of their cards (except a couple ones that nobody uses) send cards from the top of your deck to the graveyard at the end of your turn, or as a cost to activate their effects. It’s this fast, aggressive playstyle that makes me really like this deck.
I should probably mention, of course, that it isn’t just some kind of prolonged-suicide deck. There is a point. With some Lightsworn monsters, being sent from the deck to the graveyard allows you to Special Summon them – however, this isn’t the main thing. This is the main thing.
Who’s that? That’s Judgement Dragon, and if you play Lightsworns, he is your best friend. 3000 ATK, no waiting, and I mean that quite literally. His effect lets you nuke the entire field, destroying every card on the field apart from him for the paltry cost of 1000 life points.
The price? Having four different Lightsworn monsters in your graveyard. And considering how quickly this deck fills up the graveyard with monsters, you could very well be bringing out this swaggin’ dragon on your second turn. And, the best part? It has no cost to be summoned, only a condition. If you’ve got four Lightsworns in your graveyard and two or three Judgement Dragons in your hand, you can bring out all of them, wipe the field, and attack for 9000 damage. Unlikely, but quite possible.
As I mentioned earlier, Lightsworns have been spliced into numerous other decks in the years since their debut – you’ve got Lightsworn Shadolls, Zombiesworn and of course, the infamous Twilight and Chaos Dragons that combine LIGHT and DARK-attribute cards to summon stuff like Chaos Sorcerer and Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning. In fact, I’m currently running them in my favourite deck. But I digress…
So, due to both their strength and speed as a deck and their compatibility with other strategies, Lightsworns have become one of the most popularly-played decks in Yu-Gi-Oh!. They’ve got a halfway-decent Field Spell called Realm of Light, amazing searching utility with Charge of the Light Brigade (eyy) and an excellent draw 2 card in Solar Recharge. They’re supported by cards like Honest and the Lightrays. Basically, they’re set as an archetype.
What does Konami do?
Makes them better.
Who’s that riding my best friend Judgement Dragon, you ask? That is Michael, the Arch-Lightsworn, and he’s your new best friend. In 2014’s Realm of Light structure deck, Lightsworns got a whole host of new support, specifically in the direction of Synchro monsters. Michael is one such card. He can banish any one card on the field at the cost of 1000 life points, has a hefty 2600 ATK, and can shuffle Lightsworns back into your deck and gain you back life points. And, he mills three cards at the end of every turn.
New sets have also given Lightsworns a host of new Tuner monsters in order to facilitate the bringing forth of their newest win condition. Raiden, Hand of the Lightsworn, is my personal favourite, and has found a reliable place in my Blue-Eyes deck, for being able to send dragons to the graveyard for revival later on. In addition, there is Minerva, Lightsworn Maiden (not to be confused with the bank-breaking Minerva, the Exalted Lightsworn) which can add Judgement Dragon to your hand. This is an absolutely massive help, considering that the main danger of Lightsworn decks has always been sending your Judgement Dragons to the graveyard before you can bring them out.
In addition to all of this, Lightsworns have an excellent trap card line-up that provides them with archetype-exclusive equivalents of Negate Attack and evening Solemn Warning.
There’s also an absolutely incredible Xyz monster that singlehandedly elevates the entire deck, Minerva the Exalted Lightsworn. Unfortunately, however, this is only available as a prize card in certain tournaments, and so goes for absolutely mind-blowing prices. Like, if you’ve got no concern for the future of your livelihood, go ahead, but otherwise, Lightsworns are grand without it in my opinion.
Overall, their aggressive, balls-to-the-wall playstyle is what makes me enjoy playing Lightsworns so much. There’s speed and a sense of theme in this deck like very few others. If you’re just starting off your Yu-Gi-Oh! playing career and you want something fast and strong, go for Lightsworns.
Reasons to Play:
- Aggressive playstyle from the get-go,
- Supported by various LIGHT cards,
- Incredible boss monsters,
- Able to be splashed into many different decks an engine.
Star Cards: Judgement Dragon, because he’s your best friend and wipes the field for virtually nothing, Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner for great revival capabilities and Charge of the Light Brigade for milling and searching. (ALSO MINERVA, EXALTED LIGHTSWORN BECAUSE HAHA I STILL HAVE NO MONEY – !)
#1 – Blue-Eyes
My previous two picks for this list have been pretty tame decks, as they go. Blackwings, while ultra-competitive in its heyday, has rather faded to rogue tier, being kind of viable, but not one of the top decks around. Lightsworns, while they have mad potential for explosive One-Turn Kills, are basically in the same boat as Blackwings nowadays. This, however, is something different.
Blue-Eyes White Dragon is probably one of the first things one thinks of when Yu-Gi-Oh! is brought up in any capacity. Released waaaaayy back in the very first sets of Yu-Gi-Oh!, this thing is absolutely one of the most iconic cards in the entire game. I started off with Starter Deck: Kaiba, and this is the first card I ever saw. Needless to say this monster is extremely dear to me.
For most of its long, storied in history in the game, Blue-Eyes White Dragon hasn’t been that good. In the beginning of the game, it was outclassed by Summoned Skull of all things. While 3000 ATK was still amazing, it required two tributes whereas Summoned Skull required one. Even then, speed was the name of the game.
10 years pass, high-tier Dragon decks come and go. It’s 2013, and Konami releases a new structure deck, called Saga of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. This, for the most part, is where our story begins.
In this structure deck, we got the first in the Eyes-of-Blue series, a group of level 1 Tuners designed to turbo out Blue-Eyes as quickly as possible. Maiden with Eyes of Blue is a monster that, though it has 0 attack and defence points, can summon a Blue-Eyes White Dragon from your hand, deck or graveyard whenever your opponent so much as gives it a funny look.
In addition, we got a Synchro monster by the name of Azure-Eyes Silver Dragon. It was level 9, which meant that we could summon it with Maiden or with the Blue-Eyes searcher, the White Stone of Legend. This thing had 2500 ATK and 3000 DEF, protected Dragon-types from targeting or destruction for two turns and could revive a Normal monster (Blue-Eyes, by the way) during every one of our Standby Phases. We also got Silver’s Cry, which let us revive a Dragon-type Normal monster for not cost whatsoever, and since it’s a quick-play spell, you can do it on either player’s turn.
This is the kind of thing the archetype needed. This made Blue-Eyes White Dragon’s 3000 ATK a fast and immediate threat. With this extra boost in the deck’s pace, the OG Dragon became able to take advantage of the abundant Dragon-type support like never before.
The deck stopped for a while, but this year, in 2016, the twentieth anniversary of the franchise we got Shining Victories. And Blue-Eyes, as a deck, was elevated to another level altogether.
Eyes of Blue became a whole series of level 1 Tuners – this gave Blue-Eyes players access to their main beatstick right from the hand (Protector), graveyard (Master), and deck (Sage). In addition, the aforementioned White Stone of Legend got a ridiculous upgrade, the White Stone of Ancients. This card doesn’t just add Blue-Eyes to your hand; it brings it straight out onto the field when Stone of Ancients is sent to the grave. By any means whatsoever. If you tribute it, use it for a Synchro summon, anything. Blue-Eyes White Dragon. All over the place.
We also got yet another Synchro, Blue-Eyes Spirit Dragon. This provided a soft counter to the ever-more-popular Pendulum monsters, let us summon Azure-Eyes Silver Dragon on either player’s turn, and negates opponent’s graveyard effects. This let Blue-Eyes run with the best of ‘em, jetting straight up to Tier 1 with Burning Abyss and Monarchs.
Later on, thanks to the new movie, we got Blue-Eyes Alternative White Dragon. This card more than any other truly makes the archetype. It can be summoned by merely revealing a Blue-Eyes in your hand, and can destroy one monster on the field, at the cost of not being able to attack that turn. Considering you’ve just brought out a 3000 ATK beater for not cost at all, that isn’t a big problem. This immediate summoning of a level 8 monster allows Blue-Eyes to have access to the whole Rank 8 toolbox – Galaxy-Eyes Cipher Dragon, Hieratic Sun Dragon Overlord of Heliopolis, the works. Run three. Always.
And that’s not all – oh, not remotely.
For draw power, we have access to Trade-In and Cards of Consonance, the latter of which lets us dump a White Stone to bring us a step closer to having a Blue-Eyes out in addition to letting us go +2. For searching, we have Summoner’s Art and Sage with Eyes of Blue, as well as Melody of the Awakening Dragon, which allows us to bring out Alternative even faster. We’ve got a whole host of Felgrand support that lets us dump our dragons in the graveyard and revive them at the drop of a hat. We even got a Field Spell.
In addition to all of this, however, what really makes this deck click for me is the sentimental value. Now, I can wipe out my opponents with a card I’ve been using for years, that has massive nostalgic value. With Blue-Eyes, I’m finally using the deck I’ve always wanted to play since I first got into the game. And that’s pretty great.
Reasons to Play:
- Fast access to massive-ATK dragons,
- Works seamlessly with the new Felgrand cards,
- Huge searching capabilities that make for extremely fast plays,
- Massive nostalgic value,
- Awesome synergy with generic Dragon-type and LIGHT support,
- Able to use Rank 8 monsters,
- Revives monsters so often that the graveyard is like a second hand.
Star Cards: Blue-Eyes White Dragon, obviously, Blue-Eyes Alternative for having a ridiculously easy summoning condition for such an amazing monster, and Melody of the Awakening Dragon for adding all of the Blue-Eyes to our hand.
Anyway, that’s my two cents. This list is, of course, utterly subjective, so don’t y’all go hating because I didn’t put ABCs or Metalfoes on it. Anyways, if you’ve got your own opinions on the best Yu-Gi-Oh! decks around right now, or enjoy anime trash in general, be sure to leave a comment and check out the rest of this blog. ‘Til the next time!