Top Decks on a Low Budget

Tim Gore

5/16/2012 10:30:00 AM

When I first started playing Yu-Gi-Oh! seriously, the game was a very expensive endeavor to embark on. The top three decks were Dark Armed Return, Lightsworn, and Gladiator Beasts. Each deck had at least a few cards that cost over a hundred dollars, and many others that were pretty pricy. Once the 5D's era started, my wallet was once again stripped clean by even more costly decks like TeleDAD and Zombies. After spending a small fortune on a Zombie Synchro deck just to have it torn apart by the Forbidden and Limited List (and mocked by reprints), I swore to myself to never spend so much on a deck again.

Now let's fast forward to the Yu-Gi-Oh! of the present. Many of the cards we call “staple” have been reprinted. Cards that were once over twenty dollars can now be bought for as little as five. Even the up-and-coming Battle Pack: Epic Dawn will bring the most popular monster card since its release, Tour Guide From the Underworld, to us as a reprint. Powerful decks keep getting cheaper to build, and what was once a rich man's game is becoming something everyone can enjoy.

And that brings us to the topic of this article. While many of us don't have a huge problem buying a few costly cards to put together a strong deck, there are many others on a much tighter budget. Many of my friends fall into this category. I'm always looking for decks that will meet their needs while not breaking their banks, and I'm sure many of you would like to make a deck that can perform well for a low price. In this article I'm going to take three of the current top decks of the current format, and reshape them into decks anyone could afford. Join me, fellow budget Duelist, as we attempt to create some amazing budget builds!

Setting Rules
The first step to making a budget deck is to set guidelines. Here's a simple list of rules we'll follow when making our budget builds.

1. No card in the main deck should cost over ten dollars. This assures an affordable deck, while still giving you a little breathing room for needed cards.

2. Use the lowest rarity of each card. While Ultimate Rare cards do look pretty, and a Secret Rare card is very shiny, we're building with cost in mind as a major factor. We don't need to bling out all our cards just to show off, and sticking to lower rarities is another great way to keep our costs down. A common is just as powerful on the table as the Super Rare version of the same card.

3. Don't break the ten dollar price ceiling unless it's a card you truly believe the deck can't function without. The extra deck is the first thing that comes to mind when we consider breaking the price limit. Leviair the Sea Dragon is a good example of a card some decks truly need, but its cost easily exceeds the ten dollar mark. A themed extra deck card may also be necessary if the strategic goals revolve around it. A good example of this is Evols. While their main deck can be built on a budget, Evolzar Laggia and Evolzar Dolkka are costly, yet vital parts of the extra deck.

Now that we've set our guidelines, we're ready to start building.

 Eclipse Wyvern
Eclipse Wyvern
Set Structure Deck: Dragons Collide
Number SDDC-EN003
Level 4
Type Effect Monster
Monster Dragon
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 1600 / 1000
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

If this card is sent to the Graveyard: Banish 1 Level 7 or higher LIGHT or DARK Dragon-Type monster from your Deck. If this card in the Graveyard is banished: You can add the monster banished by this effect to your hand.

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Chaos Dragons
The support that made Chaos Dragons possible came to us in Structure Deck: Dragons Collide. New monsters like Eclipse Wyvern and Lightpulsar Dragon showed great promise, but no one had created a consistent build that proved it could top. That all changed when Chaos Dragon not only took second at YCS Chicago, but won YCS Toulouse on the same day. While Peter Gross's build from Toulouse ran costly cards like Tour Guide, Alex Reed used a much more budget-friendly model that still produced amazing results. We're going to take a page from Alex Reed's deck to keep our costs low, yet still try to use consistent and strong card choices like Pete Gross did to form our own build. Here's what I've come up with.

    Chaos Dragons Tim Gore    
Main Deck
Side Deck
2 Card Trooper
2 Chaos Sorcerer
1 Dark Armed Dragon
2 Darkflare Dragon
3 Eclipse Wyvern
2 Effect Veiler
1 Gorz the Emissary of Darkness
3 Lightpulsar Dragon
3 Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress
1 Mystic Tomato
1 Plaguespreader Zombie
2 Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon
3 Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter
1 Sangan
2 Thunder King Rai-Oh
1 Tragoedia
Monsters [30]
1 Allure of Darkness
1 Book of Moon
1 Charge of the Light Brigade
1 Dark Hole
1 Future Fusion
1 Heavy Storm
1 Monster Reborn
3 Solar Recharge
Spells [10]
Deck Total [40]


1 Ancient Fairy Dragon
1 Arcanite Magician
1 Armory Arm
1 Black Rose Dragon
1 Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier
1 Dark End Dragon
1 Five-Headed Dragon
1 Inzektor Exa-Beetle
1 Iron Chain Dragon
1 Magical Android
1 Number 17: Leviathan Dragon
1 Number 39: Utopia
1 Queen Dragun Djinn
1 Stardust Dragon
1 Void Ogre Dragon
Extra Deck [15]

The Goal of the Deck
The goal of any Chaos Dragon strategy is to fill the graveyard up with LIGHT and DARK monsters as fast as possible, chiefly by using mill effects (effects that send cards from the top of your deck to the graveyard, like those of Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter and Card Trooper). Once you've accomplished this, those monsters serve as fuel for your Chaos monsters and Dragons. They also become a recursive toolbox for monsters for Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon, which can special summon them to the field.

The deck can also create a soft lock when you have Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon and Lightpulsar Dragon on the table. If Lightpulsar Dragon is destroyed, Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon (REDMD) can bring it back with its ability. If both are destroyed, or REDMD is in the graveyard, then Lightpulsar Dragon can bring back Red-Eyes, which in turn can special summon Lightpulsar. Now you're right back where you started, and your opponent has most likely wasted cards trying to destroy your monsters.

Card Choices
Alex Reed relied more heavily on the Lightsworn engine, but I think you'll feel a basic Lightsworn lineup is best to provid mill, removal, and draw power. Darkflare Dragon earned itself a spot at two, since it's so good against Inzektors and any other strategy that relies on having important monsters in the graveyard. I maxed out Eclipse Wyvern to help summon Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon as consistently as possible, and to give my mills the most bang for the buck.

Even though Effect Veiler approaches our price limit, it's a card every Duelist should own. With the new Fast Effect ruleset, I'm sure you've seen that Effect Veiler has become a staple in almost every deck. Thunder King Rai-Oh is losing some of his power these days, but the ability to negate a special summon can still be game-winning. Sangan and Charge are the only cards Thunder King cancels out in our deck, but Thunder King's effect stops other decks from using popular cards like Pot of Duality; Reinforcement of the Army; E - Emergency Call; Wind-Up Factory; and so on.

A second Chaos Sorcerer was added to the deck to replace the Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning, since it goes far beyond our price goal. And while Tour Guide of the Underworld is one of the best topdecks in the game, even its reprint has a price tag that's beyond our reach. Monsters like Mystic Tomato, Tragoedia, and Plaguespreader Zombie were used in her place to give the deck options, and maintain a good amount of DARK monsters.
Over in the extra deck, Queen Dragun Djinn is an amazing new card for this strategy. She turns two Level 4 monsters into a 2200 ATK Xyz and a free beat stick from your graveyard. Brionac is the only monster that I feel is truly worth breaking the price limit. It's the best Level 6 Synchro in the game and an out to so many problems. Luckily it'll be reprinted this summer and should hopefully come into our price range. Because this deck has so few cards that exceed our price ceiling, I feel it could still preform very well at any tournament.

Dark World
Next on our list comes the winner of the 100th YCS! The Dark World strategy has been around for a long time, but it wasn't until the release of Structure Deck: Gates of the Underworld that the theme really became playable. Cards like Grapha, Dragon Lord of Dark World; Snoww, Unlight of Dark World; and The Gates of Dark World, gave the strategy the support it needed to bring the theme to a competitive level. As I explained in my article “Bringing Dark Work into the Light,” most competitive metagames right now were, and still are, ripe for the Return of Dark World. Shortly after that article was written and Michael Balan won YCS Long Beach with Dark World, we saw alot of Dark World decks winning and topping events. I've done alot of work on making budget versions for friend, and after comparing those builds to many that topped YCS tournaments, this is what I've come up with.

    Dark World Tim Gore    
Main Deck
Side Deck
1 Beiige, Vanguard of Dark World
3 Broww, Huntsman of Dark World
3 Grapha, Dragon Lord of Dark World
1 Sangan
1 Sillva, Warlord of Dark World
3 Snoww, Unlight of Dark World
2 Trance Archfiend
Monsters [14]
1 Allure of Darkness
1 Book of Moon
1 Card Destruction
1 Dark Hole
2 Dark World Dealings
3 Dragged Down into the Grave
1 Foolish Burial
1 Heavy Storm
1 Monster Reborn
3 The Gates of Dark World
Spells [15]
2 Mind Crush
3 Reckless Greed
1 Solemn Judgment
2 Solemn Warning
1 Starlight Road
2 Torrential Tribute
Traps [11]
Deck Total [40]


1 Armory Arm
1 Black Rose Dragon
1 Grenosaurus
1 Leviair the Sea Dragon
1 Maestroke the Symphony Djinn
1 Magical Android
2 Number 17: Leviathan Dragon
1 Number 20: Giga-Brilliant
1 Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction
2 Number 39: Utopia
1 Number C39: Utopia Ray
1 Stardust Dragon
1 Submersible Carrier Aero Shark
Extra Deck [15]

The Goal of the Deck
Dark World is a simple deck in theory, but it can be difficult to pilot. The main goal of the deck is to use card costs and effects to discard your Dark World monsters to the graveyard and gain their effects. With fiend monsters are in the graveyard, you can use The Gates of Dark World to help you discard more of your Dark World monsters while netting a free draw. If you have a Grapha in the graveyard, then you can bounce a Dark World monster from the field to your hand to special summon him. Being able to bring him back over and over again with his own effect is what makes Dark World such a powerful force.

Card Choices
The monster lineup is very standard for most of the Dark World builds that have been topping lately. The main difference is that we're running Trance Archfiend over Tour Guide. Many Duelists have made this choice to cut costs, while still making the deck consistent thanks to Trance Archfiend's amazing abilities. Trance provides an extra discard outlet, while giving you a way to recover banished monsters. That's is a big help since cards like Bottomless Trap Hole and D.D. Crow are such popular side deck choices.

Most of the spells in this build are staples in any Dark World deck. The only choice I really debated on was using a third Dark World Dealings. But I believe we have enough discard outlets already, since we're running Trance Archfiend. The trap lineup on the other hand, was adjusted to give the deck more speed. Three copies of Reckless Greed help you draw into the cards you need quickly. Starlight Road protects your field spell, your swarming, and those scary plays when you need to set most of your hand for Dragged Down into the Grave to be effective.

The extra deck is almost just there for looks and few of the monsters are actually needed. As long as you have Stardust Dragon and a few rank three and four Xyz monsters, you'll do just Fine. With six dollars being the highest price of any card you need for this build, it truly can be called a budget deck. Dark World's amazing synergy with Skill Drain, ability to run Deck Devastation Virus, and it being almost immune to most hand traps makes it a force to be reckoned with in the current meta.

Skill Drain Heroes
Heroes are a blast from the past. While the theme has been around for some time, and done well in the OCG, it wasn't until recently that it saw consistent success at major events in the TCG. Heroes were never too costly, but now that we have reprints of almost every fusion monster this deck uses they're even more affordable. That's made Heroes a much more attractive choice for all you Duelists on a budget. While many Hero decks, like Bubbleman beatdown and Masked Heroes, have had good results at many of the YCS tournaments this format, Skill Drain Heroes have the most tops. Here's what I've come up with for an affordable list.

    Skill Drain Heroes Tim Gore    
Main Deck
Side Deck
2 Beast King Barbaros
1 Crusader of Endymion
3 Elemental HERO Neos Alius
1 Elemental HERO Stratos
2 Thunder King Rai-Oh
Monsters [9]
1 Book of Moon
1 Dark Hole
2 E - Emergency Call
3 Gemini Spark
1 Heavy Storm
3 Miracle Fusion
1 Monster Reborn
3 Pot of Duality
1 Reinforcement of the Army
Spells [16]
2 Bottomless Trap Hole
2 Dimensional Prison
2 Hero Blast
1 Mirror Force
2 Skill Drain
1 Solemn Judgment
2 Solemn Warning
1 Starlight Road
2 Torrential Tribute
Traps [15]
Deck Total [40]


1 Blade Armor Ninja
2 Elemental Hero Absolute Zero
1 Elemental Hero Gaia
1 Elemental HERO Great Tornado
2 Elemental HERO Nova Master
3 Elemental HERO The Shining
1 Maestroke the Symphony Djinn
1 Number 17: Leviathan Dragon
1 Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction
1 Number 39: Utopia
1 Stardust Dragon
Extra Deck [15]

The Goal of the Deck
Skill Drain Heroes plays like most anti-meta decks. You make your opponent waste cards, while you net pluses with Gemini Spark and Hero Blast, at the same time locking down their best plays with stuff like Skill Drain, Thunder King Rai-Oh, and a hefty trap lineup. Even if your monsters are in the graveyard, they're brought to life once again with Miracle Fusion to turn them into powerful fusion monsters. Cards like Reinforcement of the Army, E - Emergency Call, and Pot of Duality help justify the deck's low monster count and assure you'll always have one when needed. Hero Blast and Elemental Hero The Shining also help keep Heroes in your hand. All these factors make Skill Drain Heroes a very hard deck to push through.

Card Choices
There really isn't too much to talk about when we get into the choices I made with this build. No card this deck normally runs goes over our price limit anyways, so I was able to mirror what most top deck lists use. Every card that used to make this deck expensive has gotten a cheap reprint, so instead of talking about what cards I chose to run, I'll talk about the cards I didn't run.

Super Polymerization is an amazing card and can easily disrupt your opponent's plays, but it's hard to justify Super Polymerization in the main deck until the DARK Hero, Elemental HERO Escuridao, is released in the TCG. Things could change to make Super Polymerization worth main decking, but for now, there are far too many Inzektor decks running rampant. Super Polymerization is, however, a wonderful choice for your side deck. I think you'll find with testing that two E - Emergency Call are a justified number to run with this deck only having four E-Heroes in it. They can all be searched with Reinforcement of the Army, too. However, in any other Hero deck, three E - Emergency Call is usually a must. Skill Drain Heroes being an anti-meta deck makes it a great investment. It should still be a viable deck for many formats to come.

In Closing
Being able to build a great deck on a budget is what truly helps expand the player base for any trading card game. Customers that are new to the game don't want to drop an arm and a leg on something they're unsure about, and at the same time they don't want a deck that has little to no chance of winning. Budget decks like these are the perfect way to get any new Duelist into the game, because they actually have a fighting chance. Then, as the Duelist grows in skill, they can grow their deck by adding more costly cards if they choose to do so. Give any of these decks a test run and I'm sure you'll agree they can deliver one heck of a bang for your buck.

-Tim Gore

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