Building Hybrid Decks: Fundamentals For Success

Doug Zeeff

4/25/2016 11:00:00 AM

Almost without exception, every single TCGplayer write has - at some point - written an article about a deck that's a combination of two or more different themes. There are only so many basic strategies in Yu-Gi-Oh, so combining archetypes is a fun way to create a brand new deck. Sometimes the challenge lies in finding the specific cards you want to mesh together, but more often than not it's about finding the correct ratios and bridges between your themes.

Everyone has their own deck building philosophies, and today I wanted to share some things I've learned about building these hybrid decks over the past four years at TCGplayer. I have an extensive portfolio of off the wall hybrid decks, so I think I'm more than qualified to write about the subject.

But before delving into the logistics of constructing a deck list, let's examine why it's a good idea to look for synergy among different strategies not necessarily designed for each other.

The Best Of Both Worlds
Lightsworn Shaddolls. Burning Phantom Knights. Draco Performapals. T.G. Agents. Frog Monarchs. Some of the best decks in Yu-Gi-Oh! were a combination of two major themes, taking the best cards from two different groups to create a more powerful strategy. When I think of a hybrid deck, I often refer to Aristotle's phrase “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In other words, there are a lot of cases where the combination of two archetypes is more powerful than either of them could be by themselves.

Draco Performapals is a great example. Could you play straight Performapals or just Dracos? Absolutely. But the Dracoslayer engine couldn't generate enough free card advantage and wasn't consistent enough to be competitive, despite its insanely powerful Extra Deck monsters. Conversely, Performapals have lots of +1's that smooth out your hands, but they lack the explosiveness needed to be a truly dominant force. Combined though, those two themes form a deck that has consistency and explosiveness, which explains why they were such a problem.

 Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer
Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer111189
Set Breakers of Shadow
Number BOSH-EN090
Level 4
Type Pendulum/Effect Monster
Monster Spellcaster
Attribute EARTH 
A / D 1500 / 800
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

Pendulum Effect: If a "Performapal" monster(s) is Pendulum Summoned to your side of the field: All "Performapal" monsters you currently control gain 1000 ATK until the end of this turn (even if this card leaves the field).
Monster Effect: If this card is Special Summoned: You can target up to 2 cards you control; destroy them, and if you do, add "Performapal" monsters with different names from your Deck to your hand, except "Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer", equal to the number of monsters destroyed. You can only use this effect of "Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer" once per turn.

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Most of the time that's the interaction that pushes players to take hybrid decks to tournaments. One theme is consistent but not very powerful, and the other half is powerful but not very consistent. By combining them you're hopefully making a much stronger deck.

When you look at more casual strategies, combining two themes often lets them compete on a level that would be impossible without extra help. Looking back at my own articles, I can see decks like Chronomaly Artifacts or Volcanic Shaddolls where neither archetype was individually good enough to play by itself. By combining them I was able to play cards that I really wanted to try without sacrificing duels because I was playing garbage cards. It's a win-win scenario of style and efficiency.

From The Ground Up
When I'm putting together a hybrid strategy I think of it as being divided into three parts: Theme 1, Theme 2, and Other. That gets a bit more complicated when you have more than two strategies in the same deck, but generally speaking I think it's a good rule of thumb to categorize everything by breaking it all down into three distinct sections.

The first two parts of that equation are pretty straightforward because they're usually whatever takes the name of the deck. In Atlantean Mermails, it's the Atlanteans and Mermails. In Burning Phantom Knights, it's the Burning Abyss and Phantom Knights. Not tough.

But what about the third part? In some decks, that third component is dedicated to staple spells and traps. Cards like Twin Twisters, Raigeki, Instant Fusion, and Solemn Strike fall into that category. They usually don't support either of the strategies directly, but they're there to address a variety of common threats you're likely to come up against.

That third category is also where you'd include cards that connect your two strategies together. Speedroid Terrortop's a perfect example, blending together Burning Abyss and Phantom Knights. Terrortop kick starts your entire deck by searching out Speedroid Taketomborg and making a Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss without using your Normal Summon. Whether you draw a hand full of Burning Abyss monsters or Phantom Knights, you'll want to see Speedroid Terrortop too, so it's no surprise that it's found in so many Top Cut deck lists.

While it's easy to find two strategies that sort of work well together, I believe the real key to success is finding the connector cards to link them together. Those cards aren't always obvious, and sometimes you'll have to try out a bunch of options to figure out the perfect solution. Still, it's worth it because when you find a card that's just right then the rest of the deck should fall into place!

Lopsided Hands
The last thing I wanted to focus on is probably the most important and most overlooked part of deck building when dealing with hybrid strategies. Looking at Atlantean and Mermail cards and realizing they go well together isn't that hard. Even on an advanced level, finding weird combos between them doesn't take a lot of deck building skills, or at least not much more than a basic layout of what cards you need to make the combo.

Issues arise when you forget about the potential for lopsided hands, which a lot of people simply don't think about. No matter how consistent you think your deck is, and no matter how mathematically improbable it might be, you have to be prepared for three outcomes in your opening hand:

- Drawing almost all Theme 1 cards

- Drawing half Theme 1 cards and half Theme 2 cards

- Drawing almost all Theme 2 cards

If you're putting two themes together you've obviously hoping that every hand is going to be the middle option; a hand with little bit of both sides to even things out. But realistically that's not always going to be the case, and that's where the great decks separate themselves from the rest of the pack. The best hybrid decks still work under all three scenarios, and if you're looking to dominant a tournament with your crazy strategy then you better be prepared for all three.

Take Burning Phantom Knights. If you draw all Burning Abyss monsters and one Phantom Knight monster, what's the end result of your hand? Well, even without Speedroid Terrortop, you're going to end with at least one Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss, and probably a Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal. Even better, there's a good chance you'll actually mill a Phantom Knight monster, which opens up the possibility of other Rank 3's.

 Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal
Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal115805
Set Premium Gold: Infinite Gold
Number PGL3-EN021
Level 6
Type Xyz/Effect Monster
Monster Fairy
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 2500 / 2800
Rarity Gold Secret Rare
Card Text

2 Level 6 monsters
You can also Xyz Summon this card by sending 1 "Burning Abyss" monster from your hand to the Graveyard, then using 1 "Dante" monster you control as the Xyz Material. (Xyz Materials attached to that monster also become Xyz Materials on this card.) If Summoned this way, the following effect cannot be activated this turn. Once per turn, during either player's turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; send 1 card from your Deck to the Graveyard. If this card in your possession is destroyed by your opponent's card (by battle or card effect) and sent to your Graveyard: You can Special Summon 1 "Burning Abyss" monster from your Extra Deck, ignoring its Summoning conditions.

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Conversely, if you start out with all Phantom Knight monsters and one Burning Abyss monster, the end result's pretty similar. You can use a Phantom Knight and The Phantom Knights of Silent Boots to make a Dante, and then discard your Burning Abyss monster to end with a Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal.

Then, of course, if you open ideally with half and half, your end field is exactly the same: a few Dante mills before making Beatrice. That sort of general redundancy is good for a competitive deck, because it means that even though your hands are varied throughout a given tournament, you're likely to make the plays you want no matter what combination of cards you see. While that's a good thing in any deck, it's especially important in hybrids because there's a much higher chance of drawing lopsided hands than there would be in a “pure” variant of the strategy.

Much of what I've explained comes from my own findings over my years of playing Yu-Gi-Oh, so my arguments and logic might not work for the decks that you're putting together. But generally speaking , I've found these concepts to be helpful in bettering myself as a deck builder when dealing with multiple strategies at once, so I hope they're helpful to you too. If you have any rules for making hybrid decks yourself, please let me know in the comments! Part of what makes this game so great is that there's an infinite number of correct approaches you can take to deck building, even if they arrive at different results.

-Doug Zeeff

Doug Zeeff hails from Michigan and is currently an English major in college. When he's not found emailing Konami about why there's not a single walrus card in all of Yu-Gi-Oh! you can find him regularly posting unorthodox, unfiltered semi-Yu-Gi-Oh! related content on his Youtube channel, Dzeeff. In his spare time he enjoys eating cheese, cramming for finals, and, of course, playing Yu-Gi-Oh. Click here to follow him and his adventures on Facebook!

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