Side Deck Theory: Paleozoics Win Another YCS

Kelly Locke

3/28/2017 11:00:00 AM

A few weeks ago I wrote about YCS Atlanta's Paleozoic problem. The short version is this: Zoodiac players weren't siding Denko Sekka and ended up losing matches they might have won otherwise. A combination of entry number expectations and trends in Paleozoic builds convinced Zoodiac players to abandon what's arguably the single-best Side Deck card for one of the game's most important match-ups.

The live coverage team at Atlanta remarked that players at the next YCS would be more prepared for the Paleozoic match-up. At the time I fully agreed and expected Paleozoics to greatly underperform as a result. I even discussed how duelists might side too many cards for the match-up and make themselves vulnerable to other decks.

So what actually happened at YCS Prague? Were Paleozoics adequately sided against, or did they fly under the radar yet again? Answering those questions is tough. It's impossible to generalize for 636 players, and that's especially true when they all made different choices while building their Side Decks. Let's start with the highlights.

YCS Prague By The Numbers
First, let's look at entry numbers. Zoodiacs were the most-represented strategy by a wide margin. 390 players entered the tournament with Zoodiacs, as opposed to just 109 with Invoked Windwitches and 105 with Paleozoics. Metalfoes and Infernoid Zoodiacs picked up the rear with 77 and 59 each, although I'm not sure where non-60 card builds were represented in their graph. Chain Burn and Lightsworns made noteworthy showings as well.

By the start of Day 2 the number of players left in competition was only 320. Nearly every strategy was cut down by about a third. Representation didn't change much among the top five decks, but Lightsworn and Chain Burn dropped off the chart. Zoodiacs and Paleozoics were nearly neck-and-neck in the Top 32 with Infernoids as a close third. Invoked builds barely made it into the Top 32 despite being the second most-represented strategy at the start of the event.

For the most part, representation at the beginning of the event translated into representation at the end. Invoked hybrids were the biggest losers over the course of the tournament and had the lowest representation in the Top 32 respective to their entry numbers. Keep in mind that Invoked Windwitch builds had more than four times the initial representation of Lightsworn, yet three Zoodiac Zombie Lightsworn builds made the Top 32. It'll be interesting to see if Invoked continues being played at those numbers with Paleozoics outperforming them so greatly.

 Denko Sekka
Denko Sekka94557
Set The New Challengers
Number NECH-EN041
Level 4
Type Effect Monster
Monster Thunder
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 1700 / 1000
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Cannot be Special Summoned. While you control no Set Spell/Trap Cards, neither player can Set Spell/Trap Cards nor activate Spell/Trap Cards that are Set on the field.

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Paleozoics tied Zoodiacs with nine decks each in the Top 32 despite Zoodiacs outnumbering Paleozoic nearly four to one. A simple view of the Top Cut doesn't reveal the whole picture and only shows that Paleozoics and Zoodiacs appear evenly matched. Even looking between Round 1 and Round 9 seems to show an equal number of drop-offs from both strategies. Yet, when we get to the Top 32 it's plainly obvious that Paleozoics outperformed Zoodiacs given their entry numbers.

So what's the truth about Paleozoics and Zoodiacs? Are Paleozoics really that much better considering their Round 1 and Top 32 representation, or does the Day 1 to Day 2 drop off which was in line with the other top decks force us to consider another explanation? It's possible that Paleozoics were piloted by high-skilled duelists more frequently. We've seen that occur over the last year or so since Minerva, the Exhalted Lightsworn was released as a prize card; only serious players took the deck into competition and that greatly inflated the deck's win percentage.

Side Deck trends have a huge impact on how different strategies perform at major events. We've witnessed a strange trend over the last couple of months where the single best Side Deck card against Paleozoics has been enormously and perhaps erroneously underplayed.

Siding Strategy: What Changed Since YCS Atlanta
Deck lists from the Top 32 at YCS Prague are available over at our deck archive database. It's a relatively diverse line-up if you ignore that fully half the decks ran Zoodiacs to some extent. Their Side Decks were clearly more targeted towards answering the Paleozoic match-up. Top 8 duelist Daniele Stella played just five unique cards in his Zoodiac Side Deck with Denko Sekka, Cosmic Cyclone, and Chain Disappearance as potential sides against Paleozoics. In reality he probably wasn't siding more than one of those cards at a time, but having the option to adjust to an unexpected build is always nice.

Denko Sekka showed up elsewhere in the Top 32, including Andy Swann's Zoodiac Shaddoll Zombie Lightsworns, Olovsson Robert's Zoodiacs, and Alpay Engin's Zoodiac Zombie Lightsworns. There was a much higher concentration of Denko Sekka at Prague than Atlanta, and it's clear players expected to see the deck in large numbers. Of course, we're just talking about the Top 32. We don't know how many players were siding Denko Sekka but failed to make the cut. Those numbers matter when you're talking about Top 32 representation.

YCS Prague came down to a familiar match-up between Joshua Schmidt and Billy Brake. It was essentially a rematch from their duel in the finals of YCS Bochum where Brake's Metalfoes defeated Schmidt's Paleozoics. Schmidt got his revenge against Brake in a match-up between Paleozoics and Brake's 60-card Zoodiac Infernoids to win YCS Prague and score the second YCS win for Paleozoics in a row.

Brake's Side Deck was loaded with Kaijus, but he avoided Denko Sekka. That's a stark difference from 4th Place Jawad Chowdhury, who sided two copies in his 60-card Zoodiac Infernoids. Boos Benjamin sided three copies in his Top 32 Infernoids, which makes Brake's decision not to play it seem out of place. To be fair, he wasn't the only Infernoid player in the Top 32 without it. Zuccato Fabio sided in an entire Shaddoll engine into Infernoids.

What makes Brake's decision even more surprising is that his Denko Sekka single-handedly won Game 3 of the finals at YCS Bochum against Schmidt. His first play at the beginning of that game is Summoning Denko Sekka, and it never leaves the field. Schmidt's backrow is totally useless against it, and his Pot of Desires can't get him to an out. In that situation Denko Sekka was more than a blowout card: it was a Championship-winning force. So why did he drop it?

Take a moment to consider the rest of Brake's Main and Side Deck. The 60-card build is loaded with answers to Zoodiacs. His three Lullaby of Obedience gave him a Game 1 disadvantage against Paleozoics and other non-Zoodiac variants, but if you run the numbers he was four times as likely to be paired up against Pure Zoodiac alone. Factor in Zoodiac Infernoids as well, and you can see why his Main Deck was so narrowly built to answer cards like Zoodiac Drident and Infernoid Devyaty.

 Interrupted Kaiju Slumber
Interrupted Kaiju Slumber111188
Set Breakers of Shadow
Number BOSH-EN089
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

Destroy as many monsters on the field as possible, then Special Summon in Attack Position, 2 "Kaiju" monsters with different names from your Deck (1 on each side), but they cannot change their battle positions, and must attack, if able. During your Main Phase, except the turn this card was sent to the Graveyard: You can banish this card from your Graveyard; add 1 "Kaiju" monster from your Deck to your hand. You can only activate 1 "Interrupted Kaiju Slumber" per turn.

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Could he have sided Denko Sekka? Well, he probably didn't have the space for it. He decided to side an entire Kaiju engine to swallow up opposing Xyz Monsters like Toadally Awesome. D.D. Crow's a great Side Deck pick for the match-up too. It helps to keep Toadally Awesome off the field even when you're going second and temporarily takes Ronintoadin out of the game. Joshua Schmidt hit Brake's Crow with a Solemn Strike in Game 2 of the YCS Prague finals, so there's your evidence that Paleozoic players hate seeing it.

60-card Infernoids don't necessarily need floodgates to win their matches. Resolving That Grass Looks Greener gives you enough card advantage that your opponent's backrow can't keep up. You don't need to block every spell and trap if your opponent's overwhelmed by the sheer number of cards you can throw at them. When Infernoids go off they'll quickly overrun even the heaviest Paleozoic backrows as long as some other floodgate doesn't keep them off the field.

Unfortunately 60-card Paleozoics negates the effectiveness of That Grass Looks Greener. It was a rough Game 1 match-up for Brake especially, but in general most 60-card builds don't want to be matched up against other 60-card strategies. It's much more difficult for Infernoids to break through multiple backrows when they're banishing from their hand.

Being rewarded for taking risks is a part of the game, and Brake was incredibly successful at YCS Prague. 2nd Place is no small feat, and Brake continues to be one of the greatest players in the game. The risk he took with the Paleozoic match-up might have cost him in the finals, but it almost paid off spectacularly.

Siding For Paleozoics Under The New Forbidden & Limited List
Zoodiac Ratpier's Semi-Limit is far from a deathblow to Zoodiacs. It's also not an unnoticed hit, and it's a tiny nudge that could trigger a mass migration to Paleozoics. If even a few Zoodiac players peel off to play Paleozoics we'll probably start seeing the deck win substantially more events. The more common that match-up is the more Main and Side Deck tech people will throw at the deck.

The upcoming format probably won't look much different than the one we're currently in. A minor drop in play for Zoodics will still leave them as the most popular deck in the game. Only a mass migration to Paleozoics will radically change the tournament scene, and that seems rather unlikely.

But even with that in mind, I'd argue that Denko Sekka's a Side Deck staple right now. Yes, it's vulnerable to Zoodiac Drient if a Paleozoic player has teched a Zoodiac engine, but remember that Zoodiacs are slightly less threatening now. You can afford to switch one or two anti-Zoodiac cards out for Denko Sekka so long as you're still ready to tackle pure Zoodiacs and Infernoid hybrids. Necrovalley would be seeing more play too if any of the top decks could play it without disrupting their own cards.

Paleozoics are in their best form from now until the launch of Maximum Crisis. Hoping to avoid the match-up might have been a viable strategy before, but it certainly isn't now.

Until next time then


Kelly​​ ​​Locke​​ ​​is​​ ​​a​​ ​​West​​ ​​Michigan​​ ​​gamer,​​ ​​writer,​​ ​​and​​ ​​college​​ ​​student.​​ ​​​​ ​​In​​ ​​addition​​ ​​to​​ ​​writing​​ ​​on TCGplayer,​​ ​​Kelly​​ ​​writes​​ ​​​​personal​​ ​​blog​​​​ ​​covering​​ ​​Yugioh,​​ ​​Destiny,​​ ​​and​​ ​​other​​ ​​hobbies.​​ ​​You​​ ​​can follow​​ ​​him​​ ​​on​​ ​​​​Twitter​​​​ ​​and​​ ​​check​​ ​​out​​ ​​his​​ ​​​​Youtube​​ ​​channel​​.​​ ​​​​ ​​He​​ ​​is​​ ​​currently​​ ​​studying​​ ​​marketing​​ ​​at Western​​ ​​Michigan​​ ​​University,​​ ​​and​​ ​​hopes​​ ​​to​​ ​​graduate​​ ​​before​​ ​​​​Dragon​​ ​​Ravine​​​​ ​​is​​ ​​Unlimited.

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