Side Deck Theory: Siding For Links

Kelly Locke

7/27/2017 11:00:00 AM

Link Monsters are finally here and a new set of rules have taken effect. These rules have changed the game drastically, and everyone's Side Deck strategy needs to take them into account.

For now there are just three Link Monsters in the game: Decode Talker, Honeybot, and Link Spider. All three are available in Starter Deck: Link Strike. More Link Monsters will be arriving in Code of the Duelist, which launches in less than two weeks.

We're a long ways from a Link-dominated format, but the rule changes have affected the effectiveness of certain Side Deck tech choices. Now is a great time to reevaluate Side Deck choices going forward, and start thinking about which cards could be vitally important in upcoming formats based on those rule changes.

A New Kind Of Extra Deck Summon
Link Summons are similar to Synchro Summons – just without Tuners. Link Monsters require specific materials as listed on the card, but most are fairly generic and simply ask for Effect Monsters. Unlike Synchro and Xyz Summons, Link Summons are harder to predict. The Summoning of a Tuner or the second monster of the same Level telegraphs an impending Synchro or Xyz Summon, but Links ask for nearly any monster in nearly every quantity. It's hard to know exactly when a Link Summon's coming without intimate knowledge of your opponent's strategy.

Knowing when a Link Summon's coming makes a big difference regarding your interruption effects. When do you use spot removal to destroy or banish a potential Link Material? Can you afford to wait for a Link Monster to hit the field first? These questions get harder to answer with certainty as more Link Monsters enter the game. The conditions for performing a Link Summon are varied enough that the usual interruption might not be enough. One of the reasons why Zoodiacs are so strong is their ability to launch Extra Deck combos with any Zoodaic monster. Now players can Summon Extra Deck monsters with any monsters of any type or quantity.

This mechanic forces us to rethink spot removal and other single-card disruption effects. Zoodiac Drident and Master Peace, the Dracoslaying King have been extremely popular over the last few months and show no signs of declining in play, but they're easily pushed through by swarms of expendable monsters. Waiting to destroy a Link Summoned monster seems like a great strategy at first, but what if that Link Monster is Decode Talker? Its effect can negate and destroy Zoodiac Drident or another targeting effect. In this case Master Peace doesn't care, but Decode Talker is just one possible outcome from a field full of Effect Monsters.

 Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King
Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King131141
Set Maximum Crisis
Number MACR-EN024
Level 8
Type Effect Monster
Monster Wyrm
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 2950 / 2950
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

To Tribute Summon this card face-up, you can Tribute Continuous Spell/Trap Card(s) you control, as well as monsters. Unaffected by the effects of cards with the same card type (Monster, Spell, and/or Trap) as the original card type of the cards Tributed for its Tribute Summon. Once per turn, during either player's turn, if you control this Tribute Summoned monster: You can banish 1 Continuous Spell/Trap Card from your Graveyard, then target 1 other card on the field; destroy it.

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Mass removal and disruption is certainly a lot more interesting with Links in play. Torrential Tribute, Floodgate Trap Hole, and Book of Eclipse can shut down a field full of potential Link Materials. Summon negation is also of bigger importance. Negating Decode Talker's Summon prevents it from ever having a chance to use its protection effect and leaves your opponent out two or three monsters. Again, this is something that will become much more important in the future when new Link Monsters are released.

As a new Summoning type, many of the cards we've used in the past simply don't work on Link Monsters. Dimensional Barrier doesn't have the option of declaring Link Monsters, so Link-heavy strategies join non-Extra Deck strategies in avoiding Dimensional Barrier entirely. It's a problem for the card's future playability, but for now there aren't any Link-specific strategies to worry about. We'll likely be taking a second look at its viability when it gets reprinted laster this year.

Fewer Non-Link Extra Deck Summons
In general it's harder to perform multiple Synchro, Xyz, Fusion, or Extra Deck Pendulum Summons in the same turn, or even in consecutive turns. The Extra Monster Zone becomes cramped early in the duel if you can't branch out with Link Monsters. Committing a non-Link monster to an Extra Monster Zone often signals the end of Extra Deck Summons. After all, you can't Summon from the Extra Deck if your only valid zone is occupied.

Cards like PSY-Framelord Omega can leave the field to free up the Extra Monster Zone again, and one-shot monsters like Diamond Dire Wolf or Black Rose Dragon don't stick around to block the zone. Loading the zone hands over control of the duel to your opponent. If they aren't concerned with whatever monster you've Summoned, they'll probably just leave it there knowing you won't be able to make a second Extra Deck Summon.

That makes baiting out Solemn Strike or other removal cards a bit trickier. It's not enough to just play a monster to draw out removal or negation at some point – you'll need a big enough threat to get your opponent to react immediately.

Fewer Extra Deck Summons also translates to fewer Special Summons overall. Links aren't strong enough to prioritize yet, so players will likely turn to Summoning Effect Monsters alongside a single Extra Deck Summon. The total volume of Summons is going down, especially since committing additional monsters to the field that can't be translated into Extra Deck monsters is a clear overextension.

For decks that aren't using Links right away there's little incentive to load up the board with monsters. Expect to see more controlled, slower games for the time being with more cards remaining in the hand.

Link Monsters Must Always Be In Attack Position
Link mechanics keep Link Monsters from being in Defense Position. As a result Link Monsters are not a valid target for Book of Moon, and are unaffected by Book of Eclipse and other effects that change battle position or flip monsters face-down. Book of Moon and Enemy Controller have recently picked up in play, but neither card can change a Link Monster to Defense. Enemy Controller can take control of a Link Monster, and we'll talk about that more later.

Link Monsters with quick effects are already here. Decode Talker can negate targeting effects, Firewall Dragon can return cards on the field or graveyard to the hand, and Rainbow Weathery Arciel channels the ridiculous negation of Herald of Perfection. Book of Moon and Book of Eclipse aren't answers to those monsters, and themes that rely on flipping opposing cards face-down will struggle to deal with unflippable Links. Meanwhile, mass removal and Kaijus should remain popular so long as negation bodies exist in Link form.

Link Monsters have yet another built-in protection against Level and Rank-based effects. Without a Level or Rank Link monsters are free to bypass the restrictions of cards with Apoqliphort Towers-like effects. Similar to Xyz Monsters, Links are immune to Gravity Bind, but since they also don't have a Rank they're unaffected by And the Band Played On. On a non-tech related note, that also keeps them from being used for Ritual, Synchro, and Xyz Summoning.

Taking Control Of Other Links
Link Monsters fall prey to many of the same tech choices we're already playing against other types of Extra Deck monsters. However, Links are particularly vulnerable to cards that can take control of them. A Link Monster that switches control will end up in a Main Monster Zone. Keep in mind, you cannot move or place a card in an Extra Monster Zone unless it was Summoned there from the Extra Deck. When a monster in the Extra Monster Zone is moved to your side of the field it would return to an opponent's Main Monster Zone.

I really like the idea of siding into Mind Control and Enemy Controller in Link mirror matches. They're great options for removing troublesome monsters, but most importantly you can open up your Main Monster Zones for Extra Deck Summoning. The best targets for control-shifting effects are Link Monsters with horizontal Link Markers like Honeybot. Taking your opponent's Honeybot will give you two zones to Summon to, which can be extremely important for Pendulum strategies.

 Enemy Controller
Enemy Controller35498
Set Gold Series 3
Number GLD3-EN043
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Gold Rare
Card Text

Select and activate 1 of these effects: // *Change the Battle Position of 1 face-up monster your opponent controls. // *Tribute 1 monster. Select 1 face-up monster your opponent controls. Take control of it until the End Phase.

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You can also turn an opponent's Link Monster into one of your own. Link Summoning ‘discounts' a Link Monster if you use other Links for the Summon. Decode Talker normally takes three materials since it's a Link-3, but if you use Honeybot you can count it as two materials. You'll just need one other monster alongside Honeybot to Link Summon Decode Talker.

Keep in mind that you'll need a valid zone after you send the materials to the graveyard. If Honeybot is the only monster pointing to a zone you cannot Link Summon to that zone using Honeybot as a material.

Siding Link Monsters Themselves
One of the ways Link Monsters are balanced is by giving them upward-facing arrows. Placing a Link Monster in an Extra Monster Zone with an arrow pointing upwards opens up an opposing Main Monster Zone for an Extra Deck Summon. Decode Talker does that, and you'll want to keep that in mind if you pass turn to your opponent after giving them an extra zone to Summon to. When more Link Monsters become available it might not be necessary to give your opponent a free zone, but in the future there might be a great reason to run a Link Monster that does exactly that.

You may find yourself siding Link Monsters in the future. When playing against themes that rarely access the Extra Deck there's no harm in playing Link Monsters that point to your opponent's zones. After Game 1 you could side in those Link Monsters knowing your opponent won't be able to take advantage of them. Conversely, you could side out those overly generous Link Monsters for another Link that might not be as powerful, but still gets the job done without offering an advantage to your opponent.

Links add a totally new level of strategy just on the level of Side Deck tech choices. There's plenty of discussion to be had on card placement, Link Monster choice, and engines that help fuel Link Summons. This new era of dueling is an opportunity to explore old cards, check out strategies that have fallen behind recently, and search for new ways to play Synchro and Xyz-heavy strategies. I'm excited to see what the TCG community can come up with.

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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