Deckin’ Around – Tips for getting started

by on March 4, 2015

Hello again, everyone! Will a.k.a. “Captain Shenanigans” here! Sorry for such a long wait for this month’s article, but I promise it’s worth it!


Last month, I explained how I came to play the Yu-gi-oh! Trading Card Game. This month, I’d like to help new players with little to no experience get into the game themselves and what to expect.


Here’s some tips for getting started without a lot of stress and struggle of memorizing everything or throwing insane amounts of money into buying cards:


1) Find a place to play and make friends.


I know this seems like a ridiculously basic way to start, but really, I would recommend before you even consider buying cards or even playing, just go to a comic book shop, gaming store, or whatever venue that has local tournaments every Saturday and go talk to the regular players and ask how to play. Yes, there will be those super-creepy fanatics with no social skills that television shows love to stereotype, but just simply asking around and getting to know people is the easiest way to learn about the gaming community and what is going on. Most times you will find a very close-knit community of gamers who know all the ins and outs of the game, as well as can help you learn to play and get started smoothly.


On the flip side of this, there are those who are just out to make a quick buck and will want you to buy cards from them at inflated prices, so beware. A good resource to keep from getting scammed on card prices is It’s one of many online card-game resources, but this one has a nice layout and searching for specific cards is easy.


But before card economics enters the equation, Step 1 should be find a place where the people go so you can learn the game and make friends. Friendly rivals, the people you simultaneously love and hate to see every week, are the lifeblood of a gaming community and what make the game truly enjoyable.
2) Buy a Structure Deck.


The purpose of this $10 investment (the retail cost, mind you) is meant to get you familiarized with the basics of what the cards look like, how to play, and where the cards go on the field. If you’ve followed Step 1 and made some really great friends, however, you will probably find this step unnecessary as they will have explained how the game is played, given you your first deck, and taught you how to play each and every card and combo in the Deck.


For those that do need this step, Structure Decks are a good way to get started. A normal Structure Deck contains a basic 40-card Main Deck, a rulebook, and a playmat. In addition, some decks come with cards for the Extra Deck (Fusions, Synchros, XYZ; explained below).


Here is a quick run-through of the important need-to-knows for those that think the rulebook will be a TLDR (Too Lazy, Didn’t Read):


For starters, the Main Deck is comprised of 40-60 cards of a combination of Normal Monsters (Yellow), Effect Monsters (Orange), Spells (Green), Traps (Pink), and Pendulum Monsters (half-green and half-yellow or orange; played as either Spells in the Pendulum Zone or as regular monsters in a Monster Zone. See diagram below).


The Extra Deck is made of a combination of three main card types (Max 15, not counting destroyed Pendulum Monsters):

*Fusions (Purple)- Monsters with specific or general card names are required to summon it, as well as any special instructions on its summoning. Typically requires a card like “Polymerization” or “Fusion Gate” unless the Fusion card specifically says otherwise. Example: “Masked HERO” cards usually require “Mask Change” or a similar card to be summoned, and cannot be summoned with “Polymerization.”

*Synchros (White) – Requires a Tuner + other specified monsters whose level totals the level of the Syncro Monster. For example, a Level 3 Tuner + Level 4 Non-Tuner = Level 7 Synchro (Anything without “Tuner” in it’s Card Text is a Non-Tuner monster)

*XYZs- (prounounced like “Exceeds.” Don’t ask. We’ve been trying to figure it out since they came out.) They typically require a certain number of monsters of the same level with the XYZ Monster on top. The monsters below are no longer considered “on the field.” The “attached materials” (the ones below of the XYZ monster) can detach themselves and go to the Graveyard. Cards with the text “When this card is sent to the Graveyard” can activate their effects, while cards with the text “When this card is sent from the field to the Graveyard” do not activate their effects.

*In addition, when a Pendulum Monster is destroyed on the field or in a Pendulum Zone, it goes face-up on top of the Extra Deck (the other types all go face-down).


There is also a 15-card “Side Deck” in which you can change out cards from the Main or Extra Deck, but the number of cards in either Deck must remain the same. (i.e. You can add 4 cards from the Side Deck to the Main Deck, but you must take out 4 cards from the Main Deck. Likewise, 2 cards from the Side Deck to the Extra Deck means the removal of two cards from the Extra Deck. You cannot take 2 cards from the Extra Deck to add 2 cards to the Main Deck).


The play area looks like this:



The basics of the field:


Monster Zones (5)

Spell and Trap Zones (5)

Extra Deck (Fusions, XYZs, Synchros, and Pendulum Monsters that were destroyed on the field)

Field Zone (both players can have an active Field Spell due to a rule change in 2014)


Pendulum Zones (2)


Not pictured on a game mat, but also an important location, the “Banished” area in which cards with the text “banish” or “remove from play” (on older cards) becomes an important part of certain strategies.

3) Be able to read and do math.


There will be a lot of reading of card texts. The game revolves around reading and math. You know those problems in Algebra when you always asked “When am I EVER going to need to use this?” The answer is now. You’ll use it a lot. You have been warned.


Here’s a basic battle problem to get you started:


Your monster’s starting attack is 1500. Your opponent’s monster’s attack is 1400. You declare an attack on your opponent’s monster. During the damage calculation step (a messy process and a  good reason to have a hard copy of the rulebook), your opponent activates “Shrink” which halves your monster’s original attack. In response, you activate “Forbidden Lance” which reduces your opponent’s monster’s attack by 800. Later in the Damage Step, you activate an “Honest,” which increases your Light-attribute monster’s attack by your opponent’s monster’s current attack.   How much damage will you do to your opponent?


Feeling that middle school nostalgia yet? Good.


Your monster after Shrink: 1500 / 2 = 750.

Your opponent’s monster after Forbidden Lance: 1400 – 800 = 600.

Your monster’s increase after Honest: 750 + 600 = 1350.

Your attack vs. Opponent’s attack: 1350 – 600 = 750 Damage.


Not the best use of your cards, as Lance could have easily done the job by itself, but in certain situations when you want to attack for game, sometimes you have to go all-in for the win.


4) Do your research.

Aside from the basic rules included in the rulebook, there are rulings on cards that may not seem immediately obvious due to the wording on the card. is a great resource for finding out rulings on individual cards and answers for whatever question you may encounter.
For example, “Gravekeeper’s Servant” requires the attacking opponent to send one card from the top of the Deck to the Graveyard as a cost to be able to attack. When paired with a card that banishes cards instead of sending them to the Graveyard, your opponent cannot pay the cost. “Dimensional Fissure” is a Spell card that banishes monsters instead of sending them to the Graveyard. However, since it is unknown whether the top card of the Deck is a monster or not, your opponent cannot pay the cost of “Gravekeeper’s Servant” due to the unkown nature of the card, and therefore cannot attack (even if both players know what the top card is, the mechanics of the game rules that the card is still “unknown” until it is played on the field).


5) Spend only what you need, and trade rather than buy.

Remember in Step 1 when I said people might be out to scam you for the price of cards? Well, it’s a sad fact, but true. Most people are not out for your financial success nor best interest to obtain the cards you desire. Personally, my preference is non-shiny common cards. I play commons over the “shiny” factor due to the fact I enjoy beating the pants off an opponent just as easy knowing I didn’t spend those extra 5 dollars for a different rarity. TCGPlayer is a good resource for estimating prices, finding cards, and determining fair prices in your dealings. If you made good friends within the community, some of those players might let you borrow/trade cards for reasonable prices and help you get the cards you need. The only real investment here, if you wish to play competitively in tournaments should be the following:
-1 Deck Box (about $4-5)
-60 card sleeves (40 for Main, 15 for Side Deck, all must be the same color/style, about $4-5. Extra Deck can be a different color, so you can grab stray Deck Sleeves from your friends.)

*Note: Also, there’s two different size Card Sleeves. Magic: The Gathering style sleeves are bigger than Yu-gi-oh size sleeves, so be sure to specify what size you need!

-Some local tournaments cost $5 to enter, but you will get a pack at the end regardless of wins or losses. If you get higher than Top 8, you may recieve more!


So to recap, if you bought a structure deck ($10), your first attempt into competitive play might run $25-30 (10 for the Deck, 5 for the Sleeves, 5 for the Deck Box, and 5 for the Entry Fee). After that, you’ll be set on your initial investment and $5 may yield you better chances at pulling rare cards from the packs you earn.


That’s it for this month! Thanks for joining me once again for “Deckin’ Around,” and remember: Games are only as fun as the friends you play them with.