In the summer of 2016, Patrick Hoban published a book that would change how we talked about competitive Yu-Gi-Oh! forever. Road of the King is a 492-page masterwork that outlines Hoban’s ideas, a framework that led him to a ridiculous amount of premier event tops over seven years. These terms are still thrown around today, but how many of us really understand them? How many of us have actually read all 492 six-inches-wide by nine-inches-tall pages of Road of the King by Patrick Jefferson Hoban sold on the Amazon marketplace for $24.99?
Me, I have. It’s a good book.
I took the liberty of isolating his theory of card classifications in this article, and updating it with new examples, so we don’t have to keep playing this game of telephone when newer players ask “but what’s an extender tho”. I will cover:
Starters are appropriately named; they’re typically used to start your deck’s engine. They ensure you get to play the game as your deck intended.
A large number of starters will increase consistency, while a low number will reduce it. Oftentimes, the reason a deck underperforms is because of its low number of starters (Ritual Beast, Super Quantal), although there are exceptions in decks that play a larger number of extenders (Burning Abyss, Mermail), which brings us to our next topic.
Extenders turn good plays into great plays. The more extenders you have in hand, the more options you have, and the more likely you are to win. Having too many extenders leaves little room for defensive and removal cards, while having too few will make your deck weak.
There are two types of extenders:
These are extenders you want in your opening hand. When drawn, they increase your options and the potential power (ceiling) of your turn.
These are extenders you do not want in your opening hand. These cards are often necessitated by other cards in our deck, such as Yazi, Evil of the Yang Zing summoning Mare Mare from deck, or Salamangreat Miragestallio doing the same with Jack Jaguar. While they are worse draws than superior extenders, having them in your deck raises your ceiling.
Bombs require a certain level of setup, and are much more powerful than your other extenders. It is not uncommon for a bomb to end the game by itself.
Having too many bombs in your deck can hinder your early game, lowering consistency in exchange for increasing your ceiling. Having too few bombs in your deck simply means you’re going to have to rely heavily on your engine to win games; this is not unreasonable, and for this reason, many decks don’t play any bombs at all. However, without bombs, you have less auto-wins, which are important for long-term tournament success.
Floodgates remain on the field and hinder your opponent’s plays. Sky Strikers rely entirely on spells to play the game; a card like Imperial Order, that negates spell effects as long as it remains on the field, is a floodgate for Sky Strikers. If the controller of the floodgate can apply consistent pressure on the opponent while the floodgate remains on the field, the game will become very lopsided, very quickly.
Typically, floodgates are in the side deck, and are moved into the main deck when going first. This is because floodgates are characteristically bad against established boards,
If your deck has too few floodgates, you will miss out on auto-wins. If your deck has too many floodgates, you will struggle with answering already established boards.
Having too many removal cards in your deck will make you over-reliant on your opponent, while having too few can make it difficult to answer established boards.
There are two types of removal;
Core removal resides within our deck’s engine. Because we can access core removal when we need it, we can afford to play less of it, which leaves room for other cards. Core removal is less valuable when answering floodgates, which often hinder us from accessing our core removal (such as the interaction between Imperial Order and Sky Striker Maneuver – Afterburners!).
Spot removal lies outside of our engine, and is used when we can not find a suitable alternative within our engine. For example, there are no cards that fill the same role as Gameciel within the Salamangreat engine.
Spot removal is often more powerful than core removal, but always has less synergy with our deck. Additionally, spot removal can’t be searched with our deck’s engine, making it less consistent.
than floodgates in that they don’t remain on the field (or in the case of Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon can only be used once per turn).
Having too many defensive cards limits your options and lowers your ceiling,
while having too few leaves you vulnerable.
There are two types of defensive cards:
This is a category I added in, but with how the game is progressing, I feel like the distinction is important. As decks become more powerful, the first turn of the game becomes more and more crucial.
Hand traps are a way for us to interact with our opponent when they go first, and are often more effective than waiting for your turn to start and using removal, especially if your opponent is sending four cards in your hand to the grave with Topologic Gumblar Dragon, or assembling an infinite combo with Cannon Soldier.
Traditional interactions have been a defining characteristic of the game since the Yugi and Kaiba starter decks. As the game progressed, interactions within a deck’s engine became more prevalent. Being able to combo into a Salamangreat Roar or Sky Striker Mecha – Widow Anchor is a great asset when you can’t end the game on your turn; ending your turn with no interactions is dangerous, especially against aggressive decks.
These cards suck. You don’t like drawing them, and you don’t like having to play them. But sometimes cards are so powerful that they require you to play less-powerful cards in your deck in order to use them. We play Garnet because Brilliant Fusion into Gem-Knight Seraphinite sends any LIGHT monster from our deck to the grave, puts an extra monster on the board, and gives us an extra normal summon.
Having too many engine requirements in our deck increases our chances of drawing bad cards, while playing too few or none simply means you aren’t playing cards that are powerful enough to justify including bricks. Because drawing the powerful card in question is more likely than drawing its requirement, it is typically correct to include these cards, but in a minimum quantity (3 Artifact Sanctum to 1 Artifact Scythe, 3 Speedroid Terrortop to 1 Speedroid Taketomborg etc.).
A good understanding of these classifications, and the roles they play in your deck, will make you a better deck-builder and a better testing partner. As an exercise, I challenge you to practice sorting your decks in terms of card-classifications, rather than arbitrary constructs like card-color. Be honest with yourself when isolating the problems in your deck, and be able to point to a section of your deck and say “this needs to change”. And of course, make deckbuilding decisions based on cold logic, not silly emotions.
-Owsley J. Tanner