The first YCS of the season is always the trickiest to prepare for. It typically takes place a few weeks after a new F&L List and at least one new booster set. That can really shake up the competitive norm. Power cards may come and go while important tech cards may all of a sudden become utterly useless. There's also the possibility of brand new themes hitting the TCG, ready for tournament play, but many people won't have time to master the in's and out's of a new deck; that could spell trouble for you if you don't take the time to consider every single playable theme.

This year we've got two new sets that dropped right before YCS Toronto and a new F&L list that eliminated a handful of power in the top deck of the last format. There's not a lot of time to test everything in Clash of Rebellions and Dragons of Legend 2 so that means anything could happen heading into the YCS. What's even more troublesome for many players is that there aren't any Regionals before the YCS! Duelists competing in Toronto won't have any major tournaments to base their choices off of and will simply have to make their decisions based off of testing with friends, playing in locals and pure instinct.

There's a single UDS Invitational in Philly the weekend before Toronto, but because it's an entirely new tournament concept for the TCG, we really have no idea what it could mean for the shape of competition.

Size Matters
The first thing about Toronto that I want to consider is the tournament size and structure. For the past few years, this YCS has had a relatively small turnout in the past with the max capacity reaching around 1000 players, but typically falling short of that. That's a very important thing to recognize about a tournament, because with such a low turnout, you'll only be playing ten rounds of Swiss. Most YCS's play eleven rounds and it typically means a handful of people in the Top 32 will have two losses and a tie, or sometimes even three losses.

YCS Toronto is one of the few YCS's where if your goal is Top 32, I urge you to play on after your third loss, especially if your losses came later in the tournament. I usually play out the entire event anyway, because I traveled there to play Yu-Gi-Oh and I plan on doing just that; you should too.

Another very important thing to note is the lack of draft this year in the top cut. Konami has announced that the every event this year will be under the current advanced format, so your constructed deck's consistency is more important than it's been over the last year! Up until now, when YCS's have reached the Top 16, the players put their advanced decks away and drafted Battle Pack 3: Monster League, meaning you could slip by with some minor inconsistencies and still win the entire tournament. It wasn't ideal to think like that, but you could play a little bit of a riskier deck, because the last four rounds were draft. Now, consistency for the long haul is going to be the number one priority for every deck I touch, because you won't have an opportunity to play with anything else.

Out With The Old, In With The New
Another interesting point to take into consideration preparing for the first YCS of the season is the desire to play something new. Many of the top players have been running Nekroz, Burning Abyss and Shaddolls for months on end now, and for many the game feel's a little stale. With the banning of Djinn, Releaser of Rituals and Lavalval Chain, many strategies are viable again. The Nekroz deck will be a little more fun to customize, because of how many cards it lost to the F&L list.

Burning Abyss and Shaddolls were untouched by the F&L List and didn't receive any new support, so I'm expecting both decks to see a little less representation. Satellarknights, while also remaining untouched, were thrown to the wayside last format, because of its poor Nekroz matchup and rough time against the Djinn lock. I fully expect Satellarknights to come roaring back into competition.

I also expect Qliphorts to see a decent amount of play, because the Towers Turbo variant is so new and promising. That concept was developed and perfected at the very end of the April 1st, 2015 format, so I fully expect people to keep riding that wave. It's a really cool spin on an otherwise boring deck.

Outside of the older standbys, there are a ton of new decks that are viable heading into YCS Toronto. The Kozmo theme's brand new for the TCG and while there are only five cards to its name, there are a handful of two-card OTK's and it can create a ton of card advantage rather quickly. I'm not sold on Kozmos making the Top 32, but I totally want to know how to play against it, because it's so new and interesting; people will want to play it for that factor alone.

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Infernoids also got a huge boost in consistency and power with the release of Infernoid Decatron and Void Imagination. Decatron gives the deck access to almost any Infernoid monster and effect you need at any moment while also being a Tuner. The deck's Synchro capabilities are now off the charts, while their Fusion game is even stronger. Void Imagination turns all of your Infernoids into Level 1 monsters, which will let you swarm the field with everything you've got. You can send the Spell to the graveyard to Fusion Summon Infernoid Tierra, a 3400 ATK behemoth with four powerful effects for the Infernoid strategy.

The card gets crazier, because it mimics Shaddoll Fusion if your opponent controls an Extra Deck monster while you do not. Infernoids were already one of my least favorite strategies to play against, because of its ability to steal games with Reasoning, and with the incredible boost to consistency and power against decks that rely on their Extra Deck; this theme just got a helluva lot more annoying. I'd recommend you have something in your Side Deck for this match-up moving forward.

Digging deeper into Clash of Rebellions, I also anticipate a decent amount of Chicken Game FTK, because it's so consistent. The added power of Pseudo Space, Terraforming and Chicken Game brings Magical Explosion to a brand new level of absurdity. If you don't believe me, build it and see for yourself: without an answer, you'll lose almost every single time to it. Droll & Lock Bird, Performage Damage Juggler and Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit will be key picks to counter the deck.

I've already discussed one take on Clown Blade, but I fully expect Performage Trick Clown to have a solid showing at Toronto. It may not be in a dedicated Clown Blade deck, but the pesky Clown offers a ton of quick Rank 4 Xyz's for virtually any strategy and the easy revival can overwhelm anything. I'm a huge fan of Rank 4 Xyz Spam decks right now due to Performage Trapeze Magician, Number 52: Diamond Crab King and Number 104: Masquerade. Those three Rank 4's are incredible these days and are easily and consistently Summoned without losing card economy thanks to the Performages.

Beyond that, I'd know how to combat Gem-Knights, because they can now OTK out of nowhere thanks to Brilliant Fusion and Gem-Knight Lady Brilliant Diamond. The deck's more or less a one tricky pony, but when it works… it's devastating. I'm not too worried about Aromages or Red-Eyes, but I'd read up on them if you're planning on attending YCS Toronto or a Regional that weekend. New themes are fun, so while they may not be threatening, you should know at least what they do. If you have to read every single one of your opponent's cards over and over again, you're in a tough spot already and could lose to silly misplays that were more than likely easily avoided.

Where My Head's At
Despite everyone expecting me to play Ritual Beasts, because it's lost nothing and gained strength by not having to worry about the Djinn lock, I'm just tired of it. I fall into the "out with the old, in with the new category" and may very well play something crazy. Rank 4 Spam or Clownblade are very appealing to me while Kozmo looks like a really great time. There's a lot of room to innovate both strategies and that's something I love.

I'll always start out a format by testing my old standby, Des Frog OTK and move on from there. The Synchron Extreme structure deck should also be legal for YCS Toronto and that will open up a ton of options for a Synchro spam deck, because Accel Synchron, Jet Synchron and Stardust Warrior are absolutely insane. There won't be a ton of time to fool around with these cards, so only the bold may try, but I'm intrigued for sure.

Basically, I'm looking for a deck that has consistency, a big power play or OTK and a way to score easy +1's. As the weeks press on, I'm sure I'll narrow down the field a bit more, but that's my basic criteria. Most strategies can be tailored to beat the best decks, but as long as it can check off those requirements, I feel confident in the deck's ability to perform well.

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As far as hand traps go, I think they're going to be a huge part of this format. Maxx "C" is always a good choice heading into a new tournament, while Effect Veiler should remain popular to combat Nekroz of Trishula. If you haven't been paying attention Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit is skyrocketing, due its power against nearly every Pendulum strategy and its ability to stop the Chicken Game FTK.

I know I mentioned it earlier, but if you're really afraid of Chicken Game, I'd side Droll & Lock Bird as well, because it's so solid against Nekroz. Retaliating "C" is easily my favorite pick against Shaddolls coming out of the Side Deck, because of how terrible it makes all of their Fusion Summons. I also like Maxx "C" against Shaddolls, so Retaliating "C" can search it out once it's destroyed. The two are a perfect pair.

What's your favorite theme out of CORE? Will you be attending a Regional the weekend of August 28th? Let me know below!

-Pasquale Crociata

Pasquale is from Long Island, New York, but has lived in New York City for eight years where he earned a BFA in Musical Theater from Pace University. Outside of the Yu-Gi-Oh! community he's a working Actor, Model and Singer. Those interested in keeping up with his Acting career can check out his website and 'Like' his Facebook Page! If you want more of Pasquale's Yu-Gi-Oh! content, check out and Subscribe to his YouTube Channel