Yu-Gi-Oh! can be a divisive game. The community's generally a very passionate bunch and more often than not, arguments arise. Rarely though, has a deck been as divisive as the new Yosenju theme. Sure, the whole spectrum of feelings on the topic is clearly represented, but it's almost comical the way in which this community of ours is divided over these issues. Genuinely, it's as if there's a massive gap between the supporters and naysayers as to whether this deck holds any merit at ALL. Like, the argument is it's either good or it's Flamvells. It's that extreme.

Which really, can you blame everybody? There's not really anything else people want to talk about right now. With Nekroz completely flushing everything else out of competition to the point of monotony, you can't really debate what's good to play in tournaments right now – which completely eats up most of the conversation people have. So now everybody who predicted Nekroz dominance is unhappy and right and everybody else who underestimated them are unhappy because they're wrong.

In the middle of this mind-numbing sorrow is the Yosenjus.

So… Why?
When it comes down to it, the Yosenju archetype is really, really innovative. Half of you reading this are either furious about me saying that, or right with me on this. Let's unpack the claim. Yu-Gi-Oh! has monsters that conduct multiple Normal Summons in one turn already. Yu-Gi-Oh! also has an entire type of monster that bounces back to your hand at the End Phase. So why is everybody up in arms about these mechanics that are entirely familiar to this game and, most importantly, what makes it them so special here? The short answer is that the Yosenju theme does both really well, for better and for worse. So what gives, really?

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Well first off, the deck's not easy to pilot. You have to play around the back-to-the-hand effect perpetually, and if you do let the monsters bounce, you have to anticipate what's going to happen and be ready for it one way or another. That's difficult considering how fast the game is right now. You've got to make quick judgment calls about what you're going to do with your monsters.

Furthermore, there are actually several ways to build this theme. Surprisingly enough, Konami gave us more than enough to construct the deck in different ways right out of the gates, as opposed to their usual habit of release-by-trickle. All of this is good news, but without a clear-cut build leading the pack, it's difficult for people to see what this strategy is about and whether or not it's worth getting behind. So that's what I want to do today: I want to give you a thorough introduction to the Yosenju archetype and also what I see as the two distinct ways in which you can build the deck right now: with or without the Pendulum monsters. Let's start by talking about the Pendulum-free build.

One! Two! Three! Three Normal Summons! Ah! Ah! Ah!
To start out, everything in the world of the Yosenju centers on Yosenju Kama 1, Yosenju Kama 2, and Yosenju Kama 3. Consider them your core. All of them are Level 4 Wind Beast-Warriors. Right off of the bat you know that Fire Formation – Tenki's a must have. Yosenju Kama 2's the beefiest at 1800 ATK. It can actually attack your opponent directly, but if it does, its battle damage is halved. This card can actually win you games Cowboy-style with relative ease. Yosenju Kama 1 is Compulsory Evacuation Device on legs: so long as you control another Yosenju monster you can activate its effect. It also sits at a respectable 1600 ATK.

Lastly, Yosenju Kama 3 is your smallest Yosenju at 1500 ATK, but its effect is arguably the most important. Once per turn, when you deal battle damage with another Yosenju monster to your opponent, you can add one Yosenju card from your deck to your hand. Between Kama 2's effect to attack directly and Kama 3's ability to clear the field by way of bounce, it's really easy to start garnering +1s off of Kama 3.

All three monsters bounce back to your hand at the End Phase. More importantly, any time you Normal Summon one of them, you can Normal Summon another Yosenju monster so long as it isn't another copy of the most recent Normal Summon. That makes it really easy to fill up your field and OTK your opponent.

So now that you've got the basic idea of what's going on here, let's take a look at the non-Pendulum build…

DECKID=101808This type of build has already been successful. Last weekend it nabbed the 10th place spot at a Regional in Georgia. Many people are chocking that up to the newness factor, but I'm not so convinced that that's the case. This build is streamlined to abuse the best the theme has to offer without chancing any of the bigger risk versus reward scenarios present in the Pendulum version.

Vanity's Emptiness is a powerhouse in this deck because you can make multiple Normal Summons per turn and build big fields while your opponent's shut out. And since your monsters are hopping back into your hand at the End Phase, you can keep your graveyard nice and clean for quite a while. The same principle of Normal Summon power is what makes Pot of Duality such a great card in this deck. You can play Duality and still conduct a devastating turn afterwards – it's borderline unfair.

Now, the biggest issue people have with Yosenjus is a matter of defense. How does a deck that shoots everything back to the hand at the End Phase stop itself from being totally OTK'd every turn. There're a few things that really help to ensure that that doesn't happen. First up, in a build like this, you have room for plenty of traps. Between Bottomless Trap Hole, Solemn Warning, Mirror Force, and Vanity's Emptiness, you should see these cards enough to put a dent in your opponent's plans.

Furthermore, the one Pendulum monster this deck does run, Yosenju Shinchu L, acts as a unique multi-purpose defensive line. With 0 ATK and 2100 DEF, Shinchu is stocky for a Level 4 monster and geared towards keeping you alive. Whenever it's Normal Summoned, it Summoner Monks itself into Defense Position and prohibits your opponent from targeting any other Yosenju monsters you control with card effects. It will also stay on the field during the End Phase, unlike its counterparts.

When you play it in your Pendulum Zone, Shinchu L can destroy itself in place of another Yosenju monster you control whenever that monster would eat it by battle or card effect. By also being a Yosenju card that stays on the field, it makes Yosenjus' Secret Move live. This Counter Trap can negate the activation of a spell, trap, or monster effect and destroy that card so long as you control a face-up Yosenju card, and all the monsters you control –if any – are Yosenju. It's a really powerful card and in all actuality, relatively easy to get off. It's all thanks to our Pendulum friend, Shinchu L! And believe me, there's more to the Pendulum monsters than just that. Let's hop onto that train next.

A Little To The Left. A Little To The Right. Perfect!
The Pendulum-heavy build of the Yosenju deck is quickly becoming my favorite variant of this unique theme. I think there's still a tendency toward skepticism of any Pendulum deck that isn't Qliphorts, and for relatively good reason: there isn't another successful one so far. That said, this build's insanely fast and builds huge fields in mere turns.

The other important Pendulum monster is Shinchu L's counterpart, Yosenju Shinchu R. With a Pendulum Scale of 5 that compliments L's 3, they're designed to hurl your Level 4's onto the field with ease. Shinchu R has a similar monster effect: it doesn't return to your hand during the End Phase, and it places itself into Defense Position when it's Normal Summoned. But instead of drawing all monster effects to itself, Shinchu R will draw all attacks. If you can pop two of those guys on board, you'll soft lock your opponent out of attacking.

Yosenju Shinchu R's Pendulum effect lets you boost its Pendulum Scale up to 11 so you can bring out the boss monster, Mayosenju Daibak. This monolithic 3k beater's a really powerful card, all things considered. While it can only be Special Summoned if it's by Pendulum Summoning, its Pendulum Summon can't be negated. When it's Normal or Special Summoned, you can target up to two cards on the field and return them to the hand. Most of the time you'll clear away at your opponent's field, but you can also bounce back your Fire Formation – Tenkis to be reused. Daibak's a powerful boss that continues to haunt the field so long as your Pendulum scale is maintained.

The last piece to the Pendulum build is Yosen Training Grounds. This is the Yosenju's personal Gateway of the Six: each time a Yosenju monster's Normal or Special Summoned, you place a Yosen counter on Training Grounds. Once per turn, you can remove one counter to boost all Yosenju monsters by 300 ATK until the end of the turn or you can remove three counters to add a Yosenju card from your deck to your grave. It's really powerful card.

All of that in mind, here's the deck…

DECKID=101809While this build's lacking in defensive traps, it makes up for it in other ways. The Pendulum monsters makes a world of difference. Since they remain on the field, it's easier to maintain board presence. You also lock your opponent out with surprising frequency by placing multiple Pendulums on board.

Training Grounds speeds the deck up too. When you're consistently Normal Summoning multiple times a turn, it's easy to load up the counters and get some hardcore searching on. And it actually helps that you accrue a billion Mystical Space Typhoon targets. With the hate spread so thin, you can operate with relative impunity most of the time. Lastly, Divine Wind of Mist Valley builds a really big board before you know it. I wish this card would come off of the F&L List now just for the sake of this deck. One can dream.

You Too Can Yosenju!
Even though I'm obviously in the pro-Yosenju camp, I hope today's discussion helped you develop a more informed opinion. There's a lot of misinformation and conjecture floating around about this deck right now, and with the knowledge you now have, you can decide if Yosenju's right for you. At the very least, play the deck once and drop triple Yosenju Tsujik on your opponent at least once. Triple Honest is good even when it isn't Honest.

I do believe that this theme is worthwhile and I think that it has its place in competition. It's cheap, powerful, and underestimated. There've been plenty worse decks that have built a name off of worse foundations. Consider it all.

-Zach Buckley
Team Nofatchx