Speed Duels were introduced this year as the latest Yu-Gi-Oh! play format –wholly distinct from the TCG's Advanced and Traditional Formats.

 

Speed Duels have their own set of rules that differentiate them from normal duels, and the curated card pool prioritizes skilled play and tech choices over lengthy combos or stacking negation effects. It's a format that's highly accessible for new players and a fresh challenge for veterans, and there's plenty of nostalgia in each starter deck and Speed Duel pack.

Whether you're hearing about Speed Duels for the first time, or you've already taken your first step by buying a Starter Deck, this article will help you chart a course towards building a more competitive deck. Luckily deck building for Speed Duels is incredibly straightforward. Buying either of the two Starter Decks immediately puts three unique strategies in your hands, and you and your friends can start playing a Speed Duel in seconds.

But deck construction doesn't have to end there. You can chase your perfect build with extra copies of key cards from the Starter Decks, or grab new tech cards in Speed Duel Booster Packs.

Taking Your First Step With A Starter Deck
There are two Starter Decks to choose from:Speed Duel Starter Decks: Destiny Masters which includes themes based on Yugi Muto, Maximillion Pegasus, and Ishizu Ishtar, orSpeed Duel Starter Decks: Duelists of Tomorrow featuring Seto Kaiba, Mai Valentine, and Joey Wheeler. There's a reasonable balance between all six decks, but the ceiling is different for each one. The out-of-the-box balance changes in a constructed format, and that brings us to our first question: which theme is worth investing in?

The groundwork for more competitive strategies is already laid out in eachStarter Deck. Kaiba's overwhelming offense of high-ATK monsters and Dragons is a tempting choice. It's packed with ways to Special Summon Blue-EyesWhite Dragon from the hand, and Lord of D. is shockingly powerful in theSpeed Duel format.

Mai's Amazoness and Harpie mix is a bit odd, but the Skill Card TribalSynergy makes the hybrid worthwhile. You can resolve Tribal Synergy for a total of three extra draws per duel, and that's huge in a format where your starting hand is just four cards. The Joey Starter Deck isn't nearly as exciting as the other two, but it does have a number of ATK-manipulation cards. They're crucial for beating the format's strongest monsters likeBlue-Eyes White Dragon.

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Yugi's magicians aren't terribly competitive on their own, but both WonderWand and Blue Dragon Summoner are excellent cards for this format.Magician's Circle could be seriously competitive at some point in the future depending on the match-up. Meanwhile Pegasus' Ritual nightmareRelinquished is very playable in a format with limited monster removal. You could easily build around the Toon line-up instead – and the Starter Deck leans heavily into the Toon cards anyways – but Relinquished is significantly more competitive with a higher overall ceiling. It's a slow and methodical strategy, and buying singles might be the way to go if you're not chasing another card in the Starters.

Lastly, Ishizu Ishtar brings her Gravekeeper troupe to Speed Duels with the largest monster line-up among the Starter Decks. Gravekeeper's Recruiter is an amazing search effect for the theme that helps the deck maintain field presence over longer duels. There are plenty of continuous ATK-boosts available for Gravekeepers, so even 'weaker' monsters like Recruiter can sit comfortably at 1400 or 1600 ATK. Tomb of the Pharaoh is also phenomenal, but the deck's potential relies on a Skill Card from theSpeed Duel: Arena of Lost Souls booster.

Optimizing With Extra Cards
While Speed Duels are still a largely unexplored and undefined space – as far as competitive play is concerned – there are a handful of clear standouts among the format's most popular strategies. Blue-Eyes builds are notoriously difficult to beat and are arguably the strongest decks in the game, but we'll cover two other options if a classic beatdown with 3000 ATK monsters isn't quite your speed. That said, we really need to talk aboutBlue-Eyes and its insane power in the context of Speed Dueling to set the stage.

Starter Deck: Kaiba was my first-ever Yu-Gi-Oh! product, but I'd be lying if I said I was only interested in playing a Blue-Eyes Speed Duel build for nostalgia's sake.Blue-Eyes puts in serious work in Speed Duels with just a handful of duplicates from the Starter Deck. In particular you'll want to max out on copies of Blue-Eyes White Dragon, Lord of D. and Flute of Summoning Dragon to consistently Summon Blue-Eyes as early as possible in the duel.

Dragon Caller is the clear Skill Card choice here because it gives Lord ofD. the appearance of a modern search effect. Flute can also Summon TyrantDragon, so it's worth playing a copy or two of that if you think you'll be short on targets with just a playset of Blue-Eyes.

Blue Dragon Summoner is an excellent search effect for this strategy and an effective way to bring the deck's size closer to twenty cards once you lock in the main core. Playing a few copies gives you more ways to findBlue-Eyes White Dragon, or multiple copies of it. Remember that each player only has 4000 Life Points in Speed Duels, so one Blue-Eyes and a Lord of D.is more than enough to win the game if they both manage to score direct attacks.

That said, dropping a pair of Dragons on the field with Flute is useful when you're trying to break through your opponent's field after a slow start. More importantly Blue Dragon Summoner gives you another card forWonder Wand. It's a much better target than Lord of D., but depending on the situation you may still want to trade out your monster after resolvingFlute of Summoning Dragon.

Tribal Synergy's made Amazoness and Harpie monsters relevant in Speed Duels by delivering unmatched draw power. The remainder of the strategy relies mostly on sheer aggression by leveraging strong attackers and excellent card removal. Mai's Starter Deck already has most of the cards you'll want to play: Harpie Lady 1 is still the best Harpie Lady thanks to itsATK-boosting effect, and if you manage to land two of them on the field their ATK will leap up to 1900; both Amazoness Swords Woman and Amazoness Sage have fantastic synergy with Amazoness Heirloom, an Equip Spell that prevents an Amazoness monster from being destroyed by battle once per turn.

In a format with only three Monster Zones there's a lot of value in forcing your opponent to declare multiple attacks against a single monster. Beyond that, Heirloom also destroys a monster if your Amazoness attacked it. It's an easy answer to monsters with high-ATK like Blue-Eyes White Dragon.

Amazoness Heirloom turns Amazoness Swords Woman into a burn effect and penalizes your opponent for attacking it with high-ATK monsters. Amazoness Sage can attack stronger monsters and trigger its removal effect thanks toHeirloom – effectively destroying two cards at once. Tribal Synergy really is the Speed Duel answer to "I want to break things with card effects" and it's definitely a different style of play compared to Blue-Eyes builds.

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The match-up between Tribal Synergy and Blue-Eyes is tricky: the release ofTwister in Speed Duel: Arena of Lost Souls has made it harder for decks that rely on face-up spells and traps to succeed. WhileSpeed Duel: Attack from the Deep did introduce Dust Tornado, there's still no real equivalent to Mystical Space Typhoon in the SpeedDuel format yet, so traps remain relatively safe. That puts Champion'sVigilance – a Blue-Eyes staple – way ahead of Field Spells or other face-up spells and traps.

Ready to relive the days of Goat Control? Relinquished isn't quite as effective as Thousand-Eyes Restrict, but it's still strong in the limitedSpeed Duel format. You can find Relinquished and its Ritual Spell easily enough among the Pegasus cards inSpeed Duel Starter Decks: Destiny Masters, but you'll want to pickup copies of Senju of the Thousand Hands and Sphere Kuriboh fromArena of Lost Souls, along with Sonic Bird fromAttack from the Deep.

Both cards go a long way toward making Ritual Summons a realistic strategy in Speed Duels, but without Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands there's still a bit of clunkiness with actually getting Relinquished out on the field. That said, there aren't many ways to Special Summon before a Normal Summon inSpeed Duels, and Relinquished plays well in a format where your opponent is usually only attacking with one or two monsters.

Keep an eye out for popular tech cards: Sphere Kuriboh's one of theformat's only hand traps, Wild Tornado is an excellent pick to counter the backrow removal of Tribal Synergy, and Windstorm of Etaqua fills in for missing mass removal cards as a Battle Phase-ender. Aside from Sphere Kuriboh the vast majority of these on-theme cards and tech picks are available in the Starter Decks, which makes Speed Duels astonishingly accessible.

I like to think of Speed Duels as a way to scratch an itch for a long-pastform of Yu-Gi-Oh – one that doesn't force you to resort to draft or sealed formats. It's a great change of pace that doesn't feel too foreign to the game we're already playing, and I believe it's by far the best way to build casual interest in Yu-Gi-Oh! since it's become increasingly complex over the last two decades.

Until next time then

-Kelly


Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​​​​gamer and writer. You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​ ​​​​​​Twitter​​​ ​​​for more updates ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​. He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.