As a long-time player and now content creator, I'm often asked how to update an older Yu-Gi-Oh strategy, usually a specific theme, to a 2020 standard.
Yu-Gi-Oh makes no pretenses about its power creep across the years, and while every player feels differently about it, we all have to deal with it. While many simply choose to play newer strategies as a way of keeping up with the game's increasing power ceilings, some players would prefer to use old favorites instead. After all, who doesn't like decks like Lightsworns, Zombies, and Blackwings?
X-Sabers and Spellbooks are two of my biggest old school favorites. What you'll probably notice about most of those older themes, though, is that they aren't exactly tournament viable by today's standards. Without much in the way of new direct support, a lot of time-honored decks struggle to keep up. But what if you still want to use one of those classic strategies?
Today, I'm going to share a few ways you could update an older deck to better compete in modern Yu-Gi-Oh's fast and unforgiving climate.
From The Ground Up
I think the best place to start is with draw power. The first step in actually getting your deck's best plays started is seeing your most important cards in your hand! Obviously you can run up to three copies of most cards in your deck, but that doesn't guarantee that you'll actually draw it in your first turn. Without more search or draw power you only have a 33.8% chance to see a three-of in your opening five cards.
In modern Yu-Gi-Oh, getting to those cards in your very first turn is absolutely essential, since you can bet that your opponent's deck will be built for consistency. To that end you'll need some draw cards. If you're lucky, your deck will already have some searching effects to lean on. Hieratics, for instance, have Hieratic Seal of Convocation, while Lightsworns have Charge of the Light Brigade. If your deck isn't so fortunate, then I've got a few generic solutions to offer!
We'll rip the band-aid off quickly and start with Pot of Extravagance. It carries a hefty price tag, so many players simply won't have copies of it (at least until its reprint in Toon Chaos later this summer). However, if you're one of the lucky ones who does have it, Pot of Extravagance is a. really strong option. At the cost of banishing three or six random monsters from your Extra Deck, you get to draw one or two cards respectively. You'll usually want to banish six, so Extravagance is a rare +1 in card economy and almost any deck can use it. It's especially important for older decks that often struggle to gain or maintain card advantage on their own, making those extra free cards a huge blessing.
I should mention, of course, that Extravagance is best used in decks that don't necessarily need any specific cards in their Extra Deck. Recent examples include Altergeists or Subterrors, but I imagine that plenty of older themes could make great use of it, too. Even some decks that do make heavy use of their Extra Deck like the late SPYRALs would sometimes circumvent the risk of Extravagance by simply running their most important Extra Deck cards in multiples. You'll have to consider the worth of Extravagance on a case-by-case basis, but it's definitely something to consider you have it.
Alright, now we can move to a few other, more accessible options. The infamous Pot of Desires can actually grant you the same +1 in card economy that Extravagance does, but at the arguably steeper cost of 10 cards banished face-down from your deck. Again, this one will come down to how much you're willing to risk losing valuable combo pieces, but the payoff could be worth it and the card has no other strings attached.
Card of Demise, though Limited to 1, is extremely valuable in any deck that doesn't Special Summon monsters very often, like a Rock Stun strategy, Artifacts, or Kozmos. You'll get to draw as many as three cards, though you'll lose them at the end of the turn so be sure to make the most of them! Sekka's Light is another high-risk card that was recently limited. Its effect nets you two free cards, but it locks you out of using any other spells or traps for the rest of the Duel, so I recommend using it in decks with high monster counts like Mermails, Burning Abyss, or Superheavy Samurai.
But maybe your deck doesn't just need more draw power! I've found that a lot of older themes struggle to field monsters beyond their Normal Summon, and you might need that kind of ability to get to a key Extra Deck monster. In cases like that I've found Danger monsters to be the perfect pick! They're easy to summon straight from your hand and will even net you a draw. The card you have to discard from their effects could even provide an older theme with a bit of much-needed speed by getting a key monster into the Graveyard without much work!
Danger! Nessie!, Danger!? Jackalope? and Danger!? Tsuchinoko? are unanimously agreed to be the best Danger monsters in competition - their status on the current F&L list confirms that. They're favored because they guarantee you an extra monster whether they're discarded or not. But depending on your deck, you could also use card like Danger! Bigfoot!, Danger! Thunderbird! or Danger! Mothman!. Dangers are very easy to field and they don't stick you with any additional summoning restrictions, so you're free to use them as material for Synchro, Xyz, and Link Monsters.
Though many of the other options for additional monsters have been limited on the F&L list in some capacity, all of the cards are still worth a look. Instant Fusion can get you a copy of Thousand-Eyes Restrict, Invoked Raidjin, or Sea Monster of Theseus (among others, depending on your deck). Sky Striker Mecha - Hornet Drones provides a free Token, which you can immediately Link into Sky Striker Ace - Kagari, recovering Hornet Drones and activating it again for a second Token. Emergency Teleport's an old favorite of mine that can field you a Psychic monster, and it pairs well if you happen to already be using Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit. If you're looking for Unlimited options, each of the Tenyi monsters can be great extra start-up cards, especially Tenyi Spirit - Vishuda, which can remove an opponent's pesky monster in the process.
I think the last thing to do is search for any existing engines that compliment your older deck. It could be a single support card, like Raidraptor - Wise Strix for Blackwings or a group of them. For instance, I've found that combining the Invoked engine (Aleister the Invoker, Magical Meltdown and Invocation) with my Spellbook deck actually created a reliable flow of card advantage and a great boss monster in the form of Invoked Mechaba, while still synergizing with all of my existing cards like Spellbook of Knowledge. Similarly, the two Predaplants Ophrys Scorpio and Darlingtonia Cobra make a great addition to any older deck relying on Fusion Summoning, since they can net you most Fusion-related spells straight from your deck.
If you're using a Ritual-based deck like Nekroz, Prediction Princess or Cyber Angels, then I recommend the Impcantation monsters, which not only snag your best Ritual monsters and Spells, but also give you free monsters to tribute in the process.
These are just a few of the ways you can improve a favorite retro deck and give it the boost in speed or consistency needed to better play by 2020 Yu-Gi-Oh standards. Like I mentioned before, power creep means that newer decks are always going to be a bit faster and stronger than past ones, but that doesn't mean you can't still give it your best efforts. With that in mind, good luck and happy deck updating!