Structure Decks are some of Yu-Gi-Oh's best products. There's no random chance involved in opening up a Structure Deck, and that makes them fantastic options for budget players. They're one of the best ways to reprint cards and ensure that all players have immediate access to them, but even more importantly, they allow players to build new strategies or develop existing ones with a bulk injection of new cards.
While not every Structure Deck in Yu-Gi-Oh history has been a hit, there are a lot of excellent products to talk about. You're probably familiar with the best Structure Decks in modern history, but might have missed many of the best decks from long before the arrival of Link monsters. We'll start by checking out the ancestors of modern Yu-Gi-Oh Structure Decks before jumping into the most recent decks.
In 2009, the Warrior's Strike Structure Deck was a game changer for budget players. The new cards it introduced weren't widely played outside of a gimmicky strategy involving Gigaplant and Supervise. The deck's reprints, however, made the Structure Deck a must-buy.
Card Trooper, Mind Control, Dark Bribe, and Burden of the Mighty were widely-played cards that were largely inaccessible for budget players, so getting all of them at once was unprecedented. Warrior's Strike was designed to support Gemini decks, but it mostly just gave players a chance to catch up on some of the most valuable cards in competitive play at the time.
Like Warrior's Strike, Machina Mayhem Structure Deck featured excellent reprints of video game promo-only cards. Dimensional Prison was a strict upgrade over Sakuretsu Armor, and a serious alternative to Mirror Force back in 2010, and it was a major selling point for this Structure Deck.
Cyber Valley was another solid reprint — what set Machina Mayhem apart from Warrior's Strike is that the Machina strategy was actually competitively viable. Machina Gadgets and the Machina engine saw play for years, and continue to see play in various forms thanks in part to Structure Deck: Mechanized Madness. Machina Gearframe and Machina Fortress are just really good cards that will continue to be played whenever there are lots of high-Level Machines around.
Lost Sanctuary Structure Deck fleshed out the Agent theme by introducing the boss monster Master Hyperion and the Normal Summon searcher The Agent of Mystery - Earth. Agents were reasonably competitive out of the box, and with very little investment, they could easily compete against Six Samurai and Plant Synchro in 2011. The deck notably reprinted Solemn Judgment, which at the time was only competing against Solemn Warning for space in trap line-ups.
The Gates of the Underworld Structure Deck debuted shortly after the Lost Sanctuary Structure Deck, but its reception was significantly worse. While Dark World was excitedly hyped on release, the deck ultimately failed to make an impression in tournaments. That said, Dark World cards would go on to see play in a variety of builds and strategies over the years, while Agent cards landed on the Forbidden & Limited List. Who really won that battle after all?
Reprints of Allure of Darkness, Tragoedia, and Eradicator Epidemic Virus helped make the deck alluring — even to those uninterested in playing the Dark World deck itself.
Another Structure Deck that was mostly playable out of the box, the Onslaught of the Fire Kings Structure Deck didn't quite blow up the competitive scene, but it did score some successes back in 2013. It's hard to talk about anything from the 2013 era without highlighting just how insane the post-Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy era was, although Fire Kings did get a few months to shine before Dragon Rulers and Spellbooks arrived. Onslaught of the Fire Kings and Circle of the Fire Kings also saw play in Hazy Flames, and eventually Fire Kings would get a second chance at success with the release of Fire King Avatar Yaksha.
The Master of Pendulum Structure Deck injected the Magician Pendulum strategy with a huge volume of supporting monsters and spells. Cards like Performapal Skullcrobat Joker, Wisdom-Eye Magician, Pendulum Call, and Odd-Eyes Absolute Dragon would go on to become staples for Pendulum Magicians — and excellent choices for Performapal decks as well. It finally gave fans of the Pendulum mechanic a new way to play outside of Qliphorts and Zefra. Unfortunately, it also helped fuel the Performapal Performage strategy that dominated the post-Breakers of Shadow format.
Monarchs were a major strategy back in the Duel Monster-GX era, but those cards weren't exactly designed to be a cohesive theme. Emperor of Darkness Structure Deck put the modern Monarch strategy on the map with a selection of outstanding new cards.
Pantheism of the Monarchs, Domain of the True Monarchs, Ehther the Heavenly Monarch, and Erebus the Underworld Monarch were game changers for the Monarch strategy. The deck quickly became a competitive hit as a counter to the multitude of Extra Deck-heavy strategies that existed at the time.
Who doesn't love Dinosaurs? Structure Deck: Dinosmasher's Fury is easily among the top five Structure decks ever released, thanks to its line-up of new Dinosaur support cards and the outstanding boss monster Ultimate Conductor Tyranno. Between Tyranno and Souleating Oviraptor, it was immediately obvious that Dinosaurs were about to take the competitive scene by storm. They did exactly that, and Dinosmasher's Fury quickly became one of the most coveted Structure Decks in the game. The deck was playable out of the box, only missing a selection of Extra Deck like Evolzar Laggia and Evolzar Dolkka. Just including those cards alone would have landed this deck at the top of the list.
It's probably not a surprise to see Structure Deck: Soulburner on here. Salamangreats were, and continue to be, a viable competitive strategy that can hold its own against the best decks in the game. It's not the deck it used to be, true, but with Salamangreat Miragestalio off of the Forbidden List, it's significantly stronger than it was a couple of formats ago. Of course, the reprint of Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring didn't hurt either.
Ash Blossom has been one of the most important cards in the competitive Yu-Gi-Oh scene for a number of years, and Soulburner remains its most accessible reprint. It's no surprise then that Soulburner is one of the most expensive Structure Decks on the market — if you can find it — despite its relatively-recent release in 2019.
Structure Deck: Order of the Spellcasters was released just a few months after Soulburner, and while it didn't have quite the same impact or quality of reprints, it did provide a significant boost to Pendulum Magician strategies. Servant of Endymion is still Limited today, and Heavymetalfoes Electrumite remains Forbidden, largely out of fear of what Endymion players would do with it. The Structure Deck also featured reprints of Pot of Desires and the only common print of Droll & Lock Bird, which was incredibly expensive at the time.
Dragon Link continues to be one of the best decks in the game, and it's a strategy that's made possible by Structure Deck: Rokket Revolt. Rokket Tracer and Absorouter Dragon are fundamental parts of the Dragon Link strategy, and the Rokket Revolt contains reprints of other former-ultra and secret rares like Boot Sector Launch and Quick Launch. The Rokket strategy itself has questionable competitive viability, but the Dragon Link strategy that it fuels is absolutely a top contender. There's a great set of Link Monsters in this deck, plus reprints like Return of the Dragon Lords and Imperial Order that add a lot of value, even for players that won't eventually build Dragon Link.
Lastly, I think Structure Deck: Shaddoll Showdown is a big win for both both new and long-time players. It's an especially great product if you missed the initial debut of Shaddolls in 2014 or their subsequent reprints in the 2015 Mega Tins. Shaddolls might be seven years old, but the design is much closer to modern strategies, thanks to the loop between the deck's fusion spells and monsters. This Structure Deck is playable immediately, although to get the most mileage out of it, you'll definitely want to pick up Shaddoll Schism.
In addition, Shaddoll Showdown contains reprints of Twin Twisters, Instant Fusion, Allure of Darkness, Foolish Burial, and Super Polymerization, which makes it a fantastic choice for new or returning players.
I'd definitely count Soulburner and Dinosmasher's Fury as the top two Structure Decks in the game's history, and from there, most of the modern Structure Decks round out the top five. It's hard to contextualize today just how important those early Structure Decks were from a reprint standpoint, especially when more recent products have immediately-playable strategies with strong engines. You could feasibly take three copies of Shaddoll Showdow or Soulburner and perform well at a local event — provided you know what you're doing. That didn't start becoming a possibility until Machina Mayhem, but it's now an expectation for modern Structure Decks.
Until next time then!