Hey there, duelists! I'm back this week to discuss what's become a hot-button topic over the course of the last few years.

Historically, we've always accepted that playing as few cards as possible was correct. The competitive consensus was that a smaller deck maximized consistency. The fewer cards in your deck, the higher the chances of seeing your best cards; the ones that can decide games, matches, or even tournaments. Patrick Hoban famously played "37-card decks" until Upstart Goblin was finally Limited in 2016.

The math on it's pretty simple: if you played the minimum 40 cards and you wanted to see a specific 3-of in your opening five, you'd only open with that card in 33.8% of your games. But if you cut down to 37 cards with Upstart Goblin, you raise your chances to 36.2%. While that may not seem like a large number, think of it like this: when you convert the percentages into numbers, you'll see that key 3-of in 36 games as opposed to 34. That benefit is multiplied across all the cards you'd want to open with, and most decks are running more than just three highly powerful cards.

In the average YCS you'll play 10 to 12 Rounds of Swiss competition. For the sake of argument let's say you went to Game 3 in every match. That means before you even get to the playoff rounds, you'll have played 36 games. With those kinds of numbers, you might see that clutch card in an additional game that you wouldn't have otherwise.

You've probably seen mentions of the math behind deck building in many articles from myself and Johnny, and that's on purpose. Deck building is based on statistical data, which can then be applied repeatedly in wealth of scenarios.

The Advantages Of 60 Cards

So what about larger deck counts? We've seen plenty of top players actually invert the minimum card "rule" and win a lot of success in the process. Why would someone choose to do that? There are actually several reasons to play a bigger deck, all of which are backed up by statistics and math-driven reasoning. But right off the bat, playing a higher deck count lets you fit a higher number of "desirable" cards into your list, while also lowering the chances of seeing undesirable cards; chiefly the engine requirements that see play only because they're need for the resolution of powerful cards. This concept of desirable cards versus undesirable cards is referred to as deck density.

For example, back when Brilliant Fusion was played at 3, you'd open with Gem-Knight Garnet in 12.5% of your games. That translates to seeing the card 12.5 times in 100 games, or 6.25 in 50 to reduce it to a slightly more useful number. Using the example above, that means you could reasonably expect to draw that Gem-Knight Garnet several times in your Swiss rounds as you were trying to grind your way to top cut. But if you played 60 cards, those percentages drop to 8.3%, or 8 in 100 games (just 4 in 50 games).

What that means, is that you'll see that same engine requirement in roughly 2 fewer games in a long tournament. While that doesn't seem like a big difference, it can make or break your tournament life. But what about other percentages? Let's take a look at the Main Deck of a Dragon Link build I've been playing recently, which I worked on with my close friend Mike Thomas. It's 60 cards, and I'm going to break it down by using the contemporary card roles explained by fellow TCGplayer writer Johnny Li.

Starter Cards: 21
3 Starliege Seyfert
3 Black Metal Dragon
3 Rokket Tracer
3 Dragon Shrine
3 Chaos Space
3 Quick Launch
1 Foolish Burial
1 One for One
1 Dragon Ravine

Extenders: 20
3 World Legacy Guardragon
3 Noctovision Dragon
1 Boot Sector Launch
1 Monster Reborn
1 White Rose Dragon
1 Red Rose Dragon
1 Supreme King Dragon Darkwurm
1 White Dragon Wyverburster
1 Black Dragon Collapserpent
1 Rokket Synchron
1 Magnarokket Dragon
1 Absorouter Dragon
1 Dragunity Phalanx
1 Dragunity Divine Lance
1 Omni Dragon Brotaur

Bombs: 2
1 Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon
1 Chaos Dragon Levianeer

Defense: 15
3 PSY-Framegear Gamma
3 Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
3 Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
3 Nibiru The Primal Being
3 Infinite Impermanence

Floodgates: 1
1 Dragon Buster Destruction Sword

Engine Requirements: 1
1 PSY-Frame Driver

There's a lot to unpack here, and it might look like a big messy pile of cards that kind of just happen to work together. I promise it's a lot more than that; this deck was built with some very specific rules in mind.

So first up your have the starter cards, 21 of them total. That's important because as Johnny stated, you generally want between 11 and 13 starters in a 40-card deck. If you play 13, that gives you a starter card in 86% of your opening hands. In this build, with 60 cards, you can see I chose to play 21 starters, which gives me a similar 89.4% chance to open with 1 of them in my first 5 draws. That means that as the Dragon player you'll actually see a starter card slightly more than you would in a conventionally built 40-card counterpart.

The same is true for the extender lineup. Johnny mentioned playing 12 to 14 extenders as the ideal curve in 40 cards. If you play 14, you'll open with an extender in 90% of your games. In this 60-card deck, you can see there are 20 extenders giving you an 88% chance to see 1 in your opening hand. It's slightly less consistent, but it's such a marginal difference it really doesn't matter. The draw odds here are largely the same.

Even the defensive card lineup is bolstered by the higher deck count, as counter intuitive as that might seem. Johnny advocated for Main Decking 5 to 6 defensive cards in 40, which gives you a 57.7% chance to see 1 when you're going first. By playing 15 defensive cards in a total of 60, you'll see exactly 1 defensive card in your opening hand in 77.6% of your games, and you'll see any 2 of them in 36.7% of your games.

Discussing Deck Density

That idea of "deck density" deserves a little more attention; it's a term many of you may not be familiar with. For the sake of the discussion presented today, deck density refers to the size of the deck, and the concentration of cards as a result. The smaller the deck, the denser you can expect your draws to be.

By decreasing the deck's density – increasing its size over 40 – you can lower the percentage chance of seeing poor draws and unfavorable combinations of cards. Take the deck I showed you above: there are very few combinations of cards that are truly awful. Something like Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon, coupled with no normal summons or a hand of similarly low ceilings is about it. By increasing the deck count to 60 cards you can greatly reduce the odds of seeing those poor draws, while maintaining the chance to open with various good combinations of starter and extenders.

It's important to note that this principle is often shown by duelist extraordinaire Jesse Kotton, as his decks have famously towered over the 40-card minimum quite often in the past. The exception to this, however, is just as important to note.

When To Play The Minimum

After reading the previous paragraphs, it might be tempting to slap together 60 cards and have your deck be all gas. There are certainly many times where sticking to the 40-card minimum isn't always correct, but I wouldn't recommend just going all in on 60 cards all the time.

Certain decks, and even certain formats, have heavily favored playing as few cards as possible. Take Lunalight Orcust: that deck won by seeing a very small number of high impact cards as frequently as possible. You wouldn't want to play more than 40 cards if you could, because a small handful of them were just so powerful. Using Jesse's deck from the UDS Invitational held in October of last year as an example, he took it to the extreme. He played a heavy Danger lineup, as well as Into the Void, Upstart Goblin, and even Card Destruction to quickly rip through his deck and see those extremely important cards.

Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG Deck - Lunalight Orcusts by Jesse Kotton

'Lunalight Orcusts' - constructed deck list and prices for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Jesse Kotton

Event: UDS Invitational - 2019-10-20 Panama City

Rank: 1st

Advanced

Market Price: $105.10

Cards

Fire Formation - Tenki

Market Price: $1.00

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/205819_200w.jpg

When this card is activated: You can add 1 Level 4 or lower Beast-Warrior monster from your Deck to your hand. All Beast-Warrior monsters you control gain 100 ATK. You can only activate 1 "Fire Formation - Tenki" per turn.

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Borrelsword Dragon

Market Price: $7.76

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3+ Effect Monsters

Cannot be destroyed by battle. Once per turn (Quick Effect): You can target 1 Attack Position monster; change it to Defense Position, also, this card can make a second attack during each Battle Phase this turn. Your opponent cannot activate cards or effects in response to this effect's activation. Once per turn, when this card declares an attack on a face-up monster: You can activate this effect; until the end of this turn, this card gains ATK equal to half that monster's current ATK, and if it does, that monster's current ATK is halved.

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Orcust Cymbal Skeleton

Market Price: $0.44

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You can banish this card from your GY, then target 1 “Orcust” monster in your GY, except “Orcust Cymbal Skeleton”; Special Summon it, also you cannot Special Summon monsters for the rest of this turn, except DARK monsters. You can only use this effect of “Orcust Cymbal Skeleton” once per turn.

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Outer Entity Azathot

Market Price: $0.84

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3 Level 5 monsters

You can also Xyz Summon this card by using an "Outer Entity" Xyz Monster you control as material. (Transfer its materials to this card.) Cannot be used as material for an Xyz Summon. After you Xyz Summon this card, monsters in your opponent's possession cannot activate their effects for the rest of this turn. If this card has a Fusion, Synchro, and Xyz Monster as Xyz Materials: You can detach 1 material from this card; destroy all cards your opponent controls.

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Card Destruction

Market Price: $0.24

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Each player discards their entire hand and draws the same number of cards they discarded.

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Lunalight Yellow Marten

Market Price: $0.74

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If this card is in your hand or GY: You can target 1 “Lunalight” card you control, except “Lunalight Yellow Marten”; return that card to the hand, and if you do, Special Summon this card in Defense Position, but banish it when it leaves the field. If this card is sent to the GY by a card effect: You can add 1 “Lunalight” Spell/Trap from your Deck to your hand. You can only use each effect of "Lunalight Yellow Marten" once per turn.

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Number 39: Utopia

Market Price: $0.45

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2 Level 4 monsters

When any player's monster declares an attack: You can detach 1 material from this card; negate the attack. If this card is targeted for an attack, while it has no material: Destroy this card.

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Blackwing - Zephyros the Elite

Market Price: $0.13

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If this card is in your GY: You can return 1 face-up card you control to the hand; Special Summon this card, and if you do, take 400 damage. You can only use this effect of "Blackwing - Zephyros the Elite" once per Duel.

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Chaos Hunter

Market Price: $0.25

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When your opponent Special Summons a monster (except during the Damage Step): You can discard 1 card; Special Summon this card from your hand. Your opponent cannot banish cards.

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Gnomaterial

Market Price: $0.94

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If your opponent Special Summons a monster(s) while you control no cards: You can discard this card, then target 1 face-up monster your opponent controls; this turn, that monster cannot be Tributed, or used as material for a Fusion, Synchro, Xyz, or Link Summon. You can only use this effect of "Gnomaterial" once per turn.

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Dingirsu, the Orcust of the Evening Star

Market Price: $2.67

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2 Level 8 monsters

You can only Special Summon "Dingirsu, the Orcust of the Evening Star(s)" once per turn. You can also Xyz Summon this card by using an "Orcust" Link Monster you control as material. If a card(s) you control would be destroyed by battle or card effect, you can detach 1 material from this card instead. If this card is Special Summoned: You can activate 1 of these effects;
• Send 1 card your opponent controls to the GY.
• Attach 1 of your banished Machine monsters to this card as material.

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Apollousa, Bow of the Goddess

Market Price: $4.99

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2+ monsters with different names, except Tokens

You can only control 1 "Apollousa, Bow of the Goddess". The original ATK of this card becomes 800 x the number of Link Materials used for its Link Summon. Once per Chain, when your opponent activates a monster effect (Quick Effect): You can make this card lose exactly 800 ATK, and if you do, negate the activation.

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Danger!? Tsuchinoko?

Market Price: $8.53

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You can reveal this card in your hand; your opponent randomly chooses 1 card from your entire hand, then you discard the chosen card. Then, if the discarded card was not "Danger!? Tsuchinoko?", Special Summon 1 "Danger!? Tsuchinoko?" from your hand, and if you do, draw 1 card. If this card is discarded: You can Special Summon this card. You can only use this effect of "Danger!? Tsuchinoko?" once per turn.

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Number 39: Utopia Double

Market Price: $6.98

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2 Level 4 monsters

(Quick Effect): You can detach 1 material from this card; add 1 "Double or Nothing!" from your Deck to your hand, then Special Summon from your Extra Deck, 1 "Utopia" Xyz Monster, except "Number 39: Utopia Double", by using this face-up card you control as material, and if you do, its ATK becomes doubled, but it cannot attack directly. (This is treated as an Xyz Summon. Transfer its materials to the Summoned monster.) You can only use this effect of "Number 39: Utopia Double" once per turn.

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Outer Entity Nyarla

Market Price: $0.65

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2 Level 4 monsters

When this card is Xyz Summoned: You can discard any number of cards; increase this card's Rank by 1 for each card discarded. Once per turn, if this card has Xyz Material: You can target 1 monster in your GY; detach all materials from this card, and if you do, attach that monster to this card as material, and if you do that, this card's Type and Attribute become that material's original Type and Attribute.

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Red Reboot

Market Price: $0.19

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When your opponent activates a Trap Card: Negate the activation, and if you do, Set that card face-down, then they can Set 1 other Trap directly from their Deck. For the rest of this turn after this card resolves, your opponent cannot activate Trap Cards. You can activate this card from your hand by paying half your LP.

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Twin Twisters

Market Price: $0.60

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Discard 1 card, then target up to 2 Spells/Traps on the field; destroy them.

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Orcust Crescendo

Market Price: $0.47

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When a Spell/Trap Card, or monster effect, is activated while you control an "Orcust" Link Monster: Negate the activation, and if you do, banish that card. You can banish this card from your GY; add to your hand 1 of your DARK Machine monsters that is banished or in your Deck. You cannot Special Summon monsters the turn you activate this effect, except DARK Machine monsters. You can only use 1 "Orcust Crescendo" effect per turn, and only once that turn.

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Curious, the Lightsworn Dominion

Market Price: $1.33

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3 monsters with the same Attribute but different Types

If this face-up card is destroyed by battle, or leaves the field because of an opponent's card effect while its owner controls it: You can target 1 card in your GY; add it to your hand. You can only use each of the following effects of "Curious, the Lightsworn Dominion" once per turn.
• If this card is Link Summoned: You can send 1 card from your Deck to the GY.
• If a card(s) is sent from your Deck to the GY by an effect: Send the top 3 cards of your Deck to the GY.

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Lunalight Serenade Dance

Market Price: $2.14

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When a Fusion Monster is Special Summoned to your field: you can target that monster, Special Summon 1 “Lunalight Token” (Beast-Warrior/DARK/Level 4/ATK 2000/DEF 2000) to your opponent field, and the target monster gains 500 ATK for each monster your opponent controls. During your Main Phase: You can banish this card from your GY; Send 1 card from your hand to the GY, and Special Summon 1 “Lunalight” monster from your Deck. You can only use this effect of “Lunalight Serenade Dance” once per turn.

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Tornado Dragon

Market Price: $0.98

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2 Level 4 monsters

Once per turn (Quick Effect): You can detach 1 material from this card, then target 1 Spell/Trap on the field; destroy it.

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Upstart Goblin

Market Price: $1.89

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Draw 1 card from your Deck. Your opponent gains 1000 Life Points.

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Foolish Burial Goods

Market Price: $0.92

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/227479_200w.jpg

Send 1 Spell/Trap from your Deck to the GY. You can only activate 1 "Foolish Burial Goods" per turn.

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Luna Light Perfume

Market Price: $0.25

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Target 1 "Lunalight" monster in your Graveyard; Special Summon it. You can banish this card from your Graveyard, then discard 1 card; add 1 "Lunalight" monster from your Deck to your hand.

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Barricadeborg Blocker

Market Price: $0.26

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2 monsters with different names

If this card is Link Summoned: You can discard 1 card; during the End Phase of this turn, add 1 Continuous or Field Spell from your GY to your hand. You can only use this effect of "Barricadeborg Blocker" once per turn. Face-up Spells you control cannot be destroyed by your opponent's card effects.

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World Legacy - "World Wand"

Market Price: $0.16

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If this card is Normal Summoned/Set, it cannot by destroyed by battle with monsters that were Special Summoned from the Extra Deck. You can only use each of the following effects of “World Legacy - "World Wand"” once per turn.

• If this card is sent to the GY: You can Special Summon 1 “World Legacy” monster from your hand.
• You can banish this card from your GY, then target 1 of your banished “Orcust” monsters; for the rest of this turn, you cannot Special Summon monsters, except DARK monsters, also Special Summon that monster.

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Lunalight Tiger

Market Price: $0.48

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Pendulum Effect : Once per turn: You can target 1 "Lunalight" monster in your Graveyard; Special Summon it, but it cannot attack, its effects are negated, also it is destroyed during the End Phase.

Monster Effect : If this card on the field is destroyed by battle or card effect: You can target 1 "Lunalight" monster in your Graveyard; Special Summon it. You can only use this effect of "Lunalight Tiger" once per turn.

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Longirsu, the Orcust Orchestrator

Market Price: $0.41

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2+ Effect Monsters, including at least 1 “Orcust” monster

This linked card cannot be destroyed by card effects. You can target 2 of your banished Machine monsters; shuffle them into the Deck, then you can send 1 linked monster your opponent controls to the GY. This card cannot attack the turn this effect is activated. You can only use this effect of “Longirsu, the Orcust Orchestrator” once per turn.

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Nibiru, the Primal Being

Market Price: $10.95

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During the Main Phase, if your opponent Normal or Special Summoned 5 or more monsters this turn (Quick Effect): You can Tribute as many face-up monsters on the field as possible, and if you do, Special Summon this card from your hand, then Special Summon 1 "Primal Being Token" (Rock/LIGHT/Level 11/ATK ?/DEF ?) to your opponent's field. (This Token's ATK/DEF become the combined original ATK/DEF of the Tributed monsters.) You can only use this effect of "Nibiru, the Primal Being" once per turn.

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Orcust Knightmare

Market Price: $0.24

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Cannot be destroyed by battle with a Link Monster. You can banish this card from your GY, then target 1 face-up monster on the field; you cannot Special Summon monsters, except DARK monsters, for the rest of this turn, also send 1 DARK Machine monster from your Deck to the GY, except "Orcust Knightmare", and if you do, the targeted monster gains ATK equal to the Level of the monster sent to the GY x 100, until the end of this turn. You can only use this effect of "Orcust Knightmare" once per turn.

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Galatea, the Orcust Automaton

Market Price: $0.56

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2 Effect Monsters, including at least 1 “Orcust” monster

This linked card cannot be destroyed by battle. You can target 1 of your banished Machine monsters; shuffle it into the Deck, then you can Set 1 “Orcust” Spell/Trap directly from your Deck. You can only use this effect of “Galatea, the Orcust Automaton” once per turn.

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Danger! Mothman!

Market Price: $1.82

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You can reveal this card in your hand; your opponent randomly chooses 1 card from your entire hand, then you discard the chosen card. Then, if the discarded card was not "Danger! Mothman!", Special Summon 1 "Danger! Mothman!" from your hand, and if you do, draw 1 card. If this card is discarded: You can have both players draw 1 card, then both players discard 1 card. You can only use this effect of "Danger! Mothman!" once per turn.

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Danger!? Jackalope?

Market Price: $1.11

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You can reveal this card in your hand; your opponent randomly chooses 1 card from your entire hand, then you discard the chosen card. Then, if the discarded card was not "Danger!? Jackalope?", Special Summon 1 "Danger!? Jackalope?" from your hand, and if you do, draw 1 card. If this card is discarded: You can Special Summon 1 "Danger!" monster from your Deck in Defense Position, except "Danger!? Jackalope?". You can only use this effect of "Danger!? Jackalope?" once per turn.

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Raidraptor - Force Strix

Market Price: $1.37

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2 Level 4 monsters

Gains 500 ATK/DEF for each Winged Beast monster you control, except this card. Once per turn: You can detach 1 material from this card; add 1 Level 4 DARK Winged Beast monster from your Deck to your hand.

Official Tournament Stores must review their Konami OTS agreement before selling this product.

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Abyss Dweller

Market Price: $0.87

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2 Level 4 monsters

While this card has an Xyz Material attached that was originally WATER, all WATER monsters you control gain 500 ATK. Once per turn, during either player's turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; any card effects that activate in your opponent's Graveyard cannot be activated this turn.

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Knightmare Phoenix

Market Price: $0.38

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2+ monsters with different names

If this card is Link Summoned: You can discard 1 card, then target 1 Spell/Trap your opponent controls; destroy it, then, if this card was co-linked when this effect was activated, you can draw 1 card. You can only use this effect of "Knightmare Phoenix" once per turn. Co-linked monsters you control cannot be destroyed by battle.

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Orcustrated Babel

Market Price: $0.29

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You can activate the effects of “Orcust" monsters in your GY, or of Link Monsters you control with "Orcust" in their original names, as Quick Effects. During your Main Phase, if this card is in your GY, except the turn it was sent to the GY: You can send 1 card from your hand to the GY; add this card to your hand.

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Double or Nothing!

Market Price: $0.42

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Activate only when a monster's attack is negated by selecting that monster. During this Battle Phase, the selected monster can attack once again. In that case, double its ATK during the Damage Step only.

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Danger! Nessie!

Market Price: $3.31

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You can reveal this card in your hand; your opponent randomly chooses 1 card from your entire hand, then you discard the chosen card. Then, if the discarded card was not "Danger! Nessie!", Special Summon 1 "Danger! Nessie!" from your hand, and if you do, draw 1 card. If this card is discarded: You can add 1 "Danger!" card from your Deck to your hand, except "Danger! Nessie!". You can only use this effect of "Danger! Nessie!" once per turn.

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Lunalight Kaleido Chick

Market Price: $0.13

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Once per turn: You can send 1 "Lunalight" monster from your Deck or Extra Deck to the GY; the name of this face-up card on the field can be treated as the sent monster's, if used as Fusion Material this turn. If this card is sent to the GY by a card effect: You can target 1 "Polymerization" in your GY; add it to your hand. You can only use this effect of "Lunalight Kaleido Chick" once per turn. If this card is banished: You can activate this effect; this turn, your opponent's cards and effects cannot be activated during the Battle Phase.

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Foolish Burial

Market Price: $0.34

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Send 1 monster from your Deck to the GY.

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Orcust Harp Horror

Market Price: $0.53

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You can banish this card from your GY; Special Summon 1 “Orcust” monster from your Deck, except “Orcust Harp Horror”, also you cannot Special Summon monsters for the rest of this turn, except DARK monsters. You can only use this effect of “Orcust Harp Horror” once per turn.

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I'd argue that the current format favors more dense deck building. The decks themselves may be able to play with almost any combination of cards, but interestingly the reason to play a lower deck count is to ensure you see those key defensive cards more consistently.

My list I showed you above plays a high number of defensive cards, and while I can see them often, there's no guarantee they're the most impactful cards in my deck. Currently, PSY-Framegear Gamma and Nibiru, the Primal Being are the two most impactful hand traps being played, given the way the format has developed. For that reason, I think a smaller deck – and thus smaller defensive lineup – may be better than wider lineup.

Wrapping Up

There may never be a solid "this is always the correct number to play" answer for you, and that's okay! Deck building is a constantly evolving and ever-changing art form. A lot of number crunching goes into serious deck building, and as the game gets updated year over year, player perspectives on what's "correct" are being constantly updated too. Ten years ago, Upstart Goblin was almost never used, and now it's understood as one of the best cards in the game.

If you have any questions feel free to Tweet me, and if you want some help on a deck email it over to me at YGOinfinitedoctor@gmail.com, along with a description of the deck, its win condition, and whatever other information you think I might need! Until next time.

-Zachariah J Butler