When the 200th YCS in Columbus concluded roughly two weeks ago, I glanced over at Manav Dawar’s winning Sky Striker list and I couldn’t help but notice how his card ratios and deckbuilding philosophy differentiated so much from what I considered to be “optimal” or “the norm”. While I do not wish to detract from Dawar’s success in any way, it goes without saying that his list played a good number of one-ofs and two-ofs that many other players, including myself, would usually opt to play as three-ofs. This is most notable in his hand trap lineup, in which I believe he played 2 Ash Blossom and Joyous Spring, 2 Ghost Ogre and Snow Rabbit, 1 Ghost Belle and Haunted Mansion, and 1 Effect Veiler. Dawar’s decklist got me thinking about what the core ideologies behind building a good deck are (specifically, defining card ratios), as well as some common deckbuilding misconceptions I see players struggle with in today’s metagame. It is my hope with this article that I can explain the difference between one-ofs, two-ofs, and three-ofs in Yugioh. Without further adieu, let’s begin.
(A small disclaimer: as with any concepts in general philosophy, objections and exceptions will exist; these are just some general rules and guidelines to follow when deckbuilding. This is also by no means a conclusive article; other categories that define one/two/three-ofs may also, and likely do, exist.)
One-ofs in most decks generally exist in two categories. The first category includes cards which are so insanely powerful they are limited on the Forbidden and Limited list, and as such you can only play one copy of said card in your deck. Cards in the current metagame which fall under this category include Firewall Dragon, Sky Striker Mecha – Hornet Drones, Soul Charge, and Monster Reborn. These cards are usually monsters with powerful effects that lead to one-card Extra Links/unbreakable boards or powerful spells that tend to change the tide of a Duel when they resolve successfully.
The second category is a little bit more complicated and are what I would define as “generally searchable/tutorable, (secondary) engine cards you usually don’t want to draw, but do not mean end of the world if you DO draw them”. Examples of cards which fall into this category include Knightmare Corruptor Iblee (which is tutorable off of Knightmare Mermaid), Speedroid Taketomborg (which is searchable off of Speedroid Terrortop), and Altergeist Kunquery (which is searchable through a variety of cards in the Altergeist deck like Altergeist Meluseek and Personal Spoofing). These cards are usually cards that are required for an engine to function effectively, but can be bricks or dead draws if seen at the wrong time. However, even when these cards are drawn, the engine it is a part of can still function effectively enough to not justify playing more copies of the pseudo-brick.
It is probably important to note that when it comes to cards in the second category, they don’t necessarily have to be very strong to justify their inclusion in the deck at one copy: so long as the card is powerful enough and has enough synergy with the deck, you can justify playing one lone copy of it. Perhaps the best example of this would be with Flamvell Guard and Dragunity Corsesca during the March 2013 Dragon Ruler format. These cards were essentially vanilla tuners that did nothing on their own, but the ability they had to enable the Dragon Ruler deck to go into generic Level 8 Synchro monsters was relevant and powerful enough to justify playing the lone copy of either one of them. The Tuners could also be banished in a pinch as materials to summon a Dragon Ruler as well.
Two-ofs in most decks can be categorized into cards which are powerful enough to be semi-limited; cards that you always want in the deck and are necessary for the deck’s main combo; and cards that are only good at certain stages of the game and/or clog if multiple copies of them are drawn, yet aren’t powerful enough to justify running a playset. That’s a lot to cover, so let’s go over each of the categories one by one.
The first category is rather self-explanatory. Cards like Called by the Grave, Scapegoat, and Terraforming would fall under this category. These cards are powerful because they are strong utility cards that are useful in a wide variety of scenarios: if we take a look at the above examples, these cards either help you push through hand traps; are one card Link 4 monsters if they resolve; or serve as extra copies of an Field Spell starter card (e.g. Dragonic Diagram or Trickstar Light Stage) that helps get your deck going. Other examples throughout Yugioh’s history include Nobleman of Crossout in Goat Format and Solemn Warning during the Plant Synchro format.
The second category of cards includes cards like Gouki Octostretch and Altergeist Silquitous. Octostretch is an interesting case because if the Gouki player played only one copy of Octostretch, they had a 12.5% chance to open him, and if they drew their lone Octostretch in their opening hand, the deck’s main Isolde, Two Tales of the Noble Knights target disappears. However, the chance of opening both copies of a two-of is extremely slim: the probability of doing so is roughly 1.28%, which means that when going first there is a 98.72% chance at least one copy of Octostretch will be in your deck. This was also the reason why most Gouki lists played an extra Equip Spell to send with Isolde: in the odd event they opened with Divine Sword – Phoenix Blade, they could still send a card like Living Fossil, D.D.R. – Different Dimension Reincarnation, or Noble Arms – Arfeudutyr to the GY to summon Octostretch. Another example would be Altergeist Silquitous; Silquitous is a card you always want to have at least one copy of in your deck so that you can summon her off of Multifaker, and much like Octostretch, opening with your lone copy of Silquitous would be less than ideal because it would make Multifaker a much weaker card in general. While Silquitous does suck to draw, drawing one of your two copies of her is better than having one of your deck’s most powerful plays dead if you open with your lone copy of her instead.
Finally, the last category of cards doesn’t come up too often in the context of modern Yugioh anymore, but was a category that was relevant in past formats. Perhaps the best example of such a card would be Tsukuyomi in Goat Format. Tsukuyomi was a very powerful card in 2005: it was a one-card out to Thousand-Eyes Restrict, prevented powerful monsters like Airknight Parshath and Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning from being stolen with Snatch Steal (Equip Spells cannot target face-down monsters), and could even recycle face-up Flip monster effects and set up “Tsuk locks”, which were soft locks involving Tsukuyomi, a Flip Effect monster, and ideally some form of backrow protection like Book of Moon or Sakuretsu Armor. However, one of Tsukuyomi’s biggest flaws was that she was a Spirit. While this meant Tsukuyomi would always stick around in your hand if you were careful with her, it also meant seeing multiple copies of her when you already had one in hand was less than ideal; any additional copies you saw of her would essentially be dead. For this reason, most decks that play Tsukuyomi only play two copies of her: despite the fact she’s a great card, the chance of seeing her more often doesn’t offset the potential consequence of seeing more than one copy of her in your hand at any given point of the Duel. It’s also worth noting that Tsukuyomi is also searchable off of Sangan, so the little burger fiend could always fetch her for you if you desperately needed access to her for some reason.
Three-ofs generally exist in two categories, similarly to one-ofs. The first category of three-ofs are pretty straightforward: they are cards you always want to open with and act as (themed) starter cards. Cards in this category include, but are not limited to: Sky Striker Mobilize – Engage!, Sky Striker Ace – Raye, Altergeist Multifaker, Armageddon Knight, Dark Grepher, Vision HERO Vyon, Dragonic Diagram, and Trickstar Light Stage. To maximize the chance of opening a playable hand or seeing one of your starter cards, you want to max out on the number of copies you play of said cards – this should be a pretty straightforward concept to understand.
The second category of three-ofs are unsearchable, non-engine cards that are powerful enough to warrant playing at three and are cards you always want to open with despite not being a part of your core engine. Cards like these include Pot of Desires, nearly every relevant hand trap (e.g. Ash Blossom and Joyous Spring, Ghost Ogre and Snow Rabbit, Effect Veiler, etc.), and extenders like Junk Forward. What’s important here is the difference between a three-of that sucks to draw in multiples and a two-of that you’d rather not clog with. If you decide to play an unsearchable non-engine card as a three-of, it means that seeing even just one copy of that card is better than potentially opening with two or more copies of it. Conversely, cards that are better when they do not clog instead of being opened more consistently and/or seen more often are better suited to be two-ofs. The line that separates these two categories of cards can often be rather subjective and is also heavily format-dependent, so do keep this in mind when deckbuilding.
Having said that, the latter category of three-ofs are what I believe to be the downfall of a lot of decklists in the modern era of Yugioh: they tend to not make use of these category of cards well. People often mistake dead-obvious three-ofs as two-ofs, or in rare scenarios, sometimes even one-ofs. A good example of this being the case would be with Pot of Desires: I wholeheartedly believe that Desires is either a 0-of or a 3-of and nowhere in between. I get upset when I see people play Pot of Desires at 2 in their deck because they don’t “want to open with two copies” or because “they don’t want to draw Desires off of Desires”. The reality is that the chance of either of these two instances happening is so slim that it doesn’t offset the power loss that occurs by playing any less than three copies of Desires: a free +1 is never something you want to pass up on unless you’re about to deck out. Other cards in similar scenarios include powerful combo extenders such as Instant Fusion (William Candia, a Dragon Duel Worlds competitor was playing two copies of Instant Fusion in his deck at Worlds and I was severely questioning how he got as far as he did), as well as essentially every relevant hand trap in the game. Playing any less than three of any particular hand trap is a concept that rarely, if ever, makes sense to me, and should only be done if you can’t find room in your deck for something to cut. Even in this scenario, it is only wise to cut one copy of the weakest playable hand trap against the general expected metagame at that point in time (i.e. if the three most powerful hand traps in the format are Ash, Droll, and Belle, but Belle is the weakest hand trap out of the three, then play 2 Belle and three of the other two hand traps).
That about wraps it up for this article. If you enjoy my content, make sure to follow me on Twitter at @Morpp_SSB and check out my streams over at https://twitch.tv/Morpp_SSB. Until next time!