Unless your opponent hasn’t changed his or her deck in seven years and still plays La Jinn the Mystical Genie of the Lamp and Neo the Magic Swordsman, he or she is probably using effect monsters. This means your opponent’s deck is affected by Skill Drain. It’s possible that the deck is completely dependent on effect monsters for victory, and will fall apart when Skill Drain is activated. It’s also possible that your opponent is using a Skill Drain strategy of his or her own and is barely hindered by (or even benefits from) the activation of Skill Drain.
Any deck that falls in the middle of these two possibilities can side deck Skill Drain effectively. TeleDAD stands on this middle ground. Most TeleDAD main decks can be restrained by Skill Drain, but not enough for Skill Drain to destroy the deck’s combos and strategies. TeleDAD players in recent Shonen Jump Championships have used this truth and exploited other decks’ greater dependency on effect monsters by side decking Skill Drain and using it against some of the trickiest decks in the metagame. In this article, I’ll be analyzing the benefits of side decking Skill Drain in TeleDAD as well as a strategy for when to side deck it in, what to take out for it, and what to side deck in alongside it.
Simplifying the Game State
Activating Skill Drain is a huge step toward simplifying the game state. Without monster effects on the field, there’s a lot less that a TeleDAD player needs to worry about and there are fewer tactics that an opponent can try. At the same time, the versatility of the Extra Deck enables the TeleDAD player to play around Skill Drain by summoning Stardust Dragon or Colossal Fighter, both of whom have high ATK points and effects that aren’t restrained by Drain. Similarly, the strongest combo of the deck, removing Destiny Hero – Malicious from play and using Emergency Teleport to special summon Krebons before Synchro summoning, is completely unaffected by Skill Drain. With Skill Drain active, the player with the most monsters that have the strongest ATK power is often in the lead. Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner isn’t too impressive without her end phase effect or ability to summon other Lightsworn monsters. Neither is the entire Gladiator Beast lineup, whose tag-in effects become irrelevant with Skill Drain active. Dark Armed Dragon, on the other hand, stands strong with 2800 ATK, even without its ability to destroy cards on the field. A TeleDAD player can easily take advantage of a simplified game state by throwing big monsters onto the field while the opponent can’t use monster effects to deal with them.
When to Side in Skill DrainDeciding when to side deck in Skill Drain is simple. If the opponent depends on effect monsters that activate on the field to win games, side in Skill Drain! This may sound obvious, but it’s sometimes hard to decide exactly how dependent the opponent is on effect monsters.
Of the commonly played decks in the competitive metagame, Lightsworn and Gladiator Beast decks are the most dependent on effect monsters to win games and are the best decks to side in Skill Drain against. Zombie decks are typically immune to Skill Drain, and may even be able to side deck it as effectively as TeleDAD. While it’s true that Skill Drain negates Zombie Master, it fails to negate Mezuki, Plaguespreader Zombie, Goblin Zombie, and Pyramid Turtle, all of whom have effects that activate in the graveyard. Generally, Skill Drain isn’t strong enough to side deck in against Zombies.
It’s important to be able to identify when a deck is weak against Skill Drain. You may encounter unique Zombie builds that run other effect monsters that activate on the field, like Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter, which will justify siding it in. You may also encounter several rogue decks that you couldn’t possibly have had a pre-planned side strategy against. Every time you encounter a deck, you need to ask yourself whether or not it’s vulnerable to Skill Drain in order to decide whether or not it should be side decked in.
Maintaining Synergy with the Skill Drain Side DeckIt’s amazing how little synergy is sacrificed for the Skill Drain side deck strategy. Destiny Hero – Diamond Dude, Destiny Hero – Doom Lord, and Destiny Hero – Fear Monger aren’t crucial to the TeleDAD combo strategy, and they rarely pose serious problems for an opponent. If anything, they only slow down the deck while it’s meant to be incredibly fast. There are too few normal spells in most TeleDAD decks for Diamond Dude to be really effective, the effect of Doom Lord requires you to give up your battle phase for a temporary solution to a monster, and Fear Monger doesn’t even get an effect until the turn after he battles. Nonetheless, TeleDAD players are stuck using at least one of these Destiny Hero monsters in order to make full use of Elemental Hero Stratos and to be able to include three copies of Destiny Draw in their decks.
, on the other hand, can create difficulties for the opponent that none of the other three Destiny Hero monsters can. With Skill Drain on the field, he’s a 2700 DEF wall that can be very difficult to destroy without monster effects. Even Honest won’t help to destroy him, since he only has 100 ATK. While a huge defender is far from optimal for the speedy TeleDAD deck you’re using in game 1, if you’re side decking in Skill Drain, you’re doing so with the expectation that the next game will be slower. The point of the Skill Drain strategy is to shut down the opponent’s deck and make the opponent feel helpless every time he or she draws a card. What better way is there to do that than by setting a 2700 DEF monster? With a 2700 DEF monster stalling the opponent, it’s only a matter of time until you bring out enough high ATK monsters to win the game. Simply swap out copies of Diamond Dude, Doom Lord, or Fear Monger for copies of Destiny Hero – Defender when you side deck in Skill Drain and the Destiny Hero engine improves without losing synergy with the rest of the deck.
Zombyra the Dark is also a strong supplement to the Skill Drain side deck strategy. Most TeleDAD decks already run Reinforcement of the Army in the main deck, and Zombyra the Dark is another monster that can be searched out with it after he’s side decked in. Since strong attackers are the key to winning games with a Skill Drain strategy, it’s no surprise that Zombyra the Dark has been used in several Skill Drain builds in past Shonen Jump Championships.
As Paul Levitin acknowledged in his Duelist Interview at Shonen Jump San Francisco, the usefulness of Zombyra the Dark isn’t limited to the Skill Drain side deck strategy. Since Zombyra has enough ATK to destroy Thunder King Rai-Oh, Elemental Hero Stratos, Elemental Hero Neos Alius, and Doomcaliber Knight, he’s a strong weapon against Stun decks and other anti-meta beatdowns, even if Skill Drain isn’t side decked in with him. Like Destiny Hero – Defender, Zombyra the Dark can also provide an edge over the opponent with his high stats and can take advantage of the changed game pace that results from Skill Drain.
What to Remove for the Skill Drain Side DeckEven with the simple swap of Destiny Hero monsters, you’ll still need to make room in your deck for Skill Drain and Zombyra the Dark when side decking after the first game. Often, it’s best to remove monsters whose effects would be negated by the copies of Skill Drain that you’re side decking in.
Spirit Reaper, Snipe Hunter, Breaker the Magical Warrior, and Caius the Shadow Monarch all have their effects negated by Skill Drain and can be side decked out without damaging the deck’s synergy. Conveniently, some of these cards are often main decked to provide an edge in the TeleDAD mirror match rather than in the Gladiator Beast and Lightsworn matchups, making it an even easier decision to side deck them out when shifting to a Skill Drain strategy. Snipe Hunter and Caius the Shadow Monarch are best used to get rid of Synchro monsters like Stardust Dragon, which Gladiator Beast decks and Lightsworn decks rarely summon. In the Lightsworn and Gladiator Beast matchups, the randomness of Snipe Hunter is rarely worth the risk, and the effect of Caius isn’t usually worth the effort put into summoning him, especially when he can be easily negated by Gladiator Beast War Chariot. Spirit Reaper is nearly useless against a Gladiator Beast player as well, since Gladiator Beast Murmillo destroys him so easily.
While the futility of these monsters’ effects in game 1 becomes a null point with Skill Drain on the field in later games, you can’t guarantee that Skill Drain will always be on the field in games 2 and 3, even if you do side in three copies. As a result, it’s comforting to know that side decking out these monsters won’t hurt you much, even if you don’t draw Skill Drain.
Even though Dark Grepher and Elemental Hero Stratos also have effects that get negated by Skill Drain, I certainly wouldn’t advise removing them when side decking. They’re likely to hit play before you even set Skill Drain, and they’re way too important to the deck’s central strategy. They’re needed to fuel the graveyard with Dark monsters and Destiny Hero – Malicious. Similarly, despite the killer effect of Dark Armed Dragon which would be negated by Skill Drain, its 2800 ATK points make it a great compliment to Skill Drain. It’s even more dangerous if you’re unfortunate enough to not draw a single copy of Skill Drain all game, so he’s definitely worth keeping in during games 2 and 3.
Destiny Hero – Plasma, a monster that has become increasingly popular in current metagames, may also be worth removing when side decking. The often accompanying copy of Scapegoat can be removed alongside him. The effect of Plasma is redundant with the effect of Skill Drain, since both cards negate all effect monsters on the field. Furthermore, Scapegoat is a weak card against several decks that Skill Drain is strong against. It’s not difficult for Lightsworn duelists to destroy four Sheep tokens in a single turn with a typical swarm of monsters, or get rid of them all with Judgment Dragon. Gladiator Beast duelists are always happy to see Scapegoat activated, because it ensures easy tag-outs just by sending Gladiator Beast monsters into tokens. Destiny Hero – Plasma is a strong card in the TeleDAD mirror match, but can easily be side decked out for other matchups.
Most often, removing these effect monsters from the deck will make enough room for a Skill Drain side-deck strategy involving Zombyra the Dark and Destiny Hero – Defender. If this isn’t the case for your TeleDAD build, you’ll need to find and remove some more cards that aren’t critical to the deck’s main strategy. This shouldn’t be too difficult, since the TeleDAD frame leaves room for several tech cards that can be sided out without negative repercussions. You’ll need to use your best judgment to decide which of your main-decked tech cards you can do without in games 2 and 3.
History and Future of the Skill Drain Side DeckThere’s no doubt that the Skill Drain side-deck strategy has lost some power since Adam Corn first used it at Shonen Jump Baltimore. Very few of the players there expected Skill Drain in his deck, and most were unable to preempt it by siding in cards like Dust Tornado or Royal Decree for game 2. Now that the Skill Drain strategy is well-known, this is no longer the case. Players know what they’re likely to be up against. As the Skill Drain side-deck strategy is forgotten, expect it to resurge in a later Shonen Jump Championship, surprising many duelists who will think it is no longer necessary to preempt it.
In addition to the lost "surprise factor," this side-deck strategy has also been weakened by the increased number of TeleDAD decks in most metagames since Shonen Jump Baltimore. The entire Skill Drain strategy is nearly useless in the TeleDAD mirror match. This means that the several side deck slots dedicated to the Skill Drain side deck strategy will serve little use if the majority of the decks you play against in a tournament are TeleDAD decks.
Nevertheless, Gladiator Beasts and Lightsworn remain a strong presence in competitive metagames and still justify the use of Skill Drain in the side deck. The possibility of shutting down almost an entire deck by drawing a single card is just too good to pass up.