"The only thing intricate about this game is its ban list."
Yu-Gi-Oh (also written Yu-Gi-Oh!) is a CCG (stands for "Children's Card Game", according to the popular Abridged Series) produced by Konami which is based off a shonen battle manga of the same name (literally meaning King of Games in Japanese). It can be surprisingly fun, and while confusing at first, it becomes second nature to most after just a few games.
While it does have some major rules problems thanks to idiotic rulings by Konami (i.e. missing the timing, semi hidden information going into hidden information zones, and an errata policy based mostly on what cards get reprinted), Yu-gi-oh is not as bad as some people have been led to believe; it has a quite interesting amount of game styles to choose from in the way you use the cards in your "deck" which is quite customisable.
...At least, unless you are playing in a tournament, in which case the majority of players will be playing 3 different deck styles max, because power creep 'n' seep is a bitch like that. The banlist has usually been the primary means of balance, meant to keep the best current playstyle(s) from overruning the meta for TOO long. In addition to outright banning cards that completely fuck the balance (ideally, anyway), other cards are limited so that the play styles that aren't completely gimped can still perform their strats reliably, without surgically excising chance from the game altogether like several older infamous combos, a few of which necessitated the creation of its Forbidden section.
It's worth noting that there was a major format overhaul recently for very similar reasons; prior to this, a majority of strats relied on running the other player down as soon as possible, in as few turns as possible (e.g. swarming the field with multiple Special Summons, ideally clearing the opposing field in the process), which led to plenty of OTK shit, and the occasional first turn wipeout. You can imagine the kind of fun stuff that leads to in a tournament. The introduction of Link Monsters and related restrictions on Special Summons (e.g. Extra Deck cards can only be summoned to the dedicated Extra Monster Zone OR Main Monster Zones that a Link Monster points to) halted reliance on this to a significant degree. Unfortunately this really just wound up forcing people to buy new shit and really fucked over older archetypes with less support. Even with this, reliance on the banlist (along with the cycle of dated shit falling out of use) and little else means one or two archetypes inevitably find themselves head and shoulders above the rest. Such is the life cycle of competitive balancing.
At first it was just played by a few groups of people over the world, but then it got a major increase in its player base after its anime dropped in the West. It is a relatively simple to play game that can keep you entertained for hours thanks to deck building and combo opportunities. It's an alright game for playing with friends, but the competitive scene for it is awful, partly due to the community being kinda shitty; while something of an understatement, it's to be expected from a long-running grog magnet, to say nothing of its various anime and some of the fans THOSE have attracted.
Mostly, though, it's due to Konami's usual practice of releasing new stuff, often in the form of 'structure' (i.e. preassembled) decks that generally fall into one of two categories: they're A) broken as shit, which sells more packs while potentially buttfucking the meta until the next banlist; or B) gimmicky as shit and thus utterly useless outside of select reprinted cards, even on a casual level (which was the case for many of the first ones released). In that regard, they're akin to good ol' Games Workshop - which, if you consider their reputation outside of this TCG, is being EXTREMELY generous. This has also given birth to the Yu-Gi-Oh! Meta Cycle:
- Did the company release a structure deck or set containing cards that are either new or powering up an old archetype?
- If yes, do said cards make a new deck which dominates the meta completely and warps the game?
- If yes, sit back and await a sudden update to the Limited/Forbidden list, and take a shot for each of those new cards that make it. Try not to die of alcohol poisoning.
- Enjoy the new format until new overpowered cards are released, which brings you back to step 1. Rinse and repeat.
How to Play
Yu-Gi-Oh is rather similar to Magic the Gathering in terms of play; in fact, it was introduced in the manga as a sort of Magic clone that was one of many featured games (it's even called Magic and Wizards), from which point its popularity took off and changed the manga's entire focus as the game was fleshed out and became something more relatively unique. You can guess how much a point of contention this is for the respective fanbases.
Each player starts with a 40-60 card deck plus a 0-15 card extra deck and tries to take his opponent's 8000 life points down to 0. If you are playing a best 2 out of 3 match, you can also use a side deck of up to 10 cards. It also is possible to win by making the opponent run out of main deck cards, as they also lose if they must draw but have no cards left. There also are a small number of cards that allow you to win automatically by meeting a difficult condition, such as the Exodia cards, which make you win if you have all 5 of them in your hand, or Final Countdown, which makes you win in 20 turns. Players take turns to play creatures and spells, attack the opponent's creatures and deal with some of the most badass cards brought to play.
The number of cards you can have in play is currently limited as follows: you can have five monsters (and one which you summon from the extra deck!), five spells/traps and one field spell in play at the same time. If you have five monsters you cannot summon additional ones without sacrificing others; you also can't play spell/trap cards if you already have five of them active, but you can play a field card if you already have one (in which case, the former field gets destroyed).
Note that 8000 is a really fucking huge number of life points to keep track of: you might want to bring a notebook, calculator or app along to keep track of your life points. The manga and anime starts with 2000 instead (later 4000 due to power creep).
Notable compared other TCG's, Yu-Gi-Oh lacks a 'cost' mechanic the way magic has with lands or hearthstone has with mana. The limiting factor for powerful monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh are (generally) that they need other monsters to be 'spent' to bring them out, either on the field or with the aid of a spell card, you need to expend some monster to bring out a bigger one.
The makeup of a card
The three basic types of cards in Yu-Gi-Oh are Monster, Spell and Trap.
These cards are your warriors who will do the fighting for you. Monsters have levels, which affects how you summon them. Monsters from level 1 to 4 can be summoned normally. Monsters of level 5 and 6 require you to sacrifice one of your monsters, 7 or higher require two sacrifices. Monsters also have Attributes (think the colors from Magic the Gathering, except there are seven, and they are less important), Monster Types (like creature type, there are 23, including fish, aqua and sea serpent), Attack and Defense (Strength and Toughness). There are eight types of them (or nine if you count tokens). The first four (or five) are from the early days of the game, with the latter four being added in 2008 and onwards:
- Normal - Coloured yellow. A straightforward card with no abilities. They used to be pretty common place as the "basic" units in the earliest stages of the game, but became increasingly rare with the rise of good Effect Monsters. Has received support cards at times, but Effect Monsters remain the most commonly used.
- Effect - Coloured orange unless they also belong to another class of monster. A monster that has a special ability. These are the most commonly used monsters. In the early days of the game the effect monsters were balanced by typically being weaker than normal monsters but eventually powerful effect monsters started showing up. It's almost a rule now that every monster must have an effect.
- Token: Colored grey. Token monsters are a special class of monster which are not kept in any of the decks and do not required that you even have the card to play them). Although most tokens that can be summoned do exist as cards, you can instead place any form of marker on the monster zone to represent it. Because of this, cards that have the ability to summon tokens will always tell you the token's properties. Tokens always count as normal monsters, even if the card that summoned them gives them effect-like properties. Tokens cannot be turned face down and are treated as ceasing to exist if they are removed from the field. Tokens cannot be used as overlays for summoning XYZ monsters, but they can be used to pay the cost for summoning other kinds of monsters, unless the card that summoned them puts a restriction on what they can be used for, and a few cards forbid using tokens to pay their costs. They also cannot be used to pay an effect cost if the effect specifically says to send the paid card to a specific place, since they can't exist off the field. For example, they can be used as a tribute to pay a cost, which would normally send the card to the graveyard, but they can't be used to pay a cost that specifically says to send the paid card to the graveyard. Because they do not exist as actual cards in the deck, it is possible to summon more than three copies of the same token. Most tokens are extremely weak, so their primary purpose is for stalling the opponent or for paying costs.
- Ritual - Coloured blue. A ritual monster is summoned using a ritual spell card and tributing monsters. They are placed in the main deck and cannot be summoned without a ritual spell. Usually has an effect, but not always.
- Fusion - Coloured violet. A fusion monster is one where you have to combine two or more cards in order to summon it. This combining is done by the special abilities of other cards, usually the spell card, Polymerization, though not always. Fusion monsters usually have effects, but not necessarily. In the early days of the game they used to be the final argument of sheer attack power, but over the years they've been overtaken.
- Contact Fusion - A variation of Fusion that involves either sending the cards that make up the fusion material into the graveyard or the banishment zone, or shuffling them into the deck. Polymerization is not needed; this effect is inherent to the Contact Fusion monsters in question. This effect is commonly found on A-to-Z monsters, the Neos, Gladiator Beast and Ritual Beast archetypes, and a few other cards. This means that while the lack of dependency on Polymerization cards makes them easier to play, these cards require their tributes to be on the field instead of either on the field or in the player's hand.
- Transformation Summon - Limited to the Masked HERO archetype, Transformation Summons requires a tribute of one card in favor of another, more powerful one. This requires the play of a Change-type spell, of which there are three. Because all Change cards are Quick-Play, you can play them during the Battle Phase in order to avoid negative effects or targeted destruction by your opponent, as well as attack several times in a single turn.
- Synchros - Coloured white. They go in the fusion deck, now known as an extra deck, and are summoned by sending monsters with a total level equal to theirs to the graveyard, including one tuner monster. These quickly dominated the meta when they came out because of how easy they are to bring out with the number of cards that make it easy to bring the lower level monsters needed to summon them by time they were released. It was so bad that Konami had to adjust the extra deck limit.
- Dark Synchros - Used to summon Dark Synchro monsters,. Instead of adding the values of the Tuner and the non-Tuner monsters together the level of the Tuner monster is subtracted from the level of the non-Tuner monster. This matters a lot more in the anime, where they are treated as their own card type rather then just being synchros with special conditions like they are in the CCG.
- Double Tuning - The rare Synchro monsters that require two Tuner monsters to summon. There are only five of them in the game.
- Accel Synchro - Just like regular Synchro summoning, except all material cards have to be Synchro cards themselves.
- XYZ - Coloured black with streaking stars. Pronounced "Exceeds", and summoned by placing two or more cards of the same level on top of each other. Instead of a level they have a rank which reflects the level of the monsters that must be "overlayed" to summon them from the extra deck. Like Synchros these are largely the dominate force in competitive play.
- XYZ Evolution - XYZ Evolution monsters can be XYZ summoned as normal, but they can also use a single specific card as XYZ Material. This can be either from the effect of the XYZ monster itself or a Spell card. Many XYZ Evolution monsters are either CXYZ or Number-C monsters.
- Pendulum - Coloured the same colour as the other monster type they are in their top half and green in their bottom half, with a transition between the two, to show how they're like a mix of monster and Spell. Thus you can have Normal Pendulum monsters, Effect Pendulum monsters, XYZ Pendulum, Fusion Pendulum, etc. There are currently no ritual pendulum monsters or link pendulum monsters in existence, though this may change in the future. These are monsters that can also be played as spells in the pendulum zones, and go to the extra deck when they're destroyed while on the field. With the release of Link monsters, the rules have changed to remove the Pendulum zones, so now they are played in the same zones as regular spells. They have a number called a scale, which is used when they are played as a spell card. They also allow you to summon a bunch of monsters in one turn, as long as the levels are between the scales of the two pendulum monsters you have in your pendulum zones. Newfags.
- Link - Coloured blue like Ritual monsters, but in another shade and with a hexagonal background. They have a link rating instead of a level or rank and have no DEF and can never be in defence position. They go in the extra deck, and are summoned by sending a number of monsters you control to the graveyard whose total Link Rating is equal to the summoned monster's Link Rating (monsters that do not have a link rating count as 1). They have Link markers that point to other monster zones, and you can summon other monsters from the Extra Deck to the zones pointed at by the markers. Their effects often relate to the zones pointed to by the arrows. Newerfags.
On top of that, there are several secondary monster types that said monsters have on top of their normal type:
- Flip - When a Flip monster is attacked when it is face down or turned up by its controller or an effect, it triggers its own effect. Having the monster destroyed or exiled outside of being attacked, the effect does not trigger. Can trigger multiple times if an effect turns it face down.
- Gemini - A Gemini monster is played as a regular Normal monster. It can later (either a later turn or outright, depending on what other cards its controller plays) be summoned again as if it entered the field from a player's hand. When it is, it triggers its effect. And no, Gemini Elf is not a Gemini monster.
- Spirit - When a Spirit monster is summoned, it returns to its owner's hand from the field during the End Phase. This means that Spirit monsters have little staying power, and they cannot be Special Summoned.
- Toon - Toon monsters resemble existing monsters in the game in a cartoony style. They rely on the Toon World card, and they are frequently destroyed if Toon World is.
- Tuner - These monsters are mandatory if you want to run a Synchros deck. While it is tempting to make a deck of nothing but Tuner monsters to make sure you always have one, many Synchros monsters require at least one non-Tuner monster or a monster of a particular type instead.
- Union - Often weak on their own, Union monsters can equip themselves to another monster to grant said monster a special effect. If that monster were to be destroyed, its equipped Union monster is destroyed instead.
These cards are for support, augmenting monsters, giving you more cards or life points, stunning the opponent...etc, anything to give you an upper hand in the battle. They are coloured green. They have have six subtypes:
- Normal - A one-time use card that is discarded after its effect is completed
- Continuous - The effect persists, so long as the card is still in play
- Equip - Equipped on a monster card to augment their stats or give them special abilities
- Quick-Play - Like a normal spell, but can be played in response to other card or card effect activations. If they are set they can also be activated during the opponent's turn like a trap card..
- Ritual - A card which lets you sacrifice monsters whose total levels are a certain amount in order to bring forth the patron of the ritual, a ritual monster (see above).
- Field - Changes the attribute of the playing field, which can give certain monsters buffs or penalties (I.E: Water monsters benefit from Umi and Dark monsters benefit from Yami). It used to be that only 1 field spell may be active at a time, but later rules made it that each player may have their own field spell at the same time. Unlike other types of spell cards, you can place a field spell on the field even if your field spell zone is already occupied, which destroys the card in it.
Trap cards can't be played directly and have to be deployed in the face-down position. As their name implies; they're traps for your opponent, which can be triggered either by your decision or once your opponent meets certain conditions. Thanks to the animu's flair for the dramatic, you're required to say "YOU'VE ACTIVATED MY TRAP CARD!" in a loud and smug fashion when activating, while dramatically flipping your trap card. Verbally explaining the trap's effects in a dramatic fashion is optional. They are coloured pink. Trap Cards exist in three kinds:
- Normal - This sort of card can be used once and discarded after its effect is completed
- Continuous - This kind of trap persists so long as the card is still on the field.
- Counter Trap - A trap used to counter other cards; the only thing that can stop a counter trap is another counter trap. Also single-use like normal traps.
- Trap Monster - A trap card that has the ability to summon itself and become a monster. They may be treated as a normal monster or an effect monster depending on the text of the card. Most trap monsters are continuous traps and are treated as a monster and a trap at the same time while they are on the field, and take up two zones instead of one (a monster zone and a spell/trap zone). A few which may be called pseudo trap monsters are normal traps instead and are not treated as a trap at the same time when summoned as a monster and only take up one zone.
- The turn starts with a Begin of Turn phase where some things can happen depending on the cards in play, but most of the time this turn is just filler.
- The Draw Phase allows you to draw 1 card from your deck. Again, some abilities might be triggered in this phase, but it's not all that flashy.
- The Standby Phase the phase that happens between the Draw and Main Phase. Nothing really happens here, but some abilities use this as part of their trigger requirements.
- The First Main Phase is where it all happens: you can play 1 monster and as many magic/trap cards as you like. Monsters can either be Summoned or Set. Summoning means they are placed in a face-up upright position; this makes their Attack stat the number used in the combat phase. If a monster is set it is placed in a face-down position turned 90 degrees to the right; this makes their Defense stat the number used in combat. You can only summon one monster normally, although card effects may allow you to conduct a "special summon" which is basically the same except that they are almost always summoned face-up and they don't take up your normal summon
- The Battle Phase has four sub phases. Again it has a Start and End step in which some effects trigger, but most of the time they're just there to look pretty. The big part of this is the Battle and Damage steps: you choose one of your monsters and attack one of your opponent's monsters. You then compare your monster's Attack to the other monster's opposing stat. If it is in Attack Position you compare the two Attack scores: the monster with the lowest Attack is destroyed and its controller loses life equal to the difference in Attack. If the scores are equal both monsters are destroyed. If the monster is in Defense Position you compare your Attack to the other's Defense: if yours is lower or equal then you lose life (but not your monster) equal to the difference (obviously you can't lose zero life), if yours is higher the other monster is destroyed but the opponent does not lose life. If the scores are equal nothing happens. If you attack a face-down monster this way then it flips up: either to reveal a weak monster that your opponent put down to stall for time, an effect monster that does something beneficial when flipped or destroyed, or a large blocker that might deal you damage. All monsters you control may attack only once (Unless an effect says otherwise), one by one; you are allowed to attack the same monster several times.
- After this is the Second Main Phase, which is identical to the First Main Phase. You don't get another summon, so you can't usually summon unless you never in your first main phase, so it's mostly just used to set traps and quick play spells to use in your opponent's turn.
- Finally there is the End Phase where effects might be triggered and where you have to discard cards from your hand if your hand is over the current hand size cap of six to meet it.
Some sets of cards will depict the stories of recurring characters. Usually forming in the Duel Terminal Storyline but also shifting into other characters. the Metaplot of Yugioh while usually interesting is often ecstatic and while often interesting winds up being hard to compact without a Konami made meta-books. Particular ones include the story of Gagagigo setting from Dark Revelation all the way to Abyss Rising and Memory of the Adversary.
Unless you possess some sort of post-human intellect that allows you to see synergy between otherwise unrelated cards and have supernatural luck to make these combinations work, you'll want to stick to an archetype for your deck. Archetypes are series of cards of a similar theme or kind, often with a series of related monsters. Through their interwoven and complementary mechanics a deck can become greater than the sum of its parts. There are dozens upon dozens of archetypes in the game, with many of them having their own sub-archetypes. Also, there is fluff of sorts for many of them, but this tends to have no real bearing on the game. Some of the archetypes are:
- Blackwing - A bunch of birds focused on summoning a bunch of monsters quickly, then using them as synchro fuel or transferring their attack power of the member that can attack the opponent's life points directly. Was broken when it came out (and still is) so it quickly became a tournament staple and actually resulted in executives forcing rewrites to the anime so that a minor recurring character who used it joined the main cast to promote it further. Even Tag Force, an official video game, openly calls it broken.
- Blue-Eyes - Based on the famous Blue-Eyes White Dragon used by Seto Kaiba in the first series, the Blue-Eyes White Dragon itself has the distinction of being the most powerful Normal Monster in the game at 3000/2500. With its plentiful support a well-built Blue-Eyes deck can, with a bit of luck, summon a bunch of monsters in one turn and lay a massive smackdown through regular monsters and powerful Rank-8 Xyz monsters. This archetype is very old, so it includes a lot of awesome but impractical cards such as "Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon". With its light scales and disintegrating breath the Blue-Eyes is based on Bahamut from D&D.
- Burning Abyss - Taking its inspiration from the Inferno part of Dante's Divine Comedy, the Burning Abyss archetype is based around swarming the field, then summoning its Xyz, Synchro, Fusion and Ritual boss monsters. On their own the Burning Abyss monsters (called Malebranches) are not very strong: except for the boss monsters they are all Level 3 and top at 1700 ATK and 2000 DEF. On top of that, if you control a non-Burning Abyss monster all of them go to the graveyard, and if you don't have a spell or trap card on the field you can special summon them. The Malebranches have a variety of effects to help them not immediately crumble come your opponent's battle phase.
- Phantom Knights: -
- Chaos - Uses a lot of LIGHT and DARK monsters and revolves around banishing cards (like destroying them, but they will super duper never come back, totally, unless you play this or several other banish-based archetypes). Technically only an archetype because of one card which only works for Rituals, given the number of cards in Japanese that don't have the name of the archetype in English. Just UDE things. The Black Luster Solder monster, another of Yugi's favorites, is part of this. Home to a shit tonne of previously broken cards, including an upgraded version of Black Luster Soldier, and Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End, which blows up everything.
- Cyber Dragon - The original Cyber Dragon is Power Creep: The Card, to the point that there's still a popular fan format which is "everything that came before Cyber Dragon". The main strategy is quickly summoning the above Level 5 2100 ATK monster to the field (without Tributes) and then using the "Power Bond" card to create an 8000+ ATK Fusion Monster that runs over everything. Or to create a Rank-5 Xyz Monster, depending on which strategy Konami is trying to support at the moment.
- Dark Magician - The signature monster of Yugi Muto from the original series. On its own, the Dark Magician is... not very good. 2500/2100 for a two-Tribute monster is middling, even back in the day. Summoned Skull provided the same ATK for only one Tribute, and for two Tributes you could instead get a Blue-Eyes White Dragon. To mitigate this the archetype includes a fair number of Monster/spell/trap cards to summon, support, and protect the Dark Magician.
- Dark Magician Girl - A sub-archetype based around gaining power and summoning more Spellcaster-type monsters. The Dark Magician Girl is notable for being one of the most popular waifus of the game.
- Egyptian Gods - Giant God-Soldier of Obelisk, Sky Dragon of Osiris and Winged God-Dragon of Ra, aka Obelisk the Tormentor, Slifer the Sky Dragon and Winged Dragon of Ra. The only three monsters in the game with the Divine-Beast type, they are legendary monsters based around the Egyptian gods Ra, Osiris and... Obelisk. They all require THREE Tributes to summon normally but they are beefy: their summoning cannot be negated and no cards can be activated as a reaction to their summoning. Obelisk has a hefty 4000/4000, cannot be targeted by spells, traps or card effects (but can still be destroyed by non-targeted effects). By tributing 2 monsters Obelisk can destroy all monsters your opponent controls, but Obelisk cannot attack that turn. Slifer's has all monsters your opponent summons lose 2000 ATK (if they hit 0 they are destroyed), and Slifer's ATK and DEF are equal to the number of cards in your hand x1000. Ra starts out with 0 ATK/DEF, and by paying all but 100 of your LP Ra's ATK and DEF becomes equal to the paid. By paying 1000 LP you can destroy one monster on the field. It's obvious that these two abilities are difficult to use at the same time. While powerful they're difficult and risky to use. Suffers from how destruction effect heavy Yu-Gi-Oh is and how only one of them has any protection from it
- Elemental HERO - Used by Jaden Yuki from GX, the HERO monsters (based on superheroes) require extensive use of Fusion Summoning to get your good monsters on the field and attack with them. A serious source of skub because of the heavy reliance on summoning, the fact that they were used by the GX protagonist, that they were in every set of the GX era meaning that they clogged up booster space, and there were a LOT of them. Seriously: about two dozen in the main deck, over three dozen in the Extra Deck, and that's not even counting all their support cards and sub archetypes. On top of all that the HERO monsters are terrible, with only a few being worth running. Has some of the worst support cards in the game thanks to mediocre effects tied to overly obtuse activation requirements
- Destiny HERO - Like the Elemental HERO monsters, except 50% more British and 50% more edgy. Used by Aster Phoenix from GX.
- Evil HERO - As above, but less Britishness and with extra edge. Used by Jaden Yuki once he goes evil in the third season of GX.
- Masked HERO - Based on Kamen Rider, the Masked HERO cards use Transformation Fusion to turn Elemental HERO monsters into Masked HERO monsters, who have powerful effects. The three transformation cards are all Quick Play cards, allowing you to change your monsters mid-turn to attack over and over again.
- Exodia - The most famous win condition, Exodia comes in five pieces. If you have all pieces in your hand you win the duel. While on their own it's very unlikely to obtain all parts, when combined with a wide variety of draw and search engines you become able to draw just about your entire deck in one turn and obtain all the parts. This means that playing an Exodia deck automatically makes you That Guy, even in the eyes of other That Guys with their own That Guy decks. There are a number of monsters based on Exodia and are supported by him, but they're mostly even more difficult to use than regular Exodia.
- Gem-Knights - A gemstone-themed archetype of warriors who can combine to create more powerful beings in order to face more powerful opponents. And before you ask: the Gem-Knights came around just over three years before Steven Universe became a thing. The Gem-Knights are a bunch of honorable warriors who fight to protect the weak. They are very reliant on Fusion Monsters: of the 24 monsters in the archetype there are 12 Normal, Effect and Gemini monsters, 11 Fusion monsters and one Xyz monster. To aid in this they have access to six cards that allows Fusion for Gem-Knights in a variety of ways.
- Gishki - A revival of the long neglected Ritual summoning method, they are built around finding both Ritual Monsters and the Gishki Aquamirror Ritual card, which allows them to summon all of their monsters. They are one of the archetypes featured in the Duel Terminal arcade machines, where they made their debut.
- Golden Castle of Stromburg - An unusual archetype with no shared names between the cards. Instead all of them reference Golden Castle of Stromburg in their text or target cards that reference it in their text. This field spell card requires you banish 10 cards each turn or destroy it, but protects you from battle damage while its up and lets you special summon monsters of its archetype from the deck.
- Gravekeeper - One of the oldest archetypes and one of the few that play up the Egyptian aspect of the game, Gravekeeper Monsters resemble Egyptians protecting tombs and those who rest in them. Some of the artwork resembles characters from ancient Egypt as depicted in the anime/manga. They heavily depend on the Necrovalley Field Spell, which shuts down just about anything having to do with the graveyard. Despite being able to mess over many other archetypes this way a well-placed negation or card destruction will leave them quite vulnerable.
- Harpie - The signature archetype of Mai Valentine from the original show, the Harpie monsters resemble, well, harpies. Attractive winged women who don't wear a lot of clothing, their archetype is built on swarming the field with monsters and beat the opponent down that way. Originally the archetype was kinda sucky, but with later support cards it became a decent deck. Not great, just decent.
- Ice Barrier - A shit archetype which spawned two broken cards that aren't even used in it. They have no well-defined strategy at all but they have Synchro Monsters (Brionac and Trishula) that can be used in other decks and have superb effects: Brionac allowed the player to repeatedly bounce their own cards back to the hand and reuse on-activation effects, which was so broken they had to issue an erratum, and Trishula removes 1 card each from the hand, field and Graveyard when summoned.
- Jar - Just about the biggest middle finger you can play to your opponent, Jar monsters are weak (except for Pot of The Forbidden) monsters resembling jars with a grinning creature inside. They all have very powerful but annoying flip effects, from discarding your hand and drawing a new card to wiping the board followed by forced revealing of cards, playing some of them and putting the rest in the graveyard. These are all supremely annoying effects, and the most annoying ones are outright forbidden. Playing them automatically makes you That Guy on the same level of an Exodia player, except even Exodia players think you're being That Guy because Jars get rid of Exodia pieces so easily.
- Jinzo - A small archetype dating back to the early days, Jinzo (short for the Japanese jinzoningen, which means cyborg) itself is a Lvl 6 2400/1500 Monster that stops the activtion of and negates all Trap cards on the field. Given that Trap cards are a notable part of the game, Jinzo was quite feared back in the day for outright shutting down an entire type of card. At one point it even was Limited to stave off its reign of terror, but in the modern day it is Unlimited because it is easier to get rid of. Jinzo spawned a few spinoffs that either shut down Trap cards as well or aid in summoning other Jinzo monsters. But with the fact that there are only five Jinzo monsters and one Equip card they are better suited as support for a deck rather than a standalone archetype. Jinzo became one of Joey Wheeler's signature monsters halfway into the Battle City arc of the original show.
- Kaiju - GOJIRA! Yes, of course Godzilla and Friends were adapted into the game. Their gimmick is twofold: you can summon one to your opponent's side of the field to make it easier to summon one of your own (because Kaiju do love to battle one another, and because this is done by tributing one of their pre-existing monsters), and their non-Monster cards generate Kaiju Counters which can be spent for a variety of potent effects. Their roster includes expies of Godizlla, Mothra, Gamera, Gigan, Kumonga, Ghidorah and Mecha Godzilla, and strangely enough Dark Lugiel from Ultraman as well.
- Kozmo - You know what's neat? The Wizard of Oz. You know what's also neat? Star Wars. So what happens when you slap those two together? You get the Kozmo archetype. Oh yes. Luke Skywalker is now a smokin' hot redhead, R2-D2, C-3PO and Chewbacca are the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion, Ben Kenobi has been replaced by a rather attractive Good Witch of the North and even the Darth Vader and Darth Maul of the set (The Wicked Witches of the West and East respectively) are pretty. You'd think "Oh Japan" at this, but the archetype is actually exclusive to the TCG. The archetype consists of two kinds of cards: the "pilots" are used to summon the second type, the spaceships. Summoning the spaceships is as easy as banishing the pilot in order to get a spaceship on the field. In turn, a spaceship that's in the graveyard can be banished to summon a pilot from the deck. This means that it's ridiculously easy to get extremely powerful cards on the field, and aimed destruction is easily avoided. There was even a very easy one-turn kill available that lead to several Kozmo cards being Limited.
- Kuriboh - One of the contenders for the title of series mascot, Kuriboh are a series of Lvl 1 300/200 or lower monsters with a series of effects that involve negating your opponent's attacks. Yugi, Jaden and Yuma from the first, second and fourth series all have their own Kuribohs which saw frequent use. Because of their low stats Kurioh have great difficulty standing on their own, and require support from powerful monsters in order to win a duel instead of avoiding losing it. Despite the support, only one Kuriboh was ever used seriously and that was purely as an effect.
- Monarch - A series of tall humanoids dressed in armor, the Monarch archetype consists of a series of six 2400/1000 Monsters supported by two 2800/1000 Monsters and upgraded versions of the core six, a series of Spell/Trap cards, weaker 800/1000 Monsters and a few other cards built around Tribute Summoning. When you successfully do so the Monarchs destroy or otherwise remove cards from your opponent's field, giving you the advantage. They can Tribute Summon at a relatively high speed and can even shut down your opponent's Extra Deck, but this is at the cost of many Monarch cards revolve about you either not using or having an empty Extra Deck on your own. They can be frighteningly effective and fast, filling their field while emptying their opponent's. Monarchs are a rather large archetype, with around 40 cards (but don't build a deck of 1 of each of these cards: it won't work very well). Exactly what they are monarchs of is unknown. Their ability to remove stuff from the field while generating a beatstick that only requires a monster tribute to fuel them makes the archetype extremely splashable, especially in decks focused on special summoning.
- Nekroz - see "Gishki", but insert the words "broken" and "busted" as necessary between all the words. Technically not in Duel Terminal, though, but they were part of the follow-up to the Duel Terminal story that was being rolled out between 2014-17, to the point that their Ritual Monsters were corrupted versions of Duel Terminal story favorites.
- Neo - An archetype built around Elemental HERO Neos, Jaden Yuki's signature monster. The archetype revolves around using Contact Fusion involving Neos and a Neo-Spacian Monster to summon a better monster. These monsters are not spectacular on their own, and they're made even worse by the fact that they return to the Extra Deck at the end of the turn. This made an already iffy archetype drop even more in use, even when you look at its best monsters.
- Number - Central to the plot of ZEXAL, the Numbers are Monsters whose names start with a number. While they are all Xyz monsters this is the only thing they have in common: their archetypes, attributes, types and effects are all widely different. Some of them are generic, while others work exclusively in certain archetypes. In the anima only they did also had a Number claws which they can only be destroyed in battle by another number.
- Odd-Eyes - The archetype used by Yuya Sakaki, the protagonist of ARC-V. The Odd-Eyes monsters are a group of dragons with heterochromia, giving them mismatched eye colors. The archetypes consists of a large number of high level, high power (7+, 2500+ ATK) dragons and their support cards, which includes the Magician archetype. A large number of them are Pendulum cards designed to summon a large number of them onto the field quickly. There are also several cards that are both Pendulum and another type: Fusion Pendulum, Synchro Pendulum and Xyz Pendulum.
- Supreme King - Near the end of ARC-V a new sub-archetype was introduced to reflect the series' villain: the Supreme King archetype. The main card of this archetype is Supreme King Z-ARC, a Fusion Pendulum monster that requires you to tribute 1 Fusion, 1 Synchro, 1 Xyz and 1 Pendulum dragon-typed monster. In return, you get a 4000/4000 beast that cannot be destroyed or targeted by your opponent and can Special Summon a Supreme King Dragon card from your (extra) deck if it destroys a monster. With the changes made to the game regarding Link Summoning, this archetype has become next to unusable.
- Spellbook - An odd archetype that has a single monster card (not that central and also a member of an otherwise unrelated archetype as well), and is entirely (bar one trap) spell card-based. They focus on tutoring other cards of the archetype out and supporting Spellcaster monsters but are prevented from spamming them by only allowing one of each card name to be activated per turn. Due to their ability to thin the deck and support monsters they don't have, they are typically combined with other archetypes.
- Ojama - Named after the Japanese phrase Ojamashimasu ("pardon me for interrupting"), the Ojamas resemble small ugly imps in tiny speedos. Oh you, Japan. They are the main archetype used by Chazz Princeton, one of the main characters of GX, and the spirit of Ojama Yellow acts as Chazz' sidekick in the show. Standing at a weak 0/1000 each, the core Ojama monsters are not very tough. Instead, they rely on a mix of spell and trap cards to clog up the opponent's side of the board with tokens that they cannot tribute and stall the battle, allowing for the summoning of the Ojama King and using their field spell to switch around the ATK and DEF of all Ojama monsters, followed by either a wipe of the opponent's side of the board or destroying all other Ojamas on the field to make the Ojama King unreasonably buff. A gimmicky and not very powerful archetype by it self that's fun to play but annoying to play against. Later on to synergies with Chazz's other cards, Ojama also becomes an engine to spit out ABCXYZ monsters.
- Performapal/Performage - One of the most broken archetypes of its time and a contender for the most powerful deck of the game pre-nerf, Performapal and Performage are based on circus animals and circus performers respectively. The former is the other archetype of ARC-V's Yuya Sakaki, who uses the circus animals for his signature Entertainment Dueling style. Both archetypes are based on Pendulum Summoning and shenanigans in the battle phase that break the game so utterly, Konami was forced to employ the second emergency ban list in the game's history. Even then it remained powerful enough to remain a meta staple until the power creep set in. It's safe to say that a lot of people did not like them a lot, with the cartoony art being the least of their complaints.
- Red-Eyes - The Red-Eyes Black Dragon (Red-Eyes B. Dragon because they wanted to avoid the association with black magic) is one of the game's most famous cards and the signature card of Duelist Kingdom's Joey Wheeler. On its own the Red-Eyes is not very impressive: 2400/2000 at level 7 is just not worth it, even with its good attribute and type: outclassed by the Dark Magician and the Summoned Skull alike it's just not up to par. What it makes up with however is its support and mind-boggling versatility: Gemini, Burn, Pendulum, Toolbox and more are all options for the archetype. This means that the archetype is capable of a great many things, but herein lies the trap: an improperly built deck will only get in its own way. A good Red-Eyes deck is the result of a great degree of finetuning to make a specialized deck. The archetype is also lacking in defensive measures and doesn't have a large number of good trap cards to support it, so a powerful opponent will simply steamroll a Red-Eyes deck.
- Six Samurai - An unimpressive archetype that focused on shifting what monster was destroyed by battle with a bit of swarming.
- Legendary Six Samurai - A much better archetype that focuses primarily on swarming and deck searching to fuel that summon. This surplus of monsters on the field is then used to summon their quite good boss monster, and supporting it with tribute monsters (they're also good at summoning utility synchro monsters from outside the tribe). Since it so heavily focuses on a single card it's very vulnerable to limited list changes and Master Rules 4.
- roid - Cars with faces. A deck that sucks, played in GX by a character who sucks. Sometimes called "Vehicroids" so as not to be confused with...
- Speedroid - These are technically roids, but they look completely different and have a completely different strategy. This gave them a headache when it came to attempting to making Vehicroids not garbage, as they had to support them in a way that didn't help Speedroids. Their strategy somehow managed to hurt the Vehicroid deck. But hey, it's Konami.
- SPYRAL - A TCG-only set that's two parts James Bond, one part Metal Gear and a nod at the Spyral agency from DC Comics. The archetype revolves around getting its core monster, SPYRAL Super Agent, onto the table followed by using a set of support cards to keep it on the field. It also involves looking frequently at your opponent's hand (which fits with the spy theme) to trigger effects. This means that the SPYRAL archetype suffers from a few weaknesses that, if exploited, can utterly shut it down. While never that popular, years of support eventually built up and it suddenly became a tier 0 (65%+ of tournament placements used it) strategy in 2017.
- Shaddol -
- Red Dragon Archfind/Resinator -
- Orcust -
- Photon/Galexy -
Notable deck themes that aren't based on card archetypes.
- Burn: Do direct damage to the opponent's life points and stall instead trying to smash them with monsters. Some archetypes support this but have been used without archetypes.
- Nurse Burn: Both Darklord Nurse Reficule and Bad Reaction to Simochi have an effect where anytime the opponent would gain life, they lose it instead. Nurse Burn decks combine this with effects that give your opponents life points, something that is pretty easy since it's often included on otherwise good cards as a drawback, or on apparent joke cards that do nothing but give your opponent a bunch of life points.
- Dinosaur: Holy fucking shit, it's a dinosaur, Jesus Christ, what the fuuuuck. A whole lot of Dinosaur monsters slapped together to form a deck, supported by spells/traps. These are dinosaurs that do not fit into any of the existing archetypes, so they band together to form a large toolbox with many different ways to essentially do the same thing: rush and beat down your opponent.
- Dragon: With age and popularity, Dragon has a lot of strong cards that spam these beat sticks. Although many were intended to support a particular archetype, they are usually generic enough to be used with any dragon card.
- Final Countdown: The card Final Countdown gives its user a win 20 turns (opponent's turns included) after its activation. Final Countdown decks focus on getting that spell out and stalling till they win.
- Gren Maju: Gren Maju Da Eiza is a card with a really simple, and really good, effect that grants it a bunch of attack for every banished card. At first it was just an unofficial member of the Golden Castle of Stromberg cards, but when Konami decided to print a bunch of cards that banished cards from your deck as a cost people started making entire decks around it (though it still overlaps with golden castle decks).
- Normal Monster: Once Konami realized Normal Monsters no longer really had a point, they started releasing a bunch of for support them. This is a deck type that focuses on the support that would be powerful if it wasn't designed for such bad monsters. Support was never enough to make it that great a deck type, but it has its fans.
- Zombie: Focuses on the excellent support the Zombie type has received. One of their big things is graveyard revival.
Formats and Ban Lists
Yu-Gi-Oh has a strange relationship with what cards are legal or not. Unlike the two other big card games, Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering Yu-Gi-Oh does not have a "standard" format that says "all cards in sets X, Y and Z can be played and the rest cannot". This means that every single card, printed from Legend of the Blue Eyes White Dragon to the latest set can be used in a deck, as long as they're not on the ban lists. This means that in effect there are several thousand cards legal to use in your deck, with only a fraction being limited and only a handful being outright banned. Cards have four levels of legality, determining how many you can have of any one card in your Main, Extra and Side Decks:
- Unlimited: 3
- Semi-Limited: 2
- Limited: 1
- Forbidden: 0
There are also Illegal cards: cards that were never intended to see use in official duels or tournaments. These are often promotional materials, with all but six of them having conditions that allows their player to win the match. Not the duel: the best-out-of-three match. The six remaining ones are two cards based on the anime, one being a promotional card handed out during the World Championship of 2007 that is quite useful in the right kind of deck, and the last three remaining cards being the unofficial versions of the three Egyptian Gods.
Exactly which cards are of what legality is determined by the region you're in. Yu-Gi-Oh has two regions where the game has different names: the Official Card Game and the Trading Card Game, shortened to OCG and TCG respectively. The OCG is played in Asia while the TCG is played in the rest of the world. Both regions have their own ban lists, meaning that a deck that is played in one region might not work as well or is perhaps not even legal in the other. This literally happened only because of money: a card (Shock Master) was completely broken, but it was a valuable promo card in the OCG and not in the TCG, meaning Konami of Japan stalled its banning for the rest of the world.
This is even further complicated that while the OCG has only one format, the TCG has two: Advanced and Traditional. The difference between the two is akin to the difference between Legacy and Vintage: Advanced restricts more cards to create a more balanced experience and has quite a few cards that are illegal in the format. Traditional is a friendlier kind of game: all Forbidden cards are Limited. If you want to use Illegal cards then you need your opponent's permission first due to the amount of cheese found in the banlist. Advanced is the format used in official tournaments and events, making it akin to Standard. In other words, Traditional and no banlist at all are for fun games with friends, and Advanced is for more serious games.
Beyond the "standard" tournament rules, Konami has also recently introduced the Generation Duel format, where players pick a Forbidden and Limited list for their decks from a set corresponding to the cards that were new when the various cartoons were released. This is the closest Yu-Gi-Oh comes to having an explicit list of legal cards, as every Generation Duel banlist has entries that ban card types that weren't extant when that list's cartoon was airing, and some ban all effect monsters that don't have a list entry.
Master Rules 4
Introduced in 2017, Master Rules 4 (or "New Master Rules") made big changes to the game. The most obvious being the introduction of Link Monsters and there's an extra monster zone for extra deck monsters (which you can only have one of without work). This change would be widely despised due to its massive balance problems: Every existing deck type was screwed massively and needed to buy new link monsters to even have a remote chance of working except the ones that were already OP as shit anyways. Link monsters lacking face down position, defense position or levels made a lot of older cards that changed cards to those positions or did things based on level completely and utterly useless. High level Yu-Gi-Oh already was heavy into board wipes where monsters never really fought each other that much, and MR4 made it far worse since link monsters were all about summoning a bunch of monsters in one turn and sacking them for OP shit before your opponent could really do anything to counter it. So widely despised is MR4 that MR3 is still widely played on unofficial simulators.
In December of 2019 it was announced they'd finally be ending MR4 after years of that shit. Starting April 1st 2020, "Master Rules (April 1st 2020 Revision)", which everyone will just call Master Rules 5, will be implemented. Now Fusion, Synchro, and Xyz monsters may be placed in either the Main Monster Zones or in the Extra Monster Zone, while Link Monsters and Pendulum Summoning are still dependent on link arrows pointing to their Main Monster Zones.
Speed Duel was an alternate ruleset in the game for years that was primarily used for spin-off video games and has lower starting LP/hand size/deck minimum, only three slots each for monsters and spell/traps, no extra monster zone (though this is at least in part due to predating that rule), and no Main Phase 2. The one unique thing about this format is that in the most recent incarnation each player has a skill card that is always activate-able if the conditions are met. The reason this is getting a section is that in 2019 it was used for a soft reboot of the game, where new sets of cards, mostly reprints of OG anime era cards but also some fairly new ones that fit within the power level, were printed with a Speed Duel watermark and are the only officially legal cards for this ruleset (so for casual games you could mix in normal cards). These reprinted cards are selected to make a format based on moderately hard to bring out beatsticks instead of getting into crazy chains to wipe the opponent's field while summoning a bunch of monsters in one turn. One odd consequence of the lower deck size is that mill decks are actually quite good, and some cards that are absolutely horrible in the normal game (because they give your opponent free cards) are actually used since you need to mill less than 16 cards to win. Likewise, the smaller field means giving your opponent cards they can't get rid of to block them from putting something useful on the field is also viable.
is was primarily a video game company, Yu-Gi-Oh has far more video game versions than any other TCG. Indeed, it's one of the video game franchises with the most released games, clocking in at over 50. These can be simple games with nothing to do but fighting opponents and navigating a menu, repeats of the anime storyline or, more rarely, completely original plots set in the same world as the anime. Unfortunately, these games vary wildly in quality, with many being shit, almost always due to cheating AI and gimmicks that aren't card games. Among the ones considered best are Stairway to the Destined Duel (OG), World Championships 2008 (GX) and Over the Nexus (5Ds), which coincidentally were all released near the end of one of the anime series and before the next round of gimmicks were introduced to the card game. Over the Nexus in particular has a surprisingly high degree of effort put into it, with an original story, customizable avatar, a bunch of side-quests and tons of shit to find. There's also a bunch that play by the anime "rules", many of which were made prior to many of the actual card game's rules being codified.
Unfortunately with Konami's move to focusing on pachinko, they stopped making many games at all, including Yu-Gi-Oh ones, and so we only have Duel Links, which is unfortunately a mobile game and thus a relatively stripped-down experience and (far more pressing) is riddled with microtransactions. Years after this move to pachinko, Konami walked this stance back in September of 2019 in wake of anti-addition laws that would cripple pachinko stating "high-end console games are the most important" and they were working on "multi-device titles for [...] Yu-Gi-Oh".
YGOPro Percy is a fan made program to play other people online without actually buying any cardboard.
- Yu-Gi-Oh was clumsily "advertised" by a cartoon for children about adults playing a children's card game, which shared the same name.
- Season 0 Yami Yuugi is a well known follower of Tzeentch (as if the Egyptian gig wasn't enough of a give away). Mostly it was about Yami Yuugi punishing local bullies and scumbags by challenging them to a "Yami No Game", a dark and demented game of Yami's making with a stringent set of rules (dependent on the current challenge) that are meant to test the person's true character. If the person looses a Yami Game, or breaks the rules in any way, he will either kill them or give them such realistically horrifying hallucinations that they turn into a gibbering, hapless wreck. As an example, Yami once played table hockey with a puck full of nitroglycerin and blew the other guy to bits. In another game in the anime, he tricked an armed criminal holding his girlfriend hostage into pouring 180 proof vodka all over himself and putting a lighter on his hand. Ensuring that if he did anything wrong, he'd burn a horrible death. Subsequent Yamis... well, he IS the King of Games, but his punishments weren't AS horrific so he arguably drifted away from it somewhat, but outside of the DURO MONSTA CARDO scene where he invokes Khorne, he's still in JUST AS PLANNED territory.
- Dan Green voices both Yugis in the English version.
- As previously mentioned offhandedly near the top of the page, there is an Abridged series of the second anime. An affectionate parody that "dubbed" episodes of the series into non-canon humor, it's so popular that enough imitators of it focusing on other media entirely happened for the "Abridged series"-style of fan parodies to be considered a genre on its own. Also, there's even more memes from it than the actual show.
- The aforementioned program Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Monsters was so popular, they released a spin-off sequel show called Yu-Gi-Oh GX, about children attending a university that teaches students how to play a children's card game (really). Even the US dubbers noticed how stupid this was, and would write dialog that mocked the franchise, making some parts of the show look like an Abridged parody. It's also infamous for randomly getting really good in the 3rd season. (You can skip most of the first season.) For real though, the Supreme King plot was awesome.
- This spawned another spin-off, Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's, where angsty emo teenagers play a children's card game on motorcycles, in a setting that's some sort of attempt at dystopian cyberpunk. Seriously, that's actually the premise. Not terrible. Surprisingly interesting and edgy at times. The dub is mediocre compared to the subbed, as 4kids of course excised the more "mature" parts from their localization. This is the show that introduced Synchro monsters to the game.
- This was followed by Yu-Gi-Oh! ZeXal, which is basically Naruto with card games instead of ninjas, set in an alternate universe from 5Ds where Synchros don't exist. Xyz monsters were invented here. It gets better after the Barians are introduced.
- Next up was Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V, which seemed to have remembered the other series and summoning methods existed, but the promise the show had got butchered once they traveled to the Synchro dimension, a world similar to that of 5D's... and then literally shot itself it the foot with what could be considered the most nonsenical twist in all of anime. See the Zarc page for more details on that.
- The most recent (started in May 2017) one is Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS (which stands for Virtual Reality Artificial Intelligence Network System), which introduces Link monsters. Its villains, the Knights of Hanoi, are basically Anonymous with a technomagical supercharge whose goal is to wipe out a race of AI at all costs believing them to be a threat to humanity. The protagonist is an antihero seeking revenge on The Knights of Hanoi for cruel experiment he was put through as a child.
A decent card game that could have been better, even great, if not for the two-headed giant that is Konami's incompetence and the crappy player base. Hey, at least it gave birth to a memetastic set of anime and parodies thereof.
| Call of Cthulhu - Cardfight!! Vanguard - Fire Emblem Cipher |
Force of Will - Jyhad - Magi-Nation Duel - Magic: The Gathering
Netrunner - Pokémon - Star Wars: Destiny CCG - Yu-Gi-Oh
| 1000 Blank White Cards - 7th Sea - Apples to Apples - Bang! |
Cards Against Humanity - Coup - Decktet - Dominion - Dvorak
F.A.T.A.L. - Mafia - Mag Blast - Mao - Munchkin
Race for the Galaxy - Sentinels of the Multiverse - Tanto Cuore
|Bridge - Cribbage - Mahjong - Patience - Poker - Rummy - Tarot|