I have been a fan of the Yu Gi Oh! Trading Card Game (TCG) ever since middle school. Something about the monsters, gameplay, and hair made me really enjoy the struggle of wits between two opponents. While Magic would become the dominant TCG, Yu Gi Oh! would still be my choice of card game since I was most familiar with it and Magic still intimidates me (plus the few people I encountered who play it were arrogant AF).
Playing the TCG in a video game format has been the way I’ve played for years. When you have no friends or acquaintances who have an interest in Yu Gi Oh!, video games become your best way to learn and enjoy new things. From Duel Academy on the GBA to Legacy of the Duelist on modern platforms, I have tried to keep up with the current changes to the game to a point. The introduction of Synchro monsters was the last update to the game that I really got into. XYZ (pronounced X-C), Pendulum, and Link monsters made the game too complicated for me. For that reason, I would keep my strategies close to the third generation and make due there.
Enter Yu Gi Oh! Master Duel; the new free-to-play online Yu Gi Oh! game based on the current TCG. Up to this point, I have mostly played against AI opponents. This game focuses on online battles against real people worldwide. Going in, I expected to get my ass handed to me a couple of times before I found the right deck and strategy that fits my playstyle. My cocky attitude was quickly shattered when I started to lose over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. I wasn’t expecting to get destroyed this badly, but this assured me that this was not the same game from my time with Legacy of the Duelist. I had entered the new meta of the Yu Gi Oh! game where getting the most out of each turn and dominating your opponent is key.
In the past, if you were going first, it was a normal play to set up your defenses and prepare for whatever move your opponent was going to make on their turn. The meta now seems to be summoning as many monsters as possible to the field and playing your most powerful monsters at the start. Laying down your strategy at the start with the right countermeasures could mean that victory for you is a guarantee. For a defensive player like myself, I now have to come up with unorthodox strategies that seem strange to me, but are vital if I want a chance of winning my matches. And for me personally, I don’t mind that one bit.
I will fully admit that my struggles come from not keeping up with the current status of the game. The introduction of new monster types and summoning methods was overbearing for me and I never took the time to understand their application in the game. In Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution, I breezed through the first three arcs of the story since I was very familiar with the cards and strategies. When I got to Zexal and XYZ summoning, I started to struggle since I was using my old strategies that were easily overcome by XYZ monsters and their effects. Things got even more difficult with Arc V since every type of summoning method comes into play along with Pendulum summoning (which is still the only summoning method that I try to avoid). The game was no longer something that was easily predictable with the old cards in play. You now have to content with not knowing what summoning method your opponent will utilize the most; not including if they use a mix of all seven summoning methods.
This is the exciting (and frustrating) part of the game for me. The core game that I enjoy is still there, but my understanding and strategies have to change in order for me to win my matches. For some of us, that makes complete sense for any game that has been around as long as this one. The game needs to change and introduce new mechanics to keep the player base interested enough to keep playing the game. In some way, Trading Card Games have been the original Live Service games that continually introduce new content, game modes, and microtransactions that keeps the game living and thriving to this day.
From a mature standpoint, I should take my time to learn new ways on how to play the game and adapt to modern times, but the whiny baby inside of me hates this new kind of play. Old decks that I used to have fun with aren’t as viable since they took some time to set up properly, or contain no abilities to deal with the new bullshit that some of these cards have. You almost have to have cards that can negate abilities in order to stand a chance against certain archetypes. If I see one dragon maid or anime girl wearing an airplane, I almost want to surrender immediately since the people using those decks know how to pull a win out of nowhere.
This is where my current problem with the game stands. With over 10,000 cards to pick and chose to create a 40 card deck, I don’t have the time to learn and figure out what each and every card can do and try to predict how that will work in my deck. With card descriptions ranging from lite flavor text to terms of service agreements. For me, the simpler the card effect, the better it is for me to use it effectively. This doesn’t work when your opponent uses cards that have multiple effects and you have to read through them carefully in order to not trigger any of them. It slows the game down for me and makes me waste a lot of time trying to understand if I’m going to screw myself over. At least when cards had one or two effects, I could keep track of what card effects to look out for when planning my next move. Now with effects that can be triggered from the hand, graveyard, extra deck, and kitchen sink, I have no idea what I could be going against unless I know the archetype well enough.
Then why don’t I take the easy way and learn how to use “top-tier” decks? Because then I’m not playing using my own skills and playstyle. There is an option in the game to copy deck recipes from other players and use decks that they have created. It is a nice way for new players to test out new decks and get ideas on how to create their own in the future. I am the type of guy who doesn’t like to be handed a game winning deck and feel good about it. At least let me earn it after proving myself first. The decks I create go through many trial and error phases until I constructed something that suits me well. I much prefer this style of play over copying someone else’s work. It may not feel good getting beat down constantly, but at least I’m getting beat with something I believe in.
Now for the opposite. It feels so good when you outsmart an opponent and win a match. My low self-esteem will make me cautious with every move I make, but that doesn’t stop me from throwing it out the window when I know I have someone beat. It is a genuine good feeling when you are playing against another good player and emerge victorious. I feel like all of my hardwork has paid off when everything goes according to plan.
A good example of this happened when I was going against someone who was using a Kaiju deck. Kaiju monsters are special in that you have to use monsters on your opponent’s side of the field in order to summon them. After realizing this trope, I had to find a way to get around this condition. After noticing that my opponent was tossing cards out of their deck in order to find what they needed, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I began to do absolutely nothing. When my turn began, I would draw my card and then end the turn. My opponent had fewer cards in their deck than mine, so all I had to do was wait until they were out of cards in their main deck and I would win. I took this gamble anticipating they didn’t have any low level monsters to summon and chip away at my life points; which to my luck they didn’t. As each turn went by, I imagined my opponent would think I would get cocky at the last minute and summon my strongest monster to finish them off quickly. But no, I took the most megamind approach to defeat them and just watched as they ran out of cards to draw. I give mad props for them not surrendering through all of that and accept their defeat to the dumbest of all plays. They might have had a winning move on my final turn if I actually did summon a monster, but I didn’t take that chance and laugh demonically over outsmarting them. Hopefully, they adjusted their deck afterwards to fix such a blind spot in their deck.
So how do I conclude my time with this game (from daily bases to a here-and-now game)? Originally I wanted to reach Platinum I in rank duels and call that a victory. Seeing as I could never get out of low Gold V, I wasn’t going to get there anytime soon. With other games to play and me not wanting to strangle every Kuribo I saw, I thought it was best to add this game to my casual game rotation. There’s still plenty for me to do and one of these days I will settle with a second deck to add to my rotation. If you are a long time fan of the series or someone new to the TCG, then this is a game worth playing. It may not teach you everything that you need to know about the game, but the tutorials give you a great start and you can obtain structure decks just to get you started. I do wish the game had an unranked mode where you could challenge random people without having to create a room and hope someone joins it. I also wish they would fix the damn timer for each player so that it actually goes down during each turn. If Konami continues to support the game, I could easily see this as the go to online Yu Gi Oh! game for the next few years. If all the changes feel alien to you, I could recommend Rush Dueling since it takes out all the complications of the main game. It was literally created because the main game was getting too complicated. Other than that, nothing is stopping you from playing older games in the series if seeing a link card sends you into a dark place.
Play Time Stats:
Game Started: 1/19/2022
Game “Ended”: Ongoing
Number of Cards Obtained: 2529
Highest Placement in Rank: Gold 3
Trusty Deck: Sync-In (Synchro deck focused on summoning Synchro and Stardust monsters)
MVP Cards: Satellite Warrior, Junk Speeder, Clear Wing Synchro Dragon
Favorite Summoning Method: Synchro
Least Favorite Summoning Style: Pendulum