I consider myself a gaming enthusiast, from chess and checkers to Yu-Gi-Oh TCG, console gaming, and beyond.
You’re thinking it, everybody’s thinking it, so the writer will say it: Dark Monsters make some of the cheapest, most frustrating, most table-flip-inducing decks ever crafted. I mean, seriously, if the original protagonist of Yu-Gi-Oh (You remember him, right? The guy named… Yugi?) had a Dark Monster as his mascot, you know they’re going into reduce-your-lifepoints-in-a-blink status forever until Kingdom Come.
From the original gangstas Dark Magician, Red Eyes, and Relinquished, to former IRL stompers like the Gravekeeper’s, Inzectors, and Blackwings, to the new top tier “staple” Lair of Darkness, there are almost enough Dark decks around to fill a piggybank (realistically though, a list of the archetypes filled up an entire page, two columns), but only ten could make a list of the best of the best.
So, after all these archetypes were placed in a pit under the 9th circle of hell (You don’t even want to know what you had to do to get sent there) in a room of utter darkness, where evil clowns and giant tarantulas dance all day while the entire Kid’s Bop album plays on a continuous loop, and fought until only ten were left breathing, here’s a list of the winners in order from the least alive to the most vital. Oh, and FYI, any deck that wouldn’t be wrecked by the Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror, meaning most of its engine lacks Dark attributes, was left out of this tournament (and they ‘re thanking their gods they were), which includes the likes of any Chaos variant (that includes Kozmos), Zombies, and your face.
10. Burning Abyss
Everything good comes in 3s, but that’s not enough to make the Burning Abyss rank higher among its Dark club. Mixed with other decks? Sure, these torturers and travelers from down under (yes, I meant Australia, what were you thinking of?) can still hang with the meta. But by themselves? All the swarming and effect stacking can’t compensate for their lack of protection from enemy card effects, limited destruction options (I mean, have you seen the effects of the Burning Abyss when sent to the Grave?), and the random dumping with no searches. The Burning Abyss may be an archetype of demons wondering the pits of hell for their next torture victims, but they’re still lead by the goody-two-shoes Dante and his Eternal Lady, making them the odd mix of half a stun deck and half a speedtrain deck. Without the ability to commit to a strategy, by themselves, the Burning Abyss just come in at slot 10.
The writer is going to be frank with you: He was a little disappointed at the Cardian’s reveal in Yu-Gi-Oh Arc-V. As soon as I saw the cards, they honestly scared the crap out of me, and I swore they would have made a cool deck for a villain trying to trap the souls of Yu-Gi-Oh cards and create horrific replicas of them or something. Instead, we got a retired performer who was a great duelist struggling to find joy in the game again, while being the king of D-Block, but none of this deals with what makes the Cardians come in at number 9.
The Cardians are a great deck, as in when that Optimus Prime you’re stuck behind during rush hour traffic finally gets enough speed to haul its heavy butt. Yes, the Cardians draw like a mutha, more than any other deck on this list, have their own Obedience Schooled and support stacking their deck like a kid magician’s card show, and some heavy-hitting boss monsters with negation and protection options; however, a Cardian hand can brick hard, as in you-trying-to-use-the-toilet-after-eating-a-lunch-of-bread-and-cheese brick. This also creates limited space for off-themed protection options in the deck (a.k.a. those annoying, counter Traps, and hand traps everyone loves to abuse these days), considering the high-level monsters must work in tandem with their in-themed support to get rolling.
If the Cardians didn’t rely on random drawing, which relied on support to make it nonrandom, they would be the Dark deck out-drawing the competition. But until then, the Cardians will have to settle for being meta as opposed to being in the meta.
Probably the most controversial choice on this list, Blackwings were first introduced in the Synchro era, but have remained arguably one of the most resilient decks since their debut. The Blackwings do it all: They swarm, they destroy, they boost their attack, they search, some of their boss monsters provide protection, they took Winged-Beast away from Wind types, and Konami releases enough support to rival what Judgment Dragon keeps gimp-whipping them to make. The biggest problem with the original Dark bird brigade is their Synchro status, a method of Special Summoning overshadowed by Pendulums, Links, and even Xyzs.
The release of the Link Crystron Needlefiber, which gave them a boost like steroids to a desperate athlete, may have provided them a competitive edge (As it did to all Synchro decks), but then one still has to deal with the many moves needed to establish a board, their limitations by the Link format, and their general lack of attack. The Blackwings make the top ten, but not much higher, since they refused to completely embrace the darkness with Xyzs or to have a happy time with some Spells.
The story of the D/D/Ds is one of the most tragic told in the Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game. And no, the writer isn’t talking about some in-game story on how one of their Kings had to marry a Naturia to create peace between dimensions or some crap, but on how the D/D/Ds, one of the most frightening decks ever constructed, became completely pacified by Links. The Different Dimension Demons still maintain their high attack and enough search cards to make them the possible lost students of the Majespecters, but unfortunately, one could say Link monsters took the connection from the D/D/Ds.
The biggest threat of these pseudo, extra-dimensional beings oddly knowing our history wasn’t their ability to Synchro, Xyz, Fusion, and Pendulum in one turn, but how all their Extra Deck Monster effects worked in tandem to disconnect their opponent’s supply points. No D/D/D boss stands alone, a fact breaking their momentum faster than a well-placed leg against a sprinter. Maybe if the D/D/Ds get their own Link support, we’ll see them in the spotlight again. Until that day, the D/D/Ds will have to settle for reminiscing about the days of old, when their smelly castles caused prisoners to quake with fear and the sound of their ridiculous names sent silence down quivering halls.
6. Red Dragon Archfiend
We’re now approaching Dark decks you wish were still meta to those being dangerously close. The Red Dragon Archfiend archetype has always been about power and destruction, and those facts push them to the 6th slot. Whether you’re wiping the field with Hot Red or Scarlight, negating card effects with Abyss, or swarming with Red Dragon Archfiend Bane, you’re going to feel a duel with a Red Dragon Archfiend deck, and wonder if the Fire Kings should cash in their name. The only thing keeping The King’s Deck from dominating the darkness is their lack of protection and over-reliance on their big bads to cause damage (this is the age of Kaijus and Dark Lair, after all…). But we have to give the Red Dragons their just due. After all, when you’re a deck ran by the rival of the protag of the darkest Yu-Gi-Oh series ever, you know you’re going to be a contender.
We’ve come from riches to rags decks to the-zero-to-hero of the Dark flag. Considering their strong search engine and instant high attack Fusions, the Red-Eyes archetype fights with the most versatile, unpredictable options so far on this list. Need to dominate the board with a high attack? Grab Red-Eyes Fusion and unleash a Meteor Black Comet Dragon. Encountering a monster you can’t overpower? Xyz into Big Eye or snatch it with a Red Eyes Fang with Chain. Your opponent a troll that loves stalling with card effects? Sit on a Red-Eyes Flare Metal Dragon and watch their world burn, a fact bringing the writer to how the deck of the Brooklyn Underdog out tops the Wrath of the King. Unlike other Dark decks in our free-for-fall below the Pits, the Red-Eyes don’t need to directly engage you to bring your lifepoints to zip, because many of their members do over 1000 damage with their Spell/Trap support, just by hitting the field, or by engaging in battle! Using the same strategy their anime owner employed, Red-Eyes decks can create victory from nowhere, making them a dangerous deck to underestimate and worthy of being one of the top Dark decks.
4. Dark World
Our favorite avenging demons given motivation by the hatred of being dumpster-dropped by their masters are back, rounding out the 4th spot on this list of Dark decks. What can the Dark Worlds not do? They storm the field, destroy, draw enough to make the Cardians want to sue, and even have a reliable search engine. Unfortunately, their myriad of skills comes to a screeching halt when one eliminates their effects in the Grave or starts banishing their members. Despite them being so streamlined the deck’s strategy has tunnel vision, you’ll quickly find yourself dragged into the abyss with them without a solid plan against a Dark World assault.
The torturers from Dante’s Inferno may have barely made the tenth spot (A fact the writer is sure to receive some displeasing mail about), but imagine if the Burning Abyss were actually good, by themselves? To be more specific, imagine if the Burning Abyss had good effects when sent to grave plus effects when summoned? You can stop imagining now, because the Shaddolls are such a deck. The Shadolls not only get effects when sent to the Graveyard, these effects including destruction, searching, drawing, and Special Summoning, but also have flip effects granting them a similar variety of effects. When one considers their boss monsters represent some of the strongest stunners in the game, along with the fact that any card effect sending a card to the Grave can trigger a Shaddoll, one can understand how Shaddoll hybrids dominated many Regional tournaments during their premier escape from the Puppet Master’s workshop. The Darkness is strong with these puppets, cementing them as number 3.
2. Dark Magician
What else would reign in 2nd place but the OG of all Dark decks? If you watched the original anime, you’ve heard his name so much you started shouting it in your sleep. If you played the card game, you’ve fought at least twenty nerds deepening their voice as they shouted, “I summon the Dark Magician!” while the aforementioned card was slapped against the table. If you’ve done both, then the writer truly pities you, for you’ve not only endured being drowned by this card in a sea of pixels, but watched its evolution from a deck of brick hands to a consistent archetype with insanely powerful Spell/Trap support, ridiculous swarming, access to the level 7 toolbox, and enough banishings a duel to make you think your deck is nothing but a stage prop in a vanishing act.
1. Dark Lair
The writer personally thinks this deck needs more time to prove itself, but its engine is already getting tailored to other decks while the strategy by itself is proving almost as horrifying as an anime Egyptian God card. Dark Lair makes use of the Virus cards, a now expanded group of Traps that tribute Dark monsters to hurt the opponent’s hand and field, effects including the destruction of Spells or Traps, monsters with low defense, monsters with high attack, and the newest member that destroys all monsters the opponent draws for three turns if one tributes a Dark monster strong enough. The Nightmare on Elm Street scariest thing about this strategy, however, deals with the Field Spell, Lair of Darkness, which lets one tribute an opponent’s Dark monster for card effects while it taints all monsters on the field with the attribute of shadows. Add in the deck’s ability to search out normal Traps, its draw power, and the ability of its boss monster to rise from its grave when a card is tributed, and Dark Lair exhibits the perfect combination of disruption and power to make it the most feared deck branded with the seal of Hades.
- Vampire: Sorry, but I only play TCG.
- Tindangle: Poor man’s Shaddoll.
- Gravekeeper’s: Would be a threat… if they at least gave them a tuner or their own Magician’s Navigation.
- Darklord: It’s a brick… hoooouuusseee.
- Raid Raptor: LOL, and you thought the D/D/Ds were killed by Links, not to mention they’re the Reciprocals of Yu-Gi-Oh (Elements reference)
- Cubic: What part of not immune to destruction didn’t you understand -_-?
- Vendread: The Field Spell... is the only searcher... in the deck.
- Inzectors: I got a card for you: It’s called D.D. Crow.
- Cyberse: Good in theory, but no synergy. Too-many-ingredients-in-a-cake syndrome.
- Earthbound Immortal: I’ve seen mummies in coffins move faster.
- Destiny Heroes: They were a threat against Pendulums, but Links and Kaijus just laugh against these desperate heroes.
- Malefic: Seriously?
- Gagaga: Really, you’re still going?
- Reptilianne: Okay, you’re embarrassing yourself now.
- Steelswarm: JUST STOOOPP!
- Skull Servants: Okay, I’m out. *Jumps on the back of Apex Avian and flies away.*
- Phantom Knights: *Frowns on you as he reaches the top of the Falcon Tower*
Seriously though, this list is my opinion, so feel free to voice yours on what deck is better than what or on what I missed down below. As always, Peace out… And happy hunting out there, fellow duelists.
© 2018 Zeron87
Zeron87 (author) on August 14, 2020:
Joseph Ford: Thanks for the tips man, and you're right about those decks. I think it's about time I updated this hub...
Nordic: Sure man! I'll look into creating a D/D/D deck guide. They don't pack as much punch as they used to, but with Master Rule 5 in place, they've got some of their pep back.
Nordic on May 31, 2020:
Could you please make a guide on how to build and use a D/D/D/ deck. I just made a major trade with a friend by giving him most of my machine deck in exchange for his D/D/D deck.
Zeron87 (author) on May 24, 2020:
Joseph Ford: Yeah! I think Rokkets were always good, but people were just stuck on combining different types of meta-strategies together as opposed to trying to get a homogeneous-archetype to work. I'm glad the Rokkets proved solid archetypal decks, when given enough care, can still be very viable. Well... his deck still had some meta-stuff to make it viable, but it's a start in the right direction of the classic Yu-Gi-Oh I fell in love with.
And also on you making competitive articles, knock yourself out bud. I always figured my articles were more for beginning players or those wanting entertainment over jargon, but I must admit there is a lack of Yu-Gi-Oh competitive reviews on Hubpages. More perspectives on this site will broaden the pond.
Again, thanks for posting and reading my articles, and good luck!
Joseph Ford from LYME REGIS on April 28, 2020:
Also, what do you think about me making more competitive articles, consistent archetype reviews, deck help, meta reports etc.?
Joseph Ford from LYME REGIS on April 28, 2020:
Ok, thanks, did you see Rokket win the (I think) Tulsa? In addition would you mind reading my article/s as some don’t seem to be published, many thanks.
Zeron87 (author) on April 19, 2020:
Joseph Ford: Thanks for the comment again Joseph F... I mean Zeroboros! I agree with you on Orcust, but the Sky Striker don't rock enough evil to be in a Dark deck list (Sure, the main girl is Dark, but not her alternative forms needed to run the deck). Rokkets are also worth an honorable mention... but there's a reason you never see them topping tournaments: They use revolvers instead of M16s (they're too slow).
My advice on starting Yu-Gi-Oh articles? Include your own twist in your article nobody else covers, and by that I mean find a niche. I try to include my weird brand of humor in my articles while teaching players about the game and purposely try to exclude jargon new players wouldn't understand. I used to hate reading Yu-Gi-Oh forum topics/articles where everyone spoke in geek-speak and I had to use Google every three sentences to know why BLS was so hype and why this Win Moar card was useless against a card with a Crush effect and would mostly make my hand Brick.
My best advice I guess would be to write the type of articles YOU want to see and then share your insights with your fellow players. Hope I answered your question, and happy hunting out there!
Joseph Ford from LYME REGIS on April 14, 2020:
Hey Zeron, I just thought I would mention that there are about 5 new decks you could add:
Also, I really love your articles and am doing my own, any advice?
Btw I am zeroboros XD
Zeron87 (author) on April 12, 2020:
Zeroboros78: LOL... oh my. Orcust weren't out when I first wrote this. Now that you brought back the night terrors, I will definitely add them to a modified version of this list. Thanks for commenting!
Zeroboros78 on April 09, 2020:
What about Orcust?
Zeron87 (author) on December 14, 2018:
Pearse Rooney: It's funny, because I made the same mistake you did. I assumed, because of their name and "All evil decks must be dark!" that they were a Dark archetype... but then I discovered they were Fire and had to revamp my list.
isaac tinnel on December 12, 2018:
one card: oricalcose duose
Pearse Rooney on August 03, 2018:
Sorry just remembered their fire attribute, they really should have been dark though they combo off with so many more dark decks than fire decks
Pearse Rooney on August 03, 2018:
Fun list one question though, where is infernoid cause I'm pretty sure they're not gonna be happy about you not even putting them in honorable mentions... Gulp
Zeron87 (author) on June 17, 2018:
Thanks for the support man! And yeah, I bet they have been 0_0. Shaddolls were such a pain when they first came out, but I do feel sorry for the hammers Konami keeps putting on the little monsters they've made. First Construct got hit, then That Grass Looks Greener. Having their own Link kind of makes up for it, but Chucky's cousins just can't catch a break.
Jeremy Gill from Louisiana on June 10, 2018:
Great list! Always enjoyable to see which decks age better than others. Shaddoll's been extra fun ever since Future Fusion was unbanned.