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How to Summon All Types of Monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh

Jeremy enjoys dueling in between working as a chemical analyst and campus building manager.

Summoning Monster Cards in Yu-Gi-Oh

Monsters are the key to victory in Yu-Gi-Oh, as they simultaneously guard your life points, assault your opponent's, and activate a plethora of special effects. Throughout the years, we've seen a multitude of different summoning methods, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Some monsters belong in your main deck (which you draw from) while others dwell in your extra deck, which holds up to 15 cards and is available throughout the match. But with an ever-expanding number of summoning methods, it can be daunting for newcomers to master their differences. To help learn the mechanics and pros/cons of each, here's a quick guide on how to summon all types of Yu-Gi-Oh monsters!

Mobius the Frost Monarch

Mobius the Frost Monarch

How to Normal/Tribute Summon

Players can perform one normal summon on each of their turns by playing any monster from their hand in attack position (or you can set it in defense, described below). Monsters from levels 1-4 don't need any tributes to normal summon; however, levels 5-6 require you to sacrifice a creature on the field (by sending it to your graveyard), while levels 7-12 requires two sacrifices.

Try not to rely too much on normal summoning, as it's slower, but it's an easy way to field monsters without needing effects. Tribute summoning is costly due to its sacrifices, but tributed monsters bear stronger battle stats, better effects, and they're immune to removals that target special summoned-creatures.

Just about every deck will use normal summons to some extent, but suggested archetypes that emphasize it include:

  • Earthbound Immortal
  • Monarch
  • Yosenju
Shaddoll Dragon

Shaddoll Dragon

How to Flip Summon/Set Monsters

Once per turn, instead of normal summoning a monster from your hand in face-up attack position, you can "set" it in face-down defense position. This follows the same tributing rules, as you'll need to sacrifice monsters to set high-level cards.

Once set, you can manually shift your card into face-up attack position on future turns (called a "flip summon"), or your monster will automatically move to face-up defense mode if attacked. Either way, when revealed, any flip effects it has will activate. Thus, setting creatures is slower and less aggressive than most summoning methods, but it keeps your opponent guessing as to what cards you employ and accesses powerful flip abilities. It's also useful for stalling, as monsters in defense position don't take battle damage when destroyed in combat (unless your foe has a pierce effect).

Suggested archetypes include:

  • Ghostrick
  • Shaddoll
  • Subterror
Monster Reborn

Monster Reborn

How to Special Summon

"Special summon" is a catch-all term that describes any summon that isn't normal or flip, with many specific branches discussed below. They generally require some sort of effect to activate, can be placed in either face-up attack or defense position, and don't spend your turn's normal summon, letting you perform as many as you can each turn.

All extra deck cards use specific forms of special summoning, so watch out for the rare nets that can shut down this abundant casting method. But you can also special summon monsters from your hand or graveyard with certain effects; for instance, the spell "Monster Reborn" lets you special summon a monster from either player's graveyard.

Blue-Eyes Chaos MAX Dragon

Blue-Eyes Chaos MAX Dragon

How to Ritual Summon

Ritual monsters (not to be confused with similarly-blue link monsters) fit into your main deck. You can't normal summon or set them; instead, you have to play a corresponding ritual spell card, then satisfy its conditions, which usually involve tributing creatures with at least as many total levels as your monster from your hand/field.

Thus, ritual monsters require specific cards and can be costly in terms of hand advantage, but they compensate with powerful battle stats, effects, and they won't take up your limited extra deck zones. Ritual monsters remain a relatively scarce bunch, but they're certainly improving over time, and many of their best spells now pull tributes from the deck or offer access to multiple ritual monsters.

Suggested archetypes include:

  • Cyber Angel
  • Nekroz
  • Vendread
Invoked Mechaba

Invoked Mechaba

How to Fusion Summon

The original type of extra deck card, fusion monsters each occupy an extra deck zone, but they're available throughout the match without needing to be drawn. With a few exceptions like "contact fusion," fusion summoning requires a fusion spell (the standard being "Polymerization") plus at least two materials from your hand or field (which are sent to the graveyard). Often these need to be specific cards or those of a certain archetype or attribute, making fusion summoning a bit trickier than later methods.

However, fusion monsters tend to be more powerful, and the ability to access materials from your hand prevents you from having to first summon your sacrifices. Additionally, many of the best fusion spells (like "Future Fusion" and "Dragon's Mirror") can also access materials from your graveyard or deck.

Suggested archetypes include:

  • Elemental HERO
  • Predaplant
  • Invoked
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Stardust Dragon

Stardust Dragon

How to Synchro Summon

Another extra deck card, synchro monsters are summoned using "tuners," a special designation found on several main deck monsters. You combine a tuner with one or more non-tuners (sending them from your field to your graveyard) to synchro summon a monster whose level matches the total of your materials. Some synchro monsters also restrict you to certain types or attributes, but it's generally a more-accepting summoning method than fusion.

Remember that your tuners and non-tuners all have to be fielded, so you'll need to quickly swarm since you can't use materials from your hand. Still, the independence from magic cards makes synchro summoning less costly (if perhaps slightly weaker) than ritual and fusion.

Suggested archetypes include:

  • Mecha Phantom Beast
  • Speedroid
  • Yang Zing
Number 101 Silent Honor ARK

Number 101 Silent Honor ARK

How to Xyz Summon

Yet another extra deck type, xyz monsters require you to spend two monsters of the same level from your field. However, those monsters aren't sent to the graveyard, but are instead attached to your xyz monster as units that power your creature's effects.

Thus, xyz monsters can only activate their abilities a few times, but to compensate, they tend to be stronger effects. Like synchro monsters, you need to field necessary tributes but don't need a spell, and an independence from tuners makes xyz monsters even easier to access; you'll find some in nearly every deck. Also note that xyz monsters have "ranks" instead of levels, meaning they're immune to level-determined effects like "Burden of the Mighty."

Suggested archetypes include:

  • Constellar
  • Wind-Up
  • Zoodiac
Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon

Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon

How to Pendulum Summon

Pendulum cards begin in your main deck, but when destroyed or tributed from the field, they go to your extra deck face-up rather than to your graveyard. They can be summoned like regular effect monsters, but you can also place up to two in your spell/trap zone as "scales". Not only do scales have ongoing effects, they let you once per turn pendulum summon monsters from your hand or face-up from your extra deck whose levels are in-between your scale values. Thus, it's best to have one low scale and one high.

Pendulum summoning can rapidly swarm multiple monsters, but note that pendulum monsters revived from your extra deck take up extra deck zones. Still, they're a versatile and competitive bunch, and remember you can pendulum summon any monster (except ritual) with a corresponding level from your hand, not just other pendulum cards.

Suggested archetypes include:

  • Abyss Actor
  • Odd-Eyes
  • Qliphort
Decode Talker

Decode Talker

Link monsters reside in your extra deck, and you summon them by sacrificing the indicated number of monsters from your field. Link monsters are the easiest extra deck cards to summon, as they often accept any materials, not even needing the levels to match, but their ATK scores tend to be lower. Link monsters also don't have DEF scores and can't switch to defense position, so they're vulnerable to combat damage. They lack levels or ranks, instead possessing a link rating.

Link monsters are crucial to most decks as they point in different directions with their red arrows; any monster zones (including your opponent's) that they aim towards can be used as extra deck zones. Thus, these guys are essential for fielding multiple extra deck monsters simultaneously.

Many archetypes use link monsters for additional extra deck zones, but link-heavy series include:

  • Gouki
  • Knightmare
  • Trickstar

What to Put in Your Yu-Gi-Oh Extra Deck

It's tempting to fill your extra deck with all types of extra deck monsters, but with only 15 slots available, sometimes it's better to forgo monsters that don't mesh with your deck, especially if you want multiple copies of the same card. That said, don't be afraid to to test different strategies; the more monsters you have available, the more adaptable your deck will be.

Whether you prefer fusion, synchro, or xyz, you'll likely want at least some link monsters for additional extra zones, although some archetypes (like Monarch) actually gain power from entirely ignoring the extra deck. Experiment to find what works for you, but for now, as we eagerly await Konami's next summoning method, vote for your favorite type and I'll see you at our next Yu-Gi-Oh countdown!

© 2019 Jeremy Gill


Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on June 10, 2020:


True, rituals are hard to use unless you really build around them, but there are several archetypes that dabble in fusion monsters without fully devoting to them. Odd-Eyes, Dark Magician, Blue-Eyes, etc. Cards like ''Future Fusion" can also help access material monsters from areas other than your hand.

Nordic on June 10, 2020:

I like to avoid situational cards, so ritual and fusion summoning are really put into my decks, unless I use Temple of the Kings with Mystical Beast of Sercret.

Joseph Ford from LYME REGIS on April 16, 2020:

I personally prefer Link, they enable Combos and you can OTK with relative ease.

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