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Link Summoning: Yu-Gi-Oh's Biggest Update Ever

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

Decode Talker

Decode Talker

Multiple generations have enjoyed Yu-Gi-Oh, eagerly buying the trading cards and watching the anime. Recently, game designer Konami shocked the world with the announcement of a new summon method—link summoning—plus some drastic rule changes and the new cyberse monster type. How have fans taken this turn of events? With decidedly mixed reactions—but we'll get to that.

First, to better understand why link summoning is such a dynamic shift, let's quickly examine the history of Yu-Gi-Oh's rule adjustments thus far.

Past Rule Changes

Fans likely already know of the gradual adding of new summoning methods. Besides traditional tribute and fusion summoning, the game steadily crafted synchro, xyz, and pendulum summons. All these methods added to the existing rules of the game but didn't alter old ones. The same goes for the playzone; pendulum scales were added, but nothing old has ever been removed.

All that changes with link summoning. These new blue-backgrounded cards (not be confused with similar azure-hued ritual monsters) are not just adding to the game; they're modifying it. Above is a detailed video explaining link summons, but in essence, they limit the availability of your extra deck, making it more difficult to summon multiple extra deck monsters at once.

So, is this good or bad for the Yu-Gi-Oh franchise? Let's examine the pros and cons of the change.

The new playzone. Note the two spaces in the middle, the only places extra deck monsters can occupy (without link monsters)

The new playzone. Note the two spaces in the middle, the only places extra deck monsters can occupy (without link monsters)

  • New Monsters
  • Better pacing
  • Better balance (hopefully)

New monsters are cool. 'Nuff said there.

Better Pacing

As pendulum monsters gave players the ability to rapidly-swarm fields and revive their creatures when destroyed, 8000 life points were suddenly being taken in one or two turns. And while we don't want too slow of a match, we don't want too fast of one either. Many cite the synchro or xyz era as the best time for Yu-Gi-Oh because battles were exciting enough to maintain attention yet slow enough to accommodate defensive strategies and comebacks.

In other words, pendulum monsters, and extra deck cards in general, were ending too many duels before either player could really enjoy the match, and hopefully the extra deck limits imposed by link summoning will mitigate this issue.

Better Balance

On a similar note, pendulum cards have been dominating competitive atmospheres. They aren't unbeatable, but most non-pendulum decks simply can't overcome the consistency pendulum offers. For the uninitiated, pendulum monsters go to the extra deck instead of graveyard when vanquished (and can be resummoned with appropriate pendulum zones filled), meaning the new format should regulate their unique revival ability.

As hesitant as I am about changing existing spaces, I support the decision to incorporate pendulum zones into the spell/trap zone. Now, pendulum players must sacrifice two fewer magic slots to utilize their formidable summons, a fair tradeoff for the numerous abilities of pendulum cards.

Even if you can't link summon, you can summon Link with the right card maker

Even if you can't link summon, you can summon Link with the right card maker

  • Specific zones matter
  • Game complexity further increases
  • Some will rue the reduced extra deck accessibility
  • Defense position and facedown lose value


Link monsters help in ways beyond their monster effects: they enable the usage of your non-extra deck monster zones for extra deck monsters. Which zones depend on the physical position of the card; it will designate the affected areas with pointer arrows.

While I applaud a slower pacing for the game and a new summoning method, I'm not sold on the focus of specific zones mattering. In addition to deciding which monsters to use, we'll now also have to decide where to place them—a decidedly less interesting choice. Plus, link monsters' odd inability to adjust into defense position (they don't even have DEF values) removes the classic attack vs defense balancing aspect of monster cards.

That said, it's interesting how the strongest link monsters come with a price: they point towards the opponent's field, meaning your opponent receives more chances to extra deck summon.


Considering the new rules and summons, Yu-Gi-Oh has become more complex than ever. This increases our strategic options, but makes it more difficult to teach the game and accrue new players. Admittedly, this is less a fault of link summoning and more an observation on the tradeoffs of advancing an already-intricate card game. And did blue really need to be repeated as a card background? Konami, you've got plenty of colors left to access before having to double-up on hues.

Firewall Dragon

Firewall Dragon

Looking back on this article years later, it's safe to say fans have, for the most part, adapted to link summoning. While I do think it's the most complicated summoning mechanic and the game should find ways to make DEF more relevant, the ability to make nearly any effect monster count as material towards a big summon has increased game speed and swarming relevance.

Yu-Gi-Oh has implemented minor rule changes before (first player no longer draws on their first turn, fluctuating ban lists, etc.), and even those were met with significant controversy. It can be scary for veterans to realize our beloved game will never be the same, but that said, it's still a worthwhile game with more archetypes than ever to explore. We'll see if Konami can avoid power creep while still keeping new cards relevant, but for now, share your thoughts and I'll see you at our next YGO review!

© 2017 Jeremy Gill


. on May 04, 2018:

this practically makes a-z dragon buster cannon impossible, given the amount of fusion monsters needed to summon it...

legend thief on August 06, 2017:

I bought the link deck and through looking at it they basically got ride of ritual spell cards and made ritual summoning XYZ summoning

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on July 29, 2017:

Thanks Andrew! Yes, this big change reminds me of when they tried to implement "Speed Duels" using new Speed Spells and Speed counters. I actually enjoy Speed Duels--but only as a "side mode"; I'd never want them to replace classic duels.

I was about to mention hesitancy over fixing what isn't broken, but realized in some ways Yu-Gi-Oh is broken, as cards have simply become too powerful and fast. I really hope Link Duels become more than a gimmick, and faced with the alternative of abandoning the game, I imagine players will slowly warm to them.

Andrew from Rep Boston MA on July 29, 2017:

Wow. Just wow. Blackwings change was hard enough to start to play with or comprehend, now theres link summons lol. Please tell me that a side effect to the new link style extra monsters requires the duelist to be riding a motorcycle on a giant larger-then-life speedway. If a new virtual Yu-Gi-Oh game comes out with link monsters I will try it out and play it (even if its a phone app). I don't think I plan on buying new real cards to play with anymore tho! Great detailed article on this process and update to the game!