Jeremy enjoys dueling in between working as a chemical analyst and campus building manager.
Artwork in Yu-Gi-Oh
While not on the same caliber as, say, Magic: The Gathering, the quality of the artwork on Yu-Gi-Oh cards has drastically improved since dueling's debut. And with the prevalence of dragon-type monsters, we've definitely seen some awesome-looking winged reptiles throughout the years.
But which dragons reign supreme aesthetically?
With some nostalgia, personal preference, and probably a few forgotten cards I'll slap myself for missing, these are the 30 best dragons in Yu-Gi-Oh—when it comes to raw card design!
- Odd-Eyes Raging Dragon
- Amulet Dragon
- White Dragon Wyverburster
- Scrap Dragon
- Blue-Eyes White Dragon (alternate)
- Aether, the Empowering Dragon
- Aether, the Evil Empowering Dragon
- Red-Eyes Black Dragon (alternate)
- Galaxy Serpent
- Beelzeus of the Diabolic Dragons
- Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End
- Star Eater
- Dark Armed, the Savage Onslaught Dragon
- Punishment Dragon
- Dwarf Star Dragon Planeter
- Samsara, Dragon of Rebirth
- Number 95: Galaxy-Eyes Dark Matter Dragon
- Meteor Black Comet Dragon
- Number 62: Galaxy-Eyes Prime Photon Dragon
- Ultimaya Tzolkin
- Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon
- Alexandrite Dragon
- Mirror Force Dragon
- Gandora-X the Dragon of Demolition
- Odd-Eyes Arc Pendulum Dragon
- Scarlight Red Dragon Archfiend
- Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV8
- Amorphactor Pain, the Imagination Dracoverlord
- Blue Eyes Chaos MAX Dragon
- Red-Eyes Flare Metal Dragon
30. Odd-Eyes Raging Dragon
With its sleek design, unique wings, and pincer-like appendage, Raging Dragon almost seems more like a preying mantis than a dragon. The black claws and tail spikes round out his intimidating appearance.
If you manage to summon Raging Dragon using another xyz monster as material (which won't be easy, since you'll have to gimmick them into having a level with other effects), he becomes monstrous, able to attack twice each turn and detach a material to wipe your opponent's field. He's also a rare xyz-pendulum blend.
29. Amulet Dragon
It's not so much the quality of the artwork here as much as the fact that Amulet Dragon has a darn Dark Magician riding him and is charging up a Godzilla-like atomic blast that endears him to me. The sense of his size you get and the runes written across his body are nice touches, and his effects make sense considering his fusion materials.
Can increase an already-sweet 2900 ATK by 100 for each spell in the graveyard banished upon entry, and revives a spellcaster in your graveyard upon destruction. A well-rounded beatstick.
28. White Dragon Wyverburster
The subtle orange colors, exoskeleton-like skull, and red eyes of this—ah, you caught me. It's a white dragon flying through space emitting spirally beams of light, and the kid in me loves it.
An interesting lower-level dragon who combos with its counterpart, Black Dragon Collapserpent, to continuously add each other from your deck to your hand when one is sent from the field to the graveyard. Useful for the light-dark blends of Chaos builds.
27. Scrap Dragon
With a majestic purple aura and machine-like construction befitting its name, Scrap Dragon perfectly encompasses a salvaged yet fearsome dragon.
Surprisingly good even outside its Scrap archetype. 2800 ATK works well in battle, and it can destroy one of your cards each turn to destroy an opponent's. It also revives a non-synchro Scrap monster from your graveyard when destroyed by your opponent (either through battle or effect).
26. Blue-Eyes White Dragon (alternate)
While the original artwork of Seto Kaiba's famous Blue-Eyes White Dragon is a bit off, our azure-eyed ally has received several better renditions throughout the years. And as Amulet Dragon and Wyverburster taught you, I'm a sucker for charging up energy beams and space backgrounds.
The strongest original normal monster that bears 3000 ATK, Blue-Eyes stays competitive thanks to a vast array of great support cards for its archetype.
25. Aether, the Empowering Dragon
I wish I could say my enjoyment of this card went beyond "ooh, shiny" and "pretty colors", but that's mostly it. The extra wings are interesting too.
Despite not being a pendulum card, Aether can bounce any card on the field (including your own) back to its owner's hand when pendulum summoned. Not superb on its own, but forms a potent combo with...
24. Aether, the Evil Empowering Dragon
Gives Aether's rainbow-gold art a sleek dark makeover.
Speaking of Aether's uses, its evil form can target and banish any monster on the field when normal or special summoned, a great effect that works even when revived from the extra deck. The pendulum scale is a bit midway at 4, but the ability to banish an Empowered Warrior from your graveyard to destroy any card is nice.
23. Red-Eyes Black Dragon (alternate)
One of the several alternate (but official) renditions of Joey Wheeler's classic Red-Eyes Black Dragon, the reflected red light and imposing green smoke invoke an ominous and powerful aura. And yep, he's got the beam charge I always fall for.
Underpowered on his own, but inspired a versatile and competitive archetype with several great support cards.
22. Galaxy Serpent
In most cases I don't want the "camera" zoomed this far back, but here it contributes to the overall feel of rarity. You're barely catching a glimpse of this universal entity, almost like sighting a fleeing legendary Pokemon. The space background is also pretty sweet.
Despite lackluster stats and no effect, Galaxy Serpent's 0 DEF and normal monster status qualify it for a good number of tricks (like Heart of the Underdog and Masked Chameleon), plus its tuner status will let you synchro summon. Speaking of synchros...
21. Beelzeus of the Diabolic Dragons
Two long dragon heads stemming from a fused and rounded head expertly capture the demonic and fiendish namesake of this card.
Needs a dark tuner and at least two non-tuners to synchro summon but compensates with a whopping 4000 ATK/DEF, immunity to battle and effect destruction, and the ability to once per turn change an opposing monster's ATK to 0 and gain you life points equal to its original ATK.
20. Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End
With a mystical background, mane-like fur, and sheer size, Chaos Emperor remains one of the best-looking cards from Yu-Gi-Oh's early days.
Long banned for its incredible powers, Chaos Emperor is easily special summoned by banishing a light and dark monster from your graveyard. It's got a daunting 3000 ATK and can pay 1000 life points to send all cards in each player's hand and field to the graveyard, inflicting 300 damage to your opponent for each. This should hit them for a lot more than the 1000 life you paid, and it resets the game state if things aren't going well.
19. Star Eater
This is a busy artwork but not overly crowded, and if it's depicting a red dragon powerful enough to eat stars, I'm all for it.
In addition to having a lethal 3200 ATK, Star Eater is simply one of very few level 11 synchro monsters who will accept any tuner/nontuner combination. Additionally, its synchro summon can't be negated and cards/effects can't be activated when it attacks, making it difficult for your opponent to remove and block.
18. Dark Armed, the Savage Onslaught Dragon
Dark Armed can never pick his nose with those oversized limbs he calls claws, but his shimmering silver-teal figure, spikes, and red orbs grant a menacing presence.
Definitely an interesting unit. 2800 ATK impresses, and Dark Armed helpfully accepts any level 7 monsters as material. If you have exactly 5 dark monsters in your graveyard, you can also use a level 5 or higher dark monster as material. Either way, Dark Armed can detach a unit to destroy an opposing card, but you must also banish a card from your graveyard, and Armed can't attack the turn you employ his ability. Not the best rank 7 champion, but far from the worst.
17. Punishment Dragon
His black design and red claws are cool, but I really enjoy Punishment's griffin-like stature. The pillars in the background make him look absolutely huge.
A perfect combo with his inspiration, Judgment Dragon, Punishment can only be special summoned from your hand by having at least four banished Lightsworn monsters, a state that Judgement's summon creates. Once out, he's got 3000 ATK and can pay 1000 life points to shuffle all cards in the graveyard and all non-Lightsworn face-up banished cards back into their decks, a nice guard against the mill loss potential (having zero cards left to draw) of a Lightsworn build.
16. Dwarf Star Dragon Planeter
"I like dark dragons!"
"I like bright dragons!"
"Well let's just combine them into one!"
—The Yu-Gi-Oh design team
With a decent 1700 ATK (considering he's a level 4 who doesn't need tributes) and the ability add a dark or light level 7 monster to your hand at the end of the phase you normal summon him, Dwarf is surprisingly competent, especially in Chaos arrangements.
15. Samsara, Dragon of Rebirth
With the emanating cool shades of blue and black, Samsara easily draws the eye. It's hard to see in this bright picture, but he's also bearing the Japanese "Monster Reborn" magic sign on his torso, a perfect emblem considering his traits.
Basically Monster Reborn in a can, once destroyed by battle or opposing card effects, you can revive a monster from either graveyard. Definitely one of the better level 5 synchros, and Samsara helpfully accepts any tuner/nontuner combination.
14. Number 95: Galaxy-Eyes Dark Matter Dragon
With a jet-black face illuminated only by screaming fangs and glowing eyes, Dark Matter Dragon is delightfully agonizing in appearance. The skull spirits and lower body being made of a mist-like substance contribute to the warped feel.
It would be incredibly hard to summon (needing three level 9s) except that you can also xyz summon it with a Galaxy-Eyes xyz monster. 4000 ATK will dominate in battle, and Dark Matter can detach an xyz unit to let it attack two monsters for that turn's battle phase. It also sends three dragons with different names from your deck to your graveyard upon summon, filling your discard pile with revive fodder and simultaneously has your opponent banish three monsters from their deck.
13. Meteor Black Comet Dragon
This card invokes a sense of both size and speed, with its claw seemingly descending at you at breakneck speeds, and the falling meteor fragments only add to the appeal.
Easily one of the best fusion monsters in the game. When fusion summoned, you send a Red-Eyes monster from your hand/deck to the graveyard and inflict damage to your opponent equal to half its ATK! Additionally, when sent from the monster zone to the graveyard, you can special summon a normal monster from your graveyard, a nice exit effect that fields another creature upon demise.
12. Number 62: Galaxy-Eyes Prime Photon Dragon
Standing on two legs, this dragon is more of a humanoid-dragon blend, but what could be cooler than the idea of merging with an actual dragon? Especially a super-special glow-in-the-dark space dragon!
4000 ATK and 3000 DEF already impress, plus you can detach an xyz material to increase Prime Photon's ATK by 200 for every rank of an xyz monster on the field (guaranteeing at least 1600 from Prime's rank 8) for a single battle! It can also revive itself with doubled ATK if it has Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon as material, but any damage inflicted to your opponent is halved while it does, so don't fret too hard if you simply use other level 8 monsters.
11. Ultimaya Tzolkin
Glowy space dragon with a unique form? I'm sold. Plus, Ultimaya Tzolkin goes for more of a Chinese dragon look with its long body and short limbs, a design I appreciate.
Arguably the weirdest synchro in the game. Has the rare (and highest) level of 12, but 0 ATK and DEF, and Tzolkin is a synchro monster, but can't be synchro summoned; instead, you tribute a tuner and a non-tuner with the same level of at least 5 or higher. When you set a spell/trap, Tzolin lets you special summon a "Power Tool" synchro monster or level 7 or 8 dragon-typed synchro monster from your extra deck. An interesting card, but usually not worth the hassle.
10. Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon
Nostalgia's probably playing a part here, but I simply enjoy the black-metal sheen, red undertones, and overall look of this competitive creature.
One of the best cards that debuted not far into Yu-Gi-Oh's history, Darkness Metal can be special summoned from your hand by banishing a dragon you control and can (once per turn) special summon a dragon from your hand or graveyard.
9. Alexandrite Dragon
I can't quite put my finger on why I like Alexandrite's appearance so much. It's both sturdy-looking but also, shall we say, realistic? Obviously, dragons aren't real, but Alexandrite does away with all the shining-eye and space-background fluff. He's simply a big dragon whose shades subtly shift from blue to green to purple.
Can be normal summoned without tributes with an impressive (for its level) 2000 ATK. If you're not looking at a Blue-Eyes normal monster beatstick, Alexandrite's a nice alternative.
8. Mirror Force Dragon
Really like the color pairing of iris and black, and the giant wings, fierce claws, and pincer-like tail don't hurt either. Plus, this tyrant carries the renowned Mirror Force name and is even fusion summoned using the infamous trap (alongside The Fang of Critias spell).
Without a doubt one of the top fusion monsters available. In addition to 2800 ATK, Mirror Force Dragon can destroy all cards your opponent controls whenever they attack or target one of your monsters, an awesome field-wipe that prevents them from doing almost anything.
7. Gandora-X the Dragon of Demolition
Basically Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon with more meta emphasis. The red orbs littered across Gandora's body and the imposing crimson background also contribute to his menacing aura.
Used to great effect by Yugi Moto in the Dark Side of Dimensions movie, when normal or special summoned from the hand, Gandora-X can destroy all other monsters on the field and inflict damage to your opponent equal to the one who had the highest ATK. He also gains that ATK as his own; however, you halve your life points at your end phases, a significant drawback to Gandora's fierce powers.
6. Odd-Eyes Arc Pendulum Dragon
With the blue pendulum arc above him, the green and red eyes of an Odd-Eyes dragon, and the awesome blue/black design, there's a lot to love about Arc Pendulum Dragon.
In the pendulum scale, this superb card wields a great scale of 8 and can special summon another Odd-Eyes monster (even a copy of itself) from the hand, deck, or graveyard when an Odd-Eyes card you control is destroyed. And as a monster, it simply wields a hefty ATK of 2700.
5. Scarlight Red Dragon Archfiend
Half-demon lord, half-dragon, Scarlight Red hovers inside a volcano and one of his arms burns with the powers of fire. His fearsome curved twin horns and red/black stripes round out the design.
A lethal upgrade of Jack Atlas's classic Red Dragon Archfiend. Once per turn, Scarlight lets you destroy as many special summoned synchro monsters on the field as possible with ATK less than or equal to its own (besides itself) and inflict 500 damage to your opponent for each. Even if you annihilate some of your team in the process, they'll just contribute to the total effect damage anyway.
4. Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV8
With a pure silver body reminding me of MechaGodzilla and a fearsome black energy beam, Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV8 is the villain we love to root for. What can we say—black fire is cool. No, silly, not literally.
A level monster that must be upgraded from its prior LV6 form, Horus enjoys 3000 ATK and can negate spell cards on either turn! This doesn't even bear the pesky "once per turn" errata; I just wish Horus were easier to summon. An aged champion, but still one of the best LV monsters in the game.
3. Amorphactor Pain, the Imagination Dracoverlord
This earth-attributed ritual monster has some dude shooting out of a dragon and apparently enjoying every second of it. The numerous wings and tornado-like backdrop give the Imagination Dracoverlord a vibrant feel, and it's simply drawn better than most dragons.
Not only does Armorphactor Pain negate the effects of synchro, fusion, and xyz monsters (perfect for its pendulum-oriented archetype), it forces your opponent to skip their next main phase 1. This leaves them no chance to play spells or summon monsters until after their battle phase, an uncommon and useful lockdown.
2. Blue Eyes Chaos MAX Dragon
Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon has three heads and all, but Chaos MAX takes the prize for my favorite Blue-Eyes. He's big, he's powerful, shards of ground hover simply by being near him, and as a ritual monster, even his card background adds to the beautiful blue palette.
Easily one of the best ritual monsters in dueling. Chaos MAX possesses 4000 ATK, immunity to being targeted or destroyed by opposing card effects, and not only inflicts piercing battle damage to defense position monsters, but double piercing damage, meaning there's no way to hide behind his unholy ATK score with wall units.
1. Red-Eyes Flare Metal Dragon
A stunning sky background, metallic black structure, glowing blue veins, and red fire spouts easily take the cake when it comes to just catching my eye. Move over, Mona Lisa, this guy should be in the Louvre.
He's not just a pretty face either. While it has xyz material, Flare Metal can't be destroyed by card effects and inflicts 500 damage to your opponent whenever a card or effect they play resolves. Additionally, it can detach a material to revive a normal Red-Eyes monster from your graveyard, it wields a fierce 2800 ATK, and it accepts any two level 7 monsters as material.
Future of Yu-Gi-Oh Dragons
Rivaled by spellcasters, warriors, and machines for Yu-Gi-Oh's most prominent monster type, the high ATK scores, ravaging effects, and impressive designs of dragons entice many duelists into crafting dragon-oriented decks. With plenty of awesome support members and a plethora of titans to choose from, you have plenty of options for building your ultimate dragon deck list.
But for now, as we eagerly await Konami's next expansion of winged reptiles, let us know which dragon's art you prefer in the comments below and I'll see you at our next Yu-Gi-Oh countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Cyanli on August 05, 2019:
Red nova dragons artwork also look pretty dope
DuckyDog on February 06, 2019:
Brave-Eyes is definitely one of the best looking dragons, with sharp edges just like a sword (fitting the material) and an awesome visor. Number 107 or Draguluon also have that divine kind of feeling as well, fitting their awesome abilities. Also I think odd-eyes rebellion is 10 times cooler than raging probably as it looks more menacing and there are more elements that pop-out. Odd-eyes wing dragon also looks awesome. To be honest writing this I realize the odd-eyes archetype has probably the best looking monsters by far. Some of the Draguluons also deserve looking into. Finally, out of left field comes, white-horned dragon. I don't know what it is about it, but it feels like it would fit right in with the likes of blue-eyes and red-eyes with a majestic horn and ability that can raise its attack by banishing your opponents spells, which might definitely mess up their strategy. It has a look that is unique to the time it was created and to be honest I like to wonder what support for it could look like (though we'll definitely never get it).