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5 Ideas to Fix Yu-Gi-Oh's Power Creep

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

Yugi, Kaiba, and Joey

Yugi, Kaiba, and Joey

Problems With Yu-Gi-Oh!

While I'll always love dueling, many players feel Yu-Gi-Oh! has stagnated in recent years, largely due to its insane power creep—these days, it's not uncommon to summon 5+ monsters on your first turn and create a game-winning board state.

In other words, the game is so fast and brutal, first-turn players set up so many negates and removals that second players often scoop, and it can feel like an oppressive slog more than a tense back-and-forth. What can Konami do to fix this? While each idea has its own pros and cons, here are five proposed changes that could improve dueling!

What Konami Could Do to Fix Power Creep

  1. Utilize Rotation
  2. Limit Negations
  3. Make Old Archetypes Relevant
  4. Limit Special Summons
  5. Increase Life Totals and Improve Traps
Set Rotation

Set Rotation

1. Utilize Rotation

This one's probably the most controversial solution; part of YGO's appeal is that, unlike Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon, cards from all eras are legal, so you don't constantly have to buy the newest packs to play.

That said, rotating sets offer a great method of controlling power creep, and without doing so, Konami is forced to print gradually-better cards (if they print weaker ones, no one would buy them). There could also be some sort of compromise, like rotating archetypes in and out, meaning old decks could still be played, at least in certain seasons.

Borreload Savage Dragon

Borreload Savage Dragon

2. Limit Negations

Not unlike Magic's counterspells, many players believe YGO focuses too heavily on negates, cards that prevent your own from resolving. Some players find these simply aren't fun, especially when you play second and face a board of 3+ negates; these days, players easily summon generic negation bosses like Borreload Savage Dragon.

Konami should very carefully playtest their negate engines to keep them in check and make players work for them. Heck, if you look at more recent card games (take Keyforge or the Digimon TCG) and you'll find often find a lack of any negations, presumably to guard against their controversies. They also slow down the game, as players have to constantly pause while their opponent decides whether to stop a play.

To be fair, negates do serve an interactive purpose, and knowing when your opponent is baiting you and when you really need to stop their combo can be a fun mindgame, but some sort of limit here could work wonders.

Batteryman 9-Volt used to be a great card

Batteryman 9-Volt used to be a great card

3. Make Old Archetypes Relevant

If the game won't rotate, it should really send some love to older decks, letting oldschool players utilize their favorite classics without getting stomped by the meta. Decks like Batteryman, Iron Chain, and Gladiator Beasts have some fun cards, but just won't compete with modern cards. Rather than seeing new (and likely overpowered) archetypes, I'd love for the next several years to be spent buffing the ones that need it, and the more viable decks, the funner the meta, as duels won't be the same stale matchups.

To be sure, Konami does periodically bolster old decks and themes, but it's a slow and somewhat random process that definitely needs acceleration and favors more-famous groups like Blue-Eyes and Dark Magician while neglecting obscure but lovable themes.

A setup full of negates in Master Duel

A setup full of negates in Master Duel

4. Limit Special Summons

In days past, summoning more than two or three monsters was very uncommon; nowadays, if you're not doing it, you're probably about to lose. Thing is, not only can this lead to depressingly long combos (have fun waiting for an opponent's 10-minute combo to end in Master Duel), it contributes to the game's frequent oppressive turn-one boardstates.

One idea to still allow comboing while also mitigating first player advantage would be to limit the number of special summons, at least on the first turn. I'd suggest three, which alongside a normal summon, still provides potential for four monsters, but would tremendously decrease the huge advantage first-turn players enjoy.

The once-feared Mirror Force

The once-feared Mirror Force

5. Increase Life Totals and Improve Traps

While players often enjoy the game's speed, as you don't need the gradual land-escalation of Magic, it often feels like the game ends too quickly, very commonly decided in four turns or less. This is simply too fast, prevents continuous cards from having much use, and contributes to one of the game's current problems: almost nobody plays traps, or very few. Yep, one of the game's three card types, and once one of the more famous, is now largely irrelevant.

Traps are barely present in decks, and usually only as a form of control (via cards like There Can Only Be One). But with increased life totals or other countermeasures to power creep, traps would be more relevant, the game would slow to a fast yet enjoyable volley, and we could relive the glory days of the synchro and xyz eras.

Changes Over Yu-Gi-Oh! History

While change can understandably be nerve-wracking, remember that the game has already evolved throughout its run. From the first player no longer drawing on their first turn to each player controlling their own field to the elimination of unique pendulum scale zones, Konami periodically updates its rules as needed.

Considering how many spin-off games, like Duel Links, utilize simplified rulesets and card pools, the company itself seems to agree power creep is getting out of control. But for now, share your thoughts on how to improve the game and I'll see you at our next Yu-Gi-Oh! countdown!

© 2022 Jeremy Gill