Jeremy enjoys dueling in between working as a chemical analyst and campus building manager.
For all its flaws we're about to discuss, Yu-Gi-Oh! bears several distinct advantages over many other leading card games. My favorite is the extra deck, a treasure trove of monsters guaranteed in every match; no need to draw into them. The franchise's anime, which admittedly vary in quality, nonetheless grasp us from a young age. And unlike Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon, there's no once-per-turn land/energy drop or summoning sickness, making matches much faster.
Still, if Konami would only alter a few aspects, they could attract many more fans—here are several ideas on how to improve Duel Monsters!
1. Use Keywords
The area where Yu-Gi-Oh! hurts the most is complexity. The game's multiple summoning methods offer diversity once mastered but can make the learning process daunting for beginners. Worse, each card has unique, lengthy effects that lack MTG's keyword abilities (trample, haste, etc.), making cards wordy jumbles. And unlike Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh! has to be translated into English, further complicating card text.
The game did at least abbreviate graveyard to "GY," but there's so much more to simplify effects without losing their diversity. Heck, here's a few examples of potential keywords (and cards that already have their effects):
- Pierce—Inflict excess battle damage to opponent when attacking defense position monsters (Blue-Eyes Chaos Max Dragon)
- Immortal—Can't be destroyed in battle (Marshmallon)
- Divinity—Unaffected by opposing card effects (The Legendary Exodia Incarnate)
2. Eliminate Power Creep
Something many trading card games suffer is "power creep," meaning new cards are better than old. Constantly procuring better cards provides an easy way to ensure companies continue selling products, but it's frustrating because it prevents older themes from keeping up and eventually breaks the game.
Many fans consider the synchro and xyz eras YGO's best because while new and powerful cards were introduced, the power creep wasn't to the point where games rarely made it past turn four. Explosive turns were balanced with back-and-forth gameplay.
To be fair, Konami recognized when they made pendulums overpowered and nerfed them with subsequent extra deck changes, but some fans still wonder if they'll ever hit their peak again.
3. Make Defense Relevant
Part of the issue with power creep is that it makes defensive and stalling strategies much less effective—it's more than possible for a player to win on their first turn. In most cases, you simply want to be able to attack and quickly overtake an opponent, meaning most monsters arrive in attack position, where their defense score is irrelevant. It's sad to see only one battle stat factor into most combat, unlike MTG, where both a creature's power and toughness play a role.
Heck, link monsters don't even have DEF. Flip monsters have to be set in defense first, so it sees some usage there, but at the game's current speed, not many decks use them.
We could fix this by altering how YGO combat works, but it's probably smarter at this point to just add more incentive to defense position—perhaps it can't be destroyed in battle once per turn, becomes immune to targeting, or such.
While we're talking about battle flaws, it's unfortunate how YGO games usually need calculators thanks to their thousands of battle points (where MTG creatures rarely exceed five), but that's a nitpick easily solved by mobile phones and life point apps.
4. Support Neglected Types/Archetypes
To be fair, Konami has improved at going back and helping older themes stay relevant, adding support to classic archetypes like Toons and Egyptian Gods. But several decks still remain in the dust, and many monster types are frequently shoved to the side to crank out more dragons, spellcasters, and machines.
I get that you need to sell your product, and those are popular types, but players with rock, fish, and psychic decks want some love too.
5. Let Archetypes Cross Over
Perhaps Magic's biggest appeal stems from its color pie, letting players pick the color or colors that most appeal to them. In Yu-Gi-Oh!, decks are far more rigid, with almost no overlap between themes. Beyond the very rare exception (like Odd-Eyes/Performapal), YGO themes mostly stick to their own cards. You could build a Blue-Eyes/Zoodiac mashup, but with practically zero synergy, the deck just won't work.
Maybe your extra deck will delve into some generic monsters, and perhaps you'll toss in a general removal like Raigeki, but for the most part, decks have a set list of cards that "work", and the game could offer far more customization by letting themes competently mix.
6. Add Duelist Cards
In addition to its color pie, Magic benefits from a variety of formats. One of the most popular, commander, gives a guaranteed card available throughout the match, a general who further makes a deck your own.
The closest YGO counterpart stems from its mobile Duel Links game, where you choose one of the anime's duelists, each with a unique skill. Offering something similar in the main game would not only help boost older archetypes but further let decks stand out.
7. Support Multiplayer
Yet another advantage MTG bears over YGO is its multiplayer ease—playing against multiple opponents works basically the same as 1v1. But YGO doesn't offer much support outside of 1v1, making it harder to play in bigger groups. You can find fan-made suggested rulesets online, but an official guide would definitely broaden the game's appeal.
Retaining Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Identity
By now, we've compared YGO to Magic several times, but to be clear, it doesn't need to (and shouldn't) just copy its competitor. Many of its differences provide distinct advantages, like the extra deck, lack of mana screw, and hidden face-down cards.
Many of our points are more about polish than game mechanics, and there's hope things could improve. Rush duel cards feature new, more aesthetically pleasing card layouts and easier-to-read effects; while I don't want all cards dumbed down, a similar focus on presentation would help the game compete with Magic overseas. But for now, vote for your favorite tcg and I'll see you at our next review!
© 2021 Jeremy Gill