Jeremy enjoys dueling in between working as a chemical analyst and campus building manager.
Magic vs. Yu-Gi-Oh: Card Rarity
A lifelong fan of trading card games, I appreciate both Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic: The Gathering, each bearing its own strengths and weaknesses. But where Magic keeps things simple with four basic card rarities (common, uncommon, rare, and mythic rare), Yu-Gi-Oh confuses the heck out of players with dozens of categories and styles, which also make determining a card's status difficult (in Magic, the set's symbol color denotes rarity).
So, what are the card rarities, and how do they differ? Here's a rundown of every rare card type in Yu-Gi-Oh!
True to their name, commons are the most abundant cards, identified by their card name's plain black text—if they're a monster. But common spells, traps, and xyz monsters instead have white text. Geez, I'm already confused and we're only at the first category.
Commons generally aren't as powerful as rares, but they do contain some worthwhile units and are good options for budget players. Some commons, dubbed Short Prints and Super Short Prints, share the same card format as regular commons, but are much harder to find in packs—why these weren't just made into rares is beyond me.
Gray or Gray-outlined text, not foil
Non-foil name, foil card
Gold name, foil
Gold and embossed name, foil
Silver name, pale art
Silver name, pale art (Japanese version of Ghost Rare)
Platinum name, foil
White name, special horizontally-lined foil
As listed above, rares come in many shapes and sizes. Standard rares can usually be distinguished by silver print or silver-outlined black text, and like commons, they're not holographic. As a rule, these tend to be better and more valuable than commons, and your odds of finding one in a booster are usually 1:1, or 50%.
But these aren't even all the rare card types, as we delve further down the rabbit hole with secret rares...
Holographic rainbow card name
Prismatic Secret Rare
Foil uses horizontal and vertical pattern rather than diagonal
Extra Secret Rare
Applies Secret Rare pattern over whole card
Platinum Secret Rare
Platinum card name, foil art
Ultra Secret Rare
Secret Rare name, Ultra Rare image
20th Secret Rare
Holographic red card name
Secret Ultra Rare (misprint)
Gold name, Secret foil image
10000 Secret Rare
Black name, Secret foil image
3. Secret Rares
Standard secret rares are easy to spot thanks to their distinctive rainbow-colored card names, but as seen above, their various spin-offs change the name's font color and muddy the waters. Thanks, Konami.
In most boosters, the odds of obtaining a secret rare are 1:23, so they're pretty elusive. Thankfully, most cards are printed in multiple rarities, so even if you don't score a secret rare "Clear Wing Synchro Dragon", you might find an ultra or ghost version instead.
Generic term for completely-holographic card
Normal Parallel Rare
Common appearance but with Parallel Rare hazy foil coating
Super Parallel Rare
Super Rare with hazy coating
Ultra Parallel Rare
Ultra Rare with hazy coating
Secret Parallel Rare
Secret Rare with hazy coating
Extra Secret Parallel Rare
Extra Secret Rare with hazy coating
Star pattern surface
Square pattern surface
Shattered glass-esque surface
Rainbow reflective surface
Holographic Parallel Rare
Holo Rare with hazy coating
4. Parallel Rares
Parallel rares make the entire surface of a card (not just the name or artwork) holographic, leading to a "hazy" look. Cool idea, but sometimes misleading names—normal parallel rares are actually glossed-up versions of commons, leading fans to dub them "parallel commons".
Kaiba Corporation Common
Black name with KC logo and coating
Kaiba Corporation Rare
Silver name with KC coating
Kaiba Corporation Ultra Rare
Gold name with KC coating
5. Kaiba Corporation Cards
Few cards apply this style, exclusive to members of the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions Duel Set. In other words, you won't see these in standard boosters, but they highlight some cool monsters from the film, like "Gandora-X the Dragon of Demolition" (a great board wiper who costs under a dollar) and "Blue-Eyes Alternative White Dragon".
Gold name with reflective sheen image
Gold Secret Rare
Gold Rare name with Secret Rare texture
Gold-outlined name with Ghost Rare image
Premium Gold Rare
Ultra Rare with thick golden frame
6. Gold Rares
Gold rares bear a shiny golden font and holographic sheen. Again, it's a cool look, but when mixed with other rarities, it's easy to see how confusing the system gets—you're not just distinguishing between gold rares and secret rares, but also gold secret rares.
As if that weren't bad enough, the rarities aren't always consistent between the American TCG and Asian OCG; for instant, the OCG golds have always covered monster levels/rank stars with foil, but the TCG golds didn't until the Gold Series 3 special set.
That said, you won't find any in boosters (they're only sold in Gold box sets), which is kinda lame but does simplify determining card rarity from packs.
Grainy foil over entire surface
Millennium Super Rare
Super Rare with Millennium coating
Millennium Ultra Rare
Ultra Rare with Millennium coating
Millennium Secret Rare
Secret Rare with Millennium coating
Millennium Gold Rare
Gold Rare with Millennium Coating
7. Millennium Rares
Millennium rares resemble parallels in that their foil covers a card's entire surface, but they apply a different style using grainy vertical particles designed to mimic stone tablets. You'll only see these in special "Millennium Packs", both a pro and a con depending on how you look at it.
Fixing Yu-Gi-Oh Card Rarity
As much as I love dueling, it's disheartening to see so many unnecessary card classifications. Without a clear hierarchy, it's hard to tell what a card is really worth by looking at it, and the excess adjectives seem like a scam the naive (buy our new Ultra Awesome Ultimate rares, kids!)
It'd be great if Konami picked a few categories, stuck with them, and made them easier to distinguish, maintaining consistent categories that minimize confusion. But wishful thinking aside, vote for your favorite card style and I'll see you at our next Yu-Gi-Oh countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill