Here’s How To Play Yu-Gi-Oh
Yu-Gi-Oh is one of the most complicated trading card games ever created. That said, despite how confusing it can be, getting started playing is easier than one would expect.
First released in 1999, the TCG is a real-life adaptation of the Yu-Gi-Oh anime and manga’s Duel Monsters game. Yu-Gi-Oh’s popularity followed hot off the heels of Pokémon, with plenty of ’90s and 2000s millennials dueling on playgrounds and cafeteria tables during the height of the card game’s fad. But over two decades later, Yu-Gi-Oh is still just as fun today as it was during its first few years.
Interested in learning how to play this iconic TCG? Here’s what you need to know.
First in Yu-Gi-Oh, make a deck of 40-60 cards with an “Extra Deck” of up to 15 cards. The extra deck is where Fusion, Syncro, XYZ, and Link monsters go, and the main deck is for everything else. When the game begins, shuffle your deck and draw five cards.
Yu-Gi-Oh is divided into phases which are fairly easy to understand. Each turn starts with a Draw Phase, where the player draws a card (unless you’re going first in the match, in which case, don’t draw anything). Standby Phase is the start of your turn before you draw, which activates any cards’ affiliated Standby effects. Next is the Main Phase, where the core part of the game is done. The dueler can play their cards during this segment: Monsters, traps, summons, and activated effects are all fair game. They can deploy monsters both defensively and offensively. If you set cards to attack, this segues into the Battle Phase.
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In Battle Phase, any card in attack position can attack just once. Battles are incredibly straightforward: Compare your card’s Atk to your opponent’s defending card. The bigger number wins in a fight, and the difference is dealt in Life Points. Things can get tricky here; if you attack a monster weaker than your card’s Atk, you destroy that monster and deal LP damage to your opponent. If you you attack a monster with the same Atk, both are destroyed. And if you attack a monster that’s stronger than your own, you lose LP. The inverse is true for defending as well.
If your opponent has no defending monsters, you can attack their LP directly. All players start with 8,000 LP. To win the game, deplete your opponent’s health to zero.
Once the Battle is done, it’s time for Main Phase 2. This lets the player use more cards if things get messy in battle. After that, your turn enters the End Phase. Any End Phase effects are activated during this phase. You’ll also need to discard any additional cards you have if there are more than six in your hand. Then, it’s time for your opponent’s turn, where the process starts all over for them.
During the Main Phase, you can play as many cards as you want from your hand as you can play. Traps need to wait a turn after being set, but so long as the card’s activation condition is met, you can play them. You are allowed one normal summon per turn for playing a monster, but many cards allow themselves to be special summoned. Cards have levels, but in modern Yu-Gi-Oh, that hardly matters. Today’s players rarely tribute summon and instead will use cards to bring out cards, or use cards for their effects in hand.
Summoning from the extra deck has become a core part of Yu-Gi-Oh. Players can Fusion summon by playing a Fusion spell card and meeting the conditions on the Fusion monster. To Syncro summon, grab a “tuner” monster (it will say on the card) and other monsters equal to the level of the monster you want in the extra deck. For XYZ cards, just put two cards or more of the same level on top of each other and then put an XYZ monster with an equal rank on top of it. And to Link, just put any cards together and meet the conditions on the Link monster. Generally, it’s just mashing two to four monsters together.