Curious about that animated series you used to love which involved crazy characters with even crazier hairstyles? Are you intrigued by Egyptian artifacts and monsters that came out of cards? Or maybe you’ve once been a duelist yourself many years back and are trying to rekindle that fire between you and the cards. Whatever the case, you are here for one thing and one thing only, and that is to learn how to play YuGiOh. Welcome to the amazing world of YuGiOh! Gather round, everybody. It’s time to duel!
How to Play YuGiOh
Before we get into the details of how to play YuGiOh, we’ve prepared a quick overview for you to help you understand this guide as a whole.
How to Play YuGiOh: Duel Preparation
YuGiOh was a beloved manga, anime series, and a real-life trading card game. To play the game, you need to equip yourself with the right things. This, of course, includes getting your hand on some cards.
You’ll need a main deck, extra deck, and a side deck. The last two are often optional but still quite useful. Aside from cards, you will also need a game mat. A game mat has specific zones for you to place your cards. Monsters go in the monster zone, and spell and trap cards go into the spell and trap zone.
When playing in competitions, you will also need card sleeves to protect your cards. These are the essentials for every duelist.
How to Play YuGiOh: The Duel
Now you’ll need to know how the game typically goes. A duel happens between two players and ends with either one or both players ending with zero life points.
Players take turns and each turn is divided into phases. In a turn, you can draw cards, set cards down onto the field, activate spell or trap cards, change a card’s position, or start a battle. After a battle, you must compute damages to determine the state of the game.
Every duelist should really get to know their cards. It is important to know how to read your cards to be able to use them effectively. There are three main types of cards, which are your monster cards, spell cards, and trap cards.
Each type of card can also be further divided into more niche categories. Knowing these things is essential in building your strategy and your deck. When you build a deck, it’s best to build it surrounding a card type.
Get a balanced number of monster cards to spell and trap cards, and make sure your cards can work well together. And, of course, make sure you’re happy with the cards you have, and that you enjoy your duels whether you win or lose.
Now that we’ve given a quick overview, let’s dive into a more comprehensive guide on how to play YuGiOh.
What Is YuGiOh?
A lot of the folks here might know YuGiOh from the hit anime series of our childhood. But it actually started as a manga in 1996. That’s why you see that year printed on every card in the copyright at the bottom right of the card.
The manga follows the story of Yugi Mutou, who plays host to an ancient spirit trapped within the Millennium Puzzle, which he solved. The manga actually contains many games, one of which includes the card game we all love.
In the anime series aired in the 2000s, the card game, Duel Monsters, became the main game of the show. This once fictional card game, of course, turned into a real-life trading card game that you can play.
What Does YuGiOh Mean?
The name comes from the protagonist, Yugi, and the expression “Oh!” But interestingly, the name could also mean “king of games,” which fans of the show know is the title carried by Yugi.
Here’s another fun fact, Yugi, in Japanese, means game. So I guess you can say Yugi was destined to be involved in the world of games, one way or another.
When Did YuGiOh Come Out?
Here’s a quick timeline of the YuGiOh franchise we’ve all come to love. The franchise started in 1996 with the release of the manga in Shonen Jump. An animated series was then released in 1998 with 27 episodes, followed by a movie in 1999.
This adaptation, however, was only released in Japan and not worldwide. A second adaptation was created and aired in Japan from 2000 to 2004, with over 200 episodes. This series had an international release and was aired in North America (and later on to other parts of the world) from 2001 to 2006.
The trading card game was made available in North America by 2002, despite the card game already being launched in Japan since 1999.
What You Will Need to Play YuGiOh?
When starting a new hobby, you’ve got to equip yourself with the right arsenal before heading out to battle. For YuGiOh, you need more than just a couple of cards to get by. Here’s a list of what you need and why you need them.
Cards are the backbone of the game. Every aspiring duelist should invest in a good deck. But what makes up a deck, and how many cards should you have? Well, we’re here to answer those questions.
How Many Cards in a YuGiOh Deck?
In competitive YuGiOh, you will need a main deck, and you will also have the option of carrying an extra deck and an additional side deck. But how many cards should there be in each deck? Well, here’s the breakdown.
A standard YuGiOh deck must have at least 40 cards but not more than 60. There is no number of monster cards, spell cards, or trap cards that you must reach or limit yourself to. The number of cards for each type depends on you and your strategy for building your deck.
What matters is that the total number of cards in the deck is within the specified range. Additionally, you can have more than one copy of the same card, such as the Blue-Eyes White Dragon trio, for example. But there should not be more than three copies of the same card in your Main Deck, Extra Deck, and Side Deck combined.
The Extra Deck can have a maximum number of 15 cards in it. But having an Extra Deck is optional, so the range for this deck is actually zero to 15 cards. Your Extra Deck may contain Xyz Monsters, Synchro Monsters, and Fusion Monsters.
Similar to the Extra Deck, the Side Deck has zero to 15 cards. Side Decks are often there if you wish to swap a few cards after a duel in the same match.
YuGiOh Game Mat
This is where the magic happens! Your game mat is your side of the field. The game mat has different zones where you will be placing specific types of cards. Let’s take a look at each zone.
You will find the Deck Zone on the side of the game mat closest to you, to the right. This will be the home of your Main Deck. Your deck should be placed face-down on this zone so you do not see the cards that you will be drawing.
Spell and Trap Zone
To the left of the Deck Zone, still on the side closest to you, is the Spell and Trap Zone. This zone houses the spell and trap cards you have set either face-up or face-down on the field. There is a maximum of five slots for both spell and trap cards in this zone.
Above the Spell and Trap Zone, you will find the Monster Zone. Similar to the Spell and Trap Zone, this zone can only occupy up to five cards. Monster cards can have two battle positions: vertical and horizontal.
Vertical cards are in attack position, and can only be face-up. Horizontal cards, on the other hand, indicate a card in defense position and can either be face-up or face-down.
The Graveyard Zone is where cards go after being destroyed or discarded. You can find it above the Deck Zone. When disposing of cards to the graveyard, you should stack them face-up and follow the chronological order of destruction.
Opposite to the Graveyard Zone, with the Monster Zone in between, is the Field Zone. This zone houses Field Spell Cards. Each player can have one Field Spell Card on the field at a time. If you want to activate another Field Spell Card, you must first send the current card in the Field Zone to the Graveyard Zone.
Extra Deck Zone
Below the Field Zone, you will find the Extra Deck Zone. From the name alone, you can probably guess what this zone is for. Similar to the Deck Zone, you will be placing your Extra Deck face-down in this zone.
Next, there’s the Pendulum Zone. The Pendulum Zone splits into two smaller zones, one on the left and the other on the right. It used to be in between the Deck Zone and Graveyard Zone on the right, and Field Zone and Extra Zone on the left.
Currently, you can find the Pendulum Zone on the ends of the Spell and Trap Card Zone. This means, if you play a Pendulum Monster on the Pendulum Zone, it will count as one of the five spell or trap cards. This is because a Pendulum Monster in the Pendulum Zone will use its Pendulum Effects instead of its monster effects.
Extra Monster Zone
Only added in recent years, we have the Extra Monster Zone. This zone is where special summons from the Extra Deck go. There are two spaces for the Extra Monster Zone, one for each player since a player can only use one zone at a time.
The zone is found right above the Monster Zone, basically in between both players’ fields.
YuGiOh Card Sleeves
The one thing you should not take lightly when embarking into the trading card game world is card maintenance. Keeping your cards in good condition is vital in YuGiOh, especially since judges are very strict about this in competitions.
Competition rules do not allow for cards with creases or any notable markings on them that might make the card distinguishable from the rest. Also, if you plan to sell your cards, they must be in great condition to get a good price out of them.
The best way to protect your cards is through the use of card sleeves. When using card sleeves, they must all be identical. This is so you won’t be able to tell a face-down card in your deck by its card sleeve alone. Additionally, card sleeves for the Extra Deck must be different than the ones for the Main Deck.
Other Things You Might Need
Now that we’ve covered the essential materials for playing YuGiOh, let’s take a look at some other things that are not necessarily required, but are useful nonetheless.
You might be wondering why you would need a coin to play YuGiOh. Well, it’s not really a necessary piece to the game, but there are cases where it is needed.
Look through the cards you have and see if any of them require you to toss a coin. These cards can usually act out two options, thus needing a coin to determine which action the player will get. If there is, in fact, such a condition in one or more cards in your deck, it’s best to have a coin in hand.
Similar to the coin, some cards require a dice roll for decision-making. If you have such cards in your possession, make sure to carry a standard 6-sided die with you to your matches.
Sometimes, it’s hard to keep track of so many cards. Often some effects last for a few turns. It’s best to have counters that will keep track of the turns passed. You can use any small item as counters as long as they can be placed and fit atop the face-up cards.
Math? Yes! Don’t worry. It’s just simple arithmetic. Since the goal of the game is to deplete your opponent’s life points to zero, you’ll need to do some calculating for every battle won or lost. You can have this calculator on hand for easy computation of life points throughout the game.
This particular type of calculator is pretty neat since both players can input any changes in life points. It can even add or subtract points by a thousand. This way, you’ll be able to regularly check your points and your opponent’s choice.
How to Duel in YuGiOh?
It’s time to duel! But wait. What are you supposed to do in a duel, and how are you going to win one? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ll show you the ropes so you won’t be heading into your first duel completely clueless.
How to Win a Duel in YuGiOh?
A duel starts off with both players at full life points (8000 LP). To win a duel, you must reduce your opponent’s life points to zero or have a card whose special effects indicate a win for the user.
If your opponent can no longer draw a card because there are no more cards in their deck, then that would garner you a win despite the opponent still having life points. A duel can also end in a draw if both players reach zero life points at the same time.
What Are The Phases in a Duel?
A duel begins with each player shuffling their own deck and handing it over to their opponent to shuffle once again and before cutting it. Each player sets up their decks and draws five cards initially and draws one card for each turn after.
The player who goes first will not draw a card for their first turn. For every turn, there are six phases:
- Draw Phase
- Standby Phase
- Main Phase 1
- Battle Phase
- Main Phase 2
- End Phase
The Draw Phase and Standby Phase have minimal activity in them. For the Draw Phase, the player will simply draw a card from the top of their deck or activate trap cards or quick-play spell cards. The Standby Phase, on the other hand, is where card effects are resolved. You may also activate trap cards or use quick-play spell cards during this phase.
Main Phase 1
This is where you start to lay out your strategy with the cards in your hand and on the field. You have a few options with what to do in this phase during your turn. You can set a card face-down on the field, whether it’s a monster card or a spell or trap card. Or, you may also summon a monster card during this phase.
But you should note that only one monster card can be summoned or set face-down on the field per turn. If you already have cards on the field, you may opt to flip summon them or change their positions (from attack to defense or vice versa).
However, if you’ve played the monster during this turn or have already changed its position once in that turn, you can no longer change its position. Lastly, you can choose to activate a card’s effect as many times as you can during Main Phase 1.
The Battle Phase is where the action happens. In this phase, you can cause serious damage to your opponent’s life points. For every face-up monster in attack mode that you have on your field, you are entitled to one attack only.
However, it is at your discretion whether you would choose to attack with all your monsters, just one, or none at all. When attacking, you have to announce which monster you will be attacking with and which monster on your opponent’s field you will be targeting.
If your opponent does not have any monsters on the field, you can choose to attack your opponent, causing direct damage to their life points. After every attack, players must calculate the damage done to determine the result of the battle. After this, the player whose turn it is may choose to battle again with a different monster.
The exception to the one attack per monster rule comes in the form of a Replay. Basically, some cards, when attacked, have effects that allow them to play a new monster to the field. In this case, the player may attack the opponent’s new monster with the same attacking monster.
A Replay can only happen if the player has already announced the attacking monster and target and if the damage has not yet been computed. If there are no more attacks and damage is already calculated, the player whose turn it is must declare to their opponent that the Battle Phase has ended.
Main Phase 2
In Main Phase 2, the actions you are allowed are similar to Main Phase 1. However, there are some restrictions on the use of these actions. For example, if you’ve already changed the position of the card in Main Phase 1, you can no longer do so in Main Phase 2.
Additionally, a monster that has attacked during the Battle Phase cannot be placed in defense mode in Main Phase 2. Lastly, if you have ‘normal summoned’ a monster in Main Phase 1, you can no longer do so in Main Phase 2 since ‘normal summons’ can only be done once per turn.
In the last phase of your turn, you must only have six cards in your hand. If you have more than six, discard the extra cards to the graveyard. It is also in this phase where you resolve card effects that activate during this phase. Once you resolve these effects, you must declare the end of your turn.
What Are YuGiOh Cards?
YuGiOh cards are the heart and soul of the game. There are tons of cards in existence, and it’s hard to keep track of how many unique cards are really out there. But what’s important for beginners is knowing how to read their card, what types of cards are there, and how to build a deck.
How to Read Your Card?
Before you start playing, you have to know how to read your cards. Without knowing your card’s special attributes or attack and defense points, you won’t be able to fully utilize them to your advantage and create a good strategy. So it’s really important to know your cards.
How to Read Monster Cards?
Aside from the card’s name, there are a few features of a monster card that you should take note of. One of the first things you should look at is the monster’s level. These are found below the card name, to the right, and will look like golden stars in a red-orange sphere.
The level indicates how powerful a monster card is and can range from zero to 12 stars. Now, this should be one of the first things to note when you draw a card since the level affects the summon condition.
If a card has one to four stars, you will be able to summon it to the field normally. A card with five to six stars, on the other hand, requires you to sacrifice one card on the field to summon it. Level seven and above cards would need two sacrifices to summon.
You should note, though, that some cards have certain conditions you need to meet before you can summon them. How do you know if your card has special summoning conditions? Well, check the card description.
You will find the card description right below the card art. It’ll be a box filled with text that will show you the card effects along with special conditions and attributes of the card. When purchasing or acquiring a card, it’s best to read their individual descriptions so you’ll know what to do with the card once drawn.
I mean, It wouldn’t be ideal to draw a card mid-duel and spend some time reading the description. Familiarize yourself with these as to best create a strategy.
Attack and Defense Points
One of the crucial features of a monster card is the attack and defense points. You can find this at the bottom right of the card as ATK and DEF. In YuGiOh, you can either place a monster in attack or defense position upon summoning.
So take a look at the card’s attack and defense points before deciding what position to place them in.
Card Attributes and Types
Finally, we have the card attribute and the card type. The card attribute is found to the right of the card name and will look like a Japanese character in a circle with the English translation above.
There are seven official attributes: Dark, Divine, Earth, Fire, Light, Water, and Wind. The card type, on the other hand, is found in the text box above the card description. It is important to note down the attribute and type of the card since there are certain cards that support other cards with the same attribute or type.
For example, the trap card “Magician’s Circle” uses Spellcaster types in executing its effects.
How to Read Spell and Trap Cards?
Unlike monster cards, where one would find level stars, you will see the words SPELL CARD or TRAP CARD instead. And instead of attributes, the cards will have either a Japanese symbol for spell or trap written inside the circle.
Spell and trap cards will also have card descriptions that explain the effects and use of the spell or trap card. They’re pretty similar to monster cards. But perhaps one of the most crucial things you should note when it comes to spell and trap cards are the icons found to the right of the words SPELL CARD or TRAP CARD.
These icons indicate the type of spell or trap card present. There are six official types, excluding normal:
- Continuous (infinity symbol)
- Counter (arrow)
- Equip (cross)
- Field (four-point star)
- Quick-Play (lightning bolt)
- Ritual (torch)
Types of YuGiOh Cards
There are three main types of YuGiOh cards: monster cards, spell cards and trap cards. We’ll give a quick overview of each to give you an idea of what you have in store for you.
Monster cards are what you mainly fight with. As previously mentioned, monster cards battle each other during the Battle Phase of a duel, and you use monster cards to decrease your opponent’s life points.
Now, there are tons of ways to categorize monster cards, and discussing all of them could be overwhelming for beginners. So here are the eight general categories for monster cards.
- Normal Monsters
You can normally identify Normal Monsters by their yellow background. If you look at the description of a card, you would usually see their card effects. But since Normal Monsters do not possess card effects, you will just see a short text regarding the monster’s lore. A notable Normal Monster card is one of Yugi’s favorites, the Dark Magician.
- Effect Monsters
If Normal Monsters are distinguishable by their yellow background, Effect Monsters adorn an orange border. To be categorized as an Effect Monster, the card must have at least one effect or condition mentioned in the description.
There are four types of effects a monster can have: Continuous, Ignition, Trigger, and Quick. Dark Magician Girl is an Effect Monster since it has an effect that lets it gain attack points if Dark Magician or Magician of Black Chaos is in the graveyard.
- Ritual Monsters
Colored blue, Ritual Monsters require special summoning with the use of a Ritual Spell Card. This is the only way to summon them since Normal or Tribute Summons will not do. A notable example of a Ritual Monster is the Magician of Black Chaos, which needs Black Magic Ritual to summon it.
- Fusion Monsters
Distinguished by a violet frame, Fusion Monsters are some of the cards that one can have in their Extra Deck. Fusion Monsters can only be played on the field from the Extra Deck through special summoning.
One of the most famous ways you can summon a Fusion Monster is through Polymerization. An iconic use of this card is through the summoning of the Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon from Kaiba’s three Blue-Eyes White Dragon cards.
- Synchro Monsters
These monster cards have a white card frame and belong in the Extra Deck. Stardust Dragon is an example of a Synchro Monster and requires special summoning.
- Xyz Monster
Another Extra Deck card is the Xyz Monster, which is colored black. To summon an Xyz Monster, you need at least two monsters that are at the same level as the Xyz Materials and same rank as the Xyz Monster. Number 70: Malevolent Sin is an Xyz Monster.
- Pendulum Monsters
Next, we have the Pendulum Monster which will look like a Normal Monster card, except the lower half is green. If you recall the Pendulum Zone on the game mat, the Pendulum Monster, when not played on the Monster Zone, can be used as a spell card and placed in the Pendulum Zone.
The Pendulum Monster will use the effect of the zone it is in. For example, if used in the Pendulum Zone, monster card effects of that Pendulum Monster cannot be used. Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon is an example of a Pendulum Monster.
- Link Monsters
The Link Monster has a dark blue border with a hexagon pattern on it, and you can also find it in the Extra Deck. Link Monsters will have arrows on them pointing toward certain monsters. Usually, their effects allow them to gain from the monsters they point to.
Called Magic Cards in the anime, these cards are often used to aid a monster card or to enhance the conditions of the field for the player’s advantage.
There are five types of spell cards: Continuous, Equip, Field, Quick-Play, and Ritual. In How to Read Spell and Trap Cards, we’ve tackled the icons that represent these cards. But let’s now take a look at their use.
Continuous Spell Cards
Once activated, the card will stay on the field unless destroyed. This means that unless destroyed or moved to the graveyard, a Continuous Spell Card will be in effect no matter how many turns have passed.
Equip Spell Cards
The equip spell cards will remain on the field until the monster it is equipped to is destroyed or if the monster is no longer face-up.
Field Spell Cards
From the name itself, these cards can affect the state of either the entire field or the controller’s side of the field. Field Spell Cards belong in the Field Zone, and a player can only use one Field Spell Card at a time.
Quick-Play Spell Cards
A player can activate these cards from their hand during their turn. If these cards are face-down, they can be activated in either player’s turn but not in the same turn that it was set.
Ritual Spell Cards
Lastly, we have the Ritual Spell Cards, which we mentioned in the Ritual Monster portion above. The Ritual Spell Cards are used to ritual summon a Ritual Monster.
Unlike Spell Cards, you cannot use a Trap Card in the same turn that you’ve set it. There are two types of trap cards: Continuous and Counter. Here’s how each one works.
Continuous Trap Cards
Similar to a Continuous Spell Card, a Continuous Trap Card also remains on the field for more than one turn. It can stay in effect for as long as it can as long as it is on the field and not destroyed or in the graveyard.
Counter Trap Cards
A player usually activates these cards to negate or counter the activation or summoning of other cards. These cards will come in useful, especially if you can predict what your opponent may do in their next turn or two.
How to Build a YuGiOh Deck?
So now you know the types of cards out there. But you also need to know how to build a deck. You can’t simply get a bunch of random cards, make sure they’re in the 40-60 range, and play them.
To be the King of Games, you need to strategize. And true champions know that strategy begins all the way from preparation. Having a good foundation (aka a good deck) can really help you start the game on the right foot and increase your chances for a win.
So buckle up and get ready to build your own deck. Now, you should note, though, that this guide will help you build a deck if you’re a beginner. So it’ll only cover the basics. Building a competitive deck is another story. But let’s focus on the basics, shall we?
What is the Best YuGiOh Deck?
The first thing about building a deck is knowing what type of deck you want. So, what is the best YuGiOh deck? Well, there’s no definitive answer to that.
With certain deck types, come certain gameplays and strategies, and some might favor your style of playing more than others. But how would you know what your style is if you’re still a beginner? Well, it’s hard to pick a competitive deck if you’re just starting out.
Plus, there are so many deck types that it would be too overwhelming to discuss the pros and cons of each one. So, where does that leave us?
For beginners, the safest route to go when choosing a deck type is basing off archetype. The thing about having several cards of the same archetype is that some effects and spells target and benefit cards of the same archetype.
Thus, it’ll be easier to build a strategy around these cards. For example, Dark Magician Girl’s card effect lets it gain attack points if Dark Magician or Magician of Black Chaos, both of which share the same archetype with Dark Magician Girl, are found in the graveyard.
Browse through the different archetypes (there are tons!) and choose the one most appealing to you. Yes, it requires some research. But it’s best to be prepared about these types of things.
How Many Monster Cards Should Be in a YuGiOh Deck?
Another thing to consider when building a deck is the ratio of monster cards to spell cards to trap cards. While you could have a deck consisting only of monster cards, that wouldn’t be the best strategy. So, what is the ideal ratio?
Well, according to Konami, you should have about 20 monster cards in your deck and 20 spell and trap cards combined. Now, since the range for deck size in competitions is 40-60, you can have more than the suggested number.
If so, the ideal ratio would have you have the number of monster cards equal to the total number of spell and trap cards combined. But, of course, this is what is only recommended, and you can choose to deviate from this depending on your gameplay.
How to Buy YuGiOh Cards?
Now that you have chosen what deck to build and have an idea of how many cards to have in each type, you need to know how to buy these cards.
Based on the deck type chosen, you should list down the cards belonging to this type and also cards that may be useful to you. Once you’ve somewhat narrowed it down, you can start to pick out the cards until you’ve reached your desired number.
Now that you have a list, you will now know what cards to look for. You can buy cards online or check out stores or tournaments to get these cards. For a more comprehensive guide to buying YuGiOh cards, check out the article we made about that.
Final Word on How To Play YuGiOh Cards
The world of YuGiOh has, of course, grown and expanded since its first release back in the early 2000s. Some things have changed. Some things were added. And while it might not be the exact same card game you watched on-screen, the essence of the game still remains.
Try not to get too overwhelmed by the number of cards there are or the types of decks or strategies you think you need to learn. Remember, everyone begins somewhere. Even Joey Wheeler, the rookie underdog, had a bumpy start.
But with a lot of practice and learning from his defeats, he was able to grow as a duelist and even became one of the best. And you can too. Cheesy as it may sound, you really got to believe in the heart of the cards. And no, that doesn’t mean drawing and setting a card without looking.
It just means you need to have a real interest in the game and in the cards to really learn and advance. Just take it one turn at a time.