Boss monsters are a signature of Yu-Gi-Oh's anime and manga-inspired gameplay. There's nothing cooler than summoning a huge, high Level monster with huge ATK, complete with a set of powerful effects.
Boss monsters are the capstones to themes, the win conditions of dozens of strategies, and the perfect stylistic flair for anyone seeking to channel their favorite anime character. The original Yu-Gi-Oh series was stacked with boss monsters like Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon and the Egyptian God cards, and I think their presentation in the anime is probably why so many of us have a fascination with boss monsters.
This week we're taking a wide look through all of Yu-Gi-Oh's history to find ten of the best boss monsters ever. It's no easy feat, especially because 'boss monster' isn't a well-defined term.
Can a boss monster exist outside of a theme? Is a one-and-done card like Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier as 'bossy' as a multi-effect card like Light and Darkness Dragon that has real staying power? After spending a lot of time thinking about those questions, I finally landed on a list that includes monsters from all periods of Yu-Gi-Oh to give a sense of how boss monsters have changed over time. We'll check out each monster chronologically and discuss why those cards were so influential upon their release.
Invasion of Chaos debuted some of the strongest cards in the game's history, including the notoriously overpowered Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End and its counterpart Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning. They were among the scariest monsters in the game, and Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End would still be on the Forbidden List today without its errata.
Its new text keeps you from activating any other cards or effects during the same turn that you activate its field and hand-nuking ability. That's a pretty significant step down from its original version, and nobody seems interested in giving it a shot today.
Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning was legal in the TCG for a lot longer than Chaos Emperor Dragon - Envoy of the End, and it returned to the Limited List a few years ago without any new errata. It's now comfortably sitting on the Unlimited List with virtually nobody playing it.
Both of these cards were once among the most powerful in the game, and drawing into either of them with Pot of Greed or Graceful Charity was a big deal. Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning still impressively powerful in Goat Format, although it reached an extra level of absurdity when it returned to the Limited List years later and met up with Honest.
The final three sets of the GX era unleashed three of the game's most powerful strategies: Gladiator Beasts, Lightsworns, and various Dark Armed Dragon-led strategies.
Starting with Gladiator's Assault in 2007, Gladiator Beasts emerged as an incredibly versatile control strategy with a lot of moving parts and an excellent set of Main Deck monsters. The deck's boss monster–Gladiator Beast Heraklinos–was one of the first major boss monsters to feature a negation effect. Gladiator Beast Heraklinos and Gladiator Beast War Chariot gave the Gladiator Beast player a full set of negation tools alongside Solemn Judgment, though Gladiator Beast War Chariot itself wouldn't emerge until The Duelist Genesis.
In today's game it's entirely possible to talk about Lightsworn without ever mentioning [Judgment Dragon. That wasn't the case in 2008 when Light of Destruction introduced one of the most destructive dragons the game has ever seen.
What separates Judgment Dragon from other board-nuking monsters is its lack of restrictions. You can summon as many copies as you like , and you can activate its effect multiple times in a single turn. If your opponent's monsters were spared from destruction once, you could simply activate Judgment Dragon again. And again. And again.
Judgment Dragon was also highly resistant to interruption. Thanks to old rulings on Ignition Effects you could activate Judgment Dragon before your opponent could flip Torrential Tribute or Bottomless Trap Hole. Compulsory Evacuation Device was completely useless against it, and even if you did manage to take out Judgment Dragon you'd probably end up staring down another copy moments later.
Let's fast forward to the end of the 5Ds era: Legendary Six Samurai were the undisputed deck-to-beat thanks to the absurdly broken interactions between the new monsters in Storm of Ragnarok and Gateway of the Six. Gateway of the Sixstill Limited today because it was so extraordinarily powerful back in 2011.
Leading the Samurai charge was Legendary Six Samurai - Shi En, a format-defining card that protected set-ups and complemented Musakani Magatama and Effect Veiler. Interestingly, this deck also launched alongside Maxx "C", but that didn't slow it down at all.
We're skipping ahead again–this time past the entirety of the ZEXAL era and into the ARC-V era of Pendulum monsters. There aren't many Pendulum boss monsters, but one of the best examples of boss monster designs does come from a Pendulum theme.
Apoqliphort Towers isn't terribly threatening today–you can just kick it to the graveyard with a Kaiju–but back in 2014 we didn't have access to Kaijus or Links to instantly send Apoqliphort Towers to the graveyard. Shaddolls and Burning Abyss needed to field a 3500 ATK monster just to destroy it in battle, and often they'd have to do so with Skill Drain on the table. It wouldn't necessarily end the game immediately, but Apoqliphort Towers effectively stopped your opponent from touching your Life Points for the rest of the game.
One of the big tragedies of Extra Deck-based boss monsters is that they're often exploited by strategies other than the themes they were built for.
Cyber Dragon Infinity ended up seeing most of its play in Performage Performapals when it launched in 2016's Breakers of Shadow. It's still a strong boss monster today, although at the time it was just another negation body for one of the game's most powerful decks.
Fun fact: Ultimate Conductor Tyranno tied for the highest ATK of all Dinosaur monsters. At 3500 ATK it's a fantastic example of an aggressive boss monster that does most of its damage in the Battle Phase.
Most of the other monsters on this list have survivability, negation effects, or card removal as their primary focus, and while Ultimate Conductor Tyranno can do those things it's chiefly concerned with clearing out your opponent's field during your Battle Phase. Its Quick Effect turns your opponent's monsters into bowling pins, and Ultimate Conductor Tyranno the ball knocking them down one by one. The fact that it can also be played defensively, and it's so easy to summon, makes it one of the strongest boss monsters in the game.
Ultimate Conductor Tyranno still holds up in competition today, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King went toe-to-toe with full power Zoodiacs and still managed to hold its own. Its Quick Effect wasn't anything new, but its staying power made it extremely challenging to remove it from the field. Most of the time a Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King would be immune to monster and spell effects, so if you weren't playing removal traps you'd need to find a high-ATK monster to destroy it by battle.
Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King 2950 ATK was boosted to 3250 by Dragonic Diagram, so most decks needed to rely on Kaijus to actually counter it. It's Forbidden today for a good reason, and I'm a little afraid to see what might happen if it returned to the game.
Lastly, Thunder Dragon Colossus rounds out my list of boss monsters this week. I think you could fit a lot of other cards in this slot that debuted in the Link era, like Firewall Dragon, Topologic Gumblar Dragon, any number of Borreload Extra Deck cards, or one of dozens of excellent Rank 4s. But to me, Thunder Dragon Colossus represents the boss monster ideal a little better than these other cards, and its effect on the format led to players totally redesigning their line-ups.
The challenge that Thunder Dragon Colossus presented was the same that Thunder King Rai-Oh introduced in 2009: both cards punished players for over-reliance on 'add to hand' effects, which are a staple of modern decks. The very existence of Thunder Dragon Colossus in local metagames caused players to reconsider their search cards and heavily invest in removal whenever they couldn't play around it.
Boss monster design is constantly getting better throughout the years as negation bodies and floodgates are paired with protection effects and easier summoning conditions. I think Main Deck boss monsters have done a good job of catching up with Extra Deck bosses thanks to an increased number of search effects and strong, disruptive Quick Effects. Link 3s and Link 4s represent the bulk of new boss monsters today. They can stand alone, but they're often enablers for further plays.
A new set of boss monsters are coming with Blazing Vortex, including Armed Dragon Thunder LV10. If you're a big fan of boss monsters, high ATK Dragons, and LV monsters, then I'm not sure how you can resist the draw of boosting Armed Dragon Thunder LV10 up to 10,000 ATK. It's those moments where I've summoned something truly scary that I'm reminded why I've stuck with Yu-Gi-Oh for all these years.
Until next time then