Last week we took a look at the worst parts of Yu-Gi-Oh's evolution over the last two decades: the changes that we all wish didn't happen. Konami's definitely made missteps over the years, but they've also made tremendous strides in improving the game.
This week we're checking out five things that used to be part of Yu-Gi-Oh but aren't anymore, for good reason.
One of the most unusual rules of old school Yu-Gi-Oh was the existence of turn player priority for ignition monster effects. If you're unfamiliar, or if you're a little rusty on your rulings, I'll take a minute to explain what that meant.
In today's Yu-Gi-Oh the right of a player to activate a card in response to an action–for example, the summon of a monster or the activation of another card–is determined by each player 'passing' that right between them, starting with the turn player. If the turn player Normal Summons a monster it's their right to activate a Quick-Play Spell, a trap, or monster's Quick Effect before their opponent can respond with Bottomless Trap Hole, Torrential Tribute, Book of Moon, or another optional effect.
Under the current rules you can't take advantage of this 'right to activate' to play a Normal Spell or take another action, like setting a spell or trap card before your opponent has a chance to respond. Eventually you'll get back to the point where the turn player can take an action again, but only after both players have agreed to move on. Ignition monster effects are currently not included in the pool of fast effects that the turn player can prioritize ahead of their opponents' response, but that wasn't the case before April 2012. In the olden days, the turn player could Normal Summon a monster and activate its Ignition Effect before their opponent could respond with an optional effect of their own.
Ignition priority made certain monsters, like Dark Armed Dragon and Judgment Dragon, significantly more threatening. Bottomless Trap Hole could destroy both monsters, but it was always too late; when either monster was summoned its controller would declare that they were activating their monster's effect first, which meant your Bottomless Trap Hole or Torrential Tribute would have to chain to the effect activation instead of responding to the summon directly.
In today's game both monsters would be destroyed and banished before their controller could activate their effect. The change to fast effect timing added much-needed consistency to Yu-Gi-Oh's confusing rulings, and it was an especially welcome adjustment in an area that regularly tripped up newer players.
When Breakers of Shadow launched in 2016 it signaled the end of high-value Super Rares in Yu-Gi-Oh. Until last year each core set pack was guaranteed to contain at least a Super Rare, which made getting any specific Super Rare easier to find than a regular rare. Base rares were removed in Eternity Code and Super Rares are now the default 'consolation prize' in every pack.
I think that last change is a step backwards–there are arguably too many Super Rares in each set now–but Supers as a one-per-pack guarantee is a fantastic improvement over the old system.
Before 2016 you'd regularly see chase Super Rares reach $20 to $30 each. Key cards for the game's top decks would sometimes carry more value than Ultra and Secret Rares from the same set. Legendary Six Samurai - Kizan famously reached a $40-50 price point in 2011 when Six Samurai were at their peak. Super Rares can still be a little pricey: Twin Twisters was valuable when it launched in Breakers of Shadow, but today's Supers are nowhere near as hard to find as their pre-2016 counterparts.
The original implementation of the Pendulum mechanic was horrifying. The ability to summon five monsters from your Extra Deck was insane, although at first Pendulum strategies looked dead on arrival.
Duelist Alliance Pendulums were a huge investment in resources up front, with the expectation of getting some kind of payoff down the line. That rarely happened in an era where Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon was the best Pendulum in the game, but that changed when Qliphorts arrived. I scored my first invite to the World Championship Qualifier by playing Qliphorts a day after they arrived in the TCG. The reason why Qliphorts succeeded where others failed was obvious: it had a 1-card play for a full Pendulum Scale.
Pendulums really took off when other decks like Performage Performapals embraced the 1-card Pendulum Scale strategy. Performapal Monkeyboard was a 1-card Pendulum Scale that blew up the tournament scene by unleashing one of the game's most powerful strategies. I think a lot of the retooling of the Pendulum mechanic was based on that deck's success in early 2016. Performage Performapals were so dominant that very few other strategies could compete. Pendulums were clearly poised to be insanely powerful from a mechanical perspective, so it was only a matter of time before 1-card Pendulum Scales ruined any shot the mechanic had at being balanced.
Post-Links Pendulums were still incredible. Pendulum Magicians backed by Heavymetalfoes Electrumite were a big deck-to-beat in early 2018. While I think the mechanic could still use some help today, I don't think that we should unlink Pendulums from the Extra Monster Zone. It's a necessary restriction given how easily Pendulum themes can leverage their summoning power towards Link Summons.
The Extra Link mechanic is technically still around, but fortunately very few decks are able to capitalize on it.
For those unfamiliar, the Extra Link allows players to complete a full set of co-linked Link Monsters reaching from one Extra Monster Zone to the other. It's the only situation where one player can control both monsters in the Extra Monster Zones, and as a result it can potentially lock the other player out of their Extra Deck. Unless the Extra Link player's giving their opponent a Link Arrow there's no way to actually summon from the Extra Deck. It's a tremendously powerful built-in floodgate that delivers an insane advantage to high-ceiling combo decks.
Luckily, the Extra Link hasn't really been used since Goukis were the deck to beat for a period in 2018. It's something that I'm hoping doesn't make a return, and maybe a dedicated Extra Link strategy could never be viable given the game's current card pool. Could a deck like 2018's Goukis, without access to Topologic Gumblar Dragon, still win in an era of Nibiru, the Primal Being, Dark Ruler No More, or Forbidden Droplet? Personally I'd rather not find out, and I'd love to see Extra Link removed from the rulebook entirely.
Konami implemented a number of rule changes over the last year to accommodate remote dueling. One of the best changes they made, and one that I hope carries over to in-person play, is the rule that bars other players from touching your cards. Obviously you can't physically touch another player's cards in a remote duel, so the rule change was largely a practical one that helped define other methods of requesting a cut of your opponent's deck. I think most players expect these rules to be retired when in-person play resumes, but honestly, I'm hoping this particular rule sticks around.
Just to be clear: I'm not asking for players to avoid touching my cards because I want to stack my deck. I'll cut or reshuffle a deck any way my opponent asks of me, whether it's time consuming or not. What I'd rather not do is let my opponent grab my deck and shuffle it in whatever way they see fit. I can't tell you how many times I've cringed from watching my opponent roughly handle my cards, or coat my sleeves with their palm sweat. I don't know where my opponent's hands have been, and I'm not about to take the time to interrogate them on their hygiene habits every time they reach from my cards.
Keep your grubby feet off my cards, lady
The pandemic's spotlighted just how dangerous this kind of contact can be. I can at least expect players to handle my trade binder, and that's significantly easier to disinfect if I choose to. I'm also coming into contact with my binder less often, and if I really want to I can conduct a trade without ever letting someone flip through it. There are plenty of opportunities to avoid spreading illness, and this new rule's a fantastic way to keep players safe. I don't see any reason to revert it other than some expectation that cheating will increase, but that's a lot harder to do in person anyway.
Yu-Gi-Oh's evolution over the years has radically transformed it from its pre-2008 experience into the Special Summon-heavy game that it is today. At its core, Yu-Gi-Oh's a more enjoyable game to play with slightly less confusing rulings–at least, if you ignore all the new Extra Deck mechanics. There are so many other great changes that have come to Yu-Gi-Oh in the last decade, like the unlinking of the OCG and TCG banlists and the introduction of new formats via Speed Duels and Battle Packs. Not to mention relatively new reprint powerhouses: the yearly tins.
Yu-Gi-Oh still has a lot of room to grow, and I'm hopeful that it'll have that chance when in-person play starts up again.
Until next time then