I'm an open book when it comes to Yu-Gi-Oh. I'll always give a fair shot to weird strategies and listen to any crazy debate, but at the end of the day I like what I like and I hate what I hate. Master Rule 5, Fableds, online registration for events? Amazing. Heck, I can be on board with support for any theme, even ones that have given me nightmares. I can be convinced to like just about anything… except erratas.

Unless you've played with a card both before and after it was changed, there's a good chance you might never know a card was given errata! Yu-Gi-Oh's been around for two decades, and if a card's ever been reprinted, there's a good chance that its text has changed for one reason or another.

For all the Latin grammar die-hards out there, errata is technically the plural of erratum, but with so many terms like "archetype", "theme", "floater", "engine", and "metagame" being bent and twisted into all sorts of different meanings, Yu-Gi-Oh has enough bastardized language that "erratas" has become the accepted plural in conversation.

So when we talk about a card receiving an errata, or erratas, or whatever, what exactly do we mean? Let's lock that down first before we go anywhere else with this discussion.

A Term With A Made Up Definition

The word "errata" very specifically means "the rectification of printed or written text because the original was created in error." The term has a much wider umbrella now in TCGs. It's generally come to refer to any change to a card that impacts the card's text, or its function in actual gameplay. Erratas are usually presented with a new printing of the affected card, which is the cleanest way to make this type of change, but there's no shortage of examples of cards being changed simply by online decree from a game's producer.

The problem is that card text can be corrected or altered for lots of different reasons, so the definition of "errata" is so broad, it could refer to literally any change for any reason, save maybe the card number denoting the set. That means a lot of different actions, made for lots of different purposes, get labelled with the same term. That's an issue when you want to discuss which of those types of changes are good, which are bad, and which make you want to rip your hair out of your head and throw it on the floor.

If there's a legitimate mistake in a card printing, then there's merit in updating the card with the originally intended text or visuals.

The blanket term is a huge problem. It's too wide of a net, and in my mind it allows for corrections outside of the scope of what should be considered an actual errata. If you want to make a black and white rule, one could argue that forbidding all corrections between printings apart from grammar or syntax is the way to go: "errata" shouldn't really refer to changes that purposefully rebalance a card.

Ultimately, I don't have a problem with the type of errata that hews close to the original, dictionary meaning. If there's a legitimate mistake in a card printing, then there's merit in updating the card with the originally intended text or visuals. If a card's supposed to be a Beast-Warrior type and it was printed as "Best-Warrior" or even "Warrior" by mistake, then sure, reprint the card to make it right. But don't come out ten years later and say, "Beast-Warriors are too good, so let's make this one a Fish." Don't @ me telling me you're happy Sangan is "improved" in 2021 with its lame new effect.

I'll go through what constitutes an errata and let you decide what's a good idea or not.

The Good Erratas - We Made A Boo Boo!

We all make mistakes, some more egregious than others. It's part of life. No matter what field you work in, mistakes are going to happen whereever human error could be a factor. People get tired. People get rushed. Sometimes something seems fine because the full ramifications aren't understood. Hindsight's 20-20 and we can't always see into the future, right?

Take Summoned Skull for example. Fun fact: if you're ever confused on a card's name, look back at the Japanese text for answers. Summoned Skull original name includes the kana "デーモン", translated into English as "daemon," a mostly deprecated way of writing "demon" for us Westerners. In short, a better translation to convey the original meaning is "the summon of a demon." So why use "summoned" and "skull?"

Since he's a bony scary demon, the localization team decided to name this character just by his bony head, "Skull." And "summoned" is the past tense of "the summon of", though I think that downplays the magnitude of the card. It's actually hilarious that the English localization used "summoned" and "skull," which are barely a step up from "Suddenly A Big Bony Boy."

Oh, right, we're talking about erratas. Summoned Skull is listed as an "Archfiend" card because デーモン eventually started being translated as "Archfiend" in the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG. We don't know who localized Summoned Skull in the early days of Yu-Gi-Oh, but there's a very good chance that when the card was first prepped for TCG printing, it was handled by someone localizing the Yu-Gi-Oh animated series, who was less concerned about the TCG. Years later, the TCG localization team probably found themselves at a crossroads - coming at it from the priority of the game, Summoned Skull either had to be changed to include "Archfiend" in its name, or "Skull" was going to have to become the keyword for the theme. Doesn't "Archfiend" sound better than "Skull" if you're naming a bunch of monsters? Or to flip it around, how many off-theme monsters had "Skull" in their name by the point this became an issue?

To make things even more complicated, Summoned Skull was one of Yugi's original boss monsters and it's pretty central to the Duel Monsters brand. It's on tons of merch, it's a big part of many of the video games, and so on. Changing its name would be a nightmare from a branding standpoint. So it has updated text instead to count it as an Archfiend, without changing the name as it's printed at the top of the card. Other cards in similar mechanical situations have seen their actual names changed, since they didn't have the same level of brand recognition and player notoriety. Harpie's Brother being renamed to Sky Scout immediately comes to mind.

Beyond naming conventions, sometimes cards are simply printed wrong. product-hover id="66744" always should have been an Earth monster, but in its second printing from Champion Pack: Game Four, product-hover id="26488". Why? Just an accident. Nothing nefarious there, just an honest mistake.

71632 || 21731

Amazoness Fighter is a good example that even immutable characteristics - like attack points, which are written in the same numbers and location on the card every time a card gets reprinted - are still subject to errors. Amazoness Fighter was always supposed to be 1500 ATK, so the errata with the first reprint removing the 1300 ATK and correcting it to 1500 is fine by me. If there's an error that needs fixing, fix away!

Heck, even modern cards like Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer were printed wrong. The OCG version of the card always allowed you to destroy any cards, not just monsters, but oopsies! The TCG card initially only said "monsters," and that was fixed in 2016 with a good errata.

Additionally, all PSCT - Problem-Solving Card Text - falls under the umbrella of errata. Card text was absolutely wild back in the day with little to no consistency, and even after being mostly streamlined, there have been a bunch of updates. "Banish" used to be "remove from play," and cards with piercing used to take half the card text to explain what exactly that meant.

Any changes that make the original effect clearer with less text is perfectly fine with me! In fact, I welcome that! Save my eyes, save the ink, save the whales! These types of errata may bloat the definition, but I'm on board with these types of non-disruptive, wholly deserved changes.

The Bad Erratas - Punished For Limited Scope

While some mistakes are accidental, some cards are modified not to correct a mistake, but because the impact or perceived impact might present a problem. Sometimes things are done proactively, and other times it takes half a dozen printings before a problem's fixed.

Surprisingly, censorship is technically a type of errata, but not in the traditional sense that Kelly wrote about last week. If a card's name or artwork is changed in between English printings, that seems unfair to me, barring any mistakes. The Normal Monster Trial of Nightmare from The Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon was originally named Trial of Hell in its first printing, but it got the censorship treatment later on to make the name a bit less jarring.

It's not horrible, sure, but it's leaning towards "bad" for me, and it seems like a slippery slope. The initial choice was made to name a card something, and when that's changed it feels like a cop-out to me. It sets a weird precedents. While censorship applied during the localization between the OCG to the TCG isn't technically an errata, the Lost Art Promotions create a weird limbo state somewhere between errata, censorship, and alternate art. I think it's just easier to call them Lost Art Promotional Artwork and keep it out of this category.

But that all leads into the more controversial territory. Altering a card's effect to make it once-per-turn isn't great, and for me it teeters on the edge of being disrespectful to the card. The Yu-Gi-Oh TCG has accepted mechanisms for addressing cards that prove to be problematic: cards become Forbidden, Limited, or Semi-Limited because they're too powerful, right? But Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon is now a hard once-per-turn effect, because it turned out that triggering the effect over and over was too good.

But Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon was Limited before that, and typically Limited cards that are too good become Forbidden if we're following normal conventions. Surprise! The latest "errata" limits the impact the card can potentially have. The original text of Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon before its six erratas was a soft once per turn - meaning every time a Red-Eyes hit the field, the "once per turn" would reset.

Considering it took a seventh printing of the card in Legendary Duelists: Season 1 to get this hard once-per-turn effect, I'm confident this restriction was beyond the original purview of the card. It's incredibly disingenuous to change what a card could do and paves the way for future errata-like changes to card effects.

Cards like Catapult Turtle are more forgivable because they have a soft once per turn effect now, but as soon as Catapult Turtle becomes as spammable as Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon, we might get an update. We're getting to the edge of acceptability.

Lastly for this category is flavor text changes. These erratas are normally done for effective localization or updating misleading info. These changes are rare but permissible, and so I have no substantial qualms with it. Heck, I edit my Twitter bio all the time, so who am I to judge?

The Ugly Erratas - For Playability, Because… Reasons?

My biggest gripe is simple: if the errata changes the card's functionality beyond the scope of fixing an accidentally printed mistake, it's bad. No, it's an ugly decision. I'm against the once-per-turn changes like Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon too, but I get it: those corrections come from an inability to predict how fast the game would get over years and years of global gameplay, and a misunderstanding of how easy it is to abuse multi-use effects.

Virtually every card whose functionality has been changed due to some "errata" - and I cannot stress those passive aggressive quotation marks enough - has been watered down to a point where we can call the card literal trash. Erratas were originally supposed to change errors in printings, not completely rework how a card functions!

Cards like Dark Magician of Chaos, Sinister Serpent, Future Fusion, Crush Card Virus, Dark Strike Fighter, Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier… I'm having very specific nightmares thinking of times I've lost to these cards in their heyday. But thinking about them in 2021? I wouldn't bother putting that trash in my Mokey Mokey deck.

This all begs the question - why rework a card to drastically change its effect? Why not just print similar cards that mimic the more powerful cards in a more balanced way. We've seen this happen frequently and it often results in balanced cards that players are eager to play (and to pony up cash for). Pot of Desires is basically just Pot of Greed with drawbacks. Printing a new card that can generate revenue for the game's stakeholders, while at the same time getting players excited for a new card, totally feels like a win-win.

Making Pot of Desires was obviously a better move than just issuing an errata to Pot of Greed. Either the goal is to modify cards so that the term "Forbidden" is a lost relic of the past; or it's to appease players that want as many named cards as possible to be playable; or it's to push cards back into competition.

When cards are watered down and turned into hollow husks of their former selves, there's just no reason to care about them.

The first idea makes sense on paper but clearly isn't the driving force for this type of errata, because so many cards remain Forbidden to this day. If Konami's trying to eradicate the Forbidden List, why are so many cards still on it? Why wouldn't more cards get this terrible treatment? There's not enough correlation to suggest the Forbidden List will be a thing of the past when so many powerful cards still have their original effect.

To the second point, many cards were Forbidden for years long before modern players picked them up. The target audience for these cards with erratas must be veterans, or people that have a completionist mindset for gameplay. Duelists hellbent on playing Dark Magician of Chaos have a strong affinity for the card because of its history and its original effect. Watering it down isn't going to make those players happy, it actually just does the exact opposite; this is the play group most likely to feel like the card they love has been violated.

The majority of players don't want these types of erratas.

Why? When cards are watered down and turned into hollow husks of their former selves, there's just no reason to care about them. I've never used the phrase "eviscerated legacies" before, but I can't find a more fitting description. Cards that used to dominate tournaments are now so unrecognizable that not even a mother could love them. Sangan should have gracefully ridden off into the sunset, eternally immortalized with its Forbidden status, cemented as an iconic keystone of the game's heritage. We don't need zombified and soulless abominations artificially stuffed back into the game… especially if no one's going to play them anyways.

Thirdly, you'd have to make cards good to get them back in the competitive scene. But we don't see this happen, because most erratas go so far to nerf the original card. Even if players don't want their precious relics modified, there might be a compromise with hard once-per-turn effects applied for balancing reasons, like Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon. But if they wanted me to play Crush Card Virus, why did they errata it to benefit my opponent more than me?

It's literally a waste of cardboard, and a waste of everyone's time.

And it's confusing. Some of the cards I've mentioned have only had one errata for gameplay, but something like Necrovalley? I've never seen a card's functionality change so many times. Did you know you used to be able to play Rekindling when Necrovalley was on the field with Necrovalley fourth errata, since Rekindling doesn't target? When Gravekeepers were popular, it was a wild few years because Necrovalley had a new effect that completely changed what it did with every printing.

I don't think I'm alone in my train of thought here, but I'm always down to hear what you think - unless you're happy about Destiny HERO - Disk Commander new effect. Then we probably can't hang out.

Just remember: beat your opponents before they beat you.