Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links is a mobile game, first released in January 2017 and later available on the Steam platform. Last October, it celebrated over 100 million downloads!

Duel Links is all about fast gameplay, and if you're looking for an alternative to the real life Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, Duel Links may be the game for you. But with so much depth and different types of goals and gameplay, knowing where to start can be difficult. Today we're going to cover the things you'll need to know so you can dive right in.

How To Play

Duel Links has a lot of similarities to the in-person real-cardboard Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, with a few key differences.

Aside from those differences, gameplay is exactly the same as the regular card game! The card pool is different, as there are a number of cards missing from established themes, likely for game balance reasons. But it's Yu-Gi-Oh all the same. The hook is a big part of what's made it so popular with fans: you get to play as your favorite characters.

Legendary Duelists

Legendary Duelists are the characters from the Yu-Gi-Oh! animated series, manga, and movies that you probably know and love… plus a few you may not have heard of before.

*Stares at Scud*

These are the characters you play as when you face off against Standard Duelists, other Legendary Duelists, and when you compete in PVP. Legendary Duelists aren't just a cosmetic feature; they're tied to your progression through Duel Links. As you play against other characters, you gain EXP, items, and cards. When you gain enough EXP your Legendary Duelist levels up, unlocking other rewards along the way.

Legendary Duelists also determine which Skills you have access to when you're constructing your Deck, so developing the right ones can be really important.

Skills

Skills are a unique aspect of gameplay for Duel Links, something which was then emulated in the TCG's Speed Duel format. A Skill is an ability you can choose during deck construction that can impact or change gameplay during a Duel. You can only have one Skill at a time for a given deck; for example you can't use Kaiba's Peak Performance and Beatdown Skills in the same Duel. You have to pick which one you want to bring with you before the Duel begins.

There are Skills that are common and shared among many Legendary Duelists, and there are Skills that are unique to select characters. One of the most popular examples of a Legendary Duelist-exclusive Skill is Destiny Draw, which only Yami Yugi can use. After you've taken a sufficient amount of damage, the Destiny Draw Skill allows you to replace your normal draw with any card of your choice from what's left in your deck.

Other Skills can apply automatically if the correct conditions are met. The Skill Grit is one example, available to several Legendary Duelists. If Grit's active, then once per Duel, if you started the turn with you starting Life Point total or more, then your Life Points will be set to 1 if your Life Points would be reduced to 0.

There are several ways to acquire new Skills:

So with your deck and an appropriate Skill, you can now play Duel Links! So… where to start?

Missions

If you're a first-time player, you'll be given a choice of which Legendary Duelist to start with: Yami Yugi or Seto Kaiba. Pick your favorite and don't worry about missing out on the one you don't choose; you can get the other one later. As you begin, the game will teach you how to navigate the different interfaces, and play against NPC opponents controlled by the AI: Standard Duelists in Duel World, and Legendary Duelists at the Gate. PVP competition against other real players opens up later.

The game will also introduce you to Stage Missions. Each Mission has different requirements to complete, like "Summon a certain number monsters," or, "inflict a certain amount of battle damage," or, "activate a Spell Card X number of times in one Duel." Stuff like that. Each Mission you complete gives you items, and if you complete all of the Stage Missions you get 50 Gems, Standard Duelists will fill up Duel World, your Stage goes up by one, and you unlock new Stage Missions to complete (until you've completed the highest stage for that Duel World).

In addition to Stage Missions there are Weekly Missions, Lifetime Missions, and Event Missions. Weekly Missions refresh once a week on Sundays. Complete all of them to get items. Lifetime Missions give you access to a variety of items like Skills, Legendary Duelists that were previously offered from limited-time events, and additional card slots for your Extra Deck. Event Missions are active only while the corresponding event is in progress. There are even some Lifetime Missions that are hidden and only become visible once you complete them!

(As a note, some Legendary Duelists' Unlock Missions only become unlockable after completing the appropriate hidden Lifetime Mission. Imagine my surprise when I completed a Character Unlock mission for Crow Hogan without even trying.)

As you Stage Up, additional Legendary Duelists will become available. Also, once you reach certain Stages, other Duel Worlds like The Dark Side of Dimensions, GX, 5D's and ZEXAL will open up, unlocking even more Legendary Duelists.

The Gate

One of the screens in Duel World is home to the Gate. In the "lore" of Duel Links, the Gate's where Duelists enter the game world of Duel Links from the real world.

Any Legendary Duelist that isn't already in Duel World can be challenged at the Gate at the cost of keys. All Legendary Duelists require a certain numbe of generic Gate Keys, and a number of Gate Keys that match whatever color that Legendary Duelist requires. As an example, Seto Kaiba requires white keys.

The Gate's also where you can Duel against Legendary Duelists specific to an in-progress event. Usually you'll need event-specific items in order to play against the Legendary Duelist for that event.

Acquiring Cards

Adding to your in-game card collection is the ultimate driver of everything that happens in Duel Links. There are numerous places to get cards.

The Shop: This is where most new cards are purchased from. New booster sets are offered regularly as either Main Boxes or Mini Boxes and cost either Gems or real money to purchase. Structure Decks can also appear in the Shop, and they can also cost Gems or real money.

The Trader: This is literally a dude who loiters outside of the Shop and looks to give you cards in exchange for Gold, Stones and Jewels. (I'm getting some IRL vibes here…)

Cards offered by The Trader aren't available anywhere else in the game. Those cards rotate every 8 hours, but older cards are available all the time. You can also cash in 100 Skill Chips for a random Skill, and if you're ever in need of keys of a specific color, the Trader can take generic Gate Keys and give you a smaller number of colored Gate Keys in return.

Occasionally, The Trader will allow you the possibility to upgrade cards from other places. You can't obtain those cards directly from The Trader, but you can make certain cards glossy or prismatic at the cost of Gold, Jewels and Gems.

Events: Time-limited events can offer players the chance to get event-specific cards. They can be offered as random reward drops from the end of a duel, or you can get them from The EX-Trader, which is like The Trader but offers cards from the event along with Boosters or Gold. We'll talk about Boosters in a bit. The EX-Trader can also convert event-exclusive cards to glossy or prismatic at the cost of event items.

Legendary Duelist reward drops: Each Legendary Duelist has a separate list of cards they award in return for Dueling against them at the Gate, or in Duel World. These cards are often only available by playing against that Legendary Duelist. The higher Level Decks will be more difficult to defeat, but offer better rewards. If you challenge a Level 30 or lower Deck, there's less of a chance you'll get the Super Rare (SR) and Ultra Rare (UR) cards exclusive to those characters, since all Legendary Duelists have a common pool of cards they shared that appear in the Level 10, 20 and 30 reward pool.

Challenging a Level 40 Legendary Duelist removes those common cards from the reward pool, leaving only the cards exclusive to them. There are still other rewards in the mix too, like Gold and even Gems, but you'll have the best chance of pulling SRs and URs if you challenge the Level 40 decks.

Level-Up Rewards: Certain cards are only available as Level-up rewards for playing as a certain Legendary Duelist and gaining EXP as them.

Ranked Duels (PVP): As you win Ranked Duels every month, you win tickets that can be redeemed for you choice of a card from a specific list. The cards available from Ranked Duel tickets include cards from many different areas of the game, but also include cards that are only available from Ranked.

Standard Duelist reward drops: Standard Duelists also have a reward pool. You'll get a playset of all of them without really trying, at which point they become a source of Gold and Stones when you convert excess cards in the Card Catalog.

That's a lot of places to get cards! You'll use the Shop more often than the others, but those are all the places where you can get cards. Now to help you get those cards, here are all the items in the game and where to find them.

Items

Gems: Used to buy packs at the Shop. You can find Gems on the Duel World map, by tapping on various spots to uncover areas that might contain 1 to 3 Gems. You'll find them at the Shop, the Gate, the the Duel Studio, and the PVP Arena by clicking on the objects marked in those screen caps.

You'll also collect gems by using the following features:

Keys: Used to challenge Legendary Duelists at The Gate. You'll find them in…

Gold, Jewels, and Stones: Each of these items are used to obtain cards from The Trader. Where to find them?

Duel Orbs: Using Duel Orbs will fill Duel World with Standard Duelists.

Skill Chips: Spend 100 Skill Chips at The Trader to unlock a random PVP-obtainable Skill for your active character.

Boosters (Results Booster, EXP Booster, Extra Life and Extra Card): Each of these items can be used before a Duel starts. When activated…

You'll find Duel Orbs, Skill Chips, and Boosters in event rewards, or at the EX-Trader (Skill Chips and Boosters)

Tips And Tricks

There are plenty of free ways to grind Gems. Leveling up characters, completing Stage Missions, watching Street Replays, checking Duel World for hidden Gems, dueling Legendary Duelists, and playing Ranked Duel PVP are all typical ways to collect Gems. Events can also give them, but don't neglect the rest of the game just to concentrate on whatever event is in progress.

Whenever you Stage Up, Duel World will be refilled with Standard Duelists. Take advantage of the free refresh by Dueling all of the Standard Duelists before claiming the 50 Gem reward. When you claim the 50 Gems, you'll Stage Up and max out on Standard Duelists again. Don't leave free EXP on the table!

Every once in a while, go to the Duel Studio, then into the Card Catalog and convert your extra cards. Cards converted turn into Gold, Jewels, and Stones based on the card's rarity and type.

To that end, don't worry about grinding for Gold, Stones or Jewels. If there are cards at the Trader that you don't have resources for, don't convert cards you don't have extras of just to get those Trader cards. Keep playing normally and eventually you'll have too more Gold, Jewels, and Stones than you'll know what to do with!

When you do convert cards, be aware that as of this writing, the batch card converter will tell you if you're about to convert a glossy or prismatic card, but the converter isn't smart enough to tell you that you have a normal version of the card sitting in a deck somewhere.

If you're about to convert a glossy or prismatic card and you're sure you don't have 3 glossy or prismatic cards already, cancel out of the convert process and review where the problem cards are in your decks. When you find them, remove them from the Decks. Once you've removed the normal cards from all decks in your collection, the batch converter will properly pick out the normal version of those cards and not the glossy and prismatic versions you probably want to keep.

If you feel like you're missing out on popular cards, you can see what's popular among other players on the deck editing screen. Tap on Popular Cards to see what people have been using lately. You can then check the "How to Obtain" button to see what packs, Structure Decks, or Legendary Duelists have those cards.

Also, if you want to see full Decklists from PVP or from PVP Events like the KC Cup, there are viewable Decklists available in Duel World (on any of the 4 screens).

If you need a Skill for a specific Legendary Duelist, take them into PVP or to the Gate to play against Legendary Duelists. If you're going up against a Legendary Duelist, play against the Level 40 one to boost the odds of getting a Skill, a Super Rare card or an Ultra Rare. Also, remember that their Deck doesn't change, so don't be afraid to tech against it with niche cards!

Duel Orbs can accumulate quickly if you're not spending them. Don't be afraid to use them; after all, they're free. The optimal case would be to use Duel Orbs during an event that awards event items for playing against Standard Duelists, giving you more chances at event items.

On the other hand, as of this writing, Standard Duelists and Legendary Duelists have the option of doubling or tripling the rewards by spending double or triple the number of items needed to duel them. That's a real time saver, since you get to roll for more rewards in less time and gain EXP faster. But keep this in mind: if you have a mission that requires you to do X thing Y number of times, that doesn't get multiplied. While the game does give you Duel Orbs and keys like it's nothing, it's to your benefit to use those items as efficiently as possible.

Speaking of using items effectively: save your EXP Boosters for the Vagabond. The EXP Booster increases your earned EXP by 50%, and the Vagabond offers the highest amount of EXP as a free-to-play option. If there's an event coming up offering exclusive cards as random drops, use Results Boosters as needed to pump your odds of getting the event cards. If there's an event that's giving you a hard time, use Extra Life and Extra Card when you have to.

PVP in Duel Links applies a timer to each player. Both players start at 180 seconds, which counts down whenever that player has the chance to take an action. A player gains 20 seconds at the start of their turn. This may seem like a lot of time, especially in a fast-paced game like Duel Links, but the timer can quickly run down if you're too deep in thought or your plays take too long. The UI makes it very obvious when you're about to run out of time, but you have to be mindful of the clock' both in and out of a duel. If your timer hits zero you'll lose the Duel, so be careful!

Duel Links does have a Forbidden and Limited list, but it works differently than in the TCG. In Duel Links, one 1 copy of a card on the 'Limited 1' list can be included in your deck among all cards on the list. That means (as of this writing), if you want to include Koa'ki Meiru Maximus in your deck, you can't include Restructer Revolution since both cards are Limited 1. The same applies for Limited 2. So, for example, you can run 2 copies of Cyber Angel Dakini OR 2 copies of Enemy Controller OR 1 copy of each.

And that's about it! If you're a fan of Yu-Gi-Oh, Duel Links is free and immediately available on your mobile device, or on your computer through Steam. Hope to see you there!