Collecting Yu-Gi-Oh these days is all about chase rares, and Konami's spent the last couple years giving us lots of premium rarities for collectors to covet.
Starlight Rares were a huge breakthrough when they debuted in Rising Rampage in the Summer of 2019, adding more value to core boosters. Collector's Rares made for lots of new money pulls in side sets, Ten Thousand Dragon was the biggest card of 2020, and we even saw the return of Ghost Rares with Rage of Ra and Ghosts From the Past.
Konami's effort to reinvigorate chase rares in the last two years means that collectors have more modern cards to pursue; in doing so, they kind of built a new customer base to design for. There was a long time when it felt like Upper Deck and Konami were almost too focused on tournament players, placing a ton of pressure on high-rarity tournament cards to drive the game.
Some of the best tournament cards are still pretty up there, don't get me wrong. But it's nothing compared to the squeeze tournament players used to feel in the days of Dark Armed Dragon and Crush Card Virus, where staple cards could easily cross the $200+ mark. With more people enjoying Yu-Gi-Oh in more ways, collectors have more cards to be excited about, while tournament players don't have to carry the entire weight of the brand.
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That said, chase rarities aren't a new concept: Ghost Rares made their TCG debut back in 2007, in Tactical Evolution. They were a staple of core sets for over eight years, until they were phased out in 2016's Breakers of Shadow.
But Yu-Gi-Oh's original chase rarity is even older! Ultimate Rares first appeared in core boosters in 2005's Soul of the Duelist, offering premium upgrades of the set's regular Rares, Super Rares, and Ultra Rares. That meant there were as many as 25 Ultimate Rares in each set.
Ultimate Rares have gold foil lettering like Ultra Rares, but also feature embossed foil artwork that make them stand out from the holographic foil used for other rarities. Back in the day, it was common for even low end Ultimate Rares to have intricate patterns stamped into the foil, from loops and swirls to radiant lines and bias etchings.
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The Ultimate upgrades of normal Rare cards were dropped in 2007's Tactical Evolution, reducing sets to 14 Ultimate Rares each. Phantom Darkness lowered that number to 10 in 2008, and 2013's Judgment of the Light cut core booster Ultimate Rares down to just five per set. Starting with Turbo Pack: Booster 1 in 2009, Ultimate Rares began appearing in tournament reward packs as well.
In 2015, Ultimate Rares made their last appearance in core sets in Dimension of Chaos. Like Ghost Rares, they disappeared one set later in Breakers of Shadow. Today Ultimate Rares are reserved almost exclusively for tournament reward sets like OTS Tournament Packs.
There are some likely reasons for the slow removal of Ultimate Rares from regular products: Ultimate Rares were often expensive and difficult to produce, and the technology used to design, stamp, and print them seemed to be constantly revised. Sometimes even the same Ultimate Rare from one unlimited edition printing could look different from the same card, if it came from a different unlimited printing (you could see this a lot when sets would be reprinted for a tin release). Ultimate Rares were costly, and perhaps worse, often inconsistent.
Players were frequently bored with Ultimate Rares in the early sets too, where many Ultimates were just upgraded versions of low interest Rares. But once those were eliminated and the Ultimate Rare pool pulled entirely from Super and Ultra Rares, it was suddenly much easier to open the best Ultimates, driving down their value and making them less interesting to collectors. It used to be very common to find weaker Ultimate Rares for less than 50 cents. Even now, with almost 700 Ultimate Rares in the game, you'll find many of them for just three or four bucks.
But on the flip side, plenty of popular Ultimate Rares from the glory days are now some of the most prized, most valuable cards ever found in Yu-Gi-Oh boosters! With a whopping 25 Ultimates in those early sets, finding the one you wanted could be tough, and since many of them came from sets in the era of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, when player interest was slowing, supply was often low. Add to that the rigors of time, and the inevitable nicks, creases, and bends from younger duel fans, and many Ultimates have become truly scarce.
Sixteen years after Soul of the Duelist, what are the most valuable Ultimate Rares in Yu-Gi-Oh today? Let's count 'em down and find out!
Shadow of Infinity was a nightmare for players, offering almost nothing new for the tournament types. What there was for tournament competition was massively undervalued - SOI was maligned at the time for printing its only big playable card, Treeborn Frog, as a meager normal Rare.
Diehard fans of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX were happy to collect the Sacred Beasts, Cyber Barrier Dragon, and Cyber Laser Dragon, but tournament players were largely just pissed off. Everybody bought a Treeborn Frog for a dollar, maybe grabbed a set of Karma Cut, and from there many game stores were just stuck with booster boxes they couldn't sell.
But oh, how times change! While Yu-Gi-Oh! GX was once seen as Duel Monsters for babies, the fandom's matured over time and GX is now widely loved by countless fans. And that's made the Ultimate Rare version of Raviel, Lord of Phantasms (UTR) a big collector's item, kicking us off at Number 20.
With the heyday of core set Ultimate Rares intersecting with Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, no fewer than six of the 20 cards we're looking at today turned out to be Hero monsters. If you read our article on The 10 Most Expensive Elemental Hero Cards in Yu-Gi-Oh you've already seen a few of today's highlights, but for now, the list of hard-hitting Hero Ultimates starts with Elemental HERO Phoenix Enforcer Ultimate Rare (UTR).
The first card on today's list from a tournament reward pack, Tour Guide from the Underworld (UTR) was printed in Astral Pack 6, alongside Ultimate Rares of product-hover id="95439" and product-hover id="95440". While those cards are still recognizable today - and still pretty valuable at roughly $90 and $50 respectively - Tour Guide's the one that's stood the test of time, as both a playable tournament card and a dueling icon. With nine different printings, including a Premium Gold Rare and an alternate art, the Ultimate Rare's by far the most valuable version.
Back on the Heroic side of things, Elemental Hero Rampart Blaster (UTR) slowly become a fan-favorite from Elemental Energy, a set that was LOADED with awesome Ultimates! You'll see some of them further up on today's list, but even the ones that didn't make the cut are absolute bangers.
product-hover id="58714", product-hover id="58712", and product-hover id="58715" all came from here. So did product-hover id="58705", product-hover id="58706", and product-hover id="58704". Even product-hover id="58619" came from EEN; it was just an incredible pool of old school gems.
product-hover id="33224" was a landmark card for a lot of different reasons. It totally blew peoples' minds, not only because it looked amazing, but because of where it fell in Yu-Gi-Oh history.
This card was released in Turbo Pack 1, Konami's first tournament reward pack after they took back the license to distribute the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG in 2009. At the time there was a good deal of concern that Konami might throw everything we knew about Organized Play out the window; the Asian OCG had next to no official tournaments like Regional Qualifiers at the time, let alone the SHONEN JUMP Championship series. And to make matters worse, tournament reward packs in the OCG were basically awful.
But Turbo Pack 1 offered some big reassurance, in large part because of product-hover id="33224". Nobody expected an Ultimate Rare in a tournament reward pack, and soliciting materials for the set made no mention of it. product-hover id="33224" was a bit past its prime as a tournament card, but the sheer shock value of seeing people pull this thing at locals was stunning, and immediately won it a special place in Yu-Gi-Oh history. Today, that legacy lives on: product-hover id="33224" become one of the most sought-after Ultimates in the game.
Speaking of big-ass Dragons with a special place in Yu-Gi-Oh history, Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV8 (UTR) was there at the beginning, when Soul of the Duelist first introduced Ultimate Rares in 2005! It was an instant icon; while Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV8 (UTR) never became a Championship-winning staple, it's long stood as a fan-favorite casual build-around, and people still make Horus Lockdown decks with it today, for fun play in Goat Format.
Another Ultimate Rare from a tournament reward pack, product-hover id="115955" kicked off the OTS Tournament Pack series in OTS1! If you know anything about the Hero deck you don't need me to explain this one: product-hover id="115955" easy to summon, brutal to beat, and armed with a pair of oppressive abilities.
It's still one of the best reasons to play Heroes, banishing cards like a walking Macro Cosmos and harassing your opponent for playing search effects. product-hover id="115955" wildly popular, and flexing with it in actual tournament play is just the best.
Following up from Raviel, Lord of Phantasms (UTR) at Number 20, the Ultimate Rare version of the Sacred Beast update of Yugi's Slifer the Sky Dragon is even hotter, pun intended.
Uria, Lord of Searing Flames (UTR) is easily the most attractive of the three Sacred Beast Ultimates. With full foil artwork and loads of etching and texturing, the image is crystal clear and the colors pop like crazy. This card is no Slifer slacker, coming in at lucky Number 13 in the pantheon of all-time greatest Ultimates.
Continuing the GX love, Chimeratech Overdragon (UTR) the first of four chase cards from the Cyber Dragon family to make today's list. When Cyber Dragons first hit the scene, Chimeratech Overdragon (UTR) saw real tournament play, as competitors looked to OTK with Future Fusion and Overload Fusion - both popular Ultimate Rares in their own right.
All of the Cyber Dragon Fusions were major hits with fans, and remain so to this day; they all have awesome monster design, and they look even better in the full-metal format of Ultimate Rares.
After hitting it out of the park with product-hover id="33224" in 2009's Turbo Pack: Booster 1, Konami couldn't trump their initial effort at a tournament reward Ultimate… at least not until two years later, when they unleashed product-hover id="66731" in Turbo Pack: Booster 6!
Another stunning full-foil Ultimate Rare that left players impressed, it's only become increasingly popular as more players have begun to look back and explore the era of Teleport Dark Armed Dragon. This thing looks AMAZING in person, and it's easy to dream up a future where this is higher up the list. But for now, product-hover id="66731" falls just short of the Top 10, at Number 11.
So what could beat one of the greatest tournament cards of all time…?
Cybernetic Revolution's gone down in history as one of the greatest Yu-Gi-Oh sets ever, largely for saving the rep of the GX era with the ultra-playable Cyber Dragon. But it had some other hits too, including the absolutely stunning Winged Kuriboh LV10 (UTR).
Not only is the monster design here a quirky hit, the actual Ultimate Rare foil tech is perfect. This wasn't a full foil Ultimate: instead, the entire character is foil-free while the background features radiating lines on a gleaming metallic field. It's a beautiful card featuring an iconic version of one of the game's most beloved characters, and that's made it huge with collectors. It's become a truly timeless treasure for anybody lucky enough to own one.
Look, Power of the Duelist was a weird set, and it dropped at a weird moment in Yu-Gi-Oh history. Some of the cheapest Ultimate Rares in the game come from POTD, with players cracking cards like Cyclone Blade (UTR) and Spell Calling (UTR) to loud groans.
This set had some very cool cards, including Chimeratech Overdragon (UTR) which would debut as a hit, plus long term wins like Neo-Spacian Aqua Dolphin (UTR), Destiny HERO - Dasher (UTR), and Elemental HERO Dark Neos (UTR). But the fandom at the time was pretty split: the Neos monsters weren't popular when they debuted, largely for how they were introduced in the anime. At the time, Jaden replacing his beloved Hero monsters with the Neo-Spacians felt like a cash grab, and fans weren't having it.
But flash forward to now, and the Neo-Spacian cards have aged like fine wine, landing Elemental HERO Flare Neos (UTR) at Number 9 to trump everything else in the set. Because Power of the Duelist didn't sell as well, and because the Neo-Spacian cards were chiefly popular with kids, finding this card is even tougher than you might guess. That's made it wildly valuable.
On the topic of tough pulls with weird histories, Security Orb (UTR) ups the weird factor to notches unknown. If you aren't a veteran duelist or a serious collector, you might be wondering why a totally forgettable trap card is worth hundreds of dollars.
The answer is either a manufacturing error, or a conscious decision by someone involved in the print sheet layouts for Gladiator's Assault. Whichever it was, the result is the same: Security Orb (UTR) was massively short printed in its English releases, making it an exceptionally rare card in a set that was already notorious for short printed Secret Rares. GLAS was a bizarre set; a one-time experiment with a whopping 15 different Secrets, and the last set of its era to include 14 Ultimate Rares (Phantom Darkness would follow it, knocking the number of Ultimates down to 10).
At the time nobody really cared - the card wasn't good, after all. But today, Security Orb (UTR) stands as a weird emblem of a strange time, and a true challenge for Ultimate Rare completionists.
And then there's this thing. product-hover id="79457" might just be the single most speculated card in the history of Yu-Gi-Oh. It was Semi-Limited in 2016, Limited in 2017, and finally banned in 2018 here in the global Yu-Gi-Oh TCG, but it's been freely playable for ages in the Asian OCG, and that's kindled one of the biggest ongoing debates in the game, with countless players calling for it to return.
There are strong arguments for why Maxx "C" should never come back, but nobody knows if it's truly locked away forever. It's almost inarguably the strongest hand trap ever, and while the speculative buys started off as low cost gambles, they served to build the prestige and collector value of product-hover id="79457" over the last three and a half years.
All the hype and debate's made product-hover id="79457" the single most expensive Ultimate from a tournament reward pack, placing it hundreds of dollars ahead of product-hover id="33224" and product-hover id="66731". Who knows how much it could cost if it were unbanned?
One of the final Ultimate Rare HERO monsters on the list, Elemental Hero Shining Phoenix Enforcer (UTR) has become the single biggest pull from Enemy of Justice, a set that also gave us Ultimates like Harpie's Pet Baby Dragon (UTR), Destiny Hero - Diamond Dude (UTR), and Banisher of the Radiance (UTR).
You saw Elemental HERO Phoenix Enforcer Ultimate Rare (UTR) on this list back at Number 19, and the Sparkman upgrade is even more popular.
Let's talk history: nobody liked Cyberdark Impact when it first released. A low point for the GX era that felt like a slow-moving train crash played out in real time, CDIP was built around Zane's Cyberdark monsters, a theme that disappointed fans because it wasn't more Cyber Dragons, and also wasn't very good. Cyberdark Impact wasn't straight-up bad, there were some good cards: the problem was that like Shadow of Infinity before it, the most playable cards in the set were printed as cheap non-foils nobody was willing to buy packs for.
Many of the set's best cards were just ahead of their time, too. Cards like Vanity's Fiend, Black Horn of Heaven, Instant Fusion, and Barrier Statue of the Stormwinds all went on to become tournament-defining cards. But since they weren't playable out of the gates in 2006 nobody cared. All Cyberdark Impact had to offer was Chain Strike and Snipe Hunter, two lowly commons that probably would've been printed as Secret Rares today.
But lo and behold, while many cards from the set have aged extremely well, none have aged better than Cyberdark Dragon (UTR). With 15 years of fandom and nostalgia, as well as new support in releases like product-hover id="XXXXX", Cyberdark Dragon (UTR) now viewed as a classic monster with cool design. It's a cult hit fan-favorite for diehard fans of the Hell Kaiser himself.
Look, Vellian Crowler's a weird character even by Yu-Gi-Oh standards. Sort of a weird mashup of Severus Snape, Pegasus, and RuPaul, Crowler's a love-it-or-feel-uncomfortable-about-it kind of character. But for those of us who are fans? We are BIG fans. And there are dozens of us! DOZENS!
Check out Samuel's Episode Deck for the character if you want to relive the weirdness and literally take your opponents to school.
Crowler's original ace, Ancient Gear Golem (UTR), was released at a time when Battle Phase trap cards were actually really common, so it was a solid card if you could get it into play. It got a big boost with the release of Geartown in 2008, and with Ancient Gear Ballista, it's not hard to be an Ancient Gear fan even today.
Again, the rising nostalgia for Yu-Gi-Oh GX is the big factor here, but the card itself is easy to love, and the foil-background-flat-character Ultimate Rare routine really hammers home the fan-favorite status for this thing, driving Ancient Gear Golem (UTR) to Number 4 on the list of all-time greats.
The final Hero card on today's list , Elemental Hero Shining Flare Wingman (UTR) is a stunning card that may be one of the best looking Ultimate Rares of all time. I've waxed poetic on how gorgeous this card looks in person before, but that doesn't make it any less true: the silver accents on the armor and the radiating lines etched in the background look incredible, and combined with the white and silver color scheme of the non-foil elements it's just a beautiful thing to look at.
And oh, that history! The fact that Elemental Hero Shining Flare Wingman (UTR) is Jaden Yuki's ultimate ace monster from his original Hero deck makes it a huge hit with fans, predating the Neo-Spacian monsters and harnessing the second greatest force of nostalgia in GX fandom.
But of course, there's one family of monsters that trumps it.
I said it earlier on, but it's worth repeating: Cyber Dragon saved the Yu-Gi-Oh GX era, pulling it back from the brink of utter disaster. With older fans reacting poorly to the way GX targeted younger demographics, Zane's no-nonsense writing and dark character arc made him a touchstone for older Duel Monster fanatics and new watchers alike.
For tournament players, the original Cyber Dragon was a revolutionary card that everybody was excited for. For fans of cool monster design and the GX anime, there was this thing: a card that was tied to the new cool tournament-winner, but also linked to Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon, armed with all the ridiculous power and scale Yu-Gi-Oh watchers love. (4000 ATK will always be a cool number.)
Sixteen years after the Cybernetic Revolution, Cyber End Dragon (UTR) is the second most sought-after, second most collectible Ultimate Rare in the game. It's an immortal icon of the GX era, and a soft spot in even the heart of even the most hardened tournament duelist.
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The artwork is iconic, the non-foil character pops off the foil background, and the way Cyber End fills the entire art box is gorgeous. And sure, this will always be more of a fan card than a tournament card. But the fact that you could actually play this thing with stuff like Cyber-Stein or Power Bond? Hoooo boy, some of us have some pretty fantastic memories of flashy OTKs.
Finding this card in good condition is a tall order, since it's over a decade and a half old and lots of copies were mishandled right out of the pack. But the pristine copies that do exist are often the crown jewel of any collection they appear in. Cyber End Dragon (UTR) is absolutely awesome.
Finally, the Number 1 all-time greatest, most coveted, most collectible Ultimate Rare of all time? It's no contest.
Cyber Dragon isn't quite as iconic as Blue-Eyes White Dragon or Dark Magician Girl. It's not a big boss monster that wins games all on its own, and it's never been banned or debated for being overpowered. I don't think Cyber Dragon actually leads in any one of the categories we generally use to judge all-time great Yu-Gi-Oh cards.
But Cyber Dragon was something else altogether. Something unique. At a time when the Yu-Gi-Oh fandom was starting to split between a new generation of kids discovering the new TV show, and the grizzled old guard of tournament players, Cyber Dragon (UTR) brought everybody together, at least for the back half of 2005. Kids wanted it because it was cool, and older players wanted it because it was great on the table. Cybernetic Revolution dropped a few months before Yu-Gi-Oh GX debuted in North America - it hit the airwaves in October of 2005 - and that one set helped carry the game through what would become a serious rough patch.
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Even if fans of the show and fans of tournament competition couldn't agree on the future direction of Yu-Gi-Oh, everybody could at least agree that Cyber Dragon was fantastic.
This thing was played in almost every deck, and instead of ending games on its own, it made them faster and more exciting; on some level Cyber Dragon just made every game better. Special Summons weren't easy to come by in 2005, so this card was truly revolutionary. You could attack with it for decent damage and you could pressure your opponent's monsters, sure. But it was so much more: its Light Attribute helped fuel cards like Chaos Sorcerer and Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning, and it was tribute fodder for stuff like Zaborg the Thunder Monarch and a wealth of other cards that weren't playable before it. Cyber Dragon fit right into what competitive players were already doing, and that made it an instant hit.
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At the same time, it came with its own toolbox of impressive support, too! Power Bond was a really fun card you could build a deck around, while Cyber End Dragon and Cyber Twin Dragon featured in a number of Fusion OTK combos that were entertaining, but didn't feel overpowered. Cyber Dragon opened a ton of doors, at a time when it was easy to feel like Yu-Gi-Oh was sort of closing doors on long-time fans.
And leading all the hype was this card, the original CRV Cyber Dragon (UTR)! This was THE card for the holidays in 2005: tournament-goers wanted a playset to flex on their opponents, and kids wanted to be like Zane Truesdale. (Any kid lucky enough to own an Cyber Dragon (UTR) didn't mind flexing on tournament players, either). This card was white hot from the moment it released, and that hype's only grown over the last sixteen years.
And yeah, it helps that this card looks really good. There are better looking Ultimate Rares out there, with cooler foil details and more elaborate monster design, but Cyber Dragon (UTR) is hella clean. Again, whites and silvers look amazing against Ultimate Rare foil. The purple and blue background lends awesome contrast too, and overall the simplicity of the art really works in its favor. Cyber Dragon (UTR) is everything that was good about Yu-Gi-Oh in 2005, summed up in one card. That makes it truly special.
It also makes Cyber Dragon (UTR) Number 1 on this list! And with all the fandom, the history, the table time, and unique hype surrounding it, I don't think anything will steal that spot. It's one of the coolest cards of all time, and it's totally deserving of the title of the Number 1 Ultimate Rare.