AfterDoug's video covering the best cards of 2019I started thinking about my own end-of-the-year rundown. But 2019's special– it's the end of a full decade of Yu-Gi-Oh! that began back in 2010 withAbsolute Powerforce. Ten years ago there were no Xyz, Pendulums, or Link Monsters, and the Synchro era still had six more core set releases before Generation Force introduced another Extra Deck monster mechanic. It was a totally different time, and the game has transformed to become faster and more decisive.
Over the last decade we've seen literally thousands of new cards arrive in the TCG. Let's face it: most of them were mediocre, but among the best there's a small selection of era-defining cards that completely rewrote the rules of competitive Yu-Gi-Oh. They're the best cards of the decade, and as we close out 2019 I've listed what I think are the ten best cards of the last ten years.
I set out with two rules in mind when I wrote this list. First, I didn't want to focus exclusively on cards that landed on the Forbidden List less than a year after they were released. Number 16: Shock Ruler and Spellbook of Judgment arguably deserve a place here, but I dropped them in favor of cards that are either still legal, or lasted longer in competition.
Second, I think it's appropriate to focus on cards that were playable across many decks and formats. I could have easily filled this list with the most busted themed cards in the game – again, Spellbook of Judgment comes to mind – but the histories of generic tech cards are so much more interesting and impactful. Just keep that in mind as you're reading. There are too many incredible cards to avoid missing some.
Effect Veiler - 2010
Duelist Revolution represented a fundamental shift in the way we play Yu-Gi-Oh. Solemn Warning and Pot of Duality offered fantastic tools for tempo-oriented strategies like Gravekeepers in 2010, or True Dracos today. Scrap Dragon put serious, targeted destructive power in the hands of Synchro strategies, but ultimately Effect Veiler had the biggest impact over the last ten years.
Veiler's general utility totally outstripped any other hand trap at the time, and the ability to negate monster effects on the field during the first turn of the duel was a total game changer. Effect Veiler reined in the power of Synchro strategies by negating the most dangerous Extra Deck monsters at the time, and it also stopped early game searchers like Lonefire Blossom in their tracks.
Flash forward to now and Effect Veiler's been surpassed by newer hand traps in a lot of ways. But it's still a fantastic tech choice depending on the match-up. Its staying power over nine years is a testament to its design, despite the fact that Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring has so much shared coverage. I don't think we'll ever see a time when Effect Veiler's completely useless, at least not until a strictly better upgrade is released. Ash Blossom's nearly there, but there are plenty of cards that itcan't cover that you still absolutely need to negate. Infinite Impermanenceis an upgrade in some situations, yet Veiler has topped it in popularity on several occasions.
Maxx "C" - 2011
Storms of Ragnarok introduced a World Premiere hand trap designed to punish decks that obsessed over Special Summons. At the time there were still plenty of decks that were loaded with Specials, including the then-new Legendary SixSamurai and Dragunity themes, and the assumption was that Maxx "C" would slow the game by forcing these strategies to play around its effect.
I personally don't think it was successful in accomplishing that goal – or at the very least it hasn't stopped Special Summon-heavy strategies from dominating in the TCG and OCG – but there's no denying that Maxx "C" was absolutely devastating to a majority of competitive decks. At worst Maxx"C" wouldn't keep you from losing the duel that turn, but at best you'd draw a few cards and your opponent would end their turn early.
Stopping your opponent's plays prematurely is the goal of nearly every hand trap, and very few accomplished that as well as Maxx "C" did. There were entire meta games built around avoiding and countering Maxx "C", long beforeCalled by the Grave entered the game. Its incredible utility made it a staple for years until it was finally Forbidden in the TCG last year.
Nibiru, the Primal Being is an attempt to recapture the suppressive effect of Maxx "C" against Special Summon-heavy strategies, but it's nowhere near as ubiquitous as Maxx "C" was. It's easily the best hand trap ever printed, and it absolutely deserves its spot on the Forbidden List.
Soul Charge - 2014
The unmatched generic graveyard recursion of Soul Charge earned it a place on the Forbidden List, but how it managed to survive five years of intense competitive play is a mystery. There were absolutely periods where SoulCharge didn't make sense: Pendulums couldn't leverage graveyard SpecialSummons effectively, and decks like Kozmos weren't loading the graveyard fast enough to play it effectively. It wasn't always amazing.
But while Soul Charge was unrestricted it made decks like Sylvans playable in the first place, and a well-timed activation usually put you far enough ahead in the duel to coast to victory. Soul Charge had so few disadvantages when you were playing first in the duel that its very activation probably caused more than a few players to concede before their turn even began.
Soul Charge helped to put other forms of graveyard recursion into perspective. Monster Reborn finally moved off the Forbidden List last year in response to changes in player perception of card economy. Soul Charge was making massive swings in card advantage that Monster Reborn couldn't replicate under normal conditions. Monster Reborn was a solid extender, butSoul Charge could fashion an entire game-ending board out of a loaded graveyard. The Life Point sacrifice matters more now thanks to new end of match procedures, but that's largely irrelevant now that Soul Charge isForbidden.
Twin Twisters - 2016
Breakers of Shadow was an absolutely insane release, and the cards from that time period could easily take up half the spots on this list. Performapal Pendulum Summoner,Cyber Dragon Infinity, and Solemn Strike were format-defining, and Performage Performapals is still one of the strongest decks of all time.
Performage Plushfire was unbelievably broken, and if I were simply making a list based on the sheer power of cards from the last decade I'd absolutely include it. But Plushfire only lasted in the TCG for four months, while another BOSH debut has had a much longer and more impactful stay: TwinTwisters.
Backrow removal's a careful calculation and playing of odds against floodgates, Counter Traps, interruption, and themed cards that might stop you from playing the duel altogether. Single-target removal was the only way to play those odds, and it was simply a matter of choosing which removal effects to run and how many copies of each card were necessary.
Twin Twisters broke convention by doubling the amount of removal you had access to per card, letting you do the work of four copies of MysticalSpace Typhoon with just two copies of Twin Twisters. It ushered in a new era for combo strategies by answering the growing number of floodgates on the competitive scene, and just the existence of Twin Twisters has helped rein in the power of backrow-heavy strategies by changing the dynamics of backrow removal.
Suddenly those 'wasted' slots on backrow removal became opportunities to play discard outlets, and space-wasting duplicates of Mystical SpaceTyphoon and could be compressed into a pair of Main or Side Deck TwinTwisters.
Fairy Tail - Snow - 2016
You'll notice the lack of Dragon Rulers in this list, and that's partially because I consider Fairy Tail - Snow to be a vastly superior version of anyone Dragon Ruler.
It's an effortless card to play as long as you can fill your graveyard with enough fodder to activate its banish effect, and this decade we saw just how easy it was to dump monsters into the graveyard. Finding seven cards to banish for Snow was incredibly easy, and cards like That Grass LooksGreener provided an almost unfair amount of fuel for its Special Summons.Snow lacked a once-per turn clause, and its trigger effect imitated a still-Limited spell from the early days of Yu-Gi-Oh.
Snow was a complete package that single-handedly allowed dozens of rogue strategies to punch above their weight class, but shockingly it's still unrestricted in the OCG.
Pot of Desires - 2016
I tried my best to avoid recency bias while writing this list, but it's hard to avoid the inevitable power creep that's slowly raising the standard for new cards. I think 2016 debuted some of the best tech cards this decade, and Twin Twisters, Fairy Tail - Snow, and Pot of Desires sit at the top of the list.
Desires delivered a generic draw spell with simple activation conditions and a true +1 in card economy. That was, and still is a big deal for combo strategies that could afford to blindly banish ten cards off the top of the deck. Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring's release made it a bit harder to justify, but Desires still delivers the same trade-off in 2019 that it did in 2020. We've seen decks leverage the banish effect to fuel cards like Gren Maju Da Eiza and Eater of Millions, and Desires still sees occasional play despite the huge number of Limited one-offs played in today's top decks.
Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring - 2017
Mystical Space Typhoon was once the most-played tech card in Yu-Gi-Oh, butAsh Blossom & Joyous Spring largely dethroned it.
Honestly, Ash Blossom is probably too strong: its coverage makes other handtraps, and even other negation effects irrelevant. Why play cards likeMirror of Oaths when Ash Blossom has even better coverage and can be activated unconditionally from your hand?
It's hard to imagine how Konami will manage to top Ash Blossom's absurd utility, and I wouldn't be surprised if their solution is to limit it in some way before introducing even more ghost girls, or hand traps in general. So far Fantastical Dragon Phantazmay has been incredibly successful in carving out its own niche, and Nibiru is obviously a great card in its particular lane.
Dragonic Diagram - 2017
True Dracos had a successful run in 2017 competing against Zoodiacs, andMaster Peace, the True Dracoslaying King would eventually become one of the most feared cards in the game. Master Peace would be a totally reasonable pick for this list, but Dragonic Diagram's staying power and relevance outside of the True Draco deck is a convincing reason to discuss itinstead.
Diagram's strength comes from its ability to destroy your own cards in the hand and on the field. There are so many cards in the game that activate when they're destroyed by a card effect, but it was incredibly difficult to trigger them if the theme itself didn't offer a way to destroy your own cards. Dragonic Diagram changed all that, and it delivered an impressively powerful addition to Dinosaurs as well as True Dracos and True Kings.
Sky Striker Mobilize - Engage! - 2018
Again, I've tried to avoid themed cards for the most part, but Sky StrikerMobilize - Engage! is impossible to ignore. Engage isn't as absurdly powerful as other themed searchers like Spellbook of Judgment or Dragonic Diagram – at least on an individual level – but in the context of the SkyStriker engine it's easily one of the best cards this decade.
It doesn't have a once-per-turn clause, it replaces itself, and you can recycle it instantly. Sky Strikers have been a consistent force on the competitive scene since their introduction last year, and cards like Engage have been instrumental in the deck's competitive success.
Called by the Grave - 2018
With three hand traps on this list you're probably not surprised to see the single best counter to hand traps also appearing here. Called bythe Grave is a fantastic, fast-acting negation effect that totally rewrote the rules for going first. Its ability to negate cards wherever they activate so long as a copy exists in the graveyard at the time of activation is seriously impressive, and it's an invaluable tech pick for many combo strategies.
Hand traps that aren't designed to be activated by discarding, or simply aren't monsters, have a distinct advantage over alternatives simply because they can't be negated by Called by the Grave. Its reputation was earned through countless OTKs that were only made possible thanks to Called by theGrave's negation effect.
I think it's still a bit early to try to gauge the impact of cards from2019, but ultimately I didn't feel that any of them were musts for this list. A few came close: Nibiru, the Primal Being, Fantastical DragonPhantazmay, and Pot of Extravagance were certainly strong candidates. There are also dozens of themed cards that I avoided: the Dragon Rulers, Zoodiacs, Performapals, Performages, Burning Abyss, Shaddolls, Infernities, Wind-Ups, Inzektors, and so on. Those themes are full of outstanding cards, but it's hard to pinpoint a single one among them that stands out above the theme itself. Dragonic Diagram and Sky Striker Mobilize - Engage! are really the only two that make their own case outside of the strategies they were built for.
Naturally this list is very opinionated, and it reflects my experiences over the last decade of competition. Not every card on this list would earn its spot again if it were released today and if you started playing in the last couple of years you'd almost certainly have a different perspective, but it's just as valid. You'll have an opportunity to write your own list, viewed through the lens of your own personal lens, in 2029.In the meantime, whether you're a newcomer or a veteran from a time beforeSynchros, sound off in the comments with your Top 10 cards of the decade!
Until next time then
Kelly Locke is a West Michigangamer and writer. You can follow him on Twitter for more updates and check out his Youtube channel. He also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.