Over the years, I've noticed that like any card game community, Yu-Gi-Oh players are very fickle about new products. When a new set or promotion's announced, we all rush to find out everything there is to know about it. After all, if you're expected to make a purchase, you'd better make sure it's worth your money. To that end, we'll look for product press releases from Konami, leaks from our friends over in Japan (where products are usually released a few months before they arrive here in the TCG), early box or case openings, and reviews from YouTubers.
In just the last few years, products like Duel Power and the 2019 Gold Sarcophagus Tins excited players and delivered incredible value. We've also had what most people would call duds. Sets like Dimensional Guardians, for instance, released in 2017 to universally lukewarm reception. But why is that?
I personally believe that for a new Yu-Gi-Oh product to be successful, it needs to cater to three key audiences: the competitive, the casual, and the collector. Other factors like pricing, release timing, and pull rates definitely play a part, too. But for now we'll focus on just these three facets because to me, they play the largest role. And since it just released, I'll use Battles of Legend: Armageddon to illustrate my examples.
Competitive Yu-Gi-Oh players are always looking for the next big thing. That could mean an entirely new archetype that turns the game on its head, the newest staple card that could become mandatory in every deck, or an engine of cards that enable a new line of play for existing strategies. For a new product to appeal to the competitive crowd, it's got to have one of those elements.
You've probably heard about the new Numeron engine. It's the talk of the town in Battles of Legend: Armageddon. I won't go into the exact combo here, Hanko did an awesome job covering it last week, but it grants easy access to Number S0: Utopic ZEXAL in nearly any deck, effectively stopping your opponent from making plays during their turn. This deadly combo has already begun warping the online scene, and it's a big selling point of Battles of Legend.
Since competitive players will absolutely need multiple copies of cards like Numeron Calling and Numeron Wall, the set becomes a mandatory object of interest. You can see that in other sets, too. Rise of the Duelist introduces the new anti-meta Dragma strategy. Eternity Code released cards like Girsu, the Orcust Mekk-Knight and Accesscode Talker, and Duel Overload gave us Crystron Halqifibrax. In each of those cases, competitive players were given strong reason to buy a new product.
Not every Yu-Gi-Oh player is frequenting Regional and WCQ tournaments, and not everybody spends hours on hours theorycrafting, playtesting, and optimizing. But that doesn't mean that those duelists aren't important! In fact, casual Yu-Gi-Oh players make up the bulk of the community (and Konami's sales), so they're always going to be a crowd to please. This demographic's not looking for the next best deck, but for their next favorite deck.
For instance, a casual player might really want to play Madolche. It's a solid deck that's easy to pick up, with a punny, dessert-themed aesthetic. Up until now, though, if you wanted to play it, you'd quickly run into the wall that is Madolche Anjelly, which carried a hefty $40 price tag. But thanks to Battles of Legend: Armageddon, the card's received a reprint and is now significantly easier to get. And it doesn't end there.
The set also reprints Invocation, which can definitely be competitive, but can also be fun in loads of non-competitive decks too. Maybe you were interested in the upcoming Melffy theme but didn't have cards like Kalantosa, Mystical Beast of the Forest, Valerifawn, Mystical Beast of the Forest, or Obedience Schooled. Those cards all make the set much more attractive for someone who just wants to be able to build more decks that they couldn't before.
And it's not just Battles of Legend, either. The 2019 Gold Sarcophagus Tins reprinted loads of existing cards like the Danger monsters, while giving rarity upgrades to budget-favorite strategies like Crusadia. Even if you weren't necessarily buying Tins for Nibiru, the Primal Being and Dark Ruler No More, the Gold Sarcophagus Tins were still really attractive.
The third and final group of Yu-Gi-Oh players (perhaps "final" isn't entirely accurate) are the collectors. These are the folks who may not actively play the game, but who love collecting the cards. It might be that they want to get a hold of cards in different rarities, or have access to something previously unattainable like YCS Prize Cards or Lost Art promos.
I remember the years just after the Yu-Gi-Oh ZEXAL anime started airing, when younger players at my local card store were actually becoming self-proclaimed "Number Hunters" - the show's term for people looking for every single Number Xyz monster in the game. It was a really big deal, leading to a lot of trading and making sets like 2013's Number Hunters a huge hit for these players.
Battles of Legend: Armageddon caters to this crowd in a big way. It has reprints of the previously scarce prize card Chaos Emperor, the Dragon of Armageddon, alongside the retrains of dragons like Trishula, Judgment Dragon, Dark Armed Dragon, and Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon, all of which were only printed as Shonen Jump magazine exclusives.
But the biggest headliners are the Astral Glyph version of Number 39: Utopia in Starlight rarity and the special 10,000 Secret Rare copy of Ten Thousand Dragon. Though those two cards are extremely difficult to actually pull, and will understandably carry a hefty price, nobody can deny the allure of opening packs to finally find one. Combine that with the long awaited arrival of the last few Number Xyz monsters that the TCG didn't have, and you've got a set that absolutely any collector will swoon over.
One last note I wanted to hit before closing this out is that not every set is necessarily made for every type of player. Sure, many of the best sets will do a good job of satiating the appetites of all three of the above player-types. But that doesn't mean a release that doesn't do so is a failure, or not worth buying.
At the end of the day, you're the person making the decision to buy or to avoid a set. Your interests and needs aren't always going to match those of the player base at-large. Get informed about what cards are in a new set and figure out for yourself if it's something you want. Good luck, and happy product openings, Duelist!