Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel has now entered its first year of duels, tournaments and more, and with it comes a lot of things that have happened over the year it's been live.
So, to commemorate such a year, I whipped up a survey and asked a couple of people some questions in relation to the game itself—but first, you might be wondering... What even IS Yu-Gi-Oh! exactly?
Not Your Average Card Game
Yu-Gi-Oh! started off as a manga series written by the late Kazuki Takahashi way back in 1996 and, much to everyone's surprise, WASN'T about the card games.
Instead, it started off as a very messed-up story on how the main man Yugi Mutou would be unknowingly possessed by Dark Yugi and would defeat his opponents in a series of Dark Games (later known as "shadow games") in which the loser would die a gruesome death.
After this didn't exactly take off, Takahashi would make an in-universe card game known simply as "Duel Monsters." It was here where the series would TRULY shine the brightest with the characters Yugi Mutou and Seto Kaiba and the curious yet fun-looking "Duel Monsters" (along many more characters along the way).
With that brief history out of the way. Yu-Gi-Oh! has been around since 1998 and celebrates 25 years of its time around. The card game has been around since 1999 and celebrates 24 years of growing and evolving further, and Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel (which was announced in Gamescon 2021 but was teased in 2020) is a celebration of all these 24 years of the card game itself.
Master Duel has been up for over a year now and has had well over 50 million downloads on all platforms, those being Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, PC and Mobile.
But for this past year, has the game itself changed? Has the game grown? IS the game good for anyone who wants to try Yu-Gi-Oh! out or wants to come back to Yu-Gi-Oh! after years of hiatus?
We asked several players and prominent VTubers/content creators IF the game has changed as well as a couple of questions regarding the game itself. These are the answers to these questions.
Profiling the Participants
The very first question that every player is faced with. Most people play the game for fun and to enjoy the game, but others play the game for keeps, for the glory. Surprisingly enough, our data shows that MOST of the playerbase play Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel for fun while SOME play it in both ways.
Some of the people we talked to have played the game before but went into hiatus for a while due to their circumstances. It's definitely understandable as someone who hasn't played the game in a while.
- "I don’t honestly play the TCG/OCG like at all, I collect the cards and stay up to date with the releases and have decks built, but I only ever use them when playing with friends. The last time I played TCG was probably back when I ran an OTS (official tournament store) store", says UK-based VTuber Mistress Doom.
- "I mainly use Master Duel to play because of its accessibility", says VReverie's resident player Nova Aokami.
- "Honestly, this is actually the first time I have ever played. I remember I used to casually observe people play from time to time both out in the wild and online. I always have been meaning to play but I was always too intimidated to learn. I thought it would be a bit of a hard learning curve since the game has been out for so long and there are so many different rules. I am glad I decided to start though because even though it's fun to watch, it's even more fun to play!", says fellow Puerto Rican and VTuber Ironmouse.
Is the game's format welcoming to newer players?
One of the most important questions. Yu-Gi-Oh! has had a notorious past with its seemingly unwelcoming player base and even more confusing card mechanics—stuff like Synchro, Xyz and Link summoning as well as the ever-confusing Pendulum monsters.
The answers of our participants may surprise you:
- Mistress Doom: "The game can be a bit difficult to learn, it feels like its a bit of an iceberg on how easy to get into it can be, on a surface level all you need to know in order to play is the basic mechanics and combo lines of a deck, which master duel sort of teaches you in solo mode, I’m pretty confident you can learn basic level through those. Overall, I think master duel is okay for new players, but much like any Yu-Gi-Oh format there's a steep learning curve, which isn’t master duel’s fault at all, it’s just how Yu-Gi-Oh be."
- Agüeybana (Master Duel Player): "It is, it gives a brief rundown on how duel mechanics work in the beginning tutorials and helps them understand more complex mechanics of the game through the solo."
- Proma (Master Duel Player): "Sadly I'd have to say it's not very welcoming from the get-go since the game in general, not just in MD (Master Duel), has an issue with feature creep where there's lots of mechanics that have been added over time; and even then, there are also hidden mechanics and rulings that most players have no way of learning unless you research them."
- FlannelArtMaid (Master Duel Player): "Master Duel, I would argue, is both very easy for newer players to pick up and can also be difficult at the same time. Yu-Gi-Oh inherently has some barriers to entry; and as someone who didn’t understand the full duel mechanics past Synchro Summons, I had a bit of trouble understanding it at first. But eventually after playing with some of the new mechanics and looking up things on my own, I eventually got it down. Cards are also mostly more accessible than in the real world, thankfully."
- Ironmouse: "I have to say I was pretty surprised that I was able to jump into playing. I think Master Duel makes things a bit easier and less intimidating for anyone who is new. I am really glad I started. I also had a friend to help hold my hand and better explain things if I needed help, but I was surprised at how well I understood things the more I played."
Having all the information available there laid out has made things a lot easier to get into. I don’t think I'm a good player but I feel like the more I play the better I can play… I definitely want to play with my friends more."
Has the game fixed itself over the past year?
As is with most live service games, they usually start off with some stuff that's missing and a number of bugs among other stuff. Interviewees answered as honestly as they could. Has the game fixed itself? Or does it still need some stuff?
- VtMira (VTuber): "The game's gone through rough patches either way, so it sort of goes up and down before plateauing for a bit. I remember the DAD format."
- Zephyris101 (Master Duel Player): "It just feels like every month, a new deck gets added that destroys the last."
- Mistress Doom: "It is an improvement a lot of the time, but some of those improvements were things like being able to deck edit while in a duel room, a great quality of life feature but should have been an option from the start. It means master duel falls into TCG issues really quickly. Ohhh, and team duels were awful and somehow were just a broken feature added to the game that dropped quality rather than improved."
- Razor (Master Duel player): "They’re doing their best to provide a lot of content and reasonable rewards, but they haven’t address some of the major flaws it had but it’s getting there."
Much like how some weapons or characters can feel tough against the newer players of a game or with certain items that make the game feel unbalanced, Master Duel also faces this issue in its massive card data base.
What makes the player’s gears grind, and what can make new players get off the game entirely?
- RokketSuli (Master Duel Player): "There are certain cards and decks that can be a little bit annoying and can dishearten players both old and new from playing ranked matches. But I do find that there is a diversity in terms of play styles."
- MASKurouka (Content Creator): "There aren't any specific cards that are able to achieve this by itself, but rather if the player has the ability to adapt to the new format, whether they're fresh and new or returning veterans. Though returning players with fundamental knowledge of ygo before would have an easier time adapting (speaking from personal experience)."
- Mistress Doom: "Absolutely, there are tons of cards that new players face that make them rage, just look at the ban list requests we get on a daily basis, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people rage over ash blossom. There's also a lot of boss monsters that aren’t archetype locked, which means they are in most decks and can put off new players. I'm sure new players aren’t keen on say Baronne de Fleur, because omni negate is scary. Most Yu-Gi-Oh players will just tell you to learn to out play those cards though which in itself is off putting to new players."
Does Solo Mode Help?
Master Duel isn't entirely multiplayer, it also comes with its own dedicated Singleplayer mode called "Solo Mode" where players are thrown into the story of several archetypes and who the characters are.
When asked this question, there was definitely a bit of turmoil:
- RokketSuli: "Solo mode is fun, it's a good introduction to newer game mechanics like link and pendulum summoning (among other summoning mechanics) and some of the duels actually pose a bit of a challenge which promotes players learning new strategies and new ways to play."
- Nova Aokami: "The solo mode is such a useful tool! Even I use it when trying out new decks. It's mainly because in solo mode the bots don't play decks that are as intense as the ones you will see in ranked. It's also useful for new players it introduces them to different types of decks as well as the lore they are based on."
- MASKurouka (Content Creator): "Solo mode sucks. It shows new players how the rules work, but doesn't show the player how the game actually runs and doesn't transition well into the current format where decks end the board on 20 synchros with 10 negates, 30 disruptions and 7 handtraps. If anything, Solo mode might as well be Story mode cuz that's what it is."
- Ironmouse: "I have been having fun playing the solo mode after playing the first few matches with a friend. The game is good at explaining things and with each new match, I want to experiment more and more. I have been looking into new decks to try and recently bought some that I am excited to try."
How do players feel about Konami's Micro-transactions in game?
As is with most live service games, micro-transactions are inevitable and Master Duel is no stranger to it. Interviewees answer this question as politely as they could:
- Zephyris101: "I don’t think it’s any different than the actual card game. In fact, I’d probably say it’s CHEAPER, and with how many gems the game gives you, barely feels like it’s necessary."
- Mistress Doom: "It’s definitely a feature! I personally don’t think its that bad, you get a generous amount of gems at the start of the game for free, you get a fair chunk of gems from the events they run, there's battle pass gems, there's daily free gems… you can fully keep a Master Duel account up to date with the latest drops without spending anything.
However… there have been a couple of questionable decisions regarding the micro transactions, there was the whole having to spend gems to buy extra deck slots which is kinda annoying, honestly I’d pay a lot of money for unlimited decks, but if your running a free to play account, that isn’t going to be an issue so you won’t need to buy them.
I know people hate microtransactions and I totally get that but Master duel is very tame on them compared to say duel links which is awful for them and makes it incredibly hard to get into."
- MASKurouka: "One problem I find is that every deck requires a few SR and UR to function. You can't easily get these, and in order to craft new SR/UR you have to get rid of 3 other precious cards just to make the deck function. Other than that, you have to go full gacha. Therefore it is VERY hard to make new decks without scrapping old ones, and it comes with a risk that the new ones might not even be as good."
Do Cards Get Obtained Easily?
When it comes to card games, it can be hard to know what's popular and what's played the most. Our experienced Interviewees dive deep into their years of playing and tell us if the game makes it easy or hard to get cards:
- Agüeybana (Master Duel Player): "A bit of both in my opinion, it is not easy getting some new cards in game, but in my opinion, some shouldn’t Be easy to get if the game involves challenges as a whole, an easy game is a boring game."
- Mistress Doom: "I’d say obtaining cards is pretty easy in Master Duel, most cards you need are in one specific pack, its only stuff like heroes, blue eyes and such that are split across multiple packs which is expensive to build."
- Proma (Master Duel Player): "It depends really. When starting out, your first 3 decks can be made by just playing the game. However later on it gets harder to make a new deck since a lot of the core cards are SR or UR and you gain 200 gems for clearing each solo segment. It definitely makes gems difficult to obtain."
- Nova Aokami: "Building decks as a new player is super easy! The game gives you many gems to start with as well as giving you many staple cards in solo mode. You could easily build a competitive deck at the start with just the gems they give you. Many players will just create new accounts to build decks to test them out before committing to building them on their main account."
How About The User Interface?
The most important part of a game is most certainly the UI (User Interface) as it makes it easy to navigate the game's menus and allows the player to know what's going on.
Players were asked about the UI and if they wanted some changes to it:
- Nova Aokami: "I think for the most part the UI is really beautiful. The only qualm I have are like quality of life things. Like I wish there was an option to have to highlight keywords on a card. Keywords like target, destroy, or graveyard are super important to understand how a card functions."
- Proma: "The UI is quite good I'd say, it's simple it's pleasing to the eye and you know where everything is. Overall nothing really comes to mind on what I would change/add"
- KingKumaVT (VTuber): "Master Duel's UI of the game is alright. It's very clear and concise."
- MASKurouka: "The UI seems pretty fine, clean and standard, nothing seems to be the problem. If anything I find the atmosphere in the duel with bgm and effects very nice and reflect the tensity of the duel, they've done a very good job in that."
Events, the bread and butter of every live service game. The events in Master Duel range from tournaments to restricted deck types or a ban on certain card types. Players had their input on how Master Duel pulls it off entirely:
- RokketSuli: "So I feel like the different events and tournaments that they have brought up since its release have been pretty interesting. It is a good way to learn new Styles and not get too used to just one play style."
- Razor (Master Duel Player): "It’s fine. But the main thing is that it’s just another pointless rotation game mode. There’s no actual challenge other than 'oh well, guess I’m making a meta deck for this event!' Or just go True Draco and call it a day. The events are no different from casual or competitive just sticking what cards to play and already mechanics heavy deck would dominate their respective events with little impact."
- Agüeybana: "I enjoy them but I feel like it doesn’t diversify sometimes, or the events end up being lackluster, it does encourage players to play, but it needs to be more diversified in what the event is. The diversity from these events are only from people who bring/build their own decks to compete in said event, but the added rent decks are so monogamous that it ruins it."
- Mistress Doom: "The events are hit and miss. They do some fun formats like extra deck mechanic limited ones, normal and rare ect, however they often give the strongest decks as the loaner decks for the event so you only really see people playing exactly what you expect which can make events incredibly unfun."
- Ironmouse: "I haven’t participated in many events because I am a new player but I have been loving all the events I have experienced so far. I am excited to see what new things come up the more I play the game. I definitely want to try new strategies and different playstyles the more I get acquainted with the different cards and decks."
Would YOU recommend Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel to new players?
The all-important question: Would our interviewees recommend Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel to new players? Or would they say otherwise due to the game's flaws?
- RokketSuli: "I would recommend Master Duel to both new and returning players as a good way to reintroduce yourself to the game and learn the new mechanics without having to actually invest in buying new cards."
- Mistress Doom: "I’m always introducing new people to master duel as my chosen method of teaching people Yu-Gi-Oh!"
- VtMira: "Yes, I think it's easier and cheaper to test decks out in Master Duel."
- MASKurouka: "I actually would recommend the game to new players. With all that said, there aren't a lot of good footing for new players to step into the game with the current format of master duel."
- KingKumaVT (VTuber): "Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is very hard to recommend as a game for new card players. Considering how wild and crazy games can start. Your early games can be very oppressive."
- Proma: "I can only really recommend it if the person has a friend who is up to date on the game and is willing to help them learn more about it or if they have s group of friends and they can play in"
- FlannelArtMaid (Master Duel Player): "If you’re a casual player I don’t think there’s a better way to make your decks if you can’t get the cards physically, and can lead into playing in more of a TCG or OCG setting. Cards are way more accessible and ultimately it’s not the hardest to make decks all things considered, but with its own banlist and just problems with Yugioh in general it’s hard to not say “Yea it’s a great game, but” whenever I tell someone about it."
- Ironmouse: "I definitely recommend it. I never thought I would get to learn how to play and actually get to play Master Duel. I am really glad that my friend was there to help me get into it. I found it to be pretty exciting and fun and I think new players would have fun getting into the heat of the battle."
A VERY surprising response from the player base.
The Final Verdict
Many of the people we interviewed definitely had a lot of choice words for Master Duel and most of them were giving it insane praise. Some were a bit harsh yet honest on the game and gave it fair and valid criticism.
I have been playing Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel since the beginning and I've seen its fair share of ups and downs. I too have my own words for Master Duel but most of what I can say has been said by the people already.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is a great game in its own right and is definitely a streamable game (as it's been shown by some of our interviewees). It still has its flaws here and there, and the player base continues to point this out whether it's on YouTube, Twitter and other platforms.