In the landscape of Trading card games, few hold the power and the recognition that Yugioh does. Ask anyone what a Pot of Greed does or what a Blue-Eyes White Dragon is and they will respond with a knowing nod. Everyone had a small collection of cards in a tin somewhere in their home. Only for it to be thrown out by their parents when they left for college. Only to later discover the monetary value each of those little slips of carboard are now worth.
Gone are the days of damaging highly valuable cards or losing them to the dreaded laundry machine.
It’s Time to Duel
Better late then never…
The game itself still follows all the standard rules of the TCG. It emulates them perfectly, the interactions are automatic so there is no space for misplay or cheating. It makes learning how to play a deck much easier. You’re guided along and when you misplay, you can tell when and where it all started to fall apart. If you missed a combo or you didn’t interrupt your opponent at the right time… The AI aren’t merciful. If you miss a chance to interrupt their combos, they won’t stop. They are out for blood. Which makes beating them all the more satisfying and rewarding.
The game itself plays amazingly. Each system has been adapted to make it as easy as possible for you to play. On PC you and drag the card directly onto the board in a very intuitive way. On console you simply select the card you want to play and the zone to play it is. Switching between two system is seamless and thanks to the data transfer, playing cross-platform is easy.
Video Games means Visuals
The visual effects are great. You know when you are able to summon from the extra deck as it glows a brilliant golden colour. You know what cards have an effect that can be activated by this same golden glow. Whether they’re cards in your hand, graveyard or extra deck. This little glow has saved me countless times as I very nearly forgot to activate an effect. This has happened too often for me to count when playing the TCG. Having that gentle reminder never feels hand-holding and instead it’s more like a gentle nudge saying: ‘hey, did you forget to activate this card?’.
The animations and effects for this game are beautiful. It’s very clear that the developers want this to be as visual as our inner-child wants it to be. You’ve just spent the last five minutes building up the perfect combo. You’ve scoured your deck for the right card, tributed your monsters and suddenly you slap your Boss card onto the field. A glorious and gaudy animation plays to really show both you and your opponent that this monster is big. And the kid deep down – the one who’s eyes were glued to the screen when Yugi summoned Slifer for the first time – squeals in delight.
These visual are clearly also meant to help spectators understand what is happening. The Chain animation for example helps to understand what effects are activating when they respond to another.It lets you know who is activating first and what is happening after. The number of the chain link animation also gets bigger each time you add another link to the chain making large chainlinks very very hype.
Building your deck
Your digital bulk
Second, to dueling, deck building is incredibly important to Yugioh. In fact, to some players the deck-building is the main allure. So of course the deck-building needs to be just as good as the dueling. No longer will you be needing to search through 10 tins and boxes of old cards however.
Master duel gives you the ability to make 20 individual decks, each with their own field, deck box, and card sleeves you can use in battle. The card database is clean and easy to navigate with filters to make looking for specific cards easy.
Normally if you were to just type a arctype name in you would get most of the cards, as some support isnt actually in that arctypes name. However the developers added a handy Related cards feature. This shows you every card linked to the card you selected, this include non arcetpye specific cards. Making it very easy to build yor deck from scracth with no need to google a cards name.
A deck can also be uploaded and then downloaded by another player. This makes building new deck much easier for new players without having to worry about filling up there 40 cards
The rarity of each card is also very important. The more powerful cards in your deck are going to be Ultra rare. The key components in your deck are going to be Super rare or Rare with the rest being Normal. Compared to the regular TCG these are better in a lot of ways, cards that are Ultra rare in the TCG are just Rare in Master Duel. This re-evaluation of the card rarities make building decks much easier and makes sense within the closed ecosystem of Master Duel. All of the staple handtraps for example are Ultra Rare, cards like effect veiler are budget options in the TCG for cards like Infinite impermanence. So these cards are on the same level within Master Duel, while to do similar things one is clearly better than the other. This does mean that access to the higher tier of gameplay can be held back if you don’t have enough Ultra rare points to craft with.
As said earlier the cards come in various rarities, cards can be crafted using points of that specific rarity. These can be earned through the duel pass or made by deconstructing cards. This system is pretty good compared to the other card crafting systems out there. Any card of a given rarity will give you 10 crafting points when dismantled, to craft a card of any rarity you need 30 of that rarity. This works much better than having a single craft resource like Gwent, which requires 800 scrap to make a single legendary card when you only get 10 for each common card milled. In Master duel, you just need 3 cards of any rarity to craft a card of that same rarity. Very nice
The Card Monetisation
A common system in any free-to play-game is the use of an in-game currency. For Master Duel, it uses gems. These gems can be earned through dueling others, completing daily missions, completing solo missions, or leveling up in the Duel Pass.
It costs 100 gems per pack or 1000 for 10 if you’re a big spender. Opening them certainly scratches that ‘pack-opening’ itch we all have at the back of our heads. The same itch that compels some of us to spending triple digits on flimsy pieces of cardboard. For the sake of my own sanity, I won’t tell you how much I’ve spent on Yugioh…
However once you get past the initial daily log in bonuses, earning enough gems for packs becomes harder and harder. Getting 8 gems for winning a duel is worth around one 10th of a regular pack. I can see earning enough to buy new packs becoming and struggle, thus forcing you to buy them.
Speaking of buying, the prices for the gems can be a bit steep. This wouldn’t matter as much if the number of gems could earn for free was a little higher. Without a change to either the price of gems or the rate of gems you can earn, there may be some stagnation when it comes to building more decks later for players who cannot afford it.
There is are in place to make buying packs feel a bit fairer. Firstly, you know the odds of the cards you want to pull. It’s not hidden away, the odds of any rarity in a set are shown overtly unlike in ceratin games with loot boxes that did all they could to make sure you never knew the chances of getting a ceratin skin for certain holiday events.
If you buy 10 packs for 1000 gems and don’t pull any Ultra rares you are guaranteed to have an ultra-rare in the next set of 10 you buy of that specific pack. Which are another 1000 gems which isn’t ideal but having that there to make sure people don’t feel like they would be wasting gems if they didn’t pull any UR’s. It’s not great but it’s appreciated.
If you don’t want to play against people, there is a welcome option to play against AI. It’s not just a matter of playing against a robot, as a new and exciting feature to the Yugioh game, Solo Mode allows you to play through scenarios that explain the lore of an archetype. Once you beat the story-line you unlock cards for that archetype or sometimes a whole deck of the archetype you just beat. It’s a good way to unlock decks to play which can be further upgraded through deck-building.
An example is the Ruin and Demise chapter, featuring a deck focused around a powerful ritual monster that destroys all cards of the field. You spend the time playing a normal version of this deck. But once you start to progress in the chapter, the opponent suddenly starts using a new ritual spell that lets you send normal monsters from the deck to summon Demise. And the monster they are banishing are insects. Oh, they just banished two insects to summon Doom Dozer! The people involved in making this game really did love the TCG because Demise/Doom OTK is classic TCG meta deck from 2006. Seeing it in this 2022 game is a pleasant surprise.
The Solo mode is great for players to learn how to play the game through tutorials, learn some of the card lore and discover some classic decks. Not to mention it’s ideal for players who might be a bit shy or timid when playing against others. It’s exciting to see what other scenarios are added in the future, giving new players a chance to play older decks and experience more classic decks as well as new ones.
The main attraction, dueling others online. Currently, it can be a bit slow with waiting for responses due to the delay between users. Turns that normally takes 8 minutes now take 18. But that doesn’t stop the game from being very fun.
You have a rank when of bronze 5 when you first start playing, each match you win you rank up from 5 to 1. Once you hit rank 1 you move from Bronze to Silver. As is to be expected the higher up you rank the more “meta” the decks you duel are. The challenge builds up at a nice pace, but you may have to switch decks to get into platinum rank.
Playing online at higher ranks does show some of the issues with the online gameplay. When you have cards that can respond to what your opponent will do the game will pause briefly to ask if you want to do something. This can give away any plans you have. For example, Nibiru is a card that can only be activated after your opponent summons 5 times in a turn, nothing will signal this is in your hand for the first 4 summons. But once you hit 5 you have to chance to respond suddenly, giving away what you have in your hand.
The invitation system to play with your friends is also a bit clunky. If you invite a friend to a duel what you do is open a room, that anyone can join if your friend isn’t quick enough. Currently, there is no way to make a room private or kick someone who joins. That being said, the room system allows for multiple duels to happen within a room, making running tournaments officially or with your friends very easily. This is a really nice feature especially for a world still in lockdown in most places.
What could be improved
In case you couldn’t tell, this game is great. But that doesn’t mean things can’t be improved. Various aspect of this game could be changed to give it a better quality of life, a more active user base in the long run and a better time for players who cannot spend a lot of money.
The number of gems you receive for playing the game could be increased. Making the game’s life span much longer than it would be otherwise. If new cards come out there may not be enough gems for the average player to keep up with the current metagame and be forced to play or leave the game.
While if you don’t pull an UR from a pack of 10 you are guaranteed to open one in your next pack of 10 is good, this could be better. Secret packs only last 24 hours, so if someone doesn’t have enough gems to buy another 10 in that time that offer will leave. It’s urging them to buy more gems so they can use the secret packs. Instead, players could be given 30 UR crafting points either straight away or after that 24 hour period is up. This would keep the packs feeling fair to open and players coming back to get the 10 packs as in this case not pulling a UR technically gives you a guaranteed UR of any card.
When playing online, if you have the chance to respond to the game with a pause to ask you. Making it clear you have something to do and giving your opponent some knowledge you might rather they not have. Instead similar to the TCG in real life it could be better to have an option for a player to say they have a response in some way. Perhaps a button on the side that glows whenever you would have a chance to interrupt your opponent’s last action or to say that you are thinking about doing something. Obviously, this could be easily abused but at the higher levels in Platinum, this should be an option.
Trading in a trading card game
It does feel odd that a game based on a TCG has no trading. The ability to trade with friends would be a nice feature, maybe it costs a small amount of Crafting points to trade a card, so it’s less than the amount it would be to craft the cards. I think this would be a nice feature especially for younger people who wouldn’t be able to afford more packs, and if their friend has a card they want, they could be traded. Some of my fondest memoires with Yugioh involved opening packs with friends and trading the cards we all wanted from each other after. Being able to look at that card in your deck and know your friend pulled it for you always made you feel like they were playing with you even when they aren’t there.
Make it easier to know what you are doing wrong
Being an automatic simulator, Master Duel won’t let you do an action if you cannot do it. But sometimes when I’ve been playing I’ll think I can summon a monster but the game won’t let me. The amount of times I’ve been doing a combo, wanting to summon a specific card but I just can’t. It’s hard to know what the issue is, is the game bugged? Or am I just dumb? Most of the time it’s me being dumb.
Basically, players would appreciate knowing exactly why they can’t do something. Perhaps a little marker, that when you hovered over would give you the very quick bullet points. Cannot be targeted
Another example happened today. I was playing Watts, when Wattpheasant attacks your opponent directly, you target a monster and banish it until the end phase. I activated this effect only to see the game wouldn’t let me target a specific monster. As a result I had to banish one of my own monsters instead. Adding small indicators to remind players what monsters are under what effects would be very handy, rather than scrawling through a 100 word-long equip spell, or scouring through your opponent’s graveyard for an effect that affected their current field. These would be much kinder to newer players, it can be frustrating to make a mistake like this, lose and not understand what was wrong.
The future of master duel
So far, I think – much like Duel Links – Master Duel has a bright future. If sets are added continually and the amount of gems given out it increased slightly I can see this replacing paper yugioh for some and becoming the main way for others to play. I’ll definitely be playing this for the foreseeable future, I look forward to when it’s on mobile as I’ll be able to just play a quick game when I’m on the tram to work or just want to relax after a long day. Highly recommended!