As someone who has played a lot of modern Yu-Gi-Oh, I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed taking a break from it and playing some classic old-school Yu-Gi-Oh.
Getting a few friends together, building some old-school decks, and duking them out in our own battle city tournaments. It’s surprisingly fun.
And if you’re interested in bringing some old-school styles in Yu-Gi-Oh (or if you just love the anime), then there’s nobody better to take inspiration from than the King of Games himself: Yugi Muto.
And for this list we’ll be digging into some of the better cards that Yugi’s ever played, from stuff featured in the very first episode, all the way up to the final duel.
20. 4-Starred Ladybug of Doom
Level 4 monsters are one of the most common types in Yu-Gi-Oh!
I’m not quite sure why level 4 became the standard for most monsters that don’t require a tribute summon, but here we are.
And being able to get rid of level 4 monsters all at once can give you a serious advantage in a duel.
Granted this card isn’t played much, but here’s what it does:
When 4-Starred Ladybug of Doom is flipped face up, you can destroy all level 4 monsters your opponent controls. Easy to see why Yugi would have run this back in the day.
19. Diffusion Wave-Motion
This is a spell card designed to make the Dark Magician more powerful.
And it’s certainly one of the better Dark Magician support cards, so again, I see why Yugi ran it.
By paying 1000 life points, you can have your level 7 or higher Spellcaster (A.K.A the Dark Magician, who are we kidding here Konami?) attack all monsters your opponent controls, once each.
While your other monsters can’t attack the turn you activate this card, multiple attacks from one strong monster is definitely worth the cost!
And on top of that, the effects of monsters that are destroyed by your spellcaster can’t activate and are negated – this means monsters that search when they’re destroyed (i.e. Sangan, Witch of the Black Forest) become completely useless.
Kuriboh has a special place in the heart of anyone who grew up with original series.
Because Kuriboh was one of the duel spirits Yugi could communicate with. And while his attack stat may not be the best, he’s certainly a beloved mascot of the franchise.
In case you don’t already know, you can discard Kuriboh from your hand to make the battle damage from any attack 0.
In fact, Yugi used this ability in the anime to save himself from an attack from Obelisk the Tormentor, so it’s been put to good use.
17. Buster Blader
This feels like one of those cards Yugi had in his deck to specifically mess with Kaiba.
Because Buster Blader gains 500 attack for every single dragon monster on your opponent’s field, and graveyard.
With a base attack of 2600 to start with, this can rack up some serious damage pretty quickly!
If you know your opponent is on a dragon-orientated strategy then Buster Blader is the perfect way of shutting them down.
In fact, when Dragon-link decks rose to notoriety recently, Buster Blader decks had a slight resurgence, as they were the perfect way to punish your opponent for summoning a whole bunch of dragons.
16. Seven Tools of the Bandit
Trap cards can make or break a duel.
You may be so close to victory, only for it all to be shattered by a single Magic Cylinder.
Being able to stop these powerful traps is one of the ways you can maximize your chances of winning – and the king of games knows this.
Seven Tools of the Bandit allows you to negate any trap card for the cost of 1000 life points, and if you do, you can destroy that trap card.
While there are certainly better negate cards in modern Yu-Gi-Oh, this was a powerhouse in the old-school game.
15. Black Luster Soldier
This guy was one of the first ritual monsters introduced to Yu-Gi-Oh, alongside Relinquished.
It’s a vanilla ritual monster with no effect, meaning it’s only really worth summoning for its high attack stat. But this was pretty strong in Yugi’s time.
And since this card’s introduction, there’s been a few waves of support for it, and some people play Black Luster Soldier decks to this day!
The deck works on ritual summoning powerful monsters, and occasionally making use of Gaia the Fierce Knight to do so.
While Black Luster Soldier on its own is pretty lack-luster(no pun intended), it’s still one of Yugi’s most iconic cards.
14. Giant Soldier of Stone
2000 defense monsters have been powerful since the beginning of Yu-Gi-Oh!
Because 2000 is a pretty high number, and odds are your opponent will have to at least tribute summon to get over it.
Giant Soldier of Stone has been around for a while, and it was always great for buying time while your opponent struggles to overcome it.
While vanilla monsters don’t see as much use as they used to, this is also one of Yugi’s more iconic cards.
Marshmallon is the ultimate troll card in old-school Yu-Gi-Oh!
What your opponent thinks is a harmless defense position monster, is actually an impenetrable wall that burns them for damage.
When it’s attacked by your opponent while face down, your opponent will take 1000 damage. On top of that, Marshmallon is completely indestructible in battle, meaning your opponent will have to find some other way of getting round this guy.
Who knew marshmallows could be so powerful?!
12. Spellbinding Circle
Spellbinding Circle is absolutely Yugi’s choice to render an opponent’s monsters completely useless.
This trap card ensures that one of your opponent’s monsters can’t attack or change its battle position while Spellbinding Circle is face-up on the field.
Save this card for your opponent’s most powerful monsters, especially some that take more resources to summon!
There’s nothing more satisfying than flipping Spellbinding Circle after your opponent just spent 4 monsters on an expensive extra-deck monster.
11. Dark Magician Girl
It should be no surprise to anyone that Dark Magician Girl is one of Yugi’s most iconic cards – seriously, from season 2 onwards, was there a duel Yugi didn’t summon this card?
Dark Magician Girl gets more powerful for every Dark Magician or Magician of Black Chaos in your graveyard, gaining 300 attack for each.
Most Dark Magician decks can get cards in the graveyard incredibly easy. So boosting Dark Magician Girl to full power is no problem.
And if you’re looking for a recognizable female face to Yu-Gi-Oh, DMG is it.
10. Big Shield Gardna
This guy is the king of huge defense stats.
I mean seriously, 2600 defense and no tribute… how are you meant to beat that?
But just like Goblin Attack Force this power doesn’t last forever:
When this card is attacked, it’s changed to attack position at the end of the damage step, meaning your opponent is free to slam into this guy’s meager 100 attack with a different monster.
But to counter this, all you need to do is activate Skill Drain. That way you’ll still get the 2600 defense monster with no tributes, all without the downsides.
9. Dragon Master Knight
Dragon Master Knight has one of the highest attack stats in the entire game, and with its own effect, that stat can be boosted even further.
If Dragon Master Knight was easier to summon I’d use it way more.
But sadly it’s a little tricky to actually get on the board. It requires Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon and Black Luster Soldier, so this guy effectively takes 5 monsters to summon… plus a copy of Polymerization and the right ritual spell for Black Luster Soldier.
Talk about complicated!
It seemed a lot easier in the anime…
8. Summoned Skull
Summoned Skull is definitely one of the best monsters you can tribute summon.
For tributing one monster, you get a 2500 attack beast, which in old school Yu-Gi-Oh is seriously powerful!
The introduction of Summoned Skull made tribute summoning way easier, and singlehandedly changed how summons were played in competitive Yu-Gi-Oh.
There’s a reason Yugi rocked this card even back in season 1.
7. Swords of Revealing Light
Sometimes you just need a little bit of time to make a comeback.
Swords of Revealing Light is one of the best ways to do that.
When you activate this spell you get 3 turns of protection from attacks, and Yugi certainly used this card a lot.
This gives you 3 turns to build up your strategy to something better.
Maybe you could get some boss monsters out, or get some extra-deck monsters if you’ve got a Polymerization to spare!
Swords of Revealing Light is also fantastic if you’re playing a burn or Exodia strategy.
6. The Winged Dragon of Ra
And we’re onto the God cards!
While Yugi’s god card was primarily Slifer the Sky Dragon, he eventually had all 3 by the end of the Battle City tournament. So they’re all worth a mention.
The Winged Dragon of Ra is a very high risk card.
You can pay all of your lifepoints except 100 and have Ra gain that amount in attack stat. This can lead to some seriously high attack stats, but this will also leave you incredibly frail.
At that point, even Sparks would finish you off!
If you’re positive that your opponent has no tricks up their sleeves, then Ra can be an insanely powerful card. But in most situations, use it with caution.
5. Dark Magician
We couldn’t talk about Yugi’s most powerful cards without mentioning the ultimate wizard in terms of attack and defense.
Dark Magician is an iconic card in Yu-Gi-Oh’s history, and as such, it has received a lot of support since the original series aired.
In fact, this deck can compete with most meta decks if it’s played right.
The main strategy is to spam the field with multiple copies of Dark Magician, then you can either beat down your opponent with them, or use them to summon even more powerful monsters from the extra deck.
This is made easier with cards like Dark Magical Circle and Magician’s Navigation that can search out a Dark Magician straight from the deck – as well as other spells and traps that support them.
In my opinion, Dark Magician decks are the best way to bring a little bit of retro spice into your modern games.
And when someone sees this card, 99/100 times they’ll think of Yugi Muto.
4. Slifer the Sky Dragon
Next up we have the God card primarily used by Yugi, Slifer the Sky Dragon.
This guy is easily the most menacing looking out of the 3 god cards… just look at those 2 sets of teeth!
Slifer gains more power as your hand gets bigger, gaining 1000 attack for each card in your hand.
By utilizing draw spells such as Pot of Desires, you can easily boost Slifer up to some insanely high attack stats (just like in the anime).
As if Slifer wasn’t powerful enough, it also has an effect where every single monster your opponent summons has its attack permanently lowered by a whopping 2000 points.
If this brings their attack down to 0, then they’re also destroyed.
No wonder these are called ‘god cards’.
3. Monster Reborn
Monster Reborn was such a powerful spell that it was banned for years, and it was only recently allowed back at one copy per deck.
And this has been around forever so you probably know how it works: you can revive a monster from either graveyard to your side of the field.
A lot of people in the anime played this card, and Yugi is certainly among that list.
2. Obelisk the Tormentor
And now we get to Obelisk the Tormentor, the last of the 3 God cards.
Personally, this guy is my favorite, and easily the one worth playing in your deck these days.
Unlike the other 2 God cards, this guy’s attack stat doesn’t depend on its ability.
It’s just a steady 4000 ATK by default. So our opponent can’t disrupt it, unlike the other two Egyptian Gods.
Plus with Obelisk, you can tribute 2 other monsters you control to destroy all monsters your opponent controls, once per turn.
As long as you’ve got the monsters to tribute, this is practically a Raigeki every single turn!
1. Exodia the Forbidden One
The best card in Yugi’s deck is technically 5 cards, but Exodia’s head is the card that makes it all possible, so I’m giving him top spot!
For those of you not so familiar with Yu-Gi-Oh, Exodia wins the duel when you have all 5 pieces in your hand.
And this win condition is part of the plot that started off the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime.
Exodia is easily one of the most iconic cards in the anime – not only does it have a fascinating backstory concerning its involvement with the Shadow games played in ancient Egypt, but it was used in the very first episode against Seto Kaiba.
Seeing our protagonist Yugi win against all odds by believing in the heart of the cards inspired many of us to pick up our first booster packs – which has led to the amazing Yu-Gi-Oh community we know and love today.