Yu-Gi-Oh! is one of the oldest and most popular collectible trading card games out there. Inspired by a manga series created by Kazuki Takahashi, Konami printed the first Duel Monsters cards over 20 years ago in 1999. Since then, the franchise has received numerous updates and expansions, adding new summoning types and even changing the rules drastically.
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There are even entirely new formats to play Yu-Gi-Oh! now. Regardless, some Yu-Gi-Oh! cards are more powerful than others. Some are notorious cards. Meanwhile, others have real-life tournament win rates and popularity.
Updated by Sage Ashford on January 27th, 2022: Yu-Gi-Oh! is a game that's always changing. Cards can be incredible one day and unremarkable the next. Meanwhile, other cards can be underrated for years until the right format makes them incredible. We've updated this list to help make it more relevant to the modern game.
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15 Elemental HERO Stratos Is One Of The Greatest Hero Monsters
Stratos is an OP Monster whose might isn't apparent just from looking at him, considering he's only got 1800 ATK and 300 DEF. In the wrong hands, Stratos will do very little to change the course of any given Duel.
Fortunately, these days, most HERO players are aware that Stratos possesses incredible utility; he can specifically search for any other HERO Monster in the deck, or he can destroy the opponents' Trap and Spell type cards. Stratos was such a powerful card that he was banned from competitive play in 2013.
14 Abyss Dweller Is The Most Powerful Rank 4 Xyz Monster
After a decade of warping the metagame, it's safe to say Abyss Dweller is the best Rank 4 monster, even if it isn't one of the ZEXAL Number Cards. It shuts down graveyard-reliant decks as a quick effect, meaning the opponent has to get rid of it or lose two turns. In the modern Yu-Gi-Oh!, two turns are an eternity.
The best part is that it's even better inside Water decks, as its attack boost makes it too beefy for most decks to get rid of without their key tricks. This card is a must-play in any deck that can run it.
13 Cyber Dragon Infinity Can Take The Opponent's Monster
Cyber Dragon Infinity is as overpowered as it sounds. Introduced in 2016, Konami created Cyber Dragon Infinity to give Cyber Dragons their own boss monster. The problem is that it was made generic, meaning everyone was able to have access to it just by including a Cyber Dragon Nova in their Extra Deck.
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Infinity starts out at a modest 2100 ATK, but it gains 200 ATK for every material attached to it. What's even more impressive is that it can target the opponent's monsters and attach them as material as well, making it bigger. Stopping it will be difficult, as Cyber Dragon Infinity can negate cards and effects just by detaching materials, giving it plenty to do with all the monsters it steals.
12 Apollousa, Bow Of The Goddess Serves As A Great Monster Negation Boss Monster
Apollousa is sneakily good, mostly because of how easy it is to flood the field these days. It's a Link-4 monster that can be made with two or three monsters, though players will likely want to make it as strong as possible. Apollousa's ATK becomes 800 times the number of monsters used to make it, meaning it tops out at a mighty 3200 ATK.
What's more impressive, though, is that once per chain, the player can negate an opponent's monster effect by making Apollousa lose 800 ATK. This card can often be used as extra insurance for locking the opponent out of their turn. They'll either have to attack over a 3200 ATK monster or get their effects negated.
11 Lightning Storm Is Power Creep At Its Finest
Lightning Storm is an example of how power creep can ruin everything. At one point, Raigeki and Harpie's Feather Duster were cards so powerful they were banned. Lightning Storm, however, is basically just both.
When the player has no face-up cards, they can choose to either destroy all attack position monsters or destroy all spells and traps the opponent controls. There's no other cost to it — the player is free to play through their entire combo after playing this. The only real restriction is the player can only use one per turn, but they'd never need more than one.
10 Solemn Judgement Is The Ultimate Counter-Trap
Solemn Judgment is a card that rookie players might not see value in at first. A powerful counter trap, Solemn Judgement allows the player to negate any card or effect. The catch is that, to make it work, the player has to sacrifice half of their life points.
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An inexperienced player might not see the value in this card; they might wonder why they should pay so much just to stop a single play. But skilled players realized Solemn Judgment's potential and kept using it. Ultimately, Judgment can shut off mass summoning and all manner of power spells and traps. But most importantly, despite its power, it can always be activated because players can always pay half.
9 Toadally Awesome Is A Powerful Negation Monster
This Yu-Gi-Oh! card might look silly, but it's a strong negation monster. Toadally Awesome has the unique ability to detach Xyz Material during the Standby Phase to special summon Frog monsters from the deck. This is meant to set up Toadally Awesome's other, more powerful negation effect. Toadally Awesome can negate an effect by sending an Aqua monster from their hand or field to the graveyard.
What makes Toadally Awesome so frustrating, though, isn't the negation. Afterward, the Xyz monster destroys the opponent's card, then sets it to the player's side of the field. While this card was a minor nuisance at first, the metagame has shifted to make this such a prevalent monster that it's already been banned in the OCG.
8 Dark Ruler No More Can Break An Opponent's Board
As hand traps have gone out of style, board breakers have become key in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh!. It's often no longer possible to stop an opponent's turn with a timely-placed hand trap. Opponents will play through, leaving the player with one less card in their hand.
Dark Ruler No More gets around that by letting the opponent do whatever they want. They're free to build their giant board full of negates because Dark Ruler will simply turn every opponent's monster's effects "off" for a turn. The player doesn't get to do any damage this turn, but after clearing all the opponent's best monsters, they'll be in a better position for the next turn.
7 Nibiru, The Primal Being Can Obliterate An Opponent's Entire Field
It's easy to say Nibiru's power depends on the format, but these days, so many formats look the same. Every deck is designed to summon multiple monsters in a turn; those that aren't are usually guaranteed to lose. Nibiru takes advantage of how the modern Yu-Gi-Oh! game is built: if an opponent summons five or more monsters, Nibiru tributes everything they have on the field for a giant rock token. This is easily one of the most disrespectful cards in Yu-Gi-Oh!.
The token has the combined attack of every monster tributed, but the opponent is going to summon it in defense, making the token useless. At best, the only way to mitigate Nibiru is by creating a monster negate on the fifth summon. Even that forces the player to alter their play style to fit this monster.
6 The Winged Dragon Of Ra Is The Most Powerful Egyptian God Card
The original Duel Monsters manga and anime went to great lengths to display the power of the Egyptian God cards. But of all three of those cards, The Winged Dragon of Ra was the most powerful.
Just like the others, summoning Ra requires three tributes. It's a hefty price to pay, but considering how strong it is upon hitting the field, it's arguably worth it. Players have the option to pay all but 100 life points to make Ra have ATK and DEF equal to the life points paid, meaning, in theory, it can have 7900 ATK and DEF. For those who can manage life point gain as well, the player can also pay 1000 LP to instantly destroy an opponent's monster.
5 Super Quantal Mech King Great Magnus Is Difficult To Stop Once It Hits The Field
The Super Quantal monsters are some of Yu-Gi-Oh's most creative. They're an archetype based on classic Super Sentai shows, or the Power Rangers as they're known in America. As expected of a deck like that, its boss monster is just a giant megazord.
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Super Quantal Mech King Great Magnus takes a lot of effort to put into play — a player has to sacrifice six or more materials before their opponent can beat them. Should they succeed, said duelist will gain a Rank 12 Infinite machine that prevents enemies from adding cards to their hands. It also has a number of other abilities, but basically, once it hits the field, it's nearly unstoppable.
4 Exodia, The Forbidden One Is Still A Win Condition
Exodia is one of the most recognizable monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh!. It was one of the first monsters introduced, alongside other legends like Dark Magician and Blue-Eyes White Dragon, which happen to be some of the rarest Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. Unlike those monsters, though, Exodia is still technically as dangerous now as it was back then.
Exodia, the Forbidden One is the king of OTK's in the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe. He isn't one card — rather, he's split up into five separate pieces. If a duelist can assemble all five parts before their opponent can beat them, Exodia will instantly end the game. Exodia is to Yu-Gi-Oh! what Thanos was to the MCU.
3 Super Polymerization Is The Most Dangerous Quick-Play Spell
The flaw with Super Polymerization has always been the question of what the player summons with it. The lack of fusion targets is the only thing holding this otherwise incredible card back.
It's a quick-play spell, which means it can be used on either turn. Super Poly fusion summons the opponent's monsters, leaving them with nothing, so long as the player can summon something with it. However, it can't be negated outside very specific circumstances. It's a card so powerful that it feels like breaking the rules sometimes.
2 Apoqliphort Towers Mocks Any Monster With Lower Levels
Apoqliphort Towers is a great card that's a must-have for any Qliphort player. Despite its level, Towers can't be special summoned and demands the tribute of three Qliphort monsters. If a duelist manages to pay that high cost, however, they'll earn a powerful monster in exchange.
Immunity is what makes Apoqliphort Towers so overpowered; it's unaffected by all spell and trap card effects. It's also immune to the effects of any monsters with a lower level than itself. Since Towers is at level 10, there aren't many monsters that were able to affect it at all before LINK monsters were created.
1 Divine Arsenal AA-ZEUS — Sky Thunder Is An Incredible Generic Boss Monster
Divine Arsenal has found its way into any deck that can run it for years now. Thanks to its ability to be summoned by any Xyz monster that battles and survives a turn, it’s a near-ubiquitous monster.
Its special ability allows the player to detach materials to send every other card from the field to the graveyard. That specific wording will get rid of almost any monster the opponent has. This turns it into a powerful boss monster for decks that don’t already have their own boss monster.
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