How To Play: Duel Monsters

Like Yu-Gi-Oh! but don’t know how to play? Ever wanted to learn? Where, here’s how to learn! I tried to write this up as straightforward and simple as possible, and I hope this helps you learn the main game in “Yu-Gi-Oh!”

Note: All images were taken from Pokeorder.com.

Object Of The Game

Use your cards to bring your opponents life points down to zero. If you bring your opponents life points to zero, then you are declared the winner. Each player begins a duel with 8000 life points and the points will decrease depending on the results of battles between the cards. You start each duel by drawing five cards, and every turn you draw one card to start your turn. You may then play your cards during your turn. You may only play one MONSTER card, but you may play as many MAGIC or TRAP cards as you wish.

About The Cards

Second thing you need to know about Yu-Gi-Oh! is how to distinguish one type of card from another. There are three basic types of cards that will make up your deck:


These types of cards will make up roughly half of your deck. (Since a good deck is mostly around 40 cards, you should probably keep at least 20 monsters) Monster cards (sample below.) have many features that tell each one’s strength. On the bottom of the card, there are two numbers. One is the ATK (attack) number and the other is the DEF (defense) number. Which number is used in a battle depends on whether it is in attack mode (vertically placed on the field) or in defense mode (horizontally placed on the field). You may only normally summon (play) one monster per turn, and you may not switch a monster’s position after you summon it until your next turn.

Now take a look on the monster below, Red Archery Girl. What are her Attack points? 1400. What are her defense points? 1500. That means, when played in attack mode, she may attack with 1400 points and can destroy any monster she attacks that is 1399 or lower.

A.) Attack Mode: If a monster is in attack mode, you judge who wins a battle by comparing it’s attack points with the other monster attacks or is being attacked by. If your monster is in attack mode when it is destroyed by a stronger monster, (for the Red Archery Girl, any creature who’s attack power is 1401 or more) you will deduct from your life points the difference in the attack points. For example, if a monster whose attack power was 2000 attacked the Red Archery Girl when she was in attack mode, you would lose the difference between the attack powers. 2000 – 1400 = 600. Therefore, your life points would lower 600 and Red Archery Girl would be destroyed. (Taken off the playing field and placed in the graveyard or discard pile) If you attack a monster who is in attack mode and whose attack power is HIGHER than that of your monster, your monster is destroyed and you will lose the difference in their points. For example, if Red Archery Girl attacked a monster whose attack power was 1800, she would be destroyed and you would lose 400 life points. (1800 – 1400 = 400)

B.) Defense Mode: A monster who is in defense mode cannot attack. You judge who wins the battles by comparing the monster who is attacking it by it’s defense points compared to the attack points of the attacking monster. If the 2000 attack pointed monster attacked Red Archery Girl while she was in defense mode, she would still be destroyed, but your life points would not decrease. That is the advantage of defense mode. If Red Archery Girl attacked a monster in defense mode whose defense power was 1700, she would not be destroyed, but the owner of Red Archery Girl would lose the difference between the higher defense power and the lower attack power. 1700 – 1400 = 300. Therefore, your life points would decrease 300, but neither monster would be destroyed.

Are you with me so far? Good. If not, try re-reading the section above again before proceeding.

Now, to play a monster from your hand, you must first look at it’s number of stars. (The orange circles above the picture.) If the monster has FOUR (4) or fewer stars, you may play it right away, as long as the card description doesn’t have a summoning restriction. Look at Red Archery Girl. How many stars does she have? 4. She can be played normally. Placing a card in face up attack position from your hand is called SUMMONING.

If you want to play Red Archery Girl from your hand in defense mode, you SET her face-down in defense mode on the field. When she is attacked by another monster, you can flip her face up in defense mode and then determine the “battle damage.” On your next turn, or any other turn after this one, you may flip her up into attack mode, but you may NOT flip her in face up defense mode.

If a monster was ALREADY in face up attack mode, you may switch it to defense mode if you did not already summon it or change it to defense mode during that turn.

If a monster has FIVE (5) or SIX (6) stars, you must already have at least ONE monster on the field to SACRIFICE (take off the field and put in the graveyard) in order to play the monster. If you have no monsters on the field, you cannot play a monster that requires a sacrifice. A SEVEN (7) or higher stared monster requires TWO (2) sacrifice monsters in order to play.

Because monsters with higher levels require the sacrifice, it’s better not to have very many of them in your deck. Keep many high attack powered 4-star monsters in your deck and 3-5 sacrifice-needing monsters.

*NOTE: A monster may NOT switch positions after it has attacked.

Types of Monsters: There are two basic types of monsters, NORMAL monsters, which have the cream colored background like the Red Archery Girl, and EFFECT monsters that have a brown background, such as the Jinzo card pictured below.

An Effect monster also has attack and defense points as usual, but it also has an effect. For example, Jinzo, when face up on the field, prevents all TRAP cards from being activated. Each effect monster does different things, so always read the card very carefully. Some effects will raise or lower your life points and other effects are called FLIP effects. A flip effect monster can only activate it’s FLIP effect when it is flipped from FACE DOWN defense mode to FACE UP attack mode. (This can be done on your next turn, or the FLIP effect can be activated when an opponent’s monster attacks it) If you normally summon a Flip effect monster from your hand to the field in attack mode, the effect will not activate.

Now, the last rule to summoning monsters is the “SPECIAL SUMMON.” Sometimes, with the aid of certain magic and trap cards, monsters can be summoned without sacrifices or from the graveyard to the field. Some monsters can ONLY be special summoned, so read every card carefully.

You may SPECIAL SUMMON as many times as you like, as long as you have the required cards, and still be able to perform ONE normal summon or sacrifice summon.

Okay! Hopefully I haven’t worn you down already. 🙂 But look on the bright side: You’ve already mastered the most important cards, the monsters. Now we will move on to the more “strategic” cards: Magic and Traps. If you haven’t quite got the hang of monsters yet, you might want to review the above before continuing.

Magic Cards

Magic cards are color coded light GREEN, as shown on the Malevolent Nuzzler card below. They may ONLY be activated on your own turn, even if you set them face down. There are many types of Magic cards that do different things:

*Equip Magic Cards are attached to one of you (or your opponent’s, though most equips help your monster, so you wouldn’t give them to your opponent!) monster cards and the equipped monster monster receives a special power, depending on what each card says. The majority of equip Magic Cards modify the attack or defense of the equipped monster, such as the Malevolent Nuzzler card below, which raises the attack of the equipped monster by 700 attack points.

So if you equip Red Archery Girl with the Malevolent Nuzzler card, what would her attack power now be? 1400 + 700 = 2100.

Now Red Archery Girl’s attack power would be treated as 2100.

Equip Magic Cards are recognized by the ‘+’ symbol next to the words “Magic Card” at the top of the card.

*Field Magic Cards are played in the “FIELD” slot on your dueling mat. This card effect all monster on the field that fit the description on the card, for example, the Chorus of Sanctuary card below will raise the Defense power of all monsters on the field that are in defense mode by 500 points. Only ONE (1) field card can be on the field between BOTH players at a time. If a new field is played, the old one is destroyed.

A field magic card is identified by it’s odd curvy-cross symbol beside the Magic Card name at the top.

*Normal Magic cards have no symbol. They are activated from your hand, or you can play them face down and activate them on YOUR TURN ONLY later. A normal magic card varies in ability from card to card.

*Continuous Magic cards remain on the field forever, unless removed by the effect of a monster, magic, or trap card. Their effects remain active as long as the remain face-up on the field. They are identified by their sideways “8” logo near the top of the card.

*Quick play magic cards are THE ONLY MAGIC CARDS THAT CAN BE SET FACE DOWN AND ACTIVATED ON AN OPPONENT’S TURN!!! They are like normal magic cards, but can be set face-down and activated any time.

Trap Cards

Trap cards MUST be set face down and remain face down for ONE (1) turn before they can be activated. They may be activated on ANY player’s turn and, like magic cards, all have different effects.

Organizing a Deck:

Now, to construct your deck, first pick out 3-5 level 5 and higher monsters to be your “top” cards. These are the cards you are aiming to get out of the field. Then, add around 10 normal monsters that do NOT need a sacrifice (level 4 (four) and lower) to be your “main” cards. These cards will be the easiest to get out as they do not have summoning requirements. (Sacrifice, etc) Now, add around 6 weaker monsters that have effects that can build up the power in your deck, such as CYBER JAR, a monster that when flipped, can destroy all the monsters on the field and WITCH OF THE BLACK FOREST, that when sent to the graveyard allows you to search your deck for a new monster with under 1500 defense points.

Then, add 10 magic, and 10 trap cards that will support your monster cards.

Now, practice, practice, PRACTICE and work out your strategies. Add a card here and there, take out a card here and there. And soon, you’ll be a master duelist too!