Does Yu-Gi-Oh! Need a Set Rotation?

Most successful trading card games feature some form of set rotation. After a certain period, the cards legal in their main formats rotate out to make way for new ones. This can help avoid busted combos or unfair interactions. However, Yu-Gi-Oh! has survived all this time without such a system. Time for a change?


Set Rotation
Field spell balancing is a good topic, but not for today

Why Do Games Use Set Rotation?

Other card games like Magic: The Gathering or Pokémon make use of a rotation system. Every year or so, the cards from last year "rotate out," making them not playable in the Standard format of the game. This helps keep the metagame fresh and makes it so the power level of decks doesn't go too far, but it does come with its fair share of disadvantages. The biggest one I and other players notice is the inability to keep playing a deck you really like, together with losing out on your cards' value every year. However, in most cases, the good outweighs the bad. This holds true even in cases where the current Standard format is stale, overpowered, or underpowered, as games with set rotation also tend to include more than one format, allowing for players to have more options if they do not like the current Standard format. The set rotation mechanic is mostly a given for most card games, but if that's the case, then why does Yu-Gi-Oh! not do it?

Honestly, I do not know why Konami decided to not give Yu-Gi-Oh! a rotating format, but I, for one, thank them for it. Yu-Gi-Oh! stands out from other card games because it has no rotation. A card you bought ten years ago is (for the most part) still playable today, and you can still run it in any deck you so choose. This increased pool of cards creates a very interesting dynamic where you can build decks with a lot more options, making for a vast array of accessible tools to tackle any situation. Format after format we see the resurgence of some random old card making a splash in the metagame. Cards like Droll & Lock Bird or Appointer of the Red Lotus come in and out of the format, giving it a nice twist and making it so almost every strategy has a counter among the thousands of cards in the playable pool. Having an absolutely massive card pool is something that really separates this game from others. And yes, there are a lot of cons.


vanity's emptiness maxx c
Cards that were not relevant on release become meta-defining staples years later

Why Should Yu-Gi-Oh! Use Set Rotation?

Dragon Rulers changed card design forever, turning Yu-Gi-Oh! into a far more combo-centric game, with individual cards' power level going up every consecutive year, as I brought to attention in my article "Staples and Power Creep: From MST to Lightning Storm." It is a mere fact that Yu-Gi-Oh! has been getting more and more powerful cards and decks, to the point where the long-feared decks of yesteryear such as Dragon Rulers, Spellbook, and even PePe do not seem so threatening in the face of Gouki Extra Links or Danger FTKs.

Set rotation is a very powerful tool that would most certainly have spared us having to go through these basically tier zero formats. Don't you just hate it when your opponent wins off the back of some obscure ancient engine piece such as Cannon Soldier or a badly designed Duel Monsters floodgate like Imperial Order? I know I certainly do. Set rotation would also make it so overly obnoxious, not overly powerful decks can leave the game in a more organic manner instead of getting hit by the banlist when they really do not need a hit. Decks such as Normal Summon Aleister the Invoker Turbo or Infinite Impermanence Altergeist Multifaker Control aren't so powerful that they need a hit, but have been in the game for long enough where making their players venture into something other than Invoked Mechaba pass or Altergeist Marionetter set five would be a good thing for everyone.


aleister the invoker dante, traveler of the burning abyss souleating oviraptor
Some decks don't need to get hit but might need to leave the limelight

Why Yu-Gi-Oh! Should Not and Will Never Get Set Rotation

It's too late. It simply is. It might have been something to consider 18 years ago, but after over 10,000 cards, you can't just say "Yeah, starting today, you can only play with this tiny fraction of the card pool and all the others are not legal". It might have been a mechanic that could have been introduced with the game's release, but right now, it just cannot be implemented. And why should it have been implemented? Why should Yu-Gi-Oh! be like every other card game? There is enough variety in the TCG world where you can basically play any game you like depending on what you're looking for in a card game. You want slower, more control-centric gameplay? Try MTG. You want to stack things on top of one another? Try Pokémon. You want a fast-paced game centered on deck building? Stay with Yu-Gi-Oh!. There is something out there for you, that much is certain, but it might just not be Yu-Gi-Oh!.

This is a great game with a lot of moving pieces, and sometimes those pieces don't quite fit together for a working format and a fair metagame, but what do you expect? Snake Rain to not eventually be broken? That's what's so cool about the game, getting to play these dumb, big combo decks or something slow like Ice Control. There's just something for everyone, and making cards rotate out would ruin that appeal for me and many others. That on top of being able to play your favorite decks of old. If you liked summoning Judgment Dragon in 2008, you still can do so in 2021, and with even more support to boot, because since the game does not have set rotation, Konami can release cards to support old strategies that need that little push to get over the edge. You liked Six Samurai? Well, here's Spirit Warriors, a set with a bunch of new support. You eagerly awaited El Shaddoll Construct to come back? Well, here's an entire structure deck and a bunch of more cards. You like volcanics? Well, about that …

All in all, not having set rotation makes Yu-Gi-Oh! really stand out among a sea of card games, giving its players the tools to build a deck exactly how they want it to be. And even in games with a rotation system like Magic: The Gathering, players tend to gravitate towards formats with no rotation, such as Commander or Modern, because the larger number of tools available makes both deck building and gameplay much more fun, interesting and challenging. So yeah, if you're one of those people who think the solution to all of Yu-Gi-Oh!'s problems is giving it set rotation, think again. This is not like any other game, and that's fine.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.



9 Comments

To leave your comment please log into your Cardmarket account or create a new account.

ArcaneWolf95(17.10.2021 12:14)

In order to change the format the banlist should be enough(if executed competently and not like the disaster of the recent banlist that didnt do anything at all). I mean for example: If maxxC came back at 3 it would change the entire format. And before i get mad ppl exploding: No it would not kill the game it would CHANGE it. And considering we are stuck in the same format for this long already a change would be nice. The OCG has it at 3 and ppl still play the game dispite it being at 3.

SnifferDragon(17.10.2021 11:42)

"You like Volcanics? Well about that..." this got me laughing lmao

Kathy98(16.10.2021 11:20)

Why is everyone always arguing that set rotation will delete the current existing format? It will not lol, the format will still exist and you can just opt to never play standard.
But what Yugioh desperatelly needs is more formats, because if you're not a combo players or would preffer the slower formats of 2010-ish era, its just impossible to do that on official-level tourneys for the past 5 years. (part of why I quit the competitive scene)

Gmanofgambit(15.10.2021 10:36)

I don't think Yugioh is able to actually make a set rotation in the conventional sense as decks would just spike up in price making it harder to play even more. What we could do however, is have a monthly rotation of ban list where 4 cards are at 1 or 2 or 3 depending on the cards status and then we have the 3 month seasonal banlist where they make the permanent solution.

Throrma(15.10.2021 09:37)

If there would be a set rotation there wouldn't be Farfa table 500 series

And honestly the banlist does the rotation well (sometimes)

Effle(14.10.2021 18:47)

I don't know if it's to late or not, I do think that rotation is healthy for cardgames in general, what we atleast need is a more than 1 format that is supported by tournaments and the like...

Lindblum(14.10.2021 10:41)(Edited: 14.10.2021 10:43)

We don't need such a big rotate. That's why I left the final fantasy card game after opus 7, and after a lot of tournament (mostly top 15) of this FF TCG. Will be the same for YGO if this hapen. Their is too little cards in one year for making this type of format in YGO.
And that bring more strategy to take so more fun and a greatest variety, in my opinion.

MKBrutal(14.10.2021 09:54)

I agree with what you you say. Konami shouldn't bring a set rotation in. The wide variety of decks would not be seen today as they are now especially if you want newer players to come into the game. They've kept the price of the product low especially compared to mtg, it means all formats of the game are supported and you can play those formats more easily and for less money then say MTG where prices for modern ot classic are way too pricey for casual gamers. Great article really well written.

katerinaaqu(14.10.2021 00:38)

No we do not need that I think. We do have the ban list and the limited list for that. To make certain number of cards "out" of the playing system would mean that people like me and others who love good old cards will be without our favorite decks.
Also many card combos use the old cards regardless of the theme of the deck. I do not think the system would work with Yu-Gi-Oh. Plus people who already are on a budget while building decks, would be in tough position to re-arrange their whole deck by buying new cards.

So I agree to your final statement. Neither can nor should occure in Yu-Gi-Oh. I mean plenty of traditional players are kinda losing their grip to the game with the new ways of summon and such. I can't even imagine what this rotating system could do to them.

cardPreview