Looking Back at Seven Years of Yu-Gi-Oh!
- Marijn van Duivenboden
We all played make-believe Yu-Gi-Oh! back in the day. We saw the show on the television and all copied what they did. We all wanted to be Yami Yugi and summon Dark Magician. Eventually, we picked up the game for real. For this article I want to look back on my seven years of play.
I want to take a good look at my starting days, reminisce on how thing were. I also want to look at how I evolved as a player while the game evolved around me. I started playing in master rule three, like so many of you guys probably did too. Let's take a nostalgic look back, or a look back to learn how the game was back then.
Starting at the Bottom
I remember being in high school. Saying that makes me feel old. A friend of mine randomly asked, Do you like Yu-Gi-Oh!? Yu-Gi-Oh! was something I was passionate about since I saw it on TV. I never really got how the game worked, because I was so young. It seemed like a fun time and I still had my near-mint Dark Magician, so why not?
A couple of days later we met again and we started playing. I remember my deck very well. It was a "spellcaster" deck. With no archetype, random cards I saw in the anime/movies, and everything I basically had laying around. It was 2013. I knew the banlist, I didn't know the format. But we were having fun. Eventually other friends joined, and we all started buying some cards on local websites.
Then out of nowhere a shop opened in my city. There never really was a Yu-Gi-Oh! or Magic: The Gathering scene where I live, so it was pure luck. We passed by, bought some packs, and the owner said he knew someone with Yu-Gi-Oh! experience. And not long later the first ever local was announced. The first of many.
I brought my "refined" spellcaster strategy to locals. I don't remember how I went, but I remember I had a lot of fun. There were around sixteen people and it was won by gadgets. By now, we were informed about the format. We were mid-dragon ruler format. All dragon rulers were at three. At this time, I didn't really realize there was a metagame. Or what a metagame was. I just wanted to summon my Sorcerer of Dark Magic.
I quickly realized spellcaster.deck wasn't going to make the cut. It was time to upgrade. So I bought my first meta deck. Just kidding, I bought three structure decks Onslaught of the Fire Kings and went to nationals! My first national deck had thirteen extra deck cards and was filled with cards borrowed from friends. My friends at the time were playing for a little longer, so they helped me out a bit. I didn't want to spend €30 on a Coach Soldier Wolfbark so I borrowed it. Again, it didn't go so well. What do you expect from a first nationals? It was a really cool and amazing experience. It was the first time I had ever seen good players and good decks. I learned so much and had a lot of fun. This was my first ever real event. I spent my time smiling, having fun and wanting more.
Jump to 2014. The two meta decks, Spellbooks and Dragon Rulers, were hit hard on the first banlist I've ever seen. It did, however, bring back Fire Formation - Tenki, which buffed my deck a lot. It was the time of the Xyzs. Rank 4s were incredibly strong at this point. I invested in some extra cards. Bought my own Wolfbark, Evilswarm Exciton Knight, and two copies of Number 101: Silent Honor ARK. This was the first time ever I spent a lot of money on the game. It felt worth my investment because Yu-Gi-Oh! gave me so much joy.
I kept learning more and more about the game. And more and more sets got released. People around me also got better and better. We all evolved in our joined adventure. Decks got better, and everyone had to step up their game. At this time, the best decks were Fire Fist, Bujin, Infernity, and some others. Those decks dominated my locals, together with Sylvan, Lightsworn, and many more. It was a diverse format, which really helped us improve at the game.
Then the first challenger appeared. It was the time for the HAT format. The Hands-Artifact-Traptrix deck was a deck without one general archetype. It featured the most recently released powerful cards: Fire Hand, Ice Hand, Artifact Sanctum, and Traptrix Myrmeleo. These cards all worked together quite well and really made my life tough. They dominated the meta, from regionals to the local level. Players fondly remember the HAT format for its inventive decklists and overall fun mechanics.
A couple of months later, my time to shine finally came. I had been playing Yu-Gi-Oh! for over a year now and decided to buy my first meta deck. It was August 14, my birthday and also the release of Duelist Alliance. This set featured the brand new archetype Burning Abyss. This was my deck of choice and I went all in.
Travels of the Burning Abyss
Not only I wanted to improve and step up my game. Around me friends started picking up the new decks as well. My friend group already played HAT, but Shaddolls quickly joined the fight. Later Qliphort was also picked up, and we had a pretty diverse format. I miraculously was the only Burning Abyss player at my locals. So later that year, when I went to my first regional, I was quite baffled when I saw someone else summon a Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss. I lost my first ever mirror match. This was a good learning point to acknowledge: there are always more players with always new tricks up their sleeves. Another thing that happened at that very moment was the change of master rule.
I remember reading the changes on my phone. We were at our local shop. This master rule change introduced pendulum, which we all found crazy. Looking back now the new mechanic was actually quite different from what we expected. We envisioned a future where all decks would run four to six pendulum cards and every deck was pendulum summoning. Oh how wrong we were. We also found the change of not drawing a card when going first really bad. We all were so used to drawing on the play, this change was absurd to us. Looking back now, I couldn't be happier with that change, because otherwise combo decks would be even more insane at this point.
At this point in time, the gang and I were going to as many regionals as possible. The game still was super fun to me and exciting. Eventually, I took my fresh Burning Abyss deck to my second nationals where I and my bad build got into the Top 16. A major accomplishment and a qualifier for the European Championship. The EUWCQ took place in Dublin. This was my first international tournament. It was insane to think this small game was taking me across borders.
Wavering Eyes was a promo released the day before the event and made the Apoqliphort Towers turbo deck a thing. The championship was going to be filled with that strategy. I didn't quite know enough about the game at the time, and Burning Abyss wasn't exactly the right pick for the event. Nevertheless, the tournament was a lot of fun and really exciting. I got smacked by Ritual Beasts, Nekroz, and many others. I saw plenty of Towers — but all in all, a solid experience.
The trip to Dublin really made me hungry for more events. After the EUWCQ it was time to travel to a YCS. The gang and I went to multiple. The community, the game, the experiences … I don't know what bug caught me, but it was time to go all in. Regionals, nationals, YCSs, everything I could go to, I went to.
From one master rule to the other, it's time to make a link. At this point of time, our community was two stores further than when we started. Yu-Gi-Oh! business in the Netherlands was booming and growing intensely. The community grew bigger and bigger. The friend group I started playing with eventually switched out more and more people. New mechanics, new cards, and new players. The game kept growing and growing. Not only the game changed, I changed as well. I grew a lot older from the sixteen-year-old I was in the beginning. It was now 2017 and master rule four arrived. Pendulum zones were moved into the spell and trap zones, two extra monster zones popped up, and the LINK era began.
More events, more friends, more cards. Sadly no YCS tops, but two more national tops, regional wins, et cetera. Time and money were invested and turned into fun and friendship.
The Future Is Now
I never really knew what I was starting. Yu-Gi-Oh! has been a wild adventure from day one. Looking back, so much has changed. Yet nothing really changed. I went from playing a card game with friends to playing a card game with friends. The game just got a little more complicated. When I started, the game was very slow. There were many archetypes that played the same fifteen staples. That's basically just as the game is right now. Back then, the combo deck was making an unbreakable board with two Quasars or ending with enough recursion not to lose and to do a one-turn kill afterward. Dark Synchro and the Dragon Rulers all paired that safety with consistency and power. What is really the difference between Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack and Block Dragon?
My love for the game always only grew. Even in a time like now, dominated by Dragon Link, hand loops, and three-plus negates, I find myself playing Dragon Link myself. Over the years I learned so much. Fusion summoning El Shaddoll Construct in Shaddolls, xyz summoning Dante, synchro summoning Stardust Charge Warrior and Coral Dragon to make Ultimaya Tzolkin, pendulum summoning Metalfoes Goldriver, and finally linking away four monsters to make Saryuja Skull Dread.
The thought of quitting never really went through my mind. I never doubted my wanting to move forward and onward in this game. Accomplishing more and more over the years, improving as both a player and a person. When I started I was only sixteen years old and now I'm twenty-four. I graduated last year and have my bachelor's degree, I recently started doing Yugitubing on my channel Tatsym and right now I'm waiting …
Not sure if it's waiting or craving. I can't wait for the next YCS. I can't wait to play more. There is so much to do, so little time. I hope to see you there, playing your favorite deck. I want to hear your stories too. How long have you been playing? Where have you traveled? Will you challenge me at the next YCS?
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.