The main rival's archetype from Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V got a pretty impressive showing throughout the years in terms of sheer card quantity. Quickly becoming a fan-favorite archetype, with their adaptations of historical figures such as Joan of Arc or Alexander the Great attracting lots of players. Throw that on top of it being one of the most complete archetypes in the game, with basically all summoning mechanics making a showing. All in all, D/D/D is an archetype that has something for everyone, and it better should, with a grand total of 61 cards.
In the competitive scene, however, it never got its chance to shine. Structure Deck: Pendulum Domination, which introduced the archetype's main playmakers, released just a couple of weeks before Raging Tempest dropped, making Zoodiac the number one threat in the format by far. But the deck couldn't catch a break. After a long format of Zoodiac being close to tier zero, Master Rule 4 was in full effect, really hindering D/D/D's ability to play. And finally when they could summon to the main monster zones again in 2020, the game was too far gone, and it was unable to keep up with the competition.
Duelists that were playing during the time in 2018 when The Phantom Knights of Rusty Bardiche was popular might be more familiar with D/D/D's own "no fun allowed" card in D/D/D Duo-Dawn King Kali Yuga. (It served as a target for Phantom Knights' Rank-Up-Magic Force in certain Orcust builds.)
Watchers of Cimoooooooo's popular Progression Series should be more than familiar with these black-feathered birds, making synchros left and right, stacking multiple Black Whirlwind to search any card they could need, and getting cheesy one turn kills with Blackwing - Kalut the Moon Shadow. Unlike D/D/D, Blackwings were a powerhouse for a while when they came out, with some extremely powerful cards like the aforementioned Black Whirlwind or Blackwing - Gale the Whirlwind getting hit on the ban list because of the sheer dominance Blackwings had. It went as far as to win the 2009 World Championship, and quickly became a fan-favorite deck, getting some really nice support in Legendary Duelists: White Dragon Abyss.
However, Blackwings hasn't really been able to keep up with decks released after it, reduced to almost no relevance. Still, Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow and Blackwing - Steam the Cloak deserve honorable mention for making the ban list as absolutely insane combo enablers.
Alright, I'm kinda "cheating" here, these are technically like three different archetypes, but not really. Yuma's signature set of cards from the Zexal anime all revolve around his ace monster, Number 39: Utopia, even if some don't mention it directly. This xyz-centric archetype is the one with the least competitive relevance on this list, the deck never finding any sort of success at a premiere event.
Nevertheless, we got new support in Lightning Overdrive, and on top of that, the Gogogo engine was run in Adamancipator decks last year and in Lunalight Decks in 2019, which makes me guess they have more recent tops than D/D/D. But still, anime decks tend to get a lot of cards, mainly because Konami has to release support cards for the three years each anime era lasts, sometimes making them almost good.
Back to Arc-V, Yuya's deck of smiling sorcerers and pendulum animals breaks into the three digits, with an impressive showing of exactly 100 cards. Out of these, extremely few are playable, but the few that are, are completely bonkers. The namesake of a lot of players' bogeyman, Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer, made PePe one of the most powerful decks in the game's history, together with Performapal Monkeyboard and Performage Plushfire.
But these do not really extrapolate to the rest of the archetype. You are not actually going to summon Performapal Bit Bite Turtle if you intend not to lose. These cards were the pack fillers that infested the vast majority of Arc-V packs, and didn't amount to much other than some random engine cards here and there. Anyway, the mere existence of PePe is enough to make Performapal much more than just a footnote in history.
Yet two more fan-favorite archetypes deserve the honor of a mention before we move on to the number one spot. Six Samurai, the Edo period-themed archetype most famous for their insane loops starring Gateway of the Six, would come in as seventh, with their quite large pool of 54 individual cards. And coming in sixth, Yami Yugi's signature monster and its entire archetype, Dark Magician, shows up with a grand total of 56 different cards (not including the seven alternate artworks of Dark Magician). This puts him well ahead of his rival Kaiba's Blue-Eyes White Dragon with just 39 cards.
On top of those, Numbers also deserve a mention. While not an actual "deck" that you can play (unless Konami increases the extra deck size to about 160), the Number archetype is referenced by several cards, technically making it an archetype. Eventually, I decided against including it in this list as they were not once played as an actual deck making use of their very loose sinergies.
Surprising absolutely nobody, HERO takes the number one spot with a shocking total of 228 cards. First introduced in The Lost Millennium, Jaden Yuki's deck from the GX anime has received wave after wave of support ever since 2005— some better, some worse, but overall mediocre. The deck has certainly taken quite a few spots at the high tables. This goes for Bubble Beat making use of Elemental HERO Bubbleman, Diamond Dude and Masked HERO Dark Law powered by Elemental HERO Shadow Mist. Current "Omnihero" decks employ Vision HERO Vyon and the now free Elemental HERO Stratos to set up a board as good as Prank-Kids' but with thrice the bricks.
And hear me out, I love this deck. I played it for quite a long while, but it's just not that good. After fifteen years of support and every single card design imaginable, the deck is in an okay place. Not awful, not meta defining. But is that really enough after 228 cards? I honestly don't think so. This extrapolates to all archetypes on this list. Sure, some of them might be good, fun, or whatever niche they fill, but they really put into perspective how much failed experimentation goes on with the game.
Of course, experimentation is absolutely mandatory and necessary for the game's evolution. But I strongly feel like this experimentation should not be exclusively focused on a few dozen archetypes. While HERO is a really fun deck, after the eleventh set of HERO support, Konami should move on and dedicate that effort to making new archetypes instead of releasing Imposter HERO Red Suspicion. To illustrate the sheer amout of HERO cards even more: there are only 54 more Pendulum cards than HERO cards. Let that sink in.
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