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The Yu-Gi-Oh! collectible card game first appeared in the manga of the same name as a homage to Magic The Gathering, of which author Kazuki Takahashi is a fan. Originally, the manga was intended to feature a new game every few weeks, and with the trading cards being just one of many. However, Takahashi received a lot of fan mail asking how to play it, and so he cobbled together a rudimentary game system loosely based on that of Magic which generally agreed with how the characters played. Fan mail kept pouring in, and so the editor of Shonen Jump (in which the manga was serialised) persuaded Takahashi to rework the manga to have it appear more as an important plot device. When the anime adaptation, which centered solely around the card game, proved a surprise international hit, Konami was approached to produce a real version of the game, which was released in 1999. The real game made considerable changes to the rules originally established by Takahashi, and so the manga and anime were revised to more closely reflect the rules of the real game.Yu-Gi-Oh! is essentially a game with different names and administration structures in different territories. The so-called Official Card Game, or OCG, has been handled by Konami since the beginning; it administers East Asia. The other administration setup, called the Trading Card Game or TCG, was originally manufactured and distributed by Upper Deck Entertainment, at Konami's own behest, throughout the remaining territories worldwide. However, in 2008, UDE lost the license amid some allegations of wrongdoing, and now the TCG is administered by Konami as well. The game is roughly 99% identical on each side of the Pacific; the only differences are that some cards that debut under one administration do not appear in the other for a good, long while, if ever; there are some difference about the Damage Step rules; and, Konami alters some card artwork to prevent incidents with Moral Guardians.Some of the core gameplay elements:
Deckbuilding: Players construct their own decks, which must contain between 40 to 60 cards and no more than three of any single card (certain cards are limited to 2, 1, or 0 copies per deck). A secondary deck of no more than 15 cards can also be constructed; this "Extra Deck" contains "Fusion Monsters," "Synchro Monsters" and "Xyz Monsters" which are Summoned to the field by combining other monsters in various ways. As the official rules state that matches consist of best-two-out-of-three duels, players can also use an up-to-15-card "Side Deck" which can be used to modify the deck between duels in a match.
Monster combat: Players can Summon monsters to fight the opponent. Stronger monsters have Summoning requirements, most commonly a sacrifice of other monsters.
Card effects: Most monsters have special abilities aside from their brute force, which is almost always helpful for its wielder, such as the ability to destroy other cards, or to increase its attack strength from its default level. Spell cards are cards that are played directly from the hand with various effects. Trap cards also have special effects similar to Spells; however, they must be set face-down, and then activated later at a later time, which leads into...
Hidden information: Monsters, Spells, and Traps can be "Set" face-down on the field to be revealed later, often springing a nasty surprise on the opponent. Recent releases have also increased the number of cards playable from one's hand at atypical, poignant, and decisive points of gameplay - essentially behaving like a "Set" card that didn't have to be "Set". Considering how removing and playing around Set cards was one of the game's dominant paradigms for nearly a decade running, these recent releases, when competitive, have had quite the impact.
Achilles' Heel: Some cards have deliberate weaknesses to keep things interesting and keep them from becoming too powerful:
The Earthbound Immortals are all very strong, unable to be attacked and can attack the opponent directly. But, they automatically destroy themselves if there's no Field Spell card on the field. Also, there can only be one Earthbound Immortal on the field.
Cloudians must remain in Attack Position or they will destroy themselves.
In the metagame, this trope is present through deck match-ups and side decking. The most prominent example of this trope the in competitive scene are, perhaps, the Dark World cards— A deck which is extremely fast, powerful, and can utterly wreck the first duel of the match. However, after said first duel, side in Consecrated Light or Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror and watch as they struggle against it.
The artwork featured on the cards was very simplistic in the early days, but as time went on, artwork became more varied, detailed and professional-looking. For example, compare this card(released in the 1st TCG booster) to this one.
Artificial Stupidity: The gimmick of the Karakuri archetype is that they must attack if able (even if it would get them killed) and always shift into defense when attacked (even when their defense is lower, and they would survive if they counterattacked).
Big Shield Gardna, Shield Warrior… Okay, pretty much anything with the word "shield" in its name— Millennium Shield is a Warrior-type… And a literal shield.
And, of course, there are many Monsters that can't be destroyed by battle, like Marshmallon, so they're essentially a pseudo-unbreakable shield.
Total Defense Shogun is probably the best example, as it's the first (of two) card stated to be able to attack while in Defense Position.
Some monsters cannot be targeted for attacks if there is a certain type or archetype on the field or keep the opponent from attacking monsters of certain types, such as Solar Flare Dragon and Marauding Captain. Getting two or more of the specific card can block nearly all potential attacks.
Some cards have effects that emulate this trope. For example, Gorz - Emissary Of Darkness is Special Summoned when you take damage while having nothing on your field, and Starlight Road negates the destruction of two or more cards and Special Summons a Stardust Dragon from you Extra Deck. Not surprisingly, both cards are usually part of the Meta Game for that exact reason.
Frequent on the early cards, many of which seem to have been translated by people who had absolutelynoidea what they were doing. Among the most obvious examples is "Dunames Dark Witch," which is a LIGHT-Attribute Fairy-Type. Its original Japanese name is "Dynamis Valkyria". The fact that a card named "Valkyrie" became "Dark Witch" in the US suggests the origins of this mistake; all the same, it's no less unforgivable, especially since "Dark Valkyria" and "Magician's Valkyria" came out in English without any such mistakes.
Fan translations can be guilty of this as well, such as the infamous "Revise Dragon".
Normal Monsters, in general. They have no effects but often have good combat stats, and there's a lot of support for them, including lots of ways to Summon them from the Graveyard. Decks based around them focus on brute force rather than anything fancy.
Of particular note: Level 4 normal monster cards with 1900+ ATK. Surprisingly easy to find, quick to bring onto the field and easily replaceable, they provide a more steady offensive counterpart to the high-ATK, difficult to Summon monsters of higher Level and can easily reach the attack power of those using Equip Spells.
Gadgets for a long time played on this. The goal of the Deck is to make the game as simple as possible by playing one-for-one destruction cards and, with the help of the Gadgets' self replenishing effect, gain advantage and win almost effortlessly. Such Decks can be really boring to play with or against, but it's really effective when played correctly.
Ironically, see the Awesome but Impractical entry. Read Machina Force there? It can be used as a discard fodder for Machina Fortress. Unfortunately, it is completely outclassed by Machina Cannon and Machina Megaform nowadays.
Obnoxious Celtic Guard could teach a college course on this. With ATK and ATK less than 1500 each, he doesn't seem like much to look at. If your opponent starts with any kind of a halfway decent hand, though, he'll usually have at least a level 6 or higher by the end of the first turn. Put OCG out in Defense Position, and you'll be invincible until he can get either a board wiped. If you're really lucky, you could spend the entire duel without taking a single direct hit because of him.
This is the Fan Nickname for any monster with more difficult than average summoning conditions, potent effects, high ATK/DEF, or any combination thereof. Lots of decks include one or more either as a lategame finisher that worked with whatever the deck was about, garnering them the nickname "Boss Monster".
The closest thing comparable to an actual boss fight is Vennominaga, the Deity of Poisonous Snakes, who is difficult to summon, yet is nigh-invincible once on the field.
A 3000 ATK monster with no negated effecta is still a 3000 ATK monster; nothing to sneeze at. Skill Drain also happens to negate any negative effects the card may have, too, so several monsters actually benefit from Skill Drain. Examples include the Majestic Mechs.
Beast King Barbaros inverts this trope, being brought up to badass when its effect is negated.
Brought Down to Normal: Almost literally; the Continuous Trap Skill Drain negates the effects of all monsters on the field.
Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Camel-like monsters are known as "Lacoodas" in the international releases. Back when the game was still in its "Blind Idiot" Translation stage, someone translated the Japanese "rakuda" (camel) as "Lacooda," and the term apparently caught on, as it's continued to be used even after the translations have gotten better. Justified in that the original does not say "rakuda"; it says "rakuuda," in katakana, implying that the name is meant to be a play on "rakuda" rather than the actual word. Still a case of Lost in Translation, as a similar pun could have been used for the English version (but then, given it first happened in Pharaonic Guardian, arguably the nadir for the game's translation quality, it's entirely possible there was no one on staff who would have recognized it as a pun).
There are not one, but two for Spawn. The first one is an indirect example, because it's based on a fictional superhero comic from the manga, that was based on Spawn. The second one was directly based on Spawn himself.
Some cards require a Life Point payment to activate.
Nearly taken to an extreme with Toon World; the entirety of its text is "Pay 1000 Life Points to activate this card." That's it. Sure, now you can Summon your Toon monsters note some don't need it to be in the field to be… well, on the field, but other than that, it just kinda sits there waiting to be destroyed.
This is practically the Psychic-Type's main gimmick, with frequent payments to either fire off or maintain their effects. To balance this out, a good amount of their support cards involve healing and making use of the lost LP.
Some cards, like the Archfiend archetype from Dark Crisis, require a Life Point payment to keep them on the field. A life point payment that is not optional.
Cherry Tapping: The "Sparks" card does a measly 200 points of damage to the opponent— that's it. Most video game versions of Yu-Gi-Oh! reward you with a bonus if you ever manage to finish off the opponent using "Sparks." They give a similar bonus if you manage to finish off the opponent with a Skull Servant, but at least you can give Skull Servant some good Equip Spells and buffs to boost its power.
The game has the Gem-Knight cards (a Homage to the Elemental HERO and Crystal Beast Archetypes) which are named for and usually colored after a Gemstone, with one or two exceptions. Their leader Gem-Knight Master Diamond has white armor and an All Your Colors CombinedRainbow Motif sword and background.
Colorful Theme Naming: The Dark World archetype monsters are all named after different colors. Complete with Dark Overlord Reign-Beaux.
Crazy-Prepared: "Toolbox" is a type of deck that specializes on searching monsters with many unique (and sometimes situational) effects directly from the Deck or Graveyard to counter your opponent. For example, Gladiator Beasts can "Tag Out" after a battle and bring any other Gladiator Beast from the Deck, and Koa'ki Meirus can usesomecards to get any monster they want, including a quartet that literallycanstopanything.
Some cards exist simply to counter other, very specific cards and are otherwise worthless. "Anti Raigeki" exists only to counteract "Raigeki", "White Hole" only exists to counteract "Dark Hole", and both "Call of Darkness" and "Call of the Grave" exist only to counter "Monster Reborn".
The Allies of Justice appear to be an entire archetype based around overspecialization. Their effects almost exclusively revolve around the opponent's monsters being LIGHT-attribute or face-down. If they're not facing something with those criteria, they're in a lot of trouble. Note that the Worms are all LIGHT-attribute monsters with a lot of flip effects, meaning the Allies of Justice were specifically designed against them, which is supported by the lore.
Most of the earlier "HERO" support cards have really specific conditions, which hampered the deck's playability for quite some time. This was resolved when later Elemental HER Oes were released that only specified a specific elemental attribute to be summoned; mix that with Super Polymerization that lets you use the opponent's cards as materials and suddenly they're more competitive competitive.
Crossover Cosmology: There are cards based on Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Incan and Norse mythology, among others. The details range from small nods like in the Spirit cards, to blatant reference like in the El Shaddoll monsters. Justified in the anime, as Pegasus the creator of the game claims to have based most of the cards on various inspirations, including the myths he encountered on his world tour.
Cute Is Evil: Several Fiend-Type or DARK-Attribute cards can be this.
The Koa'ki Meiru monsters have high ATK and useful effects and supports. What makes them difficult to use is that they all destroy themselves at the end of the turn if you don't discard the Iron Core card or reveal a card that's the same Type as the monster on the field. Some ways to utilize them include splashing them into another deck full of the same monster Type as them or by utilizing a certain card called Diamond Core of Koa'ki Meiru released in Primal Origins.
Vennominaga the Deity of Poisonous Snakes requires a lot of set-up; a Reptile-based deck, a pre-set "Rise of the Snake Deity", a card to summon and destroy its predecessor and/or a use of "Snake Rain" to flood your Graveyard with Reptiles to boost Vennominaga's ATK. Once all that is said and done, however, Vennominaga is virtually unstoppable since it is completely immune to all card effects, and it needs only to damage the opponent three times for an instant win.
Sophia, Goddess of Rebirth is considered this for having harsh Summoning requirement of banishing one Fusion, Ritual, Synchro and Xyz on the field. Once she hits the field however, all other cards on the field, graveyard and hand are banished except itself. Not to mention her Summon and effect can't be negated.
Then, there's Horakhty, the Creator God of Light. You have to have all 3 of the Egyptian God Cards on the field... With the "card copying its name" trick explicitly negated to prevent abuse. It's well worth the effort, however, as the mere act of Summoning it cannot be negated, and once it's Summoned, you win.
Sephylon, the Ultimate Timelord, the Big Bad boss monster of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, has an impressive 4000 ATK/DEF, but it requires 10 monsters in the Graveyard to Summon and only from the hand. This can be accomplished through self-milling tactics, but it is still a dead draw early-game. Its effect to Summon a Level 8 or higher Fairy mas a 4000 ATK beatstick also requires a deck built around it. Nonetheless, if you can pull this off and remove your opponent's traps, it makes a fantastic late-game finisher. Plus, you're Summoning Godnote as in the Abrahamic God.
Despite the ridiculous amount of resources a well-built Infernity deck has, the cards' effects require you to have no hand, so it is not an easy deck to use. Reading strategy threads demonstrate the amount of thought necessary to make a consistent deck that doesn't lead to crippling dead cards in hand or needlessly wasting resources. The payoff is huge, though. In fact, living up to its name, while Brionac was still legal, they could execute an infinite loop with Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier that could leave the opponent totally resource-less, though good luck understanding it at first glance.
Generally averted. The two have been completely separate Types since the very beginning. Though both focus upon having supremely nasty powerhouses, Dinosaurs tend more towards brute force and ATK gain while Dragons have devastating effects and good ATK.
Disability Superpower: Infernities are a variation of this trope: Typically not having cards in your hand would be considered a bad thing, as it would require you to constantly draw the cards you need from the top of your deck with no backup plan, but Infernities benefit from this situation.
Dub-Induced Plot Hole: Sometimes changing card names from Japanese to English results in the rules getting screwed up since the naming was important, such as with the case of the "Guardian" (The Japanese used "ガーディアン 'Gādian'"), "Archfiend", and a certain non-"Harpie" card having the Archetype's naming.
Early sets put much more emphasis on normal monsters, with the only real strategy being how to get yourself the best ATK stat to overpower your opponent. Nowadays you'll hardly ever see any Normal Monsters in a deck unless it's built specifically around them and high-ATK isn't the main focus anymore.
There have been a few changes in the phrasing of certain rules and cards. For example, Polymerization didn't actually explain what it did in its original printing, since that was in the rulebook. After there started to be more ways to summon Fusions than just Polymerization, the explanation of the card was taken out and put on the card itself.
As the name itself implies, the "Elemental HERO" Archetype, down to the point of every basic Elemental HERO being able to fuse with practically any other, except Neos, which has its own flock of Aliens to fuse with.
Inferno Tempest can only be activated when a player takes over 3000 damage from one attack. All monsters in the graveyards, and in both player's decks are banished. The world doesn't get much more thoroughly ended than having everyone who is currently or has previously lived in it disappear from reality.
Evil Versus Evil: There is a war between Dark Ruler Ha Des and Dark King of the Abyss. Ha Des tricked Dark King out of his throne with Demotion. Dark King got his revenge, but was killed by the Revived Ruler Ha Des.
An interesting side-effect of Equip Spell Cards that give Piercing, is that you can inflict damage to your opponent by equipping them to your opponent's monster(s). Then, when your opponent attacks one of your Defense Position monsters with an ATK greater than your monster's DEF, he/she will take the difference. After all, even though it's your opponent's monster, it's your Spell Card, and thus it's your opponent — not you — who takes the extra damage, due to the wording on the cards.
Some continuous card effects have linkage to another monster cards such as Call of the Haunted. However, when the monster is removed from field other than being destroyed, the card remains on the field meaninglessly.
Many cards require, as a cost, that a player "sends a card to the graveyard", usually from their hand or deck. An interesting side effect of a card called Macro Cosmos that states that cards are removed from play instead of sent to the graveyard. If it or a similar card is in play that would somehow prevent you from discarding directly to the Graveyard, you can't use card effects that specify you have to. Cards that simply say "discard" are fine, but "discard to the Graveyard" is out.
Does a card say that under certain conditions you can do something? Because that determines if the effect is mandatory or not, which means everything when it comes to chaining cards. Several rules determine the significance:
"If x, you can" means that the card is unable to "Miss the Timing".
"When x, you can" means that the card is capable of "Missing the Timing" if it is not the last thing to occur.
"When x, y" and "If x, y" cannot miss the timing, because they're mandatory.
You say your card has an effect that triggers when discarded? Does it say it has to specifically be from the deck or hand? Does it specify it has to be discarded to the graveyard? Does it say it has to be discarded due to an opponent's card effect? Does it matter if it's discarded for a cost or by an effect? And as noted above, does it say you can do something when it gets discarded, because that will determine if the effect is mandatory or not when it gets discarded. This is the main reason Dandylion is Limited, because it gets its effect when it hits the Graveyard no matter how it gets sent there, and the effect is mandatory so you're promised your two tokens no matter what happens.
Xyz cards have also caused players to take a closer look at cards like Sangan that specify "sent from the field to the Graveyard", because current rulings are that Xyz Material monsters don't count as being on the field, so Sangan wouldn't get its effect when detached from an Xyz monster.
Many monsters with a powerful effect or high ATK/DEF say "Cannot be normal summoned or set.". However, Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon only says it can be special summoned with its own effect. There is nothing stopping one from normal summoning it.
Fragile Speedster: Some decks focus on getting out monsters as quick as possible, swarming the field (like the Harpies, the Blackwings, Frogs, and so on). To balance this out, most of them do not have very high attack power.
Xyz monsters are much easier to Summon than Synchro monsters or Fusion monsters, but a lot of them don't have terribly high attack points comparatively, and most of them can only use their effect once or twice because they need to detach the monsters used to Summon them. If they are revived from the graveyard they can't use their effect at all! Most of them are meant for quick-and-dirty support rather than something to decisively end the opponent.
Frogs and Toads: These fellas. The Frog archetype is usually Weak, but Skilled; they are mostly-all low-level monsters with sub-par attack, but have devastating support effects, like "Des Croaking" which blows away all cards controlled by the opponent.
Fusion Dance: Fusion was a gameplay feature since the early days of the game, but the Elemental HEROs are entirely based around fusing with one another. There are dozens of potential combinations present. To a lesser extent, the newer Gemknight archetype is also based around fusion.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: Many cards have slightly different effects between the anime and the physical card game; what would be a game-breaker might be Nerfed when it becomes real, or vice-versa. Sometimes the rules are a little different as well; Summoning monsters in face-down defense position hasn't happened in the anime since the first season, but it's still an important part of the rules of the real game.
As for a more direct example, Normal monsters. Take Maiden of the Moonlight for example. Powers beyond mortal comprehension, huh? That 1500 ATK certainly says otherwise! Sure there are SOME examples where it fits, like the famous Blue-Eyes White Dragon (in terms of ATK, there are not many monsters that can stand up to it), but its just ridiculous for the most part. In fact, this is what made Shapesnatch a Memetic Badass.
Gate Guardian: In the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game, there's "Gatekeeper", a mechanical creature who seems to guard dimensional gateways. There's also "Gate Guardian", the Paradox Brothers' ace monster in the anime. Presumably it guards gates with its mighty power.
Glass Cannon: The Lightsworns were designed as this with a combo of Fragile Speedster. Most of their monsters are quite powerful and a good Lightsworn deck will probably win very quickly...or not win at all. This is because almost all of them send cards straight from your deck to the graveyard at the end of the turn, meaning your deck will burn itself out after a while.
There's also quite a few monsters that have high attack points but pathetic defense points. The mighty Rainbow Dragon has 4000 ATK and 0 DEF, for example. Similarly, the Inverz/Steelswarm monsters all have 0 DEF. If a clever player runs cards that can switch attack and defense positions or stats, or outright nuke said low-defense monsters, these monsters are toast.
Gotta Catch 'Em All: This is impossible in real life (unless you're insanely rich and have a lot of spare time on your hands, and even then Tyler the Great Warrior is truly one-of-a-kind), but it's quite possible if you're playing any of the various Yu-Gi-Oh video games that are released every year.
Gratuitous English: At this point, the OCG probably has more cards and booster packs with English than Japanese names. A good deal of Japanese cards also have English names.
Guide Dang It: Now that there are thousands of individual cards in the game (with updated rulings, to boot,) keeping track of these can be a pain. Fortunately, there are official tournament judges and even a wiki to help with this, but there are some things that will not be immediately obvious to a player that requires him to double check from an official source to confirm it. For example: Cards like Axe Of Despair and Summoned Skull are now considered to be "Archfiend" cards (the newer prints even say so on them). If you had the old versions of these cards, how were you supposed to know?
The game started off as a homage to Magic: the Gathering for the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga.
Since the game is created by Konami, it's only natural that a few of their other game series would make some appearances. A few examples...
The Tactical Espionage Expert. Physically he appears to be a Composite Character of Snake and Raiden, the two protagonists of the Metal Gear Solid series, and his name comes from the series' subtitle: "Tactical Espionage Action." Rumor has it this card was created in response to Hideo Kojima expressing interest in the game, which also earned him the affectionate nickname Hideojama, after the series' Ojama monsters,
Also, in the set of cards based on Tarot Greater Arcana, the card representing The World has the power to, effectively, stop time by giving you potentially unlimited turns — a shout out to Dio Brando's famous stand of the same name from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
The ability of Gladiator Beast monster to switch places with another Gladiator Beast from the deck after battling has been unanimously dubbed "Tag Out" by the playerdom.
The Elemental Heroes, or at least the earlier non-Fusion ones, are based on various American superheroes (Avian / Hawkman, Bladedge / Iron Man, Necroshade / Spawn).
The Elementals weren't the only ones: Destiny Heroes, two in particular, were based on two chracters in classic Novels (Double Dude/ Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Dreadmaster/ The Man in the Iron Mask) and one Evil Hero is based on one of the X-Men (Malicious Edge/Wolverine).
And the Masked Heroes as a whole are nods to the Kamen Rider franchise.
More specifically, the Inzektor monsters design, and their overall effect of a stronger armoured Inzektor over a lighter faster Inzektor is a shout out to Kamen Rider Kabuto.
Several cards use characters from other Shonen Jump series.
While the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG is itself based off Magic: The Gathering, very few cards from the former actually reference the latter... except for the Prophecy archetype. The Prophecy Destroyer's art style is very Magic-esque, while Wheel of Prophecy could be an Expy or Captain Ersatz of Ajani Goldmane, a Planeswalker from the Magic universe. Temperance of Prophecy can also be said to resemble Jace Beleren.
And the other way around works, too. Check out the Silent Swordsman and Silent Magician. Now look at Kargan Dragonlord and Guul Draz Assassin... and Chandra Nalaar's Japanese Duel Deck art.
House Rules: Two common variations are based on the Forbidden/Limited list: Traditional, which allows banned cards (up to one of each), and Mega-Banned, which completely disallows cards that are on the list at all. Another type sometimes seen in competitive play is the Sealed Deck duel, which gives both players identical decks, but no one knows the contents.
Humongous Mecha: Many of the Machine-type monsters, especially some of their Fusions.
Invulnerable Knuckles: An important gameplay aversion. To explain: If your monster attacks an opponent's defense-position monster, and the defender has more DEF than the attacker has ATK, it's the attacker who takes damage; think of it like punching a brick wall with your fist. This is one of the reasons why monsters can be Summoned in face-down defensive position; the attacker doesn't know what he's in for. Some decks can be built around this, with defensive monsters that flip themselves back down and "Shifting Sands" in play that lets you randomize the positions of your face-down monsters.
A lot of cards are not only useless, but they seem to have been made for nothing more than novelty. For example, there's Sanwitch, a Level 6 Fusion Monster with 2100 ATK. There's no reason to ever use it, and even if you wanted to, you can't — Witch of the Black Forest has been banned from play ever since the Banned List was created, and Sangan has been on and off it and was on it when Sanwitch was made.
Seeing as most of the game is based on situational cards many cards which seem to be jokes can easily become deadly in the right circumstances, Sanwitch for example makes it very easy to get additional fusion material and the Toons can run through your opponents life points really quickly and are hard to get rid of. The Skull Servant started out as nothing more than fodder that most players wouldn't even look at but now has enough buffs and support cards to make it a valuable part of deck if you have the right cards...
Kill 'em All: Some cards are able to wipe out everything on both sides of the playing field (or just all cards on the opposing side). A couple of cards take it even further by also wiping out every card in the players' hands!
Leeroy Jenkins: Some cards have compulsory attack effects (i. e. Berserk Gorilla, Battle Mania).
Leet Speak: There's a card called Mind Haxorz. Seriously.
Lethal Joke Card: There's a bunch of these. The Ojamas, three exceedingly weak monsters with no attack points, got a number of support cards that let them drastically turn the table on the enemy. "Gift Card" increases your opponent's life by 3000, but if you combo that with "Bad Reaction To Simochi", or have "Nurse Reficule The Fallen One" on the field, which turns healing into damage, you've just dealt a serious blow to the opponent. "Skull Servant" was famous for being an extremely weak card (in fact, most video games give you credit if you can win a game with the Skull Servant) but can act as fuel for "King of the Skull Servants," who becomes increasingly more powerful the more Skull Servants are in the Graveyard.
Grinder Golem and Inferno Tempest. Grinder Golem Summons a 3000 attack point monster on your opponents side of the field and gives you two tokens with 0 attack points. Now attack the Golem with one of your tokens, take 3000 damage, and activate Inferno Tempest. It removes every monster in both players decks and graveyards from play. You may even be able to perform an OTK by activating D.D. Dynamite which does 300 damage for every card of your opponents that is removed from play.
Grinder Golem has the bonus of having low defense points, so you can Summon it to the opponent's field in defense position, then use it as fodder for a monster that needs to destroy a monster by battle to activate an effect, while also providing tokens for other effects.
Foolish Burial sends a monster straight from your deck to the graveyard, which would seem like a bad idea on its own, except if you combine that with anything that lets you revive a monster, you've just hand-picked a monster from your deck to be Summoned onto the field. There's a reason this card is limited to one per deck.
Foolish Burial also sets off Dandylion, which Summons two Level 1 tokens when sent to the grave. This is especially useful when Synchro Summoning. If you Summon Debris Dragon after doing this and use it to revive Dandylion, you can now Synchro Summon any Dragon-type Synchro Monster between level 5 and 9, and then gain another two Level 1 tokens. All this from two cards.
Using the above strategy and a Level 1 Tuner, you can Summon Formula Synchron and Stardust Dragon, and then Shooting Star Dragon, which has 3300 ATK and a myriad of powerful effects. If you use Glow-up Bulb as the Level 1 Tuner, it can revive itself and you can play a second level 2 synchro monster, allowing you to play Shooting Quasar Dragon. So basically you just played a 4000 ATK monster with three cards, and drew an extra one thanks to Formula Synchron. All 4 of the setup cards, Foolish Burial, Dandylion, Formula Synchron, and Debris Dragon, have since been limited.
Light Is Good: Most monsters of the LIGHT attribute seem to be heroic, but...
The Vylons are an interesting example. In the story they teamed up with the Lavals, Gishki, Gusto, and Gem-Knights in order to beat back the Steelswarms. This ultimately leads to Vylon Disigma defeating them. But as it turns out, those sets were only working together to beat the Steelswarms and prior to that were also fighting each other. The Vylons wish for a perfect existence for everyone, but they now see that's impossible. So they've decided to use Disigma to Kill 'em All.
Despite Santa Claws's Japanese name referencing the Devil, he is in the LIGHT Attribute.
Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Quite many cards are this, which kind of diminishes its value a bit; but there some among these that really are worthy of its title, examples are cards that are actually sold separately in one big deluxe package: Shinato of A Higher Plane was this at first. Other examples are Special Summons hyped in the Animated Adaptation and The Movie, expect to only get them in special events or packed with another product of the franchise (usually a Video Game).
Loophole Abuse: Many older cards are worded in such a way to allow this as the game and its strategies have progressed and evolved in ways the card game back then couldn't have foreseen. For example, Mind Control lets you take control of an opponent's monster, but it can't attack or be Tributed. When it was first released it didn't have a lot of uses, mostly just Fusion (which was rarely used) and getting a monster out of the way. Then came Synchros and Xyz, which state their Summoning methods don't actually count as Tributing...and so it was Mind Control is now Limited.
Similar to Mind Control, Instant Fusion - pay 1000 Life Points to special Summon a Level 5 or lower Fusion monster from the extra deck, but it can't attack and is destroyed during at the end of the turn. Unless you need Tribute fodder, entirely useless, since none of the Level 5 or below Fusions are any good even if they weren't only around for one turn. Then Synchros came, and this card, combined with a Tuner, let you Summon pretty much any Synchro monster you wanted. And then came the Xyz cards, which can do just about the same thing.
Two old school revival cards have this. Premature Burial states that when it is destroyed, the monster it revived is destroyed. Its effect says nothing about the monster dying if the card is just removed from the field, most famously by returning it to the hand to be played again. Call of the Haunted meanwhile says that when the monster it Summoned is destroyed the card itself also goes, but as with Premature Burial it doesn't go if the monster is removed from the field, leaving Call of the Haunted face-up and useless, unless you have something like Scrap Dragon. Be sure to pay attention to if a card specifically says removed from the field or destroyed, it makes a huge difference.
The Wind-Ups. Each of them have effects that can only be activated once while on the field. But if it's sent to the grave/banished zone, then you can re-use the effects. This led to the infamous "Wind-Up Loop" in the March 2012 format, where unless your opponent had Effect Veiler or Maxx C, you basically made them discard their entire hand without any drawback to yourself.
Tour Guide From the Underworld Summons a second monster when she comes into play, with lots of limitations on what you can do with it. But, of course, it doesn't forbid you from using the monster with mechanics that were added to the game later, like Xyz Summons...
Dark World monsters are all about this. They (and a later archtype with similar mechanics, Fabled) get their effects when they're discarded to the Graveyard. However, if you discard them for a cost, say for a card like Magic Jammer, their effects don't trigger. This has resulted in many Dark World support cards that let you do something, then you discard a card from your hand, because then the discarding is part of the card's effect, not the cost, and the Dark World monster's effect will trigger properly.
There's also numerous cards that cause things to happen at certain times during the turn. This makes some cards like Solomon's Lawbook (skip your next Standby Phase), and Dimensionhole and Interdimensional Matter Transporter (banish a monster until a particular turn phase) Crouching Moron Hidden Badasses because they allow you to avoid various effects by "dodging" turn phases. For the latter, there's Spirit Monsters, which have a universal effect that specifies they return to your hand during the End Phase of the turn they're Normal Summoned or flipped face-up. So if you banish them from the field and they return later or find a way to skip your End Phase, they get to stay on the field because the End Phase of the turn you played them has passed, and the return effect says nothing about them returning to the hand on subsequent turns.
Guardian Dreadscythe is summoned when a Guardian Eatos to be destroyed to be Special Summoned, and it can only be summoned by its own effect. The key words are the last part. In fact, it has a second summoning condition: when is sent from the field to the Graveyard, you must discard 1 card to bring it back. Duelists have exploited this fact by using Inzektor Exa-Beetle, which equips 1 monster from the Graveyard and can detach an Xyz material to send one card on both players' side of the field to the Graveyard. In fact, it is arguably easier to get Dreadscythe out this way than its intended summoning condition.
Machina Fortress has the effect that you can discard Machine-type monsters from your hand with total levels of 8 to Special Summon it from the hand or Graveyard. However, Machina Fortress is itself a Machine, and thanks to the rulings and wording of its effect, you can discard Machina itself for its own effect cost, and then Special Summon it from the Graveyard when its effect resolves. And to boot, Machina Fortress is Level 7, meaning the last level needed can come from any Machine-type monster in the game outside XYZs. In practice, it's effect might as well read "You can discard 1 Machine-type monster to the Graveyard tio Special Summon this card from your hand."
Several cards refer to affecting a card with a particular word or phrase in its name, for example the Vehicroid support cards specify they affect "roid" monsters. However, this means those same cards can be used on Dark Jeroid, and any future card with the word "roid" even if they aren't Vehicroids.
Several cards, most famously Harpie Lady and her variants, say in their text "This card is always treated as Harpie Lady". This refers to purposes of deck construction too — Harpie Lady, Harpie Lady #1, #2, #2, and Cyber Harpie, all count as the same card, so you can only have three total. In turn this has led to cards with effects reading like "This card's name is treated as <name> while it is on the field and/or in the Graveyard", bypassing the card limit rule so support cards for that specific monster are easier to use. The Harpies, Cyber Dragon, and the Frogs, all abuse this to the extreme.
Luck-Based Mission: No matter how you build it, running an Arcana Force deck inevitably turns into this.
Also, Lightsworns. Lightsworn cards send cards from the top of the Deck to the Graveyard, and abuse this with plenty of monsters whose effects activate in Graveyard. Of course, many key cards, including the Game Breaker Judgment Dragon need to be in the hand to use. Running Lightsworns is just hoping you get the right cards in your Graveyard and the rest in your hand. Just as Arcana Force, you can try to build them to get around this, but most of the time it's better not to.
Made of Explodium: Scrap monsters are always either being destroyed by their own effects or the effects of their support cards. Fortunately, their secondary effects usually kick in after this, allowing you to recycle other Scrap cards.
Magikarp Power: A lot of the LV monsters are weak in their initial forms but replace themselves with much, much stronger versions. One of the biggest Magikarps in the game is Winged Kuriboh, who, on its own, simply prevents you from taking damage for a turn. There's a card that can replace it with a "Winged Kuriboh Level 10", which makes every monster your opponent has on the field explode and damage them equal to the total ATK of the monsters destroyed, usually more than enough to finish them off and win the Duel.
There are also cards that slowly build up power over time - they gather tokens, so many turns need to pass, etc - with strong effects that trigger once they're charged up.
As a meta example, a lot of old weak archetypes (Gravekeepers, Batterymen, Frogs) will often receive new support cards in sets released years later that suddenly make them much more viable.
The Ojama own this trope. As if Ojama Delta Hurricane!, which obliterates your opponent's hand and field but requires the three Ojama brothers as an activation condition, weren't enough, the more recent additions to the family, Red and Blue, can mass-Summon fellow Ojamas from the hand and tutor Ojama cards from the deck respectively. Last but not least, Ojama Country can Summon Ojamas from the grave and flips the attack and defense of all monsters on the field. Run with Ojama King and other Stone Wall monsters and...
Mechanical Evolution: Machine King. Its youngest form is labeled as being from the year 3000 BC! Interestingly, the chronologically earlier forms seem to have been created as an afterthought.
Mechanical Monster: Many machines resemble living creatures, like the Cyber Dragon line. On the flip side of things are the Scrap monsters, which clearly look mechanical but technically count as just about everything except machines—insects, beasts, dragons and so on.
Memetic Hand Gesture: Some players have adopted the practice from the anime of placing their hands over their decks to signify surrendering the duel, though it's obviously not sufficient to just do this for it to legitimately count as a surrender.
Metagame: Try to run a deck without cards like Heavy Storm, Lightning Vortex, or defensive traps such as Scrap-Iron Scarecrow and Mirror Force and count the time until someone says you can't run a deck without them.
The Forbidden/Limited lists that change every 6 months tend to both reflect and change the Metagame.
Metaplot: There was an attempt to have one for a while, based on the artwork of the Gagagigo, Inpachi, Goblin cards, RoyalCards, DifferentDimension cards, as well as various monsters appearing in the art of other cards. The lack of flavor text on most cards meant that any story that might have been present was completely lost. More recent cards still reference each other in the artwork, but there doesn't seem to be any attempt to build a coherent plot. A fair chunk of fanfic is devoted to spinning a coherent story out of the various references.
The new Duel Terminal arcade game's card archetypes seem to have this going for them, as evidenced by a few cards both within theDuelTerminal and outsideit. note That stuff Mist Valley Thunder Lord is holding? They're the broken pieces of a Catastor.
Mighty Glacier: Some decks require a lot of set-up before you can bring out the big offensive guns. One example is the Destiny HEROs, who are almost all defensive monsters that help the player increase their hand and field presence. This is because their two trump card monsters, Plasma and Dogma, require three Tributes to Summon (but are so powerful they can really hamstring the opponent once finally out).
Mind Control: One of the main features of the Aliens is infecting opposing cards with A-counters (called "A-cells" in lore) which they can then take control of. Mind control effects are often limited in some way, so if you can avoid destroying your stolen monsters, they might come back to you.
Monster Clown: A literal example! Mystic Clown... Dream Clown... Crass Clown... Saggi The Dark Clown... as you might have guessed none of these guys are very pleasent. Luckily, most clown cards are fairly weak or have no effects. Most.
Mook Maker: Anything that generates Tokens regularly, like "Goka, the Pyre of Malice".
Mushroom Man: There are cards specifically named Mushroom Man #1 and #2.
Mutual Kill: Both monsters are destroyed when they have the same ATK and attack each other.
Negate Your Own Sacrifice: The popular Stardust Dragon can sacrifice itself to prevent some other card on the field from being destroyed, but it can also bring itself back every turn it does this.
Nerfed: A really big Nerf occurred when Synchro monsters were introduced. The "Fusion Deck" became the "Extra Deck," and instead of having an unlimited number of Fusion monsters in it (barring the "no more than three with the same name" rule) players were now limited to 15 cards (Synchro or Fusion monsters). This is because Synchro Monsters are generally unspecific as to how they can be Summoned and it would be too game-breaking to allow an unlimited number of them in there, but this was a major blow to Elemental HERO decks, since there are way more than 15 different possible Elemental HERO fusion combinations.
Since they can't re-write the rules as written on a card once it's been issued, sometimes Konami will limit how many of certain powerful cards you're allowed to have in your deck, sometimes just 2, 1, or none at all. These "limited/forbidden" lists change every six months as new cards are introduced that change the balance of the game.
It seems that, as of 2015, this will be Konami's method of introducing balance to the game, by rewording and weakening effects on cards that were too broken for their own good (the most prominent of which is Chaos Emperor Dragon: Envoy of the End.)
Never Say "Die": Any monster with the word "Death" in its name has it changed to "Des" as a deliberate transliteration, hence "Death Frog" is "Des Frog" (and "Death Koala" is "Des Koala").
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Quite a few cards can be used to Special Summon a more powerful monster upon the death of the first. For example, Rise of the Snake Deity can be used upon the death of Vennominon, the King of Poisonous Snakes to Summon Vennominaga, the Deity of Poisonous Snakes which gets 500 ATK for each Reptile in the graveyard, can't be the target of abilities, can come back from the dead with the sacrifice of a Reptile from the graveyard and causes an instant victory in 3 attacks.
Yubel is probably the best example: If you attack it, then you take damage instead and Yubel itself survives. If you destroy it, then it becomes stronger. The only way to destroy it is... waiting: Yubel needs a sacrifice each turn to stay alive, and being destroyed this way won't bring up its stronger forms. Unless, of course, your opponent abuses the many reusable Tribute fodders in the game; then you're screwed.
The Meklord archetype is considered this if you are playing a synchro deck.
Also, Berserk Dragon can only be Summoned by a spell card that can only be used if one of your Level 8+ monsters is destroyed.
The soon to be released Shaddoll archetype from Duelist Advent. Its main power card, Shaddoll Fusion, gets its massive power if it's able to grab its Fusion Materials straight from the deck. What condition must be maintained for this to happen? The opponent must have a Special Summoned monster on their field. About 8-10 years ago, this would be too situational. Now? Well, if you're playing the game now take a look down at your current deck. Chances are it relies on Special Summoning. Congrats, chances are you're going to allow Shaddoll decks to do a tapdance on your face. There's really no surprise as to why this archetype is dominating the OCG after ONE SET.
Not Quite Dead: Numerous cards allow other cards to return from the Graveyard (either to the field or the player's hand), though not so much that Death Is Cheap. In fact most Zombie monsters have effects like this.
Not the Intended Use: A number of instances. For example, Barrel Behind the Door was initially meant to bounce back damage done to you by effects. It works just as well bouncing non-cost damage from your cards to your opponent.
One of the most interesting examples is G.B. Hunter. As the name says, it was designed to defeat Gladiator Beasts, which return to the Deck to activate their effects. Turns out, she's great at preventing your monsters from returning to the Deck or Extra Deck. Monsters like, say, the MajesticSynchros, any Elemental Hero Fusion Monster with Neos in its name, or, ironically, Gladiator Beast Octavius.
One of the most unfortunate examples was the Forbidden Royal Oppression. It was meant as an anti-meta card to punish the highly Special Summon reliant Metagame. Instead, decks ended up using it to get out their big plays and then activated it to prevent the opponent from being able to respond as effectively. The card ironically lived up to its name as it primarily benefited top-tier decks and those who went first even more.
Equip cards that give monsters the "piercing" ability (doing damage to the opponent when attacking a weaker defense position monster) can be equipped to the opponent's monster, with the result that the opponent takes damage from attacking defense monsters.
Nuke 'em: Shown in the artwork of Final Destiny. Not to mention it is one of the very few cards that lets you wipe out the whole field.
Numerical Theme Naming: The Karakuri archetype. In Japan, their names are actually numbers: "Karakuri Soldier Nisamu," for example, is written with the kanji 弐参六 (236). In the US, the dual nature of their names is retained by translating the kanji as both a model number and the actual reading thereof (or a variation); e.g. "Karakuri Soldier mdl 236 'Nisamu'".
One-Hit-Point Wonder: All except a dozen or so monsters only need one attack to be destroyed, regardless of how low or high the difference is.
And a few of them have effects where they are destroyed after they are attacked, regardless of ATK or DEF points.
Orphaned Series: The physical card game is still ongoing, but the video game releases stopped short of the introduction of Xyz monsters and the Zexal series; this, after Konami released at least one or more Yugioh video games each year like clockwork.
Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL World Duel Carnival has been announced for release in 2014 for the Nintendo 3DS.
Our Dragons Are Different: Mostly western dragons, though a few eastern dragons also appear. Some dragons stretch the definition of "dragon," like Black Rose Dragon, which appears to mostly be a giant rose with thorny vines and a dragon head.
And now the first Arc-V set introduces a new type that is this trope within the game— Wyrm (Genryu)note Legendary Dragon monsters, who are incompatible with Dragon-type support cards.
Personality Powers: Light-based monsters are often benevolent, or overbearing and intimidating. Earth monsters are usually unsubtle, but balanced and grounded. Dark monsters are often sinister, but sometimes more "crafty" than evil. (Especially if you associate dark with "magic"). Wind decks are often fast but flighty, and not always dependable; the vast majority of Spell and Trap destroying cards are named after wind effects. Fire decks love roasting the opponent and the "Backfire" card causes them all to be Made of Explodium (by burning the opponent when a Fire monster is killed), or else are highly aggressive and hotheaded, burning through their own cards. Water monsters can be weak with surprising Hidden Depths and clever utility.
The Plague: With a handful of virus cards to play with, very few of them don't dish out immeasurable damage to the opposing player. Crush Card Virus, Epidemic Eradication Virus, Deck Devastation Virus, and Cell Explosion Virus. Did I mention they have ominous names as well?
Poison Mushroom: "Parasite Paracide" is a card that gets inserted into the opponent's deck face-up. When they draw it, it gets Summoned to the field and they take damage. As a side-effect, it also causes all opposing monsters to count as insects (this was back when the main Insect strategy was to take advantage of an opponent's monsters also counting as insects).
"Mushroom Man #2" damages its controller at the start of the turn, but can be shifted to the opponent at the cost of some of your own life points. This card becomes an exercise in playing "hot potato" with the opponent and it's not very popular these days, since they could just tribute it for a Tribute Summon or use it for a Synchro Summon.
"Lava Golem" and "Volcanic Queen" are both very powerful monsters with high ATK—but you Summon them to the opponent's side of the field. The trick is that they burn their controller each turn (and you get to Tribute opposing Monsters to Summon them, getting rid of some of their cards), so if you're playing a stalling-based deck with indestructible monsters, they're stuck with something they can't easily get rid of that damages them each turn.
Power at a Price: Low-level monsters with high stats tend to have negative effects (and/or positive to the opponent).
Power-Up Letdown: Aside from the inherent almost Ritual-level difficulty of summoning a Chaos Xyz monster, several of them have effects that are worse than the original. The best example is Number C92: Heart-eartH Chaos Dragon. The original can banish nearly every card played in an opponent's turn, has protection from being destroyed by battle while redirecting battle damage to the opponent, and can revive itself with 1000 ATK times every card banished when destroyed with Xyz material. Its Chaos form? Loses battle immunity (while only having 1000 ATK to boot), gives your monsters Life Drain (which rarely makes up for the damage you take) and negates effects for a turn, likely only once. Not to mention it's hard enough to get the original out in the first place.
Put on a Bus: Rather interestingly Lampshaded. Since a number of cards have been put on the "forbidden" list Konami has released a series of cards depicting their bus ride, primarily focusing on Sangan: Mistake, depicting them all getting on the bus, Tour Bus to Forbidden Realms, depicting part of the ride and presumably the point where Sangan realizes the bus isn't coming back, and Shared Ride with a crying Sangan being consoled by the angel from Graceful Charity.
Regenerating Health: As long as you have "Marie The Fallen One" in your graveyard, you gain 200 LP each Standby Phase. A lot of other cards can heal as well, but they have to be on the field, where they are wide open to attacks or effects.
Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Alien, Venom, Worm, and Reptilianne archetypes. In fact, it's because of this trope that the Aliens and Worms (which are Starfish Aliens) are classified as "Reptiles," because they're so wrong.
Reset Button: The now long-banned card "Fiber Jar" resets pretty much everything in the duel except for Life Points and cards that were removed from play. Its only purpose is to draw out duels and make them even longer, so it was banned to prevent this.
Retcon: A few cards have been renamed outright in order to make them fit better with later-released archetypes: "Amazon Archer" became "Amazoness Archer," "Oscillo Hero #2" became "Wattkid," and the various "Heroes," such as the "Elemental Heroes," are now all officially "HER Os," since there are five different sub-archetypes which use the keyword.
Retired Badass: The set "Storm of Ragnarok" heavily implies that the support monsters for the Six Samurai archetype were the original members of the group.
Sacred Bow and Arrows: Fairy-types have the Silver Bow and Arrow weapon to power up. The Fairy-types Skelengel and Number 102: Star Seraph Sentry wield bows in their artwork, and in some video games other Fairies are depicted as fighting with bows.
Samurai: The "Six Samurai" archetype and all its support.
Before them, we had the "Sasuke Samurai" cards, though this only consists of four monsters.
Satanic Archetype: While not outright stated to be the devil, Diabolos seems clearly inspired by the devil. If his name (devil in Greek) and the title "King of the Abyss" did not tip you off already, there's also a LIGHT version of him, indicating he did at one point fall from grace or possibly the opposite.
The manga, on the other hand, has a much more straight example. See there for said example.
Sequel Escalation: Remember the old days where Summoning more than one monster in one turn is hard to do? Now Summoning five monsters with over 2000 ATK in one turn while still having a healthy hand size is completely normal to be seen.
Blackwings especially get that treatment when it's your first time playing them. If they don't FTK you, they must've gone first (and therefore could not attack).
Synchro Monsters in general are this. Now Summoning your deck's ace monster is usually done mostly with monster effects and is usually Summoned in your first or second turn. In the olden days, you were considered lucky to Summon any thing over a level six without deliberately stalling or using Foolish Burial + Monster Reborn.
Series Mascot: Kuriboh and Winged Kuriboh have been this for years, Stardust Dragon for the 5D's-era. Number 39: Utopia seems to be shaping up to be the one for the current ZEXAL era.
Kuribon and Kurivolt are the variations for 5D's and ZEXAL. They haven't been used nearly as much as the first two, being just special cards while Kuriboh and Winged Kuriboh had spirit forms. In addition to the Kuribohs, each series protagonist has a monster typically used most by them. Dark Magician, Elemental Hero Neos, Stardust Dragon, and Number 39: Utopia. These monsters always have 2500 attack and 2000 defense.
Set Bonus: Most archetypes rely on internal support.
Shared Life Meter: Life Points work sort of like this. Monsters battling each other remove Life Points from each player, and when a player's Life Points reach zero they lose, along with all the monsters they were controlling.
Shock and Awe: Thunder-type monsters. Additionally, a lot of cards that deal with destroying monsters happen to be named after or themed after electricity, like the Thunder Monarch, Raigeki and its variants, Elemental HERO Thunder Giant/Evil HERO Lightning Golem, and so on.
So Last Season: Elemental Hero decks took a major hit when Synchro Monsters came out, and Synchro Monster support (and decks) took a huge hit when Xyz came out.
Formerly banned cards such as Tsukuyomi received this effect since their effects are far less devastating in a faster metagame where multiple Summons in a turn are prevalent.
Duelist Advent, and if the anime is any proof, the Yugioh Arc-V era seems destined to subvert this. How so? Well, the number one archetype in the OCG right now is Shaddolls. Their claim to fame? FUSION SUMMONING. That's right, yeah, not just for HER Os and Glad Beasts anymore. Also in that set is the Yang Zing, an archetype that's made up of an entirely new Type of monster (Wyrm) and they are based around Synchro Summoning. And lastly you have the Satallarknights which are based around Xyz Summoning. Ironically enough, the hallmark Mechanic/Summon of Arc-V, Pendulum Summoning, is completely underpowered at the moment and isn't taking all too much room in sets. While there isn't an archetype released for it, there is a Ritual Monster released in the first two Arc-V sets as well and lastly it happens that these sets are in the middle of Konami's new Mega Monarch support. Basically, every type of summoning is getting love now, instead of brushing everything to to the side to support the new hallmark.
Starfish Aliens: The Alien archetype. Some of the bigger ones border on Eldritch Abomination. One of them is even cosmic horror by name! Also, they are the true masters of turnabout. Zeta Reticulant and Greed Quasar are not technically of the Alien archetype, but are still in the same visual class. The Worms of the Worm archetype are even more Starfishy, ranging from hideous blobs to rampaging chitinous monstrosities. The only common feature they have is a toothy, vertical mouth.
Take Me Instead: There are a few monsters that let you send them to the graveyard to protect your other cards from being destroyed, Stardust Dragon being a famous example.
Taking the Bullet: My Body as a Shield and Astral Barrier have YOU doing this to protect your monsters, so to speak. This is also a recurring theme with the Six Samurai cards; each of the Six can destroy themselves to prevent another one on the field from being destroyed, or to protect Great Shogun Shien.
Players can subvert this in the case of Astral Barrier by coupling it with Spirit Barrier, where you and your monsters effectively protect each other.
Taking You with Me: Several ways. Activating Self-Destruct Button is one. Playing Ring of Destruction on a monster whose attack is more than both player's Life Points is another. Flipping a Morphing Jar when both players have less than 5 cards in their deck? Indeed.
Tarot Motifs: The Arcana Force monsters are based on tarot cards, including names and numbers, though not all 22 made the cut. There were also a couple of minor arcana thrown in: Ace of Cups, which randomly may let you or your opponent draw extra cards, and the anime-only Ten of Swords.
Theme Naming: Many archetypes work this way. Those that don't just have common visual themes.
Some examples: Dark World monsters have a warped version of a color for a name ("Gren," "Goldd," "Silva," "Broww,"). The Worms have names beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, from A ("Worm Apocalypse") to Z ("Worm Zero"). Gladiator Beasts all have Roman or Greek themed names.
The game has many monsters that act as variants of the same base monster, though not always stronger, with the connection being signified by a partial name change, such as Dark Magician to Dark Sage or Dark Magician Knight. Played straightest with the Gagagigo family, Gagagigo's card lore tracing his evolution into Giga Gagagigo, then Gogiga Gagagigo.
The Chaos Xyz monsters (Including the Chaos Numbers) also follow this pattern. Examples of the first type include "Number 39: Utopia/Aspiring Emperor Hope" which becomes "Utopia Ray" or if Ranked up becomes "Utopia Ray V" or "Utopia Ray Victory". Example of the variation include "Norito the Moral Leader" becoming "CXyz: Simon the Great Moral Leader".
Undying Loyalty: "Skull Dog Marron" is an animated skeletal dog which wandered off 1,000 years ago, and has been waiting for its master to come looking for it.
Un-Person: Konami has been taking the focus away from Synchros and Tuners ever since the debut of ZEXAL, all in favor of the new Xyz mechanic. The former two have also been hit hard in the banlists, in contrast to the latter. The still running 5Ds manga is the last refuge for new Synchros and Tuners for the real life game.
Unskilled, but Strong: A well-built deck that resolves around normal monsters are rather powerful at the cost of having no effects. It should also be noted that they are immune to cards that affect Effect Monsters.
Up to Eleven: Monsters that are Level 8 are usually the strongest Monsters you're likely to see in a deck, and they usually don't have an ATK of over 3000. Any effect monster with 3000 or higher ATK or a Level of 9 or higher usually has much stricter Summoning conditions or an Achilles' Heel, but they make up for it by being really powerful.
Useless Useful Spell: As a result of some cards being banned, there are quite a few cards that are just non-functional right now. Namely: Avatar of the Pot, Call of Darkness, Call of the Grave, Dedication through Light and Darkness, Elemental HERO Neo Bubbleman, Gryphon Wing, Guardian Elma, Jar Robber, Musician King, Mystical Beast of Serket, Sanwitch, and Spirit of the Pot of Greed.
Vendor Trash: A high proportion of any given booster pack set will be this, especially in the early sets flooded with weak monsters that had no effects. Though as the game evolved, support cards such as Instant Fusion (used for easy Xyz Summons) and Advanced Ritual Art gave those previously ignored cards playability.
Villainous Rescue: When your opponent attacks one of your Fiend-type monsters, you can send that Fiend to the graveyard, as well as one in your hand, to bring out Darkness Neosphere, a monster with 4000 attack and defense that can't be destroyed in battle!
The Virus: Ekibyo Drakmord returns to its owner's hand (so long as it's not destroyed or the equipped monster is removed from the field), allowing it to spread to other monsters.
"DNA Surgery" can be seen as this, too, as its effect changes all monsters on the field to a single type (chosen by the cards activator). "DNA Transplant" does the same thing, but with Attribute in place of type.
Power of the Void: Several monsters' effects that simply remove cards from the field evoke this, such as Caius the Shadow Monarch, which banishes a card from the game (and all similar variations of this effect), and Steelswarm Girastag, which sends a card to the grave. Both cards evade effects that protect cards from destruction, which is considered very powerful in the game.
Weak, but Skilled: In general, there are a lot of cards with low attack and defense points that have powerful effects. There's even a few archetypes based around Weak, but Skilled cards, like the Frogs, the Watt monsters, Ojamas, and so on.
Weapon of Choice: The common theme for the Equip Spell Card-based Guardian archetype.
Xanatos Speed Chess: "Toolbox" decks that are designed to be as adaptable as possible fall under this trope. Certain archetypes or well-built custom decks allow the user to Summon a Monster that they need at will to respond to whatever the opponent has out. "Legendary Six Samurai" and "Gladiator Beast" decks are particularly good at this.
Xtreme Kool Letterz: Invoked by the Xyz Monsters. The original Japanese literally didn't correspond to any actual word known, aside from a term from a completely unrelated ATLUS game, and that term literally spawned a response of "it couldn't POSSIBLY BE THAT" out of the fanlators. That situation, combined with how Konami has made text errors in its printings before (re: the Zombie-Type's OCG name being "Undeat" rather than Undead thanks to such a mistake), made folks think of "Exceed" as a term that not only fit thematically but suffered from a hearty amount of Ascended Fanon. Cue the TCG release in which the very Konami article on the first ZeXal structure Deck included the name and the following line:
'It's pronounced ik-seez'
Apparently the name is a reference to spatial coordinates, which would fit the backstory in which the Xyz monsters came through a black hole, originating from a dimension of reverse-time.
If you're curious, the initial fan translation (which is so ubiquitous that it is still in use by most fansubbers and lots of fans) was "Exceed Monster". This transliteration was supported by the end of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, where characters "exceeded their limits" roughly once an episode, coupled with the hypothesis that in-universe the Exceed (Xyz) Monsters were an alternative to Synchro Monsters.
Yin-Yang Bomb: Chaos monsters, which are generally Game Breakers. To Summon them, you merely have to remove from play one Light and one Dark monster out of your graveyard. A nerfed version of them, the Sky Scourges, require a much heftier and more specific version of the same cost (three dark fiends and one light fairy, or three fairies and one fiend).
Later, there were also other Monsters also released with the word "Chaos" in their name; most of them involve some sort of combination of a Light and Dark monster. Chaos Goddess and Elemental HERO Chaos Neos are a couple of them.
There's also "Light and Darkness Dragon," which counts as both a light and dark monster; its main deal is that it blocks ALL card effects from happening, but becomes weaker each time it does; when it inevitably gets destroyed, you can choose any other monster in your graveyard to resurrect (and then blow up all OTHER cards you control). So it's protection, destruction, sacrifice and rebirth all at once—perfect for a creature of both light and darkness.
"Elemental HERO Darkbright," a fusion between a light and dark Elemental HERO monster. It has a powerful piercing attack, but makes itself vulnerable immediately afterwards by shifting to defense position. If it gets killed, though, you get to destroy an opposing card, too.
The Dark Magician in particular is notable for having a different hair color in each of his five seperate artworks.
The Charmers' hair corresponds to their attributes.
You're Nothing Without Your Phlebotinum: Some cards have variable ATK and DEF, represented with a "?" instead of numbers. If they get hit with something that negates their effect, their ATK and DEF become zero. So they are literally nothing without their powers.