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Being a franchise where Duels Decide Everything, the moves of the combatants in Yu-Gi-Oh! are at their most impressive when played through wits and synergy. At the same time, that means that it's all too easy to see a duelist make an illogical move or play the wrong card.

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    General 
  • Anytime a bad guy(s) or security cornered a hero that has no way of defending themselves, the bad guy can take anything the hero has to offer.
    You'd Expect: For the bad guy to just kick the crap out of the hero without challenging them to a children's card game, taking whatever items or possessions that they may have.
    Instead: For some reason, they decide to do it only if they won the duel in spite of the fact they don't even need to do that. Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged sums up the entire idiocy:
    Seeker: We are the elite group known as Rare Hunters. My name is Steve. And these are my associates. They are also called Steve. We're here to take your rarest card!
    Joey: You mean you're gonna kick the crap out of me and steal it?
    Seeker: No! First we're going to challenge you to a children's card game! Then we will kick the crap out of you and steal it!
    Joey: Wouldn't it be much easier just to skip the first step?
    Seeker: Yes! Yes it would!
  • Ostensibly, all the cards in this card game have writing on them which describes their effects, though there are exceptions (the Winged Dragon of Ra, for instance).
    You'd Expect: As often as any duelist encounters an unfamiliar card, they'd give it a quick read so they'd know what it does. Admittedly, with duel disks they are playing an unreasonable distance apart, but that would just make doing so slightly more awkward.
    Instead: Countless times duelists will be surprised by a card effect they could have simply read themselves before acting rashly, because the plot needs drama. Or, to quote the abridged series again.
    Duke: Oh, man, I have no idea what that card does.
    Rebecca: If only there was some way to find out.
    Duke: Yeah, like asking what it does.
    Rebecca: But we can't do that. That would be rude!
    Duke: I guess we'll never know.

    Yu-Gi-Oh! 
  • Before the start of the series, Kaiba has been given a test by his evil stepfather, Gozaburo, into paying him back the $10,000,000 he lent him. At some point, he begins to leak out his plans to his stepfather about having to put him out of business so that he can take over KaibaCorp and makes him think Mokuba is the culprit of this.
    You'd Expect: That he would immediately tell his brother about this part of the plan. That way, Mokuba, while being accused of this act, won't have a reason to doubt him that he is a Manipulative Bastard.
    Instead: He brutalizes Mokuba without telling him about all this, accusing him of selling him out, and sending him out of his room. He does all this in order for his stepfather to give him 2% of his share to be transferred to him when the time comes.
    Result: This scheme works a little too well, before it starts to bite him in the ass. After taking Mokuba captive and learning he still believes in his brother despite this move, Noah, the filler arc villain, brings out a hologram of Kaiba where it rejects him. This breaks Mokuba enough for him to get brainwashed by him during the arc.
  • In the start of the very first Arc, Yugi is approached by Insector Haga/Weevil Underwood, who asks to see his Exodia Cards. Exodia is an Instant Win set of cards that allows anyone who has all five cards in their hand to automatically win the duel. Yugi is about to play in a tournament against Haga/Weevil, and the Exodia Cards would be a massive threat to any competitors he went up against
    You'd Expect: That Yugi would refuse his request, or if he did allow Haga/Weevil to see them, he wouldn't allow the cards to leave his hand for any reason whatsoever.
    Instead: Yugi just hands him the cards without hesitation.
    Result: Haga/Weevil throws the cards over the deck of the cruise ship, ensuring that Yugi cannot use his extremely powerful Ace Cards.
    • Also Weevil has a set of absurdly overpowered cards in his hands.
      You'd Expect: Weevil would just pocket the cards and leg it back to his room and lock the door, securing an enormous advantage over his opponents in the tourament by virtue of posessing Exodia
      Instead: He throws them over the side of the ship, ensuring that he cannot use them.
  • The first ever duel between Joey and Kaiba takes place at Duelist Kingdom. It's the first ever duel using the newest technology created by Kaiba Corp: essentially a prototype for the DUEL DISK SYSTEEEEEEEM!note  Early on into the fight, Kaiba summons Battle Ox which utterly destroys Joey's Armored Lizard and Flame Swordsman, and then fuses with Kaiba's Mystic Horseman to become the much stronger Rabid Horseman. At this point, it can easily destroy any monster in Joey's hand.
    You'd Expect: Joey would simply put monsters in defense mode or if he doesn't know, ask Kaiba how to do it. In case you didn't know, a monster in defense that's destroyed in battle deals no damage to the player's life points (with a handful of monsters having an aversion to this being their effect). It's been used before and after this duel.
    Instead: Joey keeps summoning them in attack mode. The monsters don't have HP like an RPG or anything, so being attacked by a weaker monster does nothing but cost yourself life points. Back when this duel took place, the rules were sort of different in a way that would have given Joey an advantage. There was no attacking directly, you could only attack as many times as there were monsters to hit. Joey could have simply put his cards on defense until he drew something strong enough to do something. Had Joey dueled correctly using the rules at the time, he likely would have only taken a total of 800 LP, out of a total (at the time) 2000. It would have kept going, but the idiot move was treated like Kaiba was genuinely skilled. And by the time Joey summoned his Red-Eyes Black Dragon, it was too little too late as Kaiba draws his Blue-Eyes and destroys it.
  • During Yugi's duel with Kaiba at Duelist Kingdom, Kaiba has played Saggi The Dark Clown, a weak monster with only six hundred attack points and a face down card. Yugi currently has Dark Magician on the field and drawing Gaia The Fierce Knight wonders why Kaiba played such a weak card.
    You'd Expect: For him to realize something is up and Kaiba's goading him into attacking with Saggi as bait and not do anything. After all, Kaiba's a champion duelist, so he's likely got something planned.
    Instead: He attacks and destroys Saggi with Gaia.
    Result: Kaiba reveals that Saggi had the Crush Card Virus put on him with the face down and activates it and monsters in Yugi's deck with an attack power over 1500 are forbidden from being played from now.
  • Bandit Keith is shown to have a gun that he used to threaten Pegasus for his prize money.
    You'd Expect: That he would use it earlier, when Joey has just defeated Bonz for the star chips where he just shoots him along with all of his friends for some free star chips. Or better yet, he could use it to threaten as many hapless duelists as possible for their star-chips, potentially enough to get all four of his gang to the Duelist Kingdom finals and would purposely stage it so that he gets to duel Pegasus. If he (predictably) loses, then he would have all his gangs subdue him and extort him for the money and humiliate Pegasus at the same time.
    Instead: He doesn't think of doing any of this and by the time he threatens Pegasus with one, he falls down a trapdoor and sinks into the ocean, making his entire ploy to defeat Pegasus pointless.
  • During the Battle City tournament, Kaiba has invented a new rule that disallows Fusion Monsters to attack during the turn it is summoned (Keep in mind that at this point, you can only fuse based on the monsters you control).
    You'd Expect: For the duelists to simply attack the player with all their remaining monsters before they fuse in the Main Phase 2.
    Instead: They fuse with the monsters first before they even attack and without even using Quick Attack. This results in most duelists throwing the game when they could have just attack first and fuse later.
  • During the battle between Yami and Strings (who's being controlled by Marik), Strings manages to drain Yami's only monster on the field, Big Shield Gardna, to 600 DEF and has two monsters on the field, Slifer the Sky Dragon and Revival Jam.
    You'd Expect: That Strings/Marik would switch Revival Jam to attack position. Since it has 1500 ATK, it can destroy the weakened Big Shield Gardna. After that, Slifer the Sky Dragon can finish Yami off.
    Instead: He only attacks Big Shield Gardna using Slifer the Sky Dragon and doesn't even bother attacking using Revival Jam. This allows Yami one more turn and as a result, he makes a comeback and wins the duel.
  • Upon figuring out that Odion isn't really Marik, the real Marik himself considers using the fake god card to cover up his identity.
    You'd Expect: Since Joey is about to lose in one attack by Serket, for him to decide against it and let Odion finish him off. Not only will he have another ally he can bank on but if he keeps acting innocent, then not only will the heroes keep guessing on who the real Marik is but even better, assume that he just fled from Battle City.
    Instead: He orders Odion to use the fake Ra, which not only causes Joey to win a duel that he shouldn't have but also allows Marik's Superpowered Evil Side to appear and causes more havoc than his original self.
  • During the last segment of the duel against Yami Marik, Mai has taken the Winged Dragon of Ra from Marik's deck, currently has a Cyber Harpie Lady on the field and she is also capable of multiplying them into 3 using Elegant Egotist. Marik on the other hand, only has 1 monster in face-up attack position and 1000 life points, leaving him open for a direct attack for game. At this point, Mai is tempted to use the Winged Dragon of Ra.
    You'd Expect: As shown from the previous duel between Jounouchi and Rishid, attempting to use Ra without knowing how it works tends to backfire. Mai is in a winning position as it stands, having already taken the god card from Marik, and would win the card permanently by winning the duel, at which point she could figure out how it works at her leisure with nothing at risk by having a friendly duel with Jounouchi or Yugi.
    Instead: She decides to tribute summon Ra without having any idea how it works. Ra remains in Sphere mode because she can't read the incantation on the card, allowing Marik to take control of Ra from her simply by reciting it himself, not only costing Mai the match but also putting her life at risk.
  • A more direct plot element from the first series goes like this: in the middle of the ocean, the main characters' airship is attracted by a new villain totally out of the blue that demands that they defeat him in a virtual reality game thing (filler, anime-exclusive arc). They do it; but by doing it they left Evil Marik, the villain, unsupervised; and Odion/Rishid, the guy he's trying to kill, at his mercy. (He is currently in a coma and cannot defend himself.)
    You'd Expect: For Marik to find Odion in the ship and kill him. And if Isis tried to protect him, kill her as well (seeing how she has no Millennium Item left to defend her at this point).
    Instead: He just sits and waits for God-knows-how-long, and near the end of the whole thing decides to leave the airship and destroy the arc villain's computers for the lulz. And go back on
  • During her duel with Crump/Otaki, Anzu is shown to have "Pot of Greed" in her Hand.
    You'd Expect: For her to activate it immediately.
    Instead: She discards it to inflict some minor damage to Otaki's life points!
    Even Worse: Anzu could have won the duel on that same turn had she used itnote .
  • In the Waking the Dragons arc, Kaiba plots to use Crush Card Virus to tribute Pitch Dark Dragon and destroy all of Amelda's monsters with 1500 or more attack but the latter, having knew Kaiba's tactics is fully prepared for this with his set card Royal Decree that negates all other trap cards on the field including the afromented Crush Card.
    You'd Expect: That Amelda would activate the card the moment that Kaiba uses it to counter his attacks, negating the effect and removing one of Kaiba's most powerful card from the game.
    Instead: He immediately activates it as soon as Kaiba sets the card as if to inform as to how he knows his tactics but given the fact that the set card is still there, should Royal Decree be removed, then Kaiba can still reuse the card again to wipe out the majority of his deck. Unsurprisingly, this ended up backfiring on him when Kaiba is able to use Critias to fuse with the trap card and destroy all of Amelda's monsters, with the only reason that he got away with it is due to using a Quick-Play spell card to force a draw between them.
    • Not to mention in that very same duel, Allister could've won if he used Versago to destroy Pitch-Dark Dragon and then attacked Kaiba directly with Gorlag, instead he used Gorlas to destroy Kaiba's monster for no real reason.
  • In the Orichalcos saga, Raphael is dueling Yami. Raphael is a very good duelist and hasn't resorted to using the 'Seal of Orichalcos' card, a card which powers up all the monsters on the user's side and means the loser would have their soul trapped. Raphael even switches ownership of the card to Yami, so that there is literally no chance of anyone losing their soul unless Yami is unbelievably stupid enough as to use the card himself, despite there being no reason to do so.
    You'd Expect: Despite how much Yami loves winning card games, he realises that there are currently no stakes in the match whatsoever, no negative repercussions for losing, and it would be in everyone's best interest to accept a harmless loss rather than risking his and his opponent's soul for possible victory.
    Instead: "I must play the seal of Orichalcos or I risk losing this card game!" Once again, the abridged series had a field day.
    Yugi: Pharaoh, no matter what, you mustn't use that card! It takes people's souls!
    Yami: Don't worry, Yugi. There's absolutely no reason to even use it.
    Yugi: That's right. There are no stakes involved in this Duel. Even if you lost this card game, nothing would change at all.
    Yami: Wait, what's that now? I could lose?
    Yugi: Well yeah, I mean your dragon Timaeus is frozen in place and you really don't have that many Life Points left. But again, there's literally nothing at stake here and a single loss wouldn't really hurt—
    Yami: Curse you, Rafael! You've given me no choice!
    Yugi: Wait, what?
    Yami: I have to activate The Seal of Orichalcos!
    Yugi: No! No, you don't!
    Yami: Too late, it's activated! (the Seal appears on Yami's forehead) I hope you're happy, Rafael! The guy who totally made me do this against my will!
    • Result: Yami still loses, except now instead of it being a harmless loss which everyone can accept with no repercussions at all, he loses his soul as well, requiring a Heroic Sacrifice on the part of Yugi so that Yami can continue making unbelievably stupid series so that the plot can progress.
  • Seigfreid is not only one of the worst villains in the series, but a terrible duelist as well, and he doesn't even need to be directly involved in the duel to prove it. So the final duel of the KC Cup is here and we have just learned about his relationship with Leon, a talented duelist who has made it to the final fight against Yugi. He also convinces Leon before the duel to add in Golden Castle of Stromberg, a card that has been banned and being such a high profile match, Kaiba could not opt to disqualify Leon as it would cause a PR problem. In the meantime, Seigfried has rigged the card's programming to force the card to be indestructible and unaffected by card effects. In addition, as long as it is in play, it's erasing all the data on the Kaiba Corp. mainframe.
    You'd Expect: Regardless of whether or not Kaiba Corp. had a backup in case anything were to happen to their systems, which he should have known if you want to add that to his list of bad decisions, this is basically a stalling game so that the card would eat away at the systems. Keeping that in mind, you would expect that he would design its effects so that it would stall the duel indefinitely, like making both players immune to all damage or something equally broken. It's not like the conditions have to be remotely fair; he's literally cheating. Furthermore, if he also wants to screw Yugi out of his title, he would give an unfair advantage to Leon.
    Instead: Seigfried programs it with two additional effects that run completely counter to the main reason he designed the card. First, the opponent has to discard half their deck as a maintenance cost. Second, monsters on the field are forced to battle. The first effect enures that the opponent is going to deck out within five turns or less depending on how long the duel has been going. The latter makes it all the more likely one of the players will lose the duel through attrition if nothing else. Worse still, because the first effect is a maintenance cost, a.k.a. if the cost isn't paid the card is automatically destroyed, Yugi is able to destroy it simply by waiting until his deck is reduced to one card, which because of the way the cost is designed, was inevitable. In addition, due to the second effect, Leon is essentially locked out of his own duel, and by the time the card is destroyed, it's far too late to stage a comeback.
    Even Worse: If he really wanted it to be absolutely busted, he would have forced the cards out of play instead or supplement a strategy to turn Leon's deck into a deck destruction style to win via deck out. Instead, Yugi manages to get his Dark Magician out of his graveyard and onto the field giving Yugi the opening he needed, which wouldn't have happened had it not gotten discarded in the first place. Yes, Seigfried is so incompetent in the game, he managed to ruin Leon's duel by giving him ONE CARD.

    Yu-Gi-Oh! GX 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX:
    • It's eventually made abundantly clear that the Big Bad of the third season is specifically targeting Judai's friends and loved ones in order to inflict maximum pain on him, and will continue to target them as long as they're made a target for him/her/it.
      You'd Expect: Judai's friends to agree to back off and not provide a target for the Big Bad, knowing Judai is The Ace and, with only himself going in to take care of the Big Bad, he has the best chance of doing so while cutting off the Bad's biggest advantage over him.
      Instead: They completely ignore Judai's pleas to this fact, dive in with him, and die off one by one as they become sitting ducks for the Big Bad.

    Yu-Gi-Oh! 5 Ds 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's:
    • Yusei has faced off against Machine Emperor Wisel, a monster capable of absorbing Synchros. He defeated it with some trouble, but not before it briefly ate Stardust.
      You'd Expect: Yusei to realize that his Deck already has plenty of cards that can counter Wisel. He used Savior Star Dragon to defeat it, but even without relying on supernatural power, Junk Archer could banish Wisel and destroy its parts, Turret Warrior isn't a Synchro, and Turbo Warrior could ignore its effects and rip it apart at its leisure. And even then, he has plenty of Spells and Traps that shut it down, like Scrap-Iron Scarecrow or Panic Wave. The upgraded Wisel parts could handle a few of these strategies, but Yusei doesn't know about it.
      Instead: He lives in complete fear of Wisel for about forty episodes, having nightmares about it and trying out terrible non-Synchro strategies before seizing on the idea of using the Fusion Draco-Equiste. When he finally goes in for Round 2 against Wisel, he tries neither any of the above tactics (bar a single failed Scrap-Iron Scarecrow activation) nor Draco-Equiste, and only survives because of a literal Deus ex Machina handing him a super-card.
    • Team 5Ds vs. Team Unicorn. Andore thrashes Jack and Aki, and does serious damage to Yusei before going down. Breo runs a mill deck, reducing Yusei's deck to 4 cards before going down. Jean finds himself in the position where ending his turn would have won him the duel, as Yusei has 0 cards left in his deck.
      You'd Expect: Him to actually, you know, do so.
      Instead: Yusei starts their duel by taunting Jean about winning using a cheap tactic, and though Jean knows he's being baited, he still decides he wants to win with honor or some tripe like that. So he attacks Yusei's monster, allowing Yusei to activate an effect that wins the duel for Team 5Ds.
      • On the subject, Breo is the Second Wheeler for Team Unicorn. Both his teammates play very aggressive, offensively-minded strategies that deplete the opponent's LP quickly.
        You'd Expect: Breo to play an aggressive Deck as well, to finish off opponents weakened by Andore's raw damage.
        Instead: Breo plays a Mill Deck. Mill Decks are based around completely ignoring the opponent's LP. It's a good Mill Deck, but it also means that he'll effectively be fighting a fresh opponent, and that Jean's job isn't going to be made any easier.
        Result: Breo fails to deplete Yusei's remaining 2000 LP, inflicting minimal damage over the course of the Duel. As a result, Jean ends up fighting Yusei basically fresh.
    • Team 5Ds vs. Team Ragnarok. Harald has managed to assemble three Aesir monsters, which have absurd stats, can revive themselves when destroyed, and have their own effects. Yusei is barely managing to stall him out with Monster Chain.
      You'd Expect: Harald to wait for Monster Chain to expire, then use his three powerful Aesir to stomp Yusei into the dirt.
      Instead: He wrangles together multiple needlessly complicated plans, including activating Gjallarhorn to put his monsters on a three-turn countdown at the cost of banishing them at the end of those turns, using Odin's Eye to repeatedly check Yusei's facedowns when he can make his monsters immune to them at the cost of removing the ability to give them that immunity, and summoning Fenrir and Jormungardr, effectively giving Yusei two free monsters in the hopes that their detrimental effects might hurt Yusei.
      Result: Every single one of his plans backfires in some capacity - Yusei uses the free monsters as fodder for his own cards, Odin's Eye gets redirected and its detrimental effects make his Aesir vulnerable, and Gjallarhorn's damage gets blocked, wrecking Harald's field for no gain.

    Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc V 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V:
    • Leo Akaba has raised Yuri to be a powerful duelist, but also caused him to turn into a ruthless Blood Knight, and since Yuri is one of 4 components of Zarc, who Leo has been trying to stop the whole time, having him wander around and dueling/defeating the other 3 parts of Zarc is a big no-no.
      You'd Expect: For Leo to card Yuri ASAP, and seal him away in a safe/vault that is locked in a way that only Leo Akaba can unlock. Even if Yuya, Yuto, and Yugo somehow merge, Zarc still can't return unless Leo releases Yuri, which won't happen.
      Or: If carding Yuri is too hard on him emotionally, to just give Yuri strict instructions to never leave the Fusion Dimension and keep an extremely close eye upon him - and if one of the other halves of Zarc just so happens to stumble into the Fusion Dimension, just have them carded ASAP and the card they are trapped in sealed away.
      Instead: Leo doesn't take any precautions against the possibility whatsoever. He puts a lot on Serena, instead, who, on top of not being a Blood Knight, doesn't have any chance of destroying the world.
      Result: Yuri ends up stumbling upon Yugo and defeats him, absorbing him and being one step closer to reviving Zarc...which he eventually does after dueling Yuya.
    • We're not done with Leo yet, because the whole plot is a one big What an Idiot! moment by Leo. But let's go into a specific moment, during Leo vs Yuya. So, Yuya (and Yuto has gone full-on rage mode, has already nuked the field with Odd-Eyes Raging Dragon (the clearest sign that Yuya is about to teeter off the edge). Yuzu and Ruri, as well as Serena and Rin, begin to plead to the two to calm down and not give in to evil...and it's working.
      You'd Expect: For Leo to pick up on this and realize that these pieces of Zarc are being pacified by the girls, and it being clear that at least two of them are close and dear to the Zarc pieces before him. Never mind fully realize that maybe to go with that route instead, just realize that the girls are having an effect.
      Instead: Leo takes that lull to push the Arc-V machine that will further absorb the girls, not helped by getting a call from a staff member that they're good to go.
      Result: Yuya and Yuto are just driven further off the edge and the girls can't reach them anymore before they get absorbed into the machine, which just removes the second to the last pillar of Yuya's sanity.
    • That likewise leads into a moment for Ray herself. At that point, she's at least able to manifest herself enough to communicate with the physical/living world, as shown by her ability to interact with Reira. She's at least aware of what's been happening the entire series via her fragments.
      You'd Expect: For her to fill what happened to her in the backstory, that her fragments, or at least 3 of them, had been planted next to their respective Zarc fragment to keep them in check and genuinely happy (Leo kept Yuri and Serena apart, and locked the latter away until prior to the beginning, compounding the previous What an Idiot! moment with Yuri).
      Instead: She actively bars Reiji from stopping Leo, convincing Reira that her revival is necessary.
      Result: Reira wastes time by dueling Reiji and gets beaten in the process. Leo continues on his plan, none the wiser on the necessity of leaving the girls alone and their pacifying effects on the Zarc fragments, her fragments effectively dying, and ultimately leading Zarc to be revived.
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