What's Different About Yu-Gi-Oh Master Duel?
Compared to the paper-play (TCG), Master Duel has some differences. It wields its own unique ban list and formats, and unlike real-life tournaments, each game is best-of-1, not best-of-3.
These may seem like minor changes, but they go a long way towards making archetypes better or worse—here are five themes that favor the playstyle of Master Duel!
Better because: Meow-Meow-Mu isn't banned in Master Duel
The Prank-Kids excel at link-swarming, as their main deck monsters summon other Prank-Kids when used as link material. To help facilitate their combos is link-1 Meow-Mu, easily summoned and able to banish itself (even from graveyard) to prevent your Prank-Kid from tributing itself to use its effect (easily using the board wipe on Rip-Roarin-Roaster). Meow-Mu is banned in the TCG, but unlimited in Master Duel, so go crazy with it.
That said, something Prank-Kids excels at in real-life is breaking ties; when time runs out and a game is decided by the higher life total, the life-gain and life-drain abilities of Prank-Kids can save your duel.
Better because: Makes opposing Maxx C useless
We've previously talked about cards that should be (but aren't) banned in Master Duel, with hand-trap Maxx C topping the list, discarding itself to draw whenever your opponent special summons that turn. This card quickly became an auto-include in pretty much every deck, crippling opposing combos lest they give you massive card advantage.
Enter Floowandereeze, a deck that swarms not with special summons but repeated normal summons. This renders opposing Maxx Cs pretty much useless, and unlike real life, there's no sideboard for your opponent to swap with, often leaving your opponent's deck with three now-useless cards.
Plus, in the rare cases you get to link summon, Floowandereeze can make use of TCG-banned Simorgh Bird of Sovereignty, who can summon winged beasts from your deck. This usually brings out either Mist Valley Apex Avian for a negate, or Barrier Statue of the Stormwinds, who brutally locks opponents into only special summoning wind monsters.
3. Thunder Dragon
Better because: Thunder Dragon Colossus isn't banned in Master Duel
Thunder Dragons discard themselves to activate various tricks, and their main goal is to summon Colossus, who doesn't even need a fusion spell and prevents opponents from adding cards except by drawing. He can also save himself from destruction by banishing a thunder monster from graveyard, so it's easy to see why he's banned in the TCG.
But he's only limited in Master Duel, so let loose with your brutal ace card. Also take advantage of the fact that the light and dark dragon pair (Black Dragon Collapserpent and White Dragon Wyverburster) are unlimited in Master Duel (they're limited in TCG); use them for easy swarming.
Better because: Danger Tsuchinoko and Jackalope are less regulated
One of the most underrated themes in the game, Danger cards reveal themselves in hand, discard randomly from hand, then summon themselves and draw a card if another card was discarded.
Basically, they're great at swarming while filling the graveyard, and some of their best cards are less restricted (Tsuchinoko is completely unlimited whereas Jackalope is only semi-limited, both being limited in the TCG). Also note that both Bigfoot and Tsuchinoko can be easily recovered with the spell Recurring Nightmare.
Better because: Many spells limited in the TCG aren't in Master Duel
Endymions are the game's best pendulum theme in Master Duel since they utilize spell counters, and spells are much less regulated in MD. For instance, Pot of Desires, Chicken Game, and Upstart Goblin are all unlimited, offering easy spell counters. Plus, where the theme's best pendulum scale, Servant, is limited in the TCG, she's unlimited in MD.
As if that weren't enough, TCG-banned link monster Heavymetalfoes Electrumite is only limited, offering one of the game's best pendulum supports.
Adapting to the Master Duel Meta
Real-life players will note the difference between Master Duel and in-person games; with no sideboard or chance to see an opposing deck before you play it, you want every card in your deck to count no matter which theme you're facing.
This also means keeping up with the meta so you'll know what to expect (and how to beat it), but for now, vote for your favorite theme and I'll see you at our next Yu-Gi-Oh countdown!
© 2022 Jeremy Gill