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Yu-Gi-Oh! is a strategy card game in which players use monsters, spells and traps in order to damage their opponent. Each player has a set number of life points (typically 8000) and a deck of 40-60 cards (along with an Extra Deck and Side Deck, the former with a maximum of 15 cards and the latter having a must of 15 cards; though both are optional), taking turns going through several phases (listed following this paragraph). The player wins when he or she manages to reduce his or her opponent's life points to zero (By battle damage or effect damage), or the opponent is unable to draw cards in his Draw Phase (Deck Out). There are also some cards with automatic victory conditions, such as Exodia the Forbidden One, Destiny Board, or Venomminaga, the Deity of Poisonous Snakes.
- The player's deck of cards, which are drawn when required, such as during the Draw Phase of each turn. If the player has no cards in his/her deck and cannot draw a card when he/she has to (either during the Draw Phase or by a card effect), he/she loses.
- Extra Deck
- A separate deck containing up to 15 Fusion, Synchro or Xyz Monsters, which require specific means to summon. Previously known as the Fusion Deck before the introduction of Synchro Monsters.
- Monster Zone
- Up to five monsters can be played here in Attack or Defense position.
- Spell/Trap Zone
- Up to five Spell or Trap cards can be in play at once.
- Discarded cards, such as used Spells and Traps or Monsters that were destroyed or tributed are placed here.
- Field Spell Zone
- Field Spell cards are played here as opposed to the Spell/Trap Zone. Only one Field Spell can be in play at any time. If another field card is played, it automatically destroys the other field spell.
- Removed From Play Zone
- Cards that are removed from play as denoted via card effects go here.
- The player draws a card from his/her deck.
- Certain effects may occur during this phase.
- Main 1
- The player can summon Monsters, change existing Monsters' battle positions, and/or use or set Spell and Trap cards.
- The player can attack once for each monster he/she has in Attack position. The player who begins the game may not attack on his/her first turn.
- Main 2
- Player can activate or set Spells or Traps. If the player has yet to summon a Monster, or wishes to change the battle position of a Monster, he/she may do so.
- The player ends his/her turn. Certain effects may occur.
Monsters are the essential point of the game, and are used to attack and defend against the opponent. Each monster has a level (or Rank, in the case of Exceed Monsters), an ATK power and a DEF power and are played in either Attack position (face-up, upright), Defense position (placed sideways, summoned face-up unless otherwise noted), or Set (face-down, sideways). Once per turn, players can normal summon a Level 4 or lower monster, or Tribute summon a more powerful monster (Lv 5-6 requires the tribute of one monster, Lv 7 or higher requires two tributes.) If the conditions for special summoning are met, the player can perform this as many times as possible. Each turn, players can attack once with each monster currently in Attack position during the battle phase. To destroy the opponent's monster, the player's monster must have higher or equal ATK points than that monster's ATK points, if in Attack position, (if lower, your monster will be destroyed and you will take damage to your life points) or DEF points if it's in Defense position (if lower your monster will not be destroyed, but you will take damage to your life points). Depending on the outcome, life points may be deducted from the player's life points. Each monster may also have a card effect denoted in its description, and may also be affected by other cards depending on their name, type and attribute.
There are several types of monsters, some of which require certain strategies to summon:
- 1. Normal/Effect (yellow/orange)
- A standard monster that can be Normal or Tribute Summoned from the hand once per turn, as well as special summoned under certain conditions. Normal monsters are yellow with a description of the monster while monsters that have effects are orange with an effect detailed in their description.
- 2. Fusion (purple)
- A monster that is summoned from the Extra Deck by using a card with a Fusion effect, such as 'Polymerization', and "fusing" monster cards depicted in the Fusion monster's description from the hand or field.
- Example: Using 'Polymerization' and using 'Elemental Hero Avian' and 'Elemental Hero Burstinatrix' as the monsters for the fusion allows the player to special summon 'Elemental Hero Flame Wingman.'
- 3. Ritual (blue)
- A monster that is summoned from the hand or deck by using a Ritual Spell card and tributing monster cards from hand and/or field according to the Spell's instructions, whose summed level must not be less than the ritual monster's.
- Example: Using 'Black Luster Ritual' and tributing monsters from field and/or hand whose sum of levels equal 8 or more allows player to special summon 'Black Luster Soldier.'
- 4. Synchro (white)
- Introduced with the Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's anime series. A monster that is summoned from the Extra Deck by sending to the graveyard (referred to as 'tuning') a 'Tuner' monster (the text 'Tuner' appears where 'Effect' would appear on effect monsters) with one or more non-tuner monsters from the field, whose total level equals the level of the Synchro Monster you wish to summon. With some exceptions, this usually does not require specific monsters.
- Example: Tuning 'Junk Synchron' (Lv 3 Tuner Monster) and 'Speed Warrior' (Lv 2) allows player to special summon 'Junk Warrior' (Lv 5 Synchro Monster).
- 5. Xyz (black)
- Introduced with the Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal anime series. Xyz Monsters are summoned from the Extra Deck by 'overlaying' two or more monsters with the same level relevant to the Rank of the Xyz Monster the player wishes to summon. Material monsters are not sent to the graveyard but instead become 'Overlay Units', which are placed underneath the Xyz Monster in the Monster Zone. These Overlay Units can be sent to the graveyard in order to activate an Xyz Monster's effects. The more monsters overlayed for the Xyz Summon, the more times the Xyz Monster can use its effect. Xyz Monsters are the only monsters in the game who have a Rank instead of a Level, thus they are unaffected by cards involving a monster's level and cannot be used for Ritual or Synchro Summoning.
- Example: Overlaying two or more Lv 4 monsters allows player to special summon 'No. 39 Utopia' (Rank 4).
- 6. Token (grey)
- A low-powered monster summoned through card effects. These are typically used for defense or tribute purposes.
In the case of Fusion, Synchro or Exceed monsters, they may be Special Summoned by certain means if sent to the Graveyard (unless they were sent there before they were summoned). However, if they are returned to the Extra Deck, the player must meet the summoning requirements to re-summon them.
These are cards that can be played either from the hand, or set on the field for later use. They can either power up your monsters attack/defense, destroy other cards, increase life points, etc. It is important to have a good balance of these in your deck. Spells come in 6 forms.
- 1. Normal
- Sent to the grave after the effect resolves.
- 2. Quick Play (appears as a lightning bolt)
- Can be set to be activated during your opponents turn as well as your own, or played during outside of the main phase. However, you cannot activate a quick-play spell on the same turn that you set it on the field.
- 3. Continuous (appears as a lemniscus)
- Remain on the field after activation until they are removed or destroyed.
- 4. Equip (appears as an addition sign)
- Attach to a monster to alter its stats, or provide an effect.
- 5. Field (appears as a compass)
- Played in a special field card zone, which provides an effect that takes place over the entire duel while active. Only one field card can be active in the duel at a time; if a player plays a field spell while an opponent has one already in play, the opponent's field spell is destroyed.
- 6. Ritual (appears as a fire)
- Used to summon ritual monsters.
Cards that are activated in response to certain situations, most often when an opponent activates an effect or attacks. They are set face down on the field and cannot be activated on the turn they were placed down unless there is a card effect that says it could be activated the turn the trap card is set. Some are used to destroy an attacking monster, negate battle damage, or possibly redirect damage back to the opponent, though, these effects may differ. There are three types of trap cards:
- 1. Normal traps
- They cannot be activated during either player's turn if it was set that turn. Certain normal traps turn into equip cards but are still considered normal trap cards.
- 2. Continuous trap cards (appears with lemniscus)
- Their effect stays in play until its destruction circumstances are fulfilled.
- 3. Counter trap cards (appears with a curved arrow)
- No cards except other Counter traps can be played after a Counter trap has been activated.