In this article, we’re taking a time machine back to 2002-2004 and looking at how much it costed to play Yugioh in U.S. dollar.

The goal in this thought experiment is build a good deck and win.  We’re not collecting every single card, or building out bad archetypes.  Since only <10% of cards are good, it’s just cheaper to buy singles of cards we need rather than packs/boxes.  


  • Inflation.  Prices are ~65% higher in 2024 than they were in the early to mid 2000’s.  Buying a $20 card in 2003 is like buying a $33 card now.
  • These prices are based off of memory and price guides.  You could’ve got them for much less if you were patient, or more if you needed them now.
  • You could spend a lot less if you make good trades.  Sell/trade cards as they’re being reprinted
  • These olders cards would be worth way more 10-20 years later if we kept them. Hindsight.
  • Buying a tournament winning deck on ebay (or from a player you know that’s quitting) can be a way to save time and money.


So, it’s summer 2002.  We start buying 1-2 copies of each Starter Deck Yugi and Kaiba.  We sell/trade most of the holos/commons to recoup the cost.  We keep the good cards.

So far we have: 3 Summoned Skull, 3 Battle Ox, 3 La Jinn, 3 Neo the Magic Swordsman, 3 Giant Soldier of Stone, 3 Man-Eater Bug, Change of Heart, Dark Hole, Monster Reborn, 3 Fissure, 3 Soul Exchange, 3 Reinforcements, 3 Trap Hole, 3 Waboku.

Here’s the singles we buy from each set.  

Legend of Blue-Eyes 

  • Raigeki ($20), Swords of Revealing Light ($12), Pot of Greed ($5) – Total: $37

You could get a 2nd Swords if you want.  But Raigeki and Pot are the main ones to buy.

Pot of Greed
Pot of Greed

Metal Raiders 

  • Mirror Force ($30), Heavy Storm x2 ($12), Sangan x2 ($5), Witch of the Black Forest x2 ($5), Magician of Faith x2 ($5), Robbin Goblin x2 ($5) – Total: $63

Counter traps like Solemn Judgment, Magic Jammer and Seven Tools came out, but weren’t staples. 

 Robbin Goblin with 2000 DEF wall monsters was quite strong.

Magic Ruler

  • Snatch Steal ($20), Mystical Space Typhoon x3 ($60), Delinquent Duo ($20), Forceful Sentry ($20), Mystic Tomato x3 ($9), Painful Choice ($12), Confiscation ($12).  Total: $153

Pharaoh’s Servant 

  • Jinzo ($45), Imperial Order ($45), Premature Burial ($20), Call of the Haunted ($20), Nobleman of Crossout x2 ($16), Dust Tornado x2 ($12), Time Seal x3 ($2) – Total $160

With MST at 3, Dust Tornado is sort of obsolete, but Dust is cheaper for those who couldn’t afford MST.  All self-explanatory.  Ceasefire (vs flip effect decks) and Goblin Attack Force (vs big beaters) could be viable side deck cards.


Labyrinth of Nightmare

  • Gemini Elf x3 ($135), Torrential Tribute x2 ($40), Jar of Greed x2 ($12), Bazoo the Soul-Eater ($8), Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer x2 ($16) – Total $211

Gemini Elf being expensive and its 1900 ATK making 1800 beaters obsolete was controversial.  But fret not.  You could still win tournaments at this time without her.  Just take the 1800 beaters out of your deck.  Monster removal cards were cheap (i.e. Man-Eater Bug, Fissure, Trap Hole).  You could use 1-2 Bazoo, maybe use 1 Zombyra the Dark.  You could use recruiters like Mystic Tomato to search Sangan/Witch and then tribute them for Jinzo/Skull. ; (Cards like Magic Cylinders and United We Stand at the time were popular, but generally -1’s and not really worth it).  

At this point we also buy a Joey and Pegasus deck for Graceful Chairty and Scapegoat, selling the holos that got reprinted to pay for it.

Legacy of Darkness 

  • Yata-Garasu ($40), Injection-Fairy Lily ($40), Airknight Parshath ($20), Exiled Force ($12), Creature Swap ($20), Reinforcement of the Army ($8), Bottomless Trap Hole x2 ($6) – Total: $146

Creature Swap is optional, but good with Mystic Tomato widely used at 3, and Lily is a target for Rat.  Bottomless for the side deck.  Blast With Chain came out this set for Gearfried warrior aggro decks.  (There weren’t a ton of good warriors in the game, but having 1 in a deck of a couple Warrior could thin your deck a bit; get Exiled faster).  Airknight isn’t a staple, and it would see more play in the goat control era, but still a good pickup.

Pharaohnic Guardian  

  • Ring of Destruction ($40), Don Zaloog ($20), Mirage of Nightmare ($12), Spirit Reaper x3 ($9), Gravekeeper’s Spy x3 ($3) – Total $84

This set had cards like Metamorphosis and Trap Dustshoot, which would later become strong.  And GK Spy was plain underrated back then.  You could pick up Sasuke Samurai as a side deck card..

Magician’s Force  

  • Breaker the Magical Warrior ($25), Tribe-Infecting Virus ($15), Magical Merchant ($1), 2x Apprentice Magician ($5) – Total $46

Straightforward.  Breaker and Tribe were the only hard staples.  Des Koala and Wave-Motion Cannon came out for burn decks.

Dark Crisis  

  • D.D. Warrior Lady x3 ($40), Sakuretsu Armor x3 ($3) – Total $43

This Vampire Lord was a secret rare; he was viable but with D.D. Warrior Lady at 3, he wasn’t essential.  Tsukuyomi came out this set; the ruling that let you flip summon the monster you set in the same turn didn’t happen yet, but it probably still was an underrated card; could help you run over LV4 beaters with low defense.  S


Invasion of Chaos (Total: )

  • Chaos Emperor Dragon ($65), Black Luster Soldier – Envoy ($50), Smashing Ground x2 ($5), Dark Magician of Chaos ($30), Berserk Gorilla x2 ($4).  Total – $154

Chaos was groundbreaking.  Smashing was very good back then against beatdown/aggro.  Gorilla was an EARTH, but you could still main 1 and side 1 against beatdown.  

Ancient Sanctuary

  • Zaborg the Thunder Monarch x2 ($20), Legendary Jujitsu Master x2 ($2) Night Assailant x2 ($4) – Total $26

Zaborg was underrated at the time.  It was a light.  It punished flip effects.  You can destroy a monster and then push for 2400 damage.  Jujitsu to side against aggro/beatdown.   (Enemy Controller came out this set;  You could buy one for $20, but with so many other power spells out, I wouldn’t call it a staple.

Soul of a Duelist

  • Mystic Swordsman LV2 x2 ($5), Mobius the Frost Monarch x2 ($20), Ninja Grandmaster Sasuke ($2), – Total $27

After this point, the U.S. set releases were caught up with Japan, so less cards came out.  And also the power level of the cards in the game has generally gotten weaker, so there’s less to buy.  Mobius was an essential side deck card against burn and other weird decks.  MSLV2 for Warrior/Aggro.  Sasuke against Gravekeeper’s Spy.

Rise of Destiny

  • Dekoichi x3 ($9), Mind Crush x2 ($2) – Total: $11

You could also get a few copies of Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch ($8 each?).  He was viable, but with howpopular Chaos Goat Control was at the time, not being a LIGHT/DARK was a downside.  Airknight/Jinzo were better Premature/Call targets and Airknight punished Scapegoat.

So we’re getting into the final stretch here.  How much did we spend?

  • 2002 – $413
  • 2003 – $530
  • 2004 – $218
  • Total – $1161 (which is probably ~$1900 in today’s money).  

That seems like a lot.  But again, keep in mind:

  • You could probably spend 1/3 less if you look for deals, trade smart or buy a deck in full. 
  • You can resell the cards after they’re reprinted or as they’re becoming off-meta.
  • Not all of these cards I wrote here are staples.  And if your goal was to win locals and not regionals/nationals, you could win with a budget decks.