It’s time to duel! Hello Pojo Readers, Crunch$G back here with something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile now. I’ve always been interested in older Yu-Gi-Oh sets, especially as some of these sets are the ones I and many others have probably grew up with, and therefore are fairly fond of. Ever since I started doing the “What You Should Know” articles on the newer products and sets, I wanted to find a way to give my opinions on older products, just for fun mostly. Therefore, I’m doing to do a series of articles talking about every Core Booster Set from the Duel Monsters era with Legend of Blue Eyes White Dragon all the way to the VRAINs era with Eternity Code just so those articles feel complete. I’ll also get to every Structure Deck ever released and other side sets like Hidden Arsenal and stuff. Anything released after I finish this series will probably just be exclusive to a “What You Should Know” article unless I opt to organize them all into a more compact article. With all the introductory stuff out of the way, let’s get to the earliest sets in this game’s history, the Duel Monsters era. In this instance, this article will include sets Legend of Blue Eyes White Dragon all the way to Flaming Eternity since The Lost Millennium was technically the first real GX set.
Legend of Blue Eyes White Dragon
Release Date: March 8th, 2002
Cover Card: Blue-Eyes White Dragon
The first set in Yu-Gi-Oh’s history is always going to be one of fond memories as this was the debut of the Yu-Gi-Oh series. The set consisted of 126 cards comprised of 2 Secret Rares, 10 Ultra Rares, 10 Super Rares, 22 Rares, and 82 Commons. The two Secret Rares in this set were probably collectibles more than viable cards whether it’s the past or the present since there are better options than Tri-Horned Dragon and Gaia the Dragon Champion is a card that has retrains and would probably get more in the future that are better than a vanilla. You have some pretty iconic cards in the Ultra Rare slot with your anime favorites like Blue-Eyes White Dragon, Dark Magician, Red-Eyes B. Dragon, Gaia the Fierce Knight, all 5 Exodia pieces, and Monster Reborn. Back in the day, Blue-Eyes was probably the most worthwhile since it had the most stats for what you put into for summoning it, though now all of the first 4 cards have a home in their own themed Decks. Exodia is a series of cards that will always have Decks built around it, it’s part of the most iconic scene in the show’s history and it’s a fun win condition to pull off. Monster Reborn is probably the standout in the Ultra Rares as it’s a card that will see play in many Decks of the past, present, and future as long as it’s not Forbidden. You got more iconic cards in the Super Rare slot with Celtic Guardian, Flame Swordsman, Curse of Dragon, and Mystical Elf. Mystical Elf is odd in this slot since Giant Soldier of Stone was in this set with the same Defense and better Attack, but was a Rare. You got the classic Polymerization that finds home in many past and present Fusion-based Decks, so it’ll never go out of style really. Trap Hole, Swords of Revealing Light, and Man-Eater Bug were good for their time. Finally, some of the best Super Rares to stand the test of time are Dark Hole and Raigeki, as they were always easy ways to clear a board, even if they haven’t aged the best, Raigeki will always be fairly powerful. 22 Rares means you’ll probably find more duds, but you got icons like Giant Soldier of Stone. There’s a lot of Fusions here that have no effects and they weren’t good until many years later for whatever niches they can carve out with Instant Fusion. You got some cards good for the past like Fissure and Stop Defense. The best card in the set probably without dispute is Pot of Greed, since drawing 2 cards will never go out of style as the card has been replicated many times, but none will ever top the original. The Commons are not special really with Field and Equip Spells to give little boosts to your monsters of specific types and many vanilla monsters with poor stats, though Skull Servant is probably a good card out of all of these Commons. You also got a few burn and heal cards like Hinotama, Sparks, and Red Medicine, and I shouldn’t forget to mention Final Flame as a Rare, though we’d easily get better replacements later on. This set is extremely simple with an extreme handful of Effect Monsters and very basic Spells and Traps. You got powerful cards in Pot of Greed, Monster Reborn, and Raigeki. You got some TV show icons in Gaia, Red-Eyes, Blue-Eyes, Exodia, and Dark Magician who would all see later support so they’re playable, just like Skull Servant. Overall it was a good introductory piece to the game.
Set Rating: 10/10 in the idea it’s the first set, probably a 7/10 in actuality.
Release Date: June 26th, 2002
Cover Card: B. Skull Dragon
Now we get to the second, and largest, main set in this game’s history with Metal Raiders. Metal Raiders consisted of 144 cards with 2 Secret Rares, 10 Ultra Rares, 10 Super Rares, 22 Rares, and 100 Commons. The Secret Rares were once again collectibles only really since Gate Guardian and Thousand Dragon were never really viable. The Ultra Rares have a ton of interesting cards. Summoned Skull was better than Dark Magician since it needed 1 less tribute, B. Skull Dragon is a cool and iconic Fusion in the anime, Change of Heart is easily one of the best cards that takes your opponent’s monsters, Time Wizard is a cool fan-favorite from the show, Barrel Dragon is another cool card in the show, Solemn Judgment is a strong Counter Trap that would find its peak in later years, Magic Jammer was satisfactory for Magic/Spell negation, with Seven Tools of the Bandit and Horn of Heaven being satisfactory for Traps and Monsters respectively, and you got a powerful Trap in Mirror Force that was great for many years for being a blow-out against your opponent’s monsters when they declare an attack. The Super Rares aren’t as strong as the Ultras with cards like Harpie Lady Sisters mostly being another case of a cool TV show card, the three Gate Guardian pieces mostly to give a way to summon Gate Guardian, Tribute to the Doomed was good for monster removal that you could choose, Kuriboh is another iconic card, Catapult Turtle is infamous for the FTKs it could cause before an errata, Twin-Headed Thunder Dragon was probably to make Thunder Dragon’s effect useful, Garnecia Elefantis is just Red-Eyes B. Dragon without the anime appeal or support behind it, but the standout here is Heavy Storm for being great Spell/Trap removal before we got other options like MST and eventually Harpie’s Feather Duster. The Rares are interesting since you got all the weak monsters that boost all the Attributes up, you got the great searchers in Sangan and Witch of the Black Forest, you got another FTK machine in Cannon Soldier, and you got great recovery cards for the time in Mask of Darkness and Magician of Faith. Besides the aforementioned Thunder Dragon and Soul Release, you don’t really have anything special in the Commons except for 7 Colored Fish being another 1800 Level 4 for the time. This was another fairly good set with cards getting better.
Set Rating: 8/10
Magic Ruler/Spell Ruler
Release Date: September 16th, 2002
Cover Card: Relinquished
Next we get to a set full of very powerful Spell Cards, or once known as Magic Cards before an issue with Magic The Gathering was made aware, we have Magic Ruler (later renamed to Spell Ruler). This is a 104 card set with 2 Secret Rares, 10 Ultra Rares, 10 Super Rares, 17 Rares, and 65 Commons. What’s noteworthy here is the debut of the Toon archetype, one of the earliest supported archetypes in the game, and you also had Ritual Monsters making their debut. We still remain with collectability with these Secret Rares with Blue-Eyes Toon Dragon and the less demanded Serpent Night Dragon. The Ultra Rares are strong in here with great Spells like Snatch Steal, Delinquent Duo, The Forceful Sentry, and Mystical Space Typhoon. Also, you had Axe of Despair and Megamorph as good cards for their time. You got one of the better Ritual Monsters in the game in Relinquished. Toons have some of their best early cards in Toon Mermaid and Toon Summoned Skull. Spellbinding Circle made for a great card in the early stages of the game and is still known as a Yugi card somewhat. The Super Rares also had a few more good Spells with Confiscation, Giant Trunade, and Painful Choice. Black Pendant was an okay Equip for its time, even if power-crept by Axe of Despair in the same set. You had Black Illusion Ritual to summon your Relinquished. Maha Vailo is a fun card with Equips, though doesn’t stand the test of time well in any category. Invader of the Throne was an interesting card, though never that noteworthy in all honesty. Messenger of Peace was always a useful stun card. Also, you had Toon World as the crutch of the Toon Deck for many years. The Rares also give some good things with all of the Attribute floaters in here, which were great for the time. Senju of the Thousand Hands was a great card for Rituals to have early on. Nimble Momonga and Giant Germ were also solid floaters to get tribute fodder. Rush Recklessly and Horn of the Unicorn give decent boosts. You also had Cyber Jar, which was an extremely powerful card as the game moved forward. You had a few interesting Commons in here with Darkness Approaches being noteworthy for a long time for being able to make monsters go into face-down Attack Position until Konami errataed it, Gravekeeper’s Servant was a fun Deck-out card that debuted Gravekeeper’s before we ever got their monsters, you had the Attribute-boosting Field Spells for that 500 ATK gain and 400 DEF loss, you had another great Spell in Upstart Goblin, you had Sonic Bird for your Ritual Spells, finally you had most of the other Ritual Monsters and Spells with the stand-out being Hungry Burger and Hamburger Recipe. The set was very strong, especially with the namesake Spell Cards.
Set Rating: 8.5/10
Release Date: October 20th, 2002
Cover Card: Thousand-Eyes Restrict
Now we get to a set where the Secret Rares were legitimately playable. Pharaoh’s Servant is next to upgrade the previously released Relinquished and contained 107 cards with 2 Secret Rares, 10 Ultra Rares, 10 Super Rares, 17 Rares, and 66 Commons. As mentioned, the Secret Rares were actually playable with Jinzo being an awesome card from the anime while also being a strong anti-Trap monster, and Imperial Order is one of the best Traps of all time for it’s Spell-stopping ability that’s so good that even the errataed form is still played somewhat today. The Ultra Rares had some great cards with the best being Call of the Haunted and Premature Burial for their revival abilities, Chain Destruction was good for destroying monsters in your opponent’s hand or Deck, Ceasefire is a well-known burn card in the history of this game, Buster Blader is one of Yugi’s iconic monsters that eventually became its own Deck, The Legendary Fisherman is another iconic card that isn’t used as much though, Thousand-Eyes Restrict is a good Relinquished upgrade that was later used without being properly Fusion Summoned due to other cards, Goblin Attack Force was the best high ATK Level 4 with a downside for the time, The Fiend Megacyber is an early card to Special Summon itself and it isn’t bad for 2002, and Beast of Talwar is just Summoned Skull that’s less iconic and worse in the stat department. The Super Rares overall were interesting with Parasite Paracide being one of the most unique cards in the game’s history for putting itself in the opponent’s Deck, Graverobber letting you use the opponent’s Spells for yourself, Dust Tornado being a somewhat worse MST that was Limited less often, Mirror Wall was a good attack preventer while Mirror Force remained on the F/L List most of the time, Backup Soldier is a good early option for Exodia strategies, Magical Hats is an iconic card that has had some niche uses, Nobleman of Crossout was a great Spell in the early days when Setting monsters was more viable, Fairy Meteor Crush gave piercing to every monster, Limiter Removal turned Machines into powerhouses, and Gearfried the Iron Knight was a cool anime card that broke Butterfly Dagger – Elma later on. The Rares aren’t as strong with noteworthy ones being Nobleman of Extermination for more Spell/Trap removal that got rid of the cards in the Deck, The Shallow Grave getting back monsters in face-down Defense Position to help FLIP monsters, Prohibition for preventing cards for being used for the rest of the Duel while it’s on the field, Morphing Jar #2 for Deck-out sheneganians, Michizure for taking an opponent’s monster down with your monster, Magic Drain for another solid Spell negation card, and Gravity Bind to shut down Level 4 and lower monsters from attacking. There were just a few good Commons with Time Seal skipping the opponent’s Draw Phase, DNA Surgery being a fun card to play with monster Types, and Cold Wave for shutting down back-row until your next turn. Somewhat of a downgrade, but at least we get Secret Rares that are actually good.
Set Rating: 7.5/10
Labyrinth of Nightmare
Release Date: March 1st, 2003
Cover Card: Mask of Restrict
This is a strange set in the fact that a Trap is the cover card instead of a monster. Labyrinth of Nightmare is another 105 card set with the same breakdown of rarities as Pharaoh’s Servant and once again had some okay Secret Rares. Gemini Elf was good for being a 1900 ATK Level 4 vanilla, and Magic Cylinder was good for sending damage back to the opponent but neither card holds up as well as Pharaoh’s Servant Secret Rares. The Ultra Rares are actually very solid with The Masked Beast just being the strongest Ritual at the time, Mask of Restrict being a great card over the years against Tribute Summoning, Torrential Tribute is a great card when the opponent is getting ahead of you in monster advantage, Card of Safe Return being insane later on when revival got much easier with Zombie Decks, United We Stand and Mage Power giving insanely high ATK boosts for their time, Dark Necrofear being a cool anime card that is easy to summon in real life, The Last Warrior from Another Planet being a card players have always liked to figure out uses for, Royal Command is good against FLIP monsters, and Destiny Board gave us another win condition that wasn’t Exodia. There’s some gems in the Super Rares with Revival Jam being able to potentially revive itself forever, Fire Princess is good for burning the opponent when you healed your LP, Mask of Dispel and Mask of the Accursed burns the opponent for controlling a face-up Spell or monster with Accursed preventing the monster from attacking, Jar of Greed was a Trap that gave you an easy draw, Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer was a great card against cards in the graveyard and later on Decks that liked to banish, Bazoo the Soul-Eater was a fun card to boost to 2500 ATK while loading the banished pile, Dark Spirit of the Silent is a strange card that lets you change the monster that is attacking you, Riryoku Field is a solid though extremely niche Counter Trap, and De-Fusion is always interesting to use with certain Fusion Monsters and against some Fusion Decks. The Rares weren’t too strong with Mask of Brutality being Axe of Despair that made you pay LP and lowered the monster’s DEF, Jam Breeding Machine is able to summon Tokens each turn, Infinite Cards was interesting for getting rid of the hand-size limit, Jowgen the Spiritualist was good against Special Summon strategies, Gilasaurus was a good monster to easily Special Summon, and finally you had the Spirit Messages to make Destiny Board work. There were some cool Commons in here with Tornado Wall being a good early option for Umi Decks, Fairy Box being another Mirror Wall, Amazoness Archer debuted the Amazoness archetype early and this card alone has been part in many FTKs over the years, Summoner of Illusions helped cheat out Fusions, Soul of Purity and Light for being an early Chaos monster that only needed to banish LIGHTs to summon, The Dark Door for limiting your opponent’s attacks to one, Bait Doll for being Spell/Trap removal that forced the activation of the targeted card if it could be activated and then Bait Doll goes to the Deck for reuse, and Fusion Gate being an infinite Fusion machine basically. Some good cards in here, might feel a little top-heavy, but still feels like a downgrade somewhat.
Set Rating: 6.5/10
Legacy of Darkness
Release Date: June 6th, 2003
Cover Card: Last Turn
This looks like a fun one just based on the cover card alone. Legacy of Darkness is a 101 card set with the breakdown we’re used to at this point, only with 62 Commons. The Secret Rares are interesting as both were competitive and banned at one point, with one of those cards still being banned at the time of this article being made. Injection Fairy Lily was a very unique card that could go from low ATK to high ATK with a somewhat decent 2000 LP cost and Yata-Garasu is a Spirit Monster, which Spirits made their debut in this set, that’s still banned for being able to put the opponent in a situation where they never can get to new cards in their Deck while Yata goes back to the hand out of harm’s way every turn and was an insanely powerful card back then. The Ultra Rares have some powerhouses as well with Last Turn causing Draws if not winning the player the Duel, Marauding Captain helped Special Summon other monsters, Airknight Parshath was a favorite in Goat Format, Creature Swap was always a fun card to use for swapping monsters around, and Fiber Jar could just reset the game. There was also Dark Ruler Ha Des to negate the effects of monsters it or other Fiends destroyed, Freed the Matchless General to switch your Draw Phase for the search of a Level 4 or lower Warrior while also being immune to Spell targeting, Tyrant Dragon was a solid Blue-Eyes alternative option for its potential to attack twice, then you had the big Spirit Monsters in Yamata Dragon and Hino-Kagu-Tsuchi to either let you fill your hand up to 5 cards or destroy your opponent’s hand before they draw respectively. The Super Rares gave us good cards like later Metamorphosis targets in Dark Balter the Terrible, Ryu Senshi, and Fiend Skull Dragon alongside other great cards like Exiled Force, Reinforcement of the Army, Twin-Headed Behemoth (which was believed to be more powerful then it ended up being at the time of release), Asura Priest, and Drop Off. Spear Dragon was decent, despite its downside, and Luster Dragon #2 at least had being a Dragon going for it so in some cases it wasn’t just worse Summoned Skull. The Rares had a few good things going for it with Lesser Fiend being a decent Tribute option, The A. Forces being able to give a decent boost, The Warrior Returning Alive to give Warriors some recovery, Second Coin Toss for gambling Decks, and you had the stars of the show with Royal Oppression becoming great later on and Bottomless Trap Hole being a great upgrade over the original Trap Hole. The Commons had decent cards as well in Emergency Provisions to be useful with Mirage of Nightmare later on, Super Rejuvenation got better with age, you had A Legendary Ocean for a better Umi, Convulsion of Nature to turn the Decks upside-down for fun, and Bad Reaction to Simochi to turn LP gain into burn for the opponent. It’s actually a really strong set, especially for the time of release.
Set Rating: 9/10
Release Date: July 18th, 2003
Cover Card: Helpoemer
Now’s a set that gave us one of the earliest official archetypes in the game’s history in Gravekeeper’s. Pharaonic Guardian is a 108 card set with 69 Commons and the rest we’ve gotten accustomed to. The Secret Rares are pretty good with Ring of Destruction being able to destroy monsters and finish games or cause Draws if needed and Lava Golem could get rid of 2 monsters for the price of 1 so you can just worry about the Lava Golem instead. The Ultra Rares do seem weak with the Great Dezard/Fushioh Richie combination, Helpoemer being a cool card from the show that can make your opponent discard a card if they enter and end their Battle Phase, Mystical Knight of Jackal being a 2 Tribute that just top-Decked whatever it destroyed in battle, Byser Shock being a weak Tribute Monster that just returned Set cards to the hand on summon, Question being a very niche yet fun card that tested your opponent’s memory, and Rope of Life needing you to give up your whole hand to revive a monster that was destroyed and gives it a 800 ATK boost. The saving graces were Don Zaloog for destroying the opponent’s hand or Deck and Nightmare Wheel for being a better Spellbinding Circle that dealt burn. The Super Rares had some good things with Sasuke Samurai being an out to Set monsters, Book of Life giving Zombies some good recovery, Mirage of Nightmare to let you draw up to 4 and then get rid of it with MST or Emergency Provisions to avoid the downside, Statue of the Wicked was always a bluff card and never a great one at it, Gravekeeper’s Chief was a good Tribute in Gravekeepers that gave revival and ignored Necrovalley, Reaper of the Nightmare for being another Metamorphosis target, Dark Room of Nightmare for adding more burn on top of your burn already, Necrovalley being a great Floodgate card that has stood the test of time with many effect changes, Barrel Behind the Door being a fun Counter Trap against any burn, and Trap of Board Eraser being more burn negation that takes a card from the opponent’s hand. The Rares had great cards in King Tiger Wanghu to be an out to the opponent summoning weaker monsters, Pyramid Turtle for being the best floater at its time, Book of Moon being an amazing card for FLIP reusage or switching a monster to Defense that’s attacking you, Reckless Greed being another Draw 2, and Spirit Reaper being one of the early Main Deck options to be indestructible in battle. The Commons have some of the best cards in the set with Shapesnatch for being Shapesnatch, Birdface being a good monster in Harpies, Dark Dust Spirit clearing out every face-up monster upon Normal Summon or flip, Swarm of Scarabs and Swarm of Locusts to continuously destroy cards, Dice Jar being the funnest dice-based card, Book of Taiyou letting you use FLIP monsters early, Ordeal of a Traveler to make the opponent play the guessing game to prevent their attacking monster from going back to the hand, Needle Ceiling to destroy face-up monsters when the field is getting full, Trap Dustshoot was great to see the opponent’s hand and put a monster back into their Deck, Gravekeeper’s Spy to get more Spies from the Deck for Tribute options, Gravekeeper’s Guard for bouncing, Reasoning to potentially get high-level monsters from your Deck to your field, Terraforming for searching Field Spells that got better over time, Metamorphosis to cheat out Fusions, Royal Tribute to destroy the opponent’s hand of monsters when you had Necrovalley, Reversal Quiz to be a game of luck to swap LP with the opponent, and Raigeki Break as a good piece of spot removal for the time. It’s weird that the low rarity cards carry this set while harder to get cards seem more lackluster in comparison, but that’s how it goes sometimes. That means you’re more likely to get good card in a pack.
Set Rating: 6.5/10
Release Date: October 10th, 2003
Cover Card: Dark Paladin
Wanna talk about iconic cards? Well we’ll get to one in this set. Magician’s Force is a 108 card set with 69 Commons this time around. The two Secret Rares are back to being mostly collectable again, but there’s a real big one since this was the original printing of Dark Magician Girl, which is great. You also had Diffusion Wave-Motion, which while cool, doesn’t stand up to DMG really. The Ultra Rares have a few good things with Spell Canceler being a great option against Spells, Breaker the Magical Warrior being a body that can also be an MST, and Dark Paladin being good in many future Dark Magician Decks. You also got XYZ – Dragon Cannon and XY – Dragon Cannon as Ultra Rares, Paladin of White Dragon being the first Paladin Ritual, Chaos Command Magician for another Tribute option, Luster Dragon to downgrade the 1900 vanilla from Secret to Ultra Rare, Amazoness Swords Woman to deal damage to your opponent instead of you, and Double Spell to copy a Spell’s effect. The Super Rares hold the rest of the XYZ series with X- Head Cannon, Y – Dragon Head, Z – Metal Tank, XZ – Tank Cannon, and YZ – Tank Dragon alongside Spell Shield Type-8, Amazoness Archers, Skilled White Magician, Skilled Dark Magician, and the once great Tribe-Infecting Virus. There isn’t much for good Rares with cards like Big Bang Shot for more piercing and an ATK boost, Apprentice Magician to float into low level Spellcasters to be face-down, Des Koala for some burn, Dark Core as a better Tribute to the Doomed, and Amazoness Tiger as one of the better Amazoness monsters. There are a batch of good Commons like the Huge Revolution series, Kaiser Colosseum, Autonomous Action Unit, Poison of the Old Man, Wave-Motion Cannon, Rivalry of Warlords, Amazoness Paladin, Old Vindictive Magician, Magical Scientist, Royal Magical Library, Magical Merchant, Dark Scorpion – Cliff the Trap Remover, Mass Driver, My Body as a Shield, and Remove Brainwashing. The cards aren’t the strongest despite some great standouts in Magical Scientist, Mass Driver, Breaker, Spell Canceller, and Tribe-Infecting Virus to name a few. Dark Magician Girl is cool, just not a strong set in terms of card quality, especially in the higher rarities.
Set Rating: 5/10
Release Date: December 1st, 2003
Cover Card: Exodia Necross
Starting to feel like some duds, though I still like these sets. Dark Crisis is a 106 card set with 67 Commons in here. The two Secret Rares are fine with one good one in Vampire Lord and an interesting one with Judgment of Anubis. The Ultra Rares are very weak with the best being Reflect Bounder maybe and then you got cards like Guardian Ceal and Guardian Grarl, Shinato, King of a Higher Plane, Exodia Necross, Kaiser Glider, Interdimensional Matter Transporter, Cost Down, Skull Archfiend of Lightning, and Blast Held by a Tribute. A lot of cool collectable cards, just not many viable cards sadly. The Super Rares have a few more good cards in D.D. Warrior Lady and Butterfly Dagger – Elma and then you got some collectables and other cards in Different Dimension Dragon, Dark Flare Knight, Mirage Knight, Berserk Dragon, Terrorking Archfiend, Mudora, Dark Master – Zorc, and Spell Vanishing. The Rares have some goodies with Skill Drain, Archfiend Soldier (the 1900 vanilla is Rare now), Great Maju Garzett, and Tsukuyomi. The Commons also contain goodies with Maju Garzett as a short print, Dark Scorpion – Chick the Yellow, Contract with Exodia (for your Exodia Necross), Gravity Axe – Grarl, Rod of Silence – Kay’est, Twin Swords of Flashing Light – Tryce, Ojama Trio (and Ojama Green for the Ojama’s debut), Dark Scorpion – Meanae the Thorn, Dragged Down into the Grave, Final Countdown, Archfiend’s Oath, Frozen Soul, and Sakuretsu Armor. Less quality cards than Magician’s Force, though some nice collectible potential. There’s still gems in this set and at least there’s one good Secret Rare in terms of playability, at least at one point. Just another poor set in card quality.
Set Rating: 5/10
Invasion of Chaos
Release Date: March 1st, 2004
Cover Card: Dark Magician of Chaos
Suddenly we have a major rise in set quality with Invasion of Chaos. 73 Commons makes a 112 card set and there’s a lot of good stuff here. The Secret Rares have a massive gap in quality between Chaos Emperor Dragon – Envoy of the End being one of the greatest cards ever without its errata and Invader of Darkness never really finding a good niche. The Ultra Rares have some powerful cards in Strike Ninja once being a solid card, Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning being one of the best bosses ever, Dark Magician of Chaos allowing for some great Decks in the mid to late 2000s without its errata, Manticore of Darkness being an interesting card with an interesting interaction with another copy, Levia-Dragon – Daedalus being a fine option for Umi Decks at the time, and Dimension Fusion being a Soul Charge for its time. You also had some fun Ultra Rares in Insect Princess, Black Tyranno, Guardian Angel Joan, and Dark Mirror Force. There’s some good Super Rares with D.D. Scout Plane coming back every time its banished, Freed the Brave Wanderer helping LIGHT Decks getting rid of stronger monsters, Wild Nature’s Release to make your Beasts extremely strong, Reload for a hand reset, Big Burn for a graveyard blowout, and Trap Jammer for Battle Phase Trap negation and then you got a few more cool Super Rares with Chaosrider Gustaph, D.D. Desiginator, Orca Mega-Fortress of Darkness, and Dedication Through Light and Darkness. The Rares have interesting cards with strong monsters in Berserk Gorilla and Mad Dog of Darkness, Fuhma Shuriken with its interesting interactions with other cards, Enraged Battle Ox to give your Beast-Warriors some piercing, Chain Disappearance as a good out to 1000 ATK or lower monsters, Stray Lambs for Token generation, and Compulsory Evacuation Device for monster bouncing. The Commons have fine cards with Ojama Black and Yellow, Inferno, Fenrir, Gigantes, Silpheed, Chaos Sorcerer, Gren Maju Da Eiza, Heart of the Underdog, Primal Seed, Soul Absorption, Stealth Bird, Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands, Smashing Ground, Salvage, Self-Destruct Button, and DNA Transplant. Many good cards in this set, and the best cards are extremely strong, especially for their time. It deserves the declaration of one of the best sets ever.
Set Rating: 10/10
Release Date: June 1st, 2004
Cover Card: Archlord Zerato
To be fair, after how good Invasion of Chaos was, this set being nearly as good could of been overwhelming at the time. Ancient Sanctuary is a 112 card set with the same breakdown from Invasion of Chaos. The set did debut The Agent archetype, which gave us one of their better cards. The Secret Rares are collectible only really with The End of Anubis and Mazera DeVille. The Ultra Rares has Enemy Controller and Dark Magic Attack for decent cards, but the rest are mostly collectible more than viable competitively with The Agent of Judgment – Saturn, Gear Golem the Moving Fortress, Blowback Dragon, Archlord Zerato, Burst Stream of Destruction, Spirit of the Pharaoh, Ghost Knight of Jackal, and Curse of Anubis. The Super Rares have three good cards as well with Zaborg the Thunder Monarch, Emissary of the Afterlife, and The Sanctuary in the Sky and then more collectibles and meh cards with The Agent of Force – Mars, Stone Statue of the Aztecs, Needle Burrower, Amplifier, Legacy Hunter, The First Sarcophagus, and Des Counterblow. Rares give us The Agent of Creation – Venus, Soul-Absorbing Bone Tower, Draining Shield, King of the Swamp, and Spell Economics. Commons give us Warrior of Zera for your Archlord Zerato and Mazera DeVille, The Unhappy Girl, KA-2 Des Scissors, Mokey Mokey, Level Limit – Area B, Mystical Shine Bug, Solar Flare Dragon, Ninjitsu Art of Transformation, Beckoning Light, Protector of the Sanctuary, Night Assailant, and Enchanting Fitting Room. Like I said, another set as good as Invasion of Chaos right after it could be overwhelming too fast in the game’s history, but this was a very weak set to follow up with. I love the pack design, though. It’s my favorite one.
Set Rating: 3/10
Soul of the Duelist
Release Date: October 1st, 2004
Cover Card: Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV8
This could arguably be the GX era, but with the lack of GX cards in the next three sets I’ll put them in the Duel Monsters era. Soul of the Duelist has a massive change as it’s just a 60 card set with 4 Ultra Rares, 7 Super Rares, 14 Rares, and 35 Commons. Secret Rares are gone for now, but we now have Ultimate Rares which can be any card Rare or above, which are always cool to collect but I can’t count the score too much since there’s many sets with Ultimate Rares. We have the debut of the LV series as well, which is cool in theory, but was never good in practice. The Ultra Rares give us one of the good ones with Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV8 and then you got Mystic Swordsman LV4 and Armed Dragon LV7 as cool cards and Inferno Fire Blast being fairly cool to have with the previous set having attacks for Blue-Eyes and Dark Magician as Spells. Super Rares are few with the best being Mobius the Frost Monarch by a longshot and then you probably have Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV6 as the second best, Ectoplasmer as the third best, then the rest aren’t noteworthy too much with Penumbral Soldier Lady, Greed, Muko (FKA Null and Void), and Hallowed Life Barrier. The Rares have some of the lower LV cards with Horus LV 4 and Armed Dragon LV5, weirdly having Ultimate Insect LV1 in here with the later forms in other sets, and you also got Mystic Swordsman LV2 as another decent out to Set monsters, Ninja Grandmaster Sasuke for Defense Position monsters in general, Hammer Shot, Spirit Barrier, and some cool Fusions with Ojama King and Master of Oz. All Rares are going to be good in Ultimate Rare for Ultimate Rare collectors, but as Rares those are noteworthy. The Commons have the even smaller LV monsters, Black Dragon’s Chick (FKA Red-Eyes B. Chick), Howling Insect, Masked Dragon, Dark Factory of Mass Production, and Mind Crush. Decent cards in here actually, though never the strongest cards. I feel there’s enough viability with Horus and Mobius to give this a good rating.
Set Rating: 6.5/10
Rise of Destiny
Release Date: December 1st, 2004
Cover Card: The Creator
More Ultimate Rares and more LV monsters, also more proper Harpie support. Rise of Destiny is the second set with the new setup, so the same breakdown as last time. Ultra Rares give us a cool card in theory with The Creator, we got Mystic Swordsman LV6 to go with LV4 last set, Silent Swordsman LV3 before we get LV5 and LV7 for some reason, and Perfect Machine King. Super Rares have Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch, Big Core, Monster Reincarnation, Tragedy, and Divine Wrath for good Supers and then you got Triangle Ecstasy Spark and Pikeru’s Circle of Enchantment for your other Super Rares. Rares give us Ultimate Insect LV3 for the next stage of LV1, Fusilier Dragon, the Dual-Mode Beast, Dekoichi the Battlechanted Locomotive, Serial Spell, and Machine Duplication for good Rares. Solid Commons give us The Creator Incarnate, Nightmare Penguin, Harpie Lady 1, Harpies’ Hunting Ground, and Xing Zhen Hu. The Ultra Rares are kinda weaker in this set, but Supers and Rares do feel a bit stronger. Not too many good commons in here and the good ones aren’t groundbreaking really. It’s a solid set overall, there’s some good things still.
Set Rating: 6/10
Release Date: March 1st, 2005
Cover Card: Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys and Deck Devastation Virus
The last set technically of the Duel Monsters and the first set without Yugi himself on the front, which gives room for a second cover card I guess. Flaming Eternity give us more Ultimate Rares, which of course is fun. Ultra Rares have some good things with Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys being a good card and Silent Swordsman LV5 making a good upgrade for LV3, and then you got Gatling Dragon as a good option with Metamorphosis since it was still legal I’m sure and then you got Gearfried the Swordmaster as a cool upgrade for the original Gearfried. Super Rares have good cards in Granmarg the Rock Monarch, King Dragun, A Feather of the Phoenix, Lightning Vortex, and Deck Devastation Virus for great Super Rares and some cool cards with Behemoth the King of All Animals and Blast Magician. Rares have fun cards in Chiron the Mage, Spell Absorption, Swords of Concealing Light, Spiral Spear Strike, and Phoenix Wing Wind Blast. Commons have gems with Hand of Nephthys, Armed Samurai – Ben-Kei, the three Hex-Sealed Fusion cards, Fulfillment of the Contract, Re-Fusion, Threatening Roar, Good Goblin Housekeeping, and the greatest Beast card of all time with Rescue Cat, who will see its prime in a few years. This is the best set in a bit really, with a lot more good cards overall. The best of the three sets that come with Ultimate Rares in my opinion so far, but we’ll get to better ones later.
Set Rating: 7.5/10
There were some great cards released in this time, but this was also still a period where you didn’t get as many “playable cards” in every set as we do now-a-days, and I can’t really judge them for that since the game had a lower power-level and therefore can’t get overflown with too many powerful cards. We had some great sets with Invasion of Chaos and Spell/Magic Ruler, some meh sets, and only one real dud with Ancient Sanctuary. Collectibility is super high in these sets since they’re so hard to come by, though, so that wasn’t too big in the score, but I still gave some points for that. Next up is the GX era, which is one I look forward to as we got some great sets in that era, especially towards the end. The Duel Monsters era overall was fairly good to start the game off with some cards still aging well.
- Invasion of Chaos (10/10)
- Legacy of Darkness (9/10)
- Spell/Magic Ruler (8.5/10)
- Metal Raiders (8/10)
- Pharaoh’s Servant and Flaming Eternity (7.5/10)
- Legend of Blue Eyes White Dragon (7/10)
- Soul of the Duelist, Labyrinth of Nightmare, and Pharaonic Guardian (6.5/10)
- Magician’s Force and Dark Crisis (5/10)
- Ancient Sanctuary (3/10)
Thanks for Reading,