Saturday morning cartoons were a big part of my childhood, and every week that meant another episode of Yu-Gi-Oh. This was a huge reason it came to be part of my life over Magic the Gathering (MTG). I’ve never played Magic, so I’ll focus this PCP primarily on why Yu-Gi-Oh is just cooler.
First, owning cool cards was a large part of the reputation you could build in the older days of the game. If you had a blue-eyes, you were king of the school. Cards also tend to be on the cheaper side; even if you want to be relevant in the current meta, you can get a decent deck for even as low as $100 (which is how much it cost to build my chaos dragons back when I played). But let’s go even further back and revisit the playground time. The cartoon was a big part of many kids’ childhoods, so having the cards in the show was a big deal. In fact, winning would determine if you were “Yugi” or “Joey.” (For those unfamiliar, Yugi is the protagonist who always wins, Joey is the underdog who often comes up short. That’s a feeling of nostalgia that MTG couldn’t offer. Not only that, but I’ve rewatched the series without “nostalgia goggles” on, and it still is actually a good show that taught morals of friendship and bravery. I do say the subbed version did it better, since localization often meant censorship and a tragic loss of half of the legendary “MONSTAH CAADO” scene. But I digress; it was this kind of emotion you could put into your duels as a kid, emulating your heroes in a one on one match with your peers.
The continuation of the series beyond the original (GX, 5DS, etc.) also meant you could keep up with Yu-Gi-Oh without spending money on cards. You never really quit the game. Even though I didn’t find the newer series up to par with the original (at least the dubbed versions), I always felt they were vital in continuing the game. GX introduce more fusion-heavy decks like the Elemental HERO archetype, 5Ds had the introduction of synchro monsters, Zexal introduced XYZ monsters, all of which can still be used with cards from back in the day (although you can probably tell most decks didn’t actually do that. Still, the fact that it was possible means you could still have a decent deck). My only gripe is the lack of ritual inclusion through the times, and I stopped playing before pendulums came out so I won’t get into that.
I’m sure MTG did this too, but Yu-Gi-Oh was a big brain-trainer for me. The possibility of combos and chance mixed in with the effects of various monsters and spells/traps made each duel feel like a chess game to me. Each deck had its usual combos and heavy-hitting monsters, but with a little more creativity and luck, there was always a new combo to discover.
Card collecting was also a thing in Yu-Gi-Oh. Since it was pretty cheap to buy a box of cards, you could try your luck on one of those big booster boxes and pull cards that would turn you a profit. I had a binder which had an Exodia set, a few rare blue-eyes white dragons, and a bunch of other rare old and new cards. As I was exiting the game, I decided to sell the lot and buy a PS4 with the money. It was a great investment and wasn’t that hard to get into either. I’m glad I got out though, as I felt the game was getting too fast. Old school duels usually had more tension to them; 4000 life points, but you probably weren’t going to lose that early. Although the strategy is MUCH better nowadays and 8000 life points is much more reasonable, OTKs (one turn kills) are very prevalent (or at least, back when I played) and things could go south for you very quickly if you didn’t have the right cards. But I guess that’s where you strategize building your deck, which was another great part of Yugioh. Games like YGOpro and duelingbook have online databases and servers where you can build your deck and play against people online, and it’s all free. MTG has this, called MTGO, but it’s paid. There are some free ones you can probably check out though (Cockatrice and XMage, and both are open source).
But the biggest reason Yu-Gi-Oh trumped MTG in all aspects was that we had duel disks.
Anyway, although I don’t know anything about MTG, I’m glad Yu-Gi-Oh was such a large part of my childhood and improved myself as a person. If anyone wants to discuss the original anime with me, I’ve come close to watching the entire series about 5 times and I’m down to talk about it.