At the time of writing this, there are 7,350 different cards legal in North America. The database also tells me that there are 7,865 different cards legal in Japan. The TCG got 589 new cards last year. The specifics don’t particularly matter, but between 500 to 600ish cards enter the game every year. That’s a lot of cards. About 45 to 50 cards every month. And four times a year they come in bunches of 100. Regardless of how many new cards come out, you should be looking at all of them and trying to figure out where the new cards slot into the format. Do they create a new deck? Do they make an older deck viable again? Do they make a good deck better? Today, let’s talk about evaluating cards.
If you ask most people, they’ll say there are three stages of the game: early, mid and late. While this is true, the game has gotten so fast that there isn’t really a difference between the mid- and late-game anymore. There are more like four stages of the game, and not every game will go through all stages. The four stages are developing, even, winning and losing.
This is usually only ever the first turn or two. Yugioh is so fast now that after the first turn if you haven’t put some sort of threat on the field, you’re losing. Some examples from the current meta are when a Demise deck sets everything, then plays Card of Demise. Summon Tincan, set cards, search, maybe summon a ship. Summon multiple Dante/Beatrices, set Fog Blade, pass. Decks these days really can’t handle being slower than having a play on the first turn. That play doesn’t have to be super powerful, but it has to be something, or you’re going to get steamrolled.
One of my favorite formats, Nekroz Part I, in the mirror, as soon as the first turn was over you were no longer developing. You were even with your opponent and the first person to resolve Trishula or Djinn Releaser lock usually won. Not always the case, but typically.
In Yugioh, you’re even when neither player can get an actual advantage. One player has an answer for every threat. Every push back is met with an answer. In full power Nekroz mirror matches, the field was usually clear and the first to make a mistake lost while both players are trading some cards here and there. These turns don’t last long unless it’s a mirror match. The Burning Abyss Mirror before Virgil relied on Phoenix Wing Wind Blast or Raiza to get rid of an opposing Dante because Dante sits on 2500 DEF.
You are clearly in a commanding position and your opponent probably isn’t coming back. OTKs don’t really fall under winning. They’re a little special because the game just ends. But this is when you have complete control of a game, and chances of losing are slim to none.
Opposite of winning. Your opponent is in the commanding position. You NEED an answer, probably right now, or you’re going to lose on the next turn, or the turn after.
What I described was early-, mid- and late-game, but early, mid and late are so vague and almost meaningless. When your friend comes by and asks how things are going, saying it’s the late game is much less insightful to what is actually going on than “I’m winning” or “We’re even right now.”
So, how does this relate to evaluating cards? You need to think about when a card is good. There are factors other than actually using the card, but first, let’s look at what is known as quadrant theory. I’ve just told you all about quadrant theory. The four stages of the game are the four quadrants. There isn’t a funny mnemonic or anything for this. You just need to remember it.
All right, it’s time for an example. I’m going to use Neo Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon because it’s a neat card. I’m going to ignore any setup costs because that’ll be covered later. For quadrant theory, I’m going to assume you’re just able to summon Neo Ultimate every time.
On my first turn, it does nothing but gets in the way of attacks. If my opponent summons a 4500 ATK monster that doesn’t do anything, I’m not immediately afraid. It attacks up to three times, so perhaps it needs to be dealt with before the Battle Phase rolls around, but all it does is attack three times. It also probably can’t be attacked over, so if I throw out a Neo Ultimate first turn, my LP are likely safe. So, if I’m able to throw out Neo Ultimate on my first turn, it’s not awful, but doesn’t really do much until I’m able to attack with it on my next turn. Not fantastic.
Consider the opposite. It’s still my first turn, but my opponent throws down a couple Beatrices or summons Ehther, summons Kuraz and just draws a few cards. If it’s the early game, and I’m able to attack with Neo Ultimate three times, it’s amazing. In response to anything, Neo Ultimate puts in a lot of work, provided it doesn’t get removed with something before it’s able to attack for 13500 damage, minus whatever my opponent has to get in the way. Fantastic card but we’re almost to parity. Your first turn when you go second is your chance to seize the initiative from your opponent and take control of the game, or at least put up a fight.
You have a few big monsters: Beatrice, Dark Destroyer, Dark Lady, Erebus. I have a couple Blue-Eyes monsters on the field. Vanilla Dragon, Spirit Dragon, Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand, ya know, stuff. Whatever it is, if I’m able to add Neo Ultimate to my field, it’s only a 4500 ATK body. Huge attack monsters, if big enough, are very good. Provided Neo Ultimate doesn’t fall into trap cards or get bopped by something before my Battle Phase, Neo Ultimate pretty much puts me ahead. In 2012, when Chaos Dragons played Future Fusion on the first turn, if the game didn’t end by the time Five-Headed Dragon came out, Five-Headed usually ended the game because large enough monsters, even with effectively blank text boxes, are good. If there was a Level 4 Normal Monster with 4000+ ATK and 4000+ DEF, it’d probably see play. Overall, when you’re even, does the card you’re analyzing put you ahead far enough that it puts you into the winning quadrant?
I have complete control of the game. Basically, every card is good here. Some cards are better than others. Neo Ultimate does not shine if I’m already winning the game. It only adds 4500 ATK to the field. It doesn’t stop my opponent from drawing Kozmotown, adding back a pilot and dropping Dark Destroyer to pop my Neo Ultimate and crashing into Blue-Eyes, then attacking for 2400/2800. If I’m already winning, I’d much rather have a Vanity’s Fiend than Neo Ultimate. Cards that prevent things are the best cards when you’re already winning. I’d rather have a Bottomless Trap Hole if it locks my opponent out of the game. Neo Ultimate, unless it’s ending the game that turn, doesn’t do additional things. Not many cards are very good when you’re already winning, but you’re winning, anyways. This stage matters the least.
Arguably the most important section. My opponent has Erebus, Beatrice and Dark Destroyer out and Domain is face-up, allowing Erebus to attack for 3600. Beatrice and Dark Destroyer both have cards to float into. I summon Neo Ultimate. Neo Ultimate basically catches me right back up. As long as it doesn’t get removed, Neo Ultimate can attack three times, through Dark Destroyer + floats, or Beatrice + floats. Probably dealing some number of damage, too. If I draw Dragon’s Mirror when my opponent has an Erebus, Beatrice and Dark Destroyer, as long as my dragon doesn’t get messed up, I’m pretty happy. I slam down Dragon’s Mirror and attack over lots of things, and I now have a threat that needs to be dealt with. Neo Ultimate is pretty good when losing.
Now that we’ve looked at Neo Ultimate in all four quadrants, let’s look at what else we need to look at when trying to figure out how good a card is.
What does it actually take to use the card? What are you cutting yourself off of? What other downsides are there? With Neo Ultimate you need to have some kind of Fusion Summoning card, then the Fusion Materials, or replacements somewhere. Thankfully Dragon’s Mirror exists, but you’d still have to banish three copies of Blue-Eyes White Dragon. There isn’t much more downside to Neo Ultimate. Just the super high setup cost of needing three Blue-Eyes White Dragons and a fusion card. Then, to use its multiple attacks effect you need to have at least two other Blue-Eyes Fusion Monsters in your Extra Deck. It’s high enough by itself that the payoff isn’t worth it. Even if the multiple attack effect just required you to reveal a Blue-Eyes Fusion, fusing three Blue-Eyes isn’t worth the Blue-Eyes, unless you’re using Dragon’s Mirror. And then, you probably want them in your Graveyard. The actual cost of summoning Neo Ultimate makes playing it so hard, and thus, only going to be seen at tables with numbers as high as its ATK. No, not 45, 4500.
Card of Demise is another card with very high costs. I’m not sure it could be costed any higher other than LP payment, too. But the actual setup cost is so low. Just build a deck that empties its hand and doesn’t need to Special Summon – Qliphorts, Kozmo, Counter Fairies. Easy peasy.
Another thing to do is compare it to similar cards. Skullcrobat Joker has 1800 ATK and searches basically the whole deck. But your deck needs to be full of Magicians, Odd-Eyes and Performapals. Stratos has 1800 and searches basically the whole deck. But your other monsters have to be HEROs. Pretty comparable. Stratos also can destroy Spells/Traps and works on Special Summons. Joker can be a Scale 8, but doesn’t work on Special Summons. They’re similar, and fill similar roles, but if I could replace the HERO part of Stratos with Performapal/Magician/Odd-Eyes, I’d rather have Stratos.
Other than looking at how a format is, like if 2550 ATK is an important number to attack over, the last thing you need to do is consider the cost of adding it to your deck. Neo Ultimate requires you to have all of the fusion materials somewhere and have a fusion summoning card. It isn’t Twin Blue-Eyes, which is practically free if you’re already running Blue-Eyes. Card of Demise requires you to build around it so that you can empty your hand. Upstart Goblin requires you to have exactly 40 cards in your deck in order to decrease your deck count. Galaxy Soldier asks you to have a significant number of other LIGHT monsters in your deck. Synchro Monsters ask for tuners and non-tuners that add up exactly. Xyz just ask for monsters of the same level.
Before you go buy Neo Ultimate, compare it to Twin Burst, then click an ad and come back tomorrow. And for as long as Dragon-Types exist, I think I’ll miss the Dragon Rulers. Nothing will be on their same power level.