The Yugioh anime is notorious for its constant rule breaking in the midst of duels as well as its deus ex machina draws. And we loved it for doing so in a variety of silly ways. We also loved the thrill of the duel from the holographic monsters, the banter between the duelists, the plays they made, etc. This article counts down the top 10 best duels in the Yugioh anime.
Honorable mention: Yugi and Joey vs. the Paradox Brothers
This duel had some good stakes and truly showed Yugi and Joey as a team as they play on one another’s strengths and cover each other’s weak spots. Even though it’s full of a bunch of crazy “screw the rules” Duelist Kingdom stuff the gimmick of the duel is quite an interesting one and I wish could be made into its own game.
10. Yugi vs. Joey
This one is lowest on the list because it’s the only one we got. And like most Duelist Kingdom duels, it’s full of the most over-the-top screw the rules moments you can imagine. But it does not stop Yugi and Joey from giving 110%. Each turn pushes the other duelist to strike harder. And even though Joey loses, he manages to push Yugi into a tight corner showing that he’s come quite a long way from his early days. While it isn’t very subtle, the plays and monsters Yugi and Joey utilize throughout the duel is very symbolic of their friendship.
9. Yugi vs. Pegasus
With his Millenium Eye Pegasus was capable of foreseeing every last move his opponent would play by reading their minds and completely shaking them up in the process. Yugi even though he knew this information was no exception to falling victim to Pegasus’ mind-reading causing him to trail behind quickly. His response to Pegasus’ cheating? Cheat right back! Yugi uses his own Millenium Puzzle to separate his own and Atem’s (then known as Yami) mind and not tell each other their plays. Within minutes Yugi is able to turn the tide on Pegasus. But it ‘s not easy sailing from this point as Pegasus takes the duel to the Shadow Realm gradually destroying the mind shuffle strategy and eventually young Yugi leading Yami to take on Pegasus alone. While the way he overcomes Pegasus is rather cheesy and filled with the silly rule-breaking of Duelist Kingdom the stakes of the duel are great.
8. Yugi vs. Strings
It’s Yugi’s first duel against an Egyptian God Card and it is not an easy one. Strings sets up a seemingly indestructible five-card combo that nothing in Yugi’s deck can best. Infinite cards allows Slifer the Sky Dragon to have no limit to its attack power, Revival Jam to regenerate and trigger Card of Safe Return which allows the Marik controlling Strings to draw three more cards, and of course Slifer’s ability to destroy any monster with 2000 or less attack or defense points. This combo quite literally brings Yugi to his knees and Yugi doesn’t even defeat Slifer. It does not stop him however from taking down Strings in a satisfying way. He takes control of Revival Jam forcing Slifer to repeatedly attack it as Revival Jam regenerates again, and Marik draws. Marik’s look of horror as he catches on to what’s happening is hilarious (fun fact: This exact same thing happened to me in a duel when I used Slifer and I chained Maxx C to my opponent’s Treeborn Frog).
7. Kaiba and Yugi vs. Dartz
Joey and Yugi are an enjoyable team. Kaiba and AYugi are downright dangerous. Their first turns alone consist of them summoning some behemoths of monsters. Dartz makes his minions look like pushovers as he makes full use of the Seal of Orichalcos to increase his defense and gradually mount offensive pressure on the two. With Yugi fearing of destory his friends’ souls now contained within Dartz’s Mirror Knights Kaiba moves the duel along in splendid fashion with his legendary Dragon, Fang of Critias. In a surprising turn of events, Kaiba ends up losing halfway through. And yet despite all his hatred for Atem, he still uses the last of his energy to give Yugi a life point boost to ensure he wins. Despite this proves to be no easy task. Not only is Atem facing Dartz alone but is facing a monster with 20,000 attack points while Dartz has over 10,000 life points and is only barely able to save himself from Dartz’s blows.
6. Yugi vs. Bakura
Now we’re getting to the cool ones! One of the main flaws with this duel is that it often intercuts with Atem’s battle with Zorc. With that being said, the duel perfectly establishes Yugi without Atem. His deck is more made up of less mythological monsters and more modern playful monsters. Silent Swordsman in particular represents Yugi. He starts out small but as time goes on grows. Marshmallon represents Yugi: he’s small and weak but is also a nuisance to get rid of. Gandora represents just how far Yugi has come. It’s not something Atem would carry and it shows Yugi is on the verge of becoming a man.
5. Kaiba and Yugi vs. Noah
This wasn’t a tag team duel but rather a duel where a second person takes over. The motives of all duelists and the duelist within the monsters are heavily felt here. The duel shows while Kaiba may be a jerk on the outside, he’s made a hard climb to the top and has sacrificed a lot as a result. The monsters he uses largely reflect his personality. Vampire Lord for instance keeps coming back no matter how many times it’s destroyed. Different Dimension Dragon represents the younger Kaiba in that while it may be weak it is a pain to get rid of throughout the duel. Blue-Eyes White Dragon towards the end represents the fruits of Kaiba’s sacrifices. Noah’s deck in this duel is based on past events and mythology like Chiron the Mage, Giant Rex, and his deck master Shinato’s Ark mirroring his anger over past events. His Spirit deck to continuously gain life points against Yugi largely reflect his desire to keep living. Yugi’s deck on the other hand is made up of Kaiba and Yugi’s cards which signifies his desire to duel for the both of them. With a huge difference in life points Noah is able to overwhelm Yugi despite multiple impressive plays. And each turn Yugi loses another friend. While the hallucination of Yugi’s friends was cheesy in the same vein as the duel against Pegasus that six-card combo to OTK Noah is downright satisfying as he is just helplessly looking for a way out.
4. Joey vs. Marik
This duel is the peak of Joey’s dueling skills. Joey shows that he has come a long way through his endeavors at Duelist Kingdom, the Virtual World, and Battle City. Joey isn’t too happy for what Marik did to Mai and he is not just talk in this duel Marik is able to put Joey through some hellish torture but Joey is able to fight back with monsters such as Jinzo and Gilford the Lightning and put some dents through Marik’s monsters and life points . Even the Winged Dragon of Ra almost stood no chance against Joey. He survives long enough to summon a monster strong enough to defeat him (to the point that Marik was terrified of losing). But of course, the writers can’t have anyone but Yugi ending things so Joey had to collapse (seriously all Joey had to say was attack).
3. Yugi vs. Marik
As far as this final duel of the season goes, it is a pretty fun one. We get to see all three Egyptian God Cards in action and there is so much on the line in this battle. It seems that no matter how the duel turns out someone is going to lose in the end. Marik also seems to go all out as whereas past duels with him we saw much of his monsters, spells, and traps were independent of Ra, this one seems to go with one purpose: to buid up Ra’s presence on the field. And when Ra shows up, he puts in some work and Yugi only barely escapes each time. Yugi manages some underhanded tactics such as using exchange to take Monster Reborn, using Kaiba’s Fiend Sanctuary to turn Ra’s damage onto Marik, and using soul taker to activate Obelisk’s ability. And yet Marik is still able to overcome all this. It takes as the episode quotes “Yugi’s Monsters on Parade” to finally get rid of the Mega Ultra Chicken and the visuals through the whole thing are downright incredible.
2. Yugi vs. Rafael (first match)
Here’s something no one would have thought when watching this duel: Yugi actually loses. And not through his hand being forced or to teach someone a lesson but actually loses. While it was unnecessary to play the seal as nothing would have happened had Yugi lost, Dan Green’s voice acting (through both Yugi and Atem) gives this duel an emotional edge. His gives a great deal of weight to his remarks under the Orichalcos’ influence and strongly differentiates him from his usual kinder demeanor as he selfishly sacrifices his monsters and falls victim to his own darkness. He also does so when Yugi sees the duel upset by his friend’s actions and happily willing to take Atem’s place by the Orichalcos. Rafael is also an interesting villain in that he duels smart and in keeping with the “Heart of the Cards” theme will not at all let his monsters hit the card graveyard. And Yugi’s inability to destroy a single monster and his life points getting hit hard because of it, builds on his frustration leading to the decision to use the seal. Atem’s sadness as he realizes his mistake and pays the price by losing the duel and Yugi ultimately make this episode go out on a surprisingly emotional note.
1. Yugi vs. Atem
This duel has the grandest scale of them all through the bonds formed and all the duels these two have been through. It truly serves as a rite of passage for both these two to become their own people. And we see throughout the duel just how much these two are different. Atem’s deck represents the past as it’s made up of monsters we’ve seen throughout the series such as Dark Magician, the God Cards, Big Shield Gardna, etc. Much like his duel with Bakura, Yugi’s deck here is less mythos based and more modern with the Magnet Warriors, the Gadgets, etc. Yugi negating Monster Reborn towards the end is a perfect symbolism that Atem having been dead for years, no longer has a place in the real world and it’s the final move before Yugi launches the final blow. It all ends with a tearful goodbye that truly showcases the bond that Atem has built with these people throughout five seasons.
Are there any others you think deserved to be on the list? Any you agree or disagree with? Well leave em in the comments below.