Mechanical identity: let’s meet the elements! Part 0: Intro

Most card games aim for some sort of mechanical identity where different cards, decks, or archetypes have mechanics associated with them. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Magic: The Gathering’s color pie, where the different colors of mana have associated strengths and weaknesses. In this series of articles we will be examining the mechanical identities of the different attributes in Yu-Gi-Oh! and what that means for card design.

Weaknesses in identity

Thats not very FIRE of you thestalos

Today we will be looking at some of the reasons why I believe mechanical identity isn’t as strong in Yu-Gi-Oh! as it is in a lot of other card games. Those of you familiar with the color pie from Magic: The Gathering I mentioned earlier will know that each of the colors have clear weaknesses and mechanics they either have to pay a premium to access or can’t access at all. This gives the colors not only strengths but also a clear weakness. This helps build a character beyond whatever the strongest deck in that color is right now.

In Yu-Gi-Oh! there are no such restrictions. There are dark monsters that give you life points and fire monsters that make your opponent discard despite neither of those mechanics being in line with their identity. Having no restriction of what types and attributes can do what makes their identity feel weaker since other types and attributes with a very different identity can do the same thing as their central mechanics.



One of the reasons behind the weakened identity is how archetypes work. Konami often tries to keep archetypes the same attribute/type in order to make it easier for them to access generic support or have their own cards act as generic support for others. A clear example of this would be Genex Ally Birdman. It uses self bouncing and has wings, meaning its identity is wind both mechanically and thematically. But it belongs to a sub-archetype  consisting only of dark machines so it has to match the others.



On the opposite end of the spectrum we have cards forced to be an odd attribute due to it being thematically apropriate for the art and name rather than for its mechanical use. Once again we are going to use Genex for our example since it is the most powerful archetype ever created. Genex Blastfan is wind because he is a fan and because they wanted to have Genex synchros of all attributes. Nothing about his effect  stands out as a wind effect, but he is a fan so there we go.


Design Space

… Wind?

Lastly we have times when Konami have painted themselves into a corner when it comes to design space. Design space is basically the space you have allowed yourself to print cards in. Some design space is more narrow due to pre-existing support. For example printing more cards similar to Gren Maju Da Eiza is restricted by cards like Pot of Desires.

A prime example of this is how Konami had to handle the legacy support for Vehicroids. The Vehicroid cards share only the “roid” part of their name with each other. This means lot of other cards are included in the archetype, including the entirety of the Speedroid archetype. Their solution to not just make these new cards Speedroid support? Add some restrictions!

Mixeroid cannot summon wind monsters so as to not make it summon powerful Speedroid cards. But it also can’t summon copies of itself as it has the wind attribute itself. This was almost certainly just done to make the effect text shorter since neither the effect or the theming has anything to do with wind they just didn’t want it to act like Lonefire Blossom where it summons out all copies of itself from the deck.

So join me each week as we examine what Konami has left us with and what it means for the attributes going forward.




Trinity format admin with a fixation on game design.

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