Throughout the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG’s 15 year history, there have been numerous iconic monsters and cards. However, even to this day the most iconic card in the game’s history, especially to the general public, remains the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Because of the legendary status the card holds, it is only fitting that the first ever booster set released in the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG (the game as it is distributed in the Americas and Europe) was named after it: The Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon, abbreviated as LOB.
Product Release History
This set was first released on March 8, 2002 and was the first ever Yu-Gi-Oh! product officially released outside of Asia. This release happened simultaneously in both Europe and North America. The initial release consisted of 126 different cards spread out in booster packs that contained 9 cards, one of which was guaranteed to be of the “Rare” rarity or above. Something important to note about this initial release is the difference in the set’s printing in the European release which only contained 103 cards. Most of the omitted cards were Common, but several Rare cards and one Super Rare card were also omitted. What’s most interesting about these removed cards was that they were mostly Fusion Monsters and their materials, leaving only a small number of Fusion Monsters in the original European release of the set. These omitted cards would end up being released several months later in the Magic Ruler booster set, catching the European card pool back up to the North American card pool.
Before getting into a breakdown of the cards in the set, we will go over the various different print runs that the set got. Its status as the first TCG booster set has caused it to be reprinted and redistributed more than any other booster set. The first of these re-runs was almost immediately after the set was first released and was simply an Unlimited Edition print run. All this meant was that the 1st Edition label was not present on the cards in the set. The set would receive further distribution through the various different Collector’s Tins that would get yearly releases in the TCG. This started with the release of 6 different Collector’s Tins in October of 2002, with each tin coming with 2 booster packs of Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon. The subsequent 2003 Collector’s Tins would also come packed with 1 booster pack of the set. With the presence of the 2002 and 2003 Collector’s tins, the set would see nearly continuous circulation from its release and this distribution would continue further with the TCG release of the Master Collection Volume 1 in December 2004. This set was notable for being the first worldwide English release of Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon, as opposed to all previous re-releases which had been the Unlimited edition in the local language. This new worldwide English release would have the set code LOB-ENXXX instead of the previous English releases which had the set code in the formula LOB-XXX. This re-release not only changed the set codes but also included a variety of different errata, or changes to card text. This included various text updates to make effects clearer as well as changing all of the “Magic” cards to “Spell” cards. This was due to a shift in the naming conventions for the card type in light of an issue with the creators of Magic: The Gathering. The change had gone into effect with the release of the Magician’s Force booster set in late 2003. The last TCG release of Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon was in 2010’s Legendary Collection. This set came with Unlimited packs of Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon but unlike the previous release in the Master Collection, the original text from the 2002 version of the set was maintained with the only errata being the change of Magic Card to Spell Card.
The original North American printing and the later worldwide print runs contained 126 cards consisting of 82 Common cards, 22 Rare cards, 10 Super Rare cards, 10 Ultra Rare cards, and 2 Secret Rare cards. The original European print runs contained 103 cards consisting of 67 Common cards, 15 Rare cards, 9 Super Rare cards, 10 Ultra Rare cards, and 2 Secret Rare cards.
First we’ll go over the commons. Unlike most later booster sets which had a good spread of Effect Monsters, Spells, and Traps among their Common cards, Legend of Blue-Eyes had only weak Normal Monsters and attack boosting Spell cards. Almost all of the Common monsters in this set were extremely weak even upon the set’s release, with none of them having an ATK above 1200. The only notable Common monster from this set is Skull Servant, primarily due to the other support cards it would receive later on.
The available Spell cards were similarly weak, being split into 3 categories: Life Point manipulating Spells, Equip Spells, and Field Spells. The 3 Life Point changing Spells were Red Medicine for Life Point gain and Hinotama and Sparks for direct Life Point damage. The Equip Spells all conferred a bonus of 300 ATK and DEF to the monster equipped to it, so long as that monster was of the Type designated on the card. It’s also of note that all of these Equip Spell cards were Short Prints meaning that they were 3 times less likely to appear in a pack than a standard Common card. Furthermore, Raise Body Heat and Follow Wind were both Super Short Prints, a designation seen primarily in these early sets. Super Short Print meant that the cards were exceptionally difficult to find, although this rarity designation separate from regular Short Print has never been officially confirmed as existing. Finally, the field spells gave all monsters on the field of the Types listed on the card a boost of 200 ATK and DEF. Due to how low these modifications were and how limited in scope the bonuses were, none of these cards ever saw too extensive of usage. The final common of note was Remove Trap, a Common Spell card that didn’t conform to any of the other themes for the Common Spells. While it was the one of the only early forms of Trap removal, it’s restriction to face-up Traps limited its usefulness as the only ones released alongside it was Dragon Capture Jar. The card was then fully supplanted by the release of Trap Master in Starter Deck Kaiba as well as Heavy Storm and Mystical Space Typhoon in the following booster sets. All 3 of these cards shared the ability to get rid of both face-up and face-down Traps.
Moving onto the Rare cards, we find far more usable and interesting cards. First among these is Pot of Greed. Pot of Greed is widely regarded as one of the best cards ever released due to its completely cost free generation of card advantage. Because of this, Pot of Greed was immediately recognized as an essential card for every deck and was targeted on the first ever Limited List in May of 2002, released 2 months after Legend of Blue-Eyes. It is interesting to note that Pot of Greed was one of the Rare cards omitted from the original European printing of the set, meaning it would not be introduced to their meta until several months later. Another powerful Rare Spell that came in this set was Fissure. Fissure was one of the first generic monster removal cards released in the game. Because of this, Fissure also saw very widespread play. Unlike Pot of Greed, Fissure wasn’t quite powerful enough to find its way onto the Limited List.
The other four Rare Spell cards were Final Flame, Goblin’s Secret Remedy, Stop Defense, and Gravedigger Ghoul. Final Flame and Goblin’s Secret Remedy were essentially the same as the Common Hinotama and Red Medicine, but strictly better as their effects were 100 points stronger than their Common counterparts. Stop Defense was relatively ineffective at this point in the game due to the prevalence of Flip Effect monsters. While Stop Defense could force a monster out of Defense Position, if it was used on a Face-Down monster, then that monster would still gain its Flip Effects. The last Spell, Gravedigger Ghoul, never saw any real use. During the beginnings of the game there was little to no interactivity with the Graveyard making a card like Gravedigger Ghoul relatively useless. However, by the time the Graveyard had grown in importance Gravedigger Ghoul had already been strictly power-creeped by Soul Release. Soul Release had more powerful version of Gravedigger Ghoul’s effect, allowing the removal of more cards and from either player’s Graveyard instead of just the opponent’s.
Some other notable Rare cards from this set include 3 different high DEF Normal monsters: Giant Soldier of Stone, Aqua Madoor, and Spirit of the Harp. They all had 2000 DEF, which served as the high mark for DEF in level 4 or lower monsters until the release of Soul Tiger years later. In addition to these monsters, 3 Flip Effect monsters were also printed as Rare: Hane-Hane, Reaper of the Cards, and Armed Ninja. Out of these, Hane-Hane was by far the most used as its effect allowed for a form of targeted removal, something that was highly valued in the early game. Armed Ninja never saw much usage due to the restricted nature of its effect. Reaper of the Cards also never saw much play due to its high level which made it inefficient to summon.
Two Trap cards also got printed as Rare: Dragon Capture Jar and Two-Pronged Attack. Dragon Capture Jar saw some minor usage early on in the game due to the popularity of Blue-Eyes White Dragon, but its relatively weak effect made sure it never saw widespread popularity. Two-Pronged Attack, on the other hand, came at far too steep of a cost to be worth playing, causing far more disadvantage for the player using it than the opponent. The rest of the Rare cards were all non-Effect Fusion Monsters. It is from this pool of cards that the majority of the omitted cards from the European release were found. Many of their Fusion materials were also removed from the set as well. The only one of these Fusion Monsters to see truly competitive play early on was Darkfire Dragon. This was largely due to the popularity of Magical Scientist and Metamorphosis at the same time that Chaos monsters were popular. Darkfire Dragon had a combination of being level 4 as well as being the DARK attribute, meaning it was easy to summon with Magical Scientist’s effect or the use of Metamorphosis on a level 4 monster, the most common level at the time. This made it useful as Graveyard fodder for Black Luster Soldier Envoy of the Beginning and Chaos Emperor Dragon Envoy of the End. Several other Fusion Monsters from this pool would also find usage much later in life as Instant Fusion targets. Some notable examples of these Instant Fusion targets are Dragoness the Wicked Knight, Karbonala Warrior, and Fusionist. They would be summoned out with Instant Fusion and then most often used as the material for an Xyz summon.
Next we’ll go over the Super Rare cards. The Super Rare card pool holds the highest proportion of usable cards out of any rarity in Legend of Blue-Eyes. First off, there were 3 Super Rare Normal Monsters used by Yugi in the show: Celtic Guardian, Mystical Elf, and Curse of Dragon. Although these monsters all had relatively good stats compared to the other cards in the set, they would be reprinted and simultaneously power-creeped by cards included in the Starter Decks a few weeks later. The next Super Rare of note was Flame Swordsman, a Fusion Monster used by Joey Wheeler in the anime as well as being the only Super Rare card not included in the original European printing of the set. None of these Super Rares would ever see any kind of competitive play and were almost immediately relegated to being collector cards only. The final monster printed at Super Rare was Man-Eater Bug. Man-Eater Bug, while not particularly impressive by today’s standards, was a staple upon its release. This was due to Man-Eater bug’s effect being the only available form of targeted destruction in the game at the time. Even when other forms of targeted destruction came out in subsequent sets, they often came with a larger drawback, while Man-Eater Bug only required itself to be flipped face-up. The card was, however, reprinted in the Yugi Starter Deck depreciating the value of it.
The next section of Super Rare cards is the Spells. The two most notable Super Rare Spell cards are Raigeki and Dark Hole. Both of these cards hold the notable distinction of still maintaining relevance in the modern game. Both Raigeki and Dark Hole are some of the only cards ever released that can, for no cost, completely wipe out all of an opponent’s monsters. Due to this extremely powerful effect, both cards would find their way onto the very first Limited List, restricting them to 1 copy. Both of these cards would also go on to become Forbidden in later Forbidden and Limited Lists, further demonstrating their impact on the game. Despite both cards being heavily used in the modern game, Dark Hole holds a much lower value due to its higher volume of low rarity reprints, starting with a Common reprint in Starter Deck Yugi along with Dark Hole’s comparatively weaker effect. Raigeki, however, has received far fewer reprints, most of which are in higher rarities. This had made it so that Raigeki holds the distinction of being the highest value Unlimited print card in the set.
Two other Spells were also printed at Super Rare: Polymerization and Swords of Revealing Light. Polymerization was a relatively useless card upon its release due to the extremely weak pool of Fusion Monsters in the early game, making it a low demand card. By the time that better Fusion Monsters had started to be released, Magical Scientist and Metamorphosis were released, largely invalidating the need to use Polymerization to summon out Fusion Monsters. Furthermore, the card would see numerous low rarity reprints by the GX era of the game when Fusion Monsters had become more common. Swords of Revealing Light, on the other hand, did not meet the same fate as Polymerization. The card would quickly become essential to most decks due to its potent stalling potential. This was further compounded by the lack of good Spell and Trap removal in the early game. Because of this, Swords of Revealing Light was Semi-Limited in the first Limited List and then moved further to Limited in another Limited List later in 2002. Although the rise in usage of Mystical Space Typhoon, Heavy Storm, and Harpie’s Feather Duster would cause the decline in popularity of the card, it would never fully fall out of favor until several years later, still maintaining some value due to its lack of a lower rarity reprint for several years.
The final Super Rare card released in Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon was Trap Hole. Trap Hole was a very useful Trap card in the early game, allowing its user to destroy some of the most powerful monsters of the time before they could attack. The main restriction on the card was that it only stopped the Normal Summon of a monster, although this was a largely irrelevant drawback at the time since there were very few ways to Special Summon monsters. This restriction would end up moving the card out of usage as Special Summoning became more popular in the coming years, however. Like many other important Super Rare cards in the set, Trap Hole also saw a reprinting in both Starter Deck Yugi and Kaiba.
Unlike the Super Rare cards which largely consisted of useful, all-purpose cards, most of the Ultra Rares are collector cards. The 4 cards that demonstrate this best are Blue-Eyes White Dragon itself, Red-Eyes B. Dragon, Dark Magician, and Gaia the Fierce Knight. Out of these four, all but Red-Eyes B. Dragon would get reprinted in the Starter Decks a few weeks later. However, the printings of Dark Magician and Blue-Eyes White Dragon that were included in the Starter Decks both featured different art than their Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon counterparts, keeping the value of these original printings somewhat higher than they might have otherwise been. Although these cards are desirable as collectibles, none of them would ever be particularly useful competitively for many years. This was largely due to the fact that they all required two tributes to summon while Summoned Skull, released in Starter Deck Yugi, was a single tribute monster that was stronger than all of these monsters excepting Blue-Eyes White Dragon. While Blue-Eyes, Dark Magician, and Red-Eyes have seen some competitive play in the past few years, the sheer volume of reprints of these cards at various rarities over the years has largely devalued them.
The other notable Ultra Rares were the 5 pieces of Exodia. These cards immediately gained popularity due to their iconic role in the first episode the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime. Exodia also held the spot of being the first alternate win condition in the game’s history. Because of this, Exodia was the main alternative to the standard beatdown deck in the early period of the game. While Beatdown decks focused on winning through high attack monsters and destruction effects, Exodia decks focused on stalling the opponent to give them enough time to draw into the pieces of Exodia. Exodia’s prestige position as the original alternate win condition and the lack of a reprint in a lower rarity until 2008 caused the cards to hold a relatively high value for the time. Even today the pieces of Exodia, especially the head, are some of the more valuable cards from the set.
The final Ultra Rare card in the set was Monster Reborn, the only truly competitive Ultra Rare card that was included. This card, much like Raigeki, Dark Hole, and Pot of Greed became an instant staple and found its way onto the original Limited List. Monster Reborn was especially unique for being one of the first cards ever released that allowed for Special Summoning instead of Normal Summoning. The card did receive a reprint in both of the Starter Decks making it more available and the current status of Monster Reborn as Forbidden has kept its value lower in comparison to some of the other Ultra Rares in the set.
Finally we have the Secret Rares. Unlike later sets which have numerous Secret Rares, the original run of Booster Sets only included 2 Secret Rare cards per set. Secret Rares at this time were relatively difficult to find, as the ratio was less than 1 Secret Rare per booster box. Despite this, the Secret Rares included in Legend of Blue-Eyes were weak enough that they never held especially high value, even today. These two Secret Rare cards are Gaia the Dragon Champion and Tri-Horned Dragon. Gaia the Dragon Champion was a high level Fusion Monster with 2 high level Normal Monsters as its materials. Due to this, it was never feasible to summon it normally and it was too high level to be summoned by any of the other common Fusion methods at the time such as Magical Scientist and Metamorphosis. Tri-Horned Dragon was similarly weak. Although it was a somewhat usable card, it mostly served as a weaker and less iconic version of the much easier to obtain Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Because of this, Tri-Horned Dragon never really saw much popularity.
Impact on the Game
As the first product ever released for the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon had easily one of the biggest impacts on the game. However, while it officially launched the game of Yu-Gi-Oh! in the regions of the TCG, the quick follow-up release of the Yugi and Kaiba Starter Decks would almost immediately overshadow it. This was largely due to how much more accessible the Starter Decks, coming with a proper balance of Spells, Traps, and moderately strong monsters. This went in direct opposition to the bulk of the content of Legend of Blue-Eyes which skewed much more towards very weak monsters and Spells, all of which were power creeped by the cards in the Starter Decks. While several essential cards in the early meta game were released in this set, the only cards among them that weren’t reprinted in the Starter Decks or power creeped by new cards in them were Pot of Greed, Swords of Revealing Light, and Raigeki. Because of this, the biggest draw of Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon is primarily its status as the first set and its inclusion of several sought after collector’s cards.
Next time we’ll be looking at the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG’s second booster set, Metal Raiders!