Some mechanics in Yu-Gi-Oh are clearly not created equal. While most summoning mechanics are successes, there are more monster types beyond the Extra Deck and Rituals. One of the few special categories of Main Deck monsters in this game are Spirits. Spirits are a group of monsters that get some decent effects on paper, just with a downside. All of them return to the hand the turn they’re summoned, with most only being able to be Normal Summoned. It’s a pretty under-supported mechanic, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t found any success.
Overall, a few Spirit monsters have been able to make an impact in the meta in some form, mostly many years ago. Today, I’ll cover these monsters that were able to carve their own legacy, despite their main downsides. Two of these monsters have even been banned from competitive play for some years. We’ll discuss all of these monsters, as well as the small period when a dedicated Spirit strategy found some meta success.
Table of Contents
The Spirit Deck in 2014
Back in early to mid 2014, it felt like a ton of different strategies could top. The release of Aratama and Nikitama helped Spirits become a contender. Aratama was great to be able to search whatever Spirit monster you wanted, while Nikitama let you Normal Summon an additional monster if it was a Spirit. These two additions helped Spirits become more consistent and give them potential Rank 4 plays back when that was one of the best things some Decks could do. It only really found success on a Regional level, with some State Championship wins. With that said, it’s more than what the mechanic had done before as a dedicated strategy.
The Various Spirit Optitons
While Aratama and Nikitama were great support cards, you still needed other Spirit monsters to support your playstyle. Izanami was an option to give you some recovery for your Spirits. Yaksha was alright Spell/Trap removal to have on a monster you can Normal Summon. Yamato-no-Kami gave you a bigger monster to Special Summon with its effect and more Spell/Trap removal for destroying monsters in battle. Finally, Rasetsu, another card released around the time Aratama and Nikitama were, helped bounce your opponent’s bigger monsters, but it took away your ability to Special Summon.
You could, of course go for a pure Spirit strategy. Relying on your Spirit monster effects was pretty nice, while also going for Rank 4s. Ghostricks were a decent option to run as well to give you protection from battles, since your field is most likely empty. Ghostrick Jiangshi was common to search your Ghostricks like Mary, Jackfrost, and Specter. It was a small package of Ghostricks, but it helped you not take too much battle damage.
You could also run Fire Hand and Ice Hand for more Rank 4 synergy. These two also give you protection from too much battle while also being able to remove Monsters, Spells, or Traps while floating into each other. There was also a variant using Herald of Perfection, since some of your best Spirits were Fairies. Then, of course you have pure Spirits, running some of the monsters mentioned earlier and others I will cover in rest of this article.
The first monster to make its impact on its own is Amano-lwato. To start, it has the same Spirit restriction regarding Special Summons. It’s a part of all these remaining monsters, so I won’t mention it anymore. What made Amano-lwato stand out comes from the lack of Spirit monsters being played. It prevented monsters that aren’t Spirit monsters from activating their effects. This was honestly great for Decks that didn’t use a ton of monster effects, while also giving you the ability to get around hand traps. This was mainly used in True Draco, a Deck that only used their effects mainly on the opponent’s turn, when Amano-lwato was back in the hand. It’s a great stun card, and really the only good Spirit in the meta in the modern day.
Now after the modern success, we get to the classic monsters. Asura Priest is a well-known monster for many Goat players. The special ability Asura Priest has is to be able to attack all monsters the opponent controls. The best use is to get around a bunch of Goat Tokens on the opponent’s field. Also, being 1700 ATK, it could potentially get over a good chunk of the opponent’s smaller monsters. It was pretty good when a ton of the best monsters were pretty small, helping you clear the opponent’s board. It was overall a decent monster ran a good amount even beyond Goat Format into 2007.
Dark Dust Spirit
It can be a challenge to make a Spirit monster worth running, so imagine the added difficulty of making it need to be Tribute Summoned. The main Spirit to make this exaggerated downside worth it was Dark Dust Spirit. Now what does a card have to do to making being a Spirit you must Tribute Summon be worth it? Upon being Normal Summoned or flipped face-up, you destroy all other face-up monsters on the field. Back when board wipes like this weren’t common, Dark Dust Spirit was a nice option for Tribute Summon strategies.
The effect was powerful enough to rival Monarchs enough to where several duelists used Dark Dust Spirit as an option, mainly in Monarchs. Dark Dust Spirit was able to serve a niche during an era where you had few options similar to it in times Dark Hole and Raigeki were banned or limited. Same goes for when Torrential Tribute was limited during periods as well.
Now we’ve finally reached the Spirit monsters so powerful, the were once banned for a couple of years. We’ll start this bit with Tsukuyomi, which was banned from late 2006 to around 2012. Now, it doesn’t look like much to some maybe. It’s basically Book of Moon on legs. The thing is, it’s a Spirit Monster, so it’s basically an infinite Book of Moon. Being able to get this effect on each Normal Summon or flip of Tsukuyomi offered some good versatility. You can flip down stronger monster to run over or protect yourself in battle if this was set and flipped up.
However, this was mainly used to abuse some of the powerful FLIP monsters there were like Magician of Faith, Mask of Darkness, and Morphing Jar to name a few. It was an extremely successful card up til it’s banning, and it held up for a few years after coming back as well, since it was still somewhat of a versatile card. The effect of Tsukuyomi was great for and against Spellbooks to use Spellbook Magician of Prophecy in the Deck or turn off the lock from Jowgen the Spiritualist from a Spellbook player. It was also an option later on against Nekroz to turn off the lock of Djinn Releaser of Rituals. As a counter, it was mainly a side option, but you did main it if it also helped your strategy.
We hahve now hit the most infamous Spirit monster in the game’s history. One so powerful, it was banned for 18 years and was the card that was banned longer than any other card. It wasn’t just banned on any list either, it was banned on the first Forbidden section and stayed up until 2022. The card is Yata-Garasu. The face of the infamous and terrifying Yata Lock. A lock that prevented your opponent from drawing cards if it dealt battle damage. It was so good, it was worth using a 200 ATK monster for this.
The power of this card was enough to be in the winning list at the 2003 World Championship and also be ran in the 2nd and 3rd place Decks. Now, the card is now legal as of writing this and it hasn’t done much of anything yet, but the legacy of this card helping create the Forbidden section will never be forgotten.
Spirits weren’t always in the metagame, but some of them have had their spotlight. Besides Amano-lwato, you might not see Spirit monsters in meta strategies anymore, but that wasn’t always the case. Two of them being so powerful they had to be banned is the most noteworthy accomplishment of the mechanic. There are a few honorable mentions I’d like to mention now. Shinobirds were a Deck that could get a top once upon a time with the power of Shinobaron Peacock and Shinobaroness Peacock. Hino-Kagu-Tsuchi was able to find success in a player’s Side Deck once as well, and its counterpart, Yamata Dragon, found a little success in Dragon Rulers. Nothing else was noteworthy, however, like the other 5 mentioned cards and the small period when a Spirit Deck could top a Regional.