There has to be a starting point for everyone in any hobby they pursuit. Yu-Gi-Oh is no exception. Most people can recall the first products they open to get into the game, and for the most part, that product is a Starter Deck. Starter Decks are products meant to teach players the basic mechanics of the game to get them started. The cards are typically very simple, mostly to not confuse players who are trying to learn. Despite their simplicity, some of these cards have been fairly powerful in the competitive game. Today, I want to rank my personal top 10 cards from a Starter Deck.
For qualifications, the card on the list had to make its debut in a Starter Deck. It can be printed shortly after, as some of the Starter Deck Yugi and Kaiba cards were in sets like LOB and Metal Raiders. As long as the card’s first appearance is in a Starter Deck, it can make the list.
Table of Contents
- Number 10 – Summoned Skull and La Jinn the Mystical Genie of the Lamp (Starter Deck: Yugi and Starter Deck: Kaiba)
- Number 9 – Decode Talker (Starter Deck: Link Strike)
- Number 8 – Colossal Fighter (Starter Deck: Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s)
- Number 7 – Number 39: Utopia (Starter Deck: Dawn of the Xyz)
- Number 6 – Ultimate Offering (Yugi and Kaiba)
- Number 5 – Card Destruction (Yugi)
- Number 4 – Scapegoat (Joey)
- Number 3 – Last Will (Yugi)
- Number 2 – Change of Heart (Yugi)
- Honorable Mentions
- Number 1 – Graceful Charity (Pegasus)
Number 10 – Summoned Skull and La Jinn the Mystical Genie of the Lamp (Starter Deck: Yugi and Starter Deck: Kaiba)
We start off with some basic cards from the first two Starter Decks. La Jinn the Mystical Genie of the Lamp and Summoned Skull may not look like much on paper, but you must remember the time of release. Both were the strongest base ATK for their Level without a restriction. La Jinn was the first 1800 ATK Level 4 with no real restriction besides being a Normal Monster. You had Dark Elf, but she needed a LP cost to attack. La Jinn could attack for free, and few Level 4 or lower monsters could get over it. You had 7 Colored Fish later in Metal Raiders, but LOB format only had La Jinn from Starter Deck Yugi. He was the default Level 4 beater for a bit alongside other 1800 attackers before we got Mechanicalchaser and Gemini Elf.
Summoned Skull is a different case from La Jinn. It was a Level 6 monster, needing 1 tribute to summon, but you got 2500 ATK in return. Summoned Skull didn’t really have competition for its ATK for many years. It was the lone 2500 Level 6 for years. Power creep didn’t come from better ATK value, but actual effects. Jinzo was better than Summoned Skull, despite having 100 less ATK, for its Trap negation abilities. Giving up 100 ATK was more than worth it to get around cards like Bottomless Trap Hole, Mirror Force, and more. They might not have lasted long being the best at their job, but Summoned Skull and La Jinn do have an important place in Yu-Gi-Oh history. They are worthy of being considered some of the best Starter Deck cards.
Number 9 – Decode Talker (Starter Deck: Link Strike)
The Starter Deck to kick off the Link era gave us a good first monster for the summon mechanic. Decode Talker was the first Link-3 in the game, and it was the best one for a while. Its summoning condition is very generic, needing only 2+ Effect Monsters. The arrows were good coming into Master Rule 4 with its Bottom Left and Bottom Right arrows. The Up arrow was a negative, but no other Link-3 gave two downward arrows yet. Decode Talker had a good effect as well, being able to tribute a monster it pointed to to negate a targeting effect. It also gained 500 ATK for each monster it pointed to, potentially getting to 3800 ATK.
Decode Talker lasted a bit as the best Link-3 until we got the Knightmare archetype and Knightmare Unicorn. More Link-3s also nullified the purpose of Decode Talker, but it was an important card for the massive rule update of MR4.
Number 8 – Colossal Fighter (Starter Deck: Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s)
The Starter Deck of the Synchro era kicked off with a generic Synchro that was a good option for a long time. Colossal Fighter was one of the early Level 8 Synchros, needing any Tuner and any 1+ non-Tuner(s). In return, you got a monster that gained 100 ATK for each Warrior in the graveyard. It was a minor boost, but it could add up. The main effect was its effect to revive any Warrior when destroyed in battle. The thing was Colossal Fighter could revive itself, and it wasn’t a once per turn. This meant the card could keep coming back each time it was destroyed in battle.
If you weren’t reviving Colossal Fighter, you could at least revive any other good Warrior. Goyo Guardian was a good Level 6 Synchro that was early in the Synchro era, and it was generic at the time. You had other good Warriors as well like Elemental HERO Stratos, Dark Grepher, Armageddon Knight, and more. Colossal Fighter could counter Maxx “C” as well, attacking a monster strong enough to destroy it in battle, but not too big so you take too much damage. This way you can loop Colossal Fighter until the opponent decks out. Colossal Fighter fell out of favor as cards came out that could remove monsters without battle, but Colossal Fighter stood tall as a good Level 8 Synchro for a long time.
Number 7 – Number 39: Utopia (Starter Deck: Dawn of the Xyz)
Dawn of the Xyz debuted the Xyz mechanic with a pretty good Rank 4 in Number 39: Utopia. Utopia is a generic Rank 4 Xyz that only needed 2 Level 4 monsters, making it usable in any Deck with Level 4s. In return, you got a monster that could negate any attack by detaching an Xyz Material. This gave you two free attack negates before a third attack on Utopia would make it destroy itself. Even with the downside, it had good ATK for a Rank 4 with 2500 ATK. It was also nearly uncontested, with the only other good generic Rank 4 at the time being Steelswarm Roach.
Utopia lost its role as the best Rank 4 in the game pretty fast, but it still has its place many years later. Utopia can still be used with Number S39: Utopia the Lightning. This way you can get a monster who can attack with no fears and can get to 5000 ATK. You also later had Number 39: Utopia Double coming for a quick OTK. Utopia Double let you summon the original Utopia with 5000 ATK and search Double or Nothing. You then attack with Utopia and negate the attack with its own effect. You can then trigger Double or Nothing and get another attack with 10000 ATK. Utopia is also good in the Onomat Deck for all the Rank-Up versions it has and how fast you can summon Rank 4s. Utopia might not be the meta staple for Xyzs anymore, but it still has a role years later.
Number 6 – Ultimate Offering (Yugi and Kaiba)
The first of four banned cards to debut in a Starter Deck, Ultimate Offering takes the number 6 spot coming from both of the first two Starter Decks. Ultimate Offering was an easy effect for a Continuous Trap with a small cost of 500 LP during your Main Phase or opponent’s Battle Phase. In return, you could gain an additional Normal Summon or Set.
This had no once per turn condition on it, letting you swarm the field as long as you had LP. It comboed well with Red, Yellow, and Green Gadget. This synergy got better as Xyzs came out. Ultimate Offering is a card to potentially let many different Decks combo off, which is why it earned its spot on the Forbidden section. Despite being a Trap, Ultimate Offering makes up for its slow nature with its powerful effect.
Number 5 – Card Destruction (Yugi)
We get to a card that was once Forbidden for a couple of years in the TCG. Card Destruction is a Normal Spell that forces each player to discard their whole hand and redraw. It could help unbrick your hand and get you more playable cards, but it also does the same for the opponent. If you had cards that benefited from Card Destruction, then maybe you can giving the opponent a new hand. Dark World is a great archetype to use this with, as they all want to be discarded. The same goes for the Fabled archetype. You could also just get any card you want in the graveyard there with Card Destruction while getting a new hand. Card Destruction had a very simple use, and a negative of potentially giving the opponent better cards. With that said, there can be massive benefits from several Decks using this card.
Number 4 – Scapegoat (Joey)
The card with its own format named around it had to get a high slot on this list. Scapegoat is a classic Token generating card that is known for its role in the classic Goat Format. The card made you give up summoning other monsters for the turn to get 4 Level 1 Tokens. You could easily get around the summoning restriction by using it on the opponent’s turn. This is because the card is a Quick-Play Spell, being easily chainable to any effect or interaction. The 4 Goat Tokens were great with Metamorphosis for Thousand-Eyes Restrict. It also saw play later as its potential to offer up Synchro Material and later on Link Material. Scapegoat has been a powerful and iconic card for many years, making it the best non-banned card from a Starter Deck.
Number 3 – Last Will (Yugi)
The entire top 3 consists of banned cards, which should suggest how powerful they are. The first of three cards, the one in the number 3 position, is Last Will. Last Will is an insanely powerful card that summons any monster with 1500 ATK from the Deck. The only catch is that a monster you control has to be sent to the graveyard. This is hardly a restriction as you can just use any monster at tribute fodder and then get another monster for free. It supplemented Tribute Summons and nullified the natural minus. It also helped enable the Magical Scientist FTK with Catapult Turtle before it became a once per turn. The card was thankfully banned before Synchros and Links, but its role in the early game for how powerful it can be earns it a slot in the top 3.
Number 2 – Change of Heart (Yugi)
The runner up slot goes to a card that is the best at stealing monsters compared to any other card in the game. Change of Heart is a Normal Spell you can use for free to steal any opponent’s monster. No restriction to what you steal or what you can do with it once you get it. It just goes back to the opponent at the end of the turn. The effect of Change of Heart is commonly seen on Triple Tactics Talent now, which has an activation restriction. Change of Heart on its own can easily steal a game or put you in an advantageous situation. It can be used any time as long as the opponent has a monster that can be targeted. It was an insanely good card that was thankfully in a Starter Deck before its release in Metal Raiders.
Before I get to number 1, I want to get to some honorable mentions. These cards were good for Starter Deck cards, just didn’t make the same level of impact as the top 10. That shouldn’t take away from how good each of these cards are, though.
Wall of Illusion (Yugi)
Wall of Illusion is a powerful 1850 defender on a Level 4 monster. Its effect for being attacked put the attacking monster in the hand. It was a pesky monster to get rid of in battle in the early years. The only real out was cards like Fissure.
Waboku is a Normal Trap that prevents your monsters from being destroyed in battle and you from taking battle damage. It was a Trap that could stall out the Duel a little longer til you got to a win condition.
Soul Exchange (Yugi)
Soul Exchange let you target a monster and let you use it for your Tribute Summon that turn. You gave up your Battle Phase, but could help you get rid of a strong monster while letting you get to one.
Junk Synchron (Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s)
Junk Synchron is a Level 3 Tuner that revives any Level 2 or lower monster on Normal Summon. It helped you get to some of your lower level Synchros or to begin Synchro climbing. It has a good role in a Synchron Deck.
Road Warrior (Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s 2009)
Road Warrior is a Level 8 Synchro of Road Synchron and any 2+ non-Tuners. You can ignore Road Synchron by instead using Quickdraw Synchron. Road Warrior can summon any Level 2 or lower Warrior or Machine, helping extend combos.
Gachi Gachi Gantetsu (Dawn of the Xyz)
Gachi Gachi Gantetsu is a generic Rank 2 with a solid effect. A continuous effect boosted all your monsters by 200 ATK and DEF for each Xyz Material it had. It also protected itself from destruction by detaching a material. It was a good card to combo with The Agent of Creation – Venus and Mystical Shine Ball.
Maestroke the Symphony Djinn (Xyz Symphony)
Maestroke the Symphony Djinn was another good early Rank 4. It protected itself from destruction by detaching a material, or it could protect other Djinn Xyzs. It also had a Book of Moon effect on opponent’s Attack Position monsters by using its materials. Two good uses for its Xyz Materials.
Draconnet (Link Strike)
Draconnet is a Level 3 Cyberse that summoned any Level 2 or lower vanilla from Deck. It was an easy combo enabler that was searchable off Cynet Mining. Good cards it could go into areIb the World Chalice Justiciar and Crystron Halqifibrax.
Link Spider (Link Strike)
Link Spider was a Link-1 that could turn your Tokens into Effect Monsters for certain bigger Link Monsters. It also summoned vanilla monsters from the hand to the zone it pointed to, extending combos.
Number 1 – Graceful Charity (Pegasus)
The number 1 spot had to go to one of the best Draw Spells in the game. Graceful Charity is a Normal Spell that let you draw 3 and discard 2. Naturally it doesn’t net you any advantage, but it gets you to 3 new cards while ditching 2 you don’t need. As the years went on, you also gained cards you wouldn’t mind discarding off Graceful Charity. It’s a powerful Spell that can easily compete with Pot of Greed for the best Draw Spell. It probably joins Pot of Greed as a card that can never be unbanned. The card is easily one of the best Spells ever printed, and is the best Starter Deck card in my opinion.
Despite being a product for beginners, Starter Decks have given us some of the best cards in the game. The fact you could get Graceful Charity from a Starter Deck is so insane looking back on it. We haven’t had a Starter Deck since 2018 outside Speed Duels, which is unfortunate. These products have given us some hidden gems in the game’s history. Maybe one day we’ll see a new Starter Deck with a powerful card, most likely for a new mechanic.
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