Okay, so you want to try out the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game. You’ve seen the TV show, read the manga, and you’ve watched others play the game at your local hobby shop. Let’s face it, it looks like a lot of fun, and who doesn’t want to banish a friend to the Shadow Realm? But the game does look a bit complicated. There are monster cards, trap cards, and spell cards. It’s hard to make sense of it all.
If you look up how to play Yu-Gi-Oh!, you might see a common bit of advice: “Start out with Speed Duels.”
“Great!” you might think to yourself. “I’ll do that!”
Just one problem. What the heck are Speed Duels?
Learning the Game
Speed Duels is a version of the game introduced by Konami in 2019. Based on the ruleset from the popular Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links video game, it is a simplified version of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, which is known as Master Rule. The concept of the game is the same. You and your opponent start out with Life Points, and as the game progresses, you use Monster, Spell, and Trap cards to lower your opponent’s Life Points to 0 before they do the same to you!
The difference is that Speed Duels have a shorter, simpler set of rules. Instead of starting with 8000 Life Points like you do in Master Rule, you each start out with 4000. Your decks are limited to 20-30 cards instead of the usual 40-60. And the battlefield has three columns for monsters, spells, and traps instead of five.
You’re limited in what special monsters you can use as well. With Speed Duels, you can only use fusion monsters and put a maximum of five of them in the deck (although Synchro Summoning is expected to be introduced to the Speed Duel format soon). In addition, you each start the game with four cards in your hand instead of five, and there is no Main Phase 2, which normally takes place after the Battle Phase in Master Rule. In Speed Duels, after the Battle Phase it immediately becomes your opponent’s turn.
Finally, you can only use cards with the Speed Duel watermark on them, as they’ve been designed specifically for the Speed Duel rules, so no using cards from other Yu-Gi-Oh! sets! All of these changes shorten and simplify the game, making it easier for new players to pick up the basic concepts of playing Yu-Gi-Oh!.
There is more to Speed Duels than just the simplified rules, however, as the game has its own unique type of cards. Skill cards are a new mechanic that allows players to use the special abilities of characters from the manga and TV show. Players start with one Skill card face down at the beginning of the game, and when the skill card’s condition has been met, the card is flipped over and the special ability is activated.
And when you’re ready to start playing Yu-Gi-Oh! with the Master Rules? No need to put your Speed Duel cards in the closet, as you can use them in the Master Rule game as well! The only exception is the Skill cards, as they have not yet been introduced into Master Rule. But it’s doubtful you’ll miss them too much when you have over fifteen years worth of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards to build your deck with!
Speed Duels are a great way to start learning how to play Yu-Gi-Oh!. With the simplified rules, unique cards, and quicker games, new players can learn the rhythm of the game quickly, getting them ready to eventually transition to to the original Master Rule version of the game. So grab a couple Speed Duel decks from your local hobby shop, find a fellow Yu-Gi-Oh! fan, and get ready to duel!