Let’s get right into it!
Baron of the Fiend Sword
Curse of Dragon
Dark Magician (Ultra Rare)
Doma The Angel of Silence
Gaia The Fierce Knight
Giant Soldier of Stone
Man-Eating Treasure Chest
Neo the Magic Swordsman
Sorcerer of the Doomed
The Stern Mystic
Wall of Illusion
Winged Dragon, Guardian of the Fortress #1
Book of Secret Arts
Card Destruction (Super Rare)
Change of Heart
Dian Keto the Cure Master
Soul Exchange (Super Rare)
Sword of Dark Destruction
Dragon Capture Jar
First, we’ll look at the “boss” monsters of the deck: Dark Magician, Summoned Skull, Gaia the Dragon Champion, and Curse of Dragon. Dark Magician is only 2500 ATK for two tributes, but he’s iconic, and would later have a lot more support. There are actually many ways in this deck for him to actually beat Blue-Eyes and his 3000 ATK, too. Meanwhile, Summoned Skull is 2500 ATK for only one tribute. While he has far less defense, you’re not looking to play these guys in defense mode!
Gaia the Fierce Knight (2300 ATK) and Curse of Dragon (2000 ATK) are pretty underwhelming tribute monsters, but if you happen to have Gaia the Dragon Champion and Polymerization, they make a decent Fusion monster. Even with only 2600 ATK, you could summon him with the necessary monsters in hand, not just on the field.
Also, they happen to be pretty sweet ways to get rid of opposing monsters that you steal with Change of Heart or Tribute with Soul Exchange. At this point, they were still very playable monsters, too.
Ancient Elf is a 1450 ATK, 1200 DEF Light Spellcaster, which at the time was pretty average. Ansatsu is a level 5 Earth Warrior with only 1700 ATK and 1200 DEF. He’d be one of the first monsters out of every Yugi deck as I remember. Baron of the Fiend Sword was decent though, a level 4 Fiend with 1550 ATK and 800 DEF.
Beaver Warrior is familiar to many Yu-Gi-Oh anime fans, but with only 1200 ATK and 1500 DEF, this Beast-Warrior had trouble being competitive. Celtic Guardian is also an iconic Yugi monster, with only 1400 ATK and 1200 DEF. Still, a lot of people played him just because of Yugi.
Despite being one of the worst creatures in the deck, Claw Reacher and his 1000 ATK and 800 DEF is actually one of the more sought after creatures from the Yugi deck! It’s because this is his only printing. So, this is a card you may have been pretty quick to toss in the old days, but he’s pretty collectible now, especially in 1st edition
Doma the Angel of Silence isn’t particularly good, but people still collect her in 1st edition. 1600 ATK and 1400 DEF aren’t bad, but she’s a level 5, requiring a Tribute to Normal Summon. That’s not really so good.
Dragon Zombie has a whopping 0 DEF, but with 1600 ATK for a level 3 monster, he was certainly playable at the time. People really loved this guy, I remember.
Feral Imp is yet another iconic Yugi monster, but his stats are pretty mediocre: 1300 ATK and 1400 DEF. He was playable in the LOB days, though.
Giant Soldier of Stone is an iconic Yugi monster that was actually very playable. With 1300 ATK and 2000 DEF, he’d actually get some attacks in sometimes. This big guy actually saw play for quite awhile.
Great White was a pretty fair monster, too, with 1600 ATK. The 800 DEF was bad, but you didn’t play the Shark to be in defense, of course.
Magical Ghost actually has the same stats as Feral Imp, but a Dark Zombie. He’s mediocre
As bad as Mammoth Graveyard is, with only 1200 ATK and 800 DEF, I always really liked the art on this guy. I think a lot of people did.
Man-Eater Bug is one of the really good effect monsters in this deck. There weren’t a bunch back then, and plenty of people would run three of this guy. He’s a flip effect monster that destroys a monster on the field. Just make sure your opponent has something to blow up, or he eats one of your own guys or even himself - which is kind of weird. If you needed an answer for Blue-Eyes, he’s one.
I’ve always loved the flavor of Man-Eating Treasure Chest and with 1600 ATK, he was actually a decent monster at that time.
Mystic Clown has 1500 ATK and 1000 DEF. Those aren’t great stats, but he’d beat a lot of stuff at that time.
Mystical Elf has a lot in common with Giant Soldier of Stone, not only a classic Yugi card, but she also has 2000 DEF. 800 ATK is pretty lousy, but she held down the fort.
Neo the Magic Swordsman was one of my favorite monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh for a long time, and with 1700 ATK, he was playable.
Silver Fang is the Wolf version of Mammoth Graveyard. Great art, and really mediocre stats: 1200 ATK / 800 DEF.
Sorcerer of the Doomed 1450 ATK / 1200 DEF
The Stern Mystic is a Yugi deck exclusive. With 1500 ATK and 1200 DEF, his stats aren’’t that bad, but he’s a flip effect monster. His effect is interesting, in that he turns all face-down cards face-up so you can look at them, then puts them back without any effects activating. It’s actually an interesting card in the context of the time, as he could prevent you from falling into something bad. He’s also better than most of the other monsters in the deck.
Trap Master was actually extremely good at the time this deck was printed. You didn’t have Heavy Storm, which was in Metal Raiders, or Mystical Space Typhoon in Spell Ruler. His 500 / 1100 stats are pretty blah, but his effect was really good at the time. You had to be careful, though, because if your opponent had nothing face-down, you’d have to select one of your own face-down cards when he’s flipped. But that’s usually not going to be an issue.
Wall of Illusion is one of the best monsters in the Yugi deck. With 1850 DEF, he was a really nice wall, but his effect made him even better. Any monster that attacks him returns to the hand. The Wall was a staple stall card for a very long time, I believe until 1900 ATK level 4 monsters with drawbacks came later beginning with Gemini Elf. Sure, most tribute monsters people actually played ran it over, but at a major loss in tempo. One of my favorite Yugi cards and strangely would still be annoying to run into in modern Yu-Gi-Oh! (Some link monsters wouldn’t even kill it, mind you.)
Winged Dragon, Guardian of the Fortress #1 is Blue and he’s a Dragon. Sure, he only has 1400 ATK and 1200 DEF, but… well, he looks nice in a binder.
The last creature in the deck is Witty Phantom, an OK fiend with 1400 ATK and 1300 DEF. Nothing special
Wow, monsters were pretty underwhelming back then, weren’t they?
Book of Secret Arts was a pretty popular equip spell at the time, as a Spellcaster-Type monster equipped with this card increases its ATK and DEF by 300 points. It made Neo the Magic Swordsman 2000 ATK, which is pretty nuts. Of course, Kaiba’s La Jinn the Mystical Genie of the Lamp (the best level 4 beater at the time with 1800 ATK) got up to 2100 ATK. (People stuck this on Maha Vailo later to great effect, too.)
Card Destruction was an awesome spell that would be later semi-limited and then limited to one copy per deck. While it could technically benefit your opponent, discarding your hand and drawing that many cards could be greatly advantageous to you. You had to be careful in trying to hold onto things in your hand because you never knew when this was coming.
Change of Heart was one of the more busted Yu-Gi-Oh cards of all time. And I loved it. You could steal any monster of your opponent’s until the end of turn. It didn’t even matter if it was face-down. This was particularly fun with flip effect monsters. Your opponent’s Man-Eater Bug could eat itself. (Again that’s horrible). Really, though, you basically used this to get a free Tribute monster or to steal your opponent’s boss monster and whack them in the face with it… before turning it into a free Tribute monster.
Dark Hole literally sucks all of the monsters into a black hole and there’s much sadness, usually mostly for your opponent.
I’ve never really liked De-Spell, because it targets Spell Cards on the field. At this point there weren’t many that you’d play face-up other than Equip spells. But before things like Mystical Space Typhoon, this was actually really playable. Heck, I think people played it into Spell Ruler era to get rid of Mage Powers and Axe of Despairs and what not. But in these early days, you were just using it to kill Swords of Revealing Light. That’s really it.
Dian Keto the Cure Master gives you 1000 LP, which is honestly pretty good if you’re stalling. They say life gain doesn’t win games, but as someone who used to play one of these in like every deck ever, it actually does.
Fissure was one of the best removal cards at the time. In fact, it really was the only one besides Dark Hole and Raigeki in spell form. It destroyed the monster with the least ATK that your opponent had, but a lot of times, that was still something you needed gone. Many a Blue-Eyes have fallen to a lowly Fissure.
Last Will is actually an extremely good card. If a monster on your side of the field was sent to your Graveyard this turn, your can Special Summon 1 monster with 1500 or less ATK from your Deck once during that turn. You could play 3 copies of this for awhile, and it’s been banned forever. While it doesn’t look that bad on the surface, play with three copies of it and you’ll see why it’s so good.
Monster Reborn is one of the most iconic Yu-GI-Oh cards, and it was rightly banned for years. Bringing back a monster from your own graveyard is fine, but from your opponent’s graveyard? In Modern Yu-Gi-Oh, this card was unbanned simply because it’s just not as busted anymore. This was pretty dumb when it wasn’t limited. Fortunately, that was like for a month - if you cared about lists, which most people didn’t.
Soul Exchange is a card that saw play in competitive Yu-GI-Oh for years, especially during the Monarch Control era. I’m pretty sure it was limited to one per deck at one point, because using your opponent’s Monsters to summon Monarchs is pretty mean. Sure, you don’t get a Battle Phase during the turn you use it, but that price is worth paying.
Sword of Destruction is a pretty good Equip spell that gives a Dark monster 400 ATK, but it loses 200 DEF. Who even cares about the DEF?
Yami increases the ATK and DEF of all Fiend and Spellcaster-Type monsters by 200 points. That’s pretty important in this deck. This field spell alo decreases the ATK and DEF of all Fairy-Type monsters by 200 points. That can be relevant, I suppose. Suddenly, a lot of those weaker monsters become incredibly average.
Trap Cards Breakdown
Dragon Capture Jar was specifically made for the Kaiba matchup. This continuous trap card was actually pretty good at keeping the mighty Blue-Eyes White Dragon at bay.
Reinforcements was a pretty sweet combat trick kind of trap. Giving a monster 500 ATK until end of turn was going to win you a lot of battles. It would make Dark Magician trade with Blue-Eyes at the very least.
Remove Trap looks great until you realize that it only destroys face-up trap cards. Bye, bye, Dragon Capture Jar! Although, there’s another really good continuous trap card we’ll get to in a moment.
Reverse Trap is actually a pretty nasty card. I’m not sure how many people played this competitively, but it’s actually really, really mean. It turns all increases into decreases and decreases into increases. It could really screw your opponent over, which is awesome. In this very early meta, this was actually a really good card.
Trap Hole was actually really powerful at this point in Yu-Gi-Oh. Face-down traps were so hard to get rid of that this was a great way to deal with bigger monsters being Normal Summoned. It didn’t hit special summons, but if you happened to have three of these, you could make your opponent miserable.
Ultimate Offering is probably the best trap card in the whole deck, and it got pretty busted later on. It’s been banned for a long time. With a low cost of only 500 LP, you can Normal Summon or Set an additional monster. This card was super busted until it finally got an errata that said you could only use this effect during your own main phase or your opponent’s battle phase. Otherwise you could just use it whenever you felt like, which is pretty stupid. This card would be out of control in today’s Yu-Gi-Oh, which is why it’s going to stay banned. Back then, it wasn’t broken, just really good in the right deck. This card could help you catch up from behind on the field very easily. The cost was just so low.
Waboku is a card that’s still good, actually. It stops all Battle Damage inflicted by opponent’s monsters. However, your monster still does. So, when battling two creatures with equal ATK, you’d actually win the battle. It’s such a good card that’s seen competitive play forever.
Improving the Yugi Starter Deck
For about a month after this and the Kaiba deck were released, you could play 3 of any card. But in May 2002, there was the May 2002 Limited list, which covered these decks and Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Limited were Exodia the Forbidden One and the Exodia pieces, plus Change of Heart, Dark Hole, Monster Reborn, Pot of Greed and Raigeki. Limited to two copies were Card Destruction and Swords of Revealing Light.
So, if you were to improve this deck, what would you do? First, you’d want to bring the deck down to 40 cards. We also really only have LOB to work with. There’s a few ways we could decide to go. We could choose a defensive strategy to stall out until we draw 5 pieces of Exodia, or we can try being more offensive and summon Gaia the Dragon Champion. Thing is, Card Destruction is just going to kill your Exodia pieces. Gaia beats everything but Blue-Eyes, but those two Tribute monsters are going to clog up your hand..
Really. the best way to go is actually to buy 3 copies of the Kaiba deck and get 3 La Jinn and 3 Battle Ox, which were the best level 4 beatstick monsters back then. Make sure you get staples like Raigeki and . Then, buy 2 more copies of the Yugi deck so you can load up on Fissures, Giant Soldiers of Stone, Man-Eater Bugs, Neo the Magic Swordsman, Trap Masters, Trap Holes, and Wabokus. You’ll only play like one Summoned Skull for a tribute monster and just play a grindy game that can stop more complex strategies easily. Believe it or not, Blue-Eyes, great as he is, was pretty easy to stop back then.
This great May 2002 deck list from the Format Library is probably the best deck you could build back when it was just Starter Decks: Yugi and Kaiba and Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon.
3 Battle Ox
2 Giant Soldier of Stone
3 La Jinn Mystical Genie of the Lamp
3 Neo the Magic Swordsman
1 Summoned Skull
3 Man-Eater Bug
3 Trap Master
2 Wall of Illusion
1 Change of Heart
1 Dark Hole
1 Monster Reborn
1 Pot of Greed
2 Swords of Revealing Light
3 Trap Hole
This deck can pretty much deal with anything you’d run into. Bigger creatures would usually fall into Trap Holes or be done away with by Fissure or Raigeki. It’s actually a really skill-intensive format since people who played competitively were usually playing pretty much the same deck. The game’s early days were actually pretty interesting.
How would you build a place a deck based off of Starter Deck: Yugi?