There are 3 kinds of cards in Yu-Gi-Oh: Monsters, Spells and Traps. In this guide, we'll take a look at the anatomy of a card, discussing each component in more detail, as well as learn how to read the effect on monster cards.
Table of Contents
Yu-Gi-Oh Card Anatomy Breakdown
A typical card will be made up of the following components:
- Attack and Defense
- Border (not numbered)
The 3 types of cards in the game
If you come from other card games, you'll notice a few things missing. Mainly, there's no cost, and there isn't an obvious way to tell the card's rarity and expansion.
Let's start with the cost. That's not a thing in Yu-Gi-Oh. Sure, each card and type of card has certain conditions that you must meet before being able to play it, but there's no mana system in play, no lands you need to tap, and so on. It's one of the most unique aspects of this game.
Yu-Gi-Oh doesn't have a rotating format. As such, the concept of an 'expansion' isn't really a thing, since there's no need to categorize cards for the purposes getting them out later. There's of course booster packs, and you can , in the physical game, see what booster a certain card is from by checking the text right bellow the artwork, but it's not crucial to being able to play the game. To learn how packs work in Master Duel, check out our Pack Guide.
Finally, while cards do have specific rarities when in a certain booster box, that aspect doesn't matter for the purposes of gameplay, since all cards can have up to 3 copies in a deck. Yu-Gi-Oh also does a lot of reprinting, so a card can have multiple rarities, like Imperial Order, who was printed as a Common, Super Rare, and Ultra Rare. Master Duel has its own rarity rules, which you can learn more about in our Crafting Guide.
Each card has it's own unique name, which is used to identify the card. Names are very important in Yu-Gi-Oh, as lot of cards will use key words (not keywords, we don't do that here) in a card's name to activate their effect. For example, Cursed Eldland has an effect that allows you to add an "Eldich" or "Golden Land" card to your hand, meaning you can get any card with these words in their name into your hand, like Eldlich the Golden Lord, Golden Land Forever! and Conquistador of the Golden Land.
All Monsters in the game have one of the 7 Attributes: DARK, LIGHT, FIRE, WATER, EARTH, WIND, and the very exclusive DIVINE. While they can be used as an indicator of the card's playstyle and strengths, they pose no restriction to deckbuilding, players being able to mix and match cards to their liking.
Spells/Traps don't have Attributes, instead indicating if the card is a Spell or a Trap, respectively.
The art used to represent the card. If it's a monster, it will take center stage as the main object of the art, while Spells/Traps can also have objects or action scenes depicted on them. Pay attention to the artwork on archetypes, for they can be used to tell the stories of these cards.
Most monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh have a Level, indicated by the number of stars bellow the name. This level plays a role in how Monsters are summoned to the field.
Written between the brackets right above the Lore on Monster Cards, and separated by backslashes, are different characteristics of the Monster. It usually denotes various characteristics regarding the card.
The first characteristic in this field denotes what kind of being the Monster is, and this is what is referred to as the monster's Type (not to be confused with the lowercase 'type', which refers to the type of card: Monster, Spell, or Trap). There are currently 25 different types in the game, including Dragon, Sea Serpent, Beast, Warrior, Beast Warrior, Spellcaster, Psychic, Zombie, and more. Every Monster has exactly one Type.
The last characteristic in this field tells the player if a Monster is a Normal or Effect Monsters. Normal Monsters used to only have the Type in this field, but now they also have the word 'Normal' written at the end.
In between these two there can be other characteristics that denote more characteristics of the Monster. These can be a specific type of ability the monster has (Flip, Spirit, Union, Gemini, Tuner, Pendulum), or indicate that the card needs to be Special Summoned in a specific way (Ritual, Fusion, Synchro, Xyz, Link).
On Spells/Traps, this component of the card is moved where the Level is on Monsters. Here they denote the type of card (Spell or Trap), optionally followed by a symbol indicating what kind of Spell or Trap it is.
The text that indicates what a cards does. Since 2011, Yu-Gi-Oh cards have uses Problem-Solving Card Text to format cards so that they're consistent and easy to interpret.
On Normal Monsters, the Lore is used for flavor text, which has no effect on the game, but it's instead used to build the world of the game (hence the name).
Attack and Defense
The offensive and defensive power of a Monster. The first number, preceded by ATK, is the attack, while the second number, preceded by DEF, is the defense. Those numbers are used primarily in Battle, but they can also be mentioned in card effects.
The colored area that holds the cards together. While most card games use the Border to indicate the faction of the card as some sort of restriction for deckbuilding, Yu-Gi-Oh uses it to easily identify the types of cards at a glance. This is especially relevant for Monster, where each kind of Monster card (Normal, Effect, Fusion, Link etc.) has it's own distinct color.