The vast majority of cartoons meant for children were made to sell toys. In the case of He-Man, it was action figures; Pokémon was trying to sell video games. In Yu-Gi-Oh!'s case, the show was made to promote the trading card game of the same name. Just to be clear, we aren't judging any of these shows on the basis of their creation. Lots of people still love Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! for their story and characters, regardless of the reason for their production.
When it comes to the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, the show should have been brought up on false advertising charges. Not only were the rules of the game different to the actual card game, but the cards themselves were often changed. What once was awesome on the show could end up being terrible in the real card game.
We are here today to look at the best decks used by the characters in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime. From the lady who loves to lose, to the new king of card games himself.
Here are the 15 Most Powerful Decks In The Yu-Gi-Oh! Anime!
15 Mai Valentine
Mai Valentine has an awful track record. Throughout the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series, she repeatedly makes her way into the last stages of the big tournaments. She is one of the four semi-finalists of the Duelist Kingdom tournament and one of the quarter-finalists of the Battle City tournament. Despite this, she kept on losing major duels throughout the series.
In professional wrestling terms, Mai Valentine is a jobber. It's her job to lose to the new villains, in order to make them seem like a threat. This is why she lost to Panik, Marik, and Valon. She also kept losing to the main cast members, like Yugi, Joey, and even Téa.
Mai used the Harpy Lady theme deck, which actually has a lot of support in the real life card game. Using a single theme in a deck can be very effective, and it is something we don't see often enough in the early seasons of the anime. Out of respect for the fact that Mai did actually make it quite far in a few tournaments, she is on the bottom on this list.
During the Battle City arc, Marik sent a group of his hand-picked "Rare Hunters" to challenge Yugi Muto. The second one to duel Yugi was Arkana, who was called Pandora in the original Japanese version of the manga/anime. Arkana used a deck that was based around the "Dark Magician" (unlike Yugi, who just used one as part of a mixed deck). This meant that he had a lot of support cards for a single set of powerful monsters. The only reason he lost the duel was due to the fact that he didn't know the "Dark Magician Girl" card existed. This allowed Yugi to win the duel, as "Dark Magician Girl" grew stronger for every "Dark Magician" that was in both graveyards.
Arkana deserves some extra credit for his duel arena. In order to duel Arkana, you need to have your legs clamped into place. The duel arena has two giant buzzsaws that are connected to your life points. If you lose the duel, then the saw will cut your legs off. The saws were changed to "Dark Energy Disks" in the dub, which banished your soul to the Shadow Realm instead.
13 Weevil Underwood
At the start of the series, Weevil Underwood was one of the most highly regarded duelists in the world. He defeated Rex Raptor, in order to become the National Champion of Duel Monsters in Japan. He quickly ran afoul of Yugi, when he threw the pieces of Exodia into the sea. Weevil and Yugi would go on to play the first duel of Duelist Kingdom. Yugi defeated Weevil, which knocked him out of the tournament straight away.
Weevil would reappear throughout the series as a minor antagonist. He would also duel Joey in the Battle City arc. Weevil used a technique that was popular in the real card game at the time, which involved a combo of "DNA Surgery" and "Insect Barrier". This stops the opponent from being able to attack unless they can destroy either of those cards. Weevil was definitely a much greater threat in Battle City than he was in the Duelist Kingdom, when he used to play terrible cards, like "Killer Needle" and "Hercules Beetle".
12 Mako Tsunami
Duelist Kingdom was mainly full of assholes. People like Weevil, Mai (originally), Rex Raptor, Panik, the Paradox twins and the Imitator of Death were all jerks. One of the few duelists who was cool, though, was Mako Tsunami. If you ignore the fact that he threw a harpoon at Yugi when they first met, he was actually a pretty swell guy.
Mako Tsunami used a deck based around sea monsters. When Mako duelled Yugi, he used a mixture of Krakens, sharks, jellyfish, and sea serpents as part of his deck. He actually came very close to defeating Yugi, who was forced to resort to sneaky tactics to win. Who needs the Heart of the Cards when you can just cheat!
Yugi only defeated Mako because he performed an illegal move. He used his "Giant Soldier of Stone" to attack his own "Full Moon" card. This caused the water on the field to recede and weaken all of Mako's monsters. A card was actually created for the real game that references Yugi's underhanded tactic.
Odion is one of Marik's most loyal companions and is the closest thing he has to a true friend. He makes it to the quarter-finals of the Battle City tournament, where he faces off against Joey.
The deck used by Odion is based around trap cards. These include the "Embodiment of Apophis" cards, which start out as traps and can turn into monsters. His ultimate strategy is to summon the "Mystical Beast Serket" card, which becomes stronger with every monster it kills.
Odion absolutely wallops Joey during their one duel. He only lost due to the fact that Joey had the exact perfect card to defeat his deck - the "Jinzo". When "Jinzo" is on the field, the effects of all trap cards are negated. This only manages to buy Joey some time, however. The true reason Odion loses is because he was forced to summon the "Winged Dragon of Ra", using a counterfeit card. The monster turns on Odion and knocks both him and Joey out. As Joey wakes up first, he wins the duel.
Marik's Rare Hunters were made up twisted and vicious individuals. They had no problem playing deadly games of Duel Monsters, with their own lives hanging in the balance. You had to be a hardcore psychopath to join Marik's gang.
The most mysterious member of the Rare Hunters was a mime, named Strings. Marik was in full control of String's body, which allowed him to be used as a puppet. He was given a deck that contained "Slifer the Sky Dragon", as well as other cards to support its effect. Slifer's attack and defence were equal to the number of cards in the player's hand. Strings used a combination of "Infinite Cards", as well as the Jam monsters, to keep increasing his hand size. Yugi only managed to win by cheating like a scumbag.
Yugi defeated Strings by using the "Brain Control" card to take control of "Revival Jam". As Slifer destroyed each Jam, another took its place, causing Strings to eventually run out of cards. In the real game, the "Brain Control" would only have taken the first "Revival Jam".
9 Ishizu Ishtar
In the real Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, it is incredibly risky to base your entire strategy around a single card. A deck has to contain a minimum of 40 cards, with some individual cards being restricted to only one or two per deck. In the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, it is fine to put whatever you want into the deck, as you are going to draw it at the most dramatic moment anyway. This is especially true if you have the ability to see into the future.
Ishizu Ishtar possesses the Millennium Necklace, which allows her to see glimpses of this future. She abuses this power in her duel against Seto Kaiba, and prepares a deck based around "Exchange of the Spirit". This card forces both players to switch their deck and graveyard. Kaiba only wins the duel because he manages to defy Ishizu's vision of the future and performs a move that she wasn't expecting.
In Yugi's first major duel of the series, he manages to defeat Seto Kaiba by drawing all five pieces of Exodia. When Weevil later throws those cards into the sea, it is believed that Exodia is lost forever.
Before the Battle City tournament can begin, Joey is accosted by Seeker, who is a member of the Rare Hunters. Seeker defeats Joey in a duel by using fake copies of the Exodia cards. He summons Exodia, defeats Joey, and takes his "Red-Eyes Black Dragon" card. Yugi's first match of the Battle City tournament is against the Seeker, whom he defeats.
Seeker's entire deck is totally illegal in the real card game. You are only allowed to use one of each of the five pieces of Exodia in your deck. Seeker used three, which drastically increased his chances of pulling the whole five. He could even use some of the pieces in defence mode if he has more than one of it in his hand.
7 Yami Marik
Yami Marik is the dark side of Marik's personality, that was brought on by his cruel upbringing and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father. He manages to usurp Marik's body and take full control of both his Millennium Rod and the "Winged Dragon" of Ra card.
The deck that Yami Marik used was full of cards that dealt direct damage. This is a highly effective tactic in the anime, as the players only have 4000 life points, while the real game gives you 8000. These cards are intended to weaken the foe before Yami Marik unleashes the "Winged Dragon of Ra's" full power.
Yami Marik never really had any clean wins during the Battle City tournament. He used the power of the Shadow Realm to mess with Mai's mind, in order to defeat her. Joey would have actually won their duel if he hadn't have passed out first. His duel with Yugi is inconclusive, as the original Marik takes control of his body and concedes the match.
6 Yami Bakura
The Yu-Gi-Oh! card game has a spell/trap equivalent to Exodia, called the "Destiny Board" cards. The first is a trap card with the letter "F" on it. Once activated, it summons a spell card onto the field that has another letter. These keep on going in a sequence until the word "FINAL" is spelt with the five cards. When all five cards are on the field, you win the game.
It should be noted that the "Destiny Board" cards spelt the word "DEATH" in the original Japanese version of the anime/manga/card game. This must have been a nightmare for 4Kids to edit out of the dub.
Yami Bakura uses the "Destiny Board" cards in the Battle City tournament and comes very close to defeating Yugi. These cards are a lot more effective in the anime than in the real card game. This is due to the sheer amount of cards that can destroy spell/traps in the main competitive game. If you have drawn the other letter cards, then they are essentially dead weight in your hand until they are called to the field. In the anime, however, the "Destiny Board" has a better shot of being completed. Yugi needed to use an Egyptian God card to win the duel, in order to force Yami Bakura to quit the match.
5 Joey Wheeler
Joey Wheeler is one of the most popular characters in Yu-Gi-Oh!, to the point where even the creator of the manga has called Joey his favourite character. It is most likely due to the fact that people like to root for the underdog. Joey lacks the skill and intelligence of his contemporaries and plays Duel Monsters with passion instead. Fans were even able to look past his horrible Brooklyn accent.
In terms of skill, Joey made it to the finals of Duelist Kingdom, as well as the semi-finals of the Battle City tournament. It is also heavily implied that Joey beat Yugi after Battle City, as he reclaimed his "Red-Eyes Black Dragon" card at some point.
Joey Wheeler's deck used a mixture of Warriors and cards that rely on chance in order to succeed. As time went on, he strengthed his deck with cards that he won from other duelists, such as the "Red-Eyes Black Dragon" and "Jinzo" monsters.
4 Maximillion Pegasus
Maximillion Pegasus is the creator of Duel Monsters. He is responsible for some truly wicked deeds, like stealing people's souls and blackmailing Yugi to enter his tournament, so that he could steal his Millennium Puzzle. When Pegasus created Duel Monsters, he decided to make some cards that were exclusive to him, that would never be distributed to the public.
When Pegasus faces Kaiba, he reveals the power of his Toon deck. Pegasus used a card called "Toon World", to turn all of his monsters into cartoon characters. This made them invulnerable to attacks from other monsters. He also possessed the "Relinquished" and "Thousand-Eyes Restrict" monsters, which still see use in the card game to this day!
While Pegasus is an excellent duelist, it is hard to give him too much credit, as he used to cheat all of the time. Pegasus' Millennium Eye used to let him see into the mind of his opponent. This meant that Pegasus knew what cards his opponent was going to use. After he lost his eye, his win record started to diminish, as he lost to Kaiba and even Mai Valentine.
3 Seto Kaiba
Seto Kaiba takes the Duel Monsters card game more seriously than anyone else in the show. He uses his massive fortune to create Duel Monsters theme parks, and the technology to create realistic holograms of the monsters. Kaiba takes his obsession to nerdy new extremes when he builds a plane in the shape of a "Blue-Eyes White Dragon".
In terms of his skill as a duelist, Kaiba is one of the best in the world. He is the only person to possess a "Blue-Eyes White Dragon" card, as there are only three left in existence. His Dragon-themed deck is incredibly powerful, with many support cards dedicated to summoning and strengthening his "Blue-Eyes White Dragon" cards. Kaiba's deck became even more powerful when he added "Obelisk the Tormentor" and the XYZ Dragon cards to his collection.
Seto Kaiba is second only to Yugi Muto. The plot of the latest Yu-Gi-Oh! movie is all about Kaiba still being bitter about having never defeated the Pharoah in a duel and trying to find him in the afterlife so that they can have a rematch.
2 Yami Yugi
One of the main themes of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime is possession and the loss of the soul. There are many characters who are being controlled by the spirits of the dead, or the dark sorcery of the living. Many of the duels require you to put your very soul on the line, to show how dedicated you are to Duel Monsters.
The most benevolent spirit in Yu-Gi-Oh! is Yami Yugi, whose true name is revealed to be Atem. Yami Yugi is the soul of a long dead Pharoah, who has forgotten his own past. When Yugi finishes assembling the Millennium Puzzle, he becomes bonded with Yami's spirit. The two work together to assemble the rest of the Millennium Items, gather the Egyptian God cards, and beat every duelist they see.
Yami Yugi's deck contains a mixture of monsters, with some support given to the "Dark Magician" and the Egyptian God cards. Let's be honest here, Yami Yugi only wins because of the Heart of the Cards (also known as "being the protagonist"). If he needs to use a card, then it will be the next one he draws.
1 Yugi Muto
The final duel of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime takes place between Yami Yugi and Yugi to determine Yami Yugi's fate. If Yugi wins, then Yami Yugi is allowed to finally pass on to the afterlife. If Yami Yugi wins, then he must remain in the real world for another 5000 years.
At first, it seems that Yami Yugi has the overwhelming advantage. He has the three Egyptian God cards, as well as the "Dark Magician". Despite this, Yugi ultimately wins the duel, through the use of the Gadget monsters and the "Silent Magician". He manages to overwhelm Yami Yugi with his skill and sends him on his way to his final resting place. When this duel was first happening in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, most fans were rooting for Yami Yugi to win, as they didn't want the series to end.
Throughout the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, there was a question of whether Yugi was actually a good duelist. It seemed that Yami Yugi was pulling the strings most of the time. The final duel of the series was all about proving that Yugi was now strong enough to stand by himself, and no longer needed to rely on Yami's help. Yugi proved that he was the greatest duelist of all time, and didn't need to rely on Egyptian God cards, Millennium Items, or Shadow Realm nonsense to succeed.