In this guide, we'll take a look at how a game of Yu-Gi-Oh is played, including how to start a game, the regular flow of the game, and how to win the game.

Table of Contents

    Table of Contents

    Win Conditions

    Yu-Gi-Oh, like many card games, is a life system game. This means that both players start with a set score, known in this game as Life Points (abbreviated to LP on newer cards), and you win the game by bringing your opponent's Life Points to 0.

    In the Yu-Gi-Oh card game, the default Life Points of each player at the start of the game are 8000. This total is reduced via monster battle and card effects, and can be increased by card effects as well. There is no limit to how high your Life Points can get.

    Another way to win the game is by having your opponent draw from an empty deck. If a player needs to draw from the deck, but cannot due to no cards being there, they automatically loose the game. This is known as a 'Deck out'.

    There are ways to end the game in a draw, when a condition that can end the game happens to both players at the same time (for example, both players reach 0 Life Points at the same time).

    Finally, certain cards will allow you to win the duel instantly if a certain condition is met. The most famous example of this is by far Exodia the Forbidden One, but many more exist in the game.

    Starting the Game

    To start the game, each player puts their Main Deck on the right side of the field, and their Extra Deck to the left (if they have any). Toss a coin. The player who calls head decides whether to go first or second.

    Both players draw 5 cards from their deck, and the game begins (there's no mulligan in Yu-Gi-Oh). The player who goes first doesn't draw a card when the game begins, and they can't attack on their first turn.

    From here, the game goes through the Game Phases outlined bellow until one player looses the duel.

    Game Phases

    In the Yu-Gi-Oh card game, each player takes turn playing their card. Each turn in the game is made up of Phases. There's 6 of them, but a player won't necessarily go through all of them each turn. They happen according to the following chart:

    Draw Phase

    First Phase of a turn. This is the phase where the player draws their card for the turn. No cards may be played or effects activated before a card is drawn.

    Standby Phase

    Players aren't required to do anything during this phase of the game unless a card states otherwise. This Phase is where the maintenance cost of cards is typically paid (eg: Messenger of Peace), but some cards have effects that trigger here (eg: Treeborn Frog), while others can only be played during this Phase (eg: Curse of Fiend).

    Main Phase 1

    This is the Phase where you can perform most of your actions. If you want to activate Spells, Summon Monsters, or Set Traps, this is where you do it. You can also Flip Summon or change the Battle Position of Monsters, assuming you haven't done it already or they weren't Summon/Set this turn. 

    Battle Phase

    If you want to attack Monsters, this is when you do it. It is quite a complex Phase, so check out our Guide to Yu-Gi-Oh's Battle Phase when it comes out.

    This is an optional Phase, but if you want to skip it, you must also skip Main Phase 2.

    Main Phase 2

    The same as Main Phase 1, except it happens after the Battle Phase. Some monsters can only trigger their effect during this Phase.  You cannot get to Main Phase 2 without going trough the Battle Phase.

    End Phase

    The final phase of each turn. If a player has more cards in hand than the allowed limit (6 by default), they must discard any extra cards. Effects that say 'At the end of your turn' happen in this phase, after the hand is discarded.

    After the End Phase, your opponent starts their turn.

    The Timer In Master Duel

    Master Duel is Konami's latest and greatest digital simulator for the game. The game recreates the style of gameplay to a tee, automating a lot of stuff like changing phases, or resolving the chain.

    However, the biggest departure from the paper game is the timer. While tournaments of the paper game still have time limits (and they're usually not a thing in casual play), Master Duel uses a form of chess clock to determine how long a game takes. Here's how it works:

    • Each player has 480 seconds (aka 8 minutes) on their clock.
    • Whenever a player can make a play, the clock ticks down.
    • The clock doesn't tick down during animations, and doesn't reset when a new turn starts.
    • If your clock runs out, or you don't take any actions for a short period of time, you loose.

    This adds another Win Condition to the game aside from those mentioned at the start of the guide. It's not reliable, since it depends on your player being slow to play their cards, but it is an option.