Master Duel Starter Guide
Image: Konami

Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is a complex game that throws you into the arena with barely a word of advice and a pocketful of cards you might not even know what to do with. The game has changed much since it’s debut in the late 1990s, and while there’s much to learn in Master Duel, there are ways to make that process much easier on yourself.

This guide includes the best tips for getting started, including how to get more cards and how crafting works, along with some recommendations for more advanced deck building using tournament-winning templates.

Yu-Gi-Oh Master Duel Starter Guide

Getting Started

Master Duel asks you a few questions when you boot the game, though they seemingly have no bearing on what comes next. You’re presented with a tutorial regardless of your choices – and you should play it, whether you’re a series veteran or complete newbie. It’s a handy refresher if you’ve been away for a while, though some of the finer points, such as mastering summons or understanding Synchro cards and other new mechanics, are saved for later tutorials. The important thing is you obtain several hundred Gems for completing the initial tutorial duels, and you’ll need them soon.

Master Duel Starter Deck
Image: Nintendo Life

The Best Starter Deck

Your next task is choosing one of three starter decks:

  • Power of the Dragon
  • Synchro of Unity
  • Link Generation

Ultimately, your choice matters little. None of the starter decks are worth sticking with for long, and you’ll soon have a pile of fresh and mighty cards at your disposal anyway.

That said, we still recommend opting for Synchro of Unity as a solid balance between old and new. Power of the Dragon is good for newcomers in that it’s a more basic and easy-to-understand deck those familiar with the original anime and card game will probably recognize. The problem is it gets destroyed in even low-rank online duels. Link Generation is built around a more recent addition to the game, Link Summons, which relies on chaining Link Monsters to bring forth multiple strong cards from your Extra Deck.

Synchro of Unity is a half-step between Power of the Dragon and Link Generation. Synchro Summons, its key feature, are easier to pick up on than Link Summons, but still give you access to formidable monsters. All you need to do is make sure the cards used for the summon, including the Tuner monster, match the level of the monster you want to summon.

It takes getting used to, and Master Duel’s Synchro tutorial won’t unlock until you complete a few solo challenges. Still, Synchro of Unity is a solid choice to get started with.

Once you’re back at the main menu, open the “Missions” tab and collect all the available Gems.

Master Duel Pull Rates
Image: Nintendo Life

Obtaining New Cards

New cards come from Master Duel’s gacha pulls. You have three banners, or Normal Packs, to pull from, each for 100 Gems:

  • Stalwart Force – a collection of stronger cards
  • Revival of Legends – a collection of classic cards
  • Master Pack – seemingly a random assortment of classic and newer cards

Most players recommend spending Gems on Stalwart Force, thanks to its larger pool of powerful monsters. You’ll use these more frequently later on, but when you’re just getting started, there’s a better and more focused way to add more cards in your deck.

In the shop menu, navigate to the “Bundles” tab. You’ll see three special bundles there, each with a featured Ultra Rare (UR) card and a chance of obtaining numerous other highly desirable cards as well. Each of the three special bundles costs 750 Gems, but it’s worth the cost. You’re guaranteed the bundle’s featured card, and every pack has at least one Super Rare (SR) or Ultra Rare (UR) card.

Finding a UR monster card unlocks a corresponding Secret Pack with cards built around that original UR’s archetype. For example, obtaining the Eldlich the Golden Lord card unlocks an “immortals” Secret Pack with other lich-themed cards. Every Secret Pack has a set of featured cards, and you’re guaranteed to get four of them. It’s a handy way to create a deck around these powerful finds, though you’ll need to decide quickly whether you want to spend the Gems on pulls.

Secret Packs only last for 24 hours after you uncover them.

Crafting and CP Explained

The next thing you want to do is head into the shop and spend some Gems to get the Gold Duel Pass. It’s the “paid” version of Master Duel’s battle pass, though you have more than enough after the tutorial and initial missions.

For 600 Gems, you get:

  • 600 Gems (so it pays for itself, essentially)
  • 100 UR Craft Points
  • 100 SR Craft Points
  • 80 R Craft Points
  • 68 N Craft Points

You also obtain a wallpaper at level 50 of the Duel Pass and the Pot of Greed mate at level 100. Mates sit on the playing field and react to what happens in matches, so they’re more “just for fun” than they are essential.

Craft Points, however, are essential. Once the Gems dry up or you’re after a specific kind of card, you’ll want to turn to card crafting.

The system is straightforward. You can craft any card so long as you have the necessary Crafting Points, and the deck builder menu – which you can access at any time just by choosing to edit your deck – lists every card in the game. SR and UR cards cost 30 CP each, and while you’ll earn some CP from missions (and the Duel Pass), the main way to get more CP is dismantling cards.

Master Duel Card Crafting
Image: Nintendo Life

There are a few things in mind to get the most from dismantling, though, and you don’t want to just dismantle wildly. A dismantled card is removed from your deck, and you’ll have to craft it or get lucky on a draw to obtain it again.

  1. Always dismantle foil cards if you aren’t interested in the monster or spell itself. Foil cards give you 30 CP of whatever rarity class it is, and unless you need the actual monster (or whatever it is), there’s no benefit to owning a foil card in Master Duel. It’s just shiny.

  2. If you have more than two of a given card, you can safely dismantle at least one of the extras. Master Duel caps the number of identical cards you can add to your deck at three, and because you can add the same card to multiple decks, there’s just no point in having more than three of the same card.

  3. This one’s a bit more obvious: If you just don’t need a card in general or don’t foresee it fitting in a future deck, go ahead and dismantle it.

Master Duel Solo Mode
Image: Nintendo Life

What About Solo Mode?

With your deck compiled and plenty of CP at your disposal, you might think it’s time to take on the world. You could, but there’s a better option first: Solo Mode.

Solo Mode is essentially one giant tutorial, and it’s absolutely worth the time to complete. Three new tutorials unlock after you complete the first one and enter Solo Mode. These teach you more advanced strategies, including fusion summons and Synchro summons, so they’re highly recommended for anyone not completely up to date on YuGiOh and its more recent developments.

Strategies for taking on opponents in ranked mode are great, of course, but completing these extra tutorials also gives you several additional rewards, including strong cards, Gems, and vouchers to use on normal packs. You’ll get Orbs as well, which unlock even more Solo Mode challenges and rewards.

Master Duel Stalwart Pack
Image: Nintendo Life

The Best Meta Decks So Far

Master Duel is still fairly new with an unstable meta that’s likely to shift as players experiment with the 10,000 cards available in the game. However, there are some strong candidates emerging already as some of the best decks in the meta game.

These may change over time as well, since Konami routinely adds and removes cards from the game’s forbidden (banned) card list, but for now, these are some of the top performing decks in Master Duel.

Best Deck for Early Game: Elemental HERO

One of the first Master Duel tournaments saw competitor PDS land in the top 10 with a deck that’s fairly easy to create even early in the game: Elemental HERO. It’s a deck with plenty of tricks, one that relies on special summons to unleash a range of effects on your opponent, from banishing cards in their hand to destroying traps and reducing their attack power. Here’s what’s in it:

Monster Cards

  • 3 Maxx “C”
  • 2 Vision HERO Increase
  • 2 Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
  • 2 Elemental HERO Stratos
  • 2 Vision HERO Vyon
  • 2 Elemental HERO Shadow Mist
  • 1 Destiny HERO – Celestial
  • 1 Elemental HERO Liquid Soldier
  • 3 Vision HERO Faris
  • 1 Destiny HERO – Dynatag
  • 2 Destiny HERO – Malicious
  • 1 Elemental HERO Honest Neos

Spell Cards

  • 1 Foolish Burial
  • 1 Reinforcement of the Army
  • 1 Miracle Fusion
  • 3 A Hero Lives
  • 3 Fusion Destiny
  • 3 Mask Change
  • 2 Called by the Grave
  • 3 Forbidden Droplet

Extra Deck

  • 2 Masked HERO Dark Law
  • 1 Masked HERO Blast
  • 1 Destiny HERO – Dangerous
  • 1 Elemental HERO Sunrise
  • 1 Elemental HERO Absolute Zero
  • 1 Vision HERO Trinity
  • 1 Masked HERO Acid
  • 1 Elemental HERO Escuridao
  • 1 Destiny HERO – Dystopia
  • 1 Xtra HERO Wonder Driver
  • 2 Xtra HERO Cross Crusader
  • 1 Predeplant Verte Anaconda
  • 1 Xtra HERO Dread Decimator

Since there are so many HERO cards in general, you have a higher chance of pulling at least a few and unlocking their corresponding Secret Packs to help fill out this deck. Alternatively, you can just craft them.

Master Duel Best Eldlic Deck
Image: Nintendo Life

Best Deck for Stunning and Dragon Busting: Eldlich Zombie

This zombie variant of the Eldlich deck is perfect for stunlocking opponents and powering up your own monsters. Several variations of it exist, but this is a good starter point TheCaliEffect created that showed up during a few tournaments in 2021.

Monster Cards

  • 3 Eldlich the Golden Lord
  • 3 Uni-Zombie
  • 2 Glow-Up Bloom
  • 2 Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
  • 3 Fantastical Dragon Phantazmay
  • 2 Ghost Belle & Haunted Mansion

Spell Cards

  • 2 Zombie World
  • 2 Cursed Eldland
  • 2 Eldlixir of Black Awakening
  • 3 Pot of Extravagance
  • 1 Seven Cities of the Golden Land

Trap Cards

  • 3 Skill Drain
  • 3 Solemn Judgment
  • 2 Hauquero of the Golden Land
  • 3 Conquistador of the Golden Land
  • 2 Eldlixir of Scarlet Sanguine
  • 2 There Can Be Only One

Extra Deck

  • Eldlich the Mad Golden Lord
  • Divine Arsenal AA-ZEUS - Sky Thunder
  • Superdreadnought Rail Cannon Juggernaut Liebe
  • Number 81: Superdreadnought Rail Cannon Super Dora
  • Superdreadnought Rail Cannon Gustav Max
  • Constellar Pleiades
  • Underworld Goddess of the Closed World
  • Accesscode Talker
  • Borrrelword Dragon
  • Knightmare Unicorn
  • Avendread Savior
  • Knightmare Cerberus
  • Knightmare Phoenix
  • Vampire Sucker
  • Link Spider

That’s it for now, but we’ll update if and as the Master Duel meta changes and more winning combinations emerge!