This is a key difference between the two games. Yearly now, Magic has new formats released with new ways to play that interact with every card printed. Off the top of my head Single, Multi, EDH, sealed, draft, planechase and archenemy name but a few. That’s not even getting into formats within some of these such as standard or modern. Yu-Gi-Oh sits with just a lonely two formats – advanced and traditional, or to those not in the know with and without banned cards respectively. While the advanced format is fun enough, being able to choose in Magic is arguably better. Different formats appeal to different people, so the casual players can stick to Multiplayer EDH but die hard competitives can learn the intricacy’s of a draft or craft a brilliant new 60 card deck. Most of the games in Yu-Gi-Oh are played on the standalone Advanced format, so finding your place in the game is often much harder with every player fitting under the same bracket. Magic’s many formats generally work for it, allowing you to do whatever you want whenever. It’s multiplayer support is also great – Yu-Gi-Oh has tag team rules, but no official setup for odd number of players or even an all versus all game. Magic has to win here in sheer terms of what you can do with the game. Speaking of which…
This format exists in both games, but to a far greater extent in magic. A Yu-Gi-Oh player can be expected to do this no more than once every three months, as a “Sneak Peek” at the new set before it’s launch is held, where you get 5 packs, make a 20 card deck and duke it out. You’ll find a fair few of your cards require others to work, which leads to a pretty small pool. And at the end of that, you have little left other than early cards. And then nothing for three months. Put simply, the packs are not made with this format in mind, but it is simply thrust upon it. Magic embraces it. Drafts are regular events at most FNM venues, and limited(6 packs+basic lands = deck) is more less common, they still happen. I have done three drafts at the time of writing this article, and you will have already read what I think of limited. They are great fun. A card you otherwise saw fit for no deck – this still stands – except for limited. A lack of options make some lesser cards a much greater threat. The passing of the cards themselves in a draft is a game in itself, and one Yu-Gi-Oh is certainly lacking. Some people are annoyed to see a fair few cards made just for the draft – but it’s a format arguably almost as important as constructed play – as seen in that most Pro Tours have it as a mandatory element of the day. At least they have a place, Yu-Gi-Oh just sees card existing for the show and the shoebox. This format is a MAJOR reason to play magic, as it’s really fun, gives a reason to buy packs, as even if you pull rubbish you still get a good time out of it. I always look forward to a draft, arguably much more than a regular gaming day as you get the tournament with it too, and possibly the best part of drafts is how it simply negates price. You must pay the entry fee, yes, but that’s not much of a problem. Getting a constructed deck to the top tier could cost several hundred pounds, but you know a draft is never going to cost you more than £15. So you can turn up knowing everyone has a fair chance of winning down to skill more than wallet size. Indeed, A series of lucky pulls can give you an advantage, but skill prevails over all in this format, even down to the picking of packs, and I love the game for this. And if that £15 is an issue, some draft groups sell the money cards the pull and put the price back into the next draft, making it even cheaper. Indeed, a few lucky pulls could see the event turn a profit! And this £15 is just standard for FNM magic events. If you find eight people willing to play you can make it cheaper with prices, or even get it down to £7.50 each. (For those wanting to know, Chaoscards.com, its £30 for 12 packs, two lots is a full draft set and £7.50 each.) if you disregard them altogether. So if you so choose you can keep playing a fun format for free – or use it as an excuse to buy packs – whatever works! So really, for sealed, to put it bluntly, Magic kicks Yu-Gi-Oh’s arse.
I won’t lie – I’ve read about the respective competitive metagames for longer than I’ve played in them myself. Across both systems I’ve played in relatively few competitive events, so I guess I’m a causal. However, I think I’ve seen enough to give my verdict. I rather Yu-Gi-Oh. Both the games certainly have their respective mind games in the form of mana open and face downs that make the game more than just open information. Both games contain bluffing that could separate a good from great player. Both have intricacy’s of play and careful combos to execute, and both are fun to play even at the highest level. Yet one MAJOR problem stands out for me – lands. I’ll come back to it. In Yu-Gi-Oh, the only resource you really need depends upon your deck – and you build for it and face the consequences. Sure, every deck has bad hands and draws in every game system, but that’s why we have match play over single games. But if you get multiple bad hands in a match in Yu-Gi-Oh, its either a very bad day for you or you could do with altering your deck construction. Magic has the same problems ignoring land, but bring it in… and things can get frustrating. You could build the most efficient and brilliant deck in the world, yet fail. Pulling lands is a frustrating prospect, as in a competitive environment losing because you drew too few or many during a game even with the perfect balance of lands in deck just happens. I’m not denying Yu-Gi-Oh has these problems, as indeed leaning towards one type of card over another can lead to a frustrating game – but again, Magic can also see this as annoying when not drawing any creatures or spells. So they both have the problem here, just magic has the additional hurdle of lands. My view may not be concrete due to lack of experience, but from an outside view this seems a frustrating issue. It does reconcile this however…
I can’t imagine playing Yu-Gi-Oh casually. Perhaps it’s because I have played the game for over ten years I can’t bare to pickup a bad card, but it’s a fact. This is an article on my opinion after all. But there is other evidence. Magic just has more to suit the casual crowd (as I see it.) I’ll go back and say they can still take part in drafts and have fun. But there are many cards designed with the casual player in mind, where a fun game is much more important than a winning one. Perhaps the biggest motivator to casual play to me and people I know is the presence of multiplayer. Having a few people round for magic can see a big game with politics aplenty and good fun all around, win or lose. EDH is another format I simply love, 100 cards, all different (other than basic lands) but kept together by the consistency of your commanders prescene. It’s a long, fun, crazy ride where all matter of things could happen. Again, Yu-Gi-Oh has no generally recognised equivalent. Perhaps someone in a remote area of Britain has come up with a brilliant format to rival EDH, but until then multiplayer is master in magic. If you want to go casual Yu-Gi-Oh, I’m sure its possible, but I’m not the right guy to ask. The competitive casual place of making a fun deck that can with against people, sure, that’s great, and – yes, it’s great fun – more than single player magic – but for casual it can’t quite match up. But I will point out it’s still more fun one on one for me, personally.