Taking the Plunge: How Players Can Transition Into The Japanese Duel Masters Metagame

Trading card game (TCG) players in the English-speaking world may or may not have heard of the Duel Masters franchise before, depending on when they first discovered the hobby. This is not surprising;  the English version of the Duel Masters trading card game has seen many ups and downs during its time of existence. With the original Japanese release of Duel Masters in Japan achieving much success since its May 2002 debut, the American game publisher Wizards of the Coast soon brought the game to the North American continent just two years later, officially releasing the English edition in March 2004, only to see the game discontinued abruptly and support for it withdrawn after merely twelve sets being released as of December 2006. Wizards of the Coast would subsequently attempt a “revival” of sorts with the spin-off franchise Kaijudo debuting in 2012, once again only to see a discontinuation in 2014.

Those who have played the English trading card game during its heydays before may remember fondly crafting decks comprising all kinds of creature and spell cards with various abilities across the familiar five civilizations. Certainly, some players from then may be wondering: what next? Is there a way I can re-enter the game again? Players will be delighted to learn that far from the ebbs and flows of Duel Masters in the English-speaking world, the trading card game has remained one of the most popular in Japan itself and has in fact evolved very much in the 14 years since it was first introduced, with over fifty booster pack sets and nearly a hundred themed decks released since.

Here, our reporter will be discussing several pointers to take note of should a player wish to make the much-talked-about transition from the English to the Japanese version of the Duel Masters Trading Card Game. In trading card game parlance, usually a game with both an English and a Japanese version will be referred to using two different terms: “TCG” (trading card game) denotes the English sets, while “OCG” (original card game) denotes the Japanese sets. We will be adopting this naming convention subsequently in this article.

Decks can only have 40 cards

Many players may remember that in the TCG, decks had a minimum of 40 cards rather than a maximum: it was not uncommon to see some players with decks of as much as 60 or even more cards. This is a carry-over from the popular trading card game series Magic: the Gathering, which has a similar ruling where decks have a minimum of 60 cards but no maximum limit. The OCG has a different practice: decks are strictly restricted to only 40 cards – no more, no less. This feature will have an impact on the metagame in the OCG as well, which this article will explain in more detail later on.

Some card mechanics may differ

When Duel Masters was brought to the English-speaking world, the game developers took into consideration the state of the Japanese metagame and pre-emptively changed the card effects of some cards so that they would not experience the similar risk of imbalance which their Japanese counterparts witnessed.

Cyber BrainBrain Serum

Take for instance the two following examples: the Base Set card Cyber Brain (above; depicted left) is only released in the OCG, and is a 4 mana Water shield trigger spell that permits the player to draw up to 3 cards. The sheer card advantage that Cyber Brain offers players became a touchy point and the card was subsequently restricted to a single copy, and eventually banned entirely. In contrast, the English TCG does not have this card in print, but replaces it with the card Brain Serum (above; depicted right) which allows players to draw up to 2, rather than 3, cards. Brain Serum would subsequently be printed in the OCG as well under the name Neo Brain.

Cursed TotemCryptic Totem

Cursed Totem (above; depicted left) is another case in point: the card is released in the 7th set in the OCG as a 6 mana Nature creature with an effect prohibiting opponents from using shield trigger abilities at all times. This made the card an incredibly imbalanced finisher with only a few effective counters, resulting in it being restricted and then banned as well, not unlike Cyber Brain. In turn, the English TCG replaces this card entirely with the English-only card Cryptic Totem (above; depicted right), whose shield trigger prohibition effect only activates when Cryptic Totem is tapped.

As the OCG explicitly prohibits cards in a language other than Japanese, as well as cards without a Japanese equivalent, players will need to take note of this point should they decide to transition into the OCG.

New card types exist

Players will remember the familiar Creature and Spell cards from their TCG days. Creatures are the equivalent of monsters which players can summon into play and may use them to attack the opposing player’s shields or creatures, and often these cards also come with other effects. Spells can be cast by players and subsequently placed into the graveyard unless otherwise stated, allowing a usually one-time card effect to activate during that term.

Much has changed since then. The OCG has introduced a few new card types, so it would be very useful (and essential) for players to read up on what these card types are like.

The first of such new card types to be introduced was the Cross Gear, first introduced in DM-14 Generate Gear: think of these cards as “magical weapons” which your creatures can use in battle to complement their existing abilities and power. Cross Gears differ from creatures and spells: unlike creatures, they do not attack and are instead meant to be “equipped” to your creatures in the battle zone, and unlike spells, a Cross Gear will remain in the battle zone until a card effect removes it or places it in another zone. Cross Gears are frequently themed after existing creatures to reflect their abilities, with a few notable examples of this being the case: take for instance Bajula’s Soul (DM-15), which is based off the mana destruction effect of Überdragon Bajula, Ice Lance Paladin Spear (DM-30), which is based off the blocker-returning effect of Crystal Paladin, and Mega Innocent Sword (DM-32), which is based off the effect that allows players to evolve creatures of any race on a creature that is found in creatures with “Innocent” in their names such as Innocent Hunter, Blade of All (DM-06).

Bajula's SoulIce Lance Paladin SpearMega Innocent Sword

Depicted above, from left: Bajula’s Soul, Ice Lance Paladin Spear, Mega Innocent Sword

To put a Cross Gear into play, players will pay the cost of the Cross Gear for the first time to “generate” the Cross Gear. The act of generating a Cross Gear is akin to summoning a creature or casting a spell, as the card is put into the battle zone. Some Cross Gears have abilities that explicitly only take effect when the Cross Gear is not crossed to any creature: an example of such is Noble Enforcer (DM-16). More conventionally, however, the abilities of a Cross Gear take effect on a crossed creature. To “cross” a Cross Gear to a creature – think of it as equipping your creature with some weapon or equipment in battle – players will have to pay the cost of the Cross Gear a second time and attach the card underneath one of their creatures in the battle zone. When the crossed creature leaves the battle zone, the Cross Gear remains in play.

Depicted below: Noble Enforcer. If this card is crossed to a creature, the creature cannot be blocked by creatures with 2000 or less power. However, if this card is not crossed to any creature, all creatures with less than 2000 power cannot attack or block. This is an example of a Cross Gear whose effect may vary according to whether it is crossed to a creature or not.

Noble Enforcer


The next is the Castle, which was first introduced in DM-30 Ultra Duel: a key mechanic in Duel Masters is that players begin the game with five shields, which denote their “life points” so to speak. To win the game, players have to eliminate all the shields of the opponent and attack them directly one more time. Castles can thus be thought of as cards that “strengthen” or “reinforce” a player’s shields, with additional effects that remain in play as long as the shield is not broken or removed. In order to put a Castle into play, players will pay the cost of the Castle to “fortify” it to a shield of their choice. The Castle is placed into the graveyard when the fortified shield is broken or leaves the shield zone in any other manner. Some examples of Castle cards include Hustle Castle (DM-30), Rose Castle (DM-30) and Silver Glory, Invincible Fortress (DM-30).

Depicted below, from left: Hustle Castle, Rose Castle, Silver Glory, Invincible Fortress

                           Hustle CastleRose CastleSilver Glory, Invincible Fortress


Aside from Cross Gears and Castles, Duel Masters has introduced a few more types of cards only present in far more recent expansion sets.

Psychic Creatures were introduced in DM-36 Psychic Shock as double-sided cards with creatures on both sides of the card. Unlike regular creatures, Psychic Creatures do not count as part of a player’s deck of 40 cards, and are not placed in their decks at the start of the game either. A new gameplay zone, known as the Hyperspatial Zone, has been created for the purpose of placing a player’s Psychic Creatures into at the start of the game. The Hyperspatial Zone is placed next to a player’s graveyard and players are restricted to 8 psychic creatures in their Hyperspatial Zones. These 8 cards are counted separately from the 40 cards in their deck.

Location of the Hyperspatial Zone

Unlike a normal creature, Psychic Creatures are not summoned in regular fashion: players cannot simply pay the cost of the Psychic Creature to put it into the battle zone. So what does the mana cost of a Psychic Creature mean?

Psychic Creatures are summoned indirectly. Players have to cast a Hyperspatial spell, which is a regular spell with names following the syntax of “Hyperspatial [insert word here] Hole” that allows Psychic Creatures to be summoned from the Hyperspatial Zone into the battle zone using the card effect of the spell. Examples of such spells are Hyperspatial Energy Hole (DM-36), Hyperspatial Bolshack Hole (DM-36) and Hyperspatial Dravita Hole (DM-37). The card effect of a Hyperspatial spell will directly reference the mana cost of the Psychic Creature to be summoned.

Depicted below, from left: Hyperspatial Energy Hole, a Water hyperspatial spell; Hyperspatial Bolshack Hole, a Fire hyperspatial spell; and Hyperspatial Dravita Hole, a Light hyperspatial spell

                            Hyperspatial Energy HoleHyperspatial Bolshack HoleHyperspatial Dravita Hole

How then do players decide when to flip a Psychic Creature, or which side of the card is to be summoned? There are two abilities that determine this: Awaken and Release. A Psychic Creature usually consists of a weaker, but lower-cost creature on one side, and a stronger, but higher-cost creature on the other side. The “stronger” side is termed as the “awakened” form of the Psychic Creature. In order to Awaken a Psychic Creature into its awakened form, players will have to fulfill the condition stated in the Awaken ability on the lower-costing side in order to flip the creature to its higher-costing Awakened form. In turn, the Release ability activates on the Awakened form of a Psychic Creature when it leaves the battle zone, allowing players to revert the card to its un-awakened, lower-costing side instead and keep the Psychic Creature in the battle zone.

Depicted below, from left: Bolshack Dragon, the Temporal Blaze, the un-awakened and lower-cost side of a Psychic Creature, and Bolshack Möbius, Victory Awakened, the awakened side of the same Psychic Creature. The two creatures are part of the same card.

                     Bolshack Dragon, the Temporal BlazeBolshack Möbius, Victory Awakened

There is another card type recently introduced between the sets DMR-13 to DMR-16 which has a similar mechanic to the Psychic Creature, known as Dragheart. A Dragheart card can be either a Dragheart Creature, a Dragheart Weapon or a Dragheart Fortress. Like Psychic Creatures, Dragheart cards have 2, or sometimes even 3, sides, and are also placed into the Hyperspatial Zone at the start of the game.

Another type of creature known as the Exile Creature also exists, having debuted in DMR-09, but unlike Psychic Creatures or Draghearts, Exile Creatures are part of your deck and are summoned normally into the battle zone just like regular creatures. The difference is that an Exile Creature will invariably have the “Doron Go” effect, which allows players to transform one Exile Creature into another upon its destruction.

Amongst one of the most recent new card types introduced is the Forbidden, introduced in DMR-19 as the latest amongst the new double-sided card types. Forbidden cards have two sides, namely the Forbidden Impulse and the Forbidden Creature, and are considered to be part of the 40-card deck. Forbidden Impulses are either put into the 5 cards in the player’s hand by default (in the case of Forbidden ~Moment of Awakening~) or into the battle zone directly at the start of the game (in the case of Forbidden ~The Sealed X~) and a specified number of face-down cards known as “seals” are placed surrounding the Forbidden Impulse, as depicted in the picture on the left above. The Seal is a new mechanic (but is not considered a card type of its own) that represents the highest form of removal that can be applied onto any card in Duel Masters, as cards that are ‘sealed‘ are considered to be completely absent from the battle zone entirely rather than merely destroyed or placed into another zone – think of it as a mechanic that wipes a card out of existence entirely, so to speak. Seals are removed from a card when a creature with a Command race that also shares the same civilization as the sealed card is placed into the battle zone, and a Forbidden Impulse is flipped to its Forbidden Creature form upon the removal of all the seals attached to it, as per its Forbidden Liberate effect.

Even more recently, cards designed with a landscape, horizontal orientation known as D2 Fields have been introduced in DMD-31 Field Start Deck: Basara’s Forbidden just last month in May 2016: these are cards that remain in the battle zone once their mana cost has been paid. The abilities of such cards thus take effect until the D2 Field has been removed, but with one catch: a D2 Field is put into the graveyard when another D2 Field has been played by any player. An equivalent of this card type exists in other trading card games such as Yu-Gi-Oh! and Battle Spirits as well.

Players need not fret: while there are indeed a whole array of new card types introduced, it is not essential to play all of them in your deck! In fact, many deck builds that were created in a much earlier block of the game can still be made relevant in the present-day OCG metagame, perhaps only with a few edits to keep it up-to-date and fresh. It is perfectly possible for players to continue to play Duel Masters in the OCG without having to include Psychic Creatures or Castles for instance in their decks. However, these new card types have brought with them new strategies and approaches to deck-building, so players who may be interested can consider incorporating these elements into their decks!

New kinds of civilizations exist

Players familiar with the Duel Masters TCG will remember that the game has five civilizations, each corresponding to a colour: Fire (red), Water (blue), Light (yellow), Darkness (black) and Nature (green). In fact, many players still colloquially or informally refer to the civilization of a card or a deck as “colours“, and it is not uncommon to hear a player describe their deck build as a “Red-Blue-Black” for instance, referring to a Fire, Water and Darkness deck – this practice is borrowed from the trading card game Magic: the Gathering, in which cards also possess colours to denote their “element”. The later sets in the English TCG saw the introduction of multicolored cards, which are cards with multiple civilizations, first seen in DM-10 Shockwaves of the Shattered Rainbow, and these cards were sometimes also referred to as “rainbow” cards by players.

Not unlike elemental themes in traditional folklore, the Duel Masters universe storyline posits that different civilizations may be allied or opposed to each other: In canon, Fire is allied to Darkness and Nature, Water is allied to Light and Darkness, Light is allied to Water and Nature, Darkness is allied to Fire and Water, and Nature is allied to Fire and Light. Cards with multiple civilizations in the English set releases are always paired up with two allied civilizations, so players familiar with the TCG may be shocked to learn that the Japanese OCG is replete with many multicolored cards that comprise “hostile” civilizations as well! These were first introduced in DM-13 Eternal Phoenix, the first set to not be released in the TCG after the discontinuation of the English-language card game. Later expansion sets have also introduced far more combinations of civilizations on single cards, with cards having three, four or even all five civilizations!

Five Dimensional RhodolitePerfect Earth, Planetary Dragon

Depicted above, from left: Five Dimensional Rhodolite and Perfect Earth, Planetary Dragon

Players will probably remember that multicolored cards are to be placed into the mana zone tapped during that turn if charged as mana. This rule continues to apply for cards with three and four civilizations. However, cards with five civilizations, such as Five Dimensional Rhodolite (DM-27) or Perfect Earth, Planetary Dragon (DM-27) do not have any mana value at all when placed into the mana zone, and this is denoted by the “0” instead of “1” printed at the bottom of the cards in a circle. These cards can still be used to pay for the mana of a different civilization not present in the mana zone, but on their own do not contribute any mana value to the mana cost of a card.

Beethoven, Zenith of HorrorShangri-la, Climax of Cruelty

Depicted above, from left: Beethoven, Zenith of Horror and Shangri-la, Climax of Cruelty

Even more recently, the game developers have introduced the concept of Zero Civilization – complete with “colourless” cards with a white-grey colour scheme – beginning with the DMR-05 set. These cards do not belong to any civilization, but like their conventional counterparts have a mana value of 1 when placed into the mana zone, thus differing from five-coloured cards. Examples of Zero civilization cards include Beethoven, Zenith of Horror (DMR-07) and Shangri-la, Climax of Cruelty (DMR-08).

Numerous cards are restricted or banned

Normal BombazarOnsen Bombazar

Depicted above, from left: Bombazar, Dragon of Destiny in the original DM-10 edition, and a reprint of the same card in DMX-22 after it was banned. The latter version – for whatever reason – has Bombazar bathing in an onsen (a Japanese hot spring where people can bathe in) and is labelled with a “PREMIUM” banner on the top of the card, denoting its placement in the Premium Hall of Fame banned cards list.

The English TCG did not have an official banned card list, as most cards that were banned or restricted during that time in the OCG had their effects modified (as mentioned above in the article) to “balance” them within the metagame, while some other cards banned in the OCG had a more negligible impact on the balance of the TCG metagame due to the lack of a 40-card maximum limit. This changed with the introduction of what is perhaps the most notorious card to exist in the history of Duel Masters: Bombazar, Dragon of Destiny (DM-10). The unique effect of the card which granted players a consecutive additional turn created a significantly imbalanced metagame both in the Japanese and North American competitive play scenes and led to a “dark period” whereby the vast majority of tournament decks played included the card and surrounded either using the card or countering the use of the card by an opponent player. The subsequent public outcry and exodus of many players increasingly disillusioned with the state of the game led to Takara Tomy banning the card altogether in the OCG in Japan, whereas Wizards of the Coast announced that it would be placing Bombazar onto a “watch list” in the United States. As the game was discontinued in the English-speaking world a mere two sets after the release of Bombazar, Dragon of Destiny, the TCG never had an official banlist or restriction list.

The OCG, on the other hand, does have a banned and restricted card list, and a rather extensive one at that. As of 1st June, 2016, 21 cards are banned from decks entirely and 56 cards are restricted to only a single copy in decks. The list can be viewed on the official Takara Tomy website here. In the OCG, the card restriction list is known as the “Hall of Fame” while the banned list is known as the “Premium Hall of Fame“. A “Duo Premium Hall of Fame” and a “Hyperspatial Premium Hall of Fame” exists as well, with the purpose of banning particular combinations of two cards from being placed into a deck at the same time. Some cards which were otherwise un-restricted in English TCG play are placed onto the Hall of Fame or the Premium Hall of Fame in Japan – for example, two of the 3 mana shield trigger spells from DM-10Soulswap and Transmogrify are banned entirely in the OCG. Some restrictions are placed onto cards that would otherwise be considered perfectly or largely balanced in the English metagame due to specific scenarios that may arise in the full OCG environment – the most evident case in point would be the restriction of Spiral Gate to one copy. This is because Spiral Gate can be used to remove complex evolution creatures with as much as four or five cards as part of the creature stack, and is considered a grossly imbalanced and overly cost-effective counter against the difficult-to-summon Psychic Creatures for a mere 2 mana.

SoulswapTransmogrifySpiral Gate

Depicted above, from left: Soulswap and Transmogrify are banned entirely, while Spiral Gate is restricted to a single copy. The three cards are not restricted in the English TCG.

Players who are making this transition into the OCG would also do good to keep themselves updated on the latest changes in the Hall of Fame and Premium Hall of Fame lists: it is a regular occurrence for new cards to be restricted as the metagame evolves, or for cards to be upgraded from a restriction to a complete ban should the situation demand it. A less frequent occurrence, but still important nevertheless, is when cards are “downgraded” in the regulation list from a ban to a restrict, or completely taken off the list altogether to become a normal unrestricted card with up to 4 copies permitted in decks.

Three notable instances of this exist. The DM-13 card Judgement of the Flame’s Spear and Water Blade was previously restricted and then banned entirely, but is no longer on the list due to a significantly reduced use in competitive play of decks which this card counters very effectively in more recent times. Mist Rias, Sonic Guardian (DM-04) is no longer restricted in spite of its extraordinarily effective card drawing power due to the changing pace of the metagame. The most unusual of restrictions on the card Aqua Hulcus (DM-01), whose only effect is to draw a card upon summoning, was lifted recently: the card itself was restricted as part of metagame-changing policy by the game developers around the time when the Cyber Lord equivalent of the card, Qurian (DM-27) so as to encourage players to shift from playing Liquid People to Cyber Lords. This is an instance whereby cards which are not considered imbalanced or overly powerful in any way may sometimes be restricted (and subsequently lifted of restriction) to achieve a specific outcome in the metagame.

“Just for fun” cards (finally) exist

Players who are familiar with the trading card game Magic: the Gathering may remember the humor-themed, “just-for-fun” sets Unglued and Unhinged that features cards with nonsensical, ridiculous-sounding effects that aren’t meant for use in more serious, regular gameplay. Duel Masters has finally joined in the fun with “joke” cards with similarly unusual mechanics as well. This article will present three examples of such cards, released in DMX-22.

Dangerous GrandpaPack E, the Super ElectromagneticEgoist, Climax of Me

Depicted above, from left: Dangerous Grandpa, Pack E, the Super Electromagnetic, Egoist, Climax of Me. These cards are examples of “joke” cards released purely for humorous purposes, and are not meant to be used in proper gameplay or official tournament settings.

The card Dangerous Grandpa has a card effect that literally reads “When you are losing the game, you may say “Um, I’m going to lose” while looking at the top 3 cards of your deck. If you do, you lose the game.“, while Pack E, the Super Electromagnetic is evolved onto, of all things, a booster pack, and when this card attacks or leaves the battle zone, players open the booster pack, add a card to their hand, and place the rest in their card collection. Perhaps breaking the fourth wall, the set also has a card titled Egoist, Climax of Me costing 13 mana and with – get ready for it – 44,444 power. The card takes the classic card game mechanic of a player’s “hand” in a literal sense: to put it into the battle zone, players evolve it onto their physical hand (the body part) and not the cards in their hand, and the creature breaks a number of shields corresponding to the tenths digit in the player’s age. Perhaps Takara Tomy wants to encourage an older demographic to play Duel Masters too?

Players should note that these cards are disallowed in proper tournament gameplay and for obvious reasons at that. That said, these cards add a humorous element to the Duel Masters OCG and players may want to collect copies of them to “prank” their friends at parties or other gatherings!

Improved versions of old cards exist

Players who are making the transition to the OCG may do well to take particular note of this point. Many cards in the English sets, or even in earlier Japanese sets, are frequently considered “staples” due to their incredible versatility and utility in gameplay and are included in many decks. With the evolution of the metagame however, it is frequently not uncommon to see new, improved versions of these cards being introduced in later sets that may render the original version of the card less effective, either due to the newer counterpart having a lower mana cost, higher power, better synergy with other cards, or an additional card effect. Take the following examples, for instance.

The Light spell Holy Awe (DM-01) should be familiar to most, with its signature ability of tapping all your opponent’s creatures when cast. Holy Awe is a shield trigger that costs 6 mana to play. Twenty-five sets later, Duel Masters would render the card less relevant in the contemporary metagame by introducing a cheaper, 5 mana version of the card called Super Spark (DM-25). The Light spell Diamond Cutter (DM-02) experienced a similar fate: Diamond Cutter costs 5 mana to enable all creatures belonging to the player to attack the opponent, overriding any card effects preventing a creature from attacking. Twenty-five sets later, a 3 mana replacement of the exact same spell, Diamond Sword (DM-26), would be released. Hell’s Scrapper (DM-14), a 7 mana Fire shield trigger spell allowing players to destroy any number of an opponent’s creatures with a total power of 5000 or less, saw a 6 mana version with the exact same effect take its place in the form of Super Flaming Hell’s Scrapper (DMR-01).

Improvements to old cards happen to creatures as well: the iconic Bolshack Dragon (DM-01), also the trump card of the lead character Shobu Kirifuda in the first season of the anime series, would see a revamped, much better version of itself released later on. In addition to the double breaker and attack power boost for Fire cards in the graveyard effect in the original version, the newer and upgraded Bolshack Yamato Dragon (DM-26) is also a speed attacker and has an ability that complements well with Bolmeteus Musha Dragon (DM-24). The card Bazagazeal Dragon (DM-06) has an upgraded version called Bazagaberg Hayate Dragon (DM-29) which has the exact same abilities as the original Bazagazeal Dragon, but with the additional race of Samurai, and the additional ability to cross a Cross Gear to it for no cost upon summoning.

New deck building approaches exist

Most trading card games have a few main archetypes in building a deck, each of which correspond to a different approach to the strategy of the deck in winning the game. Duel Masters is no exception. Most decks fall into either the broad strategic categories of Beatdown, Control or Combo. Beatdown decks prioritize speed and offensive attacks in order to win, Control decks focus on helping the player attain complete control of the game whilst disrupting the opponent’s game plan, and Combo decks are geared towards reliably and consistently being able to execute a powerful combination of a few cards to win. Within each deck type, there are numerous variants as well categorized by the traits and design of the deck.

A faster variant of the Beatdown deck is known as a Rush deck, comprising mostly low-cost cards with mana cost between 1 to 3. Rush decks are designed to attack as much as possible and break opponent’s shields within the first few turns of the game. Beatdown decks on the other hand use cards between 2 to 7 mana, and are a slightly-slower but more-powerful version of the Rush deck, retaining its characteristic speed in spite of the trade-off. These decks are also sometimes termed as Assault or Aggro decks. Beatdown decks which also aim to put a large number of creatures into the battle zone to overwhelm the opponent are also sometimes called Swarm decks.

Control decks can broadly be grouped into four main variants. Removal Control decks focus on destruction and discard effects in order to derail the opponent’s tempo as much as possible and are sometimes called Disruption decks as well. These decks win the game either by disrupting an opponent with their available card options until a finisher card is played that leaves the opponent with little or no openings for reversal, or by causing the opponent to lose the game via running out of cards left in their deck using “deckout” or “mill” strategies. Creature Control (sometimes termed as Field Control) decks on the other hand seek to attain a strong field presence using creatures whilst stopping the opponent’s own field presence, thus granting the player a strong degree of card advantage against the opponent. In contrast with their removal-oriented counterparts, Creature Control decks place less emphasis on constantly disrupting the opponent and more emphasis on gaining a strategic edge above their opponent in card advantage, in particular field presence. Two slightly less prevalent, but still highly potent and lethal deck builds in the broader Control archetype, are the Lockdown and Mana Burn control decks. As the name says, Lockdown decks seek to prohibit and prevent the opponent from doing anything at all, while Mana Burn decks aim to deplete and disrupt the opponent’s mana resources so as to hinder their ability to play cards pre-emptively and severely upset the tempo of their game.

The final archetype, namely Combo decks, offer a large variety of types due to the vast number of card combinations that work with extraordinarily effective synergy. There are a few broad variants of the Combo deck: decks which focus on performing actions for no cost, decks which seek to execute “instant death” or “one turn kill” combos to win within a single turn, and decks that focus on looping effects so as to repeat or recycle a specific combo multiple times. Aside from these variants, there are many more combos and players intending to play such a deck type may want to consider reading up more on some specific cards that come in extra handy in executing powerful combos, paying special attention to the synergies between different cards.

As the Japanese OCG metagame offers a far greater variety of cards, mechanics and sets than the English TCG, players seeking to design and construct new decks for the OCG may also want to take some time to explore some of these new offerings that would come in useful in their deck building.

Translating card texts

With the advent of globalization and the internet, it is no longer an uphill task to decipher the confusing effects of new Japanese-exclusive Duel Masters cards. The Duel Masters Wiki has many resources that are helpfully compiled to inform and assist players at any level to understand more about the game, ranging from specific cards to deck-building and strategy tips and even card lore. Those who understand the Japanese language can also go to the official website by Takara Tomy for the latest information on new sets, decks, promotions, ruling changes and clarifications, and card restrictions and bans.

Finding a community to play with

The last pointer is also perhaps the most challenging for many aspiring Duel Masters OCG entrants in some countries around the world as not every country or continent may have the game in circulation. It would thus be useful to search around your community to see if any other players are playing the game, and check in with your local card shop or hobby store to find out if they offer Duel Masters cards for sale. Do enquire which sets they have for sale, for different stores may be distributing a different range of booster packs and singles depending on their owners’ discretion. If your country does not have an active community, don’t fret: it is possible to acquire cards from online trades as well! Various online Duel Masters communities exist, some of them with their own thriving activities and events hosted on online platforms, and many of these players would be more than eager to exchange cards from their collections with you to obtain the cards they are looking for. The website Trade Cards Online! offers many services that facilitate players to look for trades, browse each others’ collections, and even build virtual decks to test online in matches with other players across the world on the Virtual Tabletops function on the website.

Above: a virtual match of Duel Masters played on the Trade Cards Online! website.

We at J-Network hope that this article has been useful to players who intend to begin playing the Japanese Duel Masters trading card game, either starting from scratch, entering it from another trading card game series, or making the transition from the English Duel Masters trading card game which many players may be more familiar with.

Information taken from official Duel Masters website and Duel Masters Wiki. Credit for all images go to Yami Michael, the administrator for the Duel Masters Wiki.

The author was a former active player in the Duel Masters community somewhere between the period when the sets DM-22 to DM-34 were released, and had previously oversaw an international online community of Duel Masters players for slightly over a year before taking a hiatus from the game in 2010.

2 thoughts on “Taking the Plunge: How Players Can Transition Into The Japanese Duel Masters Metagame

  1. Great article! It’s good for all beginners though, not just the really odd and really small niche of “returning TCG players”. It’s an interesting mix of card types and basic rulings, some game history, simple terms, trivia and resource sites, all combined and focused mainly towards the product/hobby side of the game. This can be a very useful starting point for anyone looking to get into the game from the basics and just have some casual fun with people.

    Focus and insight into metagame and strategy is very little here, with the truly beautiful plays and interactions in the game requiring far more explanation space than even this already large, stuffy article uses just on some common knowledge. I feel that the full depths of skill and enjoyment one can have in this game are not touched upon, which is a shame because ingame answers are exactly what most gamers are interested in, especially if they want to get straight into the fun of skillful bliss.

    However, Duel Masters is quite a “simple yet really hard” game, very technical and systemic in how it behaves, very much like MtG but with a bigger abstract tactical hook due to how creatures work, and it’s pretty difficult to put that into words. As someone who actively studied DM and game design for around 10 years, I myself need to put some small effort into making even the simplest things clear, so I can understand wanting to avoid all that. This game requires either deep analytics or just good ol’ fashioned experience and discovery, with a lot of ways to talk about it often not breaking surface level.

    As useful as this article is, all of you please imagine the game to be far more amazing and addictive than just this introduction shows. It even feels more like a read on the reporter/author’s personal journey of reconnection with a hobby limited to a different country, than a profile on the gameplay experience. So I would urge all the readers starting from here to have their own journeys in the awesome world of Duel Masters, as they can easily get even better experiences than just a simple reporter could, and hopefully we can meet some day and have some games. 

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yo, thanks for writing this. i remember i used to play the TCG all the time as a kid when it was still being sold in America, and I’m glad I’m not the only one looking to get back into the game. Do you know of any websites where one could purchase some of the new OCG cards, especially for a person who lives in North America?


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