Lets not kid ourselves, there is something addicting in making your own cards, testing them, getting pissed off at the opponent playing “Pot of Greed” and imagining strangling them in their sleep. More often than not though, our own custom cards are… “Lacking”. This guide is all the experience I have accumulated over the years, for how to create a balanced game.
Now, while there is no specific order when it comes to thought process, having a generic idea on what we want the deck to do is important. The following order is not absolute, but it is the one I use:
- Thinking of an image theme, (for example succubi, aliens, sewer monsters, etc etc), and gathering as many google images that you could potentially use.
- Thinking of the main mechanic of the archetype, partially based on the images you gathered.
- Thinking of a name that fits said image themes and central gameplay mechanics.
For example, in my Swambush Deck, the thought process was: “Alright, I want a deck based on Swamp monsters” -> “Lets do a thorough google image search and see what we can gather.” -> “Alright, so how do swamp monsters work?” -> “They rise from the swamp to attack.” -> “Ok, so that could be a Flip effect, if we consider their set positions positions the hiding mode.” -> “What sets it apart from already existing Flip archetypes like Subterrors and Krawlers?” -> “They need a way to reset themselves. How about at the end of the battle phase? That’s not been done before.” ->”From the images, it looks like I have a lot of chicks. How about I make them the tuners, as the common theme?” -> “Alright, that’s quite a few Tuners… How about making a lot of their card effects be based on Tuners?” -> “Time to playtest!“.
The thing is, if you want your deck to look good lorewise, then the images will often have to come first, then followed by thinking of the mechanics that would fit with said images.
A) The NAME/THEME
- Search for themes that have not been used until now. There are countless left, despite what you may believe. Your imagination (and google’s image results) is the limit.
- An easy way to do that, which I often use, is making archetypes themed around specific old cards that no longer see play, because of how much they have been powercreeped over time, like Sparks/Mooyan Curry or Block Attack. Konami uses this method often as well, though they make the support around archetypes, not specific cards. Still, it’s an easy way to both think of a theme and create a balanced deck, since it all revolves around a generally weak card.
- Imagine you’re Konami, not yourself. What “would” you consider worthy enough of printing? Certainly not themes directly ripped from another franchise.
- Make puns. Buckets of them. The more puns the better. There can never be enough puns. My entire Vurko deck is based on the various words that mean “eating”, deriving from their main mechanic of “eating” other cards to get stronger. Get in the mindset of combining words, or using words from various languages that all mean the same thing, or using the irl pronounciation as part of the pun (for example: “Vylswarm: Vile Swarm“).
- Keep your themes “grounded”. Not every deck can have the “Almighty Creator Something Something” who nukes the field and has his own win condition. It is often fine if a deck is just a bunch of @ssholes in the forest.
- Your themes can have sub-themes. Personally for example, I make most female monsters Tuners, and leave tuning exclusively to them in their archetypes. In another example, in the case of my “Succubi” deck, I made “Ialu, the Succubus Surprise” a Trap card, both based on what I want him to do (suddenly block the opponent’s ability to Link Summon), and the fact that he is the only male in the deck, though he looks female. His name is also part of this, as all the other “Succubi” in the archetype have names that mean “dream” or “sleep” in various languages, and all are exclusively female names, while “Ialu” is the only unisex one (that also means “dream”) (his name is also a reference to the anime “Bend S”, where they called the trap “Surprise” in the opening, and it fits with his function as a trap card). (Konami have actually done something similar themselves, there is a reason “Traptrix” are all flat and related to trap cards.)
- Depending on your Deck’s theme, recycling or even searching specific weak IRL cards for free can be Ok, giving those cards a reason to be ran. In my “Timeless” for example, a Deck with nothing but rock golems, “Fissure” can be Set from the Deck or GY by discarding “Timeless Damek” (keep in mind this effect doesn’t generate advantage) and “Earthquake” can be set for free from Deck or GY by the Link 3 “Timeless Golem“. People love touches like those, and they are still practical.
- Making Decks around already existing series, from other card games or animes/games etc. You’re not the first who has thought of making a Dragonball deck, and you sure as hell ain’t the last. Look, I get it, my personal love out of the Shounens is Fairy Tail, but making an archetype around an already used entertainment concept (for example transferring Vanguard/MTG decks) shows that 1)You have little to no creativity. 2)You’re not putting any effort into this. 3)You would rather play that game instead, but are disappointed by the horrible lack of a proper online platform. People will take your deck less seriously. For the record, that includes Undertale. I’m sick of seeing Undertale decks. Be original.
- And being more specific about this: Don’t use f@cking Vanguard art. If you like it so much, go play Vanguard instead.
- Continuing from the above: “Meme” decks, “Troll” decks etc, are all a big “No nos”. Even if you say you’re doing it for fun, what exactly did you achieve? You spent 10 minutes creating cards, you entered a duel, your opponent left the moment they saw the Trump photos and the Pepe the frog images, and now they will just reject you for the next host que. Congrats. You made them waste 10 seconds of their life for 10 minutes of yours. You sure showed ’em, you troll you.
- Words like “Chaos”, “Hell”, etc. only sound good in your head. They come off as edgy, not to mention using them as archetype names starts creating all sorts of problems with already released cards. Be a bit more creative with your names.
B) THE IMAGE
- 2D images, generally.
- Devianart is your friend.
- Sketches/Drawings etc.
- Anime chicks. Never enough of them, but don’t get all of them from the same source. You don’t want to create a fan deck.
- D&D guides art is often a good choice, just don’t overuse it. In general avoid using the same sources multiple times.
- Keep the art consistent. Yugi uses various artstyles for each archetype, but the artstyles within the same archetype are usually more or less of the same type. Just as how it would look bad seeing Duston art in Burning Abyss, you should keep your cards with epic art from your cards with anime art separate.
- Many artists put a lot of effort into creating their images. Make sure you make that mute by removing the signatures (usually on the edges of the image you got off google). Microsoft Paint should be sufficient. Having images with signatures on them tends to be a sign of low quality.
- For God’s shake, HAVE images in your cards, even if they are placeholders until you can find your ideal image. Facing a bunch of cards with a black square in their middle is NEVER fun.
- Fanservice is always welcome, just make sure your images are not vulgar in an aesthetically displeasing way. Having some anime chick with a short skirt do a sexy pose is always a welcome sight, having straight-up hentai is questionable to say the least.
- Images of 3D models. Sometimes it can’t be helped, but in general, they don’t look good.
- Real life photos. We mentioned above that noone is interested in seeing a meme deck. This extends to here. Avoid these like the plague. They look awful.
- Everything that is “too” low effort. I laugh at the Cyanide & Happiness shorts too, but they are not deck image material.
- Vanguard/MTG art. If you like those games so much, go play those games instead.
- Using images of already existing cards. Poor “Meklords” are often the victims of this. There are always better, unused images out there for you to plagiarize, don’t piss on already existing cards.
Pro tip: If you’re having trouble with the word “effect” appearing on monster cards after you save them, or with Duelingbook changing your Warriors to Beast-Warrior type, log into the flash version and save your cards from there. These problems are exclusive to the html5 version for some reason.
C) THE EFFECT
This one is gonna be huge, so we might as well bring up the basics first.
USE PROPER PROBLEM SOLVING CARD TEXT (or PSCT for short). I cannot possibly stress this enough. Noone wants to read entire paragraphs without proper formats/terminology. In general, text seen in modern irl cards, is the basic guideline for how you should be writing your own. A few tips about that:
- “Deck” specifically means the Main Deck. If it were to mean the Extra Deck, it would say so.
- Everything left of “;” is a COST. Costs happen regardless of the effect being negated or whatnot, and they’re not part of the resolution chain, but happen the moment you activate the card. (PS: Technically targeting isn’t a cost, but for all intents and purposes you may treat it as such.)
- Everything left of “:” is the condition for an activated effect.
- If neither “;” nor “:” are on an effect, then it’s probably not an activated effect (for example: “Cyber Dragon“).
- “Graveyard” is now written as “GY”.
- “1 or more”, usually in the summoning requirements for Synchros, XYZ etc, is now written as “+1”.
- If you use numbers, it doesn’t target unless it says so. “Destroy 1 face-up card on the field.” means when the effect resolves, you will choose at that specific time, without a need to warn the opponent beforehand, what to destroy.
- Numbers are written with their numerical letters, and not as full words. You will write “5”, not “five”.
- “When X: You can..:” is an effect that can and more often than not will, miss timing if anything else happens at that time. “If X: You can…” does not. Use the second unless you want to deliberately nerf your card.
- If you’re torn between using “when” or “if” for proper card texting, use “if”.
- “Life Points” are now “LP“.
- “face-down Spells/Traps” are now “Set Spells/Traps”.
- Permanent effects (for example: “Warriors you control gain 300 ATK.“) are obviously only active while said card is face-up on the field, even if it is a monster. The card will state so if its effects work in the GY as well (hence why a card will say “This card is always treated as a ‘Salamangreat’ card.” and not “This card is treated as a ‘Salamangreat’ card.” The second effect would only apply while it is face-up on the field, and we cannot miss the easy searches, can we?)
You can find the full instructions for PSCT here.
THE MANY, MANY WAYS TO SAY “ONCE PER TURN”
We will expand on this later on, but with nearly 2 decades worth of cards, anything you make could be abused. This is the reason nearly all effects nowadays have some kind of limitation that only lets you use them one time per turn. Now, which cards actually “need” a limitation (surprisingly, it’s not everything) is debatable, but before that, lets give you the proper tools for limiting them. In the following examples, “X” will be the name of your card:
- “Once per turn:”: One of the first and most basic types of limitation. This means that while that specific card is face-up on the field, you can only use that effect once per turn. An example of this is “Abarane Ushioni“. So, if you normal summon “Abarane Ushioni”, you get to activate its effect once per turn. This basic “Once per turn” limitation though only refers to that specific card that is currently face-up on the field. So, if you summon a second “Abarane Ushioni”, you can use the second one’s effect properly. Alternatively, if you remove the first “Abarane Ushioni” from the field (for example with “Dark Hole“) and then bring it back (for example with “Monster Reborn“), then you can use his effect again. Nowadays “Once per turn” is mostly used for limiting continuous spells/traps that are not searchable, or do not do anything mind-blowing. Keep in mind that it is completely pointless to use this wording on cards that will not stay on the field, for example normal Spells/Traps or effects of discarded monsters.
- “You can only activate 1 X per turn.”: Mostly used for spells/traps, this texting means that you can only activate 1 copy of the card per turn. So, even if you have 2 “Zefra Providence” in your hand (or face-down on the field), only one can be activated per turn. This is surprisingly less limiting than you would think, as activating a card and activating ITS EFFECTS are 2 completely different things. When banishing a card from the GY to use its effect, for example the aforementioned “Zefra Providence”, you are NOT activating the card itself, but its effects instead (in the case of “Zefra Providence” not even an effect is activated but that’s another can of worms). In other words, if you have 2 “Zefra Providence” in your hand you can only use 1 of them to add per turn, but if you have 2 of them in the GY, you can use both of them on the same turn to protect your “Zefra” cards. Obviously if you add a card with “Zefra Providence”, then on the same turn your opponent would destroy a “Zefra” card you control with a card effect (“Mystical Space Typhoon” for example), you can use the same “Zefra Providence” you played this turn to protect your card. In another example, a card like “Hidden City” only prevents you from playing another copy of it with this limitation (basically to block you from adding). Once “Hidden City” is face-up on your field, you can use all 3 of its effects (if possible) on the same turn.
- “You can only use this effect of X once per turn”: This limitation is always written right below the effect mentioned. “Dark Contract with the Gate” has this limitation, meaning you can only activate this effect to add once per turn, but you can add as many copies of “Dark Contract with the Gate” as you want per turn, so long as you only use the adding effect once. This limitation only works for ACTIVATED effects, and as we mentioned earlier, “:” and “;” are used to signify activated effects. Therefore, if you play “Archfiend Palabyrinth“, activate its effect to summon an “Archfiend” from the Deck and then activate another “Archfiend Palabyrinth”, replacing the first one, the 500 ATK bonus WORKS NORMALLY. This kind of limitation, along with the one below (which is basically an extension of this), is the most commonly used limitation today, as it is absolute. Regardless of where the card goes or how many copies you have, you can only use the effect of X once per turn. There are very few ways to cheat this system, and that is usually by having a different card copy the effects of the card with the limitation. Spellbooks do this with “Spellbook of the Master“, as the limitation is placed on the NAME of the card, not the effect itself.
- “You can only use each effect of X once per turn”: Basically an extension of the above limitation, but placed on all the ACTIVATED effects of the card. “Altergeist Multifaker” is one of the most infamous examples of this, as you can use her first effect to special summon her from the hand, then immediately trigger her second effect because she was special summoned, even if it was by her own effect. You will be using #3 and this the most.
- “You can only use 1 effect of X per turn, and only once that turn.”: This means the card has 2 (or more) effects you could possibly use, and you are only allowed to use 1 of them per turn. The whole “Burning Abyss” archetype works with this, forcing you to choose between free special summoning them from the hand OR their GY effect. Due to the second half of the limitation, you can only use the chosen effect once as well. In the case of the linked “Graff” for example, if you special summon him from your hand with his effect, you cannot use his effect to summon something from the deck later, when “Dante” detaches him.
- “You can only use 1 effect of X per turn”: A twist of mine to the above limitation, this lets you use 1 of the card’s effects per turn, but as many times as you want. Obviously you should be careful when using this kind of effect, as with any effect that does not limit itself to once per turn. That’s where the conditions (reminder: everything left of “:”) and the costs (reminder: everything left of “;”) come into play. For example, see my “Vurko Slime Leakage“, which is NOT part of the archetype it supports, aka it is not searchable/recyclable (more on that kind of self-limiting later).
- “effect” + “You cannot do the kind of effect you just did for the rest of the turn.”: This is a much harsher restriction than the ones we have seen until now, as it completely locks you from doing certain actions for the rest of the turn, not just playing a specific card. “Pendulum Halt” is an example of this. After activating this (and going to a sweet +1), you cannot activate ANY card that would make you add cards from your deck to your hand for the rest of the turn. So after playing “Pendulum Halt” the “Upstart Goblin” in your hand is useless for the rest of the turn. Personally I use this kind of limitation on the cards that are easier to use on each deck, to make them more fair. For example, my “Swambush Dryad” is a Link 1, meaning it is easy to summon, and her effect lets me do an archetype spell/trap search practically for free. With her limitation, I can ensure she is not abused, as she is the last searching I will do in the turn.
- “You can only use this effect/activate the effect of X once per duel.“: Used to limit things that are usually way too convenient for their own good. “Spore” and “Glow-up Bulb” got this treatment, as they were cards that could be played from the GY with no real cost, giving a player free materials for more summons. As you can imagine, this is the ultimate form of limitation for a single card. You simply can’t do that effect again in the same game.
- “You can only resolve this effect-thingy once per duel:”: An alternative to the above, this limitation requires you to successfully pull off the effect you tried to use to activate the duel lock. “Unknown Synchron” is an example of this. If his summon is negated (for example with “Solemn Warning“), then you can attempt to summon another one with the same effect, on the same turn even. You can use this kind of limitation to ensure the opponent disrupting you does not lock you out completely without achieving anything.
Also read: Futuregamer’s Custom Archetypes Guide
THE GOLDEN RULES FOR SINGLE CARDS
First, an easy one, and one that Konami itself has been enforcing since 5Ds:
- Cards should never be a direct upgrade or exactly the same as already existing cards (exclude cards that were released in the first boosters from the comparison) (&exclude opponent’s card effects from this). Deck A can be better than Deck B as a total, but card A should NOT be better than card B in every possibly situation. 1) If “Monster Reborn” exists, then there should NOT be a generic Normal Spell with the text “Target 1 monsters in the GYs; Special Summon it, then inflict 500 damage to your opponent.“, as that would be a direct upgrade of it. 2) Similarly, if “Ookazi” already exists, there should not be an archetypal Normal Spell with the effect “Inflict 800 damage to your opponent.” that is also searchable by said archetype. 3) If “Mystical Space Typhoon” already exists, then you should not make a Quick-Play Spell that only says “Target 1 Spell/Trap on the field; destroy that target.“, even if it is generic.Taking “Mystical Space Typhoon” as an example again, you will see that for all the spell/trap removal they have introduced after it (“Galaxy Cyclone“, “Cosmic Cyclone“, “Twin Twisters“, “Double Cyclone“, “Dust Tornado“, “Paleozoic Olenoides“), none of it is a strictly better card than good old MST, they all have their uses.
- The more generic a card is, the more careful you have to be with its power. And vice-versa. A “Laval” exclusive Spell that says “If you control a “Laval” Synchro Monster: Destroy all monsters your opponent controls.” is fine, despite being an unrestricted version of “Raigeki“, because it is tied to its archetype, so being searchable/recoverable isn’t as much of a problem. Think of generic cards as the “general armor” that all classes in an RPG can equip, while each class also specializes in its own kind of armor, for example “heavy armor” for warriors, “light armor” for thieves, etc. Since general armor is accessible by all classes, it would be really hard to balance the game if said “general armor” was on equal terms with the class specific armors.
- Cards are in the banlist for a reason. You are not smart if you make banned cards as customs to rig the system, you’re an idiot. Stop it. And combining this with the above rule, creating cards even stronger than their banned counterparts (for example making a Normal Spell that says “draw 3 cards“, while “Pot of Greed” is banned) is plain stupid.
- “The meta is worse.” is not an excuse for making intentionally unbalanced cards. Ignoring that the actual meta is rarely as unbalanced as people think if you actually read the cards, this argument simply proves ignorance.
- Don’t make anything you wouldn’t want to face. Always imagine your opponent playing the card you just created. How fair does it seem? If your cards are properly made (aka with built-in weaknesses), then you shouldn’t have a problem facing any of your own decks. Along with this:
- Spells & Traps with lockdowns work for BOTH players. In other words, if a Spell/Trap unconditionally disallows an action continuously, it should NOT say “your opponent” in its text (this does not include protection effects for your own cards). An easy search in cards’ descriptions will reveal that konami has not released a single continuous spell/trap or field spell that specifically blocks the opponent from doing actions unrelated to your own cards, EVER. That’s 20+ years of yugioh history, for a reason. You should always be ready to be served your own poison. Even the most infamous lockdown continuous cards in yugi, like “Vanity’s Emptiness“, “Mistake” or “Imperial Order” always affect BOTH players. Now, you might build your deck around not having to use said locked mechanics, but simply creating a continuous spell for example that states “Your opponent cannot draw cards.” while you play “Upstart Goblin” would be both infuriating and unfair. (Monsters with lockdown effects only for the opponent are generally more ok, like “Thunder Dragon Colossus“, because monsters are always considered more vulnerable than Spells/Traps.)
- Nothing, ever, activates itself from the deck. Grow up. If you banish a card from the Maindeck or Extradeck at the start of the duel with its own effect, you have a valid reason to kill yourself.
- No card should ever unconditionally generate card advantage. “Card of Demise” has proven itself to be the epitome of bad design, despite the gazillion restrictions placed on it, helping cancerous decks generate card advantage they should not have. Avoid that kind of thing. No searcher should ever get to add 2+ cards at the same time, without having a very big downside to it or extremely strict conditions for using its effect. If a card increases the total number of cards you have in your hand & field, then you should be very stingy with whatever other effects it may have and place further restrictions on what you can play for the rest of the turn.
- Effects should never be able to lower the opponent’s hand balance on the first turn. There are no excuses for this. It is the reason “Deliquent Duo” is banned and is never coming out of the banlist, and “Apoqliphort Towers” was once in the banlist. You can go nuts with destroying cards your opponent controls, and you can use as many effects as you want for replacing harmful cards in the opponent’s hand (“Dragged Down Into the Grave“), but it is NEVER acceptable to lower the number of cards in the opponent’s hand without requiring actual interaction with the opponent.
- Give very specific protections, if you have to. “Unaffected by other cards’ effects.” is way too powerful a protection that NO SPELL/TRAP HAS EVER HAD. Even amongst the monsters, it is very rare to see this kind of protection given permanently and unconditionally (the easiest monster to summon with this protection is the level 10 blackwing synchro “Blackwing Full Armor Master” which prevents him from getting his own attack boosted by the effects of other “Blackwings”). It is also very, very rare for a boss monster to have battle protection. You can combine cards to give all sorts of protections to your cards, but having a card have full blown protections from both battle (if it is a monster) and from effects (for spells/traps) on its own is just idiotic. A card can give other cards protections, but protecting itself fully is just nonsense.
- Activations and Summons very rarely, if ever, have negation protection for themselves. In this, include preventing the opponent from responding. Continuing from above, activation/summon protection for oneself is also soemthing that very, very few cards do and should have. The Egyptian Gods, Star Eater and the Goddesses with the ridiculous summoning requirements are the only ones I have found. In the vast majority, IRL cards that say effects cannot be negated refer to self-limiting effects, like what the D/D and Deskbot Pendulum Monsters can summon. Again, you can make other cards that give such protections (the most infamous being “Altergeist Protocol” and “Super Polymerization”, which is usually a -1 at the very least, on its own), but this is a kind of protection that should rarely be used, if ever. Personally, I never use it in my cards.
- Keep your texts small! Use the PSCT rules to makes your card’s text as small as possible. NOONE wants to read 2-3 paragraphs to understand just what one card does. As a general rule, if your card text requires scrolling down DB’s text box after hovering the mouse over it (aka after displaying the box to its maximum length) then you are doing something wrong.
- Cards have 2-3 effects on average. 1 of these will usually be your archetype’s main mechanic, another will be a summoning condition or an effect that activates upon summon/activation, and a third will be the unique effect of the card. Add or take a passive protection to this, and do not count the OPT restrictions. The main goal is for your cards to be easily readable.
- The word “until” in effects that involve changing card balance is 90% of the time a recipe for disaster. The most infamous examples of these are “Evenly Matched” and the damned “Card of Demise“, cards that have been horribly abused by all the wrong decks due to how awfully designed they are. Avoid that.
- Be very careful with what effects you give Link 1s. Links monsters are the easiest to make in general, out of all the Extra Deck monsters. They are also probably the only Extra Deck monster that can be made out of only 1 card as a material. Since Link 1s can generally just come out by using any random monster of your archetype, you need to be very careful with what effects you give them. “Sky Striker Ace – Kagari” was infamously hit by the banlist, and for a good reason. Every time I see Link 1s with an effect to Summon a monster from the GY or that is banished, is generally a valid reason to quit the duel. Think about it: Links are kept in the Extra Deck, and are accessible at any time. If a Link 1 has the effect to add a card from your Deck to your hand without a cost, then that automatically turns Every. Single. Monster. of your your main deck into a searcher or otherwise a +1. Depending on what they add/Summon/do that may be fine, but you need to be careful about that kind of stuff. Also note Link 1s should also NOT be able to use themselves as materials for their own Summon.
- A positive triggered effect should be mandatory if possible, so that it allows the opponent to play smart. For example if your monster says “If this card destroys a monster by battle: You can Special Summon 1 monster of X archetype from your Deck.“, make it “If this card destroys a monster by battle: Special Summon 1 monster of X archetype from your Deck.“. Virtually nothing changes for your strategies, but it lets smart opponents take advantage of it. One of the worst designs I have seen is in the modern game is “Galatea, the Orcust Automaton” allowing you to just not set a card from your Deck if you don’t want to, after using its first effect. That is just horrible, even if at first glance literally nothing changes for the opponent. Do away with optional effects, and make your positive effects mandatory. Let the opponent be smart while keeping the same power level.
- Not everything needs to be an archetypal card. I often get in the mood to just make singles, so I can empty my “card images” folder a bit off images I have collected from Google because I thought they would look nice on cards. Naturally generic cards need to be a bit weaker than archetypal counterparts, but on the other hand you can pretty much run them on anything. Take my “Queen of Arrogance” as an example.
- Gambling takes balls. I am sick of seeing luck-based effects where all possible coin or dice results are positive, that’s f@cking stupid. Go through Konami’s list of luck-based cards, and you will see that literally ALL of them have the potential to blow-up in your face, or otherwise fizzle. One of the most infuriating arguments I have heard is that “luck-based effects need to be all positive to be viable”. Don’t. Do. That. That’s. Stupid. And. Cowardly. Approximately 50% of your luck-based effect’s possible results should be negative ones, or otherwise self-negating (that could be all Tails effects for coins for example, like the “Arcana Force” did.).
THE GOLDEN RULES FOR WHOLE ARCHETYPES
- Have only 1 unconditional type of search per card type (monster/spell/trap). An unconditional search includes: Activating a Spell card, summoning a monster with any method (don’t include normal summoning in this), just activating a monster effect with no requirements, a card discarding itself to add another. Generally things that do not lower your total card balance and do not require any interaction with the opponent. Giving 2-3 monsters the ability to search an archetypal card when they are just Special Summoned is broken (exempting if it is somehow your archetype’s central mechanic to search cards from the deck, but you would need a crapload of drawbacks to balance that kind of thing out). Likewise, having more than one card that can just be discarded and immediately search something else to take its place is purely broken, even moreso if it can search another searcher. Your Deck should only have 1 unconditional searcher for each card type.
- Effects that unconditionally search should be hard once per turns, strictly. (There is an exception to this rule: If the searching card itself is not part of the archetype. See the “Lax Rules” section below.)
- For god’s shake COUNT how many +es your deck has. A + is considered an increase of the total number of cards in your hand and field. “Pot of Greed” for example is a +1, because the total number of cards you have on the field/hand increases by 1 on resolution. This indicates how many potential moves you have left. I am sick and tired of seeing archetypes where every single card generates card advantage. You’re not smart when every single one of your monsters gives you an add or summon, you’re retarded. Stop it and/or cut your veins, I don’t care which.
- The main mechanic of the archetype should be clear. This is more of a suggestion than a rule, as some archetypes, usually the anime ones (say “Blackwings” or “Performapals“) do not have a central mechanic, but especially in customs, where it is almost guaranteed that the opponent is seeing your cards for the first time, it is imperative that it is clear how the deck works. This also helps your deck be more memorable. A helpful way to go about it is this: Make sure someone could pick any 2 maindeck monsters from your deck and immediately figure out what the deck’s mechanic is. This helps with the readability of the cards as well. A reader can immediately filter out the text that is common with the other cards of your archetype and go to the unique effect of the card. Going back to the rules for single cards: Do not create anything you would not want to face… And extend that to anything you would not want to read. Such is the case with almost all of my original archetypes [“Vurkos“, “The Endless“, “New Clear“, “Memories” (in their case it is the traps that feature the common mechanic, not the monsters), “Darkwood“, “Swambush“, etc etc]. If possible, all your monsters should have a common, archetypal mechanic, apart from their unique effects. If you can pull that off for the Spells/Traps as well, even better.
- Apart from the archetype’s mechanic, avoid making 2 cards that do the same thing. Say for example your archetype’s main mechanic is swapping monsters you control for ones in your hand. Having 2 different monsters in the main deck (or 2 different monsters in the extra deck) where both of which have the effect to destroy a Spell/Trap when summoned would just be silly. Make the effects different somehow. For example one could destroy a face-up Spell/Trap while the other a face-down Spell/Trap, that sort of thing. Only the archetype’s main mechanic should be strictly copy-pasted among different cards in your deck.
- Unless each negate effect covers very specific things, there should only be 1 generic negate. This extends from the above point, where cards should not do the same thing in your deck apart from the main mechanic. Even the most overplayed deck out there currently, “Orcusts“, only has 1 generic counter trap of its own, “Orcust Cresendo“. Same goes for “Salamangreats” with “Salamangreat Roar“. While I mentioned Counter Traps here, keep in mind this is not strictly negated to counter traps. Even my “Eye Sage“, a Deck whose main mechanic is negating the effects of the opponent’s cards, does not have a single card that strictly negates all effects of an opponent’s card on its own. The closest it has to that is “Eye Sage Titan“, and he only works for monsters in the Extra Monster Zone.
- Be stingy with removal that doesn’t target or destroy. And vice versa, feel free to create protection specifically against cards that do not target and do not destroy.
- Summoning straight from the Deck is not all that common. While Konami seems to be turning towards that direction lately, like generic counter traps, archetypes have at most 1 card that can Summon straight from the Deck. Do not overuse this type of summon.
- Don’t make archetypal support for IRL archetypes that don’t need it. You know what we’re talking about. “Lightsworns” don’t need more support. “Six Samurai” don’t need more support. “Frightfur” don’t need more support. “Elemental Heroes” definitely don’t need more f@cking support. An already busted deck having more ways to abuse its already broken cards is never fun or praiseworthy. There are enough IRL archetypes out there that could use a charity, for example almost everything from the Duel Terminal days, don’t give support to annoying decks that already work.
- Making exact/stronger copies of already existing decks. In other words, do not copy paste entire texts and just change the archetype name on them, that’s retarded. “Altergeist” are the most popular candidate for this for some reason. Just don’t.
- After finishing a deck, COUNT. One of the reasons I left Jaccs (discord server), was because the card approval team there just couldn’t get over their thick skulls that when reviewing a whole archetype, after seeing each individual card, you also need to check how many times the basic effect types (add a card from Deck/set a card from Deck/Summon from GY/draw a card) appeared in the deck. ~Naturally we exclude the archetype’s main mechanic from this. If an archetype’s main mechanic is to tribute Spells/Traps they control, there is no point counting how many effects allow them to tribute Spells/Traps).~ The fact that a card that adds is fine on its own doesn’t mean much when the archetype has 5-6 card search effects BY ITSELF. Repeating non-archetypal mechanics more than twice (and even once in most cases) tends to be REALLY PROBLEMATIC). Having 5 different effects to add the same cards from the GY is not ok.
- Remember that real cards still exist. This is combined with the above. The reason that your archetype should not have 5 different searches and 5 different Summons from the Deck, is because there are IRL cards that can already do that, and in most cases they CAN be ran along with your archetype cards. If for example you have made a Beast-Warrior archetype, you need to keep in mind that “Tenki” is also a thing, and it can easily be included in your Deck, meaning you already have a minimum of 1 searcher.
- See what the current meta is like. For all the bitching that people do about “Orcusts“, the deck only has: 1 Set from Deck, 1 Summon from Deck, 1 Summon from GY, 1 Mill, 1 Counter Trap and 1 potential draw card that noone runs. Same goes for “Salamangreats“, for all the whining of people, they only have 1 Add from Deck (and only for monsters), 1 Mill, 2 Summons from GY and 1 Counter Trap. Both of these decks are considered top meta choices with only these few effects. Do you understand why your Deck should NOT have 5 different searches and 10 Summons from GY in it?
- Noone likes Ritual Beasts. Noone. I wholeheartedly assure you, that amazing idea you had about a deck that focuses on banishing your cards, recycling banished cards and shuffling banished cards into the deck as costs and Summoning from banished or the Extra as a main focus, have all been done before. There are very few ways one can respond to the opponent’s self-banishing, hence why “Ritual Beasts“, “Psy-Frames“, “Thunder Dragons” and to a certain extent “Shiranui” are such a pain in the ass to deal with. Even when they’re balanced, they’re just annoying. If you want proof of that, just see “Invoked“. It only has 1 card that recycles itself from banished and that alone was the reason for it to be Tier 1 for nearly 2 years. Please let self-banishing be an actual cost, at least as much as it can.
As stated above, about the average number of effects cards have and how the main mechanic of the deck should be clear, it is of paramount importance that your card is easily readable. As such, you should write your cards’ effects in a proper order, so a player can immediately see which effect you are using. In general, cards effects are written on cards in the most likely order they would activate. Since that can be more complicated in monsters, this is what we’ll present here.
So the order of possible effects for monsters is:
- Materials for Summon (in the case of Extra Deck monsters). The typical “2+ Level 4 monsters” and the like.
- The archetype inclusion in case the name does not directly cover that (“This card is always treated as a “X” card.“), for example “Edge Imp Frightfuloid“. Keep in mind, in normal monsters this is actually written after the flavor text, not before.
- Effects activated by discarding/sending the card from the hand to the GY.
- Alternative to #2, passive name change effects while on the field. (for example “Amazoness Princess“)
- Conditions for Summon/ways of Summon from hand/Extra Deck. (“This card must first be Syncro Summoned.“)
- Effects that activate upon Summon. (“If this card is Special Summoned: Target 1 Equip Spell in your GY; add that target to your hand.“)
- Non-activated effects (passives) they have face-up on the field. This usually includes protection effects (“This card cannot be targeted by card effects.“), attack boosts, etc etc.
- Activated effects they have face-up on the field (“Once per turn: You can target 1 face-up Spell/Trap on the field; destroy that target.”)
- Effects they have when destroyed/sent from the field to the GY/when used as a materials. (“If this card is used as a material for the Fusion Summon of an “Elemental Hero” monster: Draw 1 card.“)
- Non-activated effects they have in the GY. (This is not all that common in the IRL game. A good example would be “Phantom Beast Cross-Wing“.)
- Ways to Summon them from the GY. (“You can Special Summon this card from your GY, but banish it when it leaves the field.“)
- Activated effects they have in the GY. (“You can banish this card from your GY; “Blackwing” monsters you currently control gain 300 ATK until the End Phase.“)
- Non-activated effects they have while banished.
- Ways to Summon them while banished.
- Activated effects they have while banished.
- Name-related restrictions are placed immediately after you have listed every single effect they cover. Take for example my “Starfriend Blits” from above.
- There are no “official” rules about the order of card effects, though there are obviously guidelines that are followed by Konami. Since the end-goal is just easier readability, you can make an exception and inlcude the archetypal mechanic part of the effect first or last, regardless of proper order, so the opponent can quickly skip over part of the effect he already knows and go to what makes the card unique. In the case of my “The Endless” for example, I would normally include the restriction each monster has “You can only Summon “X” once per turn.” ) at the start of their text, since that restriction would likely come into play immediately after they are Normal Summoned from the hand. However, I opted to put it at the end of the text instead, along with the other archetypical mechanic (“If this card is destroyed and sent to the GY: Target 1 “The Endless” monster in your GY; Special Summon it.“), since both are common texts in all of “The Endless”, and I wouldn’t want the opponent to have to read “common text” -> “unique text” -> “common text”.
While there are exceptions, in general there are some specific, generic effects that you want your deck’s monsters to pull off (preferrably with only 1 card achieving each of these). Quite often, Konami’s archetypal cards are basically a combination of the unique archetype mechanic + 1 of these, for each monster, since the monsters are usually the most searchable type of card in the deck, and the most easy to both use and be countered, making them more fair than spells/traps. It is an easy way to make cards, it covers most of your deck’s basic needs to counter the opponent, and it still leaves room for creativity.
- The searcher. Quite obvious, the archetypal searcher is almost always needed, in every deck. Usually the card you’ll be running X3.
- Monster destroyer. An effect that targets a monster on the field (or doesn’t target it but is more restrictive), and makes it go boom. Usually the card you end up running 1-of in your irl decks, but is still needed in case the opponent summons something weird and you’re too afraid to take it out completely.
- Spell/Trap destroyer. Similar to the above, this is the generic backrow remover. You will usually be running this X2. Personally, I often make a distinction between face-up and face-down spells/traps, and have 2 different cards for those.
- The negate till End Phase. Less destructive, equally protective, usually an X2. Targets a face-up card your opponent controls (usually not a quick-effect) and negates it till the end of turn, without destroying it.
- The summon from GY. Quite often decks will leave this effect to spells/traps instead of monsters, but others will prefer leaving their swarming entirely to monsters.
- The tuner/fusioner. Leave that out for decks that focus on Xyz Summoning, but other decks will quite often have a maindeck monster that specifically focuses on getting the extra deck monster out.
- The GY removal. Usually an once per turn effect (and not a quick one) that targets a card in the GYs (more often than not your opponent’s) and banish a card. Useful for disrupting annoying plays and almost mandatory in today’s game.
- The protector. His effect protects your other archetypal cards from destruction or removal from targets (or maybe against effects that don’t target AND don’t destroy) (see the image below as an example). Usually an X1, that you want to be able to Summon quickly from the hand or GY with some kind of effect, so that you can use his passive protection as a disruption.
- The miller. One I rarely use personally, this works similar to the searcher, sending a specific card directly from your Deck to the GY, and is usually a key play-enabler.
Remember, the end goal is to reduce the opponent’s headaches.
We have been talking about what you should not do all this time, what you need to desperately avoid, and what you should “probably” avoid, but there are times when you can be a bit more lax with the effects you’re using.
- Field Spells: In general, Field Spells in Yugioh are known to often be the single best card of most archetypes. It is mostly considered OK for a field spell to generate card advantage on its own (just don’t overdo it), like adding 1 card of its archetype to your hand upon activation, apart from the rest of its effects. SInce each player can only control 1 Field Spell at the time, there is less chance of them being abused, by running multiple copies, so you can be a bit more lax with them. It is also generally OK if the Field Spell adds the card that can also search it back, assuming at least one of them is a hard opt.
- Searchers that are not part of the archetype they support. A quite easy way to balance your own Deck, making sure your own searchers are not easily searchable/recyclable is a good way to keep your Deck fair. “Gem-Knights” use “Absorb Fusion” for this, “Crystal Beasts” use “Rainbow Bridge“, etc etc. When using such cards, you can even do away with the once per turn restrictions, despite them being unconditional searchers.
- When destroying monsters by battle: Both forcing the opponent to discard and Summoning straight from the Deck are generally considered OK if the condition for them is first winning a battle against an opponent’s monsters. Same goes for searching.
- When inflicting battle damage: Same as above, Summoning from the Deck, searching, making the opponent discard etc. are ok if the condition is for you first to deal battle damage to your opponent. They have had all the chances to respond. Good old “White Magical Hat” is perfectly fine as-is.
- Adding cards from the GY/face-up from the Extra Deck to the hand. It is not rare for an archetypal or attribute/type specific recycling card to add more than 1 card from the ones you have already used back to your hand. Though it generates card advantage, it is far less problematic than fetching new cards from your Deck, while also giving the opponent a chance to respond, as cards in the GY are far more vulnerable than cards in the Deck. Good examples of this are “Salvage“, “Qlimate Change” or “Quick Charger“.
- What sub-types do. Sub-types are “Tuner”, “Toon”, “Gemini”, “Union”, and “Spirit”, the thing Duelingbook calls “Ability” in its card creation screen. Though there are some things that you are used to seeing on them (for example geminis requiring a second Normal Summon to get their full effect), these are just parts of the effects of the already released cards, and not absolute rules included in the rulebook. Konami themselves have changed their mind 6-7 times about how Toon monsters actually work, and a few less times for Unions. As long as you keep the theme somewhat close to the original, it is ok to be creative with how to use these sub-types. For example the “Loa” monsters I have created in my “Voodoo” Deck do not have the typical “Cannot be Special Summoned.” restriction that we are used to seeing in Spirits, but instead their End Phase bounce has been upgraded from working on the turn they are Normal Summoned to working on every single End Phase. This is keeping with the theme of Spirits, without restricting oneself to frankly outdated mechanics that require extensive card texts, workarounds and low-key broken cards to actually be playable (for example “Shinobaroness Peacock“).
- When relying on a specific IRL weak card. Many of my archetypes work on that premise, like my “Succubi” with “Block Attack“. Playing such cards with limited restrictions is generally not problematic.
- Just including generic weak cards in general. If a card thematically fits your deck (for example my “Timeless“, who are golems (earth rocks) use “Fissure” and “Earthquake“), and it is a weak TCG card, why not make it ~kinda~ part of the archetype? No need to focus on it with your entire deck, just make a specific member of the archetype able to search it in some way (for example the only card related to “Call of the Haunted” in my “Hount” Deck is “Hount of Halley“, but it still a nice bonus. You are just employing another weapon at your disposal, you’re not making some game-breaking play. You don’t even have to count it in the general searches of the Deck. I have found that specifically “Set 1 “X” from your Deck or GY.” seems to be the best search text for this. You probably don’t even need opt restrictions for this.
- When effects concern Normal Monsters. Normal monsters are much more straightforward and have far fewer surprises for the opponent to deal with, and as a result are generally more OK to mess around with. Cards like “Dark Factory of Mass Production“, “Unexpected Dai” and the gravely underestimated “Tri-Wight” are proof enough of this.
- When effects work in the End Phase. Basically the premise of my entire “Vurko” Deck, which were in turn inspired by the IRL “Rokket” archetype. “Vurkos” self-resurrect from the GY during the End Phase if they were properly destroyed first, and “Rokkets” Summon monsters straight from the Deck to replace themselves. The difference is that both of these happen in the End Phase, giving the opponent an entire turn to respond before you get a chance to use them as materials for Summoning something bigger and potentially more dangerous from your Extra Deck. In an even more recent example, the new “Curse Necrofear” work with a similar premise, freely resurrecting itself during the End Phase.
- The more specifc the punishment, the harsher it can be. The premise of my “Eviland of Wants” Deck, which uses handtraps that severly punish very specific things when they happen. Also the premise of my “Power World” Deck’s Extra Deck monsters, whose Link 1s exclusively punish nonsense like unaffectedness and destruction protection. A counter trap that says “Negate your opponent’s card effect if you control an “X” Link Monster.” for example is not something that can afford to punish heavily, but a counter trap that says “If an opponent’s Normal Spell Card is activated that would Special Summon a monster from the Deck: Negate that effect and banish that card, then inflict 1000 damage to your opponent, also your opponent cannot Special Summon from the hand until the End Phase.” is actually acceptable since you are punishing a very specific thing instead of any card the opponent could possibly have. As an example of this, see “Rebound“.
- Effects when used as Fusion Materials. This also applies to a lesser extent for other kinds of materials, but even moreso for Fusion Materials, especially if there are no Contact Fusion shenanigans. Good old fashioned “poly” Fusion makes you go -2 at the very least, so triggering a few free effects from that is not a problem, and for the most part should not even need opt restrictions.
- When effects are mandatory. Depending on the effect you might even use this to get rid of opt limitations. “If this card is Special Summoned: Target 1 Spell/Trap on the field; destroy that target.” is an effect that will happen every time the monster is Special Summoned, even if the opponent has no backrow but you do. As we said above, it allows the opponent to play smart, making your strongest cards backfire with good plays. My “Purity of Nothingness” deck uses this theme heavily.
Look, of course making custom cards is complicated. It’s as complicated for us as it is for Konami, as it should be. Yugi is a hobby, and like all hobbies it takes time and energy to master. If there are 2 things you need to keep from this article, the first is to have proper PSCT in your cards, and the second is to never make cards you would not enjoy facing yourself. Lets not kid ourselves, the vast amount of customs out there are trash. But every once in a while, you find some guy who also “gets it”, and you have one of the most enjoyable duels you have ever had, testing your creation against his.
You can find links to all my decks in my Futuregamer’s Custom Archetypes Guide.