Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links preview: Rush Duels make it a new game that's perfect for old duelists
I’ve been playing Yu-Gi-Oh on and off since I was eight years old and had much less of a grasp on the rules than I do now - so you’d better believe that when Duel Links arrived, I was first in line ready to join the digital duelling world.
After six years though, Duel Links is changing, and Rush Duels are about to be introduced for the very first time in the Western world. The format has had massive success with a physical release in Japan, and thanks to the massively popular Yu-Gi-Oh Sevens anime, the card game seems to have landed on the perfect OTKO strategy to give Duel Links a new lease of life.
I was lucky enough to be given a hands-on preview of what Rush Duels will be adding to Duel Links, how the format plays, and the cards that we’ll be using to become the King of Duels as the title now goes (I’m used to the King of Games, but I digress).
Overall, Rush Duels are an absolute game-changer.
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Rush Duels done quick
So what is it that makes Rush Duels different? While Yu-Gi-Oh has dabbled with new formats before, with Rush Duels, it feels like Konami has landed on a winner.
In Duel Links Rush Duels, each player builds a deck of between 30-40 cards - a slightly higher number than you may have come to expect from Duel Links where the meta is usually a clean 20 - but there’s a good reason for this.
Duels kick off with each player on 6,000 Life Points and five cards in hand. So far so normal, right? Here’s where things get interesting: In Rush Duels, you draw until you have five cards in hand at the start of every turn. So you dropped your entire hand on turn one? Now you get to draw five more cards to get your hand back up to the max.
You might wonder how you could possibly get through your entire hand on your very first turn, but that’s down to another massive rule change Rush Duels brought to the game.
In Rush Duels, you can summon as many monsters as you want on your turn. There’s absolutely no limit on normal summons or tribute summons, which means in theory, you can get your most powerful monster onto the field in turn one, no problem.
And speaking of monsters, if you look at the artwork of the Rush Duels monster cards, you might notice they look a little bit different to the Yu-Gi-Oh cards you might be used to. Rush Duels are a complete reset for the game – you can only use Rush Duel-specific cards in the game mode, which means all the cards you’ve collected so far in Duel Links are unusable in Rush Duels.
While this might sound like a slap in the face of players who have been duelling since day one, there are a few very good reasons for this.
While one reason for the change is to give everyone a clean slate, number one is in the interest of simplifying cards - Rush Duels are all about simplicity and speed, and the card text has been simplified with that in mind. Effect cards, traps, and spell cards each have a Requirement to meet to activate the card, and then the effect it will have written on it. Gone are the walls of text modern Yu-Gi-Oh cards are often cursed with.
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A brand new start
Rush Duels will be a brand new start for Duel Links, resetting everyone back to square one with new cards and characters to unlock. It almost feels like a second launch for the game – designed to entice newbies put off by the complexity of modern Yu-Gi-Oh, and veterans of the game who prefer the old-school way to play.
It’s a refresh for the game in every sense, and starting everyone on the same foot means that players who missed the boat six years ago won’t have to play catch-up with players who have been amassing meta decks and cards since day one. Everyone is back in the same boat.
The good news is that the original Speed Duel format will still remain playable and accessible to absolutely everyone. Rush Duels aren’t designed to be a replacement for the Duel Links format we’ve come to know and love – it’s just a new way to play.
More cards, more problems (for your opponent)
So how do Rush Duels feel to play? In a word, satisfying.
While previewing the new format, I mostly played against AI decks, which weren’t exactly up to any kind of standard, but it still felt fun - and the strategies required definitely stepped up a level when we transitioned over to PvP.
The most standout difference for me between Rush Duels and Speed Duels in Duel Links, is how much it rewards aggression and getting as much value out of your cards as possible.
Holding onto your cards and trying to set up ridiculous combos for one-turn KO’s isn’t the game here – because if you’re aggressive enough, you can do that anyway.
The more cards you use, the more you can pick up, and the more monsters you have out on the field the more resources you have to spend in terms of attacks and effects to stack the momentum in your favour.
Let’s take the Sevens Road Magician deck as an example. Seven Roads Magician is the boss monster of Yu-Gi-Oh Sevens anime protagonist Yuga Ohdo (the character invented Rush Duels so it’s no surprise his deck is well-suited to the format).
The focus on the deck I played with was using the effects of cards like Mystic Dealer and Sevens Road Witch to send spellcasters you weren’t going to use and with as many different attributes as possible, to your graveyard. This in turn would allow you to get Sevens Road Magician out onto the field faster, potentially without tribute summoning, and power up his attack to even higher levels as he gets a boost for every spellcaster with different attributes in your graveyard.
It’s a very useful deck that encourages using what you have and pitching the rest into the graveyard where it could be more useful than just sitting in your hand. It’s about high-risk, high-reward plays to get all your pieces in place as quickly as possible. And while we only got to play with a couple of Rush Duel-specific decks, if they’re anything to go on, that’s very much the bread and butter of any Rush Duel Duel Links deck.
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The effect of this is that Rush Duels feel incredibly dynamic. Combos are easier to pull off since you’re able to summon as many monsters as you like and continuously trigger their effects to gain new advantages.
It feels like you’re constantly playing the game, that you always have some input, some counterplay, a way to keep the pressure on your opponent. It’s become a bit of a meme in Yu-Gi-Oh over the last few years, especially with the likes of Master Duel becoming popular, that modern Yu-Gi-Oh often boils down to watching your opponent play through their own deck for 10 minutes, and then you lose.
Rush Duels feels like the opposite. Momentum swings were constant in the games I played, and every turn felt like it could alter the flow of the duel back in your favour, especially if you were able to get your whole hand out and get five new cards to play with.
In Duel Links’ Speed Duel format, and especially in Yu-Gi-Oh generally, it can be clear you’re going to lose by turn two in some cases, and that’s a major downside to the combo-heavy game that’s been developed. But in Rush Duels even the direst of situations can be turned around because of your hand resetting, the lack of summoning limits, and the number of monster effects.
Because you’re constantly cycling through your deck, it always feels like you have a win condition brewing or a counterplay ready to spring on an overconfident opponent. It also means you tend to brick less (though believe me, it’s still very much possible), so there’s less feeling bad about the game and your deck when it delivers five cards you can’t actually use. Sometimes working out the best way to use your hand, or get rid of it, is a puzzle in itself.
Art of the Cards
And while I’m discussing the cards again, I just want to take a second to talk about how clean their designs are. Obviously, many of them are based on archetypes and cards that already exist in Yu-Gi-Oh, but not only are they easier to read and understand, the card art is gorgeous as well. And you’d better believe that each character's boss monster has its own unique and awesome animation that plays whenever you summon it.
But it’s not just new cards getting the love either. Legend Cards are a new level of rarity being added to Duel Links and are pretty much exclusively represented by the nostalgia hits from the old days, like your classic Dark Magician. The beauty of Rush Duels is that these old cards from back in my day actually have the potential to become viable again, with new support and new decks that they’ll work in. Sadly we didn’t see any of these in action during our preview but you’d better believe if there’s a way to make Blue Eyes White Dragon work in a deck again like the early days of Master Duel, I’ll find it.
Along with Yuga Ohdo’s Sevens Road Magician deck, we also got a chance to preview his best friend Luke’s signature Multistrike Dragon Dragius deck. Spellcasters vs. Dragons has worked for Yu-Gi-Oh before and they’re not about to change up that winning formula now, are they?
Truth be told, I found the Dragius deck a little more difficult to make work consistently. Its main shtick is that Luke’s boss monster can attack twice if it destroyed a monster that turn, so if you have two out on the field, you’ve potentially got 10,000 damage waiting to be doled out. It’s a powerful combo and a lot of fun. But for once in my life, Spellcasters came out on top for me.
When Rush Duels arrives in Duel Links on September 28, 2023, both Yuga and Luke will be playable from the start, as well as fellow Yu-Gi-Oh Sevens characters Gavin and Romin. Only Yuga will be unlocked straight away though, you’ll unlock the other three simply by playing the game normally, with more plans in the works to add more characters in the future!
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All in all, Rush Duels were an absolute blast, and has the potential to reignite interest in Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links beyond those who already play it regularly.
With new cards to collect, new characters to unlock, and a whole new format to learn, Rush Duels mark a real step in the right direction for the game as a whole. Doing away with the plodding complexity that has stagnated modern Yu-Gi-Oh in many ways, and focusing on fast, simple duels that really get the blood flowing.
Now, where did I put my duel disc…?
For more on Yu-Gi-Oh, check out our Rush Duels preview, as well as our rundown of the Duelist Nexus set.