Link Summoning: The Ups And Downs

Doug Zeeff

7/25/2017 11:00:00 AM
 Comments

It's a safe guess that everyone reading this article has already been introduced to Link Summoning. If you haven't, Konami posted a helpful video tutorial of the basics, as well as an article outlining many of the common terminologies you'll want to get used to.

I've played Yu-Gi-Oh! for a long time now, and I've never seen such an uproar over a new mechanic. Don't get me wrong: people freaked out over Synchro Monsters, Xyz Monsters, and Pendulum Monsters. But not quite in the same way that duelists have reacted to Link Monsters. And for good reason.

Link Summoning is different than all those previous “new” mechanics because it's the first one to make restrictions to general gameplay. When Synchro Summoning debuted, you weren't forced to run Synchro Monsters. If you didn't want to play Emergency Teleport with Krebons to make Stardust Dragon you didn't have to.

A similar thing happened with Xyz Monsters, although the majority of decks usually ran a few just because they were so easy to summon. Pendulum Monsters added new zones to the mat which was confusing, but once again you didn't have to play them if you weren't interested. Pendulums are actually a perfect example of players rejecting a new mechanic; they were by far the least popular of those three changes to the game.

I mention all that because I don't really feel that people hate Link Monsters, I think they just hate the Extra Monster Zone mechanic that comes with them. If you ever want to play more than one Extra Deck monster at a time you're forced to play Links. That's a big departure from what we've seen before, and it's got a lot of players all hot and bothered.

While I think it's too early to really pass judgment, I wanted to take today to discuss what I find the most exciting and the most worrying about Link Summoning and all the accompanying changes.

Why I'm Excited
One of the biggest reasons I like Link Monsters is that they're the most generic of all the Extra Deck Monsters we've seen before. Fusion Monsters are historically really annoying to summon, especially back in the old days. You not only had to have two or more specific monsters, you also needed Polymerization as well. That's a three card investment for one monster, and often the early Fusion Monster effects didn't warrant that much of an investment. Metamorphosis solved that problem for awhile, but it was Forbidden long ago.

Synchros made things a bit simpler, forgoing a required spell card. All you needed was a Tuner and a non-Tuner and you were in business. People quickly figured out that low-leveled Tuners were often the best way to go, with cards like Spore, Glow-Up Bulb, Fishborg Blaster, and Mind Master all Forbidden at some point. Still, there were many decks that couldn't afford to play Tuners so they couldn't use the Extra Deck as well.

Konami's response to that was Xyz Monsters, which only required you to run monsters of matching Level. Virtually every single deck could make Xyz Monsters, making them wildly more impactful on the course of the game than Synchro Monsters. What made them unique was the aspect of Xyz Materials, which often meant their high impact effects could only be used once or twice, unlike Synchro Monsters which tended to stick around for a while.

 Decode Talker
$4.50
$4.10
$3.69
Decode Talker138065
Set Starter Deck: Link Strike
Number YS17-EN041
Type Link/Effect Monster
Monster Cyberse
Attribute DARK 
A / D 2300 /
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

2+ Effect Monsters
Gains 500 ATK for each monster it points to. When your opponent activates a card or effect that targets a card(s) you control (Quick Effect): You can Tribute 1 monster this card points to; negate the activation, and if you do, destroy that card.


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Link Monsters push the envelope even further. The early Link Monsters usually have halfway specific Link Materials, such as one particular archetype or attribute, but overall they're just so much easier to make than Synchros and Xyz. You don't need a Tuner and non-Tuner, and you don't need monsters of the same Level. As we get more Link Monsters, it'll get to a point where you can make a variety of powerful monsters with any two Materials, similar to the vast Rank 4 toolbox we have now.

In other words, Link Summoning helps those decks that couldn't play Tuners or monsters of matching Level. That's an interesting concept, and I can't wait to see if it pays off in revisiting older themes.

Another thing I'm excited about is how Link Monsters make players consider where they're placing their cards on the field. I know the column cards from Cyberdark Impact were a huge flop, but I think that's because they were created with such little consideration for actual gameplay. Maybe it's because I've played games like Hearthstone where board positioning matters a lot, but I'm a fan of Yu-Gi-Oh! being pushed in that direction. It rewards skilled players that can think several plays in advance, and I believe that giving incentives to better yourself as a player is always a good thing.

Why I'm Worried
Of course, no mechanic is without fault, and I've already touched on the biggest problem with Link Summoning: you're forced to play them. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy trying out new ways to play every few years. But I think from a business standpoint it's risky when you force your customers to play the game in a certain fashion.

What I've noticed with the Yu-Gi-Oh! fan base is that avoiding Set Rotations is a great idea. Games like Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering regularly rotate out older sets to make way for new ones, but Yu-Gi-Oh! hasn't done that. Outside of the Forbidden & Limited List, you can pretty much pick up your deck from four years ago and play it at an event. I've always seen that as a huge draw, because you can drop the game for years at a time and come back with most of your cards still legal, instead of having to jump right in and buy all new cards.

With Link Summoning, you can't do that anymore. If you've ever tried explaining Pendulums to an older player you might realize that it's nearly impossible to get it right until they try it out themselves. Most of the people reading this article will already be accustomed to Pendulums, but it was a crazy idea when they were first announced. They're monsters and spells, they introduce Pendulum Scales, required new card zones, and go to the Extra Deck… face-up? Pretty strange.

 Link Spider
$2.99
$1.99
$1.01
Link Spider138067
Set Starter Deck: Link Strike
Number YS17-EN043
Type Link/Effect Monster
Monster Cyberse
Attribute EARTH 
A / D 1000 /
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

1 Normal Monster
Once per turn: You can Special Summon 1 Level 4 or lower Normal Monster from your hand to your zone this card points to.


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Link Summoning makes Yu-Gi-Oh! even more complicated, once again upping the barrier to entry for casual players. One of the plus sides of conventional Set Rotations is that it slows down the power creep, but it seems like with every new mechanic Yu-Gi-Oh! just gets harder and harder to understand. Link Monsters are the pinnacle of that trend because, once again, you literally can't avoid playing them.

Lastly, I'm a kind of terrified because Link Summoning (so far) seems to not affect the top decks very much, but it does ruin a whole bunch of rogue decks. Zoodiacs can still do their Hammerkong and Drident opening, True Dracos still do everything they want to, and Dinosaurs still make crazy fields given the right hand. The strategies that are affected are the ones that couldn't churn out more than one Xyz Monster a turn, and now can't make any plays because Link Monsters don't support their theme enough. Satellarknights are a good example of that because they're in the awkward middle ground where they can't spam summons like the top decks, but they also can't avoid the Extra Deck altogether like Demise True Dracos.

Maybe the argument there is that Satellarknights aren't a very powerful deck anyway... But does that mean you shouldn't let people play them?

Final Thoughts
Like I mentioned earlier, it's still too soon to fully judge Link Summons. They definitely have their pros and cons, and I'm sure once the initial shock wears off people will be a lot more receptive to them. Maybe we'll look back at all the reactions about Link Monsters a year from now and laugh at how silly we were.

I like to remain optimistic about every new mechanic. I loved Synchro Monsters and Xyz Monsters, although I can't say I ever got to experience Pendulum Summoning from a piloting standpoint. Those of you that have been following my articles for a while probably know I've shied away from almost all Pendulum decks except for Metalfoes.

Link Monsters are the biggest edit to the game I've seen, and quite possibly the craziest of all time. I honestly don't know what the next three years are going to hold, and I especially don't know where Konami is going to go from here. I hope for Yu-Gi-Oh's sake that they know what they're doing.

-Doug Zeeff


Doug Zeeff hails from Michigan and is currently an English major in college. When he's not found emailing Konami about why there's not a single walrus card in all of Yu-Gi-Oh! you can find him regularly posting unorthodox, unfiltered Yu-Gi-Oh! content on his Youtube channel, Dzeeff. In his spare time he enjoys eating cheese, Overwatch, and, of course, playing Yu-Gi-Oh. Click here to follow him and his adventures on Facebook!


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