Market Watch: The Top 25 of 2017
Today we're going to tally up all the sales from over a thousand active Yu-Gi-Oh! sellers in the TCGplayer Marketplace, and then break them all down to see which cards sold the most copies. As always, that doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive cards or those with the highest rarities: we're going by sheer numbers, and in doing so, we'll get a unique understanding of what happened over the past twelve months, and we'll glean some insight into the direction of the game moving forward, too.
But first, let's recap the action in 2017 in broad strokes.
Twelve months ago when the new year kicked off, competition was largely dominated by three decks: ABC-Dragon Buster, Paleozoic Frogs, and Majespecter Metalfoes. The arrival of Raging Tempest in February ushered in the era of Zoodiacs, and as March arrived and YCS Seattle rolled into YCS Atlanta and then YCS Prague, Zoodiacs slowly beat Metalfoes, Frogs, Infernoids, and the new Windwitches into submission.
April saw the rise of the Instant Fusion and Elder Entity Norden combo, making Zoodiacs even more powerful. Metalfoes, Infernoids, and other runner-up strategies were still competitive, but Denko Sekka stomped Paleozoic Frogs out of competition, nearly ousting the deck from YCS Denver entirely. The Dinosmasher's Fury Structure Deck arrived to massive fanfare, but after making just a small impact True King Dinosaurs fell off the competitive radar. They were played at locals and Regionals and they were a driving force in the secondary market, but they weren't topping many events.
Maximum Crisis debuted in May, ushering True Dracos into competition as the new runner-up deck. But as big as True Dracos were, the release of Zoodiac Hammerkong and Zoodiac Chakanine led to utter domination for Zoodiacs at YCS Pittsburgh. Pendulum Evolution dropped in late June, but Pendulum Magicians made next to no impact in the immediate run: Zoodiacs smashed through WCQ's in three flavors – Pure, Kaiju, and True Draco – sweeping the European, South American, and North American Qualifiers.
July brought us Starter Deck: Link Strike and introduced the Link Summoning mechanic, as well as the rules revamp that came with it. Decode Talker and Link Spider would find some immediate use, but the biggest adopters of Link Summoning came with the August release of Code of the Duelist… where Zoodiacs grabbed Missus Radiant and ran away with competition again. For the players who expected Link Summoning to slow the pace of competitive play, a sudden shot in the arm for Zoodiacs proved to be a splash of cold water. Pure Zoodiacs ran the show at YCS Rimini as a result.
The Advanced Format wasn't changed until September 18th, which meant Zoodiacs were free to capture one more Championship, demolishing YCS Toronto in late August. When the fix finally arrived, Pendulum Magicians became the new deck-to-beat in most metagames… until SPYRALs took over with the release of Circuit Break a few weeks later, wreaking Zoodiac levels of havoc on YCS Dallas at the end of October.
Trickstars were the second-best bet for competitive success, playing the role of the deck-that-beats-the-deck-to-beat, but as players started to come to understand the power of Evenly Matched, SPYRALs just became even more dominant, spreading out into “Go-First” and “Go-Second” variants. Despite notable hits on the November F&L List, SPYRALs would lead competition for the rest of the year through YCS London, YCS San Diego, YCS Prague, and finally YCS Buenos Aires.
Now, we all wait with bated breath to see if a new January Advanced Format levels the playing field by taking SPYRALs down a notch. But with 2017 now in the record books and our hindsight 20/20, it's a great time to look at the bestselling cards of the year.
#25: Link Spider
The early acceptance of Link Monsters largely hinged on Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow, used to Link climb into Decode Talker for free. Players had to convert their Vague Shadow Tokens into Link Monsters to do that, and that meant Link Spiders.
Gofu's now Limited, but today it's become almost a competitive staple, and the second and third copies are now supplemented by Scapegoat. Both cards leverage Link Spider for bigger plays, and that's kept it relevant since its release almost half a year ago. Demand's been especially consistent since unlike most Links, Link Spider's often played in multiples.
#24: Lonefire Blossom
60-Card decks were big all year, even though they took a hit with the June Limiting of That Grass Looks Greener. Lightsworn Zombies were one of the biggest 60-Card strategies of 2017 and the deck's still putting in Top Cut finishes to this day, in part thanks to Lonefire Blossom.
The Maximum Crisis release of Predaplant Ophrys Scorpio and Predaplant Darlingtonia Cobra turned Lonefire Blossom into a Tour Guide from the Underworld that searches Brilliant Fusion: Summoning Lonefire and tributing it off lets you Special Summon Scorpio from your deck, and sending any other monster from your hand to your graveyard brings out Cobra, searching for Polymerization or any “Fusion” spell. That's a tremendously synergistic play in Lightsworn Zombies, which is loaded with cards it wants in the graveyard anyways, and can make great use of Gem-Knight Seraphinite's extra Normal Summon.
Like Rescue Cat before it, Lonefire Blossom's just one of those cards that gets better with age, since every compatible Plant monster makes it more competitive.
#23: D/D Necro Slime
The long-awaited Pendulum Domination Structure Deck was one of the most hyped releases of the year back in January, but it was also one of 2017's biggest disappointments. Despite success in the OCG, Different Dimension Demons did virtually nothing stateside, topping something like five Regionals in logged results.
But it took weeks for fans of the theme to give up on the deck, and the handful of successes D/D/D's did see always seemed to arrive just in time to lend a spark of hope. The result was a ton of speculation from collectors and vendors, spurred on by the milestone price points achieved by D/D Savant Thomas, and an even higher finish in the Top 20 from D/D Swirl Slime.
#22: Heavy Storm Duster
Packing a ton of curb appeal when it appeared in Code of the Duelist, Heavy Storm Duster flopped out of the gate in North America, but struck immediate tournament success in European Regionals and Championships. It was a powerful card in a mismatched era, hitting the game at a time when Zoodiac players were largely abandoning their backrows in favor of more combo pieces and greater consistency.
That said, it was obviously strong on a fundamental level, and its status as a low cost Super Rare made it an immediate get for lots of competitors, as well as the target of speculation from vendors. As of today Heavy Storm Duster has yet to see a price spike, but it does continue to appear in Top Cuts.
#21: Decode Talker
Debuting amongst skepticism about the Link Summoning mechanic, Decode Talker underwhelmed some players with high expectations when Starter Deck: Link Strike first brought it to our shores. Zoodiacs didn't need Decode Talker since the only Link they wanted was Missus Radiant, and other decks were struggling to compete. Some decks ran Decode Talker anyways, but the fragility of its negation effect kept it from living up to the hype.
Fast forward months later and it's now a staple in anything running Link Monsters; players now appreciate Decode Talker not just for its negation, but its use as a Link 3 beatstick and as Summoning Material for Link 4's. It's a must-own, and its status as a fan-favorite hero card from the TV series lifted it above Link Spider in year end sales.
#20: Ties of the Brethren
First played in Majespecter Metalfoes, Ties of the Brethren went on to top tournaments in everything from Counter Fairies to Trickstars – it was used in both decks to get to Barrier Statue of the Heavens and Honest simultaneously, two tremendous control cards that are tough to search otherwise. A seriously awesome play starter for dedicated theme decks, it packs just as much oldschool flavor as it has future potential.
The ability to pluck powerful control cards from your deck is often worth the price of admission all on its own, and the upcoming release of the Wave of Light Structure Deck could give it another push. The requirements for Ties can be pretty tough to meet, but when it fits, it can make a deck work that simply wouldn't be viable without it.
(Especially Magical Musketeers.)
#19: D/D Swirl Slime
D/D Swirl Slime was even more popular than D/D Necro Slime, and both cards worked together to create a tempting game plan for Different Dimension Demons.
Again, the long wait for the release of the accompanying D/D cards in Pendulum Domination never really panned out competitively, but the fact that the two Slimes weren't included in that Structure Deck drove massive demand as the enthusiasm and anticipation built.
#18: Pre-Preparation of Rites
The number 4 bestselling card of 2016 made the Top 20 in 2017 as well, which almost defies explanation since it's still never really done anything competitive. Some clever design work that placed Revendread Slayer's name into the text of Revendread Origin made it compatible with Pre-Prep, and that fed a ton of demand for it as players saw massive promise in the Vendread theme's first outing.
Sadly, five months of circulation hasn't done anything to bolster the Vendread theme's prospects, and Pre-Preparation of Rites has fallen back into obscurity. Still, it reprised its performance from 2016 based on sheer potential, and as always it's just one card away from greatness.
#17: Black Fang Magician
No theme, not even Zoodiacs, held a candle to Pendulum Magicians this year in terms of sheer sales. While Zoodiacs were undisputed as the most successful tournament deck for over half a year, the strategy only maxed out on three name-stamped Main Deck cards – Zoodiac Thoroughblade, Zoodiac Whiptail, and Zoodiac Barrage – and the high cost of Barrage was a barrier to entry. Compare that to the Magicians, where every card was under two dollars and most were played in threes, and you get a very different set of sales patterns.
A whopping five Pendulum Magician monsters made the Top 20 for the year, a testament to the popularity of solid tournament decks that players can build on a budget. Magicians may never have occupied the number of Top Cut seats as Zoodiacs or SPYRALs, but they were a huge factor in other levels of competition.
#16: Return of the Dragon Lords
The latter half of 2016 saw a tremendous push for nostalgia-driven cards, reviving the key themes from the early days of Yu-Gi-Oh. The response to that was so strong that it carried into 2017, with Blue-Eyes White Dragon decks continuing to top tournaments in the first quarter and scoring a handful of strong rogue finishes all year long.
Return of the Dragon Lords was integral to that success, reviving a beatstick for more muscle and then keeping it safe from both battle and card effects. When Blue-Eyes White Dragon decks were at their peak it was one of the most frustrating things to see your opponent play, because it did such a good job securing their aggression, blocking field wipes, and leveraging the control effects of compatible cards like Blue-Eyes Spirit Dragon.
#15: Solemn Strike
Reprinted in the Code of the Duelist: Special Edition, Solemn Strike is one of the few defensive trap cards still seeing play today, and the rise of “Go-Second” decks packing triple Evenly Matched has only made it more popular. Like Kelly said in a recent article, if your opponent sets a backrow you can probably guess that it's Solemn Strike; it's really that ubiquitous as a catch-all counter.
While Solemn Strike was a pricy Secret Rare in Breakers of Shadow, and remained way up there with Secret and Ultimate Rare reprints in the 2016 Mega Pack and OTS Tournament Pack 4, its Super Rare printing in late September brought it to the masses, and it's almost surprising it didn't rank higher than Number 15 on our countdown.
On one hand, the rise of Evenly Matched has led more players to secure their Turn 1 setups with Solemn Strike, but using Evenly Matched often precludes a player from running Solemn Strike as well. Still, the net balance has made Solemn Strike a tremendously in-demand card, and that's reflected in its Number 15 finish.
#14: Double Iris Magician
The second Pendulum Magician to make the list, Double Iris Magician unleashes Star Pendulumgraph and Time Pendulumgraph straight from your deck, both of which proved to be powerful card advantage engines over the course of the year. It's also a Level 4 for Xyz Summons, a 1500 ATK beater, and it doubles battle damage to turn cards like Performage Trapeze Magician into win conditions.
Again, price point for the Pendulum Magician theme was a big factor here; Double Iris Magician wasn't just powerful, it was totally affordable too, and it was played in a deck that was approachable even for the most casual of players.
#13: Purple Poison Magician
Similar things can be said for Purple Poison Magician. While its effect wasn't as important as Double Iris Magician's, Purple Posion was an integral low Scale for Pendulum Summons and even had enough DEF that a few players topped tournaments running Full Force Virus. By the time players had the deck figured out, Purple Poison's role as a must-run three-of was a lock.
#12: Lost Wind
It's tough to overstate the impact of Paleozoic Frogs on the early weeks of competition in 2017, even if it's a bit tough to remember that far back into the beginning of the Zoodiac era. Lost Wind was an under-the-radar pick when it arrived alongside more hyped releases in Raging Tempest, but it quickly fell into place in Paleozoics. A double dose of act-right in the face of monster effect combos and Zoodiac Drident, Lost Wind proved to be surprisingly powerful, and for weeks it almost felt like a must-own on the same level as the most popular hand traps.
An easy-to-find regular rare, it never fell into short supply and it popped up in a lot of different places. It's still one of the most unique cards of the year, and while you may not have guessed it would wind up so high on the list, it's not surprising to see it at Number 12.
#11: Missus Radiant
For weeks and weeks, Missus Radiant was the only Link Monster that mattered. Fresh off the Forbidding of Elder Entity Norden, Zoodiacs adopted Missus Radiant to make equally crazy combos and barely skipped a beat in their reign of terror. Even today, it still sees lots of play thanks to the rise of Scapegoat. It's one of the best Link Monsters in the game for building a simple field, and it's still just as easy to make.
#10: Harmonizing Magician
Still a common sight in our biweekly Market Watch Top 10's, Harmonizing Magician proved to be one of the best Tuners ever printed. It's searchable, great on card economy, and gets you to a wealth of generic Synchro Monsters like PSY-Framelord Omega and Scarlight Red Dragon Archfiend, and specialized Summons like Enlightenment Paladin and Beelze of the Diabolic Dragons.
If that all sounds familiar, it's because I was literally writing those same things this past week in our latest Monday Market Watch. The enthusiasm for Harmonizing Magician still runs high even half a year after its debut.
#9: Instant Fusion
If there was a more terrifying, consistent play than Instant Fusion into Elder Entity Norden this year, I'm not sure what it was. Zoodiacs were frighteningly powerful right out of the gates, but the deck shattered all concepts of power ceilings when Instant Fusion and Norden joined the mix. The fact that it took several weeks for Instant Fusion to become the standard in Zoo was mindboggling – for a shocking length of time, it was the competitive community's best kept secret. But that couldn't last forever, and once the cat was out of the bag everyone and their mother was running three copies.
Add in some continued utility thanks to Predaplant Darlingtonia Cobra and Sea Monster of Theseus and you've got one of the biggest cards of the year. Instant Fusion defined one of the year's fiercest eras of competition, and the result was tremendous demand.
#8: Predaplant Ophrys Scorpio
Speaking of Scorpio, it actually outsold Instant Fusion. While 60-Card decks never reached the same levels of play as Zoodiacs in their prime, Predaplant Ophrys Scorpio saw massive speculation the moment it was released; while Brilliant Fusion used to just be our house tech here at TCGplayer, the card's power level has been widely acknowledged for ages, and Scorpio into Cobra into Brilliant Fusion was one of the most anticipated plays of 2017.
The fact that Scorpio was just a regular rare in Maximum Crisis was either a gift from Konami R&D, or an attempt to balance the Zoodiac-heavy competitive scene depending on your perspective. Regardless, it was really easy to pick up, and tons of people nabbed a playset just in case. Months later it's still fueling tournament victories.
#7: Astrograph Sorcerer
Last up for Pendulum Magicians, the often-debated Astrograph Sorcerer.
Almost never run as a three-of, Astrograph Sorcerer occupies a sort of underpowered boss monster role in the strategy, and was frequently used to either beat an opposing push or build combos with Wavering Eyes. Its popularity has often been tied to the viability of Wavering, and the result's been a fluctuating sine wave of relevance across different spans of time.
Regardless, boss monsters move units, and Astrograph Sorcerer's risen to iconic status for one of the most-played decks of the year. While 2016 was ruled in large part by fan cards, 2017 was more competitive; Astrograph Sorcerer served as a bit of a callback to the spirit of the previous year and won more than its shares of games in the process.
#6: Interrupted Kaiju Slumber
One of the biggest cards of 2016 continued to be wildly important in 2017, too. Interrupted Kaiju Slumber was the 5th highest seller of the previous year, and only slid to Number 6 this year despite being Limited. Kaijus were everywhere in 2017, as both an answer to big boss monsters like Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King and an OTK enabler in Zoodiacs.
The Kaiju engine's still splashed into a wide range of different strategies at times, in large part for its utility: if you draw individual Kaijus it's not like you're drawing Gem-Knight Garnet. On their own, Kaijus are superior answers to monster-driven field set-ups. But Slumber's something more, often just a better Dark Hole with a built-in search effect that effectively makes it free in terms of card economy… converting all its destructive power into card advantage.
With almost two years of devastation under its belt, Slumber's still less than two bucks and readily available despite never being reprinted. It's a huge gem, and one of those cards you just have to own if you want to adapt your decks based on metagame reads. It'll be interesting to see if it's ever deemed too powerful for competition.
#5: Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
What might be the biggest hand trap of the year clocked in at Number 5, despite a price point that rarely dipped below the $10 mark. Ghost Ogre's been printed four times in four different rarities, and it's still a relatively pricy card two and a half years after its debut – the demand is that high.
The most impressive thing about Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit is how easily it adapts to different eras of competition, and how players adapt to use it. Even just last month, players started to use it with Emergency Teleport so they could see it more often (and make better use of it as a Tuner as well). It's powerful, versatile, and helps keep the game from spinning entirely out of control.
#4: Proxy Dragon
Back on the budget side of things, Proxy Dragon was the most popular Link Monster of the year, essentially a must-have for any and all duelists. A generic Link 2 with a half decent effect, it's unique for its role as an easy-access Left Arrow and Right Arrow Link, extending combos and creating some of the most brutal set-ups in dueling today.
Proxy Dragon's also great for Link climbing, and we're exceedingly lucky that it wound up as a Mega-Tin promo, instead of a pricy Secret Rare or uber-scarce subscription card. For now at least, there's just nothing else that does what Proxy Dragon can. It's easy to play, tremendously flexible, and a fundamental of Link Summoning.
Kind of like…
#3: Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow
For the past many years, every new generation of competition has introduced a new Summoning mechanic, and each of those mechanics relied on a particular “cheat” to make it relevant right off the bat. When the future of the game hinges on the acceptance of new mechanics, they have to be successful right away.
For Synchros it was Emergency Teleport and Destiny Hero – Malicious. For Xyz it was Tour Guide from the Underworld. And today in the Link Summoning era, it was Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow.
I'm not really sure Gofu ever did what it was intended to, but it's spun out of control to make overpowered things happen instead. Repeatedly, in fact. During the competitive reign of the modern Monarch deck, it was played to make Ultimaya Tzolkin so you could unleash some of the game's most vicious Synchro Monsters for free. It was abused in Metalfoes as well, in a similar time frame.
When Link Monsters hit, Gofu was run in threes to make 1-card plays for Decode Talker. It was important not just to push Link Summoning, but to give players an easy way to adapt to the new rules that might have been too limiting toward Special Summons otherwise. Gofu didn't just sell us on a new mechanic like Teleport or Tour Guide – it eased us into an entirely new way to play Yu-Gi-Oh.
Gofu's versatility just continued to grow as more Link Monsters were released, until it was eventually Limited on the November F&L List. By that point Link Monsters were ubiquitous, all the new rules were widely accepted, and Gofu's stopgap status was no longer necessary. Still, it sees a ton of play in all sorts of decks for its sheer power level, kicking off big plays and supplementing on-theme combos with play sequences of its own. It's a great card and I wouldn't be surprised to see it Forbidden soon enough, since it gets more powerful whenever adjacent Link Monsters are released.
#2: True King Lithosagym, the Disaster
Operating on a similar level of very purposeful positioning, True King Lithosagym, the Disaster was the only True King printed as a Super Rare instead of an Ultra. That meant it was vastly more accessible to players of all budgets. I've always assumed was done on purpose, since it was so essential to the True King Dinosaur deck.
The theory is that if True King Dinosaurs were out of reach of the average player, sales of the Dinosmasher's Fury Structure Deck would've suffered. Tens of thousands of budget players would already be struggling to get their hands on a playset of Dragonic Diagram, and adding another money card to the mix could've alienated those duelists entirely. By making Lithosagym easier to get, the powers that be created a situation where players could build a passable version of the deck with three copies of the Structure and minimal outside investments, then work towards completing the fullblown version of the strategy with Diagrams and everything else.
And to be fair, that's basically what happened. Dinosmasher's Fury was a huge success, selling out all over the place and giving lots of casual players a pain-free entrypoint to tournament play. We as players got reasonably priced cards; retailers got to sell through cases of Structures; and Konami got to chalk up another successful release with immediate sales and bigger event turnouts. It was a win-win-win situation, and it birthed an environment where True King Lithosagym, the Disaster just kept taking the Number 1 spot week after week.
#1: Pot of Desires
And following hot on Lithosagym's heels, Pot of Desires was another crowd pleasing compromise. After topping out at somewhere around the $100 mark when it was released in August of 2016, Pot of Desires was reprinted and included with every Mega-Tin as a shiny new Ultra Rare one year later. It was effectively the democratization of draw power, removing the biggest thorn from the side of the average duelist.
Sure, there were times when Pot of Desires dropped to $30 or even less; sometimes it just wasn't being played, especially in the early days of Zoodiacs (the deck just couldn't risk banishing important combo pieces). But regardless, it still bottomed out at about ten times the price of the reprint, which has hovered firmly around three bucks.
While Pot of Desires was met with some initial confusion and cries of “BUT IT'S A MINUS NINE!” early on, it quickly emerged as the single most important card to own in most formats following its release. Within a few weeks the only people who were still naysaying it were the ones who were simply in denial about the awesomeness of drawing two cards for free, and there was a golden period where it actually helped give everything that WASN'T Zoodiacs a bit of a rebalancing against the deck-to-beat. It's still drawing fascinating lines between the decks that can use it and the decks that can't, with most SPYRAL players opting not to run it.
Week in and week out, Pot of Desires was the Number 1 bestselling card in the TCGplayer Marketplace. In a game where players are often irked by how card releases are handled, this one was done so well it was a thing of beauty. Everybody who shelled out early got a full year out of their Pots, and by the time it was reprinted, it was an equalizing factor that helped keep metagames more open and varied.
So that was it – if you stuck with us all the way, you got a full look at the year in dueling, and some of the defining cards that made 2017 so memorable!
We'll be back over the weekend with more commentary and a look at singles sales from individual booster sets, but for now, let me know what you think of the Top 25 down in the comments! Was this list what you expected? Are there cards you're surprised to see here, or that you were surprised weren't here? Let me know your reactions below.