Yugi-Oh first came into my life as an edgy Kids WB cartoon in post-9/11 America. I officially stopped collecting Pokémon cards by then, and I wasn’t as interested in the show as I once was. While I did not follow the Yugi-Oh show right away, there were enough reruns on for me to catch up. Though the show brought forth (now comical) extremely dire situations involving the outcome of a children’s card game, it was the greatest show I remember watching at that age.
Months went by before the Yugi-Oh TCG was released on March 2002. Because internet was only used sparingly back in the day, I wasn’t really waiting in anticipation for it. Rather, I realized the TCG was out when kids started playing it in school. Kids had the Yugi and Kaiba starter decks, but I had my eye on the booster packs. Given I didn’t have a job in the 7th grade and didn’t get allowance, money was hard to come by. The booster packs weren’t cheap either, coming in $8 per pack, more than $1 per card! I scrounged up $16 one day for the class resident gamer, “Foss,” to get me 2 packs.
The next day, Foss had a bit of a deranged-excited look saying, “dude, you can’t believe what you got.” My 14 cards, opened from their original foil packs, resided in a transparent plastic deck case. The first card I saw was a rare 2000-defense fairy, Spirit of the Harp. I could tell that was a decent card, but I didn’t think it to be worth that much excitement. I slogged through a slew of literally unplayable cards (Yugi-Oh powercreeps by the first set). Then came the card my buddy was referring to. It was shiny and magnificent. Not only did I get the rarest card in the set, I got the rarest card I would ever get.
Tri-Horned Dragon is a card that likely has never seen competitive play, given it is powercreeped by the well-known Blue Eyes White Dragon in the same card set. But what did I know? I slotted him in my first deck, and any iterations I had, while playing against friends and other kids.
Eighth grade was pretty much dominated by Yugi-Oh from the get go. While we talked about our new acquisitions through the day, the daily action took place in the lunchroom cafeteria. I found myself dueling regularly, even participating in 2-on-2 game once. Yugi-Oh was so addictive that I even briefly retired from playing recess prisonball (a tradition since the 4th grade) to talk Yugi-Oh with Foss. I acquired a number of booster packs from the Labyrinth of Nightmare and Pharaoh’s Servant sets that year, and I typically was known as a trapmaster, who ran a deck with a number of trap cards or restriction-based cards.
By the time high school rolled along, nobody was visibly playing Yugi-Oh at school. Maybe it was a product of keeping an image at a new school. Maybe people tried hard to be cool. Maybe people lost interest. Anyhow, I never played Yugi-Oh in my high school. I still bought packs every so often for myself, with the hope that the game would come back some day. But it didn’t. Eventually, I found out of one of my good friends in high school collected Yugi-Oh cards as well. He had collected card sets a little past any cards I ever purchased. I wound up trading a Don Zaloog and holographic Nobleman of Crossout for a whole trove (100 or so) of cards. My Yugi-Oh TCG collecting career pretty much ended after trading 2 holographics for that whole lot of cards. I may have been content with where I was, and didn’t really have interest in collecting any of the new cards.
The Yugi-Oh TCG was the first card game I played to a decent extent. Eventually, my obsession with card games manifested itself into Hearthstone.