Yu-Gi-Oh! has been one of the most consistently popular series throughout it’s run. Its reputation is not just due to the various cards in its library, but the characters that carry them. These characters have dueled against the best of the best, battling it out for various reasons—whether it was diabolical or personal. In the end, it was all to gain the respected title of King of Games. So, who is ranked at the top as the best duelist? Take a look at our picks for the 10 top duelists from Yu-Gi-Oh!
10 Mai Valentine
This allured beauty has been ahead of the game, not just by her looks, but also by her prowess as a duelist. Mai’s deck includes her Harpie Ladies that have come in handy during her duels. She has become one of the strongest female duelists in the series with her exceptional Harpies collection along with her equip spell cards.
Despite looking out for herself, it’s her encounters with Yugi and his friends that gave her a change of heart. Mai was able to make it to the final four in the Duelist Kingdom tournament and in the Battle City Tournament quarterfinals, marking her down as one of the show’s top-level duelists.
Bakura was a mysterious character in the series, starting out as a friend of Yugi before becoming a recurring antagonist to his friends throughout the show. Just like Yugi, Bakura held one of the Millennium items that inhabited an evil spirit which took over his body with the goal of gathering all the artifacts for his own sinister plans.
His deck relied on casting traps on his opponents in order to go on full-attack mode. Bakura’s skills as a duelist earned him a spot on the quarterfinals in the Battle City Tournament, as well as facing against both Yugi and Kaiba. We only got to see him duel a few times, but he proves to be a formidable opponent on the field.
8 Noah Kaiba
Noah Kaiba was introduced as the stepbrother of Seto and Mokuba as well as the true heir to the Kaiba Empire. After an accident many years ago, he was confined in a virtual reality space connected to his brain to save what’s left of his life. He was the main antagonist during the third arc where he fought against both Seto and Yugi in his world.
We don’t get to see him duel that often, but, when he does, he proves to be formidable. His deck is mostly based on the Mother Earth when he went against Kaiba, while, with Yugi, he used Spirits to drain out life points. For being inside a VR system, you would expect for Noah to create the ultimate deck, but, with the little time we got to see him duel, he does show some potential.
7 Maximillion Pegasus
Who knows the world of Duel Monsters better than the creator himself? The President of Industrial Illusions and the main antagonist of the first arc is an expert in the game. Pegasus’ deck is also quite powerful using cards that haven’t been shown to the public.
His fascination for cartoons is what makes almost his entire deck filled with toon versions of regular cards. Even his Millennium Eye gives Pegasus the upper hand by reading into the minds of his opponents. He has defeated many duelists in his tournament, making him one of the most masterful card players in the game.
Rafael was introduced in the series as one of the henchmen of Dartz, another antagonist during the fourth arc. Rafael was one of the few duelists who managed to defeat Yugi during the show’s run. His deck is filled with Guardian-type cards, which use a lot of defense and support other monsters on the field.
Rafael’s tragic backstory of being stranded after losing his family in a shipwreck has motivated him to go to any lengths to win. Even though we only got to see him duel against Mai and Yugi, Rafael’s victory against Yugi makes him on the top of our list.
5 Marik Ishtar
During the second arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, we were introduced to Marik Ishtar, the second big bad of the series. Hailing from Egypt, he had a lot of knowledge on the game of Duel Monsters and it’s ancient history. Being the keeper of the Tombs, Marik rejected his role in order to take over the world as he sees fit.
His hatred for the Pharaoh resulted in the creation of his evil spirit from the Millennium rod. Using his Rare Hunters and even some of Yugi’s friends, Marik was able to control them using his Millenium Rod and duel against anyone with different decks.
Despite losing to Yugi multiple times, each of these decks Marik uses has a workable strategy. Whether it’s trying to summon an Egyptian god card or creating an indestructible defense, Marik managed to find a way to make it into the Battle City finals to become one of the show’s most powerful duelists.
The last king of Atlantis was the primary antagonist during the fourth arc, and we only got to see him duel once. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that he is possibly one of the most powerful duelists we had on the show.
Believing that only the Great Leviathan can save his people, he put his plan in motion to destroy the world in order to create a new one. It’s incredible that we got to see him duel both Kaiba and Yugi at the same time in a two against one battle.
Dartz’s deck consists of an exceptional strategy where he can counteract an opponent’s attack and redirect it into strengthening his monsters. If only we got to see him duel more than once, he would be a powerful foe to be wary of.
3 Joey Wheeler
Joey may have had many losses on the show, but it was his victories and coming out on top that makes him a better duelist every time we see him. Going from a bully in Yugi’s school to being one of his best friends, Joey has certainly grown from being just an amateur card player. Just his progress alone when he made it to the Duelist Kingdom finals and the Battle City Semi-Finals is good enough to know he’s a proper pro at the game.
He even got to beat Yugi one time, becoming on the few duelists to have that feat. Joey’s deck did rely a lot on luck with dice rolls and coin flips, but his prized Red-Eyes Black Dragon made him a strong opponent against the likes of his peers.
2 Seto Kaiba
Yugi’s main rival Seto Kaiba has shown so much hardship and intensity in his battles throughout the show. Being the CEO of KaibaCorp, he has always tried to stay one step ahead of the game by making it better so he can master it.
After losing to Yugi during their first encounter, Kaiba set his sights on getting better so he can be able to beat his rival once and for all. Only losing from the likes of Yugi twice and Pegasus once, Kaiba was able to come out of these duels as a strong duelist. His deck shows a lot of power, proving to be fearsome with his powerful monsters like Blue-Eyes White Dragon. He also seems to add newer cards every time we see him, cementing Kaiba as one of the greatest duelists on the show.
1 Yugi Moto
As the main character of the series, you can’t expect this guy to lose in a duel. Yugi has been so fond of puzzles most of his life, so it’s no wonder he’s a natural when it comes to Duel Monsters.
Winning both the Duelist Kingdom and Battle City Tournaments definitely puts him on top of the leaderboard as the best duelist ever. He’s even got help from the Millenium Puzzle’s spirit for some motivation. He got to defeat the world’s top duelists and even the game’s creator, so it’s no wonder he’s known as the King of Games.
In the beginning, he relied on cards like Summoned Skull or Dark Magician, but his deck has evolved over the series with friends and spellcasters, as well as God cards. Only a few have gotten the best of him, which says so much about how strong he is as a duelist.