The upcoming introduction of Link Summoning to the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG is a major point of discussion for most duelists. Some people have been digging for every tiny translated tidbit coming out of the OCG, and others don’t want anything to do with it.
Like it or not, Link Summoning is coming, and I wanted to offer my take on the good, the bad and the ugly for this new mechanic.
Let’s start with the big one.
LINK SUMMONING WILL NOT RUIN YU-GI-OH!
Every new mechanic has been met with resistance from a certain portion of the community. Just ask anyone who used to play Yu-Gi-Oh competitively.
“It was all good back when it was just Monster Beatdown/You needed Tuners/Special Summons were uncommon, but now it’s all Synchro/Xyz/Pendulum!”
Link summoning is no different – there are people out there who already really hate it. But what these people are really looking for is an “exit point” for the game. The common trend is that the most hate comes from people who are tired of the game, think it’s too expensive or aren’t achieving the tournament results they want.
Because of this, they are just waiting for a really good excuse to quit – and Link Summoning provides a convenient scapegoat. Now it’s Konami’s fault I quit, not mine!
In reality – Link Summoning will arrive, be not that great until they print a dumb archetype for it, then they will release the next thing and everyone will get nostalgic for Decode Talker and Link Spider. The cycle is never-ending.
The flip side of this – people think that Link Summoning will slow the game down. I don’t really agree with this, for reasons I will get into later, but I do think Link Summoning helps to curb one of the major design oversights of recent cards.
Yu-Gi-Oh, in its current form, is almost entirely about getting things for free. If you look at decks like Cubic and XXXX, they see almost no play despite having a ridiculous potential to outright murder you.
The problem is, these decks have no way to generate any free advantage, and if you can halt their big push, they often have no way to recover.
Compare this to Zoodiacs, who have shown up in every Top 32 since they were released. Most of their monsters struggle to break 2000 attack, but they drown you in free card draw, searched monsters, Ratpier summons and Chakkanine revivals.
This is a pretty consistent trend in the modern game, but helpfully Link Summoning helps to address this somewhat. The most successful decks are the ones that can easily leverage their advantage into a gameshot. Zoodiacs can search and draw heaps of cards, and that usually leads to enough free Rank 4 monsters to take the game.
Because Link Summoning requires you to lose some of your resources to access your Extra deck, it helps to make the advantage to murder conversion a bit more difficult. This also opens up more space for decks like Cubic, which effectively gain a head-start by not having to Link Summon in order to OTK.
Of course, this is only true while we have Link monsters that do not generate any inherent advantage, which leads me to our next section.
The mechanic is fine for now, but potentially broken in the future (Tokens).
Initially, I actually really liked Link Monsters. They are very similar to Synchro Monsters, but with the “put these in any deck” flexibility of Xyz Monsters. You have to turn two to four monsters into a bigger one, and if you use two monsters, then that big monster counts for two in any future Link summons. Neat.
The issue is, I can see the future. Let’s think back to when Pendulum was introduced. If you opened with five Pendulum monsters in your hand, you could use two to set a scale, Pendulum summon three and pass your turn. Next turn if they had been destroyed, you could get them back for free.
Plus, you had to have the right scales and you lost out to Spell/Trap removal.
Not too scary, right? Then they started to print cards like Luster, which gave a straight plus one in cards, and Plushfire, which lead to the DOCS Pepe deck. Throw in Skullcrobat Joker and Monkeyboard and you end up with an emergency Forbidden and Limited list to stop the Pendulum Rampage.
Links seem like they could easily head in the same direction. Right now, you invest your three monsters and you end up with your big Link guy. But Link monsters being able to be used for other Link monsters makes them so, so close to being completely broken.
All we need is an archetype that lands a Link summon for free, and a Link monster that acts as search/draw/removal and we would be well on the way to Brokentown.
My other big issue with Links is how unfriendly they are for casual players. Link monsters themselves are quite difficult to parse, requiring a combination of a certain quantity of monsters and a minimum “Link” amount (with regular monsters counting for one and Link monsters counting for their Link grade). Pendulums ran into the same difficulty, but that generally came down to the Pendulum player understanding their own deck, and answering questions posed to them by their opponent.
Link is a little bit different, because in addition to adding a new type of summon to the game, it also restricts some previous mechanics as part of the rule/field changes. Obviously a lot of the focus has been on how this affects competitive decks and players, but my major concern is for the children of the world.
Little kids have it hard enough in this game. They are often paired up against people 10 or 20 years older than them, playing decks worth more money than they have ever seen in their lives. Now, on top of this, I get to be the guy at locals who has to explain to Little Timmy that he can’t just activate Pendulum scales and set 4 traps any more, and he can’t summon Utopia AND Gem Knight Pearl, because he only has one Extra Monster zone.
These zone changes, by the way, won’t be reflected on his playmat, or the playmat of his opponent, unless one of them happens to win the Code of the Duelist Sneak Peek. Excellent.
That all seems pretty ugly, but I promised you I have saved the best (worst?) for last.
When I talk about the power level of Link summoning becoming too much, I am speaking in terms of the broader game. If you would like to address a more immediate problem, let me introduce you to Firewall Dragon.
Firewall is a Link 4 monster with 2500 and the sizable effect:
You can target monsters on the field and/or in any GY(s), up to the number of monsters co-linked with this card (Quick Effect); return them to the hand. This effect can only be used once while this card is face-up on the field. If a monster this card points to is destroyed by battle or sent to the GY: You can Special Summon 1 monster from your hand.
So in short hand, Firewall does three things. He can return monsters from the field to the hand, or from the grave to the hand as a quick effect, and he can also Special Summon monsters from your hand.
Traditionally, a lot of degenerate 800 step combos have revolved around just a handful of cards. Brionac and Dewloren return cards from the field to the hand. Grandsoil and Norden special summon monsters with no once per turn clause. Omega and Gustkraken disrupt your opponent.
The problem is – Firewall Dragon exists as a way to massively extend combos, as well as the card you use to disrupt your Opponent after the combo is complete. Also – none of his effects are once per turn. If you can summon Firewall Dragon eight times, you can add monsters back from the grave eight times and summon eight monsters from your hand.
This means that on his own, Firewall Dragon can let you build a ridiculous field, totally lock your opponent out of the game, interrupt their counter-plays and then hit them for game next turn.
He also isn’t particularly tough to summon. Outside of combos you would already see with cards like Predaplant Orphys Scorpio, you can also just activate a Scapegoat in your Opponent’s End Phase to have all of the monsters you need to bring out this beast, bounce an opponent’s monsters and maybe add back one of yours, plus more.
In conclusion – Firewall Dragon is gross.
Link Summoning is new, exciting and potentially very good for the health of the game. It forces players to think more about positioning, and treat the field more like a game board than a dumping ground for cardboard. It also comes with risks – but I think the rewards could be worth it.
Either way, we can all agree on one thing. Link Summoning is coming, and it will be here sooner than you think!