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Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel’s release saw many returning duelists ready to put their faith in the heart of the cards. Most of those duelists got quite the shock once they observed how Yu-Gi-Oh! Has changed over the years. The game has become a complex but rewarding beast with a skill ceiling floating above the clouds.
Master Duel showers new players with currency to build the deck of their dreams, but these resources are finite. Unless you know what you’re doing, it’s easy to spend everything on a terrible deck that you can’t win with. The only way out of that hole is to wait a long time or open your wallet.
If you’ve found this article before that happens, hopefully, I can point you in the right direction! The decks in this Yu-Gi-Oh Master Duel meta deck tier list are all great choices to start your Master Duel account off on the right foot. This is backed up by their usage at tournament level. If you’re looking for the best decks in the game, you’ve come to the right place.
Bottom Line Up Front
The best decks in Master Duel are ever-changing. As a community, we are at Konami’s mercy as we never know when new cards will be added to the game. The Ban List can turn the whole game on its head, and unexpected decks can take the top spot overnight.
With how fluid the meta is, the decks in this Tier List may wildly change in the future. With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to invest in Staple cards like hand traps that will retain their value no matter how the meta shifts.
How Did You Choose What Decks Made The Tier List?
As there are hundreds of decks in Master Duel, it would be impossible to add each one to a coherent Tier List. I’ve picked the decks in this list based on their recent activity on Master Duel Meta. It’s not a perfect metric, but activity on this site mirrors the landscape in Master Duel quite nicely.
The decks in this Tier List are ranked based on power and representation at the highest ranks of play. As Master Duel is an ever-evolving game, it’s impossible to say which decks will remain relevant. Eldlich, for example, has been a solid choice since Master Duel’s release, whereas countless other decks have risen and fallen in the same period. Any Tier list is opinion based to a certain extent, but the decks featured in this list are a good representation of the current state of Master Duel.
The Tier List
In this section, you’ll find the Tier list along with my reasoning for each deck’s placement. I Have also included a suggested combo line to bring out each deck’s strongest monsters.
As this Tier list is based on representation in high-rank play, even strategies in C-tier are very strong overall. These decks usually have several ways to get trump cards on the field, so my suggestions highlight just one of many ways to do so.
S-Tier decks are the strongest in the game and will give you a fighting chance no matter what you’re up against. These are the decks you pull out when you want to win and climb into the highest ranks in Master Duel. Competition is fierce at the top, so I hope you’re prepared!
For lack of a better word, Branded Despia is broken in Master Duel.
Traditionally, even the strongest decks can be disrupted with hand traps which force your opponent to finish their turn with a weak board. That’s not the case with Branded Despia, as the deck has access to Branded Lost, which forces your opponent to sit and watch whilst you Fusion Summon your most powerful monsters without fear of interruption. Branded Fusion is a meta-defining card that allows the easy summoning of your boss monsters.
There’s so much this deck can do with its library of powerful Fusion summon targets, disruptions and negations. In the future, this may change, but for now, Branded Despia is one of the best decks in the game.
- Activate Branded Fusion
- Use materials from Hand, Deck or Field
- Special Summon Lubellion The Searing Dragon
Floowandereeze is an obnoxious deck to play against. Its power in the grind game is unrivalled, and it’s so consistent it barely needs an Extra Deck! Without the Extra Deck requirement, Floowandereeze can comfortably run a full play-set of Pot of Extravagance to boost draw power. The deck also has easy access to powerful Main Deck boss monsters, including Floowandereeze & Empen.
On top of raw power, Floowandereeze is easy to pilot. The deck took an indirect hit when Barrier Statue of the Stormwinds got the ban list treatment, but make no mistake; this deck is more than capable without it.
- Normal Summon Floowandereeze & Robina
- Activate Effect and search Floowandereeze & Eglen
- Normal Summon Floowandereeze & Eglen
- Activate Effect and search Floowandereeze & Empen
- Normal Summon Floowandereeze & Empen
Marincess favours a beat-down play style with reliance on raw attack power. Marincess Aqua Argonaut is the deck’s primary win condition, as it’s a hard-hitting boss monster. If the deck’s field spell Marincess Battle Ocean, is live and summoning conditions are met, Aqua Argonaut gets a massive attack boost and is unaffected by card effects!
Marincess is known for its recovery rate and how it can get constant value from cards in the Graveyard. This deck has it all; it can hit hard and fast or comfortably wait until the opponent has exhausted themselves.
Most Marincess combos have a huge amount of steps and will take time to learn. Marincess Blue Tang is the deck’s best combo starter, followed by Marincess Sea Horse. You can view the most common combo lines here.
I debated putting Scareclaw in A-Tier, but as the deck is potent, with tons of options, it can stand toe to toe with the best decks in the game.
Scareclaws have access to nasty boss monsters, including off-archetype ones like Virtual World Kyubi – Shenshen. The star of the show is Scareclaws’ Link-3, Scareclaw Tri-Heart, which forces all other monsters into defence position and is unaffected by monsters in that same position.
It almost didn’t make the cut because the deck is ludicrously expensive. The optimal build is over 1000 UR Tokens! Even if you spend real money, running Scareclaws at full power will cost you a fortune.
- Normal Summon Scareclaw Reich Heart
- Activate Effect, search Scareclaw Arrival
- Link Summon Scareclaw Light-Heart
- Activate Effect, search Primitive Planet Reichphobia
- Activate Primitive Planet Reichphobia to search any Scareclaw monster
- Special Summon searched monster
- Activate Scareclaw Arrival targeting Scareclaw Reich Heart in Graveyard
- Link Summon Scareclaw Tri-Heart
There are plenty of Shaddoll variants used in Master Duel, which dramatically change where they belong on the Tier list. Despia Shaddoll is arguably the strongest right now, taking advantage of the Branded Cards.
Considering Branded Despia’s strength right now, you know how powerful those cards can be. The Shaddoll element gives easy access to El Shaddoll Construct, a boss monster so strong it enjoyed a stint on the ban list. El Shaddoll Winda is another powerful option limiting the number of Special Summons each player can perform.
Despia Shaddoll is a busy deck that can play through disruptions whilst setting up a nasty board of its own.
- Normal Summon any Shaddoll monster
- If there is a LIGHT target on either players field, Activate Super Polymerization
- Special Summon El Shaddoll Construct
Swordsoul can be played as a pure deck but is more commonly used as the Swordsoul Tenki variant. Swordsoul is a superb Synchro deck, largely thanks to Swordsoul of Mo Ye with its unique Token generating effect.
These Tokens help the deck get into its Level 8 powerhouse Swordsoul Grandmaster – Chixiao and Level 10 Synchro plays. Swordsoul has the utility to deal with anything and is a powerful force in the Master Duel meta.
- Normal Summon Swordsoul of Mo Ye with another Wyrm monster in hand
- Activate Swordsoul of Mo Ye
- Special Summon Token
- Synchro Summon Swordsoul Grandmaster – Chixiao
If you’re looking for a powerful deck that’s easy to learn, few decks fit the criteria as well as Tri-Brigade.
Tri-Brigades play style revolves around loading the Graveyard with monsters and then banishing them with Tri-Brigade Fraktall. When this happens, you can summon Link monsters based on how many were banished. Of course, there’s a little more to it than that, but this grants easy access to your boss monsters.
Tri-Brigade Shuraig the Ominous Omen (that’s a mouthful!) is a brutal boss monster that boasts non-targeting removal and serves as the deck’s win condition. As the deck is adept at Link summoning, it has easy access to generic options like Accesscode Talker. Tri-Brigade can do it all and is well deserving of S-Tier.
- Activate Tri-Brigade Fraktall from hand
- Send Tri-Brigade Nervall to Graveyard and add Tri-Brigade Kitt to hand.
- Normal Summon Tri-Brigade Kitt
- Activate Effect and Banish two cards in Graveyard
- Special Summon Tri-Brigade Bearbrumm the Rampant Ravager
- Link Summon into Tri-Brigade Rugal the Silver Sheller
- Add Tri-Brigade Revolt to hand, and Set
- Tri-Brigade Revolt can be used to Link Summon Tri-Brigade Shuraig on your opponent’s turn
A-Tier decks outclassed by those in S-Tier but only by a little. Each of these decks can secure wins no matter what they are up against. They have weaknesses to consider, but these can be patched up with game knowledge and skilful play.
@Ignister is a fun, powerful deck that can throw out some beefy Link monsters. The Arrival Cyberse @Ignister is a superb in-archetype boss monster, and if that doesn’t work, the deck has easy access to Accesscode Talker, one of the best Link-4 monsters in the game. On top of the solid boss lineup, the deck is consistent, versatile and has a low card count at its core.
The low card count means you can pack the leftover space with disruptive cards like hand traps and back-row removal.
Although it doesn’t affect @Ignister’s position in the Tier list, the deck is fairly cheap to build in Master Duel and is an attractive budget option. Cynet Mining is a mandatory card to run at X3, but staples aside, the whole deck is affordable.
As long as your opening hand contains Achichi @Ignister or Pikari @Ignister, you can full-combo. It’s mandatory to run x3 copies of both of these cards. The combo has many steps and variants and can be viewed here
This prehistoric powerhouse is home to a devastating boss monster in Ultimate Conductor Tyranno (UCT). The deck’s strategy revolves around getting UCT on the field as quickly as possible, and as its powerful Quick Effect doesn’t ‘Target’, it can overpower almost anything!
Dinosaurs have access to annoying cards like their field spell, Lost World, making your monsters immune to targeting until your opponent deals with the ‘Jurraegg Token’ that gets placed on their field. Dinosaurs are feeling the strain of Power-creep these days, but they can still slog it out with the best of them.
- Normal Summon Soul Eating Oviraptor
- Activate both of Soul Eating Oviraptor’s effects to put 2 Dinosaurs in the Graveyard
- Special Summon Ultimate Conductor Tyranno from hand
It feels great to put a favourite fan archetype in such a high spot on this Tier List. HERO decks are combo heavy and have an answer to every situation in the game. There’s a vast list of Hero monsters that can do everything from back-row disruption to deck searches.
HERO decks have access to one of the strongest boss monsters in the game, Destiny HERO – Destroyer Phoenix Enforcer, a card so powerful that other decks will squeeze in a ‘HERO package’ just to use it in their strategies. The only downside to the deck is it dies to Nibiru.
Elemental Hero Stratos and Vision Hero Vyon are combo starters for the deck. The combo isn’t too complicated but does involve resolving chain links in a particular order. Because of this, I recommend carefully following this combo guide.
As the name suggests, Umi Control is a ‘Control’ deck that aims to prevent the opponent from properly playing Yu-Gi-Oh! The most common strategy is having Umi or A Legendary Ocean as the field spell and Ocean Dragon Lord – Kairyu-Shin in play.
Kairyu-Shin restricts players, so they can only have one non-water monster on the field. Most decks don’t use water monsters, so you can cripple many strategies before they can even get off the ground.
- Activate Terraforming
- Search A Legendary Ocean (run this instead of Umi)
- Activate A Legendary Ocean (reduces Water monster level by 1)
- Normal Summon Ocean Dragon Lord – Kairyu-Shin
Virtual World is a tough deck to learn, as a simple misplay can leave you with a frustratingly weak board. With a bit of practice, Virtual World offers a great toolbox of XYZ and Synchro targets.
Each Virtual World monster can be special summoned by sending other Virtual World cards to the Graveyard. You will quickly have enough material on the field to bring out scary boss monsters like Virtual World Kyubi – Shenshen and Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon.
The deck’s biggest weakness is how much it loves to summon, so if your opponent is holding onto a Maxx C or Nibiru, you can end up in a lot of trouble. With a good opening hand, it’s possible to play under Nibiru and still end with a powerful board which is why the deck scrapes into A Tier.
Virtual World has a unique summoning mechanic, but it’s complex. As long as you have 2 Virtual World cards, you can combo. As so much goes on, I recommend checking out this combo guide which also has Duelling Book footage. Combo starters include Virtual World – Lulu, Lili, Laolao & Jiji.
B-Tier decks can beat anything on the Tier List, but they all have clear weaknesses. As Master Duel is played in a best-of-one format, these decks can lose to ‘hard luck’ with little chance of counterplay. Solid strategies that won’t win every time.
For the longest time, Eldlich was THE deck to beat in Master Duel, and it was an absolute slog to go up against, especially when the game first came out. Nowadays, most players are wise to Eldlich’s tricks, and the deck has been notably power crept.
Still, Eldlich can slow the duel to a crawl and suffocate opponents with nasty cards like There Can Be Only One. Eldlich can play comfortably under Skill Drain, and Eldlich, The Golden Lord, is a persistent threat that never stays down for long. Unfortunately for Eldlich players, an experienced Duelist usually knows the deck choke points and will strike when it hurts the most.
- Activate Eldlich, The Golden Lords effect in hand to send to the Graveyard
- Set any Spell/Trap card
- Activate Eldlich, The Golden Lords effect in Graveyard
- Special Summon Eldlich, The Golden Lord
You won’t make many friends playing Runick as their win condition is ‘cruel’ for lack of a better word! If you’re piloting a Runick deck, your goal is to defeat your opponent by deck out. In Yu-Gi-Oh!, if a player can’t draw a card at the start of the turn, they immediately lose.
The key card in Runick’s strategy is Runick Fountain, which lets you use Runick quick play spells on your opponent’s turn. Those spells force your opponent to banish cards from their deck, so if they can’t deal with your Runick Fountain quickly, they will lose every single card.
Runick struggles against decks with solid back-row removal, but you’re in a good spot if your opponent has none.
- Normal Summon Cyber Stein
- Activate Cyber Steins effect
- Special Summon Hugin the Runick Wings
- Search Runick Fountain
- Lose friends
Prank-Kids is a dangerous combo deck with the centrepiece of its strategy focusing on two boss monsters. These monsters can be tributed to wipe out your opponent’s monsters or back row, but if you have Prank-Kids Meow-Meow-Mu in your Graveyard, you can banish that instead of tributing.
This is a powerful combo, but as Prank-Kids Meow-Meow-Mu is now Limited on the ban list, it can only be done once per duel, severely hampering the strategy. Prank-Kids is still a capable deck, but it’s a shadow of its former self.
Prank-Kids have combo potential with any of their starter cards in hand: Prank-Kids Dropsies, Fansies, Lampsies and Rocksies. The full power combo is complex but essential to learn. You can view it here
I’d love to put my favourite deck of all time higher up the Tier List, but B-Tier is fair due to the decks glaring weaknesses. Salamangreat is a fun, versatile combo-centric deck that throws out Link monsters like they are going out of fashion.
The deck has brilliant recovery and a couple of potent trap cards that are easy to recycle with Salamangreat Sunlight Wolf. Salamangreat is adept at Link climbing, so it’s easy to bring some dangerous Link-4s into play. I like Salamangreat Pyro Phoenix, but Accesscode Talker is the boss monster you should be aiming for, as it’s one of the best in the game.
Thanks to the combo heavy play-style, Salamangreat dies to Maxx C and Nibiru. Unfortunately, this is a deck that you can lose with before your opponent even gets a turn. It’s powerful if it gets going, but you won’t win every duel.
Most of the decks’ best combos are started with either Salamangreat Gazelle or Lady Debug. Salamangreat’s combos are intimidating at first, as there are so many steps. A great flowchart guide for the combos can be viewed here
Sky Strikers have been a fan favourite for what seems like forever. They have a unique strategy which will completely annihilate duelists that don’t know the matchup, and once you understand the deck, Sky Strikers are a lot of fun to pilot.
Unfortunately, Sky Strikers have been struck by the ban list. It’s nice to have access to X2 Sky Striker Mobilize – Engage! (A card that’s limited in the TCG), but Sky Striker Ace – Kagari is limited to just one per deck. You’re in trouble if your opponent is smart and deals with your only copy of Kagari. This weakness prevents Sky Strikers from placing higher for now, but with new cards on the horizon, Sky Strikers may soar up the ranks in the future.
- Normal Summon Sky Striker Ace – Raye
- Link Summon into Sky Striker Ace – Kagari
Most decks in C-Tier have fallen victim to the biggest enemy in any card game; Powercreep. In their heyday, these decks were forces to be reckoned with. They still pack a punch but feel outclassed in certain matchups. Decks in the higher tiers will find it easier to climb the ranks, so consider this before splashing out for nostalgia’s sake.
ABC is one of my favourite decks. It’s so much fun to pilot, as you always have options. The deck has access to a dangerous boss monster in ABC-Dragon Buster and has multiple ways of getting Divine-Arsenal AA Zeus onto the field.
Sadly, at least for now, ABC is outclassed by the competition, and it doesn’t have any explosive plays to crush strong decks.
Many ABC players eagerly await Therion “King” Regulus’s arrival in Master Duel. This boss monster gives all Machine decks a much-needed boost, but this is a dangerous waiting game, as Konami ultimately has the final say on when/if this happens.
- A-Assault Core, B-Buster Drake & C-Crush Wyvern in Graveyard
- Special Summon ABC-Dragon Buster with its own effect
Cyber Dragon is another personal favourite that sees some success in Master Duel but is, for the most part, a relic of a bygone era.
The deck can pack a punch with Cyber Dragon Infinity, a respectable boss monster that can steal monsters from your opponent’s side of the field. It also has a decent quick effect offering some valuable disruption.
Unfortunately, Cyber Dragon’s best boards aren’t as threatening as the competition, and the deck’s biggest weakness is OTHER CYBER DRAGONS! If you go against an opponent who’s slipped a Chimeratech Megafleet Dragon in their Extra Deck, you lose the duel. If this Tier List was on how cool the archetype was, Cyber Dragon would be at the top. It just lacks the power to climb in today’s metagame.
- Normal Summon Cyber Dragon Core
- Activate Machine Duplication
- Special Summon X2 Cyber Dragon
- XYZ Summon into Cyber Dragon Infinity
Orcust is another fan-favourite deck that made quite the name for itself when it was released in the TCG in 2019. Orcusts reign of terror ended with the banning of Orcust Harp Horror, and even though that card is only limited in Master Duel, there are a couple of other problems to consider.
Galatea, the Orcust Automaton, is Semi Limited and Girsu, the Orcust Mekk-knight, is Limited, and both of these restrictions really sting. Orcust used to work well in the grind game but now has to be played in a way to end duels quickly. It’s still a viable deck but a far cry from the glory days.
Orcust is renowned for its complexity. Even its basic combos have over ten steps! You can view several examples, including variants and end boards here
Master Duel Meta is THE website to visit for deck profiles. You’ll see how the World’s best decks are assembled and extensive guides on how to play them. There’s plenty of information to sift through, no matter your skill level.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: I wasted my currency early. Should I reset my account?
Answer: No, whatever you do, DO NOT reset your account. The only way to do a full account reset is to contact Konami directly. They will delete your account, but you’ll be permanently banned from ever making a Master Duel account again. Unfortunately, the only way around this is to create a new user on your platform of choice. For example, a fresh Steam ID if you’re on PC.
Question: Do I need a meta deck to have fun?
Answer: It depends. With a powerful deck, you’ll win more duels, and that’s the reality of it. If losing and duelling at a disadvantage sounds frustrating, you should invest in a meta deck.
If winning doesn’t matter, I firmly believe you can play whatever deck you like and have fun. For example, my most played deck in Master Duel is my beloved ‘Train’ deck because I revel in its absurdity. It’s not a bad deck, but I always go into duels knowing my Trains might not have enough steam to win no matter what I do, and I’m OK with that.
Question: Is there any way to test decks without buying the cards first?
Answer: There is, and the best way to do so is on a community-made simulator. There are several, but the one I use is called EDOPro. With unofficial projects like this, I recommend doing a little research of your own to ensure it’s what you’re after. A link to EDOPro’s page and their discord server can be found here.
There’s a healthy amount of decks in Master Duel battling for the top spot, and this keeps competition at the top level interesting. In the TCG, we’re in a Tier Zero format, meaning one single deck (Tearlaments) performs much better than everything else.
Some duelists prefer formats where a shortlist of decks top the leaderboards. Personally, I like seeing a bit of variety, and right now, even at the highest level, you never know what you’re going to run into.