Sakura’s skills as a duelist earned him a spot on the quarterfinals in the Battle City Tournament, as well as facing against both Yuri and Kaaba. 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.
His deck is mostly based on the Mother Earth when he went against Kaaba, while, with Yuri, 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.
His fascination for cartoons is what makes almost his entire deck filled with too versions of regular cards. Rafael’s tragic backstory of being stranded after losing his family in a shipwreck has motivated him to go to any lengths to win.
Hailing from Egypt, he had a lot of knowledge on the game of Duel Monsters, and its ancient history. Being the keeper of the Tombs, Mark rejected his role in order to take over the world as he sees fit.
Using his Rare Hunters and even some of Yuri’s friends, Mark was able to control them using his Millennium Rod and duel against anyone with different decks. Whether it’s trying to summon an Egyptian god card or creating an indestructible defense, Mark managed to find a way to make it into the Battle City finals to become one of the show’s most powerful duelists.
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. Dart’s deck consists of an exceptional strategy where he can counteract an opponent’s attack and redirect it into strengthening his monsters.
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 Yuri’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. 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.
Yuri’s main rival Set Kaaba has shown so much hardship and intensity in his battles throughout the show. Only losing from the likes of Yuri twice and Pegasus once, Kaaba was able to come out of these duels as a strong duelist.
He also seems to add newer cards every time we see him, cementing Kaaba as one of the greatest duelists on the show. Winning both the Duelist Kingdom and Battle City Tournaments definitely puts him on top of the leaderboard as the best duelist ever.
So to throw tribute to my duelist homes, I’m ranking some of the best characters that the anime has to offer. Anime, but I’ve taken the liberty to include some absolutely fantastic characters from the sequels.
And even though I’m a profound hater of the woke movement, it was cool to see a female character that could kick someone’s ass in a duel. I’m also including Mai on my list because I remember struggling against her deck back in the days of Yu-Gi-Oh 7 Trials to Glory, when the game was extremely popular circa 2005.
However, he’s the only character in the series that Set shows affection towards (logical, being his brother). The personality dynamics between Set and Yoruba shaped the Kaaba family throughout the series.
I know many of you liked Yoruba for other reasons, but I never grew too fond of his character other than when he interacted with Set. Isuzu was Mark’s sister, the wielder of the Millennium Necklace, and one of the more mystical characters in the original anime.
Yuma’s dominion of Pendulum summons earns him a very good spot on my list, alongside the fact that he had quite a mild and calmed personality. She was a very skilled duelist that managed to become a Duel Monsters champion at a very young age, and her appearance on the series shows why she was so good at what she did.
His fantastic deck comprised of mechanic dragons was enough to make my teenage-self envious of his cards and with the hopes of getting them someday. She’s the one anime character that all kids fell in love with, and one of the most talented duelists of the academy in GO.
She was a member of the Obelisk Blue dorm, and one of the best duelists of her generation. But she gave foot to many hilarious interactions with Jaden and other hormone-packed characters in the series.
The little guy was as much of a good duelist as he was an asshole, but credit where it’s due: he really knew how to handle himself in a battle arena. Besides, one of the most iconic moments of the original anime came when Yuri managed to beat Noah himself using Set’s cards.
I think everyone who watched the Battle City arc will remember that moment fondly. I know many of you reading this will crucify me for putting Yuma in a worse spot than Jaden… but as I said at the beginning of this article, this is solely based on my opinion.
In any case, Yuma deserves a sport on my list because of his fantastic personality, as well as his ability to beat almost any opponent that would get in his way. Besides, let’s all rejoice in the reason why we remember Joey above other characters in the series: the Red-Eyes Black Dragon.
It’s clear that the creators of the anime had a thing for kick ass dragon cards, but this fantastic beast was the one we all wanted to have in our decks when we were kids. His duel with Joey and the introduction of the Legendary Fisherman were massive parts of the original anime.
Those duels with the Egyptian God cards truly marked the childhoods of many kids who then went on to ask their parents to get them (Sly fer, Obelisk, and Ra were extremely expensive back in the day, if I may say so myself). Even though Pegasus was basically a cheater, the man was still one of the best duelists in the world.
As a member of the Sly fer Red Dorm, he started out the series as one of the new guys. Whenever you hear the words “Yu-Gi-Oh”, it’s natural that your mind instantly thinks of Yuri.
To add to that point, Kaaba was also the man who rocked the legendary Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Back in the day this was basically a legendary card that everyone wanted to snag.
In fact, the BED is such a legendary card that newer decks are still being made with it as the focus. Series was filled with tons of iconic moments, from Solomon Motor being trapped in a card to Yuri “attacking the moon”.
Having said that, for this list we’re going to look at ten of the best duelists from the original Duel Monsters series and rank them according to how powerful they are, analyzing their decks and discussing their wins and their losses to assess the strongest among them. Though the manga makes him far more terrifying, showing him killing both Bond and Pegasus at one point or another, the anime tells a different story.
Yam Sakura spends most of his time before elevating to the main antagonist of the last season serving as fodder for one person or another to beat. Dart is the primary antagonist of the Waking the Dragons arc, and also the immortal king of Atlantis, because even ageless rulers of lost civilizations have time for duels.
As the primary villain of a filler arc, we don’t ever get to see Dart do very much because he’s too busy allowing his henchman to do the work for him. Still, he takes on Yuri and Kaaba, two of the strongest duelists in the series in a two on one match for their souls (because of the power of his Orichalcos card).
Rafael is the strongest member of Dome, the organization run by Dart and made up of several key duelists from past arcs attempting to take over the world. Noah Kaaba dueled using a strategy which worked counter to his brothers, causing him to be able to deal life points while also constantly healing himself for massive amounts.
It’s this which makes him incredibly hard to strategize against, eventually leading to his defeat of Set Kaaba in their match near the end of the Duelist Kingdom arc. Worse, Pegasus is in possession of the Millennium Eye, a magical item which allows him to see into anyone’s mind and know what cards they have in their hand.
Boasting the powerful Harpies Lady deck, Mai’s one of the few characters from the early Duelist Kingdom arc besides the leads who stand out in any meaningful way. Mark Ishtar starts out as the leader of the Rare Hunters, the antagonists of the Battle City arc who are responsible for tracking down the Egyptian God Cards.
Over the course of his arc, Mark possesses several duelists with a deck built specifically for taking down the object of his hatred, Yam Yuri. Head of the Kaaba Corporation and the reason Duel Monsters is able to evolve beyond a simple game played with cards.
Kaaba transforms Duel Monsters into a massive industry, thanks to his company pioneering the use of Hard Light holograms. Literally, as assembling the Millennium Puzzle grants Yuri additional power to alter the course of a game by raising his chances of winning based on how important the duel is.
But setting that aside, in addition to having the fewest number of losses, Yuri and the power of his Dark Magician deck has a victory over literally everyone else on the list.