Over the course of Yu-Gi-Oh!´s 224 episodes, Yugi and company played a lot of duels. The Duel Monsters card game is at the very center of the show and pretty much every episode features a duel of some kind, until the last season, at least.
Most duels occurred during several episodes, with Yugi’s anticipated match against Kaiba during the Battle City finals taking six entire episodes. Some of these battles were not only exciting and visually impressive, but necessary for the plot to move forward. More than a few clearly existed only to fill episodes, though, and thus felt not only tiresome and overly convoluted, but also like a waste of time.
Tea is not a duelist, so an exciting duel can’t really be expected from her. During Noah’s virtual world saga, one of the anime’s most unnecessary and distracting arcs, Tea is forced to duel Kaiba’s former accountant, Adrian Crump. She chooses Dark Magician Girl as her Deck Master and eventually wins the duel.
This battle is not only boring, it’s almost silly. Nevermind that Crump’s penguin deck is nearly laughable, but the stakes of the duel never feel real. And the fact that Tea’s minimal dueling skills are enough to defeat Crump just makes the entire duel seem like a colossal waste of episodes.
Battle City is, without a doubt, the anime’s most exciting and compelling arc. Marik Ishtar remains the series’ best antagonist and his duel with Mai Valentine is proof enough. A very capable duelist herself, Mai holds her own against Marik and even manages to steal his Egyptian God card, The Winged Dragon of Ra.
Because of rather absurd circumstances, she is unable to use it and ends up losing the duel. For a moment, though, it seems like Mai will be able to summon Ra, but she simply isn’t destined to. Mai’s defeat is rather unfair, but the duel is fast-paced and a perfect showcase for both duelists.
“Waking the Dragons” is the anime’s most exaggerated arc and the duels clearly show it. From the get-go, Valon’s deck is obviously meant to be overpowered and extremely hard to beat. However, his cards don’t really seem real and very much come across as inventions of the show to make him seem tougher than he is.
His armor cards act more like deus ex machinas than actual duel monsters, and the fact that they are equipped to his body just makes the whole thing even more ridiculous. Once Joey gets an armor of his own, the duel fully succumbs to the absurd and never recovers.