Hidden Gems - A General Guide to Duel Links


The aim of this guide is to improve player quality, performance and tactics when approaching a Duel but also helping new players to make the most optimal plays. Duel Links holds the players hand and walks you through each phase of the duel. While you can do well without the technical TCG knowledge, the players in the top tier all use this information to optimize their plays and gain every advantage they can.

Through the course of a Duel, each player’s turn is comprised of six phases. In this article we will be talking about all of them and which type of cards you can/should activate on each one. Yu-Gi-Oh! is a game where you can make various plays with identical hands, so knowing small things like what is the last possible moment I can activate a card, is very important to the outcome of the Duel. In Duel Links we can take more advantage of that because we have a feature that allows us to know when our opponent has cards that are chainable or that can be activated. There will be also an explanation on Speed Spells, rules for chaining of effects and other information to make you the best player possible.

Spell Speeds

Spell Speeds refer to how fast a card effect resolves after activation. Despite their name, they are not restricted to the effects of Spell Cards, but rather apply to any card effect that can be activated. There are 3 Spell Speeds:

Spell Speed 1

  • Normal Spell Card
Duel Links Card: Polymerization
Duel Links Card: Pot%20of%20Greed
  • Field Spell Card
Duel Links Card: Vampire%20Kingdom
Duel Links Card: Zombie%20World
  • Continuos Spell Card
Duel Links Card: Ancient%20Gear%20Castle
Duel Links Card: Shard%20of%20Greed
  • Equip Spell Card
Duel Links Card: Black%20Pendant
Duel Links Card: Axe%20of%20Despair
  • Ritual Spell Card
Duel Links Card: Machine%20Angel%20Ritual
Duel Links Card: Black%20Illusion%20Ritual
  • Flip Effect
Duel Links Card: Mecha%20Phantom%20Beast%20Hamstrat
Duel Links Card: Man-Eater%20Bug
  • Ignition Effect
Duel Links Card: Cyber%20Gymnast
Duel Links Card: Hammer%20Shark
  • Trigger Effect
Duel Links Card: Zaborg%20the%20Thunder%20Monarch
Duel Links Card: Vision%20HERO%20Witch%20Raider
  • Ignition-Like Effect
Duel Links Card: Diamond%20Core%20of%20Koa'ki%20Meiru
Duel Links Card: Galaxy%20Cyclone

When activating the effect of Diamond Core of Koa’ki Meiru and Galaxy Cyclone graveyard effects you are activating a Ignition-Like Effect.

  • Trigger-Like Effect
Duel Links Card: Black%20Whirlwind
Duel Links Card: Amazoness%20Onslaught

The effect of banishing an opponent’s monster that battled with your “Amazoness” monster after damage calculation of Amazoness Onslaught and the effect of adding 1 “Blackwing” monster from your Deck to your hand of Black Whirlwind are Trigger-Like Effects.

Spell Speed 2

These are also known as Fast Effects.

  • Quick-Play Spell Card
Duel Links Card: Enemy%20Controller
Duel Links Card: Cosmic%20Cyclone
  • Normal Trap Card
Duel Links Card: Floodgate%20Trap%20Hole
Duel Links Card: Legacy%20of%20Yata-Garasu
  • Continuous Trap Card
Duel Links Card: Mirror%20Wall
Duel Links Card: Sea%20Stealth%20Attack
  • Quick-Effect
Duel Links Card: Citadel%20Whale
Duel Links Card: U.A.%20Midfielder

A Quick Effect is noted by the mentioning of (Quick Effect) or During either player’s or (this is a Quick Effect) in the card text. Citadel Whale’s negation and destruction effect and U.A. Midfielder’s effect of returning 1 other “U.A.” monster to the hand and summoning 1 “U.A.” monster with a different name from your hand are Quick-Effects.

  • Quick-Like Effects
Duel Links Card: Aerial%20Recharge
Duel Links Card: Berserking

A Quick-Like Effect can be activated as soon as you activate (flip face-up) a Continuous Trap Card that has a Quick-Like Effect. Aerial Recharge effect of special summoning 1 “Mecha Phantom Beast Token” and Berserking effect of selecting 2 face-up Beast-Type monsters on the field, during your Main Phase or opponent’s Battle Phase, are Quick-Like Effects.

Spell Speed 3

  • Counter Trap Cards
Duel Links Card: Magic%20Drain
Duel Links Card: Seven%20Tools%20of%20the%20Bandit
Duel Links Card: Solemn%20Scolding

When a card effect activates on a Chain, only effects with an equal or greater Spell Speed can respond to it. However, Spell Speed 1 effects cannot be used in response to another Spell Speed 1 effect. For example, when you activate Storm, you cannot Chain Pot of Greed to draw cards before using Storm effect, since Pot of Greed is a Normal Spell Card and is therefore Spell Speed 1.

Summoning a monster and declaring an attack are not card effects and do not Activate , therefore they do not have a Spell Speed and do not start a Chain. If a card like Enemy Controller or Mirror Wall is used in response to such an action, that card will be considered Chain Link 1.

Chain priority

u/newblood310 posted a fantastic example of card priority on Reddit. They said:

It’s your opponent’s turn. You have a Divine Wrath that you set last turn and a Gravekeeper’s Recruiter in attack position. Your opponent has a Gravekeeper’s Recruiter in attack position and declares an attack on you. You plan to use Divine Wrath to negate his Gravekeeper’s Recruiter. Will this work? Short Answer: No. Long Answer: If two effects occur simultaneously, the turn player has priority (whether they want it or not). There are some situations (often during battle) that two effects occur simultaneously. If your opponent’s Gravekeeper’s Recruiter crashes into your Gravekeeper’s Recruiter, your opponent’s effect will occur first, which yours will chain to, meaning you search first. If you were to activate Divine Wrath at this time, you’d only be able to negate your own Gravekeeper’s Recruiter.


Before explaining all the phases of a turn in Duel Links we should be talking about the settings in the game. As by now the best way to configure your setting is jumping into a Duel (try this with a PvE Duel) and on the top right corner of the screen you will find a Settings button as shown in figure 1.


Figure 1

After pressing the button scroll down until you find these two options, Chain and Activation Confirmation. You will want the Chain on “Self Chain On” and Activation Confirmation on “Toggle Button” as shown in Figure 2.

With Activation Confirmation set this way you will now notice a little button on your bottom left corner of the screen, by tapping on the button you have 3 different options “Auto”, “On”, and “Off”, for now and in most of times keep it on “Auto” , later in this guide will be explained techniques to help on your Duels.


Figure 2


Draw Phase

This is the first phase of every turn, in which the turn player conducts their normal draw to draw 1 card from their Deck.

Spell Speed 2 cards may be activated in this phase, after the turn player has drawn a card. If you wish to activate these cards in Duel Links you must set your button to ON before the turn player draws their card.

Standby Phase

This happens immediately after the Draw Phase. Nothing is required of either player during this Phase unless a card mentions it.

Effects of Gold Sarcophagus, Treeborn Frog are activated in this phase. Many Maintenance Costs cards, such as those of Mirror Wall and Axe of Fools, are paid during this Phase.

Spell Speed 2 cards may be activated in this phase. If you wish to activate this cards in Duel Links you must set your button to ON before the Standby Phase begins.


When an effect,, such as the one of Treeborn Frog that activates in this phase and it is special summoned you can chain your Enemy Controller to the summon to tribute your monster and take control of another, after that your Treeborn Frog will be special summoned again from the graveyard!

Main Phase

It is the phase conducted after the Standby Phase. After the Main Phase has ended the turn player may choose to enter the Battle Phase. If they choose not to, the player automatically proceeds to the End Phase.

Some cards can only be activated during the Main Phase, such as Embodiment of Apophis and Beat, Bladesman Fur Hire.

In Main Phase the turn player can:

  1. Normal Summon/Set a monster.
  2. Special Summon a monster(s).
  3. Manually change the battle position of a monster, provided that monster was not Summoned or Set during that same turn, and it had not already manually changed its battle position that turn.
  4. Flip Summon a monster, provided it was not Summoned or Set during that same turn.
  5. Activate Ignition Effects, such as those of Barrel Dragon or Beat, Bladesman Fur Hire.
  6. Set Spell/Trap Cards.
  7. Activate Spell/Trap Cards of any Spell Speed. Quick-Play Spell Cards and Trap Cards cannot be activated in the turn they are Set.

Battle Phase

The Battle Phase is the Phase in which battles are conducted. A Battle Phase can be conducted every turn (except the first turn of the Duel) after the turn player ends their Main Phase.

The Battle Phase is split into 4 steps and is conducted in the order shown in the diagram. The Battle Step and Damage Step are repeated each time you attack with a monster.


A player doesn’t have to control a monster in order to enter their Battle Phase. Even if their opponent controls no valid attack targets a player may still enter their Battle Phase.

Some cards can only be activated during the Battle Phase, such as Arrivalrivals and Chivalry.

Start Step

Once a player enters Battle Phase he enters on the Start Step, on this Step cards like Anti-Magic Arrows can be activated. In Duel Links you won’t see this phase prompt unless you have cards that are activated at the start of the Battle Phase (Start Step) or you have Speed Spell 2 cards that can also be activated, but to do so you need to have your button set to ON in order to use such cards.

In Duel Links, the prompt text it will say “It is the Battle Phase” but don’t worry it is not specific. You are in the Start Step. Here is an example:


TIP: If you are afraid your opponent has Anti-Magic Arrows by setting your button to ON on the Main Phase, before he enters on Battle Phase you will see a prompt appear saying “It is before the end of the Main Phase”, this is the last chance possible you have to activate cards before he locks you during the Battle Phase.


Battle Step

The Battle Step it is the step in which attacks are declared. Immediately after the Start Step or Damage Step ends, the game proceeds to the Battle Step, regardless of the turn player’s intention to declare an attack.

The turn player is not required to declare an attack during this step. If the attack target leaves the field or an opponent monster is placed on the opponent’s field at any point during the battle step a replay occurs.

On attack declaration either player can activate cards or effects in response to the attack, remember that some cards can only be activated at this point such as Sphere Kuriboh and Wall of Disruption, this allows you to make plays with the toggle button again! Here is an example:

  • After you declared an attack an option to activate cards appears, in here you can activate Spell Speed 2 effects such as Enemy Controller or Super Rush Headlong, but what if you suspect your opponent has a Sphere Kuriboh in his hand? A very nice way to check that is to set your toggle to ON , attack, don’t activate anything and see if there is a delay, if yes, it’s because your opponent has something that can be used, this is extremely useful when there are no Spells/Traps Cards set in your opponent’s field meaning that he most likely has Sphere Kuriboh in his hand!

If your opponent doesn’t activate their Sphere Kuriboh and your toggle is set to ON you will have one more and last chance to activate yours Spell Speed 2 effects (effects that change ATK/DEF can be activated later!) like Super Rush Headlong before the Damage Step. Here your opponent can’t activate his Sphere Kuriboh and most likely you will win the battle! In Duel Links once again it isn’t specific because it will say It is the Battle Step which is true… Here are two Figures to illustrate the two moments, Figure 3 is in Attack Declaration and Figure 4 is just before the Damage Step.

By setting your button to OFF you will never receive prompts!!! You can abuse this feature making your opponent think that you have nothing to respond to his plays, surprising him and turning the duel around! Remember allways to set it AUTO after making your play.


Figure 3


Figure 4

Damage Step

The Damage Step is a step during the Battle Phase in which battle is performed. If an attack is occurring, the Damage Step entered immediately after the Battle Step.

Breakdown of the Damage Step
  1. Start of the Damage Step

    • Effects that activate at the start of the damage step begin applying immediately.
    • Cards or effects that modify ATK/DEF can be activated.
  2. Before Damage Calculation

    • If the monster being attacked is face-down, flip it face-up.
    • Cards or effects that modify ATK/DEF can be activated
    • If the monster has a Trigger Effect that activates by being flippes face-up, it does not activate yet.
    • Tip - This is the last chance you have to activate cards or effects that modify ATK/DEF, if your button is set to ON you will receive a prompt in the Start of the Damage Step and Before Damage Calculation to activate your cards or effects, if you notice a delay between these two steps is because your opponent has a card or effect that can modify ATK/DEF too.
  3. Perform Damage Calculation

    • Cards or effects that can activate during damage calculation activate/resolve, then the damage calculation is performed.
    • Effects that apply during damage calculation (only), such as Skyscraper, are applied immediately.
    • Cards and effects that activate during damage calculation, such as Kuriboh can be activated.
    • If an effect prevents a monster from being destroyed by this battle by doing something else instead such as Amazoness Onslaught, it’s decided wether to apply or not at this point.
  4. After Damage Calculation

    • Effects that activate as a result of battle happen here.
    • Trigger Effects that activate by being flipped face-up, of monsters flipped face-up before damage calculation, happens here.
    • Effects that activate when a player takes battle damage are activated at this time.
  5. End of The Damage Step

    • If a monster was determined to be destroyed by the battle during damage calculation, is sent to the graveyard first.
    • Then effects that activate when a monster is destroyed by battle and sent to the graveyard, activate now.
    • Then if all effects activate/resolve and you would end the Damage Step, effects that apply until the end of the Damage Step disappear.

After the end of the Damage Step, return to the Battle Step. If the turn player does not want to attack again after that, go to the End Step.

End Step

The End Step is the last step in the Battle Phase. It is also commonly referred to in card effects as “the end of the Battle Phase”.

End Phase

The End Phase is the final phase of the turn. At the end of the End Phase, if the turn player has more cards in their hand than the hand size limit (6), they must discard cards until their hand satisfies the hand size limit.


Missing timing is typically due to the optional monster effects with the vague wording:

  • When… you can

To allow it to resolve, you must choose to activate the effect. This means that the last thing that needs to happen in the chain is the When. For example, Yubel - Terror Incarnate states When this face-up card leaves the field: You can Special Summon 1 Yubel - The Ultimate Nightmare. In order to gain this effect, the destruction must be the Last Link in the chain. (See Figure 5) In Duel Links, the first card in the Chain will be the last to resolve and will be the top card on the screen when the chain animation pops up. You cannot make a decision mid-chain therefore you will miss timing. Yubel cannot be destroyed by battle, but if Airknight Parshath destroyed another monster then destruction isn’t then last thing to happen, drawing would be.

Unlike When.. you can, If… you can, never misses its timing. This means the effect will always happen even if it isn’t the last link in the chain. The If effect will create a separate chain and it cannot miss timing. One example is Psychic Ace.

The easiest effect to master is the effect that says If… . This means when something happens, the effect triggers with no action from the player. One great example is Gravekeeper’s Recruiter.


Figure 5

Cost and Effect

Cards like Tribute to the Doomed may make you believe that the action of discarding is always a “cost”. It depends on wording though, and if you pay attention to a card’s text like Dark World Lightning, you can see that the discarding action is the Effect of the card and not the Cost. Dark World Lightning states: Target 1 Set card on the field; destroy that target, then discard 1 card. If that Set card is flipped and not destroyed, the player does not need to discard. They key to this is the wording, “Destroy that target, THEN discard.” If nothing is destroyed, nothing is discarded. Contrary to that, Tribute to the Doomed is worded Discard 1 card, THEN target 1 monster on the field; destroy it. The cost is paid before the destruction and so the cost is paid before your opponent is even prompted to negate it.

Genex Undine is also an interesting card to talk about because many think that his action of sending 1 WATER monster from your Deck to the Graveyard is an effect, but is actually a cost. The text states When this card is Normal Summoned: You can send 1 WATER monster from your Deck to the Graveyard; add 1 “Genex Controller” from your Deck to your hand. The sending of 1 Water monster is a cost. It’s important to note that if your opponent has Paleozoic Canadia and you summon Genex Undine, your opponent cannot respond with Canadia nor Divine Wrath until after you send a card from your deck to the graveyard. This means that since the Cost is sending the monster to the Graveyard, Divine Wrath can only negate the Effect of adding 1 “Genex Controller” from your Deck to your hand.

Another example is Ties of the Brethren, this is popular in Geargia decks and when activated the cost of 2000 Life Points is paid before the Special Summons. A common disruption to this card is Paleozoic Canadia. A player that activates Ties of the Brethren will pay the 2000 Life Points cost immediately. Then, the opponent would Chain Paleozoic Canadia so that when the Ties of the Brethren resolves, the monster would be face-down and therefore the Type, Attribute, and Level requirements couldn’t be met negating the Special Summons.

It does have a Cost… It does not have a Cost
Discard 1 card; (The use of a semicolon is key) Both players draw 1 card, then discard 1 card (Discarding is stated second, so it is not a cost)
Pay 1500 Life Points. (The period is the indicator) Both Players discard their hands and draw five cards from the (The “and” conjoining the statements indicates the 1st is not a cost)
Return 1 face-up monster you control to the hand to… (The last “to” before the effect)


A card states to Target a card, or any number of cards, naturally targets. Cards such as Mask Change can respond to cards that target. If your opponent uses Paleozoic Canadia and targets your Destiny HERO - Decider, you can chain Mask Change and Paleozoic Canadia will resolve and go to the graveyard without flipping a monster face-down since the targeted monster is no longer on the field. A card that Does Not Target cannot be avoided by chaining. If your opponent activates Spellbook of Fate and chooses to banish, you can chain and resolve Mask Change but your opponent will simply choose your newly Special Summoned Masked HERO Anki to banish.

There are some cards such as Toon Kingdom that stop the ability to target monsters (in this case “Toon” monsters) with card effects. This means that Treacherous Trap Hole cannot even attempt to target and destroy them. However, since Widespread Ruin does not target, if your opponent chooses not to pay the protection cost, Widespread Ruin would destroy that attacking monster.

Continuous Effects

Have you ever wondered why Memory Loss or Divine Wrath cannot negate Jinzo‘s Trap Stun effect? Jinzo, like Amazoness Queen has what is known as a Continuous Effect and does not create a chain where a player can respond to its activation. Like other vague aspects of the game, the way to know if an effect is continuous is by reading the text. Jinzo states: Trap Cards cannot be activated. The effect of Vision HERO Witch Raider is not a continuous effect, it’s a Trigger Effect , triggered by her summon and therefore starts a chain in which players can respond. The effect of Vampire Vamp is also a Trigger Effect, triggered by the Normal Summon of herself or another Vampire Monster and therefore cards can be chained to it. It is important to note that even if you chain Paleozoic Canadia to Vamp’s effect to succ your monster, you will still Lose your Monster.


When using card negation effects, it is important to understand which part of your card is being negated. While not as prominent as they once were, Spellbooks had the limit of ONE use per turn on most Spelbook cards. If an Effect is negated, the activation still ocurred. If the Activation was negated, it’s as if the card never hit the field.

For example, if your opponent activates Solemn Scolding to negate your Spellbook of Fate activation, another Spellbook of Fate could be used that turn since the first never technically hit the field. If you activated Spellbook of Fate while your opponent had Abyss-scale of the Mizuchi equipped, then the effect of Spellbook of Fate would be negated and a second could not be activated that turn.


We hope this guide was useful for learning a bit more of Yu-Gi-OH! Duel Links and we hope you can improve your performance in the game and get a better position on the next Regional Representative Qualifiers, KC Cups and all future Tournaments! Please let us know if there are any other grey areas in Duel Links you would like us to cover.

Thank you to Yu-Gi-OH! Wikia, yu-gi-oh-card.com and Reddit user newblood310 for the helpful references.

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