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Standard victory conditions
These are the typical ways to win a Duel in the game's mechanics.
- Your opponent's LP are reduced to 0.
- Your opponent is required to draw a card, but does not have enough cards left in their Main Deck (referred to as a "Deck out").
In addition, most tournaments are timed. If time runs out and the current Duel has not ended, the player with more LP wins; if LP are tied, the Duel continues until the first change in LP happens (unofficially known as "sudden death").
If both players satisfy a victory condition at the same time, then the Duel ends in a DRAW.
A Match is typically won by winning two Duels, making them best-of-3 contests. In tournaments, Matches can also be won by the opponent forfeiting the Match or receiving a Match Loss penalty, or by time running out when the player has won one Duel while the opponent has not. (If time runs out and both players have won an equal number of Duels, the current Duel is decided by LP or by "sudden death" if applicable.)
Alternate victory conditions
If one of these special victory conditions is met while resolving a card effect, victory cannot be declared until after that effect completely resolves and the victory condition still remains true.
Since the beginning of the game, there have existed cards with conditions that provide alternate ways to win a Duel without making your opponent's LP 0 or making them Deck out. The first and arguably the most famous of these is "Exodia the Forbidden One". There are currently a total of fifteen Duel winner cards in the OCG or TCG (not all of which are legal for tournament play).
A series of monsters, known as Match winners, share the condition that if one successfully attacks your opponent directly and makes their LP 0 by the battle damage it inflicted (sometimes with additional requirements), then you win the entire Match instead of just the Duel. All Match winners printed are illegal to use in official Duels, except for "Victory Dragon", which is instead currently Forbidden.
In the anime
In the anime, five duels have been won using an alternate victory condition: Yami Yugi against Seto Kaiba, Seeker against Joey Wheeler, Noah Kaiba against Seto Kaiba, Jaden Yuki against Harrington Rosewood, and Adrian Gecko against Aster Phoenix.
Other Duelists such as Yami Bakura, Seto Kaiba, Dartz, Harrington Rosewood, Thelonious Viper, Yubel (through Marcel Bonaparte), Quattro, Don Thousand, and Nash have attempted to win using an alternate victory condition, albeit unsuccessfully.
Removing or replacing victory conditions
These cards have effects that remove or replace the standard victory conditions. Currently, no such effects exist in the TCG or OCG.
- "Divine Serpent Geh": In the anime, while you control this face-up card, you cannot lose the Duel.
- "Relay Soul": In the anime, this card's effect allows you to Special Summon a monster from your hand when your LP become 0, and makes destroying that monster your opponent's only victory condition, replacing all others. (This card has a different effect in the TCG/OCG; see "Duel winners" above.)
- "Deuce": While this card is face-up on the field, neither player can lose the Duel if their LP become 0. Instead, a player wins the Duel if they damage their opponent twice in a row. This is an anime-only card.
- "Infernity Zero": While you control this face-up card, you do not lose the Duel if your LP become 0. This card exists only in the anime and in the Yu-Gi-Oh! Tag Force series of video games from Tag Force 5 onward.
- "Zero Gate of the Void": Similar to "Relay Soul", this card's effect allows you to Special Summon "Void Ogre Dragon" if your LP become 0 while your field and hand are empty, and your opponent's only victory condition becomes the destruction of that monster. This is a manga-only card.
Video game automatic surrender
- "Yata-Garasu": In most video games, if a player successfully inflicts battle damage to their opponent with "Yata-Garasu" while the opponent controls no cards and has no cards in their hand, then the opponent is programmed to automatically surrender the Duel at the start of their next turn, due to the lock effect of "Yata-Garasu". This forced surrender applies to both human and CPU players, and will occur even if not surrendering would have been beneficial (such as if the controller of "Yata-Garasu" had no cards left in their Deck and would have lost had the opponent not surrendered).
Prior to March 20, 2015 in the TCG, it was the rule that a Duel could not end in the middle of resolving a card effect. For example:
- If a player activated "Berserker Soul" and excavated a Monster Card, lowering the opponent's LP to 0 as a result, that player would still be required to keep excavating cards until they excavated a non-Monster Card or excavated a total of 8 Monster Cards, before the opponent would actually lose.
On March 20, 2015, the rules were changed for standard victory conditions only, stating that a Duel ends immediately if a player's LP reaches 0 or they are forced to draw a card when there are no cards in their Deck (even while an effect is still resolving). This change does not carry over to alternate victory conditions (i.e. a player draws a fifth "Forbidden One" monster by the effect of "Dark World Dealings", but cannot declare victory until after they discard). This change was presumably made in response to the then-new erratum of "Ring of Destruction" in the TCG.
- Konami TCG Strategy Site: Updates: F&L Cards List, PGL2 Card Text, Rules for Winning During a Chain
- Yu-Gi-Oh! episode 1: "The Heart of the Cards"
- Yu-Gi-Oh! episode 55: "Stalked by the Rare Hunters"
- Yu-Gi-Oh! episode 116: "Brothers in Arms, Part 3"
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX episode 15: "Courting Alexis"
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX episode 145: ""
- Konami TCG Strategy Site: Drawing the Pharaoh’s Ire