Spar-Spangled Banter: Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards – Ritual Monsters

Hello, Gaspar here again.

If you may remember, the previous article in this monster-related series talked about Fusion Monsters. Thoroughly.
This time, we shall be doing the same but with a different thing: Ritual Monsters.

 

Ritual Monsters

Ritual Monsters are the Monster Cards colored blue, and are summoned through Ritual Spell Cards.
They are called Rituals because you offer monsters to either summon them and have them do your bidding or to power up an already-existing monster. You know, ritualistic sacrifice. It’s pretty occult, which is why most Rituals Monsters look rather creepy and their Ritual Spells’ artwork feature the altar from which they were summoned or the place where they descend.

Oh wait, what I said before is true only for the original manga. Sorry, my fault. The card game version simply has you sacrificing whatever you want to summon… an angel. Or a guy in dragon armor. Or a poledancer cosplaying as a desecrated godly cow and stealing said cow’s powers. It is rather bland. Rituals are not just throwing whatever things you want into a pot, mix for five minutes and spice it however you like. Or rather, they should not be.

I wish I were joking about the poledancer.

You might be able to see by now that I am not exactly happy with how Rituals are handled.

So, what is exactly wrong with Rituals?
There are two basic issues here. The first one is the most important, as it is design-related. It has been around since the game’s very inception, and it is pretty much unfixable by this point. So I’ll go with it first so that it does not randomly hijack the article when I am talking about something else. That is why it is first.

Why are Ritual Monsters in the Main Deck, exactly? They were not there in the original manga to begin with.
“OH BUT THE AUTHOR NEVER SAID WHERE THEY WERE”, would probably say someone.
That is only more support to not place them in the Main Deck, if anything. And it is not as if Konami could not, you know, ask him about it. If Konami decided Fusions would go in what they called the Fusion Deck at the time, what prevented them from putting Rituals there too?

Konami asking anyone about things. That was a good one.
Joking aside, think about it.
If Ritual Monsters were not in the Main Deck, you would not be running monsters that are dead draws until you can actually pull off the Ritual Summon. You would not need searchers for both parts of the Ritual Summon as you would only need to run part of it in the Main Deck. And you would not be able to do things like tributing a Ritual Monster to summon another one, which is a weird thing if you think about it. Ritual Monsters do not really… exist before conducting the Ritual Summon. So why do they exist in your hand?

There is another issue here that kinda branches from this one: just like Ritual Monsters exist in your hand even though they do not really exist until you Ritual Summon them, Ritual Spells do not quite capture what I would expect from a Ritual Summon. Pick any Ritual Spell and picture in your mind how things would be like… I imagine the exact same thing happens in all of them, because there is no difference between them: you just kill a bunch of monsters that may or may not be actual monsters instead of free fodder. That is not ritualistic or occult at all. Go read up about rituals in ye olde days and you’ll learn they involved determined procedures and preparations with specific materials and elements for everything, instead of just brewing a beverage with salamander eye and vinegar while loudly hailing Satan.

In fact, what I described back there sounds a lot like Fusion Summoning. Minus the slaughtering. Except the fused monsters are all sent to the Graveyard, so the slaughtering is not exactly absent, and I have already mentioned a few gripes with generic Fusions before that also apply with Rituals here… Has Konami just squared flavor failure? How do you do that? It is not even a number.

The point was that Ritual Spells should, in my opinion, go beyond their standarized “tribute whatever you want from your hand and field until you meet the Level criteria” effect, as you would have to do different things in order to get different results. I am iffy on Ritual Spells having effects while in the Graveyard but that is secondary.

I was going to use Odd-Eyes Fusion’s artwork here at first instead because the artwork is hilarious, but we had enough Fusion-related sidetracking.

Odd-Eyes Advent is a bad example of doing a Ritual Spell right. Yes, it asks for specific monsters to be offered as sacrifices, which is nice… but when the tributes in question are all immortal monsters you can simply summon back, you are not sacrificing anything. Even the act of tributing them from the hand does not matter much because you can easily retrieve them. And why would you get a discount in sacrifices if the opponent is having monsters out?

It’s funny in an ironic way that Nekroz of Sophia is rather close to what a Ritual Monster should be: tremendously powerful if you can actually summon it and it actually needs sacrifices beyond the standard methods. The main issues with it are the usual Nekroz problems and the fact that it would be an ideal to strive for in a game where you do not design everything to make every single thing feel the exact same as each other, so yeah.

That is probably enough “how they should be”. Let’s get back to Yu-Gi-Oh’s reality.

Second issue: most of the Ritual Monsters available for a very long time were honestly terrible. It took Konami way too long to rationalize that no, cards that eat up your resources just to summon something with 2200 ATK and no effect is not a good idea.

It… it was not hard to fix, really. Just make them worth using, and maybe give them some support to encourage you to Ritual Summon and/or reward you appropriately for doing so. Konami’s take on Rituals basically makes them generic Fusions with a convenient enough excuse to justify making more of them. Which they then did not do. Because forget about paying to do things, have Monarchs and Envoys instead.

Mind you, Konami’s design of the Ritual mechanic might not be my favorite thing ever but it still managed to be workable. Most of the issues people have with it are tied to the already-mentioned horrible ones as well as the excess of removal that has been plaguing this game since the beginning.
Both things also apply to Fusions and Tribute monsters…
I sense a constant here.

Fortress Whale was not a Ritual in the manga. And it did indeed have effects. So it should not be in the picture, but Konami made it be. Thanks, Konami.

Look, I did not need to know much about Yu-Gi-Oh back then to understand Rituals with no effects and bad ATK and DEF scores were positively awful back then and are even more positively awful now. And these are not even all of them.

There are also complaints that are not quite “These Rituals are godawful” too, of course.

Look at the Paladin of Dragon Rituals, if you may. These are Ritual Monsters you summon and then immediatly sacrifice them to summon a run-of-the-mill monster from your hand or Deck. It does not make much sense. They are Ritual Monsters. You spend cards to put them on the field. Why are they fodder and a mere shortcut to summon something else – things with no summoning restrictions whatsoever and with plenty of shortcuts already, if I may add – instead of actual monsters in their own? And what is the Ritual Monster in their cards? The dragon or the guy riding the dragon?

The Photon one is the closest to being a monster on its own. It is pretty ironic.

The next complaint also includes a bit of a recap of set releases.

There were exactly 4 Ritual Monsters released during the GX era. 2 in Shadow of Infinity (Demise and Ruin) and 2 in Strike of Neos (Cú Chulainn and Lycanthrope). There were many more featured in the GX anime, but Konami did not feel like printing them. Because.

And then no Ritual-related cards were printed again until Stardust Overdrive.

For reference, these were those two sets’ release dates in the OCG.
Strike of Neos was released in November 16th 2006.
Stardust Overdrive was released in July 18th 2009.
Yeah, sure, why not, Konami. Kill off a summon mechanic you barely ever use to begin with for almost 3 years.

Stardust Overdrive and the two sets following it (Absolute Powerforce and The Shining Darkness) all included 1 Ritual Monster with its respective Ritual Spell. The first two sets among them also included a variety of Ritual support cards, with the Djinns of Rituals and Preparation of Rites being the more notorious ones.
Aaaaaand then Ritual Monsters disappeared from core sets again, until Legacy of the Valiant… which was released in November 16th 2013.
Yes, they suspended a mechanic for 3 years, gave it 3 more monsters and a bit of support and then suspended it for 3 more years.
Then again, that second hiatus was applied to everything that was not Xyz.

“Oh come on, we had Gishki to fiddle with during that time!”
Ah, right, the Ritual archetypes…

Konami has made two archetypes focused on Ritual Summons.
If you have been reading up to this point you probably can guess my opinion about them.

Gishkis are not good Ritual design. Gishki Aquamirror encourages you to use Rituals from your hand as the fodder for Ritual Summons due to Aquamirror’s second effect letting you recycle both the Ritual Spell and the Ritual Monster, and Gishki Vision and Gishki Shadow greatly facilitate it – you can even use them as the entire tribute if you feel like it. Gishki Abyss can search Vision or Shadow, who in turn search your Ritual Spells or Ritual Monsters, and all 3 of them are recyclable by Salvage. Forbidden Arts of the Gishki and Gishki Photomirror have unique and more occult-themed effects, namely tributing stuff from both sides and paying LP instead of tributing anything… but the former is packed with so many downsides that it is not worth using, and there is no gameplay reason to use them neither alongside nor over Aquamirror due to the latter’s self-recycling effect. Said effect also has a toll on the playability of the Gishki cards that arrange the top of your Deck and/or move cards into and out of the Graveyard: sure, you could use them with the two Ritual Spells that do not recycle themselves, but those are not cards you build a Deck around and you would not really recycle anything else due to, you know, Aquamirror.

I do admit most of the Ritual Monsters themselves are pretty appealing though. Even the ones that are obviously just 1 monster infused with power or 2 monsters combined and then power-infused.

One can only wonder how the field nuke effect of
Steelswarm Hercules was changed into this.

The second archetype, Nekroz, is worse than Gishki in every regard. Like, Nekroz are literally New Neo Gishki lore-wise except there is no more summoning of abominations from the depths and now they dress up as Duel Terminal Synchros… which counts as a Ritual because… gotta milk that nostalgia I guess? They also unfuse from those things… because… I dunno. Nobody knows. No, it is not the same as empowering themselves with those monsters because the monsters they dress up as have all died long ago and they are using them as clothes.
Their Ritual Mirror is the Aquamirror but ~purified~. Because. They can handle Trishula while nobody else could. Because. Shrit is Gishki Avance‘s and Gishki Emilia‘s child with heterochromia and two-colored hair. Because. It is a blend of every element that creates the stereotypical low-tier fanfic as an actual thing that is meant to be taken seriously. Also, Dance Princess? That is an Ice Barrier title, and those had no Rituals.

Anyway, back onto the point.
Gameplay-wise, Gishki limited their corner-cutting to searching for everything and recycling both the Ritual Monsters and Ritual Spells, with the latter ones having to be searched again. Nekroz do not even bother doing that because every Ritual Monster has a generic good effect while in the hand to either get other cards or protect things or yourself, every Ritual Spell cuts corners even more in some way. And all of them can search for more Ritual Spells if you control no monsters. And they can still use generic support like Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands and Senju of the Thousand Hands and Preparation for Rites to search their Ritual Monsters – which means that, due to Nekroz of Clausolas and Nekroz of Brionac, they can search all of their cards with several searchers.

And they do not even look good. Look at those arms and those hands and those feet and that face and that chest. I bet you people would not fawn over this thing so much if it were not just a billion of anime cliches blended together with a bit of Trishula.

I have to give Konami credit for one thing about Rituals though. The ones that are playable are actually playable instead of thrasing about wildly like an animal that was just beheaded and is still spasming.
Oh wait, all the indirect hits to Nekroz got Preparation of Rites Limited and Djinn Releaser of Rituals banned while speeding the game up instead of slowing it down. Not to mention Manju and Senju got Limited in the OCG for several banlists so as to not hit Nekroz then. Nevermind, the part about being beheaded was literal.

I cannot give Konami credit for keeping generic Rituals as a Deck viable because they killed them off for the sake of keeping Nekroz alive. And then they killed those too. Which means the only Ritual-focused Deck that is still relatively functional is Gishki. That is too bad, really. Many Ritual Monsters are actually cool, if only because several of them are relatively easy to use yet usable, while others need to be involved with your Deck’s construction beyond simply using the Ritual Spell but they give you better a pay-off in exchange. That’s like the closest Yu-Gi-Oh has to rewarding actual Deck dedication. And many of the Ritual support cards are not too shabby either, but, you know how things go in this game. Not worth it in the end.

Ritual Cage was, like, so close to being good. But punching over the monster with sheer ATK and/or using any other kind of removal is too easy now.

 

The Ritual mechanic itself has a bunch of issues, but Konami’s take on it is more playable than their take on Fusions: they are rather finicky and fragile, but you can search all the cards necessary to use them so any Ritual that is good enough to be used can be used and those usually have enough ATK and/or DEF to stand on their own… however, Konami’s actions during the ZeXal and Arc-V eras have pretty much killed the mechanic for generic purposes and you only have them playable as an archetype. Like everything else. Unfortunate, but again, such is Konami.

 

Well, that is it for part 3. Next article, I’ll be talking about Synchro Monsters.

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