The iconic Egyptian God cards have been a subject of debate for decades. The original effects as shown in the anime/manga have never been rewritten on an actual official card. All versions of these cards are heavily nerfed, both in video games and in the TCG/OCG.
Today, I’d like to accept the challenge to reverse engineer each of the Egyptian God’s effects in modern PSCT (Problem-Solving Card Text). I will primarily use the manga over any other source. We’ll use actual duels and the actions of these cards, not hearsay, or character’s subjective interpretations. The anime can still be used to fill gaps in knowledge as long as it does not contradict the manga. The Dark Side of Dimensions Movie, however, will be used since it is consistent with the manga and is written by Kazuki Takahashi. I’ll use official Viz translations of Yu-Gi-Oh Duelist, Yu-Gi-Oh! Millennium World, and Yu-Gi-Oh R manga where the Egyptian Gods have made their appearances.
There might be several things that occur in the manga that have no equivalent mechanic in the modern card game. For example, flying monsters cannot be selected as an attack target from ground-based monsters during the duel between Yugi and Weevil Underwood in Duelist Kingdom.1 We will ignore certain rules and mechanics that are exclusive to Battle City, such as Summoning Sickness (Special Summoned monsters can’t attack on the turn they are Summoned), Normal Spell Cards can activate like Quick-Play, and monster effects that destroy are treated as a battle rather than effect.
I understand these limitations but we will try to overcome them to the best of our ability using logic. The game has evolved a lot over the years and this has to be taken into account.
Without further ado, let us begin.
Abilities shared by all God cards
This card’s Divine Hierarchy is 1.
The concept of Divine Hierarchy is exclusive to the manga. We first see it when Ra is not destroyed by the effect of Obelisk’s Soul Energy MAX and Marik takes no battle damage. We see it again in Yu-Gi-Oh R when Wicked Avatar is stated to be unaffected by Obelisk’s effect.2,3 In both cases, Ra and the Wicked Avatar are the only 2 Gods to have been shown to have a higher Divine Hierarchy (=2) than the rest. In this case, Obelisk’s effect did resolve but Ra and Wicked Avatar were unaffected. A better example is shown in Yu-Gi-Oh R when Slifer’s effect activates when Wicked Avatar is Summoned.4 It had no effect since Wicked Avatar had a higher Divine Hierarchy. Having a higher Divine Hierarchy essentially means that they are unaffected by the effect of a monster with lower Divine Hierarchy. When Obelisk attacked Ra, the 4000 LP effect damage was not inflicted to Marik because Obelisk was not able to destroy all monsters on Marik’s field. This means Obelisk’s effect was a “and if you do, inflict 4000 LP damage”.
Requires 3 Tributes to Normal Summon (cannot be Normal Set).
In most cases, 3 tributes were used for the Summon of an Egyptian God card. However, there have been certain exceptions. These exceptions are due to either monsters/tokens being counted as 2 or more tributes or counters paying the cost of a tribute.
One such card was “Summoning Clock” which was only used in the anime in Episode 221 to Summon Slifer the Sky Dragon during the Ceremonial Duel between Atem and Yugi.4 Note this was shown exclusively in the anime. The equivalent duel between Atem and Yugi in the manga had no such event. Nonetheless, since this has no logical contradiction, it is still mentioned.
Activate only when a Spell or Trap Card is activated on your opponent’s side of the field. Place 1 Turn
Counter on this card during each of your Standby Phases. You can send this face-up card to the Graveyard
and Tribute 1 monster to Special Summon monsters from your hand equal to the number of Turn Counters.
There is no need to Tribute for monsters Summoned by this effect.
There was a time when Odion Tributed a single monster to Summon “Winged Dragon of Ra”, but then later explained that his monster was treated as 3 Tributes because it had absorbed 3 of Joey’s monsters.5
Yu-Gi-Oh Duelist Chapter 157
In addition, the “cannot be Normal Set” has been debated. In the manga and anime, an Egyptian God card has never been set, but does that mean it cannot be or did the player simply choose to summon it? A face-down defense position monster will not have its effects and hence, all the immunities that a God card possesses, would be useless. Furthermore, in the anime and manga, usually monsters are Summoned in face-up Defense Position, which isn’t even possible with real mechanics. However, given the consistency in the anime and manga, with the official card text, this text shall be kept.
This card’s Normal Summon cannot be negated.
In Yu-Gi-Oh R, the card “Selection” was used to negate the Special Summon, not Normal Summon of “The Winged Dragon of Ra”.8
Cannot be Tributed by your opponent.
In the duel between Atem vs Marik, Atem activates “Soul Taker” which allows him to Tribute a monster on the opponent’s side of the field. Marik stated that his “Winged Dragon of Ra” cannot be Tributed. Atem then states that he wasn’t planning to target Ra, but Marik’s “Immortal God Slime” instead.6
At the same time, the Player is still allowed to Tribute their own Egyptian God as evidenced when Kaiba Tributes his “Obelisk” and “Gadget Soldier” for “Blue-Eyes White Dragon” in his duel against Ishizu.7
This card’s effects cannot be negated.
This is a simple one to understand. Since God cards can be targeted by Spells or Traps, this includes cards like “Fiendish Chain” or many of the cards that can negate. A card like “Skill Drain” would make the God cards into mere beatsticks. If it were that easy to simply negate all of the effects of a God card, Kaiba wouldn’t have struggled so much pondering a way to defeat them. It was finally confirmed in the movie, “Dark Side of Dimensions”, that a God card can’t be negated. In this movie, Aigami activated “Cubic Mandala”, letting him Special Summon all monsters in Kaiba’s Graveyard that were destroyed with a Cubic Counter and their ATK reduced to 0. As long as these monsters were on the field, all monster effects in Kaiba’s field, hand and Graveyard were negated. Kaiba then procedes to Summon Obelisk and activates its effect even though the effect of “Cubic Mandala” should have negated the activation of Obelisk’s effect.9
If you control a “Cubic” monster: Activate this card by targeting any number of monsters that are in your
opponent’s Graveyard because they were destroyed and sent there this turn: Special Summon them to your
opponent’s field, but each becomes ATK 0 and has 1 Cubic Counter placed on it (Monsters with a Cubic
Counter cannot attack, also negate their effects). While your opponent controls any of the monsters Special
Summoned by this effect, negate any monster effects your opponent activates. When the
last of those monsters leaves the field, destroy this card.
Note however, that if a Skill Drain is already face-up and active on the field, and a Jinzo is Summoned later, then Jinzo’s effects are negated. The same goes for “Tenkabito Shien” who is unaffected by Trap Cards. In order for that monster’s immunities to apply, it has to be Summoned. Therefore, if an Egyptian God card is Summoned after Skill Drain is already on the field, its effects will be negated by logical modern mechanics.
When Normal Summoned, cards and effects cannot be activated, except effects of monsters whose Divine Hierarchy is equal or lower than this card.
Here, the only difference from the official text is the “except monsters whose Divine Hierarchy is equal or lower than this card”. This is because Slifer’s effect activates when another God card is Summoned. Adding specific names or mentioning “Egyptian Gods”, is not proper. Even today, in 2020, there has been new support for Egyptian Gods. If Konami wanted to add “Egyptian Gods” as a way to reference them, it would have been the perfect time. In fact, “True Name”, a card made just to Special Summon a God, specifically states “1 DIVINE monster” and another card designed for Gods, “Mound of the Bound Creator”, states “Level 10 or higher”. We could have just combined the two and stated, “except DIVINE monsters whose Level is equal or lower than this card.”, but this does not address hierarchy since Ra is also Level 10 but higher hierarchy than the rest.
Control of this card cannot switch.
Atem used “Brain Control” against Dolls and Marik responded that it would not work on a God card like “Slifer the Sky Dragon”.10
This is proven again when Bakura tries to take control of Slifer using the effect of “Dark Necrofear”, but gets denied.11
Unaffected by other cards’ effects, except the turn they are applied.
This one is the most confusing one to understand. When the Egyptian Gods were introduced, it was thought that they were invincible with no weaknesses. Then later, we found out that Spells and Traps can work but only for 1 turn. Then there were tons of other exceptions. Cards like “Nightmare Steelcage” affect the opponent not the monster. “Seal of Orichalcos” and “Swords of Revealing Light” affect the Field, not the monster. These will work permanently even beyond 1 turn because they affect the opponent or the field, not the monster. Cards like “Ground Erosion” were permanent because they affected the Monster Zone, not the monster.
This is shown when Kaiba tries to figure out a strategy to defeat Ra. He confirmed that some Trap cards can affect a God card but which ones and under what conditions, wasn’t clear. 12
Contrary to popular belief, God cards can be targeted by card effects. An example is when both “Spellbinding Circle” and “Magic Cylinder” were used on “Slifer the Sky Dragon”, which both target for their effects to resolve.13
Marik also states for the first time in the manga since the Gods were introduced, that they are affected by Spells/Traps for 1 turn when Atem uses “Spellbinding Circle” to bind “Slifer the Sky Dragon”.
Unfortunately, this single line is not sufficient to include all the exceptions so we will address them in the subsequent rules.
Unaffected by your opponent’s monster effects, except monsters whose Divine Hierarchy is equal or higher than this card.
The only monster effects that worked against a God card in the manga were the effects of other God cards. For example, Slifer was able to reduce the ATK of Obelisk card upon its Summon.14 Ra was able to destroy Slifer using its Phoenix Mode.15 Obelisk could destroy Slifer using its effect but not Ra since it’s at a higher Divine Hierarchy (more about that later).
The reason why it is “opponent’s monster effects” and not simply all monster effects, is due to an instance in the anime. In Episode 131, the monster, “Sword of Soul” was used by Kaiba to increase the ATK of “Obelisk the Tormentor”. One can then argue that the Player is able to use their own monster effects to change the ATK/DEF of a God until the end of the turn.16
Unaffected by card effects that would make this card leave the field, except effects of monsters whose Divine Hierarchy is higher than this card.
While Spells and Traps can affect a God card for 1 turn, we know that cards like Mirror Force don’t work. That confirms that non-targeting Trap Cards which destroy, will not work. However, should this extend to any card effect that “destroys”? There are still other ways of removal (Banish, Shuffle, Send, Return). If we consider the movie, “Pyramid of Light”, then the card, “Pyramid of Light”, could banish all God cards on the field. This card doesn’t target or destroy. Logically, this means that cards like Storming Mirror Force, Drowning Mirror Force, and Quaking Mirror Force would work on a card.
In the manga, Ishizu had planned to use “Blast Held by Tribute”, a Trap Card, to destroy Obelisk. However, the way this Trap Card worked was that it implanted a bomb inside one of the Tributes, so that when Obelisk was Summoned using that Tribute, he already had a bomb inside. Thus, the Trap Card affected the Tributed monster, not Obelisk directly. It was already into effect before Obelisk even was on the field.17
Now comes an example that may break all the logic that we’ve discussed so far. In the manga, Atem used the card, “Dimension Magic” to destroy the “Winged Dragon of Ra”. This is right after Ra essentially negated Obelisk’s own effect to destroy it.2 Spell cards affect a God for 1 turn, but does that mean a Spell card can also destroy a God? To understand we first need to look at the manga effect of “Dimension Magic”.
When a Spellcaster-Type monster is on the field, sacrifice two other monsters to play another Spellcaster-
Type monster from your Deck as a Special Summon. Two Spellcaster-Type monsters can combine their
attack to destroy any one monster. At the end of your turn, discard both Spellcaster-Type monsters.18
The manga has a habit of treating monster effects as attacks. In this case, “Dark Magician” and “Dark Magician Girl” are combining their power to attack and destroy Ra. It won’t ever make sense. The anime equivalent was not any better. The anime used a card called “Ragnarok” to destroy not banish all monsters on the opponent’s side of the field. The official text on Ragnarok says “destroy”. So now we come to a conundrum. Do we allow Spell Cards, which affect a God card for 1 turn, to also be able to destroy a God card? We know that “Soul Taker”, a Spell Card that targets and destroys did not work on Ra.
Then there are cards that don’t target and destroy like Raigeki, Dark Hole, Fissure, and Smashing Ground. All these cards existed at the time of Battle City. Kaiba, being the rich boy he is, had access to all of them yet was stumped as to find a method to defeat the Gods. As we stated since the start, we’ll use manga over anime when there is a contradiction. Dimension Magic can be explained if the effect is treated as an attack, but Ragnarok cannot.
Therefore, we will conclude that God cards are unaffected by card effects that would make it leave the field. The exceptions are effects like Ra’s Phoenix mode that can target and destroy any monster; Pyramid of Light which specifically states to banish all God cards ignoring their immunities. Magical Dimension and Ragnarok as per current modern mechanics, will not destroy a God card.
Once per turn, during the End Phase: This card’s ATK/DEF becomes its original ATK/DEF, also destroy any Equip Cards equipped to this card.
This may seem redundant after we just stated that card effects only affect a God card for 1 turn. However, the word “Unaffected” only helps address Continuous effects that are still being applied. To ensure that the ATK/DEF changes are returned to normal at the End Phase, we have to add this text. Of course, as mentioned earlier, “Seal of Orichaclos” gives a permanent 500 ATK boost because it’s a Field Spell. The Winged Dragon of Ra keeps its ATK/DEF changes since those are now considered its original ATK/DEF.
In addition, Equip or Continuous cards that target a God card, have to be destroyed at the End Phase. This is because cards like “Spellbinding Circle” worked for 1 turn and then was sent to the Graveyard. Without this clause, the card would remain on the field even if it is no longer affecting the God.
Once per turn, during the End Phase, if this card was Special Summoned by a card effect: Return this card to the location it was Special Summoned from.
Cards like “Monster Reborn”, “Call of the Haunted”, etc. that Special Summon a God card from the Graveyard, will only affect it for 1 turn. In the anime and manga, this meant that the God card returned to its original location from where it was Summoned (where the God card originally was before it was affected by a Spell/Trap). Thus, if it was Special Summoned from the hand or the Banished Zone, it would also return to those locations at the End Phase.
Once per turn, when a card or effect is activated that targets a Level 10 or higher DIVINE monster you control, or a monster you control is targeted for an attack by an opponent’s monster (Quick Effect): You can change the target to this card instead.
Note also that in current game mechanics, if a monster is Special Summoned, there is an attack replay where the opponent can then choose again the target of an attack. In this case, Slifer was Special Summoned and then redirected the attack. There is no card in the game that can do this even among monsters that change the target of the attack. Hence, this ability of God cards to intercept attacks upon their Special Summon, will not be included.25
Only 1 “insert card name” can be on the field.
Only 1 unique copy of an Egyptian God card existed in the anime and manga. Even if both Players possess a copy, only one should be allowed on the field at any time. In fact, Odion used a copy of Ra in his deck and the real Ra card got angry about it, and Odion almost got killed for it.5
Abilities of each Egyptian God
- Slifer the Sky Dragon (オシリスの天空竜) aka God of Osiris the Heavenly Dragon
While face-up on the field, this card is also Dragon-Type.
Buster Blader’s ATK rose by 500 for each Dragon-Type monster on the field. The only Dragon-Type monster there was “Slifer the Sky Dragon”.
If a monster(s) is Summoned to your opponent’s field in face-up Position, while this card is able to attack: That monster(s) loses 2000 ATK if it is in face-up Attack Position, but 2000 DEF if it is in face-up Defense Position, then if its affected ATK or DEF equals to 0, destroy it.
Yu-Gi-Oh Duelist Chapter 114
- Obelisk the Tormentor (オベリスクの巨神兵) aka God of Obelisk the Divine Soldier
Once per turn, during the Battle Step (Quick Effect): If this card is in Attack Position, you can Tribute 2 other monsters; this card’s ATK becomes ∞ until the end of the next Damage Step it battles, also, destroy all monsters your opponent controls, and if you do, inflict 4000 damage to your opponent. Then, if this effect did not destroy all monsters your opponent controls, make this card target a monster your opponent controls for an attack, and perform damage calculation. If that target is a monster whose Divine Hierarchy is higher than this card, the target cannot be destroyed by battle and your opponent takes no battle damage from that battle. This card cannot attack during the turn you activate this effect.
This iconic effect of Obelisk is called “Soul Energy MAX”. He’s only activated it a few times in the entirety of Yu-Gi-Oh, so we’ll try our best to reverse engineer it.
First, we know that this is a quick effect given that it activates during either Player’s BP. It also needs to be in Attack Position.19
Second, it destroys all monsters on the opponent’s side of the field by effect not battle. This is unlike Ra’s ability that attacks each monster once each. Afterwards, Obelisk inflicts 4000 LP of damage to the opponent. The question is what was the purpose of the infinite attack if it didn’t attack with it? If the opponent’s monsters were going to be destroyed by effect, then the infinite ATK had no real purpose except for suspense. When not all monsters were destroyed by Obelisk’s effect, it targets a monster for an attack and performs damage calculation. When all monsters are destroyed, it inflicts 4000 LP effect damage. Hence, we put both effects in PSCT. In the manga, Obelisk’s effect was treated like an attack that could be negated by a God with higher Divine Hierarchy like Ra or the Wicked Avatar. In Yu-Gi-Oh R, Obelisk actually does attack with infinite ATK.3 Since the monsters were destroyed by battle, this is proof that damage calculation was was performed and that Obelisk’s effect isn’t simply a destroy via effect.
In the manga, Obelisk attacked Ra with infinite attack and Mark took no battle damage and Ra was not destroyed by battle. Obelisk didn’t do the 4000 LP damage since it was unable to destroy all monsters on the field. Marik still tributed “Juragedo” and “Bowganian” just before Obelisk’s effect resolved, saving his own monsters from destruction and increasing Ra’s ATK/DEF at the same time. This means that Obelisk’s effect was activated and not negated by Ra.2 Rather, the higher Divine Hierarchy only allows it to be nullified or immune. We know this also because in the manga, Slifer was unable to lower Wicked Avatar’s ATK when it was Summoned.4
The Winged Dragon of Ra (ラーの翼神竜) aka God of Ra the Sun Dragon
We are going to skip the part where the user has to do a Summoning chant and read the hieratic text to convert Ra from Sphere Mode to Battle Mode. All of this is just for show. It will be assumed that the user knows what they are doing and can Summon Ra directly to Battle Mode.20
The original ATK/DEF of this card become equal to the total ATK/DEF of the monsters Tributed for its Tribute Summon. If this card is Special Summoned from the Graveyard: You can apply 1 of these effects.
The first ability of Ra that gives its ATK based on the combined ATK of the monsters Tributed was revealed by Odion in his duel against Joey.5 Note we also say “original” so that its ATK/DEF won’t reset at the End Phase. Next, is its ability that activates only when Special Summoned from the Graveyard. Note we specified “Graveyard”, and not just any arbitrary Special Summon. This is because Ra’s hieratic text specifically states “God shall revive from earth”. It also makes sense since a Phoenix rises from the ashes.
Gains total ATK/DEF of the monsters Tributed
Pay LP so that you only have 1 left; this card gains ATK/DEF equal to the amount of LP paid, also it is treated as a Fusion Monster and gains these effects.
- Unaffected by card effects that prevent it from attacking, also its attacks cannot be negated. This card can attack all monsters your opponent controls, once each, also, after that, it can attack directly if able.
- Once per turn (Quick Effect): You can Tribute any number of other monsters; this card gains ATK/DEF equal to the total ATK/DEF the monster(s) Tributed.
- Any effect that would increase your LP, increases this card’s ATK/DEF by the same amount, instead.
- If this card is targeted by the effect of “De-Fusion”, the activated effect becomes "Shuffle the target into the Deck, and if you do, gain LP equal to the ATK it had on the field, then you can Special Summon 1 “The Winged Dragon of Ra” from your Deck."
The second ability of Ra is its Point-to-Point Transfer Mode aka Fusion Mode. Note that this effect does not allow the Player to pay any amount of LP. It’s mandatory to pay all LP except 1. Yami Marik himself confirms this when he translates the hieratic text to confirm that all of the LP except 1 is mandatory.21 Any additional increases to the Player’s LP are instead, increases to Ra’s ATK and DEF. This was made clear when Atem activated “Soul Taker” to give Marik 1000 LP which instead increased Ra’s ATK/DEF by 1000.2
The key to Ra’s “One-Turn Kill” (OTK) involves being able to attack all monsters on the opponent’s side of the field once each and then a direct attack if able. The attack can’t be stopped by cards like “Negate Attack”. However, cards that end the battle phase or affect the opponent, not the monster will work. Examples include “Threatening Roar”, “Battle Fader”, “Thunder of Ruler”, etc. Yami Marik showcased the ability against Yami Bakura who had a full field of monsters.22
Since this is a Fusion monster, it can be targeted by “De-Fusion”. In the manga, Marik uses “De-Fusion” to cancel an attack and go to attack replay which is allowed in today’s rules.23 This requires Ra to leave the field not just have its ATK/DEF set to 0. Hence, it has to be Shuffled back to the Deck. The controller gains LP equal to its current ATK and then it is placed back to the field where its ATK/DEF is 0/0. This is the only workaround since Ra can’t be returned to the Extra Deck.
Cannot be destroyed by battle and you take no battle damage from battles involving this card. Once per turn (Quick Effect): You can pay 1000 LP, then target 1 other monster on the field; destroy it, ignoring its effects. This card cannot attack during the turn you activate this effect.
The third and final ability of Ra was its infamous “Phoenix Mode”. It was first revealed during the duel between Marik and Joey.24 By paying 1000 LP, it can target and destroy 1 monster on the opponent’s side of the field. One of the most important things to understand is that the “God Phoenix” can only destroy 1 monster at a time despite character interpretations and translations. This effect has never been shown in the manga or anime to destroy more than 1 monster at a time. Proof of this is in Chapter 214 when Yami Marik uses Ra’s Phoenix Mode to target and incinerate Obelisk. Yet, Atem’s field had both a “Dark Magician Girl” and a “Gazelle the King of Mythical Beasts” on his side of the field - a total of 3 monsters on his field. Eventually, Atem Summons Slifer to protect Obelisk, but it doesn’t change the fact that only Obelisk was being targeted. Note that if this ability didn’t target, then Slifer could not have intercepted the attack and it along with other monsters would have been incinerated.25
It’s also a Quick Effect since it can be activated during the opponent’s turn. We also learn later that it cannot be destroyed in battle and the controller receives no damage involving it when Marik Summons it from the Graveyard in Attack Position to block an attack from Slifer.26