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  1. Why I think synchro summoning is the best designed extra deck summoning mechanic
  3. Here I am going to examine fusion, synchro, XYZ, and link summoning on some basic criteria and explain why I think synchro is the best designed summoning mechanic in most regards. Pendulums will not be covered because they are too unique and not easily comparable to the other methods. My criteria will be as follows: First, consistency in how summons are performed with each summoning mechanic. This is important for giving a mechanic it's own identity and for the mechanic being easily understood. Second, the amount of unique rules and mechanics required alongside the summoning mechanic. While a mechanic being complex is not necessarily a bad thing, a mechanic being easy to grasp at it's basic level is certainly a good thing, so having fewer unique rules required will be seen as better. Third, self-synergy and laddering potential of the summoning mechanic. I believe that self-synergy is important in that it allows decks to naturally build towards their more powerful extra deck monsters step by step as they accumulate resources. Finally, generic accessibility of the summoning mechanic. This includes both how easily non-dedicated decks can access the summoning mechanic, as well as how easily dedicated decks can use generic support to facilitate the summoning mechanic or access generic monsters with the summoning mechanic.
  6. #Consistency in how summons are performed
  8. **Fusion**
  10. Fusion summons are nebulous. The most commonly seen kind of fusion summon involves sending 2 or more monsters from your hand or field to the GY with a fusion spell to bring out the fusion monster, but there are a great many exceptions to this rule. Fusion spells can sometimes use monsters from not only the hand and field, but also from the grave, the deck, and even the opponent's field or graveyard. Some archetypes eschew the use of fusion spells entirely, like Gladiator Beasts, or ABC. What happens to fusion materials can vary as well. They can be banished, returned to the deck, or destroyed. The materials required for a fusion summon are almost completely arbitrary. Some fusions require 2 specifically named monsters, while others require only monsters of specific types or attributes. The number of materials needed is similarly arbitrary. Overall, this wide variety of fusion summoning methods makes it very hard to nail down what exactly defines a fusion summon.
  12. **XYZ**
  14. XYZ summons are much easier to define. They require 2 or more monsters of the same level to be overlayed, bringing out an XYZ monster of corresponding rank. There are exceptions, such as Zoodiacs or Dingirsu, but these are less frequent than with fusions. The specific requirements and the number of materials needed is often arbitrary, but since XYZ summoning is based on levels, there can now be a generic baseline, which is not really possible with fusions. The baseline is simply 2 monsters of matching level, which is easy to understand. Additional requirements building on top of this baseline feels natural.
  16. **Link**
  18. Link summoning is so broad that it is actually somewhat difficult to describe. If you have monsters, you can sort of just turn them into links with a link summon. As with fusions, there is no baseline. Material requirements are even more arbitrary than fusions. Some links can use any monsters, others only non-tokens, others only effect monsters, and so on. The only consistent rule for summoning a link monster is that the link material used must equal the monsters link rating, and even this is muddied a bit by the rule allowing link 2 and 3 monsters to be treated as 2 or 3 link materials respectively, but also can be used as only one material.
  20. **Synchro**
  22. Synchro summons require the use of a tuner and 1 or more non-tuners whose levels sum up to the level of the synchro monster being summoned. There are scant few exceptions to this, such as a small handful of synchros requiring two tuners, and Tzolkin/Bishbaalkin. Like XYZ summoning, the material requirements are arbitrary, but the presence of a baseline, in this case any tuner and however many non-tuners with the correct level sum, make it easy to understand.
  24. In terms of consistency in how the summons are performed, XYZ and synchro summoning stand out as more consistent and easier to understand than fusion and link summoning. Fusion summoning stands out as the least coherent, although I suspect this comes from a desire to spice up extra deck summoning before the decision was made to introduce entirely new extra deck summoning mechanics.
  26. #Unique rules and mechanics added
  28. This section will discount the mechanics required to perform a summon.
  30. **Fusion**
  32. Fusion summoning and fusion monsters bring with them no notable unique rules.
  34. **XYZ**
  36. XYZ summoning and XYZ monsters bring several new and potentially confusing rules and mechanics to the game. XYZ monsters have ranks instead of levels, XYZ materials have unique rulings associated with them, and the mechanics of overlaying monsters and detaching materials are introduced as well. The ruling confusion about XYZ materials being on the field or not and the interaction of cards like Sangan is a clear example of how these rules can be difficult to understand initially.
  38. **Link**
  40. Link monsters and link bring with them a truckload of unique rules and mechanics. Two special new monster zones are added with their own unique rulings. The mechanics of linked zones, linked monsters, co-linking, and extra linking are added. Link monsters have no defense points and cannot be put in defense position, which also means they cannot be flipped face down. Links also have no level or rank, and instead have a link rating. The sheer number of new and unique elements added make link summoning the most confusing summoning mechanic.
  42. **Synchro**
  44. Synchro summoning introduces the concept of tuner monsters, although tuners do nothing inherently besides allow sychro summoning. They are included here only because other cards can interact with them in ways not explicitly related to synchro summoning.
  46. In terms of unique rules and mechanics added, fusion summoning is the simplest, with syncrhos coming in at a close second. Both are far less complex than XYZ summoning, which is itself far less complex than link summoning.
  48. #Self-synergy and laddering potential
  50. **Fusion**
  52. Fusion summoning has no self-synergy to speak of, and laddering with fusions is nearly impossible. The logical progression of fusion monsters, that being fusion monsters with other fusion monsters as materials, require massive investment under typical circumstances since fusion summoning does not facilitate this in and of itself. Using the most common form of fusion, with 2 monsters and 1 fusion spell, summoning a fusion monster requires 3 cards. Using that fusion monster, another material, and another fusion spell to bring out a more powerful fusion monster brings the total number of cards invested to 5.
  54. **XYZ**
  56. XYZ summoning also has no self-synergy. Summoning XYZ monsters with other XYZ monsters as materials is not possible under normal circumstances, since XYZ summoning can only be done using monsters with a level. To get around this, the auxiliary mechanic of ranking up had to created. This auxiliary mechanic has no connection to the process of XYZ summoning at all, and feels more like an afterthought that was stapled on. Ranking up either requires specific spell and trap cards to work, or the XYZ monsters facilitating their own ranking up, in which case the rank up is almost always done immediately, as with Utopia the Lightning and Cyber Dragon Infinity.
  58. **Link**
  60. Link summoning has a great deal of self-synergy, due to the previously mentioned mechanic of link 2 and 3 monsters being usable as multiple materials for link summons. Summoning multiple smaller link monsters naturally leads towards the summoning of larger and more powerful link monsters. Link monsters summoned using other link monsters as material are a very common sight.
  62. **Synchro**
  64. Synchro summoning has strong self-synergy. Since the process of synchro summoning involves the addition of levels, a synchro summoned monster provides the same number of levels towards another synchro summon using itself as material as the monsters used to summon it. The existence of synchro monsters which are also tuners further facilitates synchro laddering.
  66. In terms of self-synergy and laddering potential, link summoning is far and away the leader, with synchros in second, and XYZ and fusion trailing behind. While links clearly have the most self-synergy, I would argue that they are actually too synergistic in this regard, making it too easy to spam the board with a massive number of link summons in one turn. While synchro decks have existed which can perform a similarly massive number of summons, such as the dark synchro deck, this was more due to the presence of specific cards such as T.G. Hyper Librarian than due to the mechanics of synchro summoning itself. Synchro summoning requires a balance of tuners and non-tuners as well as the exact sum total of levels being just right. Meanwhile, link summoning can generally be done with any monsters available. Thus I would say that synchro summoning is the most well-designed mechanic in terms of self-synergy.
  68. #Generic accessibility
  70. **Fusion**
  72. Fusion summoning is almost completely inaccessible to decks not specifically built for it. Fusion spells generally do not fit into decks unless they focus on the mechanic. Occasionally, cards like Super Polymerization and Shaddoll Fusion are added to decks which otherwise are not fusion oriented, but on the whole, fusion summoning is rarely seen outside of decks built specifically around the mechanic. Within  dedicated fusion decks, the fusion monsters summoned are almost always in archetype, due to the specific nature of most fusion spells and required fusion materials.
  74. **XYZ**
  76. XYZ summoning is very accessible, and almost any deck can make use of it. In particular, one or more XYZ monsters from the powerful rank 4 toolbox could easily be fit into a huge number of decks. Ending up with multiple monsters of the same level on board happens frequently in almost any deck which special summons a lot, opening the door for XYZ plays. In XYZ focused decks, a large number of generic XYZ monster are often played, although these decks rarely have more than 1 or 2 ranks they access. Almost any card which involves special summoning can be good for XYZ summoning. XYZ summoning is in general very generically accessible.
  78. **Link**
  80. Link summoning is by far the most accessible summon mechanic. Almost every single deck is capable of making a massive number of different link monsters, and the plurality of monsters in most extra decks nowadays are link monsters. Even more so than with XYZ summoning, almost any card involving special summoning can be made useful for link summoning.
  82. **Synchro**
  84. Synchro summoning is somewhat accessible outside of dedicated synchro decks. The only real requirement is the inclusion of tuners in the deck, and there are several powerful generic tuners of varying levels such as Glow-Up Bulb and Red Resonator which can be fit into a variety of decks. Tuners such as these with special summoning effects are not terribly intrusive since they can typically be used for things besides synchro summoning, such as link summoning. Even though many decks choose not to include tuners, this is likely due to the relative lack of power of synchro monsters the decks could summon. The relatively new Borreload Savage Dragon being included in certain combo decks shows that decks can make room for synchro summoning without much hassle if the payoff is sufficient. I decks focused on synchro summoning, a variety of generic synchro monsters are usually seen alongside the archetypal one. Level 8 synchros tend to be most popular, but since most decks have at least a couple different levels in their main deck monsters, other levels or synchro monsters are often included, such as the popular Black Rose Dragon and Trish.
  86. In terms of generic accessibility, link summoning clearly wins out, but due to link format restricting other forms of extra deck summoning, this was a necessity. Some decks do not benefit much from links, or are hindered by them, but must include them anyway, so link monsters in someway go beyond being generically accessible and instead impose themselves on other decks. For this reason I do not think it is fair to say that link summoning is the best designed in terms of generic accessibility. XYZ summoning comes next in terms of accessibility, but only in a narrow range. Synchro summoning is less accessible, and Fusion summoning is almost completely inaccessible.
  88. #Conclusion
  90. To recap, here are the rankings I would give for each criteria.
  92. Consistency in how summons are performed: Synchro and XYZ, link, fusion
  94. Unique rules and mechanics added: Fusion, synchro, XYZ, link
  96. Self-synergy and laddering potential: Synchro, XYZ, Fusion (Being too synergistic, link summoning does not fit in to a ranked list easily here)
  98. Generic Accessibility: XYZ, synchro, fusion (link summoning does not fit easily here either)
  100. Given these rankings, I conclude that synchro summoning is the best designed mechanic, with XYZ as the second best. Whether link or fusion summoning is third is difficult to say due to link summoning not being easily rank-able in terms of self-synergy and generic accessibility.
  102. I'd be interested to hear any thoughts on this concept. I am admittedly biased, as I first got into YGO when synchros were the newest mechanic, and several of my favorite decks are or were primarily synchro based, like Six Samurai.
  104. What sort of things did I overlook or assess wrong, or do you agree with me?
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