Not meant to qualitative by any means, this is just a fun list from observation of the commons that everyone seemed to want to pull back in the day; around the first generation from around ’02-’04. For some reason, these just seemed harder to come across, and cards like these could hold their own against rare cards in trading. One interesting thing to note is that around this stage in the game, card importance was almost exclusively based around its use in the show, which lead to some strange cards being popular in hindsight when you take into account the change in real life rules and effects.
10. Dragon Piper (Metal Raiders)
Turns out, the show would have you believe that Dragon Capture Jar was a much bigger threat than it would actually end up being. But that didn’t stop us from preparing, and Dragon Piper was just one of those defenses. Sporting a decent defense of 1800 and being prominently used by Pegasus, everyone wanted a Dragon Piper.
9. Jigen Bakudan (Magic Ruler)
Now here’s a notable card from the show; it almost won Pegasus the duel against Yugi! It was made slightly easier to use by reducing the wait to one turn, but never really saw much actual usage because of its difficulty to use.
8. Ryu-Ran (Magic Ruler)
This monster had a few things going for it, mainly that it was used prominently by Pegasus in his climactic duel against Yugi. But its stats were also considered decent in the day with 2200 ATK and 2600 DEF (despite the two tributes). And for another thing, Dragons were far by the most popular deck types in this era (for those who even had a deck type).
7. Rabid Horseman (Metal Raiders)
This card seemed incredibly rare for some reason, and at the same time, it had a big crowd because it was prominently used by Kaiba. Furthermore, it had some playability to it because the Fusion Materials, Battle Ox and Mystic Horseman, were both common staples from Starter Deck: Kaiba. Interestingly, it’s never been featured in a Kaiba deck.
6. Skull Knight (Metal Raiders)
While Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon introduced Fusion Monsters, Metal Raiders made them more accessible and valid by releasing more powerful monsters and making them common (as opposed to, say a Rare Fusionist). Skull Knight was the most powerful of these new common Fusions, and Duelists took note. It was a complete game-changer that Duelists could now reasonably own a monster more powerful than the Dark Magician, even though Fusion Monsters didn’t really come into play until Starter Deck: Joey. But rules were still pretty lax at this point.
5. Slot Machine (Metal Raiders)
This was Bandit Keith’s main monster, or at least tied with Barrel Dragon – the only difference is that Barrel Dragon was an Ultra Rare card and Slot Machine was a common. So Slot Machine became the go-to for many Duelists due to that fact. It’s importance in the show seemed to overshadow the fact that it’s a two-tribute Monster with 2000 ATK. Launcher Spider actually boasts more power, but its time in the show was cut short.
4. Labyrinth Wall (Magic Ruler)
While the Paradox Brothers weren’t the most popular characters in the show, their tag-team duel with Yugi and Joey was certainly unforgettable. And if there was one key card from that duel, it was Labyrinth Wall (okay, maybe Gate Guardian, but still). This card completely changed the conditions from a normal duel into a Labyrinth Duel. And while it may not have worked like that in real life, it still had its benefits aside from simply being a card from the show. This card had the highest defense stats of any normal monster in the game; and as a common, one-tribute monster, this was big (imagine holding off your opponent’s Blue-Eyes attack). It was only rivaled by the coveted Millennium Shield with identical stats – which was actually released months later, and was virtually unobtainable as an Ultra Rare in the McDonald’s Pack.
3. Giltia the D. Knight (Metal Raiders
This one was a key card used by Joey in Duelist Kingdom. Despite inexplicably being a fusion monster, he sported good stats, a cool artwork, and generally seemed to be harder to pack.
2. Sword Hunter (Pharaoh’s Servant)
This card scores a few points because of its use by Joey in the show during his ill-fated duel against Duke Devlin (this was his signature card in the duel). But above that, this was a genuinely good and powerful card when 2400+ ATK two-tribute Monsters were the standard for power. His additional effect of powering himself up with each successful attack made him a force to be reckoned with.
1. Gazelle the King of Mythical Beasts (Metal Raiders)
While technically a Starter Deck card later on Starter Deck: Yugi Evolution, there was almost a two year gap between its inclusion in the deck in 2004 and its introduction in Metal Raiders in 2002. What’s interesting about Gazelle is that it was released in the wrong generation; US audiences were completely unaware that this card would go on to become a staple of Yugi’s deck in the seasons to come as we were still in the middle of the Duelist Kingdom arc. But once Battle City started, Gazelle quickly became a hot card, and Metal Raiders was the only place it could be found (1500 ATK was also pretty decent in its own right).
Fun fact, but in Japan, its initial releases were as Ultra Rare and Secret Rare in Limited Edition Pack 2 and Metal Raiders, respectively. The US mainly did away with character-based rarity after Legend of Blue Eyes (holo Celtic Guardian anyone?).