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A Link Monster (Japanese: リンクモンスター Rinku Monsutā) is a type of Monster Card. The color of their card frame is dark blue, similar to the border of a Ritual Monster, but with a hexagonal pattern similar to a honeycomb structure. These cards are placed in the Extra Deck.
Like other Extra Deck monsters, Link Monsters cannot exist in either the hand or the Main Deck (even with card effects). If a Link Monster would be moved to the hand or Main Deck, it is returned to the Extra Deck instead. If a card like "Transmigration Break" or "Degenerate Circuit" is applying, the Link Monster will be banished rather than returning to the Extra Deck.
Like other Extra Deck monsters, if a Link Monster is not Link Summoned first, it cannot be Special Summoned from the Graveyard or while banished (unless it specifies another way to properly Special Summon it).
Link Ratings and lack of DEF
Link Monsters have neither Levels nor Ranks, but instead have a Link Rating. A Link Monster's Link Rating determines either the total number of Link Materials required to Link Summon it. A Link Monster's Link Number is also equal to the number of Link Arrows it has. A Link Monster's Link Number can be found next to its ATK, in place of the DEF on other types of Monster Cards.
Because they do not have Levels, Link Monsters cannot be used for Ritual, Synchro or Xyz Summons (unless otherwise specified). Effects that depend on a monster's Level, such as "Gravity Bind", "Burden of the Mighty" and "Roulette Barrel" do not apply to Link Monsters.
Because they do not have DEF, Link Monsters can only exist in Attack Position and cannot be either placed in or changed to Defense Position (either manually or through a card effect). This makes them unaffected by any cards that change battle positions, and by extension cannot be placed face-down. Link Monsters cannot be targeted or chosen by an effect that would Special Summon monsters only in Defense Position (such as "Return to the Frontlines"). These properties prevent rotation of the card and changing the directions its Link Arrows are pointing to.
Fusion Monsters, Synchro Monsters, Xyz Monsters, Pendulum Monsters face-up in the Extra Deck, and Link Monsters can be Special Summoned from the Extra Deck to a Main Monster Zone a Link Monster points to. If a Link Monster points to a monster, they are considered to be "linked" to each other.
A Link Summon is the act of Summoning a Link Monster from the Extra Deck using the requisite number of Link Materials listed on its Link Rating. During the Main Phase, the turn player can Link Summon by sending the face-up Link Materials from their field to the Graveyard.
Link Monsters commonly use effects where they point to. As such, Decks focused around Link Monsters require methods to quickly Summon monsters to where Link Monsters point to, in addition to Summoning the Link Monsters themselves. When attempting to Summon multiple Link Monsters, it is important to decide in what order to Summon them, as their Link Arrows will dictate where the others can be Summoned and what monsters will be Linked to them.
Powerful Link Monsters are typically balanced not only by a higher Link Rating, but also by having forwards pointing Link Arrows, allowing the opponent to summon more Extra Deck monsters. Powerful Link Monsters such as "Decode Talker", "Firewall Dragon", "Topologic Bomber Dragon" and "Encode Talker" all have Link Arrows that point towards the opponent's field when they are placed in the Extra Monster zone, while weaker Link Monsters such as "Missus Radiant", "Gaiasaber, the Virtual Knight" and "Link Spider" do not.
Because Link Monsters allow the player to Summon more Monsters from the Extra Deck, and they have relatively non-restrictive Summon requirements, Decks that focus on other Summon Methods can splash a few Link Monsters.