| Victory condition
|Japanese (base text)||
Standard victory conditions
These are the typical ways to win a Duel in the game's mechanics.
- Your opponent's Life Points are reduced to 0.
- Your opponent is required to draw a card, but has no cards left in their Main Deck.
A player can also win a Duel if their opponent surrenders, or is issued a Game Loss penalty in a tournament. In addition, most tournament Duels are timed; if time runs out and the Duel has not ended, the player with more Life Points wins. If Life Points are tied, the Duel will continue until the first change in Life Points happens ("sudden death").
If both players satisfy a victory condition at the same time, then the Duel ends in a DRAW.
A Match is typically won by winning two Duels. In tournaments, Matches can also be won by the opponent forfeiting the match or receiving a Match Loss penalty, or by time running out when the player has won a Duel while the opponent has not.
Alternate victory conditions
Since the beginning of the game, there have existed cards whose effects provide alternate ways to win a Duel. The first and arguably the most famous of these is "Exodia the Forbidden One". There are currently a total of fourteen Duel winner cards released in the OCG or TCG.
A series of monsters, known as the Match winners, all possess the effect that if they successfully attack your opponent directly and make their Life Points 0 by the battle damage it inflicted (sometimes with additional conditions), then you win the entire Match instead of just the Duel. All Match winners printed are illegal to use in official Duels, except for "Victory Dragon", which is instead currently Forbidden.
Removing or replacing victory conditions
These cards have effects that remove or replace the standard victory conditions. Currently, no such effects exist in the TCG or OCG.
- "Divine Serpent Geh": While you control this face-up card, you cannot lose the Duel. This is an anime-only card.
- "Relay Soul": This card's anime effect allows you to Special Summon a monster from your hand when your Life Points become 0, and makes destroying that monster your opponent's only victory condition, replacing all others. (This card has a different effect in the TCG/OCG; see "Duel winners" above.)
- "Deuce": While this card is face-up on the field, neither player can lose the Duel if their Life Points become 0. Instead, a player wins the Duel if they damage their opponent twice in a row. This is an anime-only card.
- "Infernity Zero": While you control this face-up card, you do not lose the Duel if your Life Points become 0. This card exists only in the anime and in Tag Force 5 and Tag Force 6.
- "Zero Gate of the Void": Similar to "Relay Soul", this card's effect allows you to Special Summon "Void Ogre Dragon" when your Life Points become 0 while your field and hand are empty, and your opponent's only victory condition becomes the destruction of that monster. This is a manga-only card.
Video game automatic surrender
- "Yata-Garasu": In most video games, if a player successfully inflicts battle damage to their opponent with "Yata-Garasu" while the opponent controls no cards and has no cards in their hand, then the opponent will automatically surrender the Duel at the start of their next turn, because of the lock effect of "Yata-Garasu". This forced surrender applies to both human and CPU players, and will occur even if not surrendering would have been beneficial (such as if the controller of "Yata-Garasu" had no cards left in their Deck and would have lost had the opponent not surrendered).
Prior to March 20, 2015 in the TCG, it was the rule that a Duel could not end in the middle of resolving a card effect. For example:
- If a player activated "Berserker Soul" and one of the excavated cards lowered the opponent's LP to 0, the player would still be required to excavate up to all 7 cards before the effect finished resolving and the player with 0 LP lost.
- A player who draws the fifth piece of "Exodia" with "Dark World Dealings" cannot declare victory until after they have also discarded a card (and their hand still contains all five "Exodia" pieces).
On March 20, 2015, the rules were changed for standard victory conditions only, stating that a Duel would end immediately if a player's Life Points reached 0 or they were unable to draw a card, even in the middle of an effect, but that this change would not carry over to alternate victory conditions. This change was presumably made in response to the then-new erratum of "Ring of Destruction" in the TCG.[TODO: This change was also made in the OCG at some point; can someone find an exact date?]