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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, which is similar to that of a Ritual Monster, but with a hexagonal honeycomb pattern. These cards are placed in the Extra Deck.
Like other Extra Deck monsters, Link Monsters cannot exist in 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, unless a card like "Transmigration Break" or "Degenerate Circuit" is active, in which case the Link Monster would still be banished. Also like other Extra Deck monsters, if a Link Monster is not properly Link Summoned before being sent to the Graveyard or banished, it cannot be Special Summoned from there (unless it specifies another way to properly Special Summon it).
Link Ratings and lack of DEF
Link Monsters have a Link Rating in place of a Level or Rank. A Link Monster's Link Rating can be found next to its ATK, in place of a DEF value. A Link Monster's Link Rating determines the total number of Link Materials required to Link Summon it, and is equal to the number of Link Arrows it has.
Link Monsters do not possess Levels or Ranks. Therefore they cannot be used as material for a Ritual, Synchro, or Xyz Summon, and are unaffected by cards that modify or check their Level/Rank, such as "Harmonic Waves", "Feedback Warrior", "Gravity Bind", or "Level Limit - Area B".
Link Monsters can only exist in face-up Attack Position, and cannot be put in Defense Position through any means. This is both because they do not have a DEF value and because rotating the card into Defense Position would change the directions in which its Link Arrows point. Because of this, Link Monsters are unaffected by effects that change battle positions, cannot be placed face-down, and cannot be Summoned by an effect that would Special Summon monsters only in Defense Position (such as "Back to the Front").
Monsters in the Extra Deck (Fusion, Synchro, Xyz, face-up Pendulum, 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, the monsters are considered to be "linked" to each other. Two Link Monsters that point to each other are considered to be "co-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. A player can Link Summon as many times as they want per turn, provided they can provide the Link Materials each time.
Link Monsters commonly grant benefits to monsters they point to or gain more powerful effects depending on the number of monsters they point to. As such, Decks focused around Link Monsters require methods to quickly Summon monsters in order to Summon Link Monsters as well as into the zones where the Link Monsters point to. When attempting to Summon multiple Link Monsters, it is important to decide which order to Summon them in, as their Link Arrows will dictate where the others can be Summoned and what monsters will be Linked to them.
Link Monsters with higher Link Ratings can be Special Summoned more quickly by Link Summoning multiple weaker Link Monsters first. This also helps to place them in locations that will take better advantage of their Link Arrows.
Powerful Link Monsters are typically balanced by having a higher Link Rating and forward-pointing Link Arrows, allowing the opponent to summon more Extra Deck monsters. For example, "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", "Gaia Saber, the Lightning Shadow" and "Link Spider" do not.