The Nature of “When”

“When” and “If” are two of the trickiest words in the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG.  Both of them are used on a wide variety of effects, and both are involved in the rules regarding what is commonly referred to as “missing the timing”.

Though not as common as the first, “If” is surprisingly easy to understand.  For this word, timing is never an issue.  All that matters is “If” something happened.  Doesn’t matter when it happened, just that it happened.  Simple.  (There is one exception, and that’s Eclipse Wyvern; however, that is for entirely different reasons, and it deserves its own article.)

“When”, though, is not as easy to grasp.  And to make matters worse, Trigger effects aren’t the only effects that are subject to this word’s complexity.  ANY optional effect that uses the word “when” in its timing clause- that is, the section of the effect that tells you when you can activate it, i.e. “When this card is sent to the Graveyard:”- can have a lot of crazy timing issues come up.

We’re all familiar with the “missing the timing” rules regarding optional “When” effects.  For those of you who aren’t, here’s a quick refresher: Suppose you have a Daybreaker in your Graveyard, and another in your hand.  Your opponent activates Mystical Space Typhoon to destroy your Set Call of the Haunted, and you Chain it and target Daybreaker.  You Special Summon your target and then the Typhoon destroys Call.  You do NOT get Daybreaker’s effect because you Summoned him in the middle of a resolving Chain.  You have to finish that Chain before youc an do anything else.  What’s more, any optional “When” effect can only be activated “when” its trigger happens.  If you’re doing something else, you have wait, so you miss your one chance to activate the effect.

But as it turns out, this rule can also apply to Quick Effects.  The rules of YGO are made of a lot of different components, and many of them can be combined in a lot of different ways.  Here’s an example of a Quick Effect “missing the timing”, as it were.

My opponent controls a face-up Maiden with Eyes of Blue in Attack Position.  I control Changer Synchron and Jester Confit.  I have Changer tune with Confit in order to Synchro Summon Formula SynchronChanger Synchron’s effect is mandatory, so it automatically activates once the Synchro Summon is complete, and becomes Chain Link 1, and its target is Maiden.  I also decide to activate Formula Synchron’s effect to let me draw one card.  In this instance, Maiden with Eyes of Blue cannot activate her second effect.  This is because it must activate “when” she is targeted by a card effect.  She can’t do that, though, because the last thing to happen wasn’t her being targeted; it was Formula Synchron’s effect being activated.  When the Chain resolves, I will draw one card and Changer Synchron will switch Maiden to face-up Defense Position.  Maiden’s second effect will NOT activate, and my opponent will NOT Special Summon a Blue-Eyes White Dragon.  (This, of course, means they can activate that effect later in the turn if the opportunity arises, or the Maiden’s effect to negate an attack.)

Here’s an example that might make a bit more sense to you.  I control Stardust Dragon, and my opponent activates Card Destruction while they have two cards in hand and I have none.  After resolving Card Destruction, my opponent activates the effects of the monsters they discarded: The Fabled Catsith and The Fabled Cerburrel.  My opponent decides to put Catsith on Chain LInk 1, and Cerburrel on Chain Link 2.  My Stardust Dragon cannot activate to negate Catsith’s effect.  We have all been told that it’s because these effects have to be Chained directly to the effect they are negating, and while this is technically true, it doesn’t really explain why.  It just repeats what we already knew in different words.

The reason Stardust cannot activate in the above Chain is because it missed its chance.  Stardust Dragon can only activate its effect “When” a card-destroying effect or card is activated.  The last thing to happen was NOT that, but was instead the activation of an effect that Special Summons a monster.

Just to drive it home, suppose my opponent put those effects on the Chain in reverse order: Cerburrel on Link 1, and Catsith on Link 2.  NOW Stardust can activate to negate Catsith, because the last thing to happen is the activation of Catsith’s effect to destroy a card.

Funnily enough, the rules of “When” also apply to Counter Traps.  In the above example, if The Fabled Cerburrel is on Chain Link 2, I could not activate the effect of Stardust Dragon, but I COULD activate the Counter Trap Solemn Warning.  Conversely, if Cerburrel is on Chain Link 1, and The Fabled Catsith is on Chain Link 2, I can activate Stardust’s effect, but I CANNOT activate Solemn Warning against Cerburrel.

It’s a very simple principle to remember, really: If a card or effect that is optional can only activate “When [X event happens]”, then that event must be the LAST thing to happen, and that this rule applies to ALL cards, regardless of Spell Speed.

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The Gamestate: What It Is, and When It Matters

For a while, I was without ideas for a subject.

But, while exploring the unofficial Facebook group for Yu-Gi-Oh! Judges, I saw a post that gave me an idea of what to write about: The gamestate.

What exactly is the “gamestate”?  Put simply, it’s an unofficial term that refers to the current state of the duel and everything that’s happened so far.  This includes a lot of things, too many to actually list here one by one.  But in general, it includes whose turn it is and what Phase or Step it is, what actions players have performed throughout the duel and during the current turn, Life Points, and a host of other things.

The post I mentioned earlier was asking a question about Ultimate Offering.  It can be used as an example here, but so can a lot of other cards, such as Hand Destruction.  Let’s use both of those cards as two different examples.

Player A has Ultimate Offering face-up on the field.  He controls no monsters and has one card his hand.  Player B controls a Set Spell or Trap Card, and Player A suspects that it’s a popular Summon Trap, such as Bottomless Trap Hole or Torrential Tribute.  But Player A has a plan.

Player A activates Ultimate Offering‘s effect.  Player B has no response.  Player A then immediately activates Ultimate Offering’s effect a second time, chaining it to the first activation.  When Offering resolves on Chain Link 2, he will Normal Summon the Thunder King Rai-Oh in his hand.  Then Chain Link 1 will resolve- but since Player A does not have a monster in his hand and the one he just summoned is not a Gemini monster, Ultimate Offering‘s first activation resolves without effect.  But the key here is that there is still a resolution.  To complete the example, Player B’s Set card was indeed Bottomless Trap Hole.  But because the last thing to happen was an empty resolution and not Rai-Oh’s Normal Summon, it cannot be activated.

Let’s look at a second example.  I’m using one of my favorite decks, Gishki Deckout (or Gishkill).  My opponent has 3 cards left in their deck and I have 4.  I’m also holding on to ten cards, two of which are copies of Hand Destruction (my opponent has seven cards in hand).  I activate one Hand Destruction and my opponent has no response.  I then Chain with my second Hand Destruction.  The Hand Destruction on Chain Link 2 will resolve and both of us will drop 2 cards, then draw 2 cards.  Then the first one I played will resolve and we will repeat our actions.  But since my opponent has only 1 card left and must draw 2, he will lose.

It’s important that you know something about Hand Destruction: It cannot be activated if either player has less than 2 cards in their hand or in their deck.

You should see the common factor between these two examples.  A player is activating two cards or effects at the same time, even though the gamestate is no longer friendly to that card after one of them resolves.  Once the Chain reaches Link 1, the gamestate is now such that the activations of those cards would be illegal.

But those cards have already been activated, so it doesn’t really matter.

The lesson here is that when it comes to the gamestate, cards only look at right now.  They don’t predict the future.  Ultimate Offering wasn’t going to look ahead and say, “Oh, well, if that resolves, then there won’t be anything for me to summon, so I can’t be activated again.”  It just looks at its controller’s hand and goes, “Ooooh!  A monster I can summon!”  And it does this with each activation on that same Chain.  The same thing applies with Hand Destruction.  It doesn’t see that there will only be 1 card in my opponent’s deck later on.  It just looks at how many cards there are right now, and it sees 3.

This is a very useful trick and can be done with many different cards, not just the two I mentioned here.  Here’s a third example, one you’re much more likely to see in competitive play.

You have two copies of Mystical Space Typhoon in your hand.  You’ve also got a monster out that’s really big and really nasty just beating face all the live long day.  You play a Typhoon and target your opponent’s one Set Spell or Trap, but they Chain it and it’s a Safe Zone!  They target your Big Nasty, knowing full well that when Safe Zone is destroyed, it will take Big Nasty with it.

But you’re not down and out yet!  You Chain to Safe Zone with your second Mystical Space Typhoon!  Typhoon 2 resolves first and destroys Safe ZoneSafe Zone is a Continuous Trap and must remain face-up on the field to resolve properly, so destroying it before it resolves will prevent that from happening.  Its effect is never applied to Big Nasty, so he can continue beating face.  (If you’re wondering, your first Typhoon will also resolve without effect since its target is no longer on the field.)

Remember: When activating a card, it will only look at the CURRENT gamestate.  Activations care nothing for future events.

The Trouble with Thunder Kings: What Rai-Oh Can (and Can’t) Do

It’s happened to everyone.  You’re in a duel and you activate Monster Reborn, Miracle Fusion, or something similar.  And when you Special Summon your monster, your opponent Tributes their Thunder King Rai-Oh to negate the Special Summon.

It’s not entirely their fault.  Rai-Oh does say that it can negate Special Summons.  It’s just that these duelists are unaware of the rulings regarding summon negation, and if they ARE aware of them, they’ll point out that these are “previously official rulings” according to the Wiki since the TCG rulings are located on Horn of Heaven.  Even pointing out the OCG rulings doesn’t always work.

But that doesn’t make them any less wrong about it.

Thunder King cannot negate a Special Summon made through an activated card or effect.  It’s that simple.  It cannot negate a Special Summon made through Monster Reborn.  It cannot negate a Ritual Summon or a Fusion Summon.  It cannot negate a Special Summon made through Mystic Tomato.

But why is that?  Many would say it’s simply “because Konami said so.”  That’s not entirely true.  Sure, you could argue that EVERY rule is because Konami said so.  But nearly every ruling has logic behind it.  This ruling is no different.

There’s a rule that I don’t believe many people are aware of.  It is the rule that while a Chain is resolving, other cards and effects cannot activate.  And before you ask, this has everything to do with Rai-Oh because it explains why Rai-Oh cannot stop these Special Summons.  They are happening while a Chain is resolving, and Rai-Oh cannot activate at that time.

And you can’t just have Rai-Oh negate the summon after the Chain has resolved either.  By the time you CAN activate his effect, it’s too late.  The summon is already successful.  (There is one exception to this scenario, but I’m not sure I would call it an exception: An Xyz Summon made through Advanced Heraldry Art.  But that’s because Heraldry Art tells you to perform that Xyz Summon AFTER it has resolved, which is the point when Rai-Oh can activate.)

It’s not really a difficult rule to follow either.  A lot of players seem subconsciously aware that it exists.  Proof of its existence is in the “Missing the Timing” rulings (discarding Peten the Dark Clown as a cost or sending it to the Graveyard on Chain Link 2), and can also be seen on Drill Warrior (the rule that says you cannot use Bottomless Trap Hole or Torrential Tribute when Drill Warrior Special Summons himself from the banished pile if you add a monster to your hand afterward).

I’m sure most players can easily figure out what Rai-Oh can and cannot negate with his effect if they are aware of this rule.  Just in case, I’m going to provide a list of what the Big Three summon negation cards can actually stop.

Thunder King Rai-Oh

Solemn Warning

  • Can negate all the same stuff as Rai-Oh.
  • Can negate Normal and Flip Summons.
  • Can negate “extra” Normal Summons (such as through Swap Frog or Double Summon).
  • Can negate the activation of any monster effect or Spell/Trap Card that Special Summons.  (Goblindbergh, Monster Reborn, Call of the Haunted, Trap Monsters)
  • Can negate the activation of any monster effect or any Spell/Trap Card that, at activation, lets you know you have the option of Special Summoning on the card.  (Macro Cosmos, Starlight Road, Grapha when discarded by an opponent’s card effect)
  • Cannot negate the activation of a card or effect that does not expressly give a Special Summon option on its initial activation.  (Infernity Launcher)
  • Cannot negate Spell/Trap effects.
  • Cannot negate a Normal Summon through Ultimate Offering.  (Same reason Rai-Oh cannot negate a Special Summon through Monster Reborn).

Solemn Judgment

  • Can negate any Summon that doesn’t use the Chain.
  • Can negate “extra” Normal Summons gained through cards like Double Summon.
  • Can negate the activation of any Spell/Trap Card.
  • Cannot negate Spell, Trap or monster effects.

That should just about cover it.  Always remember: If a Chain is resolving, wait until its done.  If you’re ever in a duel and your opponent won’t believe you on this rule, you can show them this article if you like (I don’t mind getting additional followers, and I’m not ashamed of saying so), but it’s much better if you show them the wiki, some official source for rulings, or just ask the first registered judge that comes along.  They’ll tell you what’s up.

Triggered: When Effects Activate (And Why You Should Know)

Today’s discussion was suggested by a friend of mine.  It will contain relevant rules that you should know regarding Chains and Trigger effects, and I’ll be looking at one of today’s top tournament decks to help illustrate.  That deck is the Genex Atlantean Mermail deck.

The Genex Atlantean Mermail deck (G.A.M. for short; also known as “Merlantean”) combines the Atlantean and Mermail archetypes while using Genex Undine and Genex Controller as a sort of “engine boost”.  The Atlantean monsters typically activate their effects if they are used to pay the activation cost of a WATER monster’s effect (so, only stuff that creates Chain Links).  The Mermails are used primarily as a means of activating these effects, but have a few other tricks as well.  Genex Undine is also used to trigger Atlantean effects (which is also why Genex Controller is present).

As I stated previously, the effects of the three primary Atlanteans used are Trigger effects that activate if they are used as an activation cost for a WATER monster’s effect.  But what a lot of newer players may stumble over is when these effects activate.  The common mistake is that they believe these effects are chained to the initial effect that was activated.  Let me illustrate with an example.

The turn player- we’ll call him Craig- is using a G.A.M. deck and has Mermail Abyssmegalo, Mermail Abyssgunde, and Atlantean Dragoons in his hand.  Craig also has a Mermail Abysspike in the Graveyard.

Craig activates Abyssmegalo’s effect from his hand (that’s right, it’s an Ignition effect, not a Summon condition).  To pay the cost, he discards Abyssgunde and Dragoons.  Both effects are triggered, but they will not activate just yet.  Trigger effects almost never chain to other kinds of monster effects, and only chain to themselves if they are triggered at the same time.  The reason is simple: Except for Trigger and Flip Effects, Spell Speed 1 effects never chain to each other.  You can find these rules in the rulebook in the Spell Speed section and the Other Rules section.  I know of no way for any Spell Speed 1 effect other than a Trigger or Flip effect to be activated in response to another effect.

So when do the effects of Abyssgunde and Dragoons activate?  After the current Chain is resolved, of course.  Once Abyssmegalo has resolved his effect, then the effects of the discarded monsters will activate.  Craig can also activate Abyssmegalo’s Trigger effect to add an “Abyss-” Spell or Trap from his deck to his hand.

At this point, Craig would apply the SEGOC rules- Simultaneous Effects Go On the Chain.  Atlantean Dragoons’ effect is mandatory, so it goes on Chain Link 1.  Abyssgunde and Abyssmegalo’s effects are both optional, so Craig gets to choose which one goes on Chain Links 2 and 3.

Something I should probably mention is why Abyssmegalo goes on this Chain even though its deck searching effect is triggered by something else entirely.  It’s a simple matter of timing.  Even though they were triggered by being discarded, Dragoons and Abyssgunde had to wait until Abyssmegalo’s summon effect was resolved to activate.  As such, they activated “in response” to Abyssmegalo’s Special Summon.  As to why they are treated as being in response to the summon, it’s because that was the earliest opportunity for them to activate.  Simple as that.

I will also briefly touch on “missing the timing”.  Craig decides to target the Mermail Abysspike in his Graveyard with Abyssgunde’s effect.  However, when Abysspike is Special Summoned, its own Trigger effect will NOT activate because Craig is in the middle of resolving a Chain.  It missed its chance to activate; this will be the case whether Abyssgunde is on Chain Link 2 or 3.  Because of Atlantean Dragoons, there is no way for Abyssgunde to be on Chain Link 1.  This is true of all optional Trigger effects that begin with “When”.  Optional Trigger effects that begin with “If”, such as Abyssgunde, are immune to this rule and can never miss the timing.  I will go more in depth about this rule in a future article.

The G.A.M. deck is the big thing that must keep this rule in mind.  Not too long ago, it was Wind-Ups (Wind-Up Magician and Wind-Up Factory would have been relevant to this article).  There are many other decks that must abide by this rule, and there will be many more to come.  So always remember: Spell Speed 1 effects don’t chain to each other unless they activate at the EXACT same time.