Big Benkonfusion

Duelist Alliance officially goes on sale today!  This means that a ton of new and surprisingly good cards are now available for tournament play, such as Chain Dispel, and Yuya Sakaki’s Ace monster Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon.  But this post will actually be about different card, one that is sure to cause some confusion.  Say hello to Noboru Gongenzaka’s Ace monster, Superheavy Samurai Big Benkei!

SuperheavySamuraiBigBenkei-DUEA-EN-R-1E

When this card is Normal or Special Summoned: You can change its battle position.  “Superheavy Samurai” monsters you control can attack while in face-up Defense Position.  If they do, apply their DEF for damage calculation.

Older players will immediately be reminded of two older cards: Total Defense Shogun, and Elemental HERO Rampart Blaster.  Both of these cards also have the unique ability to attack while in Defense Position, but there is a key difference between these cards and Big Benkei up there.  The difference is that these cards still use their ATK when attacking in Defense Position, but Big Benkei (and all other Superheavy Samurai in his presence) uses his DEF.

This is where I got hung up, and I don’t doubt a lot of other players experienced the same confusion as me.  What happens if Superheavy Samurai Big Benkei attacks a monster with less ATK or DEF than his own DEF while he’s in Defense Position?  There are two possible answers to this question.

The first possible answer is Big Benkei deals battle damage if the attack target is in Attack Position, but does not destroy it by battle.

The second answer is that Big Benkei will inflict battle damage if the attack target is in Attack Position, but WILL destroy the monster by battle either way.

Only one of these is correct and some of you will be surprised to learn that it’s NOT the first one.  Yep, you read that right.  Big Benkei and his Superheavy allies can and will destroy stuff by battle while attacking in Defense Position, even though they are applying their DEF.  So why is that?

It’s because they’re attacking.  The rules of the game says that a monster can only attack while in Attack Position, and that you apply that monster’s ATK for damage calculation.  Big Benkei bypasses both of these rules, but the one fundamental factor of battle remains unchanged: One monster is attacking, and attacking monsters can destroy other monsters by battle.

It can’t be that simple, can it?  It can.  The rulebook uses the following phrases when detailing the rules for battling.

Each face-up Attack Position monster you control is allowed 1 attack per turn. (Version 8.0, Pg.32)

You calculate Battle Damage based on the battle position of the monster you are attacking. If you attack an Attack Position monster, compare ATK vs. ATK. If you attack a Defense Position monster, compare your monster’s ATK vs. the attacked monster’s DEF.  (Version 8.0, Pg.35, emphasis added)

In addition to that, the first two sections for calculating damage on pages 35 and 36 (Version 8.0) are labeled as follows.

When You Attack an Attack Position Monster (Version 8.0, Pg.35)

When You Attack a Defense Position Monster (Version 8.0, Pg.36)

Finally, the section on direct attacks is as follows.

If there are no monsters on your opponent’s side of the field, you can attack directly. The full amount of your attacking monster’s ATK is subtracted from the opponent’s Life Points as Battle Damage. (Version 8.0, Pg. 36)

What Superheavy Samurai Big Benkei does is essentially rewrite those sections so that you are applying your monster’s DEF instead of ATK.  Nothing else is changed, so everything else about those rules is still applied.  This is a handy way to remember this rule: Just substitute “your attacking monster’s ATK” in the rulebook with “your attacking monster’s DEF”.  Suddenly, his effect is so much easier to understand.

But for those who still don’t quite get it, let me just illustrate it for you.  Let’s say you control Big Benkei in Defense Position, while your opponent controls Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon (2500 ATK).  If you attack Odd-Eyes with Big Benkei, Odd-Eyes will be destroyed by battle, and your opponent will take 1000 battle damage.

Benkei vs. Odd-Eyes 1

Now let’s say Odd-Eyes has a boost from Blustering Winds.  This puts its ATK at 3500, exactly equal to Big Benkei’s DEF.  If a Defense Position Superheavy Samurai Big Benkei were to attack Odd-Eyes in this situation, both monsters would be destroyed by battle.

Benkei vs Odd-Eyes 2

Well that covers attacking monsters in Attack Position.  But what about monsters in Defense Position?  How does that work?  Pretty much the same way.  If Big Benkei attacks a Defense Position monster with lower DEF than his own, while Benkei himself is in Defense Position, that monster is destroyed, but no battle damage is inflicted.

And what if he attacks a monster with the same DEF?  Surely both monsters would be destroyed, right?  Nope.  If he attacks a monster with equal DEF to his own, Big Benkei will be unable to destroy it.  In fact, neither monster is destroyed, and no damage is inflicted.

Benkei vs Odd-Eyes 2

By now, you should have an idea of how this works, but just in case, I will cover one last scenario: If Big Benkei attacks a Defense Position monster whose DEF is higher than his own, neither monster is destroyed, but Big Benkei’s controller will take damage equal to the difference in DEF.

So to summarize once more, when attacking with Defense Position “Superheavy Samurai” monsters while Superheavy Samurai Big Benkei is on the field, just follow the charts on pages 35 and 36 of the rulebook (Version 8.0 as of this writing), using your Superheavy Samurai’s DEF in place of its ATK.

The Superheavy Samurai will be receiving more support in The New Challengers, slated for TCG release on November 7, 2014, so hang in there guys!  In the meantime, I’ll keep looking for stuff to write about.  I’ve already got a particularly interesting idea I’ll be working on, but I’ll keep the details to myself for now.  But if you have any suggestions, then let me know in the comments or by emailing me.

Until next time, keep dueling!

Sealed Strategy: Sneak Peeks

For my newest article, I’d like to focus on something else: Strategy.

This past weekend was the Duelist Alliance Sneak Peek event. At my local store, I participated instead of judging. I’m proud to say that I won the sealed event and earned the prized playmat.

But how I won may come as surprise to many of my readers- it certainly surprised many of the people I defeated, and they are some of the best friends I’ve ever had. You see, I didn’t get very lucky with my pulls. In fact, the shiniest card I got was a Hypnosister, a mere Super Rare and not one that’s likely to be very popular in the tournament scene. Every other pack contained only a single rare card and eight commons.

So how did I win the Sealed Event? Well, I should probably preface this with the rules of the event. In this tournament, you are allowed to build a deck with the cards you received from the packs as well as the promo card. You have 46 cards total to work with. But you only need to have 20 cards in your Main Deck. Any Fusion, Synchro, or Xyz Monsters you get must be placed in the Extra Deck. Any cards you don’t put in your Main or Extra Deck are placed in your Side Deck, ignoring the 15 card limit. Players are also allowed to ignore the 3 card rule for deck construction, meaning if you pulled four or more copies of a single card, you are allowed to use all of them. Between Duels in a match, you are allowed to utilize your Side Deck in ways you never could in normal Matches: In addition to switching cards between your Main and Side Decks, you are also allowed to increase or decrease the size of your Main Deck (so long as you never go below 20 cards).  And from my understanding, the changes you make can be permanent.

I took advantage of this format in a way that no one else in the store considered: I stuck to the absolute minimum deck size at all times. You see, I firmly believe in a philosophy when constructing decks: The fewer cards you have, the closer you are to what you need. It’s a simple matter of statistics, really. By using only 20 cards in my Main Deck, I was always much closer to the cards and plays I needed than my opponents were.  On top of that, running only twenty cards would dramatically increase my odds of pulling off certain combos sooner.

But this was only half of my strategy. The other half was to use the most generic cards I pulled, cards whose abilities I could use in the most situations, combining them with one another as well as playing them on their own. I had many cards to consider, both for my own strategy and in accounting for opposing tactics. My main concerns were actually common cards: Superheavy Samurai Swordsman, Superheavy Samurai Blue Brawler, U.A. Perfect Ace from the new Ultra Athlete series, and certain Spells and Traps. The archetypal cards I simply didn’t fear because they could only be best used in a full deck based on the cards they supported.

With all of these things in mind, I chose the following cards for my deck.

Monsters: 17
1x Battleguard King
1x Superheavy Samurai Big Benkei
1x Dragon Horn Hunter
1x Performapal Kaleidoscorp
2x Aria the Melodious Diva
2x Performapal Hip Hippo
2x Sonata the Melodious Diva
1x Gaia, the Mid-Knight Sun
1x Hypnosister
1x Performapal Skeeter Skimmer
1x Performapal Turn Toad
1x Performapal Whip Snake
1x Shaddoll Squamata
1x Superheavy Samurai Swordsman

Spells: 1
1x Hippo Carnival

Traps: 2
1x Battleguard Howling
1x Battleguard Rage

Extra Deck: 2
1x Cloudcastle
1x Pilgrim Reaper

Side Deck: 24
1x Artifact Chakram
1x Artifact Lancea
1x Batteryman 9-Volt
1x Djinn Demolisher of Rituals
*1x Dogu
*1x Gaia, the Polar Knight
**2x Nefarious Archfiend Eater of Nefariousness
*1x Re-Cover
1x Shaddoll Hedgehog
*1x Satellarknight Unukalhai
1x Curse of the Shadow Prison
2x Dracocension
1x Feast of the Wild LV5
2x Hymn of Light
2x Stellarknight Alpha
1x U.A. Stadium
1x Yang Zing Prana
1x Chain Dispel
1x Stellarnova Wave
1x Yang Zing Unleashed

Cards in the Side Deck are marked with stars if they had been swapped in or out during the tournament, with one star per copy used.

When it comes down to it, I didn’t really pull any money cards. I didn’t care that much. I was there to win me a mat, and win a mat I did. Despite lacking any ability to Pendulum Summon, I outperformed everyone there, taking first place and the coolest mat Konami has released thus far. Not that I didn’t earn it, oh no- everybody I faced gave me a run for my money. They all played well and every duel was incredible. So if you’re reading this and faced me, do NOT be discouraged- you were great and made me work for it.

The core strategy was beatdown with a sort of control element. The key cards were the Performapals, with each one giving support to the overall consistency of the deck. Performapal Whip Snake and Performapal Turn Toad both allowed me to take out plenty of monsters in a single turn. Performapal Skeeter Skimmer gave me a solid defense, as well as extra offense when combined with Whip Snake or Turn Toad. Performapal Kaleidoscorp gave a power boost to Gaia, the Mid-Knight Sun and the Melodious Divas, which was very important in this format. Even Performapal Hip Hippo was important and allowed me to recover my footing in many duels by allowing me to sacrifice a monster that had lost its ATK and DEF to Superheavy Samurai Swordsman’s effect for either Superheavy Samurai Big Benkei or Battleguard King, without costing me another monster that hadn’t lost its strength.

Dragon Horn Hunter was always played as a monster, while Kaleidoscorp and Turn Toad were always in the Pendulum Zones. Without a Flash Knight, I had no reason to use Hunter as a Pendulum Spell, but 2300 ATK for a single Tribute was still handy, especially when a Swordsman had weakened one of my monsters. Hypnosister herself was a beatstick, shooting up to 2100 ATK every time I played her by simply having a card in a Pendulum Zone. Squamata was in there primarily to handle Superheavy Samurai Blue Brawler, but 1800 ATK wasn’t a bad move either if I could Flip Summon it. I pulled a single Swordsman, and he served as both defense and offense (when combined with Snake or Toad).

Seventeen monsters to one Spell and two Traps. It might not seem like the most fantastic ratio, but let’s not forget that most of my Spells and Traps just weren’t meant to be used on their own. Take Feast of the Wild LV5. How many Level 5 monsters do you see up there? Two, right? There’s a problem, though: They’re both Fairy-Types, as are all the Artifacts. Incompatible with Feast of the Wild LV5. Another example is Hymn of Light. It’s the Ritual Spell for Saffira, Queen of Dragons. Not a single copy of the monster showed up, so the Ritual Spell was relegated to the Side Deck.

Now, what about Curse of the Shadow Prison? Or Chain Dispel? Surely I could’ve tried those, right? I had considered swapping in Curse in the event that I ran into someone actually using U.A. Stadium, but I highly doubted I could ever utilize the ATK decrease effect, so I didn’t put it in the Main Deck. Chain Dispel was also put to the Side Deck because I wasn’t confident I would ever run into a deck actually running multiple copies of any Spell or Trap Card, and if I did, it wouldn’t be more than two copies.

As for the one Spell and two Traps I DID run, well, it should be fairly obvious why.  Hippo Carnival makes for a fantastic defense, forcing my opponent to attack tokens during the turn that it’s played.  Very handy if I didn’t want a certain monster to be destroyed right then.  And the Traps?  They both support Warrior-Type monsters, and there were actually very few compared to the rest of the deck.  In fact, aside from those in the Side Deck, there were only three Warrior-Type monsters in the Main Deck, and two of them required Tributes to summon.  In spite of this, those two Traps were never dead draws.  Why?  I have the small deck size to thank for that.  Three cards may not seem like a lot, but in 20 cards instead of 40, it’s actually a pretty large number.

Now for the deck size itself.  I know the obvious criticisms.  In fact, one of them was in my Extra Deck: Pilgrim Reaper.  Look, I wasn’t worried about the Reaper because it requires two Level 6 monsters to summon.  I only had two myself.  What were the odds of other people actually being able to summon it?  Not much higher than mine.  And as for actually decking out due to stall, well, I wasn’t worried about that either.  I had Shaddoll Squamata for that.  The only thing that could have been my undoing would have been two copies of Superheavy Samurai Blue Brawler.  I only ever encountered one.  My only other major problem was U.A. Perfect Ace, but I already knew how to deal with that.  It shared a weakness with one of my favorite cards in the game.  I simply had to bluff it out and then destroy it.  Failing that, I could always hit it with Battlegaurd King.

But what if I HAD encountered a Blue Brawler lock?  Well, it’s likely I would have lost that duel, assuming my opponent had more cards in their deck than I did.  I believe I could have come back from it, though.  One duel isn’t the whole match.  I would simply have to try to be faster next time.

I hope you found this article insightful and helpful, and I hope it helps you in the next Sneak Peek event three months from now.  Trust me when I say this: The New Challengers is going to be a REALLY good set!

As for me, stay tuned.  My next article will be covering probably the most confusing card in Duelist Alliance: Superheavy Samurai Big Benkei!

Arc of Light: Swing, Pendulum! Unanswered Questions

Pendulum Monsters are officially on their way!  They were announced and given the rundown on Konami’s official strategy blog, and you can read the article here.  However, there are still a few questions that need to be answered.

Before I get into these yet unsolved mysteries, let me give you a brief rundown of how Pendulum Monsters work.

First, Pendulum Monsters have the border of both a monster and a Spell Card.  This means that you can play them as one or the other.  They also have two text boxes, and special numbers are on the sides of the card.  The smaller text box contains the monster’s Pendulum Effects (if any; some Pendulum Monsters won’t have any Pendulum Effects), which are the effects you get if you play the card as a Spell Card.  The numbers on the sides are called the Pendulum Scale.

So far, there are only Normal and Effect Pendulum Monsters, so this means they go into your Main Deck when you’re building a deck.

Pendulum Monsters can be Normal Summoned or Set from your hand, and can also be Flip and Special Summoned.

The playing field has gotten an upgrade as well: Two new zones now exist on the left and right sides of the field, between the Field Spell and Extra Deck Zones, and the Deck and Graveyard Zones.  These are your two Pendulum Zones.  In order to activate a Pendulum Spell, you play it to one of these two Pendulum Zones.  They are NOT played to your Spell & Trap Card Zones.

Pendulum Spells are Spell Speed 1, as are their effects that activate, unless stated otherwise on the card.

If a Pendulum Card is sent from the field to the Graveyard for any reason, it is placed face-up in your Extra Deck instead.  This happens if it is a monster card (including face-down Pendulum Monsters) or a Spell Card.

Pendulum Summoning is the new summoning method introduced with Pendulum Monsters.  When you have set both sides of the Pendulum Scale by playing a Pendulum Spell to each of your Pendulum Zones, you can perform a Pendulum Summon.  This lets you Special Summon as many monsters as you like, from your hand or Pendulum Monsters face-up in your Extra Deck or both, to your field.  The Levels of your monsters must be BETWEEN the numbers of the Pendulum Scale.  So if you have a scale of 1 and 8, you can summon any monsters from Level 2 to Level 7.  Pendulum Summons can only be done during Main Phase 1 or 2, and can only be used once per turn.  You cannot “save up” Pendulum Summons either.  You get one per turn and that’s it.

So, what are these unanswered questions?  Let’s go over each one, as well as my proposed answers to them.

NOTICE: If you are a Judge reading this, please don’t take any of my answers as being absolute certainties.  They are just speculation at the moment.  When judging an event, please use YOUR OWN best judgment, or follow the rulings issued by your Head Judge.  Do this until we get actual official word from Konami.

1) What happens if a Pendulum Monster is sent from the hand, deck, or Extra Deck to the Graveyard?
A: I believe they will go to the Graveyard.  Everything we’ve seen up to this point has only stated they go to the Extra Deck if they were on the field.

2) What happens if Macro Cosmos is on the field when a Pendulum Card is destroyed?
A: No idea.  There are two ways this can go, and both of them make sense in their own way.  First, they might actually be banished.  The rule states they go the the Extra Deck if they would be sent from the field to the Graveyard, but the Graveyard is inaccessible with Macro Cosmos in play.  ON THE OTHER HAND, they might still go to the Extra Deck, since it is the game itself redirecting them rather than a card effect.  I’m leaning toward this second answer myself based on historical precedent: Synchro Summoning can still be done while Macro Cosmos or other such cards are in play according to the rulebook.

3) Can a Pendulum Spell be Set face-down?
A: I don’t believe they can.  If this is the case, then that’s going to make Anti-Spell Fragrance a really popular Side Deck card…

4) Can the activation of a Pendulum Spell be negated?
A: I don’t see why not.

5) What happens if the Summon of a Pendulum Monster or the activation of a Pendulum Spell is negated?
A: I believe the same thing that would happen if a Pendulum Card is discarded from your hand: It would go straight to the Graveyard.

6) Do Pendulum Cards count as Spells and monsters in your hand and deck?
A: I don’t believe so.  I think they count only as monsters.

7) If I negate a Pendulum Summon, what happens to the monsters that were going to be summoned?  What about the Pendulum Spells?
A: If you were to use, say, Solemn Warning or Black Horn of Heaven to negate a Pendulum Summon, I believe the monsters that would be summoned are destroyed and sent to the Graveyard- including if they were Pendulum Monsters coming from the Extra Deck.  So basically, the same that happens if you use these cards on a Synchro Monster or a Cyber Dragon.  I also believe that ALL of the monsters that would be summoned are destroyed, whether its one or a full five.  As for the Pendulum Spells, nothing happens to them, but you’ve used your Pendulum Summon for the turn so you can’t try again.  (And no, you cannot use Solemn Warning to negate the activation of a Pendulum Spell unless its Pendulum Effect involves Special Summoning on activation; just like you can’t use it on Infernity Launcher).

These are the unanswered questions I was able to think of.  If you have any more, post them in the comments, or email them to me.  Don’t forget to email Konami on July 11th after the official release of Pendulum Monsters!

New Card Mechanics: Soul Charge

It’s not often that I write something about how a specific card works.  Heck, it’s not often that I update this blog, and I’m sorry for that.  But with that said, there is a new card that I’d like to review since it has some interesting stuff going on for it.  It’s called Soul Charge and it will be released in Dragons of Legend later this month.

What does Soul Charge do, exactly?  Well, let’s have a look.

Soul Charge is a Normal Spell Card with this effect.  “Target any number of monsters in your Graveyard; Special Summon them, and if you do, you lose 1000 Life Points for each monster Special Summoned by this effect. You cannot conduct your Battle Phase the turn you activate this card. You can only activate 1 ‘Soul Charge’ per turn.”

So a step by step would go like this: First, you play the card and choose your targets.  You can choose any number of monsters, but only up to the number of vacant Monster Card Zones that you have.  So if you have one monster and two zones are blocked by Ground Collapse, you can only chose two monsters.  After this, follow the rules for building Chains.

When resolving the card, you Special Summon any of those targets that are still there to be summoned.  If you do, your Life Points are decreased by 1000 points for every monster that came out of the Graveyard.

This card has two additional conditions for activating it.  First, you must have at least one legal target in your Graveyard.  Second, you cannot enter your Battle Phase and activate this card in the same turn (so no playing it in Main Phase 2, unless you took battle damage from Great Long Nose).  You also cannot activate two copies of Soul Charge in the same turn.

Even with all of this, I’m sure a lot of combos are playing through the minds of well-versed players, as well as ways to stop this card.  Well, I’m afraid I have to dash a few of those possibilities.

First off, take a look at the first three words of the effect: “Special Summon them”.  Notice anything?  Let’s look at one word in particular: “them”.  Those of you who remember your Problem-Solving Card Text will remember that words like “it” and “them” mean that the card doesn’t care that much about specifics during its resolution.  What does this mean for you folks building your Side Decks to stop this card?  It means D.D. Crow won’t be quite as effective.  Sure, you can use it to banish one monster, but Soul Charge will still Special Summon the other targets.  All you’ve really done is prevented one from appearing, and also reduced the amount of Life Points your opponent loses.

Which brings me to my next point: Notice how the card says “you lose 1000 Life Points for each monster Special Summoned by this effect.”  It doesn’t say you take 1000 points of damage.  This is very important.  There are actually three ways to lose Life Points in this game: Damage, payments, and plain old reduction.  Not many cards in the game tell you to “lose” Life Points without calling it damage, but they do exist.

So why is this important?  Because I guarantee that at least one of you was thinking of combining this card with One Day of Peace or Prime Material Dragon, hoping to either prevent or reverse this loss of Life Points.  But since this isn’t “damage”, neither card will do anything to prevent it.  Your Life Points are dropping.  Thus far, there is no card in the game that can prevent simple reduction.

This last thing is also quite minor, but it may prove useful.  The card says, “you can only activate 1 ‘Soul Charge’ per turn.”  If you remember my previous talk about negating activations, this means that if your Soul Charge is stopped in its tracks by a card like Light and Darkness Dragon or Solemn Warning, you are free to activate another copy.  Negating an activation means that the gamestate doesn’t see that an activation happened, nor does it count it as an attempt like it would with Summons.  It never happened as far as the duel is concerned.  However, if only the effect is negated, then you’re out of luck this turn.  And remember, these rules also apply to the “no Battle Phase” condition.

Soul Charge may have some hefty restrictions and clever mechanics to balance it out, but I simply cannot see this card passing by the metagame without making a very big splash.  Keep an eye out for it and be extra cautious when using it.  And remember, this kind of mass summoning is only the beginning.  Coming this summer, I’ll discuss a brand new mechanic!

Until next time, keep dueling!

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.

Card Sleeves – The Late Update

By now, most of you have probably heard the news about the update to Konami’s policy regarding card sleeves and the Extra Deck. If you have not, you can find all relevant Tournament Policy documents here: http://www.yugioh-card.com/en/gameplay/index.html.  You’ll find them in the section labeled “Duelist Resources”.  These documents can be viewed in your browser, but can also be downloaded for free if you like.

The rule that card sleeves had to match for all three of your decks- Main, Extra, and Side- has been in place pretty much forever.  It only recently came to light when a lot of people were complaining about their Extra Deck cards getting mixed up with their Main Deck.  While I can certainly understand the frustration, anybody running 15 cards in their Side and Extra Decks should not have this problem.  Have I done made the mistake of shuffling a Synchro Monster into my Main Deck?  Of course.  It still happens to this day.  But as I said in my previous article talking about sleeves, anyone who can count to 15 shouldn’t have this problem very often.  In a tournament, this can also be a bad thing.  If you happen to draw an Extra Deck card from your Main Deck, you must reveal that card to your opponent and call a judge.  In most cases, the card is placed in the Extra Deck, you get a warning, and you draw a new card.  If you suspect that more than one card is in there, you should count your Extra Deck and ask the judge to sort through your Main Deck for any other stragglers.

Well, the Powers That Be have decided that the practicality of different sleeves for the Extra Deck outweigh any other significant reason for uniform sleeves.  Are they wrong?  I don’t think it’s my place to say.  A judge I may be, but I don’t write the tournament policy.  I barely have a grasp of how big a tournament can get; I can’t even imagine being in charge of the tournament scene for an entire country or continent.

Let’s be clear about this rule, however: This rule only allows players to use different sleeves for their EXTRA DECK.  Your sleeves for the Main and Side Decks must still match.  Even if you have Fusion, Synchro, or Xyz Monsters in your Side Deck, they must still have sleeves that match the rest of your Main and Side Deck cards.  Furthermore, if you DO use different sleeves for your Extra Deck, they must all match.  So you can’t use ten black sleeves for your Xyz Monsters and five white sleeves for your Synchros.  It’s either fifteen of the same black sleeves, or fifteen of the same white sleeves- or no sleeves at all, if you prefer.

So what does this mean for you as a Duelist?  Well, for newer players, this is a godsend and I won’t argue with anyone who says that this helps them.  Young or old, newer players have a lot of things in the game to get used to- three different decks with their own set of rules is one of them.  More experienced players might also find this to be a great convenience to them given the time constraints of tournaments.

However, there are some players who might still prefer to have uniform sleeves all around, and for any number of reasons.  It could be that they want their Extra and Side Deck sleeves to match because they have Extra Deck monsters in their Side Deck; having the same sleeves means you don’t have to take cards out of sleeves and switch them, saving precious seconds (no, that’s not sarcasm; every second counts in the tournament scene).  There might also be strategic reasons for this, such as concealing the number of Extra Deck monsters that are actually in the Side Deck.  That is, hiding this information from your opponent.  To a certain extent, this IS legal; and you don’t want to give away too much information.  You never know what they might use it for.

I mentioned in the last article a little card called Magical Hats.  This card wasn’t seeing much tournament play, even in Geartown decks.  However, it IS seeing tournament play in Harpie decks thanks to their favorite new Spell Card: Hysteric Sign.  In most cases, you won’t be hiding an Extra Deck monster anyway, and if you do, it’ll be an Xyz Monster, so the Xyz Materials will be placed underneath the monster once you’re done mixing up the hats.  Yeah, I know, it sucks.  But this is still a good strategic reason to use uniform sleeves, at least in the event that you happen to summon a non-Xyz Monster from the Extra Deck, or you hit an Xyz that has no more Xyz Materials attached to it.

This is only advice and opinion.  If you don’t want your Extra Deck to match your Main and Side Deck card sleeves, you no longer have to (just so long as the Extra Deck sleeves you use are all the same).  This might make your tournament experience much easier for you.  In all honesty, I hope it does.

Until next time, folks, keep dueling!

Card Sleeve Conundrums: Uniformity

The first big tournament that I judged at was a Regional Qualifier in September 2013.  It was the best thing I’d ever gotten to do.  Between helping players and learning how to improve as a judge, I also got to see things that were rare in tournaments or that I hadn’t considered.

But there was one issue that was highly controversial during the entire event, and that was the issue of card sleeves.

According to the tournament policy documents, players must use the same card sleeves for the Main, Side, and Extra Decks.  This is not a new rule and has been there for a very long time.  It seems that players (and judges) were only just now noticing it due to recent enforcement.  A lot of players were wondering why it even mattered.

Believe me when I say that it matters a lot.  There are a few very good reasons why this rule is in place.

Argument from cards

The first argument I’d like to present is one that uses specific cards as examples.  Let’s start with Magical Hats.  This is a Normal Trap that is activated during your opponent’s Battle Phase.  You select two non-monster cards from your deck and shuffle them with one of your monsters, then Set the three of them in face-down Defense Position (the non-monsters are treated as Normal Monsters with an ATK and DEF of 0, but no Type, Attribute, or Level).  Your non-monsters are destroyed at the end of the Battle Phase.

Now, suppose you have a Synchro Monster in play.  Your opponent attacks it and you activate Magical Hats to hide it.  If you’re playing with different sleeves for your Extra Deck monsters, your opponent’s going to know what it is anyway and destroy it.  Strategically speaking, this puts you at a disadvantage.

(Unfortunately, Xyz Monsters aren’t as easy to hide since the Xyz Materials must be put underneath the monster when you’re done shuffling the three “hats”.  This ruling is still being debated by some judges, but it makes the most sense with regards to the rulebook and other cards.)

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But nobody plays Magical Hats!  Using that as an argument is like saying you shouldn’t mess with the Graveyard in case someone plays Question!”

And to that, I have a few things to say.  First off, I’m genuinely surprised that Geartown decks don’t play this card.  It would be a very fast way to instantly summon two copies of Ancient Gear Gadjiltron Dragon.  Under ideal circumstances, your deck becomes thinner by four cards, and you have two huge monsters in play!  Ojama decks can also benefit from this card with Ojamagic.  Two copies get sent to the Graveyard, and your hand size suddenly increases by SIX CARDS.  Granted, they’re all relatively weak Normal Monsters, but Ojamas have their own tricks.

Second, Question is a perfectly valid reason for not messing with the Graveyard.  So what if it never tops?  If we only took into account the cards that topped, a lot of judges would be stumped on less powerful stuff when it inevitably came up- because not everyone has the money to play meta, and some folks just don’t want to anyway.

Third, as I hinted above, we have to take everything into account.  The rules must encompass all situations.  Using cards as examples for why a rule is in place is a perfectly valid argument, no matter how obscure it is.  Why?  Because the card exists and is tournament legal.  That means it CAN show up in a tournament, and occasionally it will.

Argument from expediency

Did you know that you can put Fusion, Synchro, and Xyz Monsters in your Side Deck?  That’s right.  After the first and second duels, you can swap out cards in your Extra Deck for other such monsters in your Side Deck.

But if you’re playing with different sleeves on your Extra Deck, this is going to take up extra time that could be used for other things, like shuffling or finishing the match before time is called.  You have to take your Side Deck monster out of its sleeve, your Extra Deck monster out of its own sleeve, and then switch the two, putting them into each other’s sleeves.  This is an enormous waste of time.  You might not think so, but those seconds really add up.  If you have to do this twice in a full match, you could end up using several minutes’ worth of time.  It would be far better spent SUMMONING those monsters instead of having to switch their sleeves.

Argument from uniformity

It’s actually rather rare for two opposing duelists to have the same sleeves on their cards.  With this in mind, mixing them up is often a simple thing to fix.  If your opponent takes control of one of your monsters with Number 11: Big Eye, or maybe switches one of his for one of yours with Creature Swap, then it’s most likely going to be an easy thing to get these cards back to their owners after the duel is finished (if they didn’t end up in the Graveyard during the duel anyway).

I won’t deny that sometimes two people dueling each other will have the same sleeves.  If this happens and your cards get mixed up, my advice is to use your deck lists to sort it out.  Before going to any tournament that requires deck lists, write up a second copy for yourself.  I advise that you also write the Set Numbers and rarity of each card on the list to further help in case of a mix-up.

Argument Against: That Card Doesn’t Go There!

The most typical argument- and really the only one I’ve ever seen- against this policy is that Extra Deck monsters can easily get mixed up in the Main Deck if all of your cards have the same sleeves.  Yes, this happens, but it is still your responsibility to make sure that it doesn’t.  You cannot blame the tournament program’s designers for this.  It’s happened to everyone, even people who don’t have uniform sleeves.  In the end, it is YOUR responsibility.  So take my advice and CAREFULLY sort through your Graveyard, your banished pile, and your other cards before shuffling your deck.  Make sure that your Extra Deck and your Side Deck both have the correct number of cards that they started with and you should be good to go.

I hope that this article is both enlightening and helpful to you.  I’m researching other things right now, but if I don’t find anything, then I’ll just write up articles on the TCG exclusives from Shadow Specters when they are announced.

Until next time, keep dueling!