Preparing for YCS Leipzig: Misunderstood game mechanics

28 Jan

With another European YCS not too far away it’s time to start getting ready for the event. Some of you may remember my two articles for Brighton detailing general conduct, behaviour and preparations for the event, as well as discussing some game mechanics and cards that people often don’t fully understand. The details of those articles still apply to this YCS and any large event in Yu-Gi-Oh! in general, so if you haven’t already done so it could be well worth checking out Part 1 and Part 2.

With the release of Order of Chaos new cards are being used, and older cards are seeing a resurgence in popularity. Some of these involve game mechanics I didn’t cover last time, others may require a refresher. I will also be covering cards which I have often seen played incorrectly, that I failed to cover last time.

Optional Effects: “If … you can” Vs. “When … you can”

Just about everyone in Yu-Gi-Oh! is aware of the idea of optional effects and the fact that the phrase “you can” indicates whether an effect is optional or not. Most people are also aware of the concept of “Missing the Timing”, whereby you miss the opportunity to activate optional effects, and many people would like to see it erased from the game. However what most people don’t realise is that not all optional effects can miss the timing. Most of us assume (myself included for a long time) that all optional effects are the same, so as soon as we see the phrase “you can” our minds immediately think of missing the timing and ignore other sections of the text. In the past this was a fairly safe thing to do because it was rare for optional effects to not miss the timing (I wasn’t aware of the difference until Ultimate Ancient Gear Golem came out), however with the rising popularity of Inzektors and Wind-Ups it is now more important than ever.

The difference between optional effects which can miss the timing, and those which can’t all falls down to a single word, and the meaning that word holds. Cards which state “If … you can” cannot miss the timing whereas those which state “When … you can” can miss the timing. To demonstrate the difference I will look at example of both kinds of effects and explain how the wording relates to the concept of missing the timing.

Example 1: Peten the Dark Clown

When this card is sent to your Graveyard, you can remove from play this card from the Graveyard to Special Summon 1 “Peten the Dark Clown” from your hand or Deck.

Peten is one of the most famous examples of missing the timing, and is probably the card that brought the idea to many people’s attention in the first place. Since Peten states “When” his effect can only be activated in direct response to his trigger, which in this case is being sent to the Graveyard. “When” indicates that at the exact instance of his trigger his effect can be activated, and not any later, since it would no longer be happening “When” his trigger was met. This means that if anything were to get in the way of this he cannot activate his effect, hence missing the timing. This can include the summon of a Tribute Monster or Synchro Monster using Peten as a Tribute or Synchro Material, or cases where Peten is destroyed in the middle of a chain. However if him going to the graveyard was the last thing to happen, so through battle or card effects he can activate his effect.

One other thing to note about “When” effects is that if multiple “When” effects meet their trigger at the same time (for example multiple Poison Draw Frogs killed at the same time), then they can all form a chain together without missing the timing. This is because they all met their trigger simultaneously and you can then build the chain using SEGOC (explained last time). You don’t need to worry about the optional effect in Chain Link 1 causing the optional effect in Chain Link 2 missing the timing, because the concept of missing the timing is related to the activation of effects, not the resolution of effects.

Example 2: Wind-Up Factory

Once per turn, if an effect of a “Wind-Up” monster is activated: You can add 1 Level 4 or lower “Wind-Up” monster from your Deck to your hand.

The difference with Wind-Up Factory is that the card states “If” rather than “When”. This means that the card just has to look for an instance of its trigger happening, and can quite happily wait until the current chain or sequence of events is over before doing something about it. It doesn’t need to be used at the exact moment “When” its trigger is met and just needs to know “If” it happened or not. As such card which state “If” can never miss the timing regardless of how long the preceding chain is.

By knowing the difference between these two effects you won’t get caught out by unscrupulous players who will try and tell you your effects miss the timing, when its impossible for them to. It can also help you defeat decks which rely on effects that can miss the timing, such as Lancer Frogs, because by playing smart you can force their cards to miss the timing. The easiest way to rid yourself of Sea Lancer is by removing it from play (with for example Dimensional Prison), but this will still set off the effects of the attached frogs, meaning advantage for the opponent anyway. By starting the chain off with another card you can cause them all to miss the timing though, this can be as simple as offering Sangan for Caius, using Tengu to make Trishula or adding another Mirror Force before Dimensional Prison to rid yourself of their other attacking monsters as well, Just remember to look out for “If” and “When” and you should be safe.

Activating cards

To many this is hopefully not an issue, but I feel this comes up often enough for it to be worth noting. If a card requires you to do something upon activating it you must do this when you activate it, following this the opponent has a chance to respond. This can be paying a cost (Phoenix Wing Wind Blast), declaring a target (Monster Reborn), or naming a card (Mind Crush). To activate the card in the first place you must be capable of performing this action and you must make this action. If you want to bring a monster back with Monster Reborn you have to tell your opponent what monster you wish to bring back to life. If you want to try and discard a card with Mind Crush you have to tell your opponent what the card is. Following this activation of the card your opponent may then respond in whatever way is appropriate.

Some people believe that by naming a card in either of these cases it has reached a point where it is too late for the opponent to respond, but this is wrong. With cards like these you are not expected to be playing a mind reading game where you have to guess what the opponent is about to do, they are required to tell you what they are doing, so that you can make the appropriate response.

There are some cards out there that don’t work like this, for example Creature Swap or Trishula, which don’t select cards until resolution, which might be where a source of some of this confusion comes from. In the next section I will try to explain where this difference arises from, and how to spot it, since this is usually a matter of whether a card targets or not, but is not the sole criteria to determine whether this is the case, as shown by a card like Mind Crush.


In Yu-Gi-Oh! whether a card targets or not is very important, because there are cards which can prevent it, protect from it, or are destroyed by it. If you know whether a card targets or not you can prevent confusion arising with these sorts of cards. Nowadays thanks to Problem Solving Card Text (PSCT) it’s easy to find out whether a card targets or not, since if it targets it will say so on the card. If it doesn’t say so it won’t target. However cards with older text can be a bit more problematic, but hopefully once they’ve been reprinted we will no longer need to worry about this.

Generally if the card asks you to select a specific number of cards, or do something to a specific number of cards, then it targets. Take for example Exiled Force or Icarus Attack. If a card refers to card(s) or monster(s) then it will not target, since it is capable of affecting an indeterminate number of cards at once. This includes cards like Bottomless Trap Hole.

You cannot target cards in the hand, so this means that effects which include performing an action with regards to one player’s hand, such as Trishula or Red Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon, do not target, even though you think they might.

Cards which don’t select anything until resolution also don’t target, but the most prominent of these cards, Creature Swap, has been reprinted with PSCT to avoid this confusion.

Cards which respond to single attacks such as Sakuretsu Armor or Dimensional Prison also target, but the latter at least has been reprinted, so there is no longer any confusion with these sorts of cards.

Monsters who’s effects do something to one or both of the monsters in battle generally do not target, although there might be some exception to this I don’t know off the top of my head. This means that cards like D.D. Warrior Lady, Neo-Spacian Grand Mole and Ally of Justice Catastor do not target, despite what it may seem. As a player you might select the attack target, but the monster itself has no control over what it happens to be using its effect on. Cards like Honest and Kalut also don’t target, since they just happen to be helping out whichever monster is battling at the time.

Responding to cards and events

Yu-Gi-Oh! Is all about responding to actions your opponent makes, whether by building a chain or by starting a new one. Playing a Spell or Trap Card or using a Monster’s effect starts a chain, and both players can add to this chain provided you follow the rules of spell speeds (explained here). Other actions do not have a spell speed, such as summoning a monster or setting a card, so these can be responded to, starting a new chain.

Many cards do not have a specific activation timing, for example Book of Moon or Mystical Space Typhoon, whereas others require specific timing to use them, such as Stardust Dragon or Bottomless Trap Hole. In the former category provided it is legal to activate the card (i.e. at least one monster on the field for Book of Moon) you do not need to worry about when to use the card, assuming all other general rules of play are being followed. In the latter category the cards have very specific timings for their effects, since they are responding to a certain action, however not all cards behave in the same way.

Previously I covered responding to an attack, where you can add multiple cards to the chain all in response to the same attack. Similarly when a monster is summoned you can add multiple cards to the chain that all respond to the summon, so for example you may chain Bottomless Trap Hole to Torrential Tribute, even though it is no longer responding directly to the summon. I think that provided the action you are responding to has no spell speed, you may keep on adding cards to the chain that can be set off by the initial action, but don’t have to be chained directly to said action. Although to be honest I don’t really know of cases beyond attacking and monster summons where this really happens, so this might not be a steadfast rule for all cases.

However if you want to respond to a specific effect, be it monster, spell or trap, you must chain directly to the card in question. For example Stardust Dragon must chain directly to a destruction effect, otherwise it can’t stop it. This is why a clever Gladiator Beast player can use Secutor to get around Stardust Dragon. If you summon two Gladiator Beasts at once, both with effects that activate when summoned, such as Darius, Murmillo or Equeste, you can build the chain with Murmillo first and Darius/Equeste second, meaning Stardust doesn’t have a chance to stop Murmillo. Another case is Solemn Warning. If you use Warning to try and stop a monster summon and the opponent stops you with their own card, such as Solemn Judgment, you cannot chain a 2nd copy of Warning because it must be directly in response to the original summon, and there are now two cards in its way.

Cards activate and resolve in the same place

I stated this previously when I talked about Skill Drain and Effect Veiler, but it bears repeating again, especially with the advent of Inzektors. In Yu-Gi-Oh! irrespective of the physical location of your card after you use its effect the effect will always resolve in the place it was when you first activated the card.

Some well know examples are as follows:

Honest activates and resolves in the Hand, despite discarding him to the Graveyard as a cost to activate the card.

Rescue Rabbit activates and resolves on the field, despite banishing itself.

Destiny Hero Malicious activates and resolves in the Graveyard, despite banishing itself.

The effect of a Gladiator Beast to “tag” for another Gladiator Beast activates and resolves on the field, despite the monster returning itself to the deck.

If a card such as Phantom of Chaos or Hundred Eyes Dragon copies another monster which tributes or banishes itself etc as a cost for its effect, the effect will still resolve correctly, even though the card in question no longer has the copied monster’s effect, since the effect itself still activated on the field.

This explains why cards like Light-Imprisoning Mirror cannot stop Honest or Effect Veiler (they are hand effects), why Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror still stops Destiny Hero Malicious (it is a graveyard effect) and why Debunk cannot stop the first effect of Stardust Dragon (it activates on the field). I will cover these cards again in more detail later for those who wish to gain a greater understanding of how they work.

Another important thing to realise is that card effects are considered to be of the same type as the card in question at the time of activation. This is especially important for Inzektor Hornet. Since it is an equip Spell card when it uses its effect to send itself to the graveyard, its effect is counted as being that of a Spell card, and not a Monster card, which makes it harder to negate.

Monsters which equip other monsters to themselves (i.e. Inzektors)

This mechanic has existed in the game since the early days, thanks to Relinquished, but apart from the reign of Thousand Eyes Restrict during the days of Goat Control they have never had much of an impact on the game. As such most people don’t fully understand how cards like this work, but with the arrival of Inzektors it is now vitally important to making sure you don’t get cheated out of games.

Once a card like Inzektor Dragonfly has equipped another card to itself what keeps the other card there is the effect of Inzektor Dragonfly. This means that if the effect is negated the equip will basically fall off. So for example if you have Dragonfly equipped with Hornet by its own effect and the opponent activates Skill Drain, the Hornet will fall off because Dragonfly’s effect has been turned off.

This is not the case for monsters which equip themselves to other monsters, such as Inzektor Giga-Mantis. In this case it is the effect of Giga-Mantis which keeps itself equipped to the other Inzektor, not the effect of the other Inzektor. As such cards like Skill Drain or Effect Veiler will not do anything to Giga-Mantis.

Building chains when a card is used for a tribute/special summon etc

In the TCG (but not the OCG I believe) when you tribute a monster or monsters for a normal or special summon, or use them as a Synchro material, the monsters used for the tribute/materials are considered to be sent to the graveyard (or appropriate area for the summon in question) first and the summon itself second. This is not considered SEGOC. This means that if the monsters used for the summon have effects they will activate before those of the monster that has just been summoned. For example if you tribute Sangan for Caius, Sangan will be chain link 1, and Caius chain link 2. You do not get to choose the order. This can be especially important when effects which search and draw are involved in the same chain, since adding and resolving them in the wrong order can have a serious effect on the outcome of the game.

Xyz materials, Inzektor Equips etc vs Dimensional Fissure

By now people should be getting used to how Xyz monsters work, but not everyone will be aware of all the small details of how they function, especially how to treat their materials. With the arrival of Inzektors we have a category of monsters which can spend a long time as equip Spell cards, and it’s not immediately obvious how they might interact with cards like Dimensional Fissure.

The important thing to note is that Dimensional Fissure makes Monsters that would be sent to the Graveyard get banished instead. Xyz materials are not monsters, they are Xyz materials. Equip Spell cards are Spell cards, not monsters even if the card in question was originally a monster. This means that when Xyz materials are being sent to the Graveyard they they are not currently monsters, which means they can bypass Dimensional Fissure. Similarly Inzektors such as Hornet are Spell cards whilst equipped, so it’s still a Spell card when it sends itself to the Graveyard, meaning it can also dodge Dimensional Fissure. Macro Cosmos on the other hand doesn’t care what sort of card something is, so it’ll still banish the card when it tries to go to the Graveyard.

Spell / Trap cards can’t target themselves

This is quite a nasty issue, because it can be quite hard to explain beyond simply stating “That’s just how the game works” . Where this usually comes up is a player trying to get rid of a Mystical Space Typhoon, so they can drop Gorz, but the opponent not playing any Spell/Trap cards, or a player trying to use Icarus attack when there aren’t enough cards on the field. In my mind the easiest way to try and grasp this concept is to try and imagine actually casting a spell (assuming magic were real), it would make no sense to try and cast the spell on itself, since it doesn’t exist yet. I believe the actual game mechanic reason is that spell/trap cards don’t effect themselves when you activate them, for example I don’t think Heavy Storm destroys itself (but please correct me on this if I’m wrong), and this can be used to explain why you can’t use a card on itself. If someone can come up with a better explanation or reasoning for how this works, please let me know, since this is one of the hardest concepts to explain when players are adamant you can do it.

Since this is already very long I’m going to cover individual cards in the next part, and try and help explain how certain cards work. I hope this proves useful to someone out there preparing to attend YCS Leipzig or any other YGO event in the future.


7 Responses to “Preparing for YCS Leipzig: Misunderstood game mechanics”

  1. Speare February 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    For a Monster that Targets during battle steps etc, Galaxy-Eyes Specifically mentions the word target.

    Which leads me to ask, G-EPD vs. Skill Drain? I assumed Galaxy’s removal was a cost of sorts, not sure why. Then I noticed the word target, and it threw me. I’m assuming it works; Attack – Target (Activation) – Banish (Resolution – skill drain would negate here I now assume, keeping them around) – End of Battle Phase (return). Correct?

    • Xagor February 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

      Nice catch on it being a battling monster that targets.
      Looking at the text of G-EPD it all looks like an effect to me, so you would be correct in assuming that Skill Drain would negate it and keep it there. (Someone please correct me if this is wrong)

      Whilst trying to absolutely confirm this effect I found a rather worrying response from Konami via e-mail about being able to use G-EPD multiple times in the same chain, which breaks with precedent set by other cards like Formula Synchron. This is in contradiction to an answer given in the Japanese FAQs apparently.

      This might be something it’s worth bringing up with Konami on the judge forum I suppose.

  2. Bernardo Guerreiro April 28, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    I think one of the best examples of why s/t’s can’t target themselves is with Giant Trunade. If an MST were able to target itself for destruction, then what would prevent Giant Trunade from sending itself back to the hand when it is activated?

    • Xagor April 29, 2012 at 12:59 am #

      That’s a good point although Trunade of course doesn’t target, I get what you mean though. Spell / Traps don’t affect themselves as you say.


  1. Preparing for YCS Leipzig: Misunderstood Cards « TCG, shiyo? - January 31, 2012

    […] on from my article about misunderstood game mechanics, I’m going to be looking at several cards which players and judges can sometimes have […]

  2. Preparing for YCS Leipzig Part 3: More cards and game mechanics « TCG, shiyo? - February 17, 2012

    […] so why would you be able to use a card that stops a Spell card against him anyway? If you recall previously when I talked about where effects activate and resolve, you’ll note that not only do these […]

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    […] Something that will be important to understand with the Mermail is the difference between “If … you can” and “When … you can” optional effects, since both types of effect crop up on the Mermail cards. The former can never miss the timing, whilst the latter can. For more detail check out one of my older articles on this matter. […]

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