Back to Yu-Gi-Oh! Basics: The Breakdown!

Hello again everyone! I wrote in as a contributing writer a while back, and thought I'd write in again, on a very important subject: card text! There are so many key words in this game's card text, that being able to recognize them all can be tough! I'm gonna break it all down for you right here and hope you can take something from it. As you may or may not already know, I am a judge in the KDE-US program. There are at least 5,000 registered judges in the US alone, quite a long way from the 100-200 we had when Organized Play started a number of years back. So I come to you today with the credentials of a judge, someone who has seen cards played in ways never thought possible, and who has had to answer questions from the extremely difficult to the 'Did you really just ask that question?' questions. The one thing that people flub up on the most, is reading their cards! So many people have fallen victim to being lazy and neglecting to read the cards, when 9 times out of 10, the answer to their question is in the card text! As judges, when judging an event, we are told that if we get called over as a judge, we HAVE to make a ruling, regardless if we are 100% sure or not. This forces us to read the cards, gather information, process it, and then spit out a 'ruling' for you like some automated machine. Then, if a player disagrees, which tends to be the norm, we retrieve the Head Judge and the appeal process starts. But today, we're gonna work through this, and by the end of the article, I hope you have learned something new!

Question of the article: Was there anything you read in here today that you may have had mixed up in your head prior to reading? In other words, did you learn something new, or did you find that what you had thought was fact, was actually incorrect?

There are MANY things on a card that differentiate them all from each other. The most broad of these categories being Monster, Spell, and Trap. Today, I'm going to focus on Monsters. Aside from their names, they have an Attribute, Type, Level/Rank, Atk,Def, and a card text. All but the latter are very standard, and never deviate from the basic rules that can be found in any updated version of the rulebook. The card text on the other hand, varies greatly.

Mandatory vs  Optional effects To some, this is quite simple, but to others, it proves time and time again to confuse them. The main difference is whether or not the card's text contains the words: "you can". If it's not obvious, if the card's effect contains the phrase "you can" then it would be Optional. Otherwise, it's considered to be Mandatory. I'd like to point out 2 simple cards to explain this and they are Caius, the Shadow Monarch and Mobius, the Frost Monarch

When this card is Tribute Summoned, remove from play 1 card on the field. If it was a DARK Monster Card, inflict 1000 damage to your opponent.

(This is a Mandatory Trigger effect. It is mandatory because it lacks the phrase "you can". )

When this card is Tribute Summoned, you can destroy up to 2 Spell or Trap Cards on the field.

(This is an Optional Trigger effect. This is because the phrase "you can" is used.)

Lastly, I'd like to point out that sometimes, there are cards that use "If" instead of "When". A card that uses "If" will never miss timing, and can be either optional or mandatory. An example would be Destiny Hero - Defender:

If this card is in face-up Defense Position during your opponent's Standby Phase, your opponent draws 1 card.

(This is a Mandatory Trigger effect, because it uses "If" and lacks "you can")

You may have noticed that I used another word to describe those effects other than Mandatory and Optional; Trigger.
Trigger is one of the 5  types of effects in the next subcategory of effect monster texts. The others include Flip, Ignition, Quick, and Continuous. Let's break it down!

Trigger:As seen above a Trigger effect, for a simple connection, is 'triggered' when a certain condition is met. It can be anything from the gamestate, flow of the turn, or any other part of gameplay. The controller of an Optional Trigger effect that has met it's trigger can choose to activate that card's effect at that time. In the aforementioned examples the Triggers were being Tribute Summoned and the Opponent's Standby Phase. Another simple example would be Mystic Tomato:

When this card is destroyed by battle and sent to the Graveyard, you can Special Summon 1 DARK monster with 1500 or less ATK from your Deck in face-up Attack Position.

(The Trigger is being destroyed by battle and sent to the Graveyard, and it's optional because it says "you can")

When 2 Optional Triggers are met simultaneously, such as 2 Mystic Tomatoes attack each other, we use a term called SEGOC, or Simultaneous Effects Go On a Chain. The same goes for multiple Mandatory Trigger effects.
Use the following as a reference for SEGOC:

Turn Player Mandatory > Non-Turn Player Mandatory > Turn Player Optional > Non-Turn Player Optional.

Flip-This category is self-explanatory, as Flip Effect Monsters start with "Flip:" or "When this card is Flip Summoned" I won't spend more time here than needed other they are tricky sometimes when you get into the battle phase, that's another story for another day.

Ignition-These types of effects can only be used in the Main Phase 1 or 2 of the controller's turn and require the controller to physically activate the effect. Currently in the TCG, when a monster is summoned, the turn player has Player Priority to place an Ignition Monster's Effect on the chain as chain link 1. (This is provided there are no other Mandatory Effects that must occur first, as all Ignition effects are completely Optional and at the discression of the controller) Otherwise, these effects only activate whenever the controller decides. Some popular examples would be Lonefire Blossom, Exiled Force, and Dark Armed Dragon's destruction effect.

The 3 aforementioned effects, Trigger, Flip, and Ignition, are all considered to be Spell Speed 1 effects and cannot be chained to anything else.

Quick- These effects are exactly as they are named; Quick! They are considered Spell Speed 2 and they can be used at any time in the game, except cannot be chained to Spell Speed 3 effects. The best example is Stardust Dragon:

When a Spell, Trap, Spell/Trap effect, or Effect Monster's effect is activated that destroys a card(s) on the field: You can Tribute this card; negate the activation and destroy it. During the End Phase, if this card negated an effect this way during this turn: You can Special Summon this card from your Graveyard.

(Typically, Quick Effects will be negating something else, and they are usually not ever Chain Link 1.)

Continuous- Last but not least, we have Continuous, and they are exactly as they sound. When a monster with a Continuous Effect is put into play, the effect is typically applied (notice how I did not say activated) immediately after summoning. Other times, such as in the following example, the Continuous Effect will not be applied until the conditions are met that are set forth in the card's text. The most simple Continuous Monster Effect I can think of is Jinzo:

Trap Cards cannot be activated. The effects of all face-up Trap Cards are negated.

As soon as Jinzo is considered summoned, the effect is applied. This is the critical part that confuses many players. When a monster is being summoned, there are 2 windows that occur: The Summon Negation window and the Summon Response window. If Jinzo is summoned, and it would be negated by Solemn Warning, it falls into the Summon Negation window. If the summon is not negated, then it would be able to be responded to with something that can be activated when a monster is summoned, like Bottomless Trap Hole. A Continuous Monster effect like Jinzo's is applied immediately following the Summon Negation Window, before the Summon Response Window, which is why you cannot respond to Jinzo's summon with a Trap Card, you can only negate it.

Another commonly confused example of a Continuous Effect would be a monster who's attack boost''s itself in the battle step, like Jain, the Lightsworn Paladin or inflicts Piercing Damage like Blackwing - Bora the Spear.

Other than those 5 sub-categories, there are some miscellaneous facts I'd like to point out.

Summon Effects: Some Monsters can be Summoned from the hand in specific ways, such as Blackwing - Bora the Spear and Grandmaster of the Six Samurai. Those effects never activate, so cannot be negated by Divine Wrath and are simple allowed to occur when the timing is correct that is indicated in the individual card's text.
Conditions:Monsters like Chaos Sorcerer and The Six Samurai- Yaichi have specific conditions that prevent them from attacking if their effects are used. These conditions are not things that are negated by other things like Skill Drain or Effect Veiler.

Special Summon Only Monsters: Some Monsters, like Dark Armed Dragon, have specific conditions that have to be met in order to be Special Summoned. These monsters are easily identified by the text "except by", as in "This card can not be Normal Summoned or Set. This card cannot be Special Summoned except by..." If the cards text includes "except by", then it is not retrievable via another card's effect, like Monster Reborn.

Special Summon First(Unofficial Name) Monsters: Some monsters, like Chaos Sorcerer, Ritual Monsters, and any card in your Extra Deck must first be Special Summoned however their card text dictates. If that initial summon is successful, then after that, it may be revived in other ways, such as with Monster Reborn.

Missing the Timing:This is an important issue because many players do not understand what this is. To simplify, only optional effects can Miss the Timing. In order for an Optional Effect to activate, it must be the last thing to happen. For example: Peten the Dark Clown and Dupe Frog. If either are used for a Tribute Summon, Synchro Summon, Xyz Summon, or Fusion Summon, neither will be able to activate because the last thing to happen is the Summoning of the monster, not the sending of the monster to the graveyard. (note: a card that uses "If" instead of "When" will never miss the timing!)

The use of the : vs ;  -Many of you may have already noticed, or will notice now that you've read this article, that the card text on our cards has been given a sort of facelift. It's been deemed PSCT, or Problem Solving Card Text. In this new text, they use 2 very special characters to differenciate between effects that start a chain, and those that don't. When a cards text uses a colon( : ) it does not start a chain. When a cards text uses a semicolon( ; ), it starts a chain. See Stardust Dragon above for a prime example of a card that uses both the : and the ;

Well that about covers it. It's really easy to confuse a lot of these effects. But taking it slow, and breaking down the card's text can tell you almost everything you need to know about how it works. Please leave a comment and if you liked the article and would like to learn more, leave a comment saying so! I need your comments to help make it so I can write and post more often! With that:
Until next time Play Hard or Go Home!