Spar-Spangled Banter: Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards – Intuitiveness

Hello, Gaspar here again.

This article deals with one of the biggest issues I have with the game: its inner workings, and how they work. This one was not originally meant to be a stand-alone subject, but I wanted to expand on it while not making an incoming article too long… so, here it is.

Yu-Gi-Oh is not exactly the kind of game that anyone could call “intuitive”. I am pretty sure anyone playing the game for a while has heard of lawyering jokes, because the game has a lot of incredibly pretentious things that it is easy to be called out for because not only they do not seem logical but they also do not sound believable, with very similar things working in different ways for reasons that cannot be discerned by most players.

What follows is an almost-complete lists of the basics you are meant to know from the get-go. Even though there is no way to and/or they are outright contradicting with each other or even themselves.


Battle Phase

As you may know, the Battle Phase consists of 4 Steps: Start Step, Battle Step, Damage Step and End Step.

The Start Step has you selecting a monster to declare an attack with.
The Battle Step consists of the actual attack’s declaration and responses to it.
The Damage Step is where you flip the opponent’s monster face-up if it were face-down and perform last-minute changes to ATK and DEF before damage calculation is conducted. The immediate aftermath of a battle is also part of the Damage Step, as well as the damage calculation itself.
The End Step is what is also known as the end of the Battle Phase.

Now for the less known things…

Both players can activate effects in the Start Step. Any amount of them, as long as can they be activated.

The Battle Step consists of two sub-steps: the first one is the attack declaration step in which players can use card effects that respond to monsters declaring attacks, the second. You cannot activate cards that respond to an attack’s declaration in the second sub-step, and only one Chain can be performed in the attack declaration sub-step.

The Damage Step has a total of eight sub-steps: the beginning of the Damage Step where you flip face-down monsters face-up, the “open” Damage Step sub-step where both players can use effects that alter ATK and DEF, the sub-step immediately before damage calculation, the damage calculation itself, the sub-step after damage calculation in which both players apply effects that activate upon inflicting battle damage, the sub-step in which monsters destroyed by battle are removed from the field, and the end of the Damage Step. Half of these steps do little to nothing beyond causing migraines in gameplay and could be easily simplified… and there are many cards whose effects should be usable in the Damage Step in theory and according to their wording, but they are not because Konami says so; the general idea is that the only effects that are valid to freely activate are those which alter ATK/DEF or negate activations, but then you get to something like Scrap Sheen being a no-go. Cards that activate upon the destruction of a monster seem to be universally allowed in the Damage Step… unless they are not.

And, to make this even more fun, the TCG and OCG have different rulings about how the Damage Step works. Monsters effects that alter ATK/DEF and activate before damage calculation can also activate in the open Damage Step sub-step in one end of the game, but they cannot do so in the other one.

Is this a joke? Printing a card that negates cards that activate in the Damage Step needs you to explain what the Damage Step is, Konami.


Missing the timing

Optional effects whose trigger use “”when” are unable to activate when their trigger is met but it is not the very least thing to happen in the gamestate. This means missing the timing can happen under plenty of circumstances depending on the effect in question, like tributing a monster for a Tribute Summon or being sent to the Graveyard by a card effect that then proceeds to do something else non-simultaneously.

Exhibit A.

Missing the timing is arbitrary and nonsensical from any point that is not strictly mechanical. It makes no sense. It’s as if a card effect carried a stopwatch and went all “nope, I can’t go off now, sorry” if you are a split second “late”, and only optional effects that use “when” are affected by this. What might have been made as a lazy way to prevent unintended OTK combos (Woodland Sprite + Archfiend of Gilfer, for example) is now just one more arbitrary weakness exploited to dispose of cards like Fire Hand in the middle of a Chain, is used by cards whose effects are specifically designed to force other cards’ effects to miss the timing and to have an excuse to design cards that cannot miss the timing, and is yet another measure that causes more unneeded frustration. Because the card designers lacked any foresight and never bothered to fix their mistake. Not that they made any, because the company is always right and missing the timing always existed, you silly boy!


Ignoring the summoning conditions

“Ignoring the summoning conditions” is a lie, and not even a consistent lie. You cannot ignore summoning conditions, no matter how pointless they are, if the monster you want to summon is in the Graveyard unless said monster was “properly summoned” first. But you can ignore them with no issues whatsoever if the monster would be summoned from the hand or Deck. It does not make sense for that difference to exist: you either ignore them all or you do not ignore any.

Ignoring their summoning conditions to first summon them counts as summoning them properly for revival purposes.
Funny that.

Plenty of people has tried to use Level Modulation on Horus the Black Flame Dragon LV8 after discarding it somehow because it sounds like a pretty cool combo. How do I explain to them that no, what they just did is not a valid move even though it makes perfect sense for it to be? Or how do I make them understand that no, the Dark Flattop they just summoned cannot revive the Flying Fortress SKY FIRE they just discarded to Special Summon a Machina Fortress that was used for Dark Flattop’s Synchro Summon?



Conditions in general are a tremendous mess. They are not considered to be effects even when they do exactly the same thing an effect would do, and they cannot be negated under any circumstances. There is no way to know when a condition is a condition and not an effect without rulings determining so. You do not like going on ruling goose hunts? Too bad. Enjoy learning the hard way that a restriction was ruled to be an effect due to pretentious wording. Your opponent does not believe you because it sounds like you were trying to cheat? Tough luck.

See that restriction?
It is an effect so that you can negate it with Shura.

The issue with conditions goes beyond the cards themselves. Some card effects place conditions on the players while some are placed them on specific cards instead. You are not going to know how something works unless you specifically look for its rulings, and even then you are very unlikely to find every unusual situation involving said card. Trying to get past Waboku‘s protection using Forbidden Lance? Nope, the monster still cannot be destroyed by battle. “But doesn’t Forbidden Lance makes the targeted monster unaffected by Spell/Trap effects”? That is correct. However, Waboku does not affect anything directly. What it does do is place conditions on the player who activated it. One of those conditions makes the player take no battle damage for the rest of that turn. Another of those conditions makes every monster said player controls indestructible by battle for the rest of the turn. That is why Forbidden Lance cannot get past it. It is not an effect. For extra fun, note how I did not say Waboku protects “monsters [its controller] currently controls”. If you get monsters on your field after successfully resolving Waboku, those will also be protected by Waboku’s effect condition.

Or are those lingering effects that affect even monsters that are unaffected by their effects, like Return from the Different Dimension banishing an Elemental Hero Wildheart that was summoned through its effect? Who knows. They are pretty much the exact same thing and there is no way to tell them apart.

And these guys are Effect Monsters without effects.
Because it seems non-Effect Monsters cannot have summoning conditions.


Problem-Solving Card Text

It does not help much.

It feels too much like an artificial language that would not even be necessary if Konami double-checked the cards they sell so that they were less awkward to write down. Dark Worlds Goldd and Snoww are the most infamous examples of this due to their… very strange effect wording: their “normal” effect activates upon being discarded, and then they gain an additional effect due to being discarded by an opponent’s effect – this extra effect targets when the usual one does not, so their text is very awkward.

There are other issues with it, like the rise of non-targeting removal effects that very clearly select one card to dispose of yet it does not target because the card does not say it does, conditions not being any easier to identify and distinguish from effects than they were before, and outright confusing effects due to bogus wording.

Whose original ATK is being compared to what here?

Tacked onto PSCT’s own problems lies the issue of the cards printed without PSCT existing in a game where their text is outdated and the vast majority of them are not reprinted with PSCT. And on top of that, some of them have wrong or unclear text and need a reprint that never comes, while others have their PSCT version wrong. To clarify: Mystic Piper’s effect has you drawing 1 card and revealing that card, while Red-Eyes Wyvern’s effect is supposed to target as it had been doing in both the TCG and OCG before its PSCT reprints.



Tokens are monsters created by a card effect, usually with insignificant values and meant to be fodder or chump blockers. They are always considered to be Normal Monsters, and any effects or restrictions that might be applied to them or due to something happening to them is considered to be a lingering effect from the card that created them.

The player who controlled the card effect that summoned a Token is considered to be the owner of that Token, who may or may not be the controller of those Tokens as many cards summon Tokens to the opponent’s field.

And some cards summon Tokens to both sides.

Tokens cannot be used to pay the costs of any card that requires them to be sent to the Graveyard, hand or Deck, as they are not “actual” cards and only exist on the field, but they can be used as tributes or to pay any kind of cost that does not need to them to be sent to a specific area. They can also be banished or destroyed. Trying to send them to the Graveyard with a card effect simply makes them disappear, and they cannot be targeted or affected by effects that would flip them face-down as they only exist face-up. Also, note that while they are not “real” cards, they still count as cards on the field for the effects of cards such as Just Desserts and Secret Barrel.


Effects and Summons

You can Special Summon monsters through activated effects or through their built-in summoning conditions. The former cases start a chain, the latter cases do not. Cards that specifically negate Special Summons can only stop the latter, which is another annoying thing to explain because there is no reason for this difference to exist. It gets even more confusing when not only several of these are the exact same beyond starting a Chain or not, but there are also activated effects that make you conduct a summon immediately after resolving the effect itself: summons performed through those effects are treated as a summon that can be negated by cards which only stop Special Summons.

Black Horn of Heaven needs another reprint with re-corrected text. It cannot stop a Pendulum Summon of multiple monsters.

Effects that give you additional Normal Summons can do so in three ways: applying a lingering effect that gives you 1 extra Normal Summon this turn for an appropriate monster through a continuous effect, applying a lingering effect that does the same as the previous one which needs to be activated and to resolve properly first, or an activated effect that makes you Normal Summon an appropriate monster immediately after it resolves. You cannot stack the first two ways to get a lot of Normal Summons, but you can stack the last one with itself or with any of the other two.


Negation and Summons

Negating the activation of a Spell or Trap Card is not the same as negating the effect of a Spell or Trap Card that is being activated, and both are different from negating the activation of the effect of an already-activated Spell or Trap Card. They are all different things and you need cards with specific wording in order to stop each of them. Also, monsters react in other ways to negation – if they are on the field when their effect’s activation is negated by a card that does not destroy/banish/bounce them, they are not sent to the Graveyard like Spells/Traps that would normally stay on the field do.

Negating the Normal or Special Summon of a monster is not the same as negating an effect’s activation or the effect itself. The gamestate “remembers” you tried to Normal/Special Summon a monster which matters for several card effects, but it does not “remember” you activated a card or effect if its activation was negated… But it does “remember” you activating a card or effect if only its effect was negated and it applies any appropriate restrictions in said case, like Pot of Duality or any of those monsters that only let the opponent activate one Spell/Trap Card per turn… while monster effects with restrictions activate only once during that turn or duel and cannot get around the restriction even if their activation was negated.

This “combo” does not stop your opponent from using Spells and Traps period. Now you know.


Negation and Effects

Cards that negate the effects of a targeted face-up monster do not deny the monster the possibility of activating its effect, but they would be negated no matter what it does as long as said effect applies or activates on the field while affected by the negation. It is similar to cards that Special Summon a monster with their effects negated: they can still be activated, but they are negated while face-up on the field. Costs are still paid if they are needed to activate an effect, so Card Trooper can send cards from the Deck to the Graveyard even while affected by negation, and Lonefire Blossom can still tribute itself even though it would still be negated. If a monster affected by either of these sorts of negation effects leaves the field and activates an effect outside of the field, its effects are no longer negated and they resolve normally.

As you might have guessed, these effects that negate other cards’ effects even when they remove themselves from the field as their own activation cost do their thing via placing conditions on the affected cards as part of their effect. Or lingering effects. The difference is, again, meaningless. You cannot get rid of whatever is negating the monster’s effects without making the monster stop being face-up on the Monster Card Zones.

Cards that negate the effects of face-up cards as a continuous effect do exactly what they say, but this does not make those cards unable to activate their effects. Therefore, cards that can remove themselves from the field as a cost can avoid the negation effect and resolve normally. You can also avoid this kind of negation by chaining cards that make the cards no longer meet the criteria for their effects to be negated, like Book of Moon to flip a monster face-down so that it is not affected by Skill Drain. Note that most of these cases affect monsters only – Royal Decree, for example, is all too similar to Skill Drain effect-wise, but it negates Trap effects on the field instead; any Trap effect that activated on the field is negated by Royal Decree no matter where the card is while resolving its effect as long as Royal Decree’s effect applies.

Gotta love that awkward text that has to let you know you can still activate effects.

And for some reason, effect negation completely ruins cards whose effects depend on being summoned using specific cards. Cards like Naturia Bamboo Shoot lose their effects permanently if their effects are negated at any point.


Leaving the field

Card effects that activate due to a card leaving the field do not activate if said card was face-down at the time. They do not activate if the card is shuffled into the Main Deck either, regardless of the card being face-up or face-down, because they said so. Except for the couple of cards that do activate their effects there… and any card that goes to the Extra Deck and activates its effect from there, regardless of what its trigger actually is. It seems Konami dislikes the idea of card effects in the Main Deck in general for some reason, as every card with an effect that is usable straight from the Deck is very old and they refused to let Guardian Dreadscythe activate its effect from there.

They really are very old.

As you may remember, in a previous article I talked about Xyz Monsters. The usual Xyz Summon consists of stacking a few face-up monsters you control and slapping an appropriate Xyz Monster on top of them. But, you see, these monsters used for the Xyz Summon are never considered to “leave the field” – they simply cease being monsters on the field and are now Xyz Materials attached to the Xyz Summoned monster. This means any lingering effect or condition applied onto them that would so something as soon as the affected monster “left the field” simply disappear, so a Plaguespreader Zombie or Quillbolt Hedgehog that summoned itself through its own effect would not be banished if it were sent to the Graveyard after it became an Xyz Material. It also means that using monsters targeted by the effects of cards like Safe Zone or Shadow Spell for an Xyz Summon makes those cards stay on the field pointlessly, as their targets never “left the field” even though they are not there anymore either.

Related to the above: early on in the Xyz era, Konami stated that, in the TCG, Xyz Materials actually were cards on the field, in order to force people to get themselves a playset of Tour Guide from the Underworld: as you might remember, she can summon Sangan, who in turn can search for a variety of monsters, including another copy of Tour Guide – with this whimsy ruling you could summon an Xyz, detach Sangan, and search. They never decided on how that was handled with cards that counted cards on the field for their effects or with cards that disposed of the monsters they summoned, and went with different explanations on a card-by-card basis even when they were all functionally identical. Wanna make this better? This ruling was considered valid in an official tournament, at least four months after Xyz Monsters came out in the OCG and had established rules. Eventually they were forced to relent and apply the OCG’s rulings to Xyz Monsters… and not only they never admitted to having done anything wrong, but they actually blamed someone else for this little mess.

This. They blamed this.

Want to make this even better? They are doing the same thing with Pendulums too, stating their effects upon being destroyed do not activate if they were destroyed as Pendulum Scales because they just released Performage Plush Fire. Yes, this goes only to the TCG, and only to have an excuse to not hit it immediately.

And while we are on the Pendulum subject… just like Tokens, you cannot send them from the field to the Graveyard for costs and you can try to send them there with effects (they go to the Extra Deck instead), but effects that depend on the affected Pendulum’s location for the rest of the effect behave in strange ways – some can continue to resolve almost normally while others are unable to do so due to specifically needing it to be in the Graveyard.


Unclear wording and other arbitrary things

Card effects whose effects target cards use one of two possible wordings: “that target” and “that card”. The difference lies in how they resolve: ones whose effect affect “that target” need the target to meet the activation requirements in order to affect that card during the resolution, while cards that affect “it” or “that card” do not care about those and resolve anyway.

Ritual Summoning has you fulfilling the Level quota and then Special Summoning a Ritual Monster. They are not simultaneous, which can cause timing issues. And there is no way to know this without looking it up, because all Ritual Spells in the TCG use the same faulty text even after the introduction of PSCT. Note that Prediction Ritual was released several months after the Nekroz Ritual Spells were, and two of those three do have the correct text.

Effects that do not allow your opponent’s monsters to attack are not the same as effects that prevent them from declaring attacks. Namely, the difference is that the latter cards have to be activated before the attack in question is declared. The attack has already been declared, so it cannot be stopped by them. They could all easily use the same wording to avoid confusion. Similarly, discarding is different from sending cards from the hand to the Graveyard. The difference? Discarding trigger the effects of many Fabled and Dark World monsters, sending them to the Graveyard without discarding them does not. Not only this is an unnecessary difference, it actually goes against the rulebook they hand out with every Starter Deck and Structure Deck.

Did you know the effect of Armades, Keeper of Boundaries actually affects any monster it might be battling? Because it does. Monsters that are unaffected by effects other than their own can actually activate their effects in battle against Armades and similar cards. This is a bigger issue for people who do check for rulings but have not quite realized monsters do not interact with effect restriction in the same way Spells and Traps do.

The vast majority of cards with partial or full protection from being targeted by card effects or from being affected by them only have their protection while they are on the field, but the cards themselves do not say it.

Monsters treated as Xyz Materials are not considered monsters. Neither are monsters placed in the Spell/Trap Zones due to card effects. That is so you can send them to the Graveyard while under the effect of Dimensional Fissure, which only affects monsters. Cards like Macro Cosmos that do not discriminate between monsters and other things banish everything no matter what it is.

Cards effects that apply or activate when a summon is conducted due to using specific cards for the summon need the summon in question to be successful in order to actually work. If the summon is negated, they cannot even activate.

Monsters whose effects might alter their own ATK/DEF/Level/Type/Attribute, and only their own, with an activated effect that does not expire, will lose the changes if their effects are negated at any point, even if the negation comes several turns after the effect in question was activated… unless that effect has a clause that specifically states this change does not go away while the monster is face-up. Monsters whose effects change the values of monsters that are not limited to themselves due to affecting everything on a single field or being able to affect monsters besides the one activating its effect, on the other hand, cannot lose their altered values due to late negation even if they do expire at some point. If a monster who changes its own stats through a continuous effect has its effects negated, its effect will start working again as soon as the negation expires, but changes that are performed only once are lost permanently.

Elemental Hero Prisma can only copy the names of monsters specifically named as a Fusion Monster’s Fusion Material. The way the card is worded, it implies you can send any monster as long as it can also fit the Fusion requirements – as in, revealing Panzer Dragon to send any Dragon or Machine because “1 Dragon-Type monster” and “1 Machine-Type monster” are listed as Fusion Materials. Similarly, Fusion Substitutes cannot be used to replace everything in a Fusion Summon: they can only replace 1 monster that is specifically named on the card. So, in the case of Panzer Dragon, you would not be able to use a Fusion Substitute to replace any materials as no specific monster is named. Also, you cannot reveal Rainbow Neos with Prisma to send Rainbow Dragon or Rainbow Dark Dragon because the OCG version of the card asks for an “Ultimate Gem God” monster… Both of those Rainbow Dragons fit that requirement, but they forgot to adapt that to the TCG.

“Excavate” is a relatively new keyword, introduced at the time the Sylvan archetype was created due to its unique way to trigger their secondary effects: they must be revealed while they are on top of the Deck by a card effect that then sends them to the Graveyard. The problem with this keyword is minor: every instance of it being used is redundant due to its formatting. Excavating, by definition, consists of revealing a certain number of card from the top of the Deck to both players, but they all mention you excavate a number of cards from there.

There is a “use” keyword of sorts, but how it works has never been defined. The two cards that apply it to other cards make those cards unable to activate or apply effects, declare attacks, be summoned or set. Disallowing specific cards from being “used” does not seem to disallow you from using them for costs, but Vicious Claw‘s rulings do not let you activate any card effect that could discard it randomly during the turn it returns to the hand and it also has the “use” wording. There is at least one monster with a “you can only use [name] once per turn” clause which does not say what “use” means. And the difference between “you can only use [name]’s effect once per turn” clause and a normal hard once-per-turn clause is unclear.


Please note that not only you are somehow meant to know all of the things I mentioned here as well as a few more I probably forgot about, but most of the issues were completely avoidable and only exist because Konami likes to impose its will way too much.

This would only be more accurate if it were about Linguistics instead.

That ends today’s bonus article. The final one of these can be read here.


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