Confusing Yu-Gi-Oh! Rules Part 1

Yu-Gi-Oh is a card game targeted toward children. However, unlike most TCG, the nitty-gritty mechanics are pretty complicated. This article will look at the many rulings of Yu-Gi-Oh that beginning players likely made when playing Yu-Gi-Oh TCG.

Ritual Summoning – Pebble Ruling

vendreadSCENARIO: Opponent activates Black Illusion Ritual and tries to tribute 2 Dandylion monsters to Ritual Summon Relinquished. You then had to explain to your opponent how they can’t tribute the second Dandylion because the first Dandylion already meets the level requirement. Your opponent then responded, “But the Ritual Spell says I CAN tribute monsters with higher levels than Level 1”. 

Ritual Summoning is an OG Special Summoning mechanic. If you Ritual Summon a Ritual Monster, the player must tribute monsters whose levels are equal or higher (depending on the Ritual Spell) than the level of the Ritual Monster you’re summoning. For example, if I want to Ritual Summon the Level 6, Cyber Angel Benten, I must tribute a Level 6 or higher monster to fulfil the level requirement. However, if I don’t have a monster equal to the Ritual Monster’s level, I can combine the levels of several monsters to meet the requirement, e.g. tributing a Level 2 monster and a Level 4 monster (total level 6).

Now here is the pebble ruling. Basically, the pebble ruling means using ONLY what the Ritual Summon requires. For example, If I want to Ritual Summon a Level 6 monster, you cannot tribute both a Level 7 and a Level 3 monster because the Level 7 monster already meets the level requirement. Therefore, you can only tribute the Level 7 monster. This ruling makes sense to prevent players from using more than they need to, but it causes serious problems for several Ritual Archetypes (e.g. Vendread, Megalith and Drytron + Relinquished).

For Megalith, before the release of Megalith Phul, this ruling almost rendered Megalith clunky and unplayable since all their monsters were Level 4 and 8. All the Level 4 Ritual Monsters MUST use themselves as a ritual material to Ritual Summon. This causes a problem because if I want to Ritual Summon a Level 8 Megalith monster, I cannot use any of the Level 8 monsters as a tribute because Level 8 already meets the Ritual requirement. Therefore, I have to make sure I have a level 7 or lower monster in the hand or field to fulfil the ritual requirement. 

For Vendread, this pebble ruling hurts their already terrible gameplay. Vendread is an archetype that wants the player to sacrifice as many materials as possible to power up your Ritual Monster. However, thanks to the pebbling ruling, this isn’t possible. The highest Vendread Ritual Monster is a Level 8 monster. The main deck monsters include Houndhorde (Level 3), Revenants (Level 4), Striges (2 monsters) and Core and Anima (Level 1). If I use Revenants, Houndhorde and Striges as ritual material (total level is 9) to Ritual Summon the Level 8 Ritual, I can’t use Anima and Core because I already meet the Level 8 requirement. There will corenever be a scenario where a player can Ritual Summon a full-power Vendread monster because the pebble ruling prevents this from happening. 

For Drytron and Relinquished, this ruling is harmful once again. Drytron Meteornis is a Ritual Spell that Ritual Summons a Ritual Monster by tributing a monster whose ATK meets the ATK value of the Ritual Monster you’re trying to summon. Relinquished is a 0 ATK monster. This means the player doesn’t need to tribute anything to Ritual Summon Relinquished. However, to perform a Ritual Summon, you MUST tribute at least one monster, but since tributing a monster for Relinquished would be considered more Tributes than necessary (Pebble Ruling), you cannot Ritual Summon Relinquished with Drytron Meteornis. 

Chain Sequence

badSCENARIO: Your opponent says “GG”. He then activates ‘Bad Reaction to Simochi’ and proceeds to chain 3 ‘Gift Card‘ to ‘Bad Reaction of Simochi‘. You then say “Thank you” and increase your LP by 9000. Your opponent got angry and told you to read “Bad Reaction to Simochi”. You then responded that he chained the cards incorrectly. Your opponent flipped the table and called you a nerd.

Chain is a mechanic that determines the order of effects resolution. Basically, when you activate a card effect, it creates a chain link. Every card that activates afterwards before the card resolves adds to that chain link. For example:

Once both players are happy for the effects to resolve, the effect resolves backwards, starting from the last chain link (in this case, it’s Chain Link 2). 

  • Chain Link 2: Magic Jammer negates Pot of Greed
  • Chain Link 1: Pot of Greed doesn’t resolve (negated by Magic Jammer)

chain linkUnderstanding how a chain works is essential in competitive play, as chaining certain cards can net you advantages if done correctly. Look at these two scenarios…

Scenario 1: 

The effects then resolve backwards.

  • Chain Link 3: Scapegoat summons 4 tokens
  • Chain Link 2: Imperial Order negates Mystical Space Typhoon
  • Chain Link 1: Mystical Space Typhoon is negated

Notice how Player B could negate Player A’s spell and still summon their 4 tokens with Scapegoat by chaining certain cards in order? Now let’s look at another scenario with the same cards but different chain link order. 

Scenario 2: 

  • Player A activates Mystical Space Typhoon (Chain Link 1)
  • Player B chain with Scapegoat (Chain Link 2)
  • Player B then chains again with Imperial Order (Chain Link 3)

The effects then resolve backwards

  • Chain Link 3: Imperial Order negates all spell cards
  • Chain Link 2: Scapegoat is negated
  • Chain Link 1: Mystical Space Typhoon is also negated

In this scenario, Player B’s Scapegoat is negated because he chained Imperial Order after Scapegoat? 

Similar to the above scenario, chaining can also gain a further player advantage by chain blocking the opponent. This means setting up a chain, causing your opponent to be unable to respond because the condition is no longer applicable. For example, let’s have a look at these two scenarios. 

Scenario 1: 

Player B has Ash Blossom in his hand. Player A sends Marincess Blue Tang to the grave to Link Summon Blue Slug. 

  • Player A activates both Blue Tang and Blue Slug‘s effects.
  • Player A then set Blue Slug’s effect as Chain Link 1 (Chain Link 1).
  • Player A set Blue Tang’s search effect as Chain Link 2 (Chain Link 2).
  • Player B chains Ash Blossom to Blue Tang’s effect (Chain Link 3).

Chain resolves backwards:

  • Chain Link 3: Ash Blossom negates Blue Tang’s effect.
  • Chain Link 2: Blue Tang’s effect is negated.
  • Chain Link 1: Blue Slug adds Blue Tang from the grave back to hand. 

Scenario 2: 

Player B has Ash Blossom in his hand. Player A sends Marincess Blue Tang to the grave to Link Summon Blue Slug. 

  • Player A activates both Blue Tang and Blue Slug’s effects.
  • Player A set Blue Tang’s search effect as Chain Link 1 (Chain Link 1).
  • Player A then set Blue Slug’s effect as Chain Link 2 (Chain Link 2).
  • Player B cannot chain Ash Blossom.

Chain resolves backwards

  • Chain Link 2: Blue Tang searches out Marincess Wave.
  • Chain Link 1: Blue Slug adds Blue Tang from the grave back to hand.

Notice how in scenario 2, Player B wasn’t able to respond with Ash Blossom? That’s because Player A has blocked Player B by ordering his chain-link differently, causing Blue’s Tang’s adding effect not to be the last thing to happen. 

Missing the Timing (If & When)

petenSCENARIO: Your opponent equipped Wonder Wand to Peten the Dark Clown. They then activate Wonder Wand’s second effect, sending both it and Peten to the grave to draw two cards. They then try to activate Peten’s effect to Special Summon, another copy of itself. You told your opponent no, as it misses the timing. Your opponent then berates you and says how Peten’s effect activates when it’s sent to the graveyard. 

Missing the timing must be the most confusing ruling for many beginning players. In early Yu-Gi-Oh, many monsters have missing timing effects. This has been less common over the years, but Konami occasionally uses this ruling to balance certain archetypes (e.g. Yang Zing). To simplify it, missing the timing means certain effects can only be activated if it’s the last thing to occur; otherwise, it misses the timing. For example, If I send Fortune Lady Light to the grave with Magical Dimension and then destroy a monster with Magical Dimension secondary effect, I cannot activate Fortune Lady Light’s trigger effect because Light getting sent to the grave wasn’t the last thing to happen (hence missing the timing). However, If I send Fortune Lady Light to the grave with Magical Dimension and choose NOT to destroy anything, I can activate Fortune Lady Light’s Trigger effect because Light’s getting sent to the grave was the last thing to happen. lady light

Now how do we know whether a card misses timing or not? Basically, you have to look for specific keywords in the monster’s trigger effect condition. The keywords are ‘if’ and ‘when’. Monsters with trigger effect conditions that start with ‘if’ never miss timing. Monsters with trigger effect conditions that start with ‘when’ will miss timing if it’s not the last thing to occur (not always). 

For example, 

  • When this card is sent to the Graveyard by a card effect: You can target 1 “Battlin’ Boxer” monster in your Graveyard, except “Battlin’ Boxer Glassjaw“; add that target to your hand. (Will miss timing if the condition is not the last thing to happen)
  • If this card is sent to the Graveyard: Special Summon 2 “Fluff Tokens” (Plant-Type/WIND/Level 1/ATK 0/DEF 0) in Defense Position. (Never misses timing)

Now to make things complicated are effects that occur at the same time. Basically, if you can line up card effects so it happens simultaneously, then the monsters’ effects won’t miss timing regardless. Now how do we know if a card effect occurs simultaneously? They have the keywords, and“, “and if you do“, “also“, “then“, “also, after that“. Let’s have a look at Fortune Lady Light again. 

Let’s have a look at Light’s interactions with two other spell cards (Magical Dimension and Spellbook of Knowledge.

  • Magical Dimension: “Target 1 monster you control; Tribute that target, then Special Summon 1 Spellcaster monster from your hand, then you can destroy 1 monster on the field.
  • Spellbook of Knowledge: “Send to the GY either 1 Spellcaster monster you control…, and if you do, draw 2 cards.”

If Ispellbook oif knowledge send Fortune Lady Light to the grave using Magical Dimension and then destroy a monster, I can’t trigger Light’s effect because destroying the monster was the last thing to happen and not Light’s getting sent to the grave. However, if I send Light to the grave using Spellbook of Knowledge and then draw two cards, I can still trigger Light’s effect because drawing two cards and sending Light to the grave happened simultaneously. 

Now to make things even more confusing is mandatory effects. Basically, a card will never miss timing if the effect is compulsory, even if it uses the keyword ‘when’. How do you know if a card effect is mandatory or not? You look for the keyword, “can”. If a card effect has the keyword, ‘can’, the effect is optional and may miss its timing. For example, let’s have a look at these four cards…

  • Heraldic Beast Leo: “When this card is sent to the Graveyard: Add 1 “Heraldic Beast” monster from your Deck to your hand.” (Never misses timing as it’s a compulsory effect)
  • Battlin’ Boxer Glassjaw: “When this card is sent to the Graveyard by a card effect: You can target 1 “Battlin’ Boxer” monster… add that target to your hand.” (Will miss timing if it’s not the condition isn’t the last thing to happen)
  • Fluffal Penguin: “If this card is sent to the Graveyard as a Fusion Material…: You can draw 2 cards, then discard 1 card. (Never misses timing despite being an optional effect due to the keyword “if”)
  •   Sunny Pixie: If this card is sent to the Graveyard…: Gain 1000 Life Points.” (Never misses timing)


Destroy Vs Negate

SCENARIO:  mirror force The opponent declares an attack. You responded by activating Mirror Force to destroy their attacking monsters. The opponent then chained Mystical Space Typhoon to destroy Mirror Force. You’re then left sitting there explaining to the opponent how Mystical Space Typhoon doesn’t negate and that they essentially wasted their Mystical Space Typhoon. 

iiBasically, destroying and negating isn’t the same thing. If I destroy something with a card effect, I’m not negating the effect. The effect may still go off if it was activated. Negating isn’t the same as destroying either. I can negate something, but the card isn’t destroyed (e.g. Infinite Impermanence). Unfortunately, many new players sometimes think having a card destroyed automatically means negating the card. It also doesn’t help that most cards usually have both those wordings (e.g. Solemn trap cards), confusing players into thinking that if a card is destroyed, their effects are also negated. 

Now to make things more confusing, we have to look at how the “destroy” mechanic interacts with Continuous Spell and Trap cards and Field Spells. Continuous Traps and Spells and Field Spells need to be face-up to resolve their effects. If not, their effects cannot resolve, causing a situation similar to negation. For example, if an opponent activates the field spell, Trickstar Light Stage, to search for a Trickstar Monster, I can chain Mystical Space Typhoon to destroy Light Stage. Since Light Stage is no longer on the Field, its effect cannot be resolved. Therefore, the player cannot search for any Trickstar monster. 

Spell Speed

SCENARIO: Your  heraldopponent has Herald of Perfection on the field. You activate Raigeki to nuke their field. Your opponent chained Herald to negate Raigeki. You then responded with Solemn Strike to negate Herald’s effect. Your opponent then tries to respond with Herald’s effect to negate Solemn Strike. You then told your opponent that they can’t because Herald’s effect is only Spell Speed 2 while Solemn Strike is Spell Speed 3. Your opponent then berates you and say, “Learn the game! This isn’t the 5D anime. Speed Spell isn’t a thing!”

Spell Speed is a mechanic that tells the player what cards can be chained to what, or how “fast” they are. Every card effect has an associated Spell Speed. There are only 3 Spell Speed in the game, Spell Speed 1, Spell Speed 2 and Spell Speed 3. 

  • Spell Speed 1: Normal Spells, Field Spells (trigger and ignition effects), Continuous Spells (trigger and ignition effects), Equip Spells, Ritual Spells, Monster Flip Effects, Monster Ignition Effects, Monster Trigger Effects 
  • Spell Speed 2: Quick-Play Spells, Normal Trap Cards, Continuous Trap Cards, Quick Effects (Monsters, Trap and Spell cards)
  • Spell Speed 3: Counter Traps

It’s important to know this mechanic so you can interact witheraldh your opponent’s cards effect and chain cards accordingly. If the conditions are met, Spell Speed 1 cards can be chained to each other, but not to cards with Spell Speed 2 or 3. Spell Speed 2 can be chained to cards with Spell Speed 1 and 2, but not 3. Spell Speed 3 can be chained to Spell Speed 1, 2 and 3. For example, let’s look at the following cards.

  • Solar Flare Dragon: “During each of your End Phases: Inflict 500 damage to your opponent.” (Trigger effect: Spell Speed 1)
  • Nature’s Reflection“…any effect activated by your opponent that would inflict damage becomes an effect that inflicts damage to their Life Points.” (Normal Trap: Spell Speed 2)
  • Trap Stun“Negate all other Trap effects on the field this turn.” (Normal Trap: Spell Speed 2)
  • Trap Jammer“When your opponent activates a Trap Card during the Battle Phase: Negate the activation, and if you do, destroy it.” (Counter Trap: Spell Speed 3)
  • Solemn Judgment: “…a Spell/Trap Card is activated: Pay half your LP; negate the Summon or activation…” (Counter Trap: Spell Speed 3)

If Player A activates Solar Flare Dragon’s effect to inflict 500 damage, Player B can chain with Nature’s Reflection as Nature’s Reflection is Spell Speed 2. Player A can then respond with Trap Stun to negate Nature’s Reflection as Trap Stun is also Spell Speed 2. Player B can then chain with Trap Jammer to negate Trap Stun because Trap Jammer is a counter trap (Spell Speed 3). However, Player A can then chain Solemn Judgment to Trap Jammer because Solemn Judgment is also a counter trap, which is also a Spell Speed 3. 



YGOPRODeck Writer

9 thoughts on “Confusing Yu-Gi-Oh! Rules Part 1

  • Avatar
    April 15, 2022 at 3:40 pm



    Can’t wait til we cover “negating effect” vs “negating activation”, or my personal favorite “when your opponent would summon” vs “when your opponent’s effect would summon”. Absosutely a blast

  • Avatar
    April 15, 2022 at 5:12 pm



    thumbs up

  • Avatar
    April 15, 2022 at 7:16 pm



    Here’s a helpful way to explain timing stuff, one deck has two timing instances in one interaction!
    In your hand you have Star Seraph Scepter and Star Seraph Sovereignty, keep in mind, there’s no opt clause to either of these cards.

    The successful timing is here, you can normal summon scepter and use it’s effect, when you do do sovereignty grants the option to chain, resolve sovereignty and use scepter to add a second sovereignty from your deck to your hand, if you do so even though you collect the sovereignty from your deck to your hand “after” the first one was summoned the second sovereignty can activate.

    The missed timing? If sovereignty is part of a chain and draws another Star Seraph and chooses to summon it as part of its conjoined effect and the Star Seraph has an on summon effect it won’t be able to activate as it misses timing, if sovereignty wasn’t part of a chain it can activate, so say you draw another Scepter, it can’t use its effect to search if you choose to summon it, not a lot of people know this though.

  • Avatar
    April 15, 2022 at 7:20 pm




    There are 2 kinds of activation: Activating a card (Spell/Trap), and activating an effect (Spell/Trap/Monster). Activating a spell/trap card simply means playing the card face up on the field (either from the hand, or flipping it face up after it was already set in the field). This action starts a chain. Activating an effect is when you declare you are activating a monster effect (regardless of whether it’s ignition, trigger or quick effect), or activating a spell/trap effect which typically happens when an already face up spell/trap has an effect that starts a chain (Multirole is an example of this). When it comes to negating activation vs. effect, the end result is pretty much the same for most instances: whatever effect or activation was going to happen will no longer happen. But there are some key differences between the two.
    a. You can’t negate an effect during the damage step, but you can negate the activation of an effect during the damage step.
    Example: I destroy my opponent’s “Sky Striker Ace – Kagari” through battle and it goes to the GY, which triggers Raye in the GY to special summon herself. At this point, this is all still happening during the damage step, so I can’t use “Called by the Grave” on Raye in the GY, because it only negates the effect, not activation. But I can use “Ghost Belle & Haunted Mansion”, because she negates activation, which is allowed during the damage step, and keep Raye from special summoning herself. On the other hand, if I just used something like Raigeki or Dark Hole to destroy the Kagari, then Raye will trigger, but this time I can prevent her from special summoning herself with either Ghost Belle or Called by the Grave, and either of them will result in Raye not summoning herself.
    b. If you negate the activation of a spell/trap card, by game mechanics it goes straight to the GY. This might seem straightforward, until you think about cards that are supposed to stay on the field after they’re activated (Field spells, Continuous traps, etc). Negating a card’s activation means that it was never face up on the field, similar to when you negate the summon of a monster, the monster is considered to not have been summoned succesfully.
    Example: I have an Eternal Soul facedown with Dark Magician in the GY, and my opponent has Ghost Belle in the hand. During my opponent’s turn, I decide to activate Eternal Soul by flipping it face up and at activation, want to use its effect to special summon DM from the GY. Because of this, my opponent can chain Ghost Belle to the activation of Eternal Soul, which will negate its activation and send it to the GY. However, if I had only activated Eternal Soul previously in the turn without using any of its effects, then later activate the effect of Eternal Soul to special summon DM from GY, my opponent can still use Ghost Belle in this instance, but this time it would be negating the effect instead of the activation, so Eternal Soul stays on the field without resolving its effect.
    c. If a card has a restriction/condition that is applied when the card is activated, and the activation is negated, the condition/restriction is no longer applied.
    Example: Red-Eyes Fusion
    Scenario 1: I activate Red-Eyes Fusion from my hand, and my opponent responds with Ash Blossom. Red-Eyes Fusion has a restriction that on the turn the card is activated, I cannot Normal/Special summon any other monsters. It also says that I can only activate the card once per turn. Since Ash Blossom only negated the effect but not the activation, the restrictions are applied, and I am locked out of summoning any other monsters that turn, and if I have a second copy of REF in my hand, I can’t activate it this turn.
    Scenario 2: My opponent controls Borreload Savage Dragon with at least 1 Borrel Counter. I activate REF from hand, and my opponent responds by chaining Savage Dragon to negate the activation of my REF. At this point, since the activation was negated, the restriction doesn’t apply, and I can choose to either summon as many monsters as I can, or I can activate a second copy of REF if I have access to it.
    NOTE: If a card has a restriction that says something like: “you can only USE each effect of X card once per turn,” then you may not try to activate the effect of the card even if the activation is negated, since that restriction only counts the attempts to use the effect, and not whether or not the activation was successful.
    2) “Opponent would summon” vs “opponent’s effect would summon”
    This is not that complicated. The only thing you need to think about is: “Was the summoning of my opponent’s monster the result of an effect that resolved, or was it through the monster’s own summoning conditions/game mechanics that didn’t start a chain?”
    Examples of summoning by effect: A ritual monster that was ritual summoned using a ritual spell, a Monster Reborn special summoning a monster from the GY, Raye tributing herself to special summon a Sky Striker Ace Link from the Extra Deck, Halquifibrax special summoning a tuner from the deck, etc. NOTE: Cards like I:P Masquerana that say something like: “immediately after this card resolves, perform a summon” are a different situation. Although the activation of Masquerena leads to the link summon of a link monster, the link summon happens AFTER the effect resolves, so it’s not a summon that happens as a result of an effect resolution. It’s kinda messy, but it’s very important to know the difference, especially when you need to know how you can respond to such scenarios.
    Examples of summoning without effect: Normal/Synchro/XYZ/Pendulum/Link summons, a monster with a special summoning condition that doesn’t start a chain (Cyber Dragon special summoning from the hand, banishing 3 monsters from GY to special summon Levianeer, etc). These kinds of summons are commonly referred to as Inherent Summons by the community, but are not an official term and can sometimes lead to confusion or erroneous information, so I don’t like to use the term.
    Obviously there’s more detail to go through here, but this should at least give you a general understanding.

  • Avatar
    April 16, 2022 at 1:23 pm



    I’m still confused at why Bad Reaction of Simochi effect wouldn’t work in that scenario. Both spells are spell speed 2 and Simochi hi was chained last so it’s effect should go off first. I don’t see any when/can effects in either card and Simochi would still be on the field when the other chain links resolved.
    I’ve gone over the article 3 times but I see no reason why it’s effect would not work. What am I missing?

  • Avatar
    April 16, 2022 at 1:58 pm



    The Gift Cards were all chained to Simochi, not the other way around. So when the chain resolves, each of the Gift Cards will resolve before Simochi can resolve its effect. That makes each of the Gift Cards give the opponent 3k since Simochi’s effect isn’t applied to the field just yet.

  • Avatar
    April 17, 2022 at 6:53 pm




    Oh I do get it, annoying at first but you learn the ropes real quick, but for new or even returning players this can be one of those “Why can’t I Strike it?” moments. This confusion came to me when I was playing speedroid. Taketomborg does NOT cause a chain, but CarTurbo does, and so a younger me was highly confused at this. Once I learned the power of colon and semicolon I got used to “Summons that cause chains” and learned how to avoid these issues in the future.

  • Avatar
    May 6, 2022 at 2:30 pm



    There are things about chaining and order of effect that I would like to see better explained in future articles. For example, in cases of effects that activate at the same time, under which criteria it is decided which card is chain 1, this gets often in my way when I plan to activate negating effects but I can’t negate what I want because my opponent has already chained another effect to his first card.

  • Avatar
    May 6, 2022 at 3:51 pm




    Use this chart as a resource to know which kinds of effects can be chained to one another.

    A couple of things that aren’t covered in this particular article but are important to remember when building a chain:

    1) SEGOC (Simultaneous Effects Go On Chain)
    2) Chain Blocking (unofficial term used to explain building a chain in a way to prevent interruption by an opponent). Example: Turn player activates Reinforcements of the Army to add a warrior monster from deck to hand. Effect resolves. Opponent has Droll and Lock Bird in hand and is ready to use, but after resolving ROTA, turn player activates Super Polymerization, which forces Droll and Lock to miss its timing, so it can’t be activated.

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