Problem-Solving Card Text (PSCT) essentially is broken down into several facets: text structure; terminology and phrasing; and conjunctives. The intention with PSCT is to allow for interpretation of the card text and provide a logical way to proceed with as many given situations as possible. The way the wording looks for each case will specify, e.g. what cards can or cannot be activated in response, how an effect resolves in a Chain, which effect can be responded (chained) to, etc. Misreading a card text may give a player an accidental advantage, or sometimes, it may even change the outcome of a Duel. So, let’s consider each facet individually.
Text structure - When to Chain?
Text structure, namely punctuation, can be some of the most basic of Yu-Gi-Oh! rulings to resolve, but surprisingly might not be that well-understood. Besides parentheses and bulleted lists, some of the most important punctuations in the game are colons and semicolons. Colons specify that a card can be chained to by another card (even if that card is not specifically designed to respond to it). Semicolons indicate that two or more events are distinct from each other.
For example, consider the following excerpt from the card text of Zombie Master:
Once per turn: You can send 1 monster from your hand to the Graveyard, then target 1 Level 4 or lower Zombie-Type monster in either player’s graveyard; Special Summon that target.
Suppose that player A activates this effect by sending a card from the hand to the Graveyard, then targeting an appropriate monster in their own Graveyard. Ignoring the effect of that sent card, and the omitted card text that follows:
The result is that player A has (likely) wasted resources in the hand. Now, suppose player B instead waited until the Special Summon has occurred, and then wishes to activate Disappear.
Understanding the proceeding of events in the card text is therefore crucial to gaining a tactical advantage.
Terminology and Phrasing - activation timing and targeting
Terminology and phrasing are generally going to determine the way cards interact. Some important examples are: the conditionals "When" versus "If" (or the additional "you can . . . "), and targeting versus non-targeting.
Take the card text of Pinch Hopper, for an example of a situation called "missing the activation timing":
When this card you control is sent to your GY: You can Special Summon 1 Insect monster from your hand.
At first glance, it seems like as long as this card is sent to the Graveyard (or even destroyed by a card effect), the Special Summoning effect afterwards will trigger. However, this is easily messed up, because this is an optional effect (seen in the phrases “When . . . “ and "you can . . . ").
Suppose player A wants to activate the effect of Pinch Hopper by using Enemy Controller.
To properly activate Pinch Hopper’s effect, player A must have the last event that occurs be this card going to the Graveyard (and nothing else separate upon resolution).
One option is to switch out Enemy Controller for, say, Cocoon of Ultra Evolution. The latter card text excerpt is:
Tribute 1 Insect monster from either field equipped with an Equip Card, and if you do, Special Summon 1 Insect monster from your Deck, ignoring its Summoning conditions.
Suppose you activate this to start a Chain Link. Since the Special Summon and tribute event will occur simultaneously (due to "and if you do"), the tribute is not a cost, and also, among the last things to occur, all in one go, is Pinch Hopper going to the Graveyard. Thus, Pinch Hopper does not miss its timing. More on simultaneous vs. sequential events is in the next section.
A more effective option is to simply use another card that has one of these two alternative wordings:
Now, consider the interaction of White Night Dragon with Spellbook of Fate.
The relevant card text excerpts are below for each one, respectively:
During either player’s turn, when a Spell/Trap card that targets this card is activated: Negate the activation and destroy it.
If you control a Spellcaster-Type monster: You can banish up to 3 Spellbook Spell cards from your Graveyard; activate this effect, depending on the number of Spell Cards banished for this card’s activation.
Suppose player A has successfully summoned White Night Dragon, and player B responds by activating Spellbook of Fate.
As such, by carefully reading the phrasing of the card text, one can get around another card’s effect in an intelligent manner and throw the opponent off-guard.
Conjunctives - Simultaneous vs. Sequential Events
Conjunctives will distinguish whether two or more events are sequential or simultaneous, and therefore what part of any given effect may or may not be responded to. Two conjunctions we'll look at are "and if you do" and "also, after that" (although the latter is rarer these days).
Take this text from "A" Cell Recombination Device as an example:
Target 1 face-up monster on the field; send 1 "Alien" monster from your Deck to the Graveyard, and if you do, place A-Counters on the targeted monster equal to the sent monster's Level. During your Main Phase, except the turn this card was sent to the Graveyard: You can banish this card from your Graveyard; add 1 "Alien" monster from your Deck to your hand.
This conjunctive links the two events together, namely the monster sent from your Deck to the Graveyard (event 1), and the placement of A-Counters on the targeted monster on the field (event 2).
If player A activates this card and event 1 occurs, then event 2 is considered to occur simultaneously, and event 1 is NOT a cost. Also, these are mutually dependent, so if no "Alien" monster card is in the Deck, event 1 cannot occur, so neither does event 2.
Besides that, there are two common ways that this card can fail, without simply stopping all banishing from the Graveyard, that lead to these consequences:
Now consider the card text of Mask Change:
Target 1 "HERO" monster you control; send it to the Graveyard, also, after that, if it left the field by this effect, Special Summon 1 "Masked HERO" monster from your Extra Deck with the same Attribute that the sent monster had when it was on the field (its original Attribute, if face-down).
This conjunctive functions like "then". It means the adjacent phrases describe sequential (but not mutually dependent) events. The bolded part reveals that:
So, we see that the effect of conjunctives links events, making them either simultaneous (involving "and", or "also" without "after that") or sequential (involving "after that" or "then"). Depending on the particular phrasing, the linked events may be dependent on each other (involving "then", "and", or "and if you do"), or not.
As a result of this examination of PSCT—namely text structure; terminology and phrasing; and conjunctives—we find that it makes the interpretation of card text all the more interesting. It leads to fruitful discussion of grammar and resolution of logic, and one can learn something from this as well.
It's not just badly-redundant sentences, guys.
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