A question I’ve been getting a lot lately concerns how various negation effects interact with one another. So, I’m going to write a big, long article about it.
This isn’t something a lot of players may realize, even at a higher level, but it could have important procedural and strategical implications. The basic concept is that a card on the field cannot have its effects negated by two different sources at the same time. If a card’s effects are currently being negated, then they cannot be negated again by a different card.
As an example, let’s look at the first official ruling that ever explained this:
“Majestic Star Dragon” cannot negate the effect of a monster whose effect is already negated.
But nobody uses Majestic Star Dragon, so who cares? Actually, this basic logic applies to most other cards that negate the effects of others, including Effect Veiler, Breakthrough Skill, and Mermail Abyssgaios. You cannot use any of these cards/effects on other cards whose effects are already negated. Most importantly of all, it doesn’t matter how they’re being negated. I bring this up because of how Skill Drain works compared to most of these typical negation effects. Most experienced players know that Skill Drain does not work against monsters unless they are face-up on the field when their effects resolve. This is why monsters with self-removing costs like Rescue Rabbit, Lonefire Blossom, and Stardust Dragon are able to ‘dodge’ Skill Drain and resolve their effects. The same experienced players also know that Effect Veiler and the like work differently, and are not so much concerned about the physical location of the card, but rather where the effect was activated. All of the above mentioned cards will have their effects negated if they were previously affected by Effect Veiler and try to activate their effects, even though they may not be on the field anymore when their effects resolve. Fewer monsters are able to dodge these types of negation effects.
However, while these monsters are sitting idly on the field, their effects (in a vague sense) are considered to be negated by Skill Drain, which means you may NOT use any cards/effects like Effect Veiler on them. So, imagine you have Rescue Rabbit in your hand, while your opponent has Effect Veiler in theirs. If you Normal Summon your Rabbit, your opponent will most likely use their Effect Veiler and stop you from herp derping. But now let’s suppose that you activate Skill Drain first. If you then Normal Summon your Rabbit, your opponent cannot activate Effect Veiler’s effect from their hand! And since Rabbit is able to dodge Skill Drain anyway, you can proceed with your play safely. This is one instance where Skill Drain actually does stop a monster from activating its effects. Why is this? Well it goes back to the basic idea that you cannot activate an effect if it would do nothing, just as you cannot activate a card like Dark Hole if there aren’t any monsters on the field. Game mechanics cannot differentiate between negation types, and Effect Veiler sees that your Rabbit’s effects are already negated by Skill Drain and cannot activate, despite the different outcomes that usually result from using each card. In the same manner, you cannot use two different Effect Veilers on the same monster in one turn, or activate the effects of two different Mermail Abyssgaios right after one another.
This may seem pointless outside of the Rescue Rabbit example used above, since most of the time a monster’s effects will already be negated and you wouldn’t want to waste additional resources to do the same thing anyway, or to have your negating effect be negated by that same Skill Drain. But this could be relevant if you had a monster like Mermail Abyssgaios with a material attached that you wanted in your Graveyard, such as Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls. Or, if you had a DARK monster in your Graveyard but no LIGHT monsters, and wanted to put an Effect Veiler there to be able to Summon Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning. Skill Drain would stop you from doing both of these things.
But not all effects are like this. Effect Veiler, Majestic Star Dragon, Breakthrough Skill, and Mermail Abyssgaios are similar in that their effects, when they resolve, do nothing more than try to negate effects. What if the card does something else? In that case, you may still activate it even if the recipient’s effects are already being negated. Fiendish Chain stops attacks, Forbidden Chalice increases ATK, Number C39: Utopia Ray Victory boosts its own ATK, and so forth. You may still use these while Skill Drain is on the field, for example. You may also attempt to activate the effects of monsters like Tour Guide From the Underworld or Coach Soldier Wolfbark while Skill Drain is on the field, even though those monsters’ effects do negate things as well (and again, we are ignoring the fact that Skill Drain would probably negate their effects anyway). On the other hand, there are effects which perform multiple actions, but each subsequent action may be dependent on being able to negate a card’s effects. An example is Void Trap Hole, whose text tells us that it will only destroy a monster if it is able to negate its effects first. This means that Void Trap Hole too cannot be used while Skill Drain is on the field, or that chaining Forbidden Chalice to your opponent’s Void Trap Hole will actually save the monster you just Summoned.
What about Skill Drain itself? Can it be activated if another one is already on the field? Well yes, since Skill Drain continuously applies and does not have to affect a monster at resolution. So, here’s a basic list of a few well-known cards that are unable to activate if Skill Drain is on the field (which I use as an easy example because it affects the whole field):
Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Tiger King
Ice Beast Zerofyne (unless the opponent controls face-up Spell/Trap Cards)
Number 25: Force Focus
Thor, Lord of the Aesir
Void Trap Hole
Two more important points:
1. This does not apply to cards that negate activations. Note the difference between this and negating effects. Evolzar Dolkka, Number 74: Master of Blades, Shooting Quasar Dragon, Stardust Dragon, Naturia Landoise, and Koa’ki Meiru Guardian all negate activations rather than effects. This does not affect them.
2. This also does not apply to cards that negate a single activated effect that they’re responding to, such as Photon Strike Bounzer and Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare.
3. Some Continuous effects do not actively negate monster effects until they try to resolve, such as Necrovalley, the Imprisoning Mirrors, and The Fabled Unicore. When a monster activates an effect that would be negated by these cards at resolution, you may still chain Effect Veiler first if you want to.