Demystifying Rulings, Part 1: PSCT

This is the first proper article in the series! The introductory post is here:

Your cards tell you more about how they work than you might realise. Cards released (or reprinted) after about 2011 (ie. almost all of the cards commonly used today) have been written in Problem Solving Card Text (PSCT). What this means is that, with a little bit of knowledge, you can get all sorts of extra information about how your cards’ effects work just from their text.

PSCT and Chains
Through PSCT, you can tell whether an effect starts a Chain or not. As well as the obvious importance of Chains in Yu-Gi-Oh!, some cards talk about activated effects, such as Majesty’s Fiend and Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror, so it’s important to know which effects activate and which do not.

An effect starts a chain if, and only if, it has a colon or semi-colon.

For example, take Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss:
If you control a monster that is not a “Burning Abyss” monster, destroy this card. You can only use 1 of the following effects of “Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss” per turn, and only once that turn.
-If you control no Spell/Trap Cards: You can Special Summon this card from your hand.
-If this card is sent to the Graveyard: You can Special Summon 1 “Burning Abyss” monster from your Deck, except “Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss”.

Which of Graff’s effects start Chains? We can see that its effect to Special Summon from the Deck does, because it has a colon in it. We can also see that Special Summoning it from the hand starts a Chain. But its effect to destroy itself if you don’t control a “Burning Abyss” monster does NOT start a Chain, because it has no colon or semi-colon.

Another example is Lose 1 Turn:
Activate this card only if you currently control no Special Summoned monsters. During the turn a monster is Special Summoned, negate its effects. If an Effect Monster(s) is Special Summoned in Attack Position: Change it to Defense Position.

The effect to change monsters to Defense Position does start a Chain, because it has a colon. But the effect to negate the effects of monsters does not, because it has no colon or semi-colon.

Normal Summoning, attacking, Setting a Monster/Spell/Trap Card, etc. do NOT start a Chain. (this is mentioned in the rulebook, page 47). Only activating cards and effects start Chains. Activating Spell and Trap Cards always start a Chain, regardless of colons and semi-colons, and any that appear are just for structuring the effect.

Not every sentence on a card’s text without a colon or semi-colon is a continuous effect – some of them are conditions. PSCT is not yet able to distinguish them for us, so you need to think about them case by case. For example, the first line of Denko Sekka’s text is a condition, while the second line is certainly a continuous effect:
Cannot be Special Summoned. While you control no Set Spell/Trap Cards, neither player can Set Spell/Trap Cards nor activate Spell/Trap Cards that are Set on the field.

PSCT and Costs
You can also tell whether an action is done at activation of the effect or at resolution (so you can tell whether something is a cost or not).

You do an action at activation if, and only if, it is written before a semi-colon (;). In all other cases, you do it when you resolve the effect.

For example, Raigeki Break:
Discard 1 card, then target 1 card on the field; destroy it.

You discard a card and target when you activate Raigeki Break, as those parts are written before the semi-colon.

Compare this to Ritual Beast Steeds:
If you control a “Ritual Beast” monster: Destroy monsters on the field up to the number of “Ritual Beast” monsters you currently control.

There’s no semi-colon in sight, so you do all the picking and destroying of monsters when the effect resolves.

PSCT and Activation Requirements
Now, what’s the colon for? This one is a little more technical

Activation requirements are written before the colon. They only need to be true at the time you activate the effect.

Evilswarm Exciton Knight illustrates this nicely:
Once per chain, during your Main Phase or your opponent’s Battle Phase, if your opponent has more total cards in their hand and their side of the field than you do: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; destroy all other cards on the field, also your opponent takes no further damage this turn (this is a Quick Effect).

The “if your opponent has more cards” part is before the colon, so it’s an activation condition. It only needs your opponent to have more cards in order to activate. So even if your opponent Chains with cards so that they have less on their field at resolution, Exciton’s effect still goes through.

If a card needs a condition at both activation and resolution, it’ll say something like the last sentence of Treeborn Frog:
During your Standby Phase, if this card is in your Graveyard and you do not control a “Treeborn Frog”: You can Special Summon this card. You must control no Spell/Trap Cards to activate and to resolve this effect.

Putting it Together
Some effects will not have special conditions to activate their effects, or have anything special to do at activation, so they will not need colons or semi-colons. But overall, a typical effect (that starts a Chain) will look like this:

condition to activate the effect: stuff you do when you activate the effect; stuff you do when you resolve the effect.

Quiz time!
Use what we’ve just learned to answer the following questions.

(1) Which of these effects start chains?

-The effect of “Grapha, Dragon Lord of Dark World” to Special Summon itself from the Graveyard:
You can Special Summon this card (from your Graveyard) by returning 1 “Dark World” monster you control to the hand, except “Grapha, Dragon Lord of Dark World”.

-The effect of “Dark Simorgh” to Special Summon itself from the hand:
You can banish 1 DARK monster and 1 WIND monster from your Graveyard; Special Summon this card from your hand.

-This effect of “U.A. Mighty Slugger”:
If this card attacks, your opponent cannot activate cards or effects until the end of the Damage Step.

(2) Which of these actions are costs?

-Discarding for this effect of “Uni-Zombie”:
You can target 1 face-up monster on the field; discard 1 card, and if you do, increase that target’s Level by 1.

-Sending a monster to the Graveyard for 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).

-Returning a monster to the hand for Fluffal Sheep:
You can return 1 other “Fluffal” monster you control to the hand; Special Summon 1 “Edge Imp” monster from your hand or Graveyard.

(3) True or False: If I activate “Unexpected Dai” and Chain with “Call of the Haunted”, “Unexpected Dai” still Special Summons.
If you control no monsters: Special Summon 1 Level 4 or lower Normal Monster from the Deck.

(4) True or False: If I Special Summon “Infernity Archfiend” while I have no cards in my hand, and Chain “Jar of Greed” to its effect, the effect of “Infernity Archfiend” still lets me add a card.
When this card is Special Summoned: You can add 1 “Infernity” card from your Deck to your hand. You must have no cards in your hand to activate and to resolve this effect.



(1) Only the effect of Dark Simorgh
Effects start Chains only when they have a colon or semi-colon.

(2) Only returning a monster to the hand for Fluffal Sheep
Something is a cost only when it’s written before a semi-colon.

(3) True
Controlling no monsters is only an activation requirement, because it’s written before the colon and the card doesn’t say you need to have no monsters at resolution as well.

(4) False
Having no cards in hand is not only an activation requirement, as Infernity Archfiend’s effect explicitly says.

This is not the last we’ll be seeing of PSCT! Other elements of it will be popping up through the rest of this series. If you’d like to read more about PSCT in general, you can check out Konami’s official articles on it:

You could also check out my complete article here (coming soon):

Finally: before applying any of the above rules, make sure the card has PSCT! As I said at the beginning somewhere, almost every card you’ll commonly encounter is written in PSCT, but if a card is old and hasn’t been reprinted for a long time, then it won’t, and then the rules above will not apply.

The next article is on Targeting:
General comments and suggestions are always appreciated.

See you next time!

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