Demystifying Rulings, Part 4: ‘When’ Optional Effects

This article is about the often confused and misunderstood ruling concerning ‘when’ optional effects.

Before we begin, don’t forget to check out the last article on SEGOC here: www.ygorganization.com/learnrulingspart3

Fundamental Rule of ‘When’ Optionals
A ‘when’ optional effect can only be activated when its activation condition was ‘one of the last things to happen’.

This rule is saying that you really do need to activate a ‘when’ optional effect exactly ‘when’ it meets its activation condition. The difficulty is in telling when something is ‘one of the last things to happen’ according to the game.

Note that this mechanic does not apply to mandatory effects, or effects that use ‘if’ instead of ‘when’.

Let’s see a simple example first.

Player A controls Fire Hand. Player B activates Mystical Space Typhoon to destroy a Set card, and then Chains Raigeki Break, targeting Fire Hand to destroy it.
When this card in your possession is destroyed by your opponent’s card (either by battle, or by card effect) and sent to your Graveyard: You can target 1 monster they control; destroy that target, then you can Special Summon 1 “Ice Hand” from your Deck.

Chain Link 1: MST
Chain Link 2: Raigeki Break

Resolve the Chain:

Chain Link 2 resolves: Raigeki Break destroys Fire Hand
Chain Link 1 resolves: MST destroys its target.

Fire Hand’s effect is a ‘when’ optional effect, and being destroyed was clearly not one of the last things to happen. Hence its effect cannot now be activated.

This rule can also apply to Spells/Traps.

Player A activates Upstart Goblin, and Player B decides to Chain Call of the Haunted, in order to Special Summon Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Player A has a set Bottomless Trap Hole.
When your opponent Summons a monster(s) with 1500 or more ATK: Destroy that monster(s) with 1500 or more ATK, and if you do, banish it.

Chain Link 1: Upstart
Chain Link 2: Call of the Haunted

Resolve the Chain:

Chain Link 2 resolves: Blue-Eyes is Special Summoned
Chain Link 1 resolves: Player A draws a card.

Bottomless Trap Hole uses ‘when’, activating a Spell/Trap Card is optional to do, and the Summon of the monster was not ‘one of the last things to happen’, so it cannot be activated, just as in the Fire Hand case.

More Examples
So far, it was pretty clear whether the activation condition was ‘one of the last things to happen’ or not. We now look at some slightly more complicated cases.

Player A activates the Field Spell Geartown:
When this card is destroyed and sent to the Graveyard: You can Special Summon 1 “Ancient Gear” monster from your hand, Deck, or Graveyard.

Note that this trigger effect is a ‘when’ optional effect, so is prone to missing its chance to activate if its destruction is not ‘one of the last things to happen’.

Suppose Player B Chains Mystical Space Typhoon to Player A’s activation of Geartown onto the field.

Chain Link 1: Activation of Geartown onto the field
Chain Link 2: MST targeting that Geartown

Resolve the Chain:

Chain Link 2: MST destroys Geartown
Chain Link 1: Geartown resolves on the field (but it resolves without effect, as it has just been destroyed)

Note that Geartown was destroyed, but its effect on the field still tries to resolve on the field at Chain Link 1. In this situation, the ‘trying to resolve’ is the last thing to happen, and destroying Geartown is not. So the trigger effect of Geartown misses its chance to activate.

Suppose instead that Player B Chains Magic Jammer, to negate the activation of Geartown.
When a Spell Card is activated: Discard 1 card; negate the activation, and if you do, destroy it.

Chain Link 1: Activation of Geartown onto the field
Chain Link 2: Magic Jammer

Resolve the Chain:

Chain Link 2: Magic Jammer negates the activation of Geartown, and destroys it
Chain Link 1: (vanishes)

Because Magic Jammer negates the activation, the effect of Geartown on the field doesn’t attempt to resolve at all. As a result, we can see that the destruction of Geartown was in fact one of the last things to happen, so its trigger effect can activate as normal.

‘When’ Options and SEGOC
Both this article and the previous one have involved Trigger effects. Let’s see how this mechanic interacts with SEGOC.

Player A activates Dark Hole, destroying his Bixi, Water of the Yang Zing and Player B’s Card Trooper.
When this card you control is destroyed by battle or card effect and sent to your Graveyard: You can Special Summon 1 “Yang Zing” monster from your Deck in Attack Position, except “Bixi, Water of the Yang Zing”.

If this card you control is destroyed and sent to your Graveyard: Draw 1 card.

Chain Link 1: Dark Hole

Resolve the Chain: Dark Hole destroys Bixi and Card Trooper at the same time.

First we look at what effects want to activate. Bixi and Trooper’s effects were triggered, so they’re both candidates.

Let’s check if either is going to miss its activation timing. The destruction of Bixi and the destruction of Card Trooper were both the last thing to happen (and Card Trooper’s effect is mandatory), so both effects can activate.

Now that we’ve decided what needs to activate, we look at the order they need to activate in. Card Trooper is the NTP’s mandatory effect, and Bixi is the TP’s optional effect, so according to the rules of SEGOC, they activate in the next Chain this order:

Chain Link 1: Card Trooper
Chain Link 2: Bixi

(If the rules of SEGOC quoted here are unfamiliar, double-check last week’s article).

The key thing to take away here is that the activation of Card Trooper does not throw off the activation of Bixi. We checked to see if its activation condition was the last thing to happen after the Chain resolved, and then put everything onto the Chain.

Quiz time!
You can assume any effects are legal to activate – there are no trick questions here.

(1) Player A controls Lightpulsar Dragon and Cannon Soldier. Player A tributes Lightpulsar Dragon for the effect of Cannon Soldier.
When this card is sent from the field to the Graveyard: You can target 1 Level 5 or higher DARK Dragon-Type monster in your Graveyard; Special Summon that target.

You can Tribute 1 monster; inflict 500 damage to your opponent.

Can the effect of Lightpulsar Dragon be activated?

(2) Player A controls Trance Archfiend and Player B controls Ice Hand. Player A activates Dark Hole.
When this card you control is destroyed and sent to the Graveyard: You can target 1 of your banished DARK monsters; add that target to your hand.

When this card in your possession is destroyed by your opponent’s card (either by battle, or by card effect) and sent to your Graveyard: You can target 1 Spell/Trap Card they control; destroy that target, then you can Special Summon 1 “Fire Hand” from your Deck.

After Dark Hole resolves, what Chain forms?

(3) Player A activates the (second) effect of Bixi, Water of the Yang Zing, and Player B negates it with Divine Wrath.
When this card you control is destroyed by battle or card effect and sent to your Graveyard: You can Special Summon 1 “Yang Zing” monster from your Deck in Attack Position, except “Bixi, Water of the Yang Zing”. You can only use this effect of “Bixi, Water of the Yang Zing” once per turn. Once per turn, during your opponent’s Main Phase or Battle Phase, you can: Immediately after this effect resolves, Synchro Summon 1 Synchro Monster, using only “Yang Zing” monsters you control (this is a Quick Effect).

When a monster effect is activated: Discard 1 card; negate the activation, and if you do, destroy that monster.

Can the (first) effect of Bixi be activated?

(4) Suppose instead Player B Chains the effect of Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit (‘Yuki Usagi’) to the (second) effect of Bixi, in the above question.
During either player’s turn, when a monster on the field activates its effect, or when a Spell/Trap Card that is already face-up on the field activates its effect: You can send this card from your hand or your side of the field to the Graveyard; destroy that card on the field.

Can the (first) effect of Bixi be activated?

Answers:

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We will learn more about this mechanic, and see it in action, in future articles.

The next article is on Conjunctions: www.ygorganization.com/learnrulingspart5
General comments and suggestions are always appreciated.

See you next time!

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