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To Trigger or Not to Trigger? - Understanding Trigger Effects

Discussion in 'TCG Gaming Articles & Guides' started by Digital Jedi, Apr 5, 2007.

  1. Digital Jedi

    Digital Jedi Administrator Staff Member

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    "When you can"

    Three of the most misunderstood words in Yu-Gi-Oh! are the words "When you can". Why would three such seemingly innocuous words be the cause for so much confusion? Because they distinguish a type of Trigger Effect that Yu-Gi-Oh! players the world over often have trouble understanding. The Optional Trigger Effect. These three words also share space with another often misapplied and misunderstood phrase. "Missing the timing."

    It's not a wonder that they get confused. Many of our rulings covering such effects are rather wordy, sometimes being overly precise so as to avoid loopholes. But the principles demarcating Optional Trigger Effects from Mandatory Trigger Effects is quite simple once laid out for a player to see.

    Mandatory Trigger Effects

    First things first. Let's define what a Mandatory Trigger Effect looks like before we go into optional ones.
    Sangan
    When this card is sent from the field to the Graveyard, select 1 monster with an ATK of 1500 or less from your Deck, show it to your opponent, and add it to your hand. Then shuffle your Deck.
    You'll notice you're not being given a choice here. You're not being asked to search your deck for a card, nor are you being given the opportunity to opt out of searching your deck. "When this card goes from here to here, you do this, because I said so." It's the nature of a Mandatory Effect. It's a statement of fact, rather then a polite request or set of options and the effect begins a chain and cannot be stopped. Rather self explanatory, I know, but it needs to be demarcated nonetheless.

    Optional Trigger Effects
    Optional Trigger Effects, on the other hand, provide that small way out of the effect with the innocent little phrase "When you can". But there's an additional condition to the "When you can" Optional Effect that many fail to fully grasp. And we'll get into that in just a second.
    Pinch Hopper
    When this card on your side of the field is sent to your Graveyard, you can Special Summon 1 Insect-Type Monster from your hand.
    On the surface, it doesn't look all that much different from Sangan. But the pesky little phrase of "When you can" gives you the option of using the effect or ignoring it in favor of something else. But as I said before, the optional nature of the effect has an additional condition to it, that greatly affects the function of the card.

    As with all trigger effects, something has to happen to create the event trigger. A card has to go to the Graveyard, a monster has to attack, an amount of damage has to be inflicted or any number of events that relate to the game can be the trigger point for such effects. But with Optional Effects, the effect will not trigger, if the event trigger is interrupted by some other event.

    Now, the rulings and most judges will often state that in order for you to be able to use an Optional Trigger Effect, the event trigger has to be "the very last thing to happen". I've always felt that this statement is a little incomplete and just a tad vague. To expand on that a bit, I prefer to add that the event trigger must not have anything happen after it, in order for the effect to trigger. It's a subtle addition to the terminology, but one I think is a bit clearer. For example, if the event trigger takes place in the middle of a resolving chain, then the Optional Trigger Effect will not trigger, because there are all these other resolving effects in the way. Pinch Hopper may go to the Graveyard in the middle of a chain, but because there are still resolving effects on the chain, then "the last thing to happen" will be the last link of that chain and not Pinch Hopper going to the Graveyard, his effect's timing will be interrupted.

    If the event trigger occurs just prior to a summon, then the summon interrupts the timing for the Optional Trigger Effect. It was not the last thing to happen, the summon was. The summon ends up getting in the Trigger Effect's way.

    Both of these are examples of an Optional Trigger "missing its timing."

    S.E.G.O.C.
    S.E.G.O.C., or Simultaneous Effects Go On a Chain, is an acronym that Game Developer Kevin Tewart created to better define what happens when multiple effects activate at the exact same moment. Trigger Effects, both Mandatory and Optional, can be activated at the same time. Imagine two Sangans or two Pinch Hoppers going to the Graveyard at the same time by the effect of Dark Hole. What do you do and how do you resolve the situation?

    As the phrase implies, if two or more effects trigger at the same time, then you place each effect on a chain. You see, while the effects can activate simultaneously, there is no provision in Yu-Gi-Oh! for effects to resolve simultaneously. The game rules require that each effect resolve by itself in some kind of sequential order. The SEGOC rules will help you determine how to do this.

    Now, your probably wondering how Optional Triggers fit into all this. Wouldn't they miss their timing if two of them try to activate off the same event trigger? Quite simply, no. In this event, as long as the last thing to happen was the event trigger, then two Optional Effect will activate successfully. But the way they resolve will depend on the rules of the SEGOC.

    And what are those rules? In the event you have multiple trigger effects activating at the same time, you would place them on a chain in the following order.
    1. Turn Player's Mandatory Effects (in order of his/her choosing)
    2. Opponent's Mandatory Effects (in order of his/her choosing)
    3. Turn Player's Optional Effects (in order of his/her choosing)
    4. Opponent's Optional Effects (in order of his/her choosing)​
    As you can see, Mandatory Effects are always placed on the chain first, regardless of who controls it. Also, the "(in order of his/her choosing)" means that, say, the Turn Player has more the one Optional Effect triggering at once, since he controls them, he can choose what order to place them on the chain. He still has to follow the rules of the SEGOC and place them after his (1) own Mandatory Effects and then his (2) opponent's Mandatory Effects, if there are any. But once he gets to that point in the chain build (3), he can "stack" them in any order he wishes, which can have a strategical value depending on the circumstances.

    [info]*Malevolent Nuzzler: Increase the ATK of a monster equipped with this card by 700 points. When this card is sent from the field to the Graveyard, if you pay 500 Life Points, this card returns to the top of your Deck.[/info]An example of multiple effects activating at once: Turn Player controls a Pinch Hopper and a Sangan equipped with a Malevolent Nuzzler* (an Optional Effect).
    The opponent also controls a Sangan and Pinch Hopper.

    The Turn Player plays Dark Hole, obliterating the field. Five effects are activated at once when Dark Hole resolves, resulting in the four effects being place in a chain according to a SEGOC as so:
    Chain Link 1: Turn Player's Sangan (Turn Player's Mandatory Effects)
    Chain Link 2: Opponent's Sangan (Opponent's Mandatory Effects)
    Chain Link 3: Turn Player's Malevolent Nuzzler (Turn Player's Optional Effects)
    Chain Link 4: Turn Player's Pinch Hopper (Turn Player's Optional Effects)
    (Note: This is an example of where the Turn Player could choose which order to put Malevolent Nuzzler and Pinch Hopper. Their going to be link 3 and 4 regardless, but he can choose which is link 3 and which is link 4)​
    Chain Link 5: Opponent's Pinch Hopper (Opponent's Optional Effects)
    Now the chain is ready to resolve, starting with the last link in the chain. In this case, Link 5.

    Defining "Missing the Timing"
    "Missing the Timing" is a phrase you hear get thrown around a lot. Often inappropriately. The important thing to remember about missing the timing, is that it can only be missed when the effect is activating, not after the fact, once the effect is already resolving.
    Heart of the Underdog:
    During your Draw Phase, when you draw a Normal Monster Card(s), you can draw 1 more card by showing it to your opponent.​
    Heart of the Underdog is an example of an Optional Trigger that can miss its timing. But the rulings show that its only the activation of the card that can miss it, not the resolution of the effect.
    Missing the Timing: Suppose you have 3 copies of "Heart of the Underdog" on the field, and draw a Normal Monster Card during your Draw Phase. All 3 copies of "Heart of the Underdog" immediately activate their effects, and because they activate simultaneously, they form a chain with Chain Links 1, 2, and 3. If you draw a Normal Monster card for Chain Link 3 or Chain Link 2, your copies of "Heart of the Underdog" do not activate again. This is because they are "when... you can" optional Trigger Effects, and you "miss the timing" because you drew the Normal Monster Card during a chain and not as Chain Link 1. However, if you draw a Normal Monster Card for Chain Link 1, all 3 copies of "Heart of the Underdog" will activate their effects again.
    This ruling is also a good way to put what you've learned above all together. It's an example of a SEGOC and shows how Optional Effects resolve just like any other effect.
    In the above ruling, 3 copies of Heart of the Underdog are triggered all at the same time. They form a chain according to the SEGOC rules and they resolve starting with the last link first. But in the middle of the resolving chain, you again meet Heart of the Underdog's event trigger in that you draw another Normal Monster Card. Since your going to have other chain links happening after the event trigger, it won't be the last thing to occur, so the three Underdogs will not trigger again. But in the event the last link in the chain creates the event trigger, then the timing for all 3 Heart of the Underdogs is correct and they can activate again, starting the whole process over. Depending on how many Normal Monsters you have in your deck, and your luck, you could be drawing for a long time.

    It's All in the Text
    The majority of Optional Effects are quite clear, in that most use the "when you can" terminology. If the effect is giving you the option to do it or not do it, then it's a good bet that your looking at an Optional Trigger. Keeping an eye out for the difference in these effects can greatly impact the manner in which you play and your choice of cards and strategy. Remember that knowledge is far more powerful then luck or the "heart of the cards", and is the single most effective tool in sharpening that one element we all strive for. Skill.

    Good luck and hope this helps.

    Peace,
    - The Jedi
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2008
  2. exiledforcefreak

    exiledforcefreak RIP Jacob KT 2/16/06

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    might want to add in there somewhere that two key words to look for in an optional trigger effect are "can" and "may".
  3. Digital Jedi

    Digital Jedi Administrator Staff Member

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    I can't find an Optional Trigger that uses the word "may".
  4. Sakura Sakamoto

    Sakura Sakamoto Active Member

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    at the last tournament i went to there was some controversy in the duel next to me player a summons mobius the frost monarch player be plays bottomless trap player a picks 2 spell or trap card for mobius to destroy but player b stats it effect doesn't resolve because it's an optional effect and mobius being destroyed was the last thing to happen not mobius being summoned.
    so mobius missed it's timing which player a agreed with.
  5. Maruno

    Maruno Council of Heroes Staff Member

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    Actually in that case, things should have gone a little differently.

    Just because Mobius's effect is optional doesn't mean anything else in the world takes priority over it. Since Mobius's Summon was the last thing to happen, its effect can easily be activated. What Player A should have done was Summon Mobius and use their priority to activate its effect. That then becomes Chain Link 1.

    Player B can then chain their Bottomless to Mobius's effect, thus becoming Chain Link 2. Resolve as appropriate.

    Missing the timing is only applicable where effects that say "you can do this" become triggered in the middle of a chain. I believe missing the timing only applies to Optional Trigger effects, in other words. They try to trigger in the middle of a Chain, but then are forced to wait until the end of the Chain before they can be activated. However, since other things happen during the rest of the Chain, this Optional Trigger effect gets rubbed out, and doesn't activate.

    With Mobius, almost always the last thing to happen is its Tribute Summon. Thus it's not a problem. You can override Mobius's effect by using cards like Stumbling, mandatory trigger effects that take precedence over optional ones (and thus wiping out Mobius's effect).

    Activating a card like Bottomless Trap Hole will NOT stop Optional Trigger effects from being able to be used. Compare with Exiled Force and Trap Hole/etc..

    Someone else might explain it better. But I guarantee you that Mobius's effect will activate BEFORE the opponent can activate any cards (like Bottomless) (if Mobius's controller wants to use its effect, of course).
  6. Digital Jedi

    Digital Jedi Administrator Staff Member

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    It sounds to me like what happened was a case of sloppy play, which is really par for the course (meaning very common) in Yu-Gi-Oh!.

    First off, yes, Mobius the Frost Monarch is an Optional Trigger. But like I said in the article, the only thing you ever miss with an Optional Trigger is its activation timing. Once it's already triggered, it's just like any other effect on a resolving chain. There's nothing else to miss.

    Now with that said, the only thing that can interrupt your Optional Trigger that triggers in response to your summon, like Mobius, is a Mandatory Trigger that triggers in response to a summon, like Stumbling. Bottomless Trap Hole is manually activated in response to a summon. The opponent doesn't even get the opportunity to activate Bottomless until the Turn Player decides whether he wants to use Mobius effect or not. He has to wait for the Turn Player to pass or play, and then he can add Bottomless to the response chain.

    What should have been decided in that scenario, was did the Turn Player declare proper use of his priority or not, as Maruno points out. Jumping the steps of this game are the cause of the majority of the problems in this game, one of those being that people don't properly understand the order things occur in.

    Along those lines, Mobius targets, so the Spell/Trap cards should have been selected at activation of Mobius effect. Not after the Turn Player sees what the opponent is activating. Not following the steps in the proper order is likely what caused the situation to become muddled and the incorrect ruling to be given.
  7. kbs8014

    kbs8014 New Member

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    I've been out of the game for about a year... Have things changed recently? Stumbling never stopped Mobius from getting it's effect before.
  8. Digital Jedi

    Digital Jedi Administrator Staff Member

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    Not recently. But it did take awhile for players to understand that there was a distinction between Mandatory and Optional Trigger Effects, and then how that affected a players Priority.

    Stumbling doesn't really take away the players ability to use Mobius. It just gets to go first being that it a Mandatory Trigger. They activate at the same time, and get placed on the chain following the rules of the SEGOC.

    1. Turn Player's Mandatory Effects (in order of his/her choosing)​

    2. Opponent's Mandatory Effects (in order of his/her choosing)​

    3. Turn Player's Optional Effects (in order of his/her choosing)​

    4. Opponent's Optional Effects (in order of his/her choosing)​

    Maruno may be thinking of other effects like Exiled Force, where Stumbling takes precedence over the players Priority to activate its Ignition Effect, and something like Trap Hole can be chained before the Turn Player can tribute it, whereas otherwise, you couldn't do that.
  9. Maruno

    Maruno Council of Heroes Staff Member

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    Perhaps I was. Although I think I was just thinking something weird.

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