Friday, September 30, 2011

The Good Player's Toolbox: Summoning Comprehension

At one point or another, we’ve all been there before.  “Geez...I know I need to negate the summon of this, but I don’t know if I can do it,” you mutter to yourself, mulling over whether you can negate the summon with Thunder King Rai-Oh and save your Solemn Warning for later, or just be safe and play the Warning.  Great players understand how to play their cards, and are particularly aware of the intimate associations between their cards and the opponent’s.  That being said, this dilemma remains much more common than you might think, though I’ve seen many, many more players in this (significantly worse) situation: 
Player A: I activate Monster Reborn, targeting Scrap Dragon.
Player B: I negate Monster Reborn with Thunder King Rai-Oh
It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?  Thunder King reads: “...negate the Special Summon of 1 of your opponent’s monsters, and destroy it.”  It might be confusing at first, but Thunder King just doesn’t quite work this way.  Why is this?

Here’s the kicker: there’s a huge difference between the special summon of a monster through a condition and the special summon of a monster through an effect.  This is the key to understanding how cards like Thunder King, Black Horn of Heaven, and Solemn Judgment cannot negate certain special summons while cards like Solemn Warning and Royal Oppression can.  So, without further ado, let’s make this distinction clear: there’s a big difference between (1.) a monster special summoned through a built-in condition (not an effect!) and (2.) a monster special summoned through another card effect.  The first part will be fairly complex, but the latter part is much simpler and straightforward - I promise!  If you’ll stick through the explanation of the first part, you can definitely make it through the article and expand your in-game knowledge.  This will be rewarding and very well worth it, especially considering the vast number of cards that negate summons.  So, without any hesitation, let’s dive into it!
The first type of special summon is a monster that can be summoned through a built-in condition.  What does this mean?  This means that some monsters can special summon themselves when a condition is fulfilled.  For example, when you have three darks in your graveyard (condition), you can special summon Dark Armed Dragon.  When you have four or more Lightsworn monsters of different names in your graveyard (condition), you can special summon Judgment Dragon.  When your opponent controls a monster, and you control no monsters (condition), you can special summon Cyber Dragon from your hand.  Get it?  These are not effects, they are conditions.  They do not “activate”, they are fulfilled.  When the condition occurs, you are free to special summon the monster as long as the condition is present.  

This type of summon, which is dependent on a condition, is called an inherent special summon.  The above examples make this summon seem “passive” in the sense that you don’t have to “do” something to get the monster on the field - in other words, you can just wait for three darks or four or more different Lightsworns to unleash your boss monsters.  This isn’t always the case!  For this reason, it can get confusing if you see cards that look like they’re special summoned through an effect, but they’re not.  Some notorious examples (that follow a common trend of discarding from the hand to special summon them) are Dark Grepher, Machina Fortress, and Swap Frog.  They’re almost worded like effects in the sense that some seem like ignition monster effects, like Machina Fortress: “You can discard Machine-Type monster(s) whose total Levels equal 8 or more to Special Summon this card from your hand or Graveyard.”  Sounds like a monster effect, right?  Nope, not quite.  This is a condition.  Same goes for Dark Grepher or Swap Frog.  When you discard a dark or water monster (condition, which, in this case, is also a cost), you can special summon the card.  The condition of discarding is fulfilled, but no effect was activated.  
Therefore, these types of summons, known as inherent special summons, do not start a chain.  You can banish a light and dark to special summon Black Luster Soldier; it looks like an “active” effect in the sense that you have to “do” something to get it on the field, but it’s not.  It’s a condition, and therefore, an inherent special summon.  On the note of “doing” something to summon monsters that are inherent special summons, let’s look at a common game mechanic: you can send a level 2 tuner and a level 4 non-tuner from your side of the field to the graveyard (condition) to special summon Brionac.  What does this mean?  Of course, it means that synchro summons are inherent special summons!  Their condition is fulfilled when you send the correct combination of tuner and non-tuner monsters from your side of the field to the grave, allowing you to special summon the synchro monster.  The same logic holds for the new Xyz monsters - their summon condition is fulfilled when you overlay the correct levels of the correct monsters.
Whew!  Got all that?  That’s how inherent special summons work.  So just to recap, they are not special summoned through effects and therefore, do not start a chain.  Some are “passive”, where you can simply wait for conditions to be fulfilled (like Dark Armed Dragon or Judgment Dragon), while some are more “active”, where you have to make the condition work (like discarding, banishing, or sending cards to the graveyard).  It’s easy to tell all of them apart, though: they do not summon themselves by an effect that activates.  With that in mind, let’s look at something totally different: cards that can special summon through effects, rather than conditions:
1.  You banish Mezuki to special summon Goblin Zombie.  The Goblin Zombie is summoned through Mezuki’s effect, not through Goblin Zombie’s effect.  
2.  You banish Vayu and Sirocco to special summon Blackwing Armed Wing.  The Armed Wing is summoned through Vayu’s effect, not through its own condition.
3.  You take a direct attack, with no cards on your side of the field, triggering Gorz the Emissary of Darkness’ effect.  You special summon Gorz and a token through the effect of Gorz in the damage step (again, this is not a condition, this is an effect that triggers when you take damage, similar to Tragoedia!).  
4.  You activate Monster Reborn, targeting Scrap Dragon.  The Scrap Dragon is summoned through the effect of Monster Reborn, not through its own summoning condition.
5.  Your opponent activates Starlight Road, summoning Stardust Dragon through the effect of Starlight Road.  (Indeed, this is why Stardust summoned through Starlight Road can only negate one time - because it was not special summoned properly through its own synchro “condition”, and therefore, cannot special summon itself during the end phase!)
6.  You discard Dandylion as a cost to activate the effect of One for One, summoning Glow-Up Bulb from the deck.  The Bulb is summoned through the effect of One for One, not its own effect.  

Got the hang of it now?  I felt this type of summon is best explained through example, since many players find themselves performing these moves, but don’t understand how these monsters are really summoned.  Monsters summoned through card effects do not have to be summoned strictly through other monster effects - they can be summoned through spells (such as One for One or Monster Reborn) or traps (like Call of the Haunted or Limit Reverse).  They’re summoned through card effects, meaning they’re summoned through an effect (whether it be monster, spell, or trap) and not a condition!  This is the difference between an inherent special summon and a summon through a card effect.  This is the ultimate distinction I want you to make at this point, so be sure you understand this!  If you do not, it is definitely important enough to go back and review it, since you cannot understand the next section without understanding this one!
So now that we have a good grip on how these summons are accomplished (either through conditions or effects), let’s understand how to stop them.  We’ll start at the best summon negation cards, which are the ones that are the most encompassing.  Cards like Solemn Warning and the late Royal Oppression are exceptionally powerful because they say “Negate the summon of a monster or [a card effect] that special summons a monster. . . “  From this, you can see that it negates inherent special summons (first part, “Negate the summon of a monster. . . ”) and it negates summons through card effects when the effects activate (second part, “a [card effect] that special summons a monster”).  Got it?  So Warning and Oppression negate both types of summons.  

But what about stuff like Thunder King Rai-OhThunder King just has the first part of Solemn Warning: “Negate the special summon of a monster. . .”, so it can only negate inherent special summons.  Thunder King cannot negate special summons that are accomplished through card effects, like Monster Reborn, Vayu, Mezuki, and so forth, but it can negate inherent summons like Cyber Dragon, Dark Armed Dragon, Black Luster Soldier, Machina Fortress, all Xyzs, all synchros, and “contact” fusions (but not fusions via Polymerization!).  Steelswarm Roach is essentially a weaker version of Thunder King - it negates the special summon of a leveled monster.  This means it’ll only negate inherent special summons, and it can’t touch Xyz summons.  This is the weakest of all summon negators, and, despite the rarity, I’ll never understand why it’s sitting on its current price of roughly $60.  
But what about Solemn Judgment?  This card is a bit tricky, but stick with this, and you’ll get it down.  Solemn Judgment says “Negate . . . the summon of a monster and destroy it.”  So this part of Solemn Judgment reads exactly like Thunder King, and will only stop inherent special summons.  However, Solemn Judgment can also negate Monster Reborn (which is a summon through a card effect) by negating the activation of a spell card.  This part is tricky, though: note that Solemn Judgment cannot negate the summon of a monster special summoned through Monster Reborn.  Meaning once the monster targeted by Monster Reborn hits the field, Solemn cannot negate the summon, because it was special summoned through the effect of Monster Reborn.  Rather, you’ll have to negate the activation of the effect that special summons the monster - in this case, you’ll have to Solemn Judgment the Monster Reborn itself, and not the monster special summoned through Reborn.  Got it?  If not, be sure to review the difference between these two types of summons in the opening paragraphs!  For those of you that are visual learners, here’s a diagram encompassing summon negation from broadest to most restrictive:

Great players that compete successfully in premier events have a strong edge over players that don’t understand how this concept works.  They understand the mechanics of summoning, and not just memorizing a bunch of card interactions like “Oh, you can’t negate Reborn with Thunder King.”  Rather, they understand why.  This is advantageous because new and unusual cards pop up all the time, so understanding how the mechanics work is much more a time-saver than memorizing thousands of card interactions.  In addition, because great players understand this concept, it allows them to consider every aspect when being conservative with cards; they know when to save their Thunder King or expend that all-powerful Solemn Warning.  If you’ve got this down, you’re one step closer to being the best player you can be!

Dr. House


  1. Wow, I needed this. I think a lot of players needed this. This was a ruling I didn't really look into or really think about.

    All in all, this is also very helpful for deck building as well. Now I know the real extent of my Starlight Road. And you saved me $70, because I was in the process of buying a Steelswarm Roach.

    Great article!

  2. I'm glad to hear we're helping out! Keep on reading, and thanks for the feedback! :-)

    Dr. House

  3. Very good article with great graphics.

    But you made two mistakes. First, you called an inherent summon an ignition summon, which is totally confusing. The other mistake was on solemn warning. You said warning can negate the effects of any card, but it can only negate the activation of spell and trap CARDS, which means it can't negate cards like infernity launcher and Valhalla, hall of the fallen that are already face up. And since they don't special summon when they're activated, warning can't touch them. Mind of impportant.

  4. Thanks for pointing these out, I like any bit of help I can get toward clarifying my articles. The "ignition" thing was a HUGE typo, it meant to say "inherent" special summons, so thanks for pointing that out!

    Also, I'll have to mention the activation part of Warning. Thanks again! :)

    Dr. House

  5. I have a question!
    Solemn Judgment can negate the summon of vayu or the effect of vayu or nothing?