Last year, when I started writing for TCGPlayer, one of my first articles was explaining the basics of Problem-Solving Card Text (PSCT): how it's structured and what specific terms mean. But there are a few more nuances in PSCT that can give even more clues as to how individual cards work. Sadly, this information isn't yet on the official site, just on the Strategy Site blog where you have to click on the appropriate article tag to find the information you need.

This week on Black and White: PSCT in More Detail! We'll go over the more advanced concepts and even address some aspects not yet explained by Konami!

Firstly, if you haven't checked out the PSCT articles on Konami's Strategy Site (listed above) and my first PSCT article which you can find here. There's a few sections of the PSCT article series I need to reiterate because these topics are frequently asked about.

"Can I use Thunder King Rai-Oh / Black Horn of Heaven to negate this Summon?": If the Summon doesn't use the chain, yes, you may use Thunder King Rai-Oh's effect or activate Black Horn of Heaven to negate that Summon.

"… ok, so does this Summon use the chain?" The monster says if it uses the chain, you just have to look for the right clues. Remember, colons and semi-colons mean that an effect uses the chain. Here are some examples…

High Priestess of Prophecy: "You can reveal 3 "Spellbook" Spell Cards in your hand; Special Summon this card from your hand." This is an activated effect as denoted by the semi-colon. You cannot use an effect that negates a Summon to negate this effect. You'd need a card that specifically negates monster effects like Divine Wrath.

Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning: "Must first be Special Summoned (from your hand) by banishing 1 LIGHT and 1 DARK monster from your Graveyard." The lack of colons and semi-colons should be enough, but there's also another hint. The use of parentheses around where the monster's being Summoned from is another hint that this monster's Summon doesn't use the chain.

Grapha, Dragon Lord of Dark World: "You can Special Summon this card (from your Graveyard) by returning 1 face-up "Dark World" monster you control to the hand, except "Grapha, Dragon Lord of Dark World"." See? When you see the parentheses, the monster's Summon doesn't start a chain.

Gladiator Beast Gyzarus: "Must first be Special Summoned (from your Extra Deck) by shuffling the above cards you control into the Deck. (You do not use "Polymerization".)" Didn't think you'd see an Extra Deck monster here, did you? Well, it fits the bill. Gyzarus's Special Summon from the Extra Deck doesn't use the chain. Its text backs this up.

Red-Eyes Black Metal Dragon: "Cannot be Normal Summoned/Set. Must first be Special Summoned (from your Deck) by Tributing "Red-Eyes B. Dragon" equipped with "Metalmorph"." Get out of here, Red-Eyes Black Metal Dragon. No one likes you.

#####CARDID= 14182#####

"Does this card target?" Cards with PSCT will specifically use the word "target" before the semi-colon if the card targets. Likewise, effects that don't target won't use the word target. Easy.

And finally… "Does this card have PSCT?" This one is surprisingly a fair question, since billions and billions of cards were made before Problem-Solving Card Text became a thing.

Specifically speaking, almost all cards printed after July 2011 have PSCT. That is, all Starter Decks including and after Starter Deck: Dawn of the Xyz; all booster sets including and after Generation Force; and all Hidden Arsenal packs including and after Hidden Arsenal 4: Trishula's Triumph. Oddly enough, Duel Terminal 4 cards don't have PSCT. That may give you some insight as to when the production layouts for Duel Terminal cards were created in relation to those for the Hidden Arsenal cards.

So if you're keeping track at home, any set that's Extreme Victory or older does NOT have Problem-Solving Card Text, in which case none of the PSCT rules apply unless an individual card appeared in a product after July 2011. The only exception is that Duelist Pack: Kaiba received a full PSCT makeover when the pack was reprinted for the Silver Dragon Value Box, which is a Saga of Blue-Eyes White Dragon Structure Deck bundled with boosters that support the deck… like Duelist Pack: Kaiba.

And Now For Something Completely DifferentRefresher
So now that I've gone over all of that, let's get to some useful facts about PSCT.

Conjunctions: As stated in the PSCT article, the conjunctions "and", "and if you do", "also" and "then" have different gameplay implications. "The last thing to happen" is a very key part of the game system and PSCT tells us exactly what "the last thing to happen" is at any given time. That's what the conjunctions do. But… a lot of players and judges misunderstand what the conjunctions actually mean and as a result, cards don't resolve correctly or are incorrectly activated in the first place.

One of the currently undocumented, unofficial core mechanics of Yu-Gi-Oh! is that "in order to activate an effect, you must be able to resolve all of its mandatory parts before you activate that effect". This idea, while central to how the game works, isn't listed anywhere. It's a consistent pattern that I and a bunch of other judges have noticed about card interactions through documented rulings (while those were still being published). But it's there. And I'm putting it out there now because I feel confident in sharing it.

Knowing this, let's look at an incorrect application of PSCT.

"Judge! I have Vanity's Emptiness face-up. Can the Ghostrick Lantern in my hand negate an attack, stay in my hand, then negate the next attack after that forever and ever?" "Well, sure… Lantern says 'negate… and if you do, Special Summon', so you do as much as you can, so it stays in the hand…"


It seems like the judge is right because he's applying what "and if you do" means, but the judge overlooked the fact that Vanity's Emptiness prevents Special Summons. This means any effect that requires a monster to be Special Summoned can't be activated.

But if we slightly modify the situation, the answer becomes very different.

"Judge! I activate Ghostrick Lantern in my hand to negate an attack, then activate Vanity's Emptiness. Do I still negate the attack?" "Yep! Chain resolves backwards, so first Emptiness resolves, then Lantern resolves as much as it can. Since Lantern says 'negate, and if you do', we negate the attack but we can't Special Summon, so we stop resolving at that point."

The simple change of having Vanity's Emptiness active before Ghostrick Lantern activated and having Emptiness chained to Lantern drastically affected the situation. Knowing this core mechanic is key to properly applying the rules of PSCT.

Activate Vs. Use
These two words almost mean the same thing. Almost.

Some effects will say they can only be activated once per turn. Some others say they can only be used once per turn. The key difference is in what happens if that effect is negated. An effect whose activation was negated is still considered "used". Let's take The Seal of Orichalcos as an example: "You can only activate 'The Seal of Orichalcos' once per Duel." If you tried to activate The Seal of Orichalcos but its activation was negated by Dark Bribe, you'd be able to activate a second copy since the first one's activation was negated.

But, contrast this with a card like Mermail Abysslinde which says "You can only use the effect of "Mermail Abysslinde" once per turn." The word "use" means that you only get to activate the effect once, even if the activation is negated.

Additional Resolution Conditions

You may have noticed these on certain cards, but they're not spelled out on any official resource.

The Problem-Solving Card Text articles tell us that activation conditions are listed before a colon. These conditions must be valid in order to activate an effect. But, on occasion, an effect will also need to have certain conditions exist at both activation and resolution. Such text will be listed after the effect and will usually contain the phrase "… to activate and resolve this effect." You can see this text on cards like Zombie Master, Call of the Mummy and Infernity Archfiend. (Didn't know Infernity Archfiend had PSCT? Check out the card database!)

Reading cards is especially important for knowing exactly how things are supposed to resolve. Because looking at Mecha Phantom Beast Coltwing, you'd think that Special Summoning two Mecha Phantom Beast Tokens off its Special Summon is ridiculously overpowered… which it is. But you have to keep reading to get to the part where you also need another Mecha Phantom Beast on activation and resolution to make it work.

What's Not On The Card
Sometimes the biggest clue as to what a card does is what text isn't on the card.

Let's compare two Noble Arms. Noble Arms – Gallatin boosts the equipped monster by 1000 ATK, but then the monster loses 200 ATK during each of your Standby Phases. So does the monster keep the ATK loss after Gallatin leave the monster? As a general rule, Equip Spells stop applying their effects when they leave the monster. So once Gallatin leaves the monster, it goes back to what its ATK was before being equipped, which is exactly how you'd expect Equip Spells to work.

#####CARDID= 13857#####

Now take a look at Noble Arms – Arfeudutyr, which reads This ATK loss remains even if this card leaves the field or the monster becomes unaffected by card effects. The card tells you exactly what's up; the monster keeps the ATK loss even after Arfeudutyr leaves the monster. This same text also appears on Castle of Dragon Souls.

Hopefully this guide gave you some more useful knowledge on Problem-Solving Card Text. Of course, there's still a few ways PSCT could be improved, but at the moment, this is what we have. Use it as best you can to best determine how cards work! If you have any questions about PSCT, game mechanics, card interactions or tournament policy, send me an e-mail (one question per e-mail please!) to and your question may be answered in a future Court of Appeals!

-Joe Frankino