YCS Las Vegas is this coming weekend, and if you've never been to a Yu-Gi-Oh Championship Series event, I'd say you're missing out! In North America these events take place about once a month and offer unique experiences for both seasoned duelists and new players, young and old, competitive and casual. Hundreds come out for a weekend of Public Events like Win-A-Mats, 16-person Regional Qualifiers, 3v3, ATTACK OF THE GIANT CARD!!! tournaments, Structure Deck and Battle Pack draft and sealed. But of course, the big draw is the Main Event, which gives out WCQ invites and exclusive Game Mats to duelists that make the top cut in Day 2. And at the end of the weekend, a YCS champion is crowned (metaphorically: Konami doesn't give away royal accoutrements) and five duelists will walk away with YCS prize cards.

These events also enlist the most experienced judges from around the country. At any given YCS, there's a core of seasoned judges who regularly attend these events while a majority of the judge team is made up of local judges of varying experience. Some of them have never judged a YCS before, some have a few Regionals, and there's been a few who judged their first event ever at a YCS.

Since YCS's are a big deal in the Yu-Gi-Oh! community, what goes on there is news and taken back to local game shops, discussed, dissected and analyzed. That includes top decks, tech choices and oddly enough, how the judges rule how cards works. And as I can personally attest from my last year of running Court of Appeals, ruling questions remain an enigma in the TCG. There are just some interactions that either don't make sense or aren't readily apparent based on the official info we have. And in the search for an answer, players look at the YCS to determine how cards work, which in turn shapes deck construction and player choices going forward. And lately, rulings made at YCS's tend to be getting the spotlight once again.

This week on Black and White: YCS Rulings! I'll explain what they are, what they're based on, and how they affect your duels at all levels of Organized Play!

YCS… Rulings?
I don't know when it started, but the Yu-Gi-Oh! community has for quite some time looked at YCS's as the definitive, conclusive, be-all-end-all of how cards are supposed to work. I suppose it's not an unfair assumption to make; a high-caliber of competition requires a high amount of rules knowledge to administer, all the judges wear shirts and uniforms that say "Konami Judge" on them; Konami has more of a hand in the organization and planning of a YCS so there's a feeling of authority at these events that isn't present at a usual local tournament or Regional Qualifier. But, the reality is that how cards are ruled to work at a YCS has a tendency to ripple outwards and affect all levels of OP and all types of players. YCS Head Judges are always aware of this and don't make decisions lightly because of how a single decision can affect not only the duels that weekend, but games all over the country for the foreseeable future.

YCS Meadowlands 2013
Arguably the biggest head-turner of 2013 was when news quickly spread at the venue and online that Evilswarm Castor and Constellar Pollux's effect to Normal Summon an additional monster would be treated as Continuous Effects that could be negated after their own Normal Summon was successful, which was not how a lot of the players felt the card should work. The interaction was clarified after the fact by a Konami Strategy Site article but for a few days, the dueling community was in an uproar over the events that took place at the YCS.

And what impact did that ruling have? Well, we did get an article out of it, which was nice, but we also realized that while Problem-Solving Card Text solves problems, oldtext wordings from the past can still creep back in and cause issues, which is what happened in this instance.

YCS Toronto 2012
I can speak personally about this event since I was the Head Judge for it. And this story is actually a non-story specifically because of a ruling I made.

YCS Toronto is typically held annually in late August / early September, which is historically an awkward time of year for the TCG; back then, the Forbidden and Limited list would be scheduled for an update on September 1st, and there was usually a major booster set release around that time too, so there's a lot of change and uncertainty whenever there's a Toronto YCS. At this particular one, Return of the Duelist had just released and with it three new themes which all see play today: Madolches, Geargia and Spellbooks. A big question on some players' minds had to do with the Madolche monsters. The ones printed in Return of the Duelist used the phrase "when this card you control" is destroyed by an opponent's card effect and sent to the graveyard, which implies that if the Madolche monster's Summon is negated, or if they're destroyed in the deck or hand by a card effect (like a Virus trap card or Chain Destruction) their abilities won't activate because you never controlled the monster.

#####CARDID= 10880#####

I noticed some discussion about this interaction online because the OCG had rulings saying that the effects should activate when destroyed by a Summon negation or by effects that destroy cards in the hand or deck. I felt then (as I still do now) that the card text and official resources have to win over what "should" happen, because if I were to rule that cards work differently than how they read, I'd be perpetuating the idea that players should go read what their cards do in places that didn't include the cards or the rulebook. And that's an idea I simply can't get behind.

So eventually it came time for me, as the Head Judge for the upcoming YCS, to decide if I was going to rule that the Madolches as what the OCG says they do and wait for the next set to address the issue, or play the card as written, which would mean having the cards work one way at that time, but having to change three months later. Because while playing cards as written is the ideal situation, having to tell duelists that their cards work differently when the text didn't change is… a little awkward. Because then the inevitable follow-up questions come up "well… did THIS card change? What about THIS card?"

In the end, I decided in favor of consistency going forward and ruled that the Madolche effect would activate off a negated Summon or being destroyed from the hand or deck. Again, this was specifically because I knew that how I ruled it at the YCS would set a precedent that would apply at a lot of Organized Play events at all levels and once cards are played a certain way it becomes incredibly difficult to change without great effort. And fortunately for us, the Abyss Rising Madolches used the new term "possession" which better described how the Madolche monsters are supposed to work. This term was then retroactively applied to the Return of the Duelist Madolches. And then all was right with the world.

So Then… What About YCS Las Vegas?
Well, the main reason I'm writing this is because there's usually some rules or card issue that comes out of a YCS, and it's impossible to predict exactly what card is going to be the one that people will flip out about. So I'd like to offer up some advice for those who are going to be following the goings-on this weekend, either at the event itself, through online coverage, or by other online discussion forums…

If It's Second-Hand Info, Take It With A Grain Of Salt: Gossip is just part of the human condition, and facts can get twisted from the truth pretty easily, intentionally or otherwise. Unless you can verify a source of information and see that source for yourself, you should be skeptical if someone tells you that "the judges" ruled a card works in some way that doesn't make any sense.

An example of this: a particularly popular rumor that came out of YCS Atlanta 2012 was that the Head Judge ruled that Evolzar Dolkka could not negate the effect of Snowman Eater.

Now, hopefully we all know that Evolzar Dolkka can negate Snowman Eater's effect and destroy it. Because Snowman Eater's an activated effect and and Dolkka can negate the activation of monster effects. And we know Snowman Eater activates because PSCT has colons and semi-colons. So then, why did the Head Judge say that Dolkka can't negate Snowman Eater? Easy: because he never actually made that ruling.

The appeals log had no instance of any Evolzar Dolkka / Snowman Eater-related question. Whoever started the rumor was either greatly misinformed as to who the Head Judge was (it's kinda hard to Mistake a Head Judge; they're the only one wearing a black and red judge shirt instead of a black and white one), or the person outright fabricated the entire scenario. In either case, don't believe everything you hear through the grapevine.

If something comes up this weekend at Las Vegas, I'll be certain to write about it, as I'll be on staff. If you see me don't be afraid to say hi! Just be aware that if I'm on the tournament floor in the middle of a round, I might be in the middle of doing things, but if I'm obviously not busy, say hello! If you have a question about card interactions, game mechanics or tournament policy, send me an e-mail to askjudgejoe@gmail.com and your question could be answered in a future edition of Court of Appeals!

-Joe Frankino