One of the key elements about Yu-Gi-Oh! is learning how to outplay your opponent and work around the points of interaction that they may have. In the older days of the game, duelists usually only played a few cards per turn, backing them up with trap cards to interact with their opponent. As strategies became more combo-centric, going first became even better, since you could set up amazing boards while not having to worry about your opponent's traps.
Fast forward some years, and in-hand points of interaction started to become a thing. We all know that cards like Kuriboh and D.D. Crow were some of the first popular monsters with in-hand effects. Eventually we started to see others, like Tragoedia and Effect Veiler, quickly embraced by the competitive scene. Over time, these types of cards have become known as "Hand Traps" since they serve a similar function to their purple counterparts: interrupting key plays.
Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
Nowadays, most of the popular hand traps are cards like PSY-Framegear Gamma and Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, both of which have strong negation effects. These cards, while powerful, all share a similar weakness: your opponent can potentially keep you from activating their effects. This is what the competitive community likes to call "chain blocking". Today we're going to take a look at two things: some of the different ways you can chain block, and cards that get around chain blocking.
Remember how I just said that Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring and PSY-Framegear Gamma both share the same weakness? These cards have to activate directly in response to whatever it is they're trying to negate — similar to how a card like Solemn Strike or Solemn Judgment has to be played immediately after whatever you're trying to stop. It's important to note the text on cards like Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring. They read as follows:
"When a card or effect is activated that includes any of these effects (Quick Effect): You can discard this card; negate that effect."
The key thing about a card like Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring or Ghost Belle & Haunted Mansion, both of which include this exact text, is that they're looking at the moment when the effect activates. It's just like the Solemn Strike cards, which have similarly written effects. Here's the activation requirement text for Solemn Judgment as a comparison:
"When a monster(s) would be Summoned, OR a Spell/Trap Card is activated: Pay half your LP; negate the Summon or activation..."
Notice how they're both kinda similar? Both cards are looking for when your opponent's trying to do something — only then will they try to stop it. These cards can only respond directly to whatever they're trying to stop. They have to be the next link on the chain for their effects to work.
The idea behind chain blocking is to manipulate your simultaneous effects, so that your cards that would normally be prime targets for Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring are Chain Link 1, while your other effects are Chain Link 2 or higher. Two prime examples of chain blocking right now can be seen in Tri-Brigade and Prank-Kid strategies.
In Tri-Brigade, it happens pretty often that the player will flip up Tri-Brigade Revolt and use the effect to summon Tri-Brigade Shuraig the Ominous Omen. Upon resolving the effect of Tri-Brigade Revolt, the Tri-Brigade player will then get to build their chain with Shuraig and any of the other Tri-Brigade monsters they may have used to summon the Ominous Omen.
Most of the time, one of those monster effects will be Tri-Brigade Nervall, which is an effect that can be negated by Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring. To keep the opponent from using Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, most Tri-Brigade players will make sure that Tri-Brigade Nervall Chain Link 1, followed by any of their other effects, until Tri-Brigade Shuraig the Ominous Omen the final Chain Link.
By doing this, you can "block" your opponent's ability to use Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, since there's no opportunity to respond directly to Tri-Brigade Nervall. Putting the Tri-Brigade Shuraig the Ominous Omen as the final Chain Link does open up the chance for it to be hit by a card like Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, but that isn't played much right now, so most Tri-Brigade players are willing to take that risk.
The key strategy behind Prank-Kids is making sure that the graveyard effects of your Prank-Kids monsters activate and resolve successfully. That's why a single Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring can be so powerful against them as they start their turn. Stopping the first Prank-Kids effect when they summon Prank-Kids Meow-Meow-Mu is huge and can often end a Prank-Kids turn.
Remote Duel YCS Winner Pak Pamornsut knew this going into the YCS, and made sure to play a card that wasn't really popular in Prank-Kids beforehand as a way to play around that pivotal weakness: Parallel eXceed.
Cards like Parallel eXceed, Kagemucha Knight, and Kagetokage all have trigger effects that activate when a monster is summoned. Pamornsut used Parallel eXceed in conjunction with his Prank-Kids monsters to chain block and stop cards like Ash Blossom.
Here's how that worked out:
Once you've done this in order, your opponent needs to respond directly to Parallel eXceed to try to interrupt your turn 1 plays. This is what chain blocking is all about! Kagemucha Knight is similarly used in Phantom Knight and Burning Abyss decks to help chain block with Tour Guide From the Underworld.
Chain blocking's used in a bunch of different decks, and can apply to most strategies. Even Drytron players chain block! Those that are using Pre-Preparation of Rites with Dawn of the Herald can chain block and make sure their Cyber Angel Benten effect goes through when they tribute it to Ritual Summon Herald of Perfection, thanks to the effect of Dawn of the Herald.
Chain blocking's such a popular tactic that many pro players are already accustomed to playing around it, by spreading out the types of hand traps that they play. If a Tour Guide From the Underworld is summoned, Tour Guide From the Underworld Chain Link 1 and Kagemucha Knight triggers as Chain Link 2. When this happens, players can't respond with Ash Blossom, or even Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, to destroy the Tour Guide From the Underworld. What they can do, however, is use a card like Effect Veiler or Infinite Impermanence to force a negation.
Effect Veiler and Infinite Impermanence are two examples of in-hand points of interaction that DON'T need to be activated directly in response to an effect. They can be activated whenever they would legally be able to according to their text. This also works with cards like D.D. Crow or Ally of Justice Cycle Reader; they can both be activated whenever you'd like. You don't have to wait for your opponent to try and do whatever it is you want to stop — you could stop them preemptively if you really wanted!
Unfortunately, if the only ways you have to interact with your opponent are with cards like Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring or Skull Meister, you might not be able to get around your opponent's chain block on their effects. That's the short and sweet of it. The main reason so many players still use those cards, even though chain blocking is a thing, is because the effects are too good not to use.
When it comes to learning which effects can be used directly in response to an effect versus which ones can be triggered whenever, it isn't always easy to tell, although sometimes careful reading will give you the answer. Look at the activation requirements, and the wording will usually suggest when you can use the card.
To give you a basic idea of what cards can and cannot be chain blocked, check out this table. It isn't an all-inclusive list, but it's a good start.
Keep these cards in mind as you start building your decks and planning out what your opponent might be able to avoid, and what they'll have to deal with. This is also important with the new Mega-Tin announcement that we're finally getting Crossout Designator. Thanks to Crossout Designator, how you attempt to respond to your opponent will be even more important! You now have to make sure that if they chain Crossout Designator, you can still respond with something else.
Figuring out how to get around your opponent when they chain block you, as well as figuring out the best way to chain block them, are fairly easy skills to learn, but they're difficult to master. You'll need to try and figure out the best times to chain block and the best times to just let things ride.
Triple Tactics Talent
Sometimes you want to let your opponent have the opportunity to Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring your Prank-Kids effect. If you have Triple Tactics Tallent and Called by the Grave, you won't really mind. Other times you need to just go for it, and hope that you can chain block enough things to get you to victory.
Either way, keep practicing! This weekend we have the Remote Duel Invitational Qualifiers split into eight groups instead of the usual two. I'll be competing this time and trying for my invite. Best of luck to all the duelists that are competing this weekend!
Unless you play against me. If you play against me, I hope you brick.