Through the years, the abilities of a Monster Card have progressed a lot, and while today we are close to almost 2000 Effect Monsters, most of them have unique abilities to each one of them, rarely duplicating each other. While this offers a lot of variety, it also brings some headaches to understanding how these abilities work.
For starters, everyone is used to read the description box of a Monster Card to figure out what it can do, but not everything listed there is an effect. There are certain abilities and restrictions that are not even considered to be an effect, often creating Effect Monsters without any effect whatsoever. Yup, you heard right. Grab a copy of Exodia the Forbidden One and run down your street yelling "THIS EFFECT MONSTER DOES NOT HAVE AN EFFECT!". Some will see you as a prophet, and some would like to burn you down for being a pagan.
It would be easier to first review the abilities that actually are Monster Effects. These are divided into 5 major categories:
Let's start with Ignition Effects. These are, by far, the simpliest, most basic type of effect. Ignition Effects are always activated manually, so you always manage to activate them when they suit your strategy the best. In general, Ignition Effects can only be activated during your turn, during either of your Main Phases. There are really, really few exceptions like Speed Warrior (who activates during the Battle Phase). Due to their simplicity, Ignition Effects often have a cost and/or an activation requirement, like paying some Life Points, or controlling some Cards. Most of the most popular monsters have this particular type of effect. Take, for example, Brionac, Judgment Dragon, Destiny Hero - Malicious, or even the dreaded Chaos Emperor Dragon.
Ignition Effects aren't that easy to identify at plain sight. Since it's easier to find restrictions, and these effects lack them, it's easier to outrule the possibility of being any other type of effect. So, if the Card doesn't mention any particular timing, and it doesn't mention that you can activate it outside of your Main Phases, then it's very, very likely that it is an Ignition Effect. This is even easier to identify if there are costs or some activation requirements involved, or if you are able to activate the effect repeatedly. Back in the day, it was also common to identify these effects by the famous "once per turn" clause, for Ignition Effects that had very vague activation requirements. Let's look at some examples:
Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier:
You can discard any number of cards to the graveyard to return the same number of cards from the field to the hand.Quillbolt Hedgehog:
If you control a face-up Tuner monster, you can Special Summon this card from your Graveyard. If this card was Special Summoned this way, remove it from play when it is removed from the field.
Blackwing - Gale the Whirlwind:
Once per turn, you can halve the ATK and DEF of 1 face-up monster your opponent controls.
In these three examples, we see that Brionac has a cost, but it can be activated any number of times as long as you can pay it. Hedgehog has an activation requirement, and it Removes itself from Play after leaving the Field to prevent you from recycling it. Gale has no cost or activation requirement, but is limited to being activated only once per turn.
One of the key reasons Ignition Effects are awesome is that you can use them with priority upon performing a Summon. So you not only have a simple effect with very vague requirements, but also, you can activate it as soon as your monster is Summoned, before your opponent can even respond to the Summon.
Stay tuned for more articles on Monster Effects. Part 2 will be about Trigger Effects. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an e-mail at ness00[at]gmail[dot]com.