In a game originally called Duel Monsters, one would actually have to Summon these monsters in order to have them battle. Players Summon monsters all the time, but rarely pay attention to the mechanics behind a Summon. Mainly because it just seems so simple as moving a Card from your Hand into the Field, and as innocent as dumping your Normal Spell Cards from your Hand into the Graveyard to activate them. That's when players end up using Divine Wrath on Cyber Dragon, Solemn Judgment on Gorz, or even Starlight Road against a Flip Summon. Go figure.
The most basic rule about Summons is that they are divided into three kinds: Normal, Flip and Special. And no, I won't stretch these three into a trio of long, boring articles. One should be enough =D
Normal Summons are the simpliest way to Summon a monster. You perform this Summon manually by placing the monster in face-up Attack Position from your Hand. If you Summon a monster of Level 5 or higher, it will require Tributes: One for monsters of Level 5 and 6, and two for monsters of Level 7 or higher. It used to be a pretty common question on how many monsters one had to tribute for Level 10 or higher monsters, since the Egyptian God Cards used three tributes, but the answer is that you only need to tribute two monsters for a Level 10 or higher monster like Yubel or an Earthbound Immortal. A Normal Summon that requires Tributes is called a Normal Summon.
You are only granted 1 Normal Summon per turn, but some Cards provide additional Normal Summons, like Ultimate Offering or Swap Frog. A fun fact is that you can use your additional Normal Summon before your usual Normal Summon that you are granted every turn.
A Flip Summon occurs when you flip a face-down monster into face-up Attack Position. You can Flip Summon any number of monsters during your Main Phases. So far, there is no Card that performs a Flip Summon through an effect Q_Q
Special Summons occur either due to an Inherent Summoning Condition (more about this in a sec.), or through a Card's effect. Special Summons place the monster on the Field either in face-up Attack or Defense Position, unless stated otherwise, and you can perform as many of them as you like during your turn. Fusion Summons, Synchro Summons, and Ritual Summons fall within this category. These three will be explored in other articles T_T
Leaving Summons aside for a second, there are other means to place your monsters into the Field that are not treated as a Summon. The first being a "Set". A "Set" occurs when you manually place a monster from your Hand into the Field in face-down Defense Position. You are only allowed one Set or Normal Summon per turn (you can't do both). Again, some Cards allow you to Set monsters by their effects, like Ultimate Offering. Players can respond to a Set with a number of Cards, such as Phoenix Wing Wind Blast if they suspect that the opponent just set Gladiator Beast Bestiari and will attempt to return Summon Gladiator Beast Gyzarus. "Sets" have the misfortune of being named like another mechanic: "Setting" a Card is to place it face-down, so even using Book of Moon constitutes "setting" a Card, even though you aren't performing a "Set" (manually from your Hand). It sounds like a really bad pun. Sets also require Tributes for high Level monsters, in the same amount than Normal Summons.
The other mechanic that places monsters on the Field and is not a Summon is "returning" a monster to the Field. This is pretty rare, and it usually involves a monster that was Removed from Play temporarily, that later "returns" to the Field. This is probably used for monsters that can't be Special Summoned, like Spirit Monsters, so that they can come back to the Field once again. Some examples of "returning" are Future Visions or Junk Archer.
Back to the Summons, it is important to understand how manually performed Summons work. When a Summon is performed manually, there are two separate windows to respond to this event. The first is the Summon Negation window, and the other is the window of response in which the Summon is now successful (you name it). During the Summon Negation window, only a Card that negates Summons can start a chain. Afterwards, other effects can be chained to it, within that chain. Once this chain is over, one proceeds to the next window, where the Summon is now successful.
For example, if I were to Normal Summon Jinzo, I would tribute a monster and announce I'm Summoning Jinzo through a Tribute Summon. We enter the Summon Negation window, and no matter how badly one wants to activate tons of Trap Cards before Jinzo hits the Field, only Cards that negate Summons can start a chain here. In other words, one wouldn't be able to activate Waboku as link 1 before the Summon succeeds. One would need to activate a Card like Solemn Judgment or Horn of Heaven. After one of these Cards is activated, I could chain Dark Bribe to it, even though Dark Bribe does not negate Summons. My Dark Bribe negates Solemn Judgment, and since the chain is over, Jinzo's Summon is successful. All Trap Cards are now really sad =/
Cards or effects that activate "when a monster is Normal/Flip/Special Summoned" do not activate in the Summon Negation window. They activate once the Summon is successful. So, for example, if I Tribute Summon Caius the Shadow Monarch, and its Summon is negated by Forced Back, I will not Remove a Card from Play. Similarly, since the Summon wasn't successful, I never get to use my priority to activate an Ignition Effect. It's also worth mentioning that Cards like Bottomless Trap Hole or Torrential Tribute aren't activated at this point. You need to wait until the Summon succeeds.
The Summon Negation window is simple to "see" while talking about Normal Summons. It also applies to Flip Summons with the same ease. Things only get complicated when one starts talking about Special Summons, which is probably the only reason you are still reading so far. No, there are no Megan Fox pics at the bottom of the article.
Special Summons are divided into Inherent Special Summons, and those performed through Card Effects, as we mentioned before. Inherent ones are performed manually, of course. Simply put, Inherent Special Summons use the Summon Negation window, while the ones performed through an effect "don't". This happens because, if you perform a Special Summon through a Card Effect, the Summon Negation window is "included" within the effect's resolution. Since you can't activate Cards or effects within an effect's resolution, it's completely impossible to negate these Summons performed through a Card's effect.
This creates a breach between monsters whose Special Summon can be negated, for example, by Solemn Judgment or Thunder King Rai-Oh. It's not that obvious when one grabs their text and reads that they negate "Special Summons". If the Card only says it negates "Special Summons", it can only negate Inherent Special Summons. Those performed by an effect can only be negated by Cards that negate effects, such as Divine Wrath or the Imprisoning Mirrors. Of course, in a game based on exceptions, there had to be an ultimate answer for both types of Special Summons: Royal Oppression. Oppression's effect can be activated within the Summon Negation window to negate Inherent Special Summons, and it can also negate the effect of any Card that performs Special Summons by chaining RO's effect to it (such as Monster Reborn, Call of the Haunted, or D.D. Survivor).
Since Monsters often have effects that Special Summon themselves, one of the most common questions of all becomes "well, which one is Inherent and which one is an Effect?". And the answer isn't as simple as these two are and these two aren't. There are several text templates for both types of Special Summon, often being contradictory, or unique.
The first question you should ask yourself is: Can this Special Summon be performed outside of my Main Phases? If the answer is yes, then that Special Summon is not Inherent. So, for example, if we look at Gorz the Emissary of Darkness, its Special Summon can occur at any time of the Duel (most likely, during the Damage Step), so this Special Summon can't be an Inherent one. It's a Trigger Effect, btw. Some other examples are Green Baboon, Defender of the Forest, which can be Special Summoned if your Beast-type monster is destroyed at the End Phase, or Van'Dalgyon the Dark Dragon Lord, which can be Summoned during your opponent's Standby Phase if you use a proper Counter Trap Card at that time.
The second question you need to ask yourself is, if the Special Summon only happens my Main Phases, does this Special Summon affect other monsters? If the answer is yes, then it is not an Inherent Special Summon. Inherent Special Summons are attached to the Monster in whose text they are listed in, hence the word "inherent", as in, it inhereted this ability. For example, Lumina's effect can only be activated during the Main Phase, but it Special Summons other Lightsworn Monsters. It can only affect those in the Graveyard. In other words, Lumina isn't Summoning itself. In fact, it is quite clear that Lumina must be already on the Field in order to use its effect. It's a pretty obvious example, but I believe it helps. Another obvious example would be to ignore the previous paragraph and believe one can use Solemn Judgment against a Gladiator Beast Summoned through the effect of a Gladiator Beast, which is false. It is the effect of the first Gladiator Beast that is Summoning the second one, so it cannot be an Inherent Special Summon (it's a Trigger Effect).
This heavily reduces the number of Special Summons to those monsters that Summon themselves during your Main Phases. From here on, you are on your own, sadly. This is the point where one has to start checking individual rulings, as there are no general rules to guide ourselves. There are examples for every case you can think of, such as Inherent Special Summons from the Graveyard (Machina Fortress), Effects that Special Summon from the Deck (Dark Sage), and many more.
Stay tuned for the next article, which will be about the specific types of Special Summon (Fusion, Ritual and Synchro). In the meantime, try to figure out some examples of Inherent Special Summons and ones performed through an effect. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an e-mail at ness00[at]gmail[dot]com.