Hey guys,

In the run up to nats I felt I wanted to get this one down on paper as I’ve seen a tonne of people asking the same questions in a lot of different channels repeatedly, and I have a sneaking suspicion that not a lot of people know about Conditional Autos (and who can blame them? It’s buried away in the advanced rules and not mentioned anywhere in any of the stuff you get with a starter deck).

To make sure that people understand how popular cards like Locke from Opus IV work with newer cards like Ghost from Opus IX,  figured I’d put this article together explaining Conditional Autos in a way that’s hopefully a bit more accessible and readily available than the advanced rules.

What is a Conditional Auto?

11.8.13 of the Advanced Rules defines Conditional Auto Abilities as:

“Some auto-abilities are written in the format “(trigger event), if (condition), (effect)”,
indicating that their triggering has certain conditions that need to be met. These are called “conditional auto-abilities”

Some examples of cards with conditional autos can be found below:



As we can see, these cards all meet the “(trigger event), if (condition), (effect)” format, meaning that if they don’t meet those conditions the moment they enter the field, they will not even attempt to stack. If they don’t meet the condition when they enter the field (their trigger), then they cannot enter the stack even if an action is taken immediately that would cause the effect to be valid upon resolution. Worth noting that as they do not attempt to enter the stack if their conditional auto is not met, there is no priority pass to the other player as you would normally see on a forward with an auto ability – the turn player retains priority.

How do Conditional Autos work?

Let’s look at some examples of how Conditional Autos work (and don’t work).

For example, even if you use Tama to play A-Ruhn-Senna onto the field when Kan-E-Senna enters the field, because her ability is a conditional auto, and did not enter the stack because the condition is not met at time of trigger, backups will not re-activate.

Likewise with Paine, if we somehow managed to stack playing Yuna on top of Paine with an ability that would allow us to do so (I’ll say Tama again for simplicity’s sake), we would not get those triggers because they have already been missed as they were not met when Paine entered play. Worth noting, the Rikku-based ability is not a conditional auto, so this card demonstrates the differences between autos and Conditional Autos nicely.

This extends to Locke, also. If you have Gestahlian Empire Cid, and no other VI cards in play, and you play Locke onto the field discarding Ghost, Ghost WILL trigger, allowing you to revive Ghost and bring him onto the field, but because Locke’s condition was not met at time of trigger, your opponent will not discard a card even though there will be 3 category VI characters in play by the time everything is resolved.

To apply the logic to a more understandable situation – we all know you cannot use Al-Cid’s effect if your opponent does not control any active forwards. If you play Al-Cid onto a field, and then attempt to activate a forward (in that order), you do not get to use Al-Cid’s effect, because he was not able to meet his requirements to actually stack his effect when he entered the field. The same logic applies here.

Locke, the instant he enters the field, looks to see if there are two other Category VI characters in play – he will look again at resolution to see if he can actually cause the opponent to discard, but to even reach that stage, you need two in play to get him to enter the stack. Because the Ghost we are playing in the earlier example is entering the field after Locke has checked to see if there are two other Category VI characters to stack his ability, he unfortunately does not count towards the total amount of characters Locke needs to enter the stack.

But why are there abilities I can make valid on resolution?

As I’ve seen people rightfully state, there are quite a few abilities that can be made more potent, or made valid purely by some stack shenanigans before resolution. Let’s look at a few cards this works with, and why they’re different to Conditional Auto abilities.


In this example, we play Squall from Opus 1 onto the field, and while his discard auto effect is stacked, we use Devout to play Laguna from our break zone onto the field. Both cards get their full effects, with Squall causing 2 discards, and Laguna dulling and freezing something.


In this example, our opponent has 1 card in hand, and we decide to capitalise on it by playing Cid Aulstyne, targeting their forward, and then using Flan on the stack to discard their last card. The stack of course resolves backwards, so we get to break their forward.

Why do these work?

Now these examples work because they’re not conditional autos. Laguna’s requirement is simply “choose one forward.” with no condition attached. Likewise with Cid Aulstyne, there is no condition between his trigger (“When Cid Aulstyne enters the field,”) and his effect, outside of simply being able to choose one forward. As long as we meet the ‘condition’ in these examples of being able to target a forward, we are good to go.

However, if Cid Aulstyne was phrased “When Cid Aulstyne enters the field, if your opponent has no cards in his/her hand, Choose 1 forward, break it.” it would fall into the category of a conditional auto, and the above stack we did with Flan would not result in a break, because the ability could not stack in the first place.

Hopefully this has helped clear up a couple of things, and will help you guys play cleaner, and will help to clear up any disputes you might have at your locals and such – just remember if there’s ever a dispute at a major event over rulings, never feel afraid to call a judge. They’re there to make sure everyone has the best games possible.

Thanks for reading,


ADDITIONAL (Sakura addendum 07/11/2019):

So, it looks like people really want to find the best way to run Sakura from Opus X, and are trying to find all sorts of neat combos where she fits in so they can draw two cards for as effective a cost as possible.

For reference, here is Sakura:


I’ve seen a lot of people plan to use her with either Phoenix, or to play her off of FFTCG’s ever-present character people only vaguely remember from FFXII, Al-Cid. The gameplan is invariably cheat in Sakura while doing something else, and then draw 2 cards to get a tasty refund for your combo play.


So, let’s take a look at why this doesn’t work, starting with the misconceptions that I see plastered across Facebook a LOT:


Misconception 1: “It works!”

I’m really sorry, it doesn’t work. Sakura will enter the field as described on these cards, that’s correct – but as Sakura is a conditional auto, she will immediately check to see if she will trigger and go onto stack the next time a player gains priority – as the instant Sakura enters the field, the damage from these above three cards has not been dealt yet, Sakura sees that her conditional trigger has not been met, and so will not attempt to enter the stack.

Misconception 2: “It doesn’t work because everything on the card happens at the same time and Sakura doesn’t see the damage from the effect at trigger”

I mean, you’re close, but wrong. See point 1 – the damage is dealt after Sakura checks to see if damage has already happened at her point of entry, and when we cheat her in with these effects, it hasn’t. While not incorrect that it doesn’t work, this does disseminate misinformation throughout the community that can make conditional autos more confusing for those that don’t have a firm grasp of them. I can’t honestly blame them –  when the best way about learning about Conditional Autos is asking about them on social media that’s probably an indication they’re not particularly well communicated by official materials.

Misconception 3: “It must work, because Onion Knight Al-Cid has worked since Opus 2!”

I understand the confusion around this one, but it’s important to remember how we define conditional autos vs normal auto abilities earlier in this article. Sakura fits into the “(trigger event), if (condition), (effect)” format, whereas Onion Knight’s actual trigger is “When Onion Knight enters the field,” – the lack of “if (condition)” (and specifically the word “if” followed by a condition), denotes that Onion Knight is not a conditional auto ability. If Onion Knight was worded “When Onion Knight enters the field, if your opponent controls a damaged forward, Choose 1 forward. Deal it 5000 damage,” it would work exactly the same as Sakura does, and be useless when played off of Al-Cid etc.

Because Onion Knight is not worded this way, it simply checks for “When Onion Knight enters the field,” and determines that it will stack the next time it is able to – by which time Al-Cid has completed his effect, and done 6000 damage, so by the time Onion Knight enters the stack it is able to target and hit something for 5000.


If we try to cast Sakura off of one of the above effects, here’s how it would go in a step-by-step:

  1. Phoenix Cast onto stack (for this example, let’s say it’s Phoenix 4)
  2. No response from opponent
  3. Phoenix resolve
    1. Sakura deployed to field
    2. Sakura immediately checks to see if there are any damaged units
    3. No damaged units, Sakura does not stack
    4. 2000 to all forwards opponent controls
  4. Turn player gains priority

And the Al-Cid example, which is effectively the same, is as follows:

  1. Al-Cid deployed to field
  2. Al-Cid auto ability stacks, targeting opponent’s active Lenna
  3. No response from opponent
  4. Al-Cid resolve
    1. Sakura deployed to field
    2. Sakura immediately checks to see if there are any damaged units
    3. No damaged units, Sakura does not stack
    4. 6000 to opponent’s active Lenna
  5. Turn player gains priority

Let’s take this opportunity to analyse why Al-Cid and Onion Knight works:

  1. Al-Cid deployed to field
  2. Al-Cid auto ability stacks, targeting opponent’s active Lenna
  3. No response from opponent
  4. Al-Cid resolve
    1. Onion Knight deployed to field
    2. Onion Knight determines it will enter stack, as it has entered the field.
    3. 6000 to opponent’s active Lenna
  5. Turn player gains priority
  6. Onion Knight enters stack, targeting opponent’s now damaged Lenna
  7. No response from opponent
  8. Onion Knight resolve
  9. 5000 damage to Lenna
  10. Lenna moves to break zone
  11. Turn player gains priority

As we can see, the reason Onion Knight works is because due to his text, his trigger of “When Onion Knight enters the field” is much easier to attain than a conditional auto. Here is Onion Knight for reference:


Hopefully this breakdown helps to understand when Sakura’s check happens, but it is important to know it is just a check – there’s no point where you can respond to her simply checking if she’s going to stack or not.

Also worth noting in Sakura’s case, if you ping something separately (say with Cactuar) and then carry out the above steps, Sakura will of course resolve normally as long as she can still see that pinged forward when she enters, so perhaps that’s something to consider if you still want to run Sakura with these cards?


BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE (Cloud & Physalis addendum 10/04/2021):

Wow, I didn’t think I’d be revisiting this article ever again. In the last month or two, we’ve had a couple of new cards brought to our attention that have pretty easily identifiable Conditional Auto text on them, these cards being Physalis 13-028L and Cloud 15-139S. Plot twist! They’re not Conditional Auto Abilities at all.

The examples we have so far are here:

As we can see from these above cards, at first glance they appear to follow the format we are familiar with for Conditional Auto Abilities that we’ve established earlier in this ability, but in this case the condition is only checking how many effects we are going to be able to select. Once this number is established, the effects are entirely separate from the condition. So how do we recognise these? Rather than the “(trigger event), if (condition), (effect)” we’ve all come to know and love, instead on these cards we see “(trigger event), if (condition to check number of available effects), (set number of effects available). (effects).

When Cloud and Physalis enter the field, they immediately check to see how many effects they are going to be able to do – past this point the qualifier no longer matters. In Physalis’ case, if the opponent messes with the number of cards in hand by drawing or discarding, the amount of effects the Physalis player will be able to use is already set. Likewise for Cloud, removing the AVALANCHE Operative forward will not disrupt his effect, making both of these effects more resilient than they may first appear, which is a good thing on two cards that have a reasonably hefty investment in today’s metagame!

What does this mean in gameplay?

Aside from these effects not being able to be disrupted without outright cancellation once the trigger event has been met (entering the field for both cards, and additionally attacking for Physalis), this also means that the controller of these cards cannot stack Physalis’ special to enable her auto, or Tama/White Mage/Devout in an AVALANCHE Operative to enable Cloud. The conditions for these effects must be already in place by the time the trigger event happens.

Why are these effects like this?

Honestly, we don’t have an answer for this outside of educated guesses. There’s only a limited number of ways that effects can be phrased before we’re looking at the importance of where a full stop is placed and dipping into things like “missing the timing” in Yu-Gi-Oh!, so I’m somewhat glad that these effects are at least very easy to spot, and of the two revealed so far they’re at least consistent. Worth noting, this is not a translation issue, and the cards read the same in Japanese. Usually if there’s an issue with text or an effect it would read differently in the original language, but that’s not the case here. It’s the same across the board.

Closing Statements (post Opus15 Cloud-addendum)

By having a full understanding of how conditional autos work, how they check if they are going to trigger, and most importantly, being able to identify them and understand how it changes how they would work compared to “normal” auto abilities, we’re able to keep the game much clearer and understandable when it comes to developing new combos. I personally believe that the way auto abilities vs conditional auto abilities are a bit of a mess, especially for a new player (new to FFTCG or TCGs in general) – how are they to know that the inclusion of the word “if” is as important as it is, especially if they are being taught by word-of-mouth at their local store?

I really hope that either the way conditional autos are presented is addressed soon, either in an official article, an amendment to the Starter Deck rules sheet to make it clear that these are worth knowing about, and I hope that the correct information starts disseminating across the community.

Thanks again for reading, good luck with your Opus XIII pulls.


Conditional Autos: 11.8.13 of Advanced Rules

Locke Ruling: FFTCG_SQEX Twitter

Sakura Ruling 1: FFTCG_SQEX Twitter

Sakura Ruling 2: FFTCG_SQEX Twitter

Physalis is not Conditional: https://twitter.com/FFTCG_SQEX/status/1379351098020917258

Cloud works the same way as Physalis: https://twitter.com/FFTCG_SQEX/status/1381616741332082702