Howdy folks, and welcome to The Crystarium! Today we’re looking to create a resource for players who are building their rules knowledge, a handy reference of many of the pitfalls that people encounter while mastering the game. I’ve noticed many times that people coming in from MTG often find it easy to grok the majority of the rules (though there are certainly some sticking points), but often times people with a background in other TCGs find these rules to be incomprehensible, even more so if FFTCG is someone’s first experience with the genre. These are all questions that I’ve seen and helped answer at least a dozen times over the years, and I believed it would be helpful to have a single document to use when a dispute arises, or to be shared with incoming players looking to get a solid grasp of the game. Even if you already know everything in this article by heart, I hope you keep it in mind when aiding players who are very understandably confused about some of the ways this game specifically works. There’s a lot to talk about today, so I’m going to jump straight into things!
My Forward puts an ability onto the stack, and in response my opponent kills it/removes its abilities. Does my ability still resolve?
Yes! Once an ability is on the stack, it no longer cares about its source. Breaking it, removing its abilities, removing it from the game, returning it to its owner’s hand, gaining control of it, none of these will stop the ability. That doesn’t mean you’re unable to stop the ability at all, you can use a card that cancels abilities like Amaterasu or Jecht, or if the ability chooses one of your Forwards then you can make that Forward unchooseable with a card like Mid or Dryad.
My Forward can’t be chosen. Do effects like Shantotto and Susano still work on it?
Yes, they do. Only things that explicitly use the word “choose” won’t, although some of them (like Bomb or Garland’s Round Edge) can have one effect for the thing it chooses and one effect for other things, and those can still affect your Forward with their more global part. It’s only the actual choosing that can’t happen.
OK seriously, what is the difference between “choose” and “select?”
If something needs choices, those choices need to be declared when the Summon/ability is put on the stack, and you must have valid choices or you can’t use it. Select, on the other hand, has no special rules baggage. Like everything else, it happens during resolution. Select gets around unchooseability as well, since it isn’t considered choosing. This also means that when using select, you don’t need to have valid selections in order to cast or resolve things. Unlike choosing, you can cast a card like Famfrit without any Forwards, whereas you could not cast Leviathan without a legal target.
One more thing about choosing. If I use Amaterasu or Jecht to cancel the ability of Braska’s Final Aeon or Neo Exdeath, does this trigger them again?
They will not trigger again. Amaterasu and Jecht choose the ability itself, not the Forward that made the ability. Whether that Forward has a choose trigger, or can’t even be chosen to begin with, Amaterasu and Jecht will cancel away without pause.
My attack was blocked, and then I made the blocker unable to block. Does that mean my attack is no longer blocked?
No, once a blocker is declared, then that attacker is considered blocked. Making a Forward unable to block means that it can’t block in the future, it has no effect on blocks that have already been made. You have to make it unable to block before moving to the Declare Blockers step. This is similar to trying to remove a Forward’s ability after it has already used it; since the ability is already on the stack, it doesn’t matter that the Forward can’t activate it anymore.
Well what if I remove the blocker before damage. Does my attacker hit my opponent?
Nope. Again, once a blocker is declared, then that attacker is considered blocked. Even if the blocker disappears, the attack was blocked, and when the game moves to Damage Resolution then nothing will happen.
If I control my opponent’s Forward that has a death trigger, and it goes to the Break Zone, who gets the ability?
You do. Since these abilities trigger during the zone change, you are considered to be the controller of the character at that time. This means you will reap the reward (or suffer the consequence) of your opponent’s Forward dying.
What are these “two-part abilities” I keep hearing about? How do they work, and how can I tell them apart?
So, two-part abilities are always auto abilities. They were made to let you interact with them after paying some sort of cost, like how you can with action abilities. You can identify them by the text “when you do so.” All two-part autos always say “when you do so,” and anything after it is the second part. So the ability will go on the stack, then when it resolves and you pay whatever cost it will put the second part on the stack, allowing both players the opportunity to do something before it resolves. Usually this means players will wait for the first part to resolve, then use a card like Amaterasu to cancel the second part. Keep in mind that like normal one-part abilities, using a card like Cuchulainn will not stop the second part.
You can read more about two-part auto abilities here: https://fftcg.square-enix-games.com/en/news/regarding-when-and-if-wording-on-card-text
About copying abilities. If I have Gogo and Shadow from Opus 15, and I use the ability “Shadow gains Haste until the end of the turn,” what happens when Gogo uses that ability? Does Shadow gain Haste a second time?
This part is pretty unintuitive. Whenever a card refers to itself by name, you can replace that part with “this card.” This means when Gogo uses Shadow’s ability, Gogo will be the one who gains Haste.
If I’m searching my deck for a card and I don’t want to find one, do I have to?
You do not. Since the deck is a hidden zone, you can always fail to find something. Even if it’s obvious there’s a valid target, like a Forward just got put on bottom and you’re searching for any Forward, or if you’re searching for any card at all and you still have 30 left. You always have the right to say “I don’t find anything” and stop searching. While this may sound silly, after all “why would I not want free cards?” sometimes you’re getting close to decking out, or your opponent has a Remedi that you don’t want to trigger (it only counts as a search if you find a card). This applies to anything from any hidden zone, too, for instance if you need room on your backline to cast a new Backup, you can use Star Sibyl without playing any of the Forwards in your hand, or even if you don’t have a Forward at all.
If I use a card like Lenna to put something from my Break Zone onto the field, can I choose something that will be illegal to play? Like a second Light/Dark card, or a named Forward that I already control?
You sure can! Now, if the play is still illegal when it tries to resolve, then that part of the ability won’t happen, but this does let you do things like choose a second copy of a Forward, then use say Lady Lilith to remove the copy you already control before the new copy comes in.
Can I use Amaterasu on an End Step trigger, like Sophie or Neo Exdeath?
No you cannot. Players are not able to cast cards or activate action or special abilities during the End Step. Only auto abilities and field abilities have any power there.
How similar does a name have to be for things like Special Abilities? Can I discard Moogle to pay for Moogle (XI)’s Retrieve?
Names must be exact in order to count. Any small change, any addition no matter how small, means they are not the same name. Only the exact name Moogle (XI) can be discarded for Moogle (XI)’s Retrieve.
How can I tell what protections will stop an EX Burst or not?
This used to be an extremely common question when Illua was played a lot. Effects that are always active, like “this card can’t be chosen” or “this card can’t be broken” will protect from EX, but auto abilities like Illua’s will not. The reason for this is the ability won’t resolve until the EX Burst is completely done doing its thing. So Illua will still trigger and try to cancel the effect, but the effect is long gone.
I like to use the analogy that Ardyn is like a Mandalorian, while Illua is like a Jedi. If you shoot Ardyn, it bounces off his armor. If you shoot Illua, she reflects it with her lightsaber. But since they can’t react to an EX, Illua can’t bring her lightsaber up to block, while Ardyn’s armor still protects him.
What if my EX Burst breaks (or removes the abilities of) a Forward like Braska’s Final Aeon? Will he still trigger even though he’s dead (or lacks abilities)?
BFA will indeed still go off. He triggers the moment the EX Burst chooses him. There’s a common misconception that everything in an ability or summon resolves “simultaneously,” but they don’t. Even though no one can respond, the EX Burst still has to go through all the normal steps of choosing and resolving. Since BFA is still alive (or has abilities) when he is chosen, his trigger will still happen.
Let me demonstrate this with two imaginary summons we’ll call “bahalainn” and “cuchuhamut.” Each combines Bahamut’s damage with Cuchulainn’s ability removal, but one says “deal 10000 damage. Remove abilities” and one says “remove abilities. Deal 10000 damage.” If these two summons choose Dadaluma, the first one will deal damage (triggering Dadaluma) then remove Dadaluma’s ability, but the second one will remove the ability first, then when the damage is dealt Dadaluma has no ability to trigger!
My opponent has Charlotte who must be chosen, and I have Ramza who chooses two things. Do I have to choose Charlotte twice? Can I even play Ramza?
As long as one of Ramza’s choices is Charlotte, then you have satisfied her condition. You are free to choose whomever else you like. Also, unlike summons, you can play characters even if their Enters the Field effects don’t have legal targets.
My opponent has two cards who must be chosen, Charlotte and Cecil. If I cast Bahamut, which do I choose?
You may choose either Charlotte or Cecil. As long as you choose at least one of them, you are obeying as much of their demands as possible. If you used an effect with two choices like Ramza from the last question, he would have to choose both, but single choice effects can get away with either.
My Macherie reduces the cost of my summons by one. Can my Minwu now cast summons with a printed cost of 5?
Unfortunately no. The wording on this could have been made more clear by saying something like “you pay 1 less to cast your summons (you cannot pay 0)” or “the CP required to cast…” Macherie (and similar effects like Yuna) only reduce the amount of CP required when you are in the process of paying CP to cast them. They don’t actually affect the printed number in the top corner, which is what cards like Minwu care about.
This cost wants me to pay by removing a Forward from the game. Can I remove my opponent’s Forward?
Nope! To paraphrase the head developer, Kageyama: “You can’t pay for dinner with money in someone else’s wallet.” Costs always have to come out of your resources.
How exactly does a party attack work?
There’s a very common point of confusion for newer players that is on the starter guide, which is this line: “the Party is counted as one unit and its power is equal to the sum of the power of its Forward members.” This can be totally misleading. What it is trying to convey is that a party follows a lot of the same rules as a single attacker: only one Forward can block; the party’s damage is dealt all at once; and one damage is dealt if unblocked. The Forwards don’t actually Voltron themselves into one giga-Forward, so if you party two 5ks together they won’t trigger Leon. Allow me to explain the process of party attacking in greater depth.
- As long as every member in the party shares an element (i.e. all of them are Wind) then they can form a party and attack. This means three Forwards that are Fire/Ice, Ice/Wind, and Wind/Fire can’t all join the same party since they don’t all have one singular shared element, even though they all share elements with each other Forward.
- Any attackers with Brave will remain Active, but the rest will dull as normal.
- If a Forward can block anyone in the party, it can block the whole party. Let’s say Yuffie and Nanaa Mihgo party. Any 3 cost can block, since they can block Nanaa, even though they can’t block Yuffie.
- Unless everyone in the party has First Strike, the party won’t deal any First Strike damage. If the blocker has First Strike, anything that takes lethal damage will break, and then whoever is left will deal their damage as normal.
- A party’s damage is received by the defender as one “packet” of damage. This means that, while Iroha can boost the damage from multiple attackers, Azul can only reduce the total damage, not 5000 from each attacker, and Dadaluma will only trigger once.
- The blocker divides their damage in chunks of 1000 any way they like, even if that amount is more than necessary. For example, if Dadaluma and a 1k are partying, and the blocker really wants to avoid damaging Dadaluma, it can deal all its damage to the 1k.
Thank you for reading. I hope this document is helpful to you either directly, or as a resource you can pass on to others. If you’re looking for resources beyond The Crystarium for learning the ins and outs of FFTCG, let me leave you with a few recommendations. The Facebook group Final Fantasy TCG Rules And Questions is an excellent resource with lots of members who can help out at a moment’s notice. The official FFTCG discord server for NA has several SE recognized Judges as well as myself who try to give thorough explanations, though our response time may be slower on average than the FB group. I know other regions have their own discord servers, if you would prefer to track down the links for those. And finally, the official FFTCG twitter account frequently handles rules questions for scenarios that have never come up before, and reading some of the questions and replies there is likely to be extremely informative (please don’t bother them unless you have been unable to get an answer from other sources). If you’re looking for live gameplay with commentary to see the flow of the game, there is a weekly online tournament held by RVA’s own Snugsy. If you are new to FFTCG, I hope you enjoy your time with the game, and I hope to see you again, here at The Crystarium!