Ruling Notices on GoatFormat.com are typically used to announce reversals of prior rulings or to "fill in the blanks" on issues where official documentation remains silent. Today, we will be doing both with the curious case of Last Will.
We address multiple issues surrounding the proper resolution of Last Will. First, we hold that Last Will's so-called "state" uses the Chain. So when it is triggered by a monster being sent from the owner's side of the field to the Graveyard, it will start a new Chain to which the opponent can respond with their own card effects. Second, we hold that Last Will's "state" must be used by its owner, if at all, the first time a monster is sent from the owner's side of the field to the Graveyard. At this time, the player who activated Last Will may elect to activate its effect to Special Summon a monster. If they choose not to do so, the "state" will expire.
These issues have been particularly difficult for the Judge Corps because documentation on the "old" Last Will (pre-TP7 errata in November 2005) is exceedingly rare. Up until now, we have dealt with Last Will on a case-by-case and judge-by-judge basis. Furthermore, Last Will comes with an inordinate amount of historical baggage and Goat Format happens to have taken place during a strange and anomalous window in the card's history during which the original understanding of the card was overturned, then overturned again, all within a few short years. In short, Last Will is all of a judge’s worst nightmares rolled up into a single card.
I. Ruling History
Last Will was among the first cards released in the TCG. At this time, there were very few "official" sources for TCG rulings. A little-known fact is that many local tournaments in North America had been running OCG tournaments for quite some time at this point, so tournament organizers had grown accustomed to resolving disputes through the use of various unofficial channels for OCG rulings. The most reputable among these was Edo’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Page, which served as a sort of Netrep-before-Netrep in the dark ages of the TCG. There, a Hawaiian player by the name of Ed Hrzic maintained a small database of translations of official OCG rulings for TCG cards. At the time, his site had this to say about Last Will:
Note that Hrzic correctly points out that Last Will’s state could be triggered at this time regardless of the timing of its initial activation. If your monster was destroyed during your own Battle Phase, for example, you could activate Last Will in your Main Phase 2 and Special Summon an appropriate monster from your deck. This was true of the TCG as well as the OCG. Upper Deck Entertainment (UDE) published the first version of its Specific Card FAQs page prior to the release of Metal Raiders (MRD) in 2002, but it contained very little in the way of Last Will rulings:
For the first year or so of the TCG’s lifespan, this was it as far as Last Will rulings were concerned. Anything else was up to the discretion of one’s local judge. Finally, with the release of Labyrinth of Nightmare (LON) in early 2003, Upper Deck distributed a “tournament rulings” document in private. It affirmed prior understandings of Last Will in the TCG and offered little more:
It was not until the end of 2003 that Curtis Schultz issued the following update to Last Will, supposedly in line with concurrent updates to Last Will in the OCG:
Steve Okegawa confirmed this update in a Pojo thread in early 2004, explaining the timeline of events and the conflict with the old rulings document:
This ruling was compiled along with a few others in the 3.0 release of Netrep in early 2004. Most of the other Last Will rulings in that release were unremarkable, confirming simple things such as Last Will’s interaction with tokens or control change effects like Change of Heart. At this point, Upper Deck’s official FAQ did not contain an entry for Last Will at all. The unofficial website Faith of the Fallen, maintained at the time by judges in their capacity as judges but not as representatives of Upper Deck, supplemented the Netrep 3.0 rulings with the following statements which would later be used, virtually word-for-word, in Upper Deck’s official FAQs:
Last Will continued to receive virtually no official ruling statements for the remainder of 2004. Netrep 4.0, released in April of that year, consolidated prior rulings as follows:
Finally, in 2005, Upper Deck’s Specific Card FAQs pages were updated with entries for Last Will. As explained above, this update contained no new information, merely restating what had already been unofficially available on Faith of the Fallen. These comprise the bulk of the rulings that have hitherto been available on GoatFormat.com:
You don’t select a monster as a target when you activate or resolve "Last Will". "Last Will" creates a state whereby, the next time during that turn when your monster is sent from your side of the field to your Graveyard, you may Special Summon 1 monster from your Deck using "Last Will’s" state. "Last Will’s" state then ends.
As far as Goat Format is concerned, these rulings conclusively establish that Last Will must be activated before a monster is sent from its owner’s side of the field to the Graveyard and not much else. While our adjudication has been inconsistent, we have for the most part ruled that Last Will’s summon does not use the Chain and that it can be used at any point at which its pseudo-trigger is met during the turn it resolves. Both of these rulings were based on later interpretations of the card, officially codified after its Tournament Pack 7 (TP7) errata in November 2005. Schultz clarifies both points in a series of articles on Metagame in June 2006:
Schultz was, of course, writing about the post-errata incarnation of Last Will, which is predated by Goat Format by a few months. Normally, these materials would not be acceptable evidence for a ruling in Goat Format. We only considered them on the basis of the following passages, which seemed to imply that the only change to Last Will in the TP7 errata was the point regarding activation timing:
In a follow-up article, Schultz goes on to "examine how the revised mechanics of Last Will allows the player to make his or her move, sometimes going beyond what he or she could have done under Last Will’s previous mechanics." Of the examples he discusses, he explicitly identifies only these as deviations from the previous mechanics of Last Will:
Generally, we rule solely on the basis of information that would have been available to a judge in 2005. We tend to deviate from this practice when no such sources are available, when we have good reason to believe such sources were outdated and overruled by 2005, or when a future source places a definite date on a ruling reversal. So resolving these two issues requires a deeper dive into the historical record.
II. Using the Chain
Last Will is a rare example of what was once called a “state-based effect” wherein a “state” is produced by its resolution that enables its owner to do something at a later time, generally before the end of the turn in which the card was activated. Today, we would call these “lingering effects.” These effects are typically identified in rulings with phrases like “creates a state whereby.” Such is the case in Last Will's official rulings in the UDE Specific Card FAQs:
Soul Exchange is another example of a “state-based effect,” identified on Faith of the Fallen with similar language:
Resolving or “fulfilling” these “states” was typically seen as an action that does not use the chain. After all, Soul Exchange’s “state-based” effect certainly does not start any new chains after the card itself has resolved. Many judges in 2005 labored under the impression that the same was true of Last Will. Oliver Gehrmann takes exactly this position in a January forum post:
John Danker corrects Gehrmann’s interpretation shortly afterwards, citing an explanation by Schultz of the interaction between Last Will and Monster Gate dating back to October 2004:
That's not all. Schultz’s interpretation there is corroborated by a few Netrep rulings posted around the same time. His answer in January 2004 regarding the following interaction with Witch of the Black Forest is particularly notable, painting a picture wherein Last Will's trigger and the Witch's effect are treated as a simultaneous effects:
The same principle was extended into the later 4.0 release of Netrep, this time stated more broadly and with a more refined understanding of SEGOC rules:
Recall that the same logic was present in Last Will's entry in the Specific Card FAQs, which would be published some time after Gehrmann's thread. Note here the implication not only that Last Will can be triggered at the same time as the effect of Giant Rat, but also that it can be activated and resolved during the Damage Step, "just like Giant Rat":
Similar language is found in this entry under Banisher of the Light, again with the word "trigger" and listing Last Will among effects like Sangan and Mystic Tomato:
Back in the January thread, another poster responds to Danker with confusion, pointing to a later Judge List ruling given by Steve Okegawa:
The confusion arises out of Okegawa’s omission of words like “activate” and “start a new chain” in favor of terms like “resolve.” But the poster is quickly corrected by Gehrmann and others, who accept the Schultz ruling as dispositive and decline to read the Okegawa ruling as contradictory. When similar questions arise in later threads, the notable judges present continue to give the same answer established in the January thread. Here, Andrew Roth answers a question about the interaction between Last Will, Rescue Cat and Torrential Tribute in a thread in March:
We need not concern ourselves with whether or not Danker, Gehrmann and Roth are actually correct in their shared interpretation of the words of Schultz and Okegawa. When assigning weight to interpretations of rulings given by notable judges in informal public statements and answers, we begin our inquiry by looking for an official and timely statement by Upper Deck to the contrary. If such a statement can be found, we will only defer to the judge if the historical record supports a conclusion that the judge’s interpretation constituted an established practice at premier events at that time, in contradiction with the official statements of Upper Deck. But on issues where Upper Deck had remained silent in 2005, we are typically content to defer to the judge’s interpretation, provided it is not wholly unreasonable.
We last applied this rule in our notice regarding Gearfried the Iron Knight, where we held that Gearfried’s effect was Continuous. There, we deferred to the informal interpretations of Simon Key, Glenn Cheng and others and overruled an official ruling in the UDE Specific Card FAQs because the historical record supported a finding that “the UDE ruling in question was inconsistently applied or not applied at all at premier events at that time.” Here, we reach the same result for different reasons. As far as we can tell, Upper Deck made no official statements regarding this aspect of Last Will throughout Goat Format, and indeed not until the TP7 errata several months afterwards. So we are content to rule with Danker, Gehrmann and Roth that Last Will's so-called "state" uses the Chain. When it is triggered by a monster being sent from the owner's side of the field to the Graveyard, it will start a new Chain to which the opponent can respond with their own card effects. If it is triggered by the Tribute Summon of a monster with a Trigger Effect like Zaborg the Thunder Monarch, the effects of Last Will and Zaborg will simultaneously trigger and be placed on the same chain. And if it is triggered by a monster's destruction by battle, it will activate during the Damage Step, at the same time as cards like Giant Rat and Sangan.
III. When to Activate
In most respects, Last Will’s effect is treated like an optional Trigger-like effect that cannot miss the timing (i.e. an “if” instead of a “when”). If you Tribute Summon a monster by Tributing a monster you own and control, for example, you can happily activate Last Will’s effect in response to that successful summon, provided Last Will itself has already resolved earlier in the turn. But what if you wanted to wait until later in the turn, such as when that Tribute Summoned monster is destroyed by a Sakuretsu Armor in the Battle Phase? The official rulings provide conflicting evidence:
If we read the phrase “the next time” maximally, we are led to the conclusion that Last Will can be triggered either the first time after its resolution that a monster is sent from its owner’s side of the field to the Graveyard, or not at all. But the same batch of rulings also tells us that:
This ruling appears to list the ways in which Last Will’s “state” can “expire.” Curiously absent is any mention of a player choosing not to “use” the “state” when triggered. As we stated in our notice regarding Mind Crush, the inclusion of one thing is the exclusion of another. When a ruling includes a list of things, it is rarely prudent to assume that the author simply forgot to include further valid items in the list.
So which interpretation is correct? In the same thread from earlier, Danker and others shared the same confusion. On or around January 20, Ian Estrin of Upper Deck responded to Danker’s question as follows:
Straight from the horse's mouth! After the initial activation and resolution of Last Will, its "state" must be used by its owner, if at all, the first time a monster is sent from the owner's side of the field to the Graveyard. At this time, the player who activated Last Will may elect to activate its effect to Special Summon a monster. If they choose not to do so, the "state" will expire.
These rulings will be enforced at all official GoatFormat.com events, effective immediately. Our Individual Card Rulings will be updated shortly to reflect our new understanding of Last Will. At this time, we decline to answer any further ambiguities that may exist regarding Last Will. For any such questions, contact the Head Judge for your next event.