Oh hell yeah it’s time for some more competitive Yu-Gi-Oh history. In YGO, most of the time, the way you win the duel is by attacking your opponent until they run out of Life Points. Probably 95% of all competitive decks to ever exist do this. For the 5% that don’t, shutting down the Battle Phase is a key priority. Sometimes this is accomplished by going all-in on a first turn kill combo (like the various “draw a bunch of cards until you draw Exodia” decks that have existed at the fringes at various times), but otherwise it’s accomplished through “fog” effects1 that prevent combat from happening. Most commonly, this role is held by Waboku and/or Threatening Roar, two fairly straightforward cards.
However, for a brief window in summer 2012, two more joined the party: Frozen Soul and Thunder of Ruler
On the surface these two were just worse versions of Waboku and Threatening Roar, offering the same effects but with more restrictions on activation timing. Indeed, it’s likely these two would have never seen play were it not for the advent of the Final Countdown deck. This deck attempted to win through the effect of its namesake card, which reads:
Pay 2000 Life Points. After 20 turns have passed (counting the turn you activate this card as the 1st turn), you win the Duel.
So as you might imagine, this deck was just absolutely thirsty for fog effects, even 2nd tier ones. It wanted to make sure battle phases basically never happened, over a very long period of time. But, the fun thing about these two cards is that they aren’t technically exact copies of Waboku and Threatening Roar. Waboku prevents damage, T. Roar stops attacks, but both Frozen Soul and Thunder of Ruler prevent the Battle Phase entirely.
And eagle-eyed readers might have noticed that they don’t stop the Battle Phase in exactly the same way. Frozen Soul says to “skip your opponent’s next Battle Phase”, while Thunder of Ruler says “there is no Battle Phase this turn”. Logically, you cannot skip that which doesn’t exist, which means these two interact in a neat way; if you activate both cards at the same time, they will stack. The turn they’re activated, Thunder of Ruler will eliminate the Battle Phase from existence. Then the next turn, Frozen Soul will skip the Battle Phase. This is unlike Waboku or Threatening Roar, where if you have to activate two in one turn the second is entirely redundant.
But there’s one more wrinkle that really makes this sing. You see, in Yu-Gi-Oh a turn doesn’t necessarily have to have a Battle Phase. It’s skipped automatically on the very first turn of the game, and on any subsequent turn if you don’t want to attack you can always go directly from your 1st Main Phase to the End Phase. So, let’s say you’re under the effects of Frozen Soul. Obviously you can’t conduct your Battle Phase this turn, so after doing some Main Phase things you pass the turn. Then, on your next turn, you move to conduct your Battle Phase, only for your opponent to inform you that it’s being skipped via Frozen Soul. But that can’t be right, that was last turn. Wasn’t it?
Turns out, no. Just like the interaction with Thunder of Ruler, Frozen Soul can’t skip that which does not exist. So, if you pass the turn from your first Main Phase, there never was a Battle Phase, so Frozen Soul still lies in wait for a phase to skip. You have to actually say “I’m going to attempt to conduct my Battle Phase”2 in order to get rid of a lingering Frozen Soul effect. Now, you might think that calling people on this is absolute wiener behavior, and you’d be right. However, absolute wiener behavior is a good way to win games of Yu-Gi-Oh, and so Tyler Tabman, alleged wiener, took this deck and its tricky rules interactions all the way to a surprise top 16 finish at YCS Philadelphia 2012. There were lots of bewildered rulings threads across the various YGO forums in the aftermath of that finish, but within a week or so every competitive player had heard the news, and the Final Countdown deck quickly returned to obscurity, along with it our favorite two Battle Phase stoppers.
It’s been long enough now that I’d be willing to bet most players have forgotten this trick, however. So who knows; perhaps some day a new player will be dorky enough to jam a deck full of fog effects and prepare to say “Um, actually” any time their opponent attempts to play Yu-Gi-Oh.