The More You Know #2 - When Does an Ability 'Fizzle'?

Hello everyone, this is Jared Scott and I'd like to welcome you back to 'The More You Know', where we explore common questions and misconceptions in the Final Fantasy TCG to help make the game easier to understand! If you missed our last article in the series on identifying and explaining the 4 ability types, you can go check that out at:

For today's subject we're going to look at the various ways in which a summon or ability will 'fizzle', which is the term often used to refer to the effect being nullified or invalidated so that essentially nothing occurs. There are several reasons why an ability might either resolve with no effect, or be invalidated outright and we'll explore those situations to hopefully give a comprehensive look at the various situations that might occur during gameplay.

Reason #1 - There are no legal targets

The simplest of all reasons for an ability to have no effect? There's no valid targets! An example of this would be playing Amon 2-098L when your opponent has no forwards in play. In this kind of situation, the rules state that Amon's ability will be placed on the stack and then immediately removed, so there is no opportunity for either player to add to the stack.

Reason #2 - All targets that you had to 'Choose' have become invalid

The word 'choose' in FFTCG is a very loaded term with specific definitions in the rules. Any card that requires you to 'choose' a character requires you to do so at the point in which you activate the ability or summon, and it's possible that the chosen target(s) will either become unavailable or invalid between the point of activation and the actual resolution of that ability. There are many reasons why a target may become invalid including the target no longer meeting the criteria to be chosen, moving to a different zone before resolution, or becoming untargetable by another effect such as Aerith 1-064R's 'Planet Protector' Special Ability.

For example, lets say that we cast the summon Odin 1-124R.

This Summon requires you to choose 1 forward on activation, and upon resolution that forward will break. If the forward you have chosen is no longer on the field when the summon resolves then all targets of the summon will have become invalid and Odin will have no effect (you do NOT get to choose an alternate target).

It is important to note that here are many abilities that have a second part that is contingent on the first one having been completed. Let's take Al-Cid 2-097H, his ability chooses an opponent's active forward and deals 6000 damage to it which only takes effect if the player also plays a Lightning forward to the field of 3CP or less. Upon resolution, if the chosen forward is invalid for any reason (such as the forward having become dull) then the remainder of the effect will be nullified, which includes both the 6000 damage AND playing a forward to the field. This is also true for things like the card draw on Belias 2-019R.

Reason #3 - Another card has canceled the ability or summon (or removed the ability)

As we get further into the life of FFTCG we are seeing more cards that can cancel specific ability types. Cards like Seven 3-057R can cancel a special ability or auto ability that is on the stack, Porom 5-135L can cancel an action ability that is on the stack, etc. Summoner 1-053C has an action ability that will cancel out a summon that has been cast. In each of these instances, the summon or ability on the stack will be canceled and removed from the stack without resolving any of their effects. Currently there are no cards with the effect of 'canceling' a field ability, although others can remove it, such as cards like Dancer 3-128C and Minerva 3-146H. Keep in mind that removing the ability of a character will not affect any abilities that are already on the stack.

Reason #4 - Payment can no longer be carried out

There are some cards with auto abilities that have a payment on resolution as opposed to when it is triggered. Many of the monsters in Opus V have this type of ability, such as Buccaboo 5-046R. When the auto ability is triggered it goes on the stack, and when it comes to the resolution of that ability you are required to put the Buccaboo in the Break Zone. After the auto ability triggers, if the Buccaboo is removed from the field before its resolution then the payment cannot be carried out and the entire effect will be canceled.

Reason #5 - Character doesn't go to the specified zone

This reason is more of a technicality because it involves an ability never triggering in the first place. Many cards like Golbez 1-135L have an auto ability that is triggered when that character moves to a specific zone (usually the Break Zone). These abilities will not activate if the card doesn't actually reach the specified zone, such as using Yuna 1-176H or Enuo 3-101R to cause the character to be removed from game instead as a replacement effect. As stated, this isn't so much an ability 'fizzling' as it is preventing its activation, but it can still be seen as a way of subverting the effect of an ability.

Reason #6 - The effect of the ability/summon doesn't change the game state

I'm putting this reason in for the sake of covering every conceivable situation but it is another technicality. Sometimes an ability will resolve but due to other abilities or effects or the state of the game at that point there is no tangible change in how things are. For example, if Amon 2-098L targets a forward that is already dull, the ability will resolve as normal but there is no change in any of the cards on the field.

Another example would be playing Argath 1-033C when your opponent has no cards in hand. The ability will go on the stack and when it resolves the opponent has to discard a card from their hand, but they cannot.

There are also many times where players will question or assume that a certain event will cause an ability to 'fizzle' when in fact that event has no bearing on the resolution of the ability or summon. Here are some common situations that will NOT cause an ability to 'fizzle'.

I - Source of the ability has been removed from the field:

In our previous example with Amon, if his ability to dull another forward is on the stack but he is removed from the field before it resolves, the ability is considered to be independent of its source and will still resolve as normal.

II - An ability or summon in makes you 'choose' multiple targets and one of them becomes invalid:

With a card like Vincent 2-077L you will very likely be choosing multiple forwards upon activation, and it's possible that by the time the ability resolves on the stack not all of those targets will be available or legal to target. In the situation where some targets are no longer valid but others are, the ability will resolve on the valid targets as much as possible. For Vincent's 'Death Penalty', the remaining forwards will still be broken (barring any other effects saving them from it).

III - An activation requirement is met upon activation but not upon resolution:

Ursula 3-073C has the Special Ability "Twin Wing Frenzy" which has a clause that states 'You can only use this ability if you control Card Name Yang'. In order to activate the special, in addition to all other costs you must also meet this requirement. After the ability is on the stack, if Yang is no longer on the field the ability no longer cares about the activation requirements and will resolve as usual.

IV - The cost of an ability involves sending a character to the Break Zone but another card removes it from the game instead:

There are abilities such as the action ability on Vivi 3-149S that have a cost of moving Vivi to the Break Zone in order to activate. If another card such as Yuna 1-176H causes that card to be removed from the game instead, the cost for the ability is considered to be satisfied and it will still go on the stack.

Similarly, Buccaboo's ability which was referenced earlier will also resolve if you move Buccaboo to the Break Zone but it is diverted by Yuna. There is a subtle difference between these abilities resolving and the example I gave in Reason #5 for abilities not activating. When a card needs to move to the Break Zone as a cost, all the game cares about is if it was sent to the Break Zone (not whether or not it actually arrived there). For auto abilities that rely on the card going to the Break Zone such as Golbez, the game cares about whether or not they actually arrived at that destination.

Hopefully that helps everyone to understand some of the subtleties of when abilities do and do not resolve, if I somehow missed anything please let me know and I'll be happy to update this article! As always, if you have any questions or comments or anything you'd like to see us cover in this series or at The Break Zone, you can reach us on facebook at, at, and on Twitter we are @TheBreakZone!

For easy reference, here's a quick list of the categories from this article -

Reasons why an ability will 'fizzle' -

#1 - There are no legal targets

#2 - All targets that you had to 'Choose' have become invalid

#3 - Another card has canceled the ability or summon (or removed the ability)

#4 - Payment can no longer be carried out

#5 - Character doesn't go to the specified zone

#6 - The effect of the ability/summon doesn't change the game state

Situations in which an ability will still resolve anyway -

I - Source of the ability has been removed from the field

II - An ability or summon in makes you 'choose' multiple targets and one of them becomes invalid