Demystifying Rulings, Part 8: The Battle Phase


Today we look at the structure of the Battle Phase, another fundamental element of every duel.

Fast Effect Timing is extremely relevant to understanding the Battle Phase. In case you missed it or want to refresh your memory, you can read about it here in the last article:

The Battle Phase is comprised of 4 Steps:
1) The Start Step
2) The Battle Step
3) The Damage Step
4) The End Step

Every Battle Phase begins at the Start Step. After that, the Battle Step is always entered, and the turn player declares attacks (one at a time) at this point. A successful attack goes through the Damage Step, where the monsters’ ATK/DEF are compared. The Battle Step and Damage Step then repeat in sequence until the turn player wishes to end the Battle Phase, at which point we finish things up in the End Step.

An important thing to note is that each Step follows the Fast Effect Timing (FET) chart from last article (though, for example, Ignition Effects cannot be performed in the Open Game States). In particular, recall that Phases and Steps can’t change in general until everything has finished resolving and both players are done activating cards.

Now let’s go through each Step in detail.

Start Step
There’s nothing in particular I want to say here, except that this is a good time for Threatening Roar:
Your opponent cannot declare an attack this turn.

Battle Step
We reach this point even if no attack is going to be declared. We start in the Open Game State, so if the turn player wants to attack or activate something, they can do so (otherwise, if the opponent agrees, the game moves to the End Step). So for example, Juragedo can always be Summoned if the Battle Phase is entered, even if the players control no monsters:
During either player’s Battle Step: You can Special Summon this card from your hand, and if you do, gain 1000 LP. 

An attack is declared once a player picks an attacking monster and an attack target. Both players can respond to the attack (according to the rules of FET, as usual). In a similar vein to responding to a Summon, the whole Chain is in response to the attack.

So this is OK:

Chain Link 1: Mirror Force
Chain Link 2: Dimensional Prison

However, only that one Chain is in response to the attack. Another Chain cannot be started afterwards that is also responding to the attack.

So this is not OK:

Chain Link 1: Mirror Force
Chain Link 2: Wiretap
(Then in a new Chain)
Chain Link 1: Mirror Force

However, the following is OK:

Chain Link 1: Mirror Force
Chain Link 2: Wiretap
(Then in a new Chain)
Chain Link 1: Fiendish Chain

Fiendish Chain doesn’t have to respond to an attack,  so it can be used in a new Chain.

The Battle Step is also the place where a Replay will occur. The Rulebook explains what this is:

“After you’ve announced your attacking monster and the attack target monster during a Battle Step, the attack target might be removed from the field, or a new monster may be placed on the opponent’s side of the field before the Damage Step, due to a card’s effect. This causes a “Replay”. When this occurs, you can choose to attack with the same monster again, or choose to attack with a different monster, or choose not to attack at all. Note that if you attack with a different monster, the first monster is still considered to have declared an attack, and it cannot attack again this turn.”

For example, suppose I attack my opponent’s Dark Magician with my Blue-Eyes White Dragon. My opponent responds to the attack with Call of the Haunted, to Special Summon a Witch’s Apprentice:
As long as this card remains face-up on the field, increase the ATK of all DARK monsters by 500 points and decrease the ATK of all LIGHT monsters by 400 points.

My potential attack targets have changed, so I can either:

1) Reselect my attack target as either Dark Magician or Witch’s Apprentice, or
2) Call off the attack.

Note that with (1), I’m not re-declaring the attack itself. My opponent couldn’t activate Mirror Force at this point.

Either way, the attack has now been declared. Even if I go with (2), and attack with a different monster, I couldn’t attack again with Blue-Eyes this turn.

Note that replays only occur when the potential attack targets change. If my opponent used Shrink (Target 1 face-up monster on the field; the original ATK of that monster is halved until the End Phase) instead of Call of the Haunted in response to my attack, I couldn’t call the attack of Blue-Eyes off.

Damage Step
Here’s where the monsters actually do battle. It might sound simple, but in fact, this innocuous-sounding Step houses some of the most bizarre and confusing rulings in the game. But don’t worry, we won’t be getting into the weird stuff – this series is supposed to demystify rulings, after all.

This Step is specifically for the battle itself. As a result, only certain fast effects can be used here. The exact rules explaining what can be activated can be found here:

Complicated already, isn’t it? I’ll summarise it shortly:

The key thing is that the cards need a specific reason to activate in the Damage Step, other than just ‘being a fast effect’. These types of cards definitely CAN be activated:

– Counter Traps

– Direct ATK /DEF modifiers, such as Shrink or Forbidden Lance:
Target 1 face-up monster on the field; the original ATK of that monster is halved until the End Phase.

Target 1 face-up monster on the field; until the end of this turn, that target loses 800 ATK, but is unaffected by the effects of other Spell/Trap Cards.

–  Monster Effects that negate activations of effects, such as Stardust Dragon
During either player’s turn, when a card or effect is activated that would destroy a card(s) on the field: You can Tribute this card; negate the activation, and if you do, destroy it.

– Things that explicitly say, or imply, that they activate in the Damage Step, such as Giant Rat  (whose effect has to activate during the Damage Step, as it triggers when destroyed by battle):
When this card is destroyed by battle and sent to the Graveyard: You can Special Summon 1 EARTH monster with 1500 or less ATK from your Deck, in Attack Position.

However, you CANNOT activate Mystical Space Typhoon, since there’s no particular reason for it to be allowed in the Damage Step. Similarly, even if a monster is Special Summoned during the Damage Step, you could not activate Bottomless Trap Hole. Some cards and effects will explicitly tell you that they cannot be activated during the Damage Step, so it’s always wise to double-check the card.

As you can see from the link above, there are a couple more rules to this, so anything not in the above categories should be checked on a case by case basis.

We will study the exact structure of the Damage Step in the next article.

End Step
After the turn player doesn’t wish to declare any more attacks, we move here. The End Step is where Gladiator Beast Bestiari and other such effects activate:
At the end of the Battle Phase, if this card attacked or was attacked: You can shuffle it into the Deck; Special Summon 1 “Gladiator Beast” monster from your Deck, except “Gladiator Beast Bestiari”.

Quiz time!

(1) Which of the following will cause a replay if my opponent activates them in response to my attack?

-Ojama Trio
Special Summon 3 “Ojama Tokens” (Beast-Type/LIGHT/Level 2/ATK 0/DEF 1000) in Defense Position on your opponent’s side of the field.

-Circle of the Fire Kings
Target 1 FIRE monster you control and 1 FIRE monster in your Graveyard; destroy the first monster, and if you do, Special Summon the second monster from your Graveyard. You can only activate 1 “Circle of the Fire Kings” per turn.

-Ego Boost
When a monster declares an attack: Target 1 face-up monster on the field; it gains 1000 ATK until the end of the Battle Phase.

(2) Which of the following can be activated during the Damage Step?

-Torrential Tribute
When a monster(s) is Summoned: Destroy all monsters on the field.

-Dark Law’s second effect:
Once per turn, if your opponent adds a card(s) from their Deck to their hand (except during the Draw Phase or the Damage Step): You can banish 1 random card from your opponent’s hand.

-Divine Wrath
When a monster effect is activated: Discard 1 card; negate the activation, and if you do, destroy that monster.

(3) I enter the Battle Phase. Can I declare an attack with Ancient Gear Golem before my opponent activates Threatening Roar?
If this card attacks, your opponent cannot activate any Spell/Trap Cards until the end of the Damage Step.

(4) Can I activate Anti-Magic Arrows before my opponent activates Threatening Roar?
At the start of the Battle Phase: For the rest of this turn after this card resolves, Spell/Trap Cards, and their effects, cannot be activated. Cards and effects cannot be activated in response to this card’s activation.


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In the next article, we look more closely at the structure of the Damage Step:

See you next time!

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