Demystifying Rulings, Part 9: The Damage Step

The Damage Step is an incredibly mysterious and complicated area of rulings. In this article, we develop some intuition for its structure.

Updated: 1st October, 2015.

This article fits in with last time’s Battle Phase article: www.ygorganization.com/learnrulingspart8

Starting Comments
First of all, I want to say that the Damage Step is tough to understand. We’ll break it down and go through it slowly, but you’ll need to be concentrating as you read.

Before we begin, we recall that only certain fast effects can be used during the Damage Step, as summarised in the last article. The fast effects that are definitely usable are direct ATK/DEF modifiers, Counter Traps, Monster Effects that negate activations, and things that explicitly say, or imply, that they activate during the Damage Step.

Now we’re going to go through the parts of the Damage Step in detail. We’re going to need an example, so let’s suppose our opponent’s monster is attacking our Set Penguin Soldier:
FLIP: You can target up to 2 monsters on the field; return those targets to the hand.

Start of the Damage Step
This is the beginning of the actual battle! Many effects activate here, including the effect of El Shaddoll Construct:
At the start of the Damage Step, if this card battles a Special Summoned monster: Destroy that monster.

Note that this part comes before the monster is flipped face-up.

Before Damage Calculation
First things first here. If the attacked monster is face-down, it gets flipped face-up (in our example, that’s Penguin Soldier).

However, Penguin Soldier’s Flip Effect doesn’t activate yet! This is one of the first odd things about the Damage Step.

Several card effects mention that they activate here. This is also the point to use ATK/DEF modifiers. For example, now is a good time for Forbidden Chalice, targeting Penguin Soldier:
Target 1 face-up monster on the field; until the end of this turn, that target gains 400 ATK, but its effects are negated.

Multiple Chains can be created in succession here, until both players are done activating cards/effects.

Perform Damage Calculation
In this part of the Damage Step, we will finally get to compare the monsters’ ATK/DEF!

General ATK/DEF modifiers can no longer be activated, from here on. So note that the effect of Honest CANNOT be activated now:
During either player’s Damage Step, when a LIGHT monster you control battles: You can send this card from your hand to the Graveyard; that monster gains ATK equal to the ATK of the opponent’s monster it is battling, until the end of this turn.

Note: prior to the release of the official Damage Step article, Honest could be used during Damage Calculation. This is no longer the case.

Effects that specify that they activate or apply during damage calculation activate here, as normal.

Once both players are done activating/applying effects, you physically calculate the damage: you compare the ATK/DEF of the battling monsters (whatever they’re at now) and determine which, if any, are destroyed by battle, as well as dealing the appropriate battle damage (if any).

If either battling monster has been destroyed or otherwise removed from the field at some point in the Damage Step before now (e.g. because of El Shaddoll Construct), then the Damage Step would end before getting to this point. A replay would not occur though – recall that those can only occur during the Battle Step.

After Damage Calculation
Here’s where we start to deal with the aftermath of the battle.

If a monster was destroyed by the battle, it is now said to be ‘determined to be destroyed’ (more on this later).

Battle Damage is inflicted now. Then, the following effects activate, in a Chain:

– Effects triggered by Battle Damge being inflicted, such as the effect of Tragoedia:
When you take Battle Damage: You can Special Summon this card from your hand.

– Effects that activate after damage calculation, such as the effect of D.D. Warrior Lady:
After damage calculation, when this card battles an opponent’s monster: You can banish that monster, also banish this card.

-Effects triggered by the monster being flipped face-up finally activate now. So our Penguin Soldier will finally activate here.

Recall that things like Bottomless Trap Hole cannot be activated during the Damage Step, so it could not be used upon a Tragoedia’s Summon.

So, going back to D.D. Warrior Lady attacking our Penguin Soldier, their effects, if activated, would form a Chain according to the rules of SEGOC:

Chain Link 1: D.D. Warrior Lady
Chain Link 2: Penguin Soldier

I mentioned ‘determined to be destroyed’ earlier. This is perhaps the weirdest element of rulings we’ve encountered so far. A monster that is ‘determined to be destroyed’ is still on the field, but the game recognises it’s soon going to be sent to the Graveyard because of the battle.

What does this mean? One consequence is that even if our Penguin Soldier is destroyed by the battle, it is still on the field at this point until the next part of the Damage Step (unless it gets removed from the field by some other effect before then).

Another consequence of being ‘determined to be destroyed’ is that Penguin Soldier cannot affect or target itself with its own effect anymore (that is, it can’t return itself to the hand). Other cards cannot return it to the hand/Deck either. But they can still destroy or banish it, or negate its effect.

So in the example above, assume D.D. Warrior Lady has destroyed Penguin Soldier by battle. Penguin Soldier is now determined to be destroyed, so it can’t target itself for its own effect. In addition, if D.D. Warrior Lady activates its effect, it will be able to banish Penguin Soldier despite this (which is what you expect D.D. Warrior Lady to do, after all).

End of the Damage Step
At this point, we finally send any monsters actually destroyed by the battle (ie. that were ‘determined to be destroyed’) to the Graveyard (if they’re still on the field). Effects that are triggered by this would now activate, such as that of Mermail – Abysslinde:
If this card on the field is destroyed and sent to the Graveyard: You can Special Summon 1 “Mermail” monster from your Deck, except “Mermail Abysslinde”.  

Or the effect of Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Gorilla:
Once per turn, when this card destroys an opponent’s monster by battle and sends it to the Graveyard: You can Set 1 “Fire Formation” Spell Card directly from your Deck.

As usual, effects that mention they activate now, i.e. ‘at the end of the Damage Step’, also activate here.

Recall from Fast Effect Timing that the game does not progress until everything is done activating. So if Abysslinde Special Summons something like Mermail Abysspike, the Trigger Effect of the latter will still be activating in this part of the Damage Step (and Bottomless Trap Hole still cannot be used):
When this card is Normal or Special Summoned: You can discard 1 WATER monster to the Graveyard; add 1 Level 3 WATER monster from your Deck to your hand.

After that, we’re finally done with the battle! We then return to the Battle Step, where the turn player can declare a new attack. But if he does, he’d have to go through all of this again…

Miscellaneous Notes
There are several cards that prevent cards and effects being activated during the Damage Step. One such example is Armades, Keeper of Boundaries:
If this card attacks or is attacked, your opponent cannot activate cards or effects until the end of the Damage Step.

Confusingly, the ‘end of the Damage Step’ being referred to here is not the substep mentioned above. It means that the effect applies for the whole Damage Step. So, for example, if Armades kills Abysslinde, then the effect of Abysslinde could not activate.

We’ve seen some confusing stuff in the Damage Step, but we’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg. If you are interested in delving deeper, it’s best to consult those that are more experienced at rulings, or by asking on forums with a reputable ruling section.

As I’ve said, the Damage Step is tough. If you found this article confusing, that’s understandable! You should come back later and give this another read through before attempting the quiz.

Quiz time!
Today’s quiz will rely on rulings and mechanics that we’ve learned from all of the past articles, as well as what we’ve learned today. Good luck!

(1) Which of the following can be used when Gorz, Emissary of Darkness activates to Special Summon itself during the Damage Step?

– Bottomless Trap Hole
When your opponent Summons a monster(s) with 1500 or more ATK: Destroy that monster(s) with 1500 or more ATK, and if you do, banish it.

– Fiendish Chain
Activate this card by targeting 1 Effect Monster on the field; its effects are negated, also it cannot attack. When it is destroyed, destroy this card.

– Black Horn of Heaven
When your opponent would Special Summon a monster: Negate the Special Summon, and if you do, destroy it.

– Solemn Warning
When a monster(s) would be Summoned, OR when a Spell Card, Trap Card, or monster effect is activated that includes an effect that Special Summons a monster(s): Pay 2000 LP; negate the Summon or activation, and if you do, destroy that card.

(2) My Mermail Abysslinde attacks my opponent’s Abysslinde. Both were in Attack Position and are both destroyed by battle. We both want to activate their effects. What Chain(s) form?

(3) If both Abysslindes Special Summon Mermail Abysspike, what Chain(s) form then?
When this card is Normal or Special Summoned: You can discard 1 WATER monster to the Graveyard; add 1 Level 3 WATER monster from your Deck to your hand.

(4) I control Neo-Spacian Grand Mole, and I attack my opponent’s Ally of Justice Catastor with it.
At the start of the Damage Step, if this card battles an opponent’s monster: You can return the opponent’s monster and this card to the hand.

At the start of the Damage Step, if this card battles a non-DARK monster: Destroy that monster.

What happens?

(5) Now, suppose I control Ehren, Lightsworn Monk instead, and I attack my opponent’s Catastor in face-up Defense Position. What happens?

(6) Does the answer change if the Catastor was face-down instead?

(7) I attack my opponent’s Set Giant Rat with Red Dragon Archfiend:
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.

After damage calculation, if this card attacks a Defense Position monster your opponent controls: Destroy all Defense Position monsters your opponent controls.

Can the effect of Giant Rat be activated?

Answers:

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The official page on the Damage Step can be found here: http://www.yugioh-card.com/uk/gameplay/damage.html 

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations are in order! The hard stuff is over. By now, you know enough to handle a wide variety of non-trivial ruling situations.

There are only a couple more articles left in this series! The next one is on negation: www.ygorganization.com/learnrulingspart10

See you next time!

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