On the Nature of Targeting

At last week’s local tournament, a situation came up in the Top 4 where I gave a ruling that made one of the players not very happy.  He actually ended up losing because of it.  Don’t get me wrong, he was a good sport about it, and we all laughed about it later, but it was an odd ruling- although one I found quite funny.  It was Madolche Queen Tiaramisu vs. Battleguard Howling.

The Madolche player activated Tiaramisu’s effect, returning two “Madolche” cards from his Graveyard to his deck, letting him also return two of his opponent’s cards to the deck, one of which was a Warrior-Type monster.  His opponent tried to activate Battleguard Howling.  I saw this happen and stepped in.  Battleguard Howling activates when a Warrior-Type monster you control is targeted by an opponent’s monster effect or attack by targeting 1 face-up opposing monster.  It inflicts damage to your opponent equal to the original ATK of that target, and returns that same target to the hand if the damage was successful.  However, Madolche Queen Tiaramisu’s effect only targets two “Madolche” cards in the Graveyard; it does NOT target the opponent’s cards that are returned to the deck.

I’ve mentioned targeting on this blog on several occasions, but I’ve never really discussed what it is or how it works.  Today, I dive into that.

What IS targeting?  As a noun (a person, place or thing), it is “a person, object or place selected as the aim of an attack.”  As a verb (an action), it means to “select as an object of attention or attack.”  Both definitions work in the appropriate context in the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG.

When dealing with attacks, you first declare your attack with a monster, then you select the monster it will battle.  This is called “targeting for an attack”.  An “attack target” is the monster chosen to be attacked.  Pretty simple and straightforward.

Targeting with card effects is trickier to understand.  Many older cards that target still have not been reprinted.  Even with newer cards, targeting is often a concept that escapes many good duelists.  Older cards will use the term “select” if they have not been reprinted with Problem-Solving Card Text.  But any card printed or reprinted after the release of Xyz Monsters will use the word “target”.

So how does targeting work with card effects?  It’s actually an activation condition, similar to a Cost.  When you first activate the card or effect, you play the card face-up on the field, or announce that you are activating its effect if it’s already face-up (though some effects activate in other locations).  Then you fulfill its conditions.  Targeting and costs are always listed toward the beginning of the effect, and end in a semicolon (this thing ; ).  Once the card’s Costs have been payed (if any) and its targets declared (if any), your opponent (and then you if they pass) is allowed to Chain to that effect with their own cards.  Players repeat these steps for any card or effect that is activated.

  1. Declare activation of the card or effect
  2. Follow activation conditions (paying Costs and declaring targets), if any
  3. Opponent is given the opportunity to Chain to the effect (though they may pass to you)

Once you and your opponent have BOTH passed on adding to the Chain, you resolve that Chain.  This means that you carry out the actual effects of each card on the Chain, starting with the LAST card activated.  So if three cards were all placed on the same Chain, you start with Chain Link 3 and work your way down to the first card played (Chain Link 1).  If a card targeted something, resolution of the effect is when that target is affected.

Madolche Queen Tiaramisu is a bit of an odd duck.  She possesses an effect that both targets and does NOT target.  Let me explain: To activate her effect, you must detach 1 Xyz Material from her (that’s the Cost), then target 1 or 2 cards in your Graveyard that have “Madolche” in their names.  When Tiaramisu’s effect resolves, any of those targets that are still in the Graveyard are shuffled into your deck (if you targeted two cards but one is banished by D.D. Crow, the remaining target still returns to your deck), then it shuffles up to the same number of cards (once again, a minimum of 1; this means if your opponent has an empty field, you cannot activate Tiaramisu’s effect, since returning opponent’s cards to the deck is mandatory (does not contain the words “you can”)).

The cards you choose to return from your opponent’s field to the deck, however, are NOT being targeted.  The reason why is simple: Tiaramisu’s effect doesn’t tell you to choose those cards when it tells you to choose the “Madolche” cards in your Graveyard.  What this means is that you choose those opposing cards when Tiaramisu’s effect resolves.

Since that Warrior-Type monster was chosen during the resolution of an effect and not at that effect’s activation, it was not “targeted”.  And because it wasn’t targeted, Battleguard Howling could not have been activated.  A ruling I found quite funny, mostly because it reminded me of Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier.

Let me divert into a short history lesson.  Before the advent of PSCT, knowing whether or not a card targeted was a bit difficult to figure out.  When Trishula was released in January, 2011, it caused a LOT of confusion because it appeared to target.  But it didn’t target at all, and the reason why was hilarious to me.  The card to be banished from the hand is chosen at random, but cards cannot be “targeted at random”, so that card has to be chosen when Trishula’s effect resolves, not when it activates.  What made it funny was that the other two cards had to be chosen at the same time as the card from the hand, so Trishula didn’t target THEM either.  Even if you didn’t want to banish a card from the hand, it didn’t matter.  No matter how many cards you wanted to banish, you had to choose during the effect’s resolution.  Meaning your opponent had to second guess you if you had more than just three cards to banish, something I found very funny indeed.

Targeting has always been a rather tricky beast, but PSCT finally tamed it.  You can read a more detailed explanation of targeting here.

As always, I hope this article was helpful and enlightening.  Keep dueling, folks.  Until next time!

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New Card Mechanics: Soul Charge

It’s not often that I write something about how a specific card works.  Heck, it’s not often that I update this blog, and I’m sorry for that.  But with that said, there is a new card that I’d like to review since it has some interesting stuff going on for it.  It’s called Soul Charge and it will be released in Dragons of Legend later this month.

What does Soul Charge do, exactly?  Well, let’s have a look.

Soul Charge is a Normal Spell Card with this effect.  “Target any number of monsters in your Graveyard; Special Summon them, and if you do, you lose 1000 Life Points for each monster Special Summoned by this effect. You cannot conduct your Battle Phase the turn you activate this card. You can only activate 1 ‘Soul Charge’ per turn.”

So a step by step would go like this: First, you play the card and choose your targets.  You can choose any number of monsters, but only up to the number of vacant Monster Card Zones that you have.  So if you have one monster and two zones are blocked by Ground Collapse, you can only chose two monsters.  After this, follow the rules for building Chains.

When resolving the card, you Special Summon any of those targets that are still there to be summoned.  If you do, your Life Points are decreased by 1000 points for every monster that came out of the Graveyard.

This card has two additional conditions for activating it.  First, you must have at least one legal target in your Graveyard.  Second, you cannot enter your Battle Phase and activate this card in the same turn (so no playing it in Main Phase 2, unless you took battle damage from Great Long Nose).  You also cannot activate two copies of Soul Charge in the same turn.

Even with all of this, I’m sure a lot of combos are playing through the minds of well-versed players, as well as ways to stop this card.  Well, I’m afraid I have to dash a few of those possibilities.

First off, take a look at the first three words of the effect: “Special Summon them”.  Notice anything?  Let’s look at one word in particular: “them”.  Those of you who remember your Problem-Solving Card Text will remember that words like “it” and “them” mean that the card doesn’t care that much about specifics during its resolution.  What does this mean for you folks building your Side Decks to stop this card?  It means D.D. Crow won’t be quite as effective.  Sure, you can use it to banish one monster, but Soul Charge will still Special Summon the other targets.  All you’ve really done is prevented one from appearing, and also reduced the amount of Life Points your opponent loses.

Which brings me to my next point: Notice how the card says “you lose 1000 Life Points for each monster Special Summoned by this effect.”  It doesn’t say you take 1000 points of damage.  This is very important.  There are actually three ways to lose Life Points in this game: Damage, payments, and plain old reduction.  Not many cards in the game tell you to “lose” Life Points without calling it damage, but they do exist.

So why is this important?  Because I guarantee that at least one of you was thinking of combining this card with One Day of Peace or Prime Material Dragon, hoping to either prevent or reverse this loss of Life Points.  But since this isn’t “damage”, neither card will do anything to prevent it.  Your Life Points are dropping.  Thus far, there is no card in the game that can prevent simple reduction.

This last thing is also quite minor, but it may prove useful.  The card says, “you can only activate 1 ‘Soul Charge’ per turn.”  If you remember my previous talk about negating activations, this means that if your Soul Charge is stopped in its tracks by a card like Light and Darkness Dragon or Solemn Warning, you are free to activate another copy.  Negating an activation means that the gamestate doesn’t see that an activation happened, nor does it count it as an attempt like it would with Summons.  It never happened as far as the duel is concerned.  However, if only the effect is negated, then you’re out of luck this turn.  And remember, these rules also apply to the “no Battle Phase” condition.

Soul Charge may have some hefty restrictions and clever mechanics to balance it out, but I simply cannot see this card passing by the metagame without making a very big splash.  Keep an eye out for it and be extra cautious when using it.  And remember, this kind of mass summoning is only the beginning.  Coming this summer, I’ll discuss a brand new mechanic!

Until next time, keep dueling!