How to Play Magic: The Gathering: The Absolute Basics

Welcome to the first part of our discussion and introduction to the world of Magic: The Gathering. In these articles, we’ll be trying to explain the rules of the game in a logical and easy to follow fashion, explaining potential points of confusion along the way.

What is Magic: The Gathering?

Magic: the Gathering was one of the original Trading Card Games available in the West and has had enduring appeal. Players take on the role of Planeswalkers, drawing energy from the places across the multiverse which they have visited, summoning creatures and casting powerful spells to earn their victory. In game, this translates into players playing Land cards to generate ‘Mana’ which is then used to play other cards. Players win when they achieve one of several win conditions, including reducing the opponent’s life to 0 or by removing all of the cards from their opponent’s deck (milling). Magic: The Gathering has several formats, but most notably a competitive scene based around its ‘block’ system, which limits the cards usable in decks to those released within the last year.


There are a few different kinds of cards in Magic with various different sub-types. The primary distinction is between Permanents and non-Permanents – this simply tells the player whether the card stays in play after it is used. Permanents include Lands, Creatures, Artifacts, Enchantments, Equipment and Planeswalkers; non-Permanents include Sorceries and Instants. It’s best to have a look at a few cards to get used to what they look like:

IslandThis is an example Basic Land. All decks require land as it is what produces Mana, allowing other cards to be used. This card simply has a title (‘Island’) and a portrait. The water droplet in the bottom middle of the card depicts the type of Mana it produces (Blue), while the symbol at the middle-right shows the set it came from and the rarity. Any number of Basic Lands may be included in decks, with most decks being composed of about 33-40% Land (20 to 24 cards). There are five types of Basic Land, each of which produces a different type of Mana: Island (Blue), Swamp (Black), Plains (White), Forest (Green) and Mountain (Red). There are lands which are not Basic, but these are relatively rare.

Llanowar ElvesThis is an example Creature card, Llanowar Elves. This card has a lot more detail on it, but is still relatively simple to read! At the top, we have the name (Llanowar Elves) and in the upper right corner is the Mana cost (one Green Mana, depicted by a single tree). The Green Mana symbol is on every Forest card, which serves as a reminder of how it is produced. We then have the portrait, and below that the text ‘Creature – Elf Druid’. ‘Creature’ shows the main type of card it is, while ‘Elf Druid’ describes its race. This information is often used on other cards – for example, there are several cards in the game which give bonuses for how many ‘Elves’ you control! The box below that gives the card’s effect ([Tap]: Add one Green Mana to your Mana pool) and the ‘flavour text’, which simply gives an idea of the story behind the card. In the bottom right, we can observe the cards Power (left) and Toughness (right), which are used in combat. Creatures are Permanents, and remain in play after they are summoned.

Permanents usually occupy one of two positions – Tapped or Untapped. All Permanents, unless an effect states otherwise, enter play Untapped (upright) and become Tapped (sideways) when being used for Mana (lands), attacking (creatures) or using their effect (multiple types of cards). This allows players to easily keep track of which cards are free to attack or use their abilities!

Counsel of the SoratamiThis is an example Sorcery Card, Counsel of the Soratami. On this card, the Mana cost is more complicated. There is a 2 in a circle, and a single Blue Mana. The (2) represents a cost of two Mana of any colour, while the Blue symbol is one Blue Mana. This means that the card has a total Mana cost of 3, of which at least one needs to be Blue. Below the portrait is the type of card ‘Sorcery’, and below that, the effect. Sorceries do not have Power or Toughness, and are non-Permanent cards. Once their effect has been used, they leave the field and go to the Graveyard. As they have one-time only effects, Sorcery abilities tend to be more powerful than those of Permanents with the same Mana cost.

Lightning BoltThis is an example Instant. It has a Red Mana cost and is non-Permanent. Instants differ from other Sorcery cards in the fact that they can be used from your hand almost at any time, including the opponent’s turn, provided you have the mana to pay for them. As such, Instants are some of the most powerful tools for counter-play in the game of Magic, allowing you to instantly respond to opponent’s threats. Many players will choose to use Instants only during their opponent’s turn, as it grants them more flexibility with the threat they choose to remove. When an Instant has been used, it is sent to the Graveyard.

The Field

The field for Magic: The Gathering is very simple compared to other card games. There are literally three zones – the Deck, the Graveyard, and the Battlefield. The Graveyard is where all cards that have been destroyed or used go, while the Battlefield is where all Permanents stay, whether creatures or lands. By convention, Lands are played closest to the player who controls them, and Creatures in the middle of the two players, but this is largely optional. Players may control as many Permanents as they wish.

Setting up

Setting up in Magic has a number of steps. Firstly, both players set their life total to 20, shuffle their decks, then draw a hand of seven cards. If a player draws a hand they’re not happy with, they have the option to Mulligan, returning their whole hand to the deck, shuffling and drawing the number of cards returned minus one. Therefore, the first time you Mulligan will mean you draw six cards, then the second will mean you draw five, and you can keep going until you have a hand you like. When both players have done this, the first player begins their turn. The first player, however, does not draw a card during their first draw step.

Structure of a Turn

The structure of a turn is as follows:

  1. Beginning Phase
  2. Main Phase (1)
  3. Combat Phase
  4. Main Phase (2)
  5. Ending Phase

Beginning Phase

There are three steps to the beginning of a turn. First, you untap all your Permanents. Second, you enter the Upkeep step. This is the part of the turn where abilities which activate at the start of your turn trigger, and various costs have to be paid. Abilities can also be activated at this time, including casting Instants. Thirdly, you enter the Draw phase, where you draw a card from your deck.

Main Phase

The main phase is where you can play the majority of cards. Players may play one land per turn during their own main phase and also play any number of other cards, provided they can pay the Mana cost. This phase is (usually) the only phase in which Creatures, Artifacts, Sorceries, Enchantments and Planeswalkers can be played. The player has one of these on either side of their Combat phase.

Combat Phase

In the Combat phase, you can declare attacks with any number of your creatures, but all attacks must be declared at the same time. Combat will be covered in more detail below! Instants and abilities can also be activated at this time.

Ending Phase

This has two steps. The first is the End step, where all ‘at end of turn’ abilities activate. Instants and effects can be activated at this time. The second is the Cleanup step, where the turn player must discard cards until they only have seven in their hand, and all damage is removed from Creatures. Unless an ability triggers in this step, no-one can choose to use instants or effects!


Combat in Magic is rather unusual. Unlike other games, you cannot attack your opponent’s creatures with your own, and, moreover, all attacks have to be declared at once! In this way, creatures can be protected from each other rather easily, so many players will run Sorceries or Instants to help them defeat important enemy Creatures. Further, only untapped creatures can attack, and even then creatures cannot attack on the turn they’re summoned. Let’s have a look at an example Combat Step:

mtg-attack-01In this example, the player controls three creatures. Blood-Cursed Knight (3/2) was played this turn, and cannot attack because it has ‘summoning sickness’, preventing it from attacking. The player, however, decides to declare attacks with the other two creatures and so taps them both. At this point, either player can decide to cast Instants or use abilities.

mtg-attack-02Now, the defending player may declare blockers. This means that they can use creatures on their side of the field to intercept the opponent’s attacks, and defend themselves! Only untapped creatures can be used to block, but as both the defending player’s creatures are untapped, this causes no issue. Multiple blockers can be assigned to the same target, and, if this is done, the attacker may choose which one will be damaged first, then second, and so on. In this example, the defender chooses to use both their creatures to block Blightcaster (2/3). Once blockers have been assigned, either player can decide to cast Instants or use abilities. If a blocker is destroyed at this time, then the defender does not get to re-assign their units!

mtg-attack-03Once blockers have been assigned and any effects have been used, all creatures deliver their damage simultaneously. In this example, Typhoid Rats (1/1) was unblocked, and so deals damage equal to the defending player equal to its Power (1). Blightcaster (2/3), however, was blocked by two creatures, which is where things get more interesting, and why the priority of defenders matters. The attacking creature can deal its full Power (2) as damage, split between the defenders. However, it has to deal enough damage to the first defender to destroy it before it can apply damage to the second. This means that the attacking player can (potentially) kill all of the defending units, as long as their Power is high enough. In this case, the attacker prioritises the damage to the Soldier token, inflicting one damage, then the rest is dealt to the Auramancer. The defenders also deal damage to the attacking creature at the same time, which in this case is enough to kill it. Therefore, the Solider token and Blightcaster are both destroyed at the same time.

During the Cleanup step of the turn, all damage inflicted on Creatures is removed, leaving them perfectly healthy. Therefore, if you didn’t quite finish off a monster during one Combat Phase, you may need to use an Instant or ability to finish the job. In this example, the Auramancer would be fully healed to 2/2.


In this instalment, we have learned how to generate and use Mana, the different kinds of cards, how to set up, how a turn is structured and how to attack and block. Next time, we will look at abilities in more detail, including Enchantments and Planeswalkers.

Magic: The Gathering singles are available for purchase at Big Orbit Cards: Magic: The Gathering


How to Play Yu-Gi-Oh!: All Sorts of Special Summoning

Welcome back to our discussion of Yu-Gi-Oh! rules. In this instalment we will be covering all types of Special Summoning, including Fusion, Ritual, Synchro, Xyz and Pendulum.

Special Summoning

Special Summoning in Yu-Gi-Oh is a blanket term for a number of different methods of summoning, only really united by the fact that they are not your single Normal Summon for the turn! Of these, there are two major types which affect the interaction between cards: the Inherent Special Summon and the non-Inherent Special Summon. Cyber Dragon cyberdragon(pictured) is an example of an Inherent Special Summon – its effect allows it to be Special Summoned from the hand, but this does not start a chain. You do not have to activate the effect, but rather you have the option to just Special Summon it as long as its condition is fulfilled! Inherent Special Summons are those which do not start chains, and are simply options which you have given the fulfilment of certain conditions. Synchro, Xyz and Pendulum Summons are all Inherent Special Summons.

Non-Inherent Special Summons are effects which start a chain. moboThese effects often affect other cards, such as the Spell Card Monster Reborn (pictured). Essentially, when an effect activates which would Special Summon a monster, that is a non-Inherent Special Summon. Therefore, cards such as Soul Charge are non-Inherent, as their effects activate, and equally all Ritual and Fusion Summons are non-Inherent.

But what difference does this make? Simply put, several cards in the game can only affect one or the other of BlackHornofHeaven-LCJW-EN-UR-1Ethese two major types. Black Horn of Heaven (pictured) can only be used to negate the Inherent Special Summons of monsters. Why? The wording of the card is ‘When your opponent would Special Summon a monster’, not ‘When your opponent would activate an effect which would Special Summon a monster’. This means that only actions which are inherently Special Summons can be negated – limiting Black Horn of Heaven to only affecting Synchro, Xyz, Pendulum and Cyber Dragon-like SummonsSolemnWarning-PGL2-EN-GUR-1E. Solemn Warning (pictured), on the other hand, can stop every type of Summon. This is because it can remove any Inherent Special or Normal Summon (‘when a monster(s) would be Summoned’ or any effect which can Special Summon a monster (‘when… an effect is activated… that Special Summons a monster(s’). As such, it is really important to learn the difference between the two types, as it does change what tools you can use to respond to them!


Ritual Summoning (Non-Inherent)

Relinquished-LCYW-EN-R-1EBlackIllusionRitual-LCYW-EN-R-1ERitual monsters are kept in the Main Deck and must be summoned in a certain way, requiring the user to have two specific cards.  Relinquished is an example of a Ritual monster, and can be summoned using the Ritual Spell Card ‘Black Illusion Ritual’. When the player activates the Black Illusion Ritual, they Tribute monsters from their hand or field according to the conditions written on the Spell Card. This is not a cost, but rather part of the effect, so if your opponent negates the Spell, you do not lose your monsters. At that point, you summon a copy of the appropriate Ritual Monster from your hand. This completes the summon, allowing the opponent to respond with cards such as Bottomless Trap Hole. Ritual Monsters are therefore one of the hardest types of Monster to summon, as they require a very specific combination of cards in hand to use. Further, Ritual Monsters sent to the Grave from the hand or deck cannot be Special Summoned using other effects – they have to be Ritual Summoned first! Therefore, you can only use cards such as Monster Reborn on them after you have already Ritual Summoned them, limiting their use even further. Ritual Summoning has become more popular recently given the advent of the Nekroz and Prediction Princess archetypes, as they can help to recover the heavy cost of Ritual Summoning through secondary effects on their Spell Cards.

Fusion Summoning (Non-Inherent)

BlueEyesUltimateDragon-PGLD-EN-GUR-1EFusion Summoning is, in many respects, similar to Ritual Summoning. However, they do differ substantially. Fusion Monsters are kept in the Extra Deck until they are able to be used, and Fusion Summons rely on activating a Spell Card with the effect of Fusion Summoning a monster. This can be one of several cards, and it is notable that Fusion Summons do not specify which Spell Card you should use, merely the specific monsters you need. This means that, without specific instructions, you could use any appropriate Fusion Spell Card to summon Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon (pictured), provided you use the three Blue-Eyes White Dragon as its Tributes. Polymerization-SP15-EN-C-1EThe most common Fusion Spell card is Polymerisation, although there are many more types of cards which can be used, such as Dragon’s Mirror! As such, many players will use those best suited to their deck, as the more specific Spell Cards are often more powerful. Further, some monsters, such as The Dark – Hex-Sealed Fusion, can be used as substitutes for a Fusion Material monster or to provide the effect to Fusion Summon. This means that, while Spell Cards are the primary way for the summoning to happen, other effects can be used as well. When a Fusion Monster would be returned to the hand or the deck, it instead returns to the Extra Deck, though they can be banished or destroyed as usual.

Xyz Summoning (Inherent)

Number39Utopia-YS13-EN-SR-1EXyz monsters are kept in the Extra Deck until they are ready to be used, and may be Summoned when you control two or more monsters with the same level on the field. This does not have to be their original level, so any level modifying effects (such as the Gagaga series) can be used to help create them. Number 39: Utopia’s summoning requirement is two level 4 monsters: when you have these on the field, you place the one on top of the other (order does not matter), then the Xyz monster on top of them both. The two monsters used in its summon become ‘Xyz materials’, and are often used as fuel for its effects. For example, Utopia may detach one material from itself to negate an attack – the material leaves the stack under the card and is sent to the Graveyard. On this note, Xyz materials do not count as leaving the field when used as material, so effects such as that of Reborn Tengu cannot activate. Further, Xyz monsters do not have a level, but rather a rank – this is shown by their black stars and their position on the left, rather than the right, of the card. As such, Xyz materials are immune to all effects which are dependent on level, such as Level Limit – Area B. When Xyz monsters are returned to the hand or deck, they instead return to the Extra Deck.

Synchro (Inherent)

StardustDragon-LC5D-EN-C-1ESynchro monsters are kept in the Extra Deck until they are ready to be used, and need to be summoned in a specific way. All Synchro monsters require a Tuner and a non-Tuner monster to be on the field for their summon, although some require multiple Tuners or non-Tuners. Stardust Dragon (pictured) requires exactly one Tuner and at least one non-Tuner – this means you can use any number of non-Tuner monsters (including Tokens) to summon it. However, the levels of the Monsters used as Synchro Material need to add up exactly to the Synchro Monster’s level, which in this case is 8. Therefore, you could use a level 5 Tuner with a level 3 non-Tuner; a level 2 Tuner with two level 3 non-Tuners; or even a level 2 tuner with three level 2 non-Tuners. As long as the level adds up to 8, you can use as many monsters as you need. The monsters used for the summon are sent to the Graveyard, so effects such as Reborn Tengu will activate at this time, as the monsters used are considered to have left the field. Further, as with Xyz monsters, any effects which return Synchro monsters to the hand or deck return them to the Extra Deck instead.

Pendulum (Inherent)

xiangPendulum monsters are the newest type of Special Summoning, and often are considered the most confusing. Pendulum is a secondary Type of monster, meaning that they go in whichever deck that monster would normally be in. Xiangke Magician, therefore, would go in the Main Deck, while Odd-Eyes Rebellion Dragon (the only Xyz Pendulum) would stay in the Extra Deck. Pendulum monsters are a hybrid between Continuous Spell and Monster Cards, and may be played in two different ways. The most obvious way is just like any other monster card, in which case the lower of the two effect boxes applies – in the case of Xiangke Magician, this is the box containing [Spellcaster/Pendulum/Effect]. This is considered their ‘Monster Effect’. However, they also have a Spell form. When they are played in this way, you may place them face-up in one of your two Pendulum Zones (you cannot set in a Pendulum zone), and they then count as Continuous Spell Cards. At this point, there are two very important pieces of information. The first is their Spell Effect, shown in the upper of the two boxes on the card. In the case of Xiangke Magician, this reads ‘Once per turn: You can target 1 face-up Xyz Monster…’. The second piece of information is their Pendulum Scale. These are shown by the two arrows on either side of the Spell Effect, which in the case of Xiangke Magician is 3. When both of your Pendulum Zones are occupied (for this example, we shall use Xiangsheng Magician as the card in the other zone), once per turn you may perform a Pendulum Summon. This allows you to summon as many monsters as you like from your hand or face-up from your Extra Deck with levels between the scale. So, with a Pendulum Scale of 3 and 8, you are allowed to summon monsters with levels 4, 5, 6 and 7. This is not considered to be activating an effect, so Pendulum summoning is Inherent – as such, cards like Black Horn of Heaven can be activated in response to the summon. But how do you get face-up cards in the Extra Deck? All Synchro, Fusion and Xyz monsters remain face-down at all times in the Extra Deck, even if returned there by an effect. You get face-up cards in the Extra Deck when Pendulum Monsters (even if used as Spells) on the field would be sent to the Graveyard – instead, they move to the Extra Deck face-up, ready to be summoned back by using the Pendulum scale. Therefore, using Pendulum monsters on the field for Tribute Summoning, Ritual Summoning, Synchro Summoning or Fusion Summoning will return them to the Extra Deck, while using them for Xyz material will result in them going to the Grave when detached, as they are not on the field. Pendulum monsters (even if used as Spell cards) must be on the field to return to the Extra Deck – negating their activation or summon will send them to the Graveyard, just like any other type of monster. When they are returned to the hand or deck, they behave normally too.


In this instalment, we have learned the difference between Inherent and Non-Inherent types of Special Summoning, as well as how to perform each type of Special Summon in the game.

Previous Rules

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Vanguard: An Auto Ability Anecdote

Last night, while playing a game of Vanguard, we had an interesting (and confusing) interaction come up. I was playing Bermuda Triangle (in preparation for the Sneak Peak on 22/08), while my opponent was playing Gear Chronicle. Now, Gear Chronicle usually have very simple effects: they return a unit to the bottom of the deck, then they continue on their merry way. However, what confused us last night was this: Interdimensional Beast, Upheaval Pegasus.

For those of you unfamiliar the the card, Pegasus’ effect is somewhat unusual. It consists of two parts: the first is to return all your opponent’s rear-guards to the bottom of the deck, then the second part is to call an equal number from the top of the deck. What makes it interesting in terms of rulings is each of those cards is called one at a time. Our question was how this interacts with AUTO abilities, specifically, ones which activate on-call.

If all of the cards were called at the same time, there would be little confusion. Say that my opponent wanted to use Pegasus, then follow up with the on-stride of Chronojet Dragon. Upheaval Pegasus’ ability would entirely resolve, we enter the ‘check timing’ step, his Chronojet Dragon’s effect resolves, and then I get to use my on-calls. This uses the nice and easy principle that, when both players effects activate at the same time, the turn player gets to resolve them first.

G-CB01-010EN-RRBut, as I said, Upheaval Pegasus calls them all one by one. I had three units on the field, so I had to call three units in succession. My first was Superb New Student, Shizuku (pictured). Her ability is based on Harmony, so it’s not quite an on-call, but similar enough! My second unit was a Grade 2, so I placed that in the same column as Shizuku (triggering her Harmony effect), and my third was largely irrelevant. In this way, my AUTO ability triggered part way through the resolution of another units ability. Therefore, when do I get to use Shizuku’s effect?

The Cardfight!! Vanguard Comprehensive Rulebook has a few things to say on the issue:Rulings 1And:Rulings 2So, there is no question that I can and must activate my AUTO ability, but when exactly does it happen? In our game state, the Gear Chronicle player has two AUTO abilities that he needs to resolve – that of Upheaval Pegasus (mid-resolution) and that of Chronojet Dragon (on standby). I have one AUTO ability to resolve – that of Suberb New Student, Shizuku. According to the official rules, we should be checking the AUTO abilities of the Gear Chronicle user before my own. As such, the priority has to be on the full resolution of his Upheaval Pegasus’ effect. My AUTO ability does not get to resolve partway through the resolution of his Upheaval Pegasus, rather, if any ability could interrupt and resolve, it would have to be his Chronojet Dragon’s, as he is the turn player! As such, the actual sequence of events would be:

  1. Stride Interdimensional Beast, Upheaval Pegasus
  2. (Timing window for the effects of Interdimensional Beast, Upheaval Pegasus and for Chronojet Dragon)
  3. Start of Upheaval Pegasus’ effect
  4. My three units are returned to the deck
  5. I call Superb New Student, Shizuku to my back row
  6. I call Admired Sparkle, Spica to my front row, in Shizuku’s column
  7. (Shizuku enters Harmony State; timing window for Shizuku’s effect)
  8. I call my final unit
  9. Chronojet Dragon’s AUTO ability resolves, returning one of my units to the bottom of the deck
  10. Shizuku’s ability resolves.

So, as we can see, it turns out that Upheaval Pegasus’ effect interacts with other effects as if all the units were called at once. Essentially, the whole ability needs to resolve, then the turn player’s AUTOs, then the non-turn player’s AUTOs. Even though several cards might have their effects triggered at several different times, they all wait on standby until the turn player has finished.

As a final note, what happens if he uses his Chronojet Dragon to remove my Shizuku before her effect is resolved? According to the rulebook:Rulings 3My Shizuku still would get to use her ability, even when removed.

So, in the end, our confusion was misplaced. All we needed to do was resolve the ability fully and play on as if it were any other ability (which we did), but it turns out that was actually the correct ruling! It opened up some interesting questions about simultaneous effects, so hopefully this can be helpful for when situations come up in your games.

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How to Play Yu-Gi-Oh!: Spells, Traps and Effects in Depth

Welcome back to our discussion of Yu-Gi-Oh! rules. In this installment, we shall be taking a closer look at the various types of Spell and Trap cards, and how  effects can differ. We shall also have a look at the mechanic of ‘Spell Speeds’, which explains how cards can respond to each others’ effects!

Symbol Key

As has been mentioned previously, Spell and Trap cards have different sub-types,  which can be recognised by a visual shorthand:

ygo-cont – Continuous Spell and Trap cards are represented by this infinity symbol. They stay face-up on the field after they activate, but they need to be on the field to use their effect. If they’re destroyed at any point, their effect vanishes!

ygo-field– The compass represents Field Spell cards. These have their own special area and can apply to both players at once, depending on the card’s effect. Both players may control one field spell – attempting to play another, even setting it, overrides the previous and sends it to the graveyard! These stay on the field until destroyed or replaced.

ygo-equip – Equip cards stay on the field after their activation, but are linked to a single monster! When you activate the card, you choose a face-up monster on the field, and the equip card modifies that monster (and only that monster). If the monster leaves the field, the equip card does too, and if the monster s turned face-down by any means, the equip card also goes to the graveyard. Destroying the equip card does no harm to the monster unless the card specifies otherwise.

ygo-ritual – This symbol denotes that the card is a Ritual Spell card. These are used in a special type of Summoning, called Ritual Summoning. For this to be done, the player needs to have the specified Ritual Monster in their hand, and be able to offer monsters as tribute from either their hand or field. When this is done, the Ritual Monster is summoned!

ygo-quickplay – Quick Play Spell cards are a sort of hybrid between Spell and Trap cards. During your turn, they can be activated from hand at any time, but they can also be used on your opponent’s turn if they are set. This makes Quick Play cards very flexible, as they can serve as ‘Traps’ on the opponent’s turn.

ygo-counter – Counter traps are unique in the fact that only other Counter Traps can be activated in response to them. This makes them potentially the most powerful type of card in the game, in as much as only a few cards can stop their activation!

Spell Speeds and Chains

Yu-Gi-Oh is a game where all effects are interactive – you have the chance to counter your opponent’s moves through activating cards of your own! When a player activates an effect, the opponent is given the chance to respond to it before it activates; after that, the original player can respond to that! If a player chooses not to activate an effect in response to another, the other player has the right to chain to their own effect. This is similar to the ‘stack’ in other games. Effects wait their turn to be activated, with the most recently activated card resolving first.

This is easier to see in an example:

Player 1 Normal Summons Gemini Elf. At this point, Player 2 has the option to respond, and chooses to activate their Trap Hole, which would destroy Gemini Elf. Player 1 can choose to use their own effect at this time, and activates Forbidden Lance, targeting Gemini Elf. Neither Player 1 nor Player 2 activate any further effects at this time.

It is easiest to imagine resolving the chain as making a pile of cards face up. As cards are activated, they are placed on top of the card they respond to, and the topmost card is resolved first. So, first we should resolve Forbidden Lance, which makes Gemini Elf immune to other Spell and Trap cards. This is resolved before the Trap Hole, so Gemini Elf is not destroyed by Trap Hole’s effect! Trap Hole still resolves, but Gemini Elf is simply impervious to its effect.

So, chains resolve in the reverse order to their activation. However, there is a little bit more to chains than this! Spell Speed is an important piece of information, which dictates which effects can be used at a given time. These are:

  1. Spell Speed 1 effects are the ‘slowest’ effects in the game. These include Normal, Ritual, Equip, Continuous and Field Spell cards, along with many monster effects. These cannot be activated in response to any effects, even themselves.
  2. Spell Speed 2 effects are faster. They include Normal and Continuous Traps, Quick-Play Spells, along with certain monster effects (which usually include the phrase ‘during either player’s turn, or are described as ‘quick effects’). These effects can be used in response to Spell Speed 1 and 2 effects, and follow normal chain rules.
  3. Spell Speed 3 effects are the fastest in the game. Only Counter Traps have this speed, and they can be activated in response to all three Spell Speeds. Only Counter Traps can respond to other Counter Traps, which means that these usually denote the end of a chain!

Chains might sound complicated, but in practice, they make a lot of sense!

Costs and Effects

Yu-Gi-Oh cards often have a cost for their effect, which the ‘Problem Solving Card Text’ of later sets makes easy to recognise.

Sakuretsu Armor displays all three clauses that can be on a card – ‘activation timing’, ‘cost and activation’ and ‘effect’.

The first is easy to note, as it tells you when to use the card! ‘When an opponent’s monster declares an attack:’. Please note that this comes before the colon, which tells you that this is the activation timing!

The ‘cost and activation’ clause is what you need to do when you activate the effect. You immediately do what the card tells you to do at this time (which can be paying life points, targeting a monster or so forth) before the chain proceeds. This is important because many cards can be used to destroy one specific monster, and it’s only polite to tell your opponent which one you’re trying to destroy! Many cards do not have costs or actions to perform at activation, but those that do use a semi-colon to show you that this occurs on activation. In this case, this is shown by ‘target the attacking monster;’.

The final clause on a card is the effect. This is what the card actually does, and Spell, Trap and Effect monsters always have this clause! Cards with effects may have any combination of the three clauses, but always include the ‘effect’ clause. If a card’s effect is ‘negated’, it is only this part of the card which is cancelled.

Bottomless Trap Hole is an example of a card with only an ‘activation timing’ and an ‘effect’ clause. When your opponent summons a monster, you can activate it, then normal chain rules apply. Nothing then needs to happen until the effect is resolved! This means that the card has no cost, which is very important.

seventoolsBut what is a cost? Costs are actions performed when a card is activated, and are completely separate to their effects. Seven Tools of the Bandit is a perfect card to examine when learning costs! If we break the card down into its three clauses, we have the activation timing of ‘when a Trap Card is activated:’, the activation cost of ‘Pay 1000 LP;’ and the effect ‘negate the activation, and if you do, destroy it.’ Costs have to be paid when the card is activated, or the card cannot be activated at all. Seven Tools of the Bandit, therefore, cannot be used when the player is on 1000 LP or below, as they cannot pay the cost without losing the game! Further, costs are not part of effects. If Seven Tools of the Bandit were used to negate the activation of another Seven Tools of the Bandit, that player would not regain 1000 life points. When a cost is paid, it is not refundable even if your card ends up doing nothing. Costs therefore differ hugely from effects. ygo-soulcharge

Soul Charge, for example, is a card which has an ‘on-activation’ clause, but no cost. If the card’s effect resolves, the player loses life points depending on the monsters summoned, but this is certainly in the ‘effect clause’!
Negating the effect this card, therefore, would mean that the player does not get to Special Summon any monsters, but equally does not lose any life points. Thanks to Problem Solving Card Text, it is therefore unambiguous which parts of a card mean what. Activation timing is before a colon, activation and costs are before a semi-colon, while effects are only before a full stop.

Missing the Timing

The difference between costs and effects can also govern how other cards are used. For example, Goldd, Wu-Lord of Dark World (pictured left) may only use his effect when discarded by a card effect, whereas a card such as Fabled Kruz (pictured below) may use her ability whenever she’s discarded. Recent errata have made this distinction much easier to spot, but previously the cards had to be understood by the rather specific differences between their various ‘activation timings’! This is potentially the most complicated thing in Yu-Gi-Oh to understand, and it is a concept called ‘Missing the Timing’.

Depending on the wording (especially on older cards), an effect might not get to activate. This is because some cards have optional effects and some have compulsory effects. A card with the effect ‘When x happens… do y’ (such as Fabled Kruz), cannot miss the timing. This is because her effect is compulsory, so you have no choice but to activate the ability! Optional effects are different, and have two different forms. One is ‘If x… you can do y’ and the other is ‘When x happens… you can do y’.

‘If x happens… you can do y’ is an example of an optional effect that does not miss the timing. This is because it only checks if an event has happened, and then you get to have the choice of whether to use the effect. This means that the effect can activate even if used as part of a cost!

‘When x happens… you can do y’ is an example of an optional effect which does miss the timing. This is because ‘x’ has to be the last event which happened before an effect can resolve. Peten the Dark Clown is an example of a card with this effect wording. Peten cannot activate his effect if sacrificed for a Tribute Summon, for example, as the last thing which occurred was a monster being summoned! If these cards are used as a cost, their effects will miss the timing, meaning that they cannot be used. If you manage to understand these crucial differences, then you have learned the most complicated rule in Yu-Gi-Oh!


Missing the Target

bthThere is, however, one similar note to ‘missing the timing’, which is ‘missing the target’. Some effects, such as Bottomless Trap Hole, require the card to which they respond to be in a certain state. For example, Bottomless Trap Hole is activated when a monster is summoned with 1500 or more Attack, but the effect is ‘destroy that monster(s) with 1500 or more Attack’. This means that, if a card is activated in response to Bottomless Trap Hole which lowers that monster’s Attack, Bottomless Trap Hole cannot destroy the monster! It is always worth being on the lookout for these sort of effects; for example, the powerful card Mirror Force reads ‘When your opponent’s monster declares an attack: Destroy all Attack position monsters your opponent controls’. This means that if you activate a card to change your monster’s battle position to defence mode, it cannot be destroyed by Mirror Force! Similarly, turning a monster face-down will stop Bottomless Trap Hole from destroying it, as, when the card resolves, the monster’s Attack is unknown. It is important to know what cards can miss the target, as it can allow you to save your monsters and win games!


In this instalment, we have learned what the various types of Spell and Trap cards can do; Spell Speeds and Chains; the difference between activation timing, activation, costs and effects; the difference between compulsory and optional effect wordings and how missing the target works. In our next instalment, we will be looking at the various different types of Special Summoning!

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How to Play Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Absolute Basics

Welcome to the first part of our discussion and introduction to the world of Yu-Gi-Oh! In these articles, we’ll be trying to explain the rules of the game in a logical and easy to follow fashion, explaining potential points of confusion along the way.

What is Yu-Gi-Oh?

Yu-Gi-Oh is potentially the most complex widely available card game at the moment, and  can be incredibly involved and ‘combo’ based. Most victories in Yu-Gi-Oh are completed by reducing the opponent’s life points to 0, although there are several alternate ways of winning, with ‘milling’ (reducing the opponent’s deck to zero cards) and gathering five specific cards (Exodia) being the most notable. Players will find that the game is incredibly fast-paced compared to other card games, as unlike Magic the Gathering or Cardfight! Vanguard, all cards can be used from turn one. There is no waiting to gather enough land, nor are units limited based on the Grade of a single unit, so players are potentially able to summon huge monsters right from the start of the game! This is countered by the fact that Yu-Gi-Oh has many powerful cards which can be used on your opponent’s turn to disrupt their plays, making the game very interactive. Your opponent might be able to summon their most powerful monsters, but you can simply destroy them all with a single Trap card! Yu-Gi-Oh, therefore, plays very differently to other card games on the market, and offers an interesting challenge for both players.


There are three primary types of cards in Yu-Gi-Oh, all of which have very different purposes: monsters, spells and traps. All of these have various sub-types, but the general principle is that traps are able to be used on your opponent’s turn, spell cards on your own and monsters on both. Therefore, let’s have a look at some examples:

Monster Cards

dmgThis is an example monster card: Dark Magician Girl. In the top right hand corner is her Attribute (Dark), and beneath that there is her Level (6), represented by stars. The centre of the card is taken up by her portrait, while a smaller box underneath contains her other details. The text in brackets ([Spellcaster/Effect] shows her Type (Spellcaster) and the fact that she has an ability, described in the box below. In the bottom right of the box, we can see her combat statistics: 2000 attack, and 1700 defence. The other parts of the card are not used in gameplay, being a set number, serial number (used for inputting the card in the video games) and a hologram to prove the card’s authenticity.

Monsters can have one of seven Attributes (Light, Dark, Fire, Water, Wind, Earth and Divine), and one of many types (too many to list!). A monster’s level can be anywhere between 0 and 12, with most cards being four or below. Cards can have multiple types listed – it is possible to see a card have [Spellcaster/Pendulum/Effect], or even more combinations! The relevance of these specific types will be discussed later. Monsters serve as the primary form of offence and defence in the game.

Spell (Magic) Cards

raiSpell cards (known as Magic cards in the oldest sets) are usually only able to be used on your own turn. Their rough layout is similar to monster cards. The symbol for Spell takes the place of the Attribute, and [Spell Card] takes the place of the monster’s level. The art occupies the centre of the card, while the box below describes its effect. Spell cards also have various subtypes, shown by a symbol next to the phrase [Spell Card]. These can be Continuous, Equip, Field, Ritual or Quick Play, but usually have no sub-type at all. Most Spell cards, with the exception of Quick Plays, can only be used on the user’s own turn during the main phase. Further, Spell cards usually are used to provide a single, powerful effect, although Continuous, Equip and Field spells stay on the field until they are destroyed, and provide lasting abilities.

Trap Cards


Trap cards are the primary form of card which can be used on your opponent’s turn, but cannot be used on your own turn without waiting. They are placed face-down on the field and must have been on the field for a whole turn before they can be used! However, after that, they may be used at any appropriate time for their effect. As a result, Trap cards are slower than Spell cards to use their effects, but are much more flexible in their activation after they have been prepared. Trap cards, like Spell cards,  have several sub-types, shown by a symbol next to the phrase [Trap Card]. These are Continuous and Counter traps. Continuous traps, as the name suggests, stay on the field after their activation. Counter traps, on the other hand, usually prevent the effects of other cards and can only be responded to with another Counter trap! As such, Counter traps are often considered to be the strongest type of effect in the game, as it is very difficult to stop their effects from activating.

The Field


The field for Yu-Gi-Oh is sizable, and has many different zones. There are five spaces for monsters, each of which can contain one monster. Similarly, there is a row of five spaces for spell and trap cards, where cards may be placed face down or face up to be used. Field Spell cards are never placed in this back-row, occupying their own ‘Field Spell Zone’ instead. Each of these spaces may only be occupied by a single card, which will prevent the player from being able to use any more of that type of card when they are full. Two Pendulum zones, used for a special kind of summoning, are placed on either side of the field – their use will be explained later. The Extra deck contains powerful monsters which can be summoned at will, provided certain conditions are met. The Graveyard (or Grave) is where used and destroyed monsters, spells and traps go.


Yu-Gi-Oh has a simple set up. Players simply shuffle their decks and draw a hand of five cards. Then, the players also set aside their Extra Deck of up to fifteen cards. Players set their life-points at 8000 to begin the game. The player going first opens their turn without drawing, as going first is a significant advantage in Yu-Gi-Oh. After that, play proceeds as normal.

Turn Structure

The order of a turn is as follows:

  1. Draw Phase
  2. Standby Phase
  3. Main Phase (1)
  4. Battle Phase
  5. Main Phase (2)
  6. End Phase

Draw Phase

In this phase, the turn player draws a card, unless another effect has prevented them from doing so. The player who goes first skips their first draw phase.

Standby Phase

The Standby phase is usually the part of the turn where the costs for continuous effects are paid. This can be considered similar to ‘upkeep’ in other games. Cards will specify that their costs or effects are to be used in this phase.

Main Phases

Yu-Gi-Oh has two main phases, one on either side of the battle phase. This phase is where the majority of actions occur in a turn, including summoning monsters, playing Spell cards and setting Trap cards. During this phase, players can change the battle positions of their monsters from face-down defence position to face-up attack position, or from face-up attack position to face-up defence position. Cards cannot be turned face down unless an effect allows them to do so! Players may use as many Spell or Trap cards as they wish during their turn, provided that they have enough space to play them.

Battle Phase

During the battle phase, you can declare attacks with your monsters. Only monsters in Attack Mode can attack, and they need to attack monsters on your opponent’s side of the field before they can attack your opponent. Monsters do not have to attack, and the player chooses when to end their battle phase and enter main phase 2.  Monsters summoned in main phase 2 will not be able to attack, as there is only one battle phase per turn!

End Phase

The end phase is essentially a ‘clean-up’ step. Cards whose effects activate or end at the end of the turn happen at this time. Once this step has finished, the opponent’s draw phase begins.

Summoning Monsters

There are two main types of summoning in Yu-Gi-Oh! and three ‘battle positions’ which monsters can take. These are face-up Attack position, face-up Defence position and face-down Defence position.

Normal Summoning and Normal Setting

Normal summoning is the default manner in which monsters are summoned in Yu-Gi-Oh!. Players are allowed to Normal Summon or Set once each turn during either Main Phase, although some effects can allow players to Normal Summon more than once per turn. Normal Summoning can summon monsters in either face-up Attack position, or face-down Defence position, which are represented by placing the card vertically or horizontally respectively.


This is an example of a monster in face-up attack position, the result of a normal summon.

This is an example of a monster in face-down defence position, the result of a normal set.

We shall get onto the relevance of these positions when we cover combat, but for now, we shall learn how to normal summon and set!

All normal summons and sets are performed by taking a card from the hand and placing it on an empty monster card zone in either of these two positions. Monsters cannot be normal summoned in face-up defence position, and monsters placed in face-down defence position are completely unknown to your opponent! There are, however, some restrictions on normal summoning monsters, which are based on the card’s level. Monsters with a level of 4 or less can be normal summoned or set for free. Monsters with a level of 5 or 6 require one tribute, and monsters with a level of 7 or higher require two. This is known as a Tribute Summon or a Tribute Set, and still counts as your single normal summon a turn. But what is a tribute? Simply put, to summon these monsters, you have to send a monster (which is the ‘tribute’) from the field to the graveyard. Therefore, to Tribute Summon high level monsters, you need to already have some monsters on the field to sacrifice! If you decide to summon a level 5 or higher monster in face-down defence position, then you still need to offer a monster as a tribute. Your opponent, however, knows only that the card’s level is greater than 5, as all other attributes stay hidden.

Special Summoning

Special Summoning can be performed as many times as a player wishes per turn, but can only be performed through the effects of cards. Special Summoning has no restrictions based on level, and, depending on the effect, monsters can be summoned in face-up attack mode, face-up defence mode or face-down defence mode (which is the rarest position for Special Summoning effects, and effects that allow it will specifically say that you can summon in this position). These often occur during the main phase, although Special Summons can occur during any phase of the turn.

This is an example of a monster which can Special Summon itself. This is free to do (as the card does not state it has a cost), and can be done provided the conditions are met. If you go second, you can summon this, and then Normal Summon another monster, allowing you to gain a significant advantage over your opponent. The summoned Cyber Dragon can even be used for a tribute for a Tribute Summon or Set! Cyber Dragon can be Special Summoned in either face-up attack or face-up defence mode.

Monsters are not the only effects which can allow Special Summoning. Monster Reborn is a straightforward (but banned) card which can Special Summon destroyed monsters. When this Spell card is used, it summons a monster in either face-up attack or defence position.

There are also other specialised forms of Special Summoning, which are Ritual Summoning, Fusion Summoning, Synchro Summoning, XYZ Summoning and Pendulum Summoning, which we will cover in a later article.

(Flip Summoning)

Flip Summoning is technically a type of summon, but is more akin to simply changing a battle position! When you decide to turn your face-down defence monster to attack position, it is turned face-up. This does not count as your Normal Summon for the turn, and is included here for the sake of completeness.


Combat in Yu-Gi-Oh all takes place in a single battle phase and can only be initiated by monsters in attack position. These monsters declare their attacks one by one and in turn, and do not have to attack at all if their controller does not want them to. Monsters can attack the opponent to reduce their life points, but only if the opponent controls no monsters. Therefore, you have to attack and destroy your opponent’s monsters before you can begin doing significant damage to your opponent!

When monsters battle, there are different results depending on their battle positions and attack power. As a rule, whoever has the higher power wins, although how the victory manifests can change substantially!

Attacking Monster vs Opponent’s Attack Position Monster


When your attacking monster battles an opponent’s monster in attack position, the monster which  has the lower ATK power is destroyed and sent to the graveyard. Further, the controller of that monster takes damage from their life points equal to the difference in power! In this example, the turn player’s Blue-Eyes White Dragon attacks the opponent’s Dark Magician. Blue-Eyes’ attack is 3000, while Dark Magician’s is only 2500. As such, Dark Magician is destroyed and its controller takes 500 damage to their life points. If you attack a monster with a higher attack, your monster will be destroyed and you will lose life points equal to the difference – so it’s worth being careful of traps which can increase the opponent’s attack points!


In this example, Dark Magician attacks an opponent with the same amount of attack points. In this situation, both monsters are destroyed and neither player takes any damage.

Attacking Monster vs Opponent’s Defence Position Monster

You can declare attacks on either face-up or face-down position monsters, but the risk with the latter is that you do not know their statistics! When you declare an attack against a face-down monster, you only flip it into face-up defence position after your attack has begun, so you cannot back out if it turns out that you will lose the battle. The defending monster uses its defence power to see who wins.


In this example, Dark Magician attacks the face-down card, and does not know what the monster’s defence is. Dark Magician’s owner is confident that its 2500 attack is enough to defeat any level four or lower monster, and so attempts the battle.


However, the face-down defence position monster turns out to have 2600 defence, which is enough to survive the attack. Big Shield Gardna therefore survives the battle, and Dark Magician’s controller takes the difference in damage to their life points.  However, Dark Magician is not destroyed, as there is no penalty for losing a battle against a defence position monster.


In this example, Dark Magician’s attack is higher than Summoned Skull’s 1200 defence, and so Summoned Skull is destroyed. The controller of the Summoned Skull takes no damage, as players do not take damage for their defence position monsters losing in battle. This means that it is often wise to place monsters into defence position when facing monsters with powerful attacks, as this allows you to avoid losing life points!

In the case of a tie between the attacking monster’s attack and the defending monster’s defence, neither monster is destroyed and neither player takes any damage.


In this instalment, we have learned the types of card, the structure of a turn, how to summon and how to battle. In the next instalment, we’ll focus more on Spells, Traps and Effect monsters!

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How to Play Cardfight!! Vanguard: Deck Construction

Welcome back to our discussion of Vanguard!! rules! In this instalment, we shall discuss the rules concerning deck construction and how to G-assist. We will also cover basic tactics in deck design, including end-game, combos and resource management.

Absolute Rules

Vanguard has certain rules that must be obeyed during deck construction:

  1. Decks must be exactly fifty cards (including starting vanguard).
  2. There cannot be more than four copies of cards with the same name in a deck (Unless the card states otherwise). This means that even if two cards have the same name but different effects (such as Phantom Blaster Dragon), there can only be four cards named ‘Phantom Blaster Dragon’ in the deck.
  3. Decks must contain exactly sixteen trigger units, of which only four may be heal triggers.
  4. Decks may only contain four units with the Continuous skill ‘Sentinel’.
  5. Decks may include a G-deck of up to eight units.

Further, decks may only be formed out of units from a single clan, meaning that, if a player wanted to make a Gold Paladin deck, only Gold Paladin units could be included. There are few exceptions to the rule:

  1. Cray Elemental units can be included in any deck, as they have the Continuous skill of being from all clans and all nations.
  2. Royal Paladins can contain up to four copies of Blaster Dark (a Shadow Paladin), so that they can use the effect of Majesty Lord Blaster.
  3. Link Joker can use any card with ‘Я’ in its name, because of the effects of Star-vader, “Omega” Glendios and similar cards. These are Continuous skills which mean that any unit with ‘Я’ in its name is always also counted as a Link Joker.
  4. Some units have continuous effects which make them part of two clans at once. So far, only three units have this ability: Blaster Blade Spirit (Royal Paladin) and Blaster Dark Spirit (Shadow Paladin) both count as Gold Paladins, while Coral Princess, Thetis is an Etranger who also counts as an Aqua Force.


Grade Balance

Most decks follow a similar Grade ratio, with a few notable exceptions. This is:

  • 17 Grade 0s (16 triggers and 1 starter)
  • 15 Grade 1s
  • 10 Grade 2s
  • 8 Grade 3s

This ‘pyramid’ structure means that you are less likely to get ‘grade stuck’ early game, as Grade 1s and 2s are significantly more likely to turn up than Grade 3s. As the Vanguard must be upgraded over a series of turns, it is likely that the user will draw into a Grade 3 by the turn they need to ride one. Even though Grade 3 units have a high power, most players prefer to use Grade 2s as their main front-row rear-guards as they can be used to intercept and so keep their shield value. Many Grade 3s, therefore, are run at 8 largely for the purpose of consistency and to provide good cards to discard for Strides or Perfect Guards. Some Grade 3 units like Nightmare Doll, Alice are used as dedicated rear-guards for the usefulness of their skills.

Sometimes, even with this consistent Grade ratio, a player is unable to ride. It is at this point that G-Assist is used. Click here to learn how to perform it.

End Game Goal

A good place to start choosing cards for your deck is to work out how you want to win the game, and then build the deck with this in mind. Often, this is by choosing a Grade 3 or 4 ‘boss monster’ to focus on, and then choosing good units to support it. In Dark Irregulars, for example, a player might wish to focus on Abominable One, Gilles de Rais. He has two effects which only activate with either ten or fifteen cards in the Soul, which means that a deck which uses him needs to include many soul-charging effects. As Gilles is a Grade 4, the player will need a Grade 3 to use as their main Vanguard – they might choose Psychic of Storm, Rigil for his ability to soul-charge quickly and for his powerful retirement ability. As Rigil can soul-charge five cards on his own per turn, including Doreen the Thruster in the deck would be sensible, as she can gain 15000 power from his effect alone! From choosing simply one boss monster and selecting cards to help his effect, a deck with powerful synergy can start to be formed. In decks which focus on boss monsters with Limit Break 4, players usually use Limit Break Enablers. Some combinations are more obvious than others, and admittedly some research needs to be done to find the interactions between the cards, but that’s just part of the fun of deck construction!

Choosing Rear Guards

Not all rear-guards have to support the ‘boss monster’ of the deck, and many are useful because they are strong in their own right. In the case of Gilles de Rais, it’s a good idea to make sure that there are enough units which can soul-charge to be able to use his effects, but dedicating too much of the deck to setting up the soul means that the deck will not be able to do anything outside of soul-charging. There are several things to think about when selecting rear-guards, such as their power, costs and effects. Many strong effects use counter-blasts or soul-blasts as their costs, which limits how many times they can be used in a game. As tempting as it can be to use loads of these effects, they do not work when the player runs out of that resource! A balance needs to be found between these sorts of effects and ones which can help to pay for them. Battle Sister, Lemonade can be used to reset counter-blasts, but equally uses a large amount of soul to do so. As such, she converts a resource used relatively rarely by her clan (the Soul) in order to help what is very commonly used (counter-blasts). With certain units that consistently soul-charge, like CEO Amaterasu, her effect might be able to be used multiple times in one game, but her effect will most likely only be able to be used once as it has an expensive cost. However, the advantage that can be gained by being able to use more counter-blasts can be significant. Being able to use Diviner, Kuroikazuchi more times in a game is valuable, and so finding a balance between resetting costs and using them is important. Most players, therefore, will try to use some cards with costs for their effects, some without costs for their effects and some to help pay costs.

It is also important to consider power when constructing a deck. As most Grade 3 vanguards have 11000 power, it is good to make columns that can reach 11000, 16000 or 21000 power. As shield can only be applied in 5000 point blocks, an 11000 power attack against a vanguard is often identical to a 15000 power attack, as they both require 5000 shield to block! As such, the selection of Grade 1 and 2 units is often made to form columns which reach these power thresholds, as it enables them to hit efficiently. Diviner, Kuroikazuchi can be boosted by a 7000 or more booster to force a 10000 shield, and so has both a strong effect and a strong offensive presence. Battle Sister, Lemonade has a great effect too, but a tiny power, and so finds it difficult to create strong columns. She would work well boosting Diviner, Shinatsuhiko (who can gain 3000 power when attacking a vanguard, becoming 12000 on her own), as she grants just enough power to reach the next stage. Many players like to run similar 12000 attackers as they can hit a vanguard un-boosted – these cards also usually do not use any resources, and so can be included in most decks without problem.


Some cards have the Continuous ability Sentinel, which means that only four cards in total may have that ability in the deck, even if the units have different names. Newer Sentinels may be easily recognised by their golden shield crest, although the first Sentinels merely had a shield with a value of ‘0’. There are currently two main types of Sentinel units, Perfect Guards and Quintet Walls.

Perfect Guards are the most commonly used form of Sentinel, and for good reason. At the cost of discarding a card, they can make a unit entirely immune to an attack, allowing even the strongest attacks to be blocked with two cards. Some Perfect Guards can only be used to defend attacks made against the Vanguard, while others may block any unit. The Vanguard-only Sentinels almost always have the ability to turn damage face up provided another copy of them is in the Drop Zone, allowing that user to use more abilities in the future. The other Perfect Guards are significantly more flexible, being able to guard rear-guards and be used when called from the deck (rather than just from the hand), but do not un-flip damage. As such, they are often considered to be superior in decks which value their rear-guards highly, and also are considered to be better against units such as Dragonic Overlord, the End.

Quintet Walls are substantially different. The user does not need to discard a card, but equally their shield is less strong. At the cost of a counter-blast, they call the top five cards of the deck to the guardian circle to guard. As such, depending on luck, they can be anywhere between a 0 to 50000 shield, but most commonly act as a 25000 shield. Quintet Walls are usually used in decks which expect to have a low hand size or in Legion decks, as they can single-handedly set up the Drop Zone to Legion. Some cards, such as Apple Witch, Cider, can be used with Quintet Walls to make them more efficient, in this case by placing all the cards called into the Soul instead of the Drop Zone.

Almost all competitive decks use four Sentinels, as they are extremely useful cards. They allow even the most powerful attacks to be easily blocked, and can make the difference between winning and losing.

Trigger Line-up

The choice of triggers is often best left until the rest of the deck has been planned, as they should be chosen to compliment its strengths. Decks usually contain all four heal triggers, as healing is a valuable resource, so the decision usually comes down to how to allocate the remaining twelve. Many decks work best with eight to twelve critical triggers, which means that even one attack hitting can be devastating to the opponent. Critical triggers work well in decks with otherwise weak rear-guards, as, even though only a few attacks will hit, they will be powerful when they do. They can also punish the opponent heavily for not guarding attacks from the vanguard, as Stride units can potentially deal four damage in a single attack, even without their effects. Stand triggers, by contrast, work best in decks with powerful rear-guards and ones which expect to have a large field presence. The idea behind stand triggers is to force the opponent to use more cards to guard attacks, and a great example of their optimal use is in Murakumo’s Covert Demonic Dragon, Hyakki Vogue “Яeverse”. He can easily produce a pair of rear guards with 31000 power, and stand triggers mean that the opponent might well need to block five attacks at that power! Clearly, this can be a devastating combination, and forces the opponent to take substantial damage or else use their whole hand and field to guard. Draw triggers are used to add consistency to decks, especially those which rely on multiple copies of certain cards, rely on having a greater hand size than the opponent, or use many discarding and retiring effects. As draw triggers only have 5000 shield, they are not inherently defensive cards unless combined with Perfect Guards. Draw triggers are often seen used at four copies, allowing the focus to be on critical or stand triggers. If you’re unsure about what line-up to use, the ‘Rainbow’ set of four of each kind of trigger is often a good starting point, allowing the user to test which ones are better than others in actual gameplay, and to change their deck accordingly.

Starting Vanguard

Most starting vanguards that are used have the ability ‘Forerunner’, which allows them to be called to a rear-guard circle when they are ridden. Forerunners often have an ability which is activated by putting them into the Soul, which allows them to be later used for soul-blasting. Several starters, however, are designed to stay in the Soul when ridden. This is often as part of something called a ‘ride chain’, where the player attempts to ride specific units in succession for powerful bonuses. An example of this is Godhawk, Ichibyoshi, which is used to set up the Tsukuyomi series. If you are using a ride chain, then your starting vanguard is pretty much determined for you! For other decks, the choice of Forerunner is largely based on what effects you value more highly, and should be tailored to suit your playstyle.


Most decks, therefore, have a lot of flexibility in which cards can be run. Using four Sentinels and a good variety of triggers is a must, but everything else can be tailored to suit your end-game goal. The choice of cards for the G-Zone should be made to complement the main deck, although, as you can Stride whichever unit you like, it is much more viable to include situational cards. The main deck requires a little more balance between effects, and spending the time to make sure that the deck has balanced costs, decent columns and reliable combos is well worth the time.


When a player is unable to ride to a higher Grade and have not yet reached Grade 3, they may perform a G-Assist. The player reveals their hand, then searches the top five cards of their deck for the Grade they need. If they find one, then they remove two cards from their hand and two cards from their G-Deck from the game, then can continue to their Ride step as usual. The cards removed from the hand and G-Deck are not considered to have been discarded or Bound, so, even though the cards removed from the G-Deck are removed face-up, they do not count for the purposes of Generation Break abilities. Further, if the player attempts to G-Assist with only one card in hand, then they will need to remove the card they added to pay the cost. A player who foresees being unable to ride should therefore keep a hand size of at least one to be able to G-Assist usefully. If no card is added to the hand by G-Assist, the cost is not paid.

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How to Play Cardfight!! Vanguard: Effects

Welcome back to our discussion of Vanguard rules! In this instalment, we will be explaining the various effects and their costs, and discussing the more complicated aspects of the game such as timing. This article aims to discuss everything you need to know about how effects in Vanguard interact!

In Vanguard, many actions are shown by a visual shorthand. We have already discussed the Grade abilities of Boost (Sk boost), Intercept (Sk intercept) and Twin Drive (Sk twindrive), so we will ignore these and move on to the other symbols!

Types of abilities

Firstly, there are three main types of abilities:

Act – Active skills can only be used in the Main Phase of the player’s own turn. When the player wishes to use the ability, they simply pay the cost and then resolve it. Unless they have a ‘once per turn’ clause, these abilities can be used as many times as the player wishes, provided the cost can be paid, and can be used to create serious advantage for the player.

auto – Automatic abilities respond to a specific event, and can only be activated once each time that event occurs. An example might be Battle Sister, Maple, who gains 3000 power when she attacks if her controller has four or more cards in hand. Unless they have a ‘once per turn’ clause, these abilities can be used as many times as their event occurs.

cont – Continuous abilities provide lasting benefits for as long as their conditions are fulfilled. For example, this can involve an increase to a units power provided a certain card is in the Soul. Continuous abilities are active on both players’ turns.

These are often accompanied by a symbol to show where the cards may be activated. This can be VG2 for the Vanguard Circle, RG for the Rearguard Circles, GC for the Guardian Circle, while other zones are usually put in brackets and followed by a colon, such as ‘[Drop Zone]:’.

Costs and effects

Card costs and effects are easily distinguished by the fact that costs are put in brackets following the symbol which designates the zone in which it may be activated. For example, a card could read ‘RG: [Put this unit into your soul]’, which allows for the card to be read easily and without confusion. The following is a common list of symbols seen as costs and effects.

counterblast – One of the most common symbols is Counter Blast. Most often seen as a cost to be paid, a Counter Blast is turning a face-up damage of the player’s choice in their Damage Zone face-down. This limits abilities to being used only after the controller has taken enough damage, and effectively serves as a ‘comeback mechanic’. Abilities with a Counter Blast cost cannot be used unless that many cards can be turned face-down.

Countercharge – Counter Charging is the reverse of Counter Blasting. This symbol has only recently begun to be used in the game, and previously has been represented by the phrase ‘choose a card from your Damage Zone, and turn it face up’. This allows the player to re-use cards for Counter Blasts without taking additional damage.

Soulblast – Soul Blasting is often seen as a cost for abilities, and uses the Soul (the stack of cards under the Vanguard) as its resource. A Soul Blast is to take a card from the Soul and put it in the Drop Zone, and effects using this resource cannot be activated if there are not enough cards in the soul. Without its opposite effect, most players will only have access to two or three Soul over the course of the game.

Soulcharge – Soul Charging is the reverse of Soul Blasting. This is sometimes seen as a cost, but is more often part of an effect. To Soul Charge, you take x cards from the top of the deck and place them underneath the Vanguard. Trigger effects are not activated at this time.

Stand – The Stand symbol shows that you may Stand one of your units, allowing it to attack again.

Rest – Often seen as a cost, the Rest symbol tells you to Rest one of your units. As always, Rested units cannot attack unless they are made to Stand by an effect.

Swords and Shields represent power and shield value, respectively.

Special restrictions

Certain abilities are restricted to only being used at a certain point in the game, and they have special symbols which represent them:

LB4Icon/LB5Icon – Limit Breaks are somewhat of an older mechanic, but one which is still seen in many decks today. Limit Break abilities are always restricted to the VG2, and restrict the ability they govern to only being used after a certain amount of damage has been taken. This is usually four damage (LB4Icon), but can be five damage (LB5Icon). As these abilities can essentially only be used on the verge of defeat, they are usually stronger than similar skills. Many Clans now have support cards which allow Limit Break abilities to be used on three or less damage, allowing players to use these powerful abilities before taking significant damage.

Legion enLegion is an interesting mechanic which, in short, allows there to be two units on the Vanguard Circle. Before I explain how Legion works, I will briefly explain how it governs other units. Certain abilities can only be used when your Vanguard is in Legion, and they have two different timings. One is ‘if your Vanguard is Legion en‘, which means that the ability can be used at any point after Legion has been performed; the other is ‘when your Vanguard Legion en‘, which means that it can only be used immediately after Legion has been performed, just like how Automatic abilities work. To skip to how to perform Legion, click here.

GB1 Icon/GB2 IconGeneration Break is a mechanic seen only on cards from the G-Boosters. This restricts abilities to only being used when there are face-up G-Units on the Vanguard Circle or in the G-Zone. The G-Zone is a separate deck of up to eight cards, and contains Grade 4 units which cannot be included in the main deck – they are turned face up by performing an action called Stride, which is only available when both players have upgraded their Vanguard to Grade 3 or higher. To skip to how to perform Stride, click here.

Simultaneous abilities

Sometimes, several cards will have the timing for their effects fulfilled at the same time. In this case, the player decides the order in which the effects will activate.


For example, if Witch of Ravens, Chamomile and Witch of Frogs, Melissa were Soul Blasted at the same time, both of their effects would be able to activate at once. However, they are resolved one at a time, so the player would call one of the cards, then call the other. Either Melissa or Chamomile can be called first, and both will be able to be called.

In Vanguard, effects cannot ‘miss the timing’ – when an automatic ability has been triggered, it is always able to resolve if applicable. This means that, even if abilities interrupt others, they can still activate. Let’s look at a more complicated example:


In this example, the two copies of Onifundo activate at the beginning of the Main Phase. The player decides to use the first copy of Onifundo to call Hiden Scroll. At this point, the player can resolve Hiden Scroll or the second Onifundo, but chooses to resolve Hiden Scroll. Hiden Scroll returns to the deck to call two copies of Million Rat, both of whose effects could activate at this time. At this point, the player can choose to activate either the effects of Million Rat or of the second Onifundo. The player chooses to Counterblast 1 to call another Million Rat, then finally resolves the second Onifundo. Even though both Onifundo activated at the same time, one was resolved much later than the other!

It is also worth noting that players may choose the order in which effects end in the End Phase. If a unit is locked, for example, but is also supposed to return to the deck in the End Phase, the player may choose to return it to the deck first (which it cannot do, owing to how Lock works), then unlock it. This also works with Stride – players can return the Stride unit to the G Zone before or after resolving other End Phase effects.

How to Legion

Legion is an active ability which may only be used by certain Vanguards when both players have a Grade 3 or greater Vanguard. It allows the Vanguard to share the Vanguard Circle with another specific unit, counting as one Vanguard. Usually, this is between a Grade 3 and a Grade 2, but sometimes it is two Grade 3s. Don’t worry, this is less confusing than it sounds! The easiest way to understand Legion is to look at an example:


This is a unit in Legion state. To Legion, you use the active ability of your Vanguard to return exactly four cards from the Drop Zone to the Deck, search the deck for the ‘Mate’ (which, in this case, is Midday Regalia, Hemera’) and place it alongside the Vanguard. As you can see, not only does the art flow over between the cards, but there are additional symbols on the bottom of the cards, forming a crest. This serves as a reminder that the Mate is placed to the left of the ‘Leader’. At this point, both units are the player’s Vanguard, and take up only the Vanguard Circle.

When a Vanguard in Legion attacks, it counts as having the combined power of the two units, shown by the ‘Legion 20000’ on the Leader. The Vanguard can be boosted as usual, and may perform two Drive Checks, as per its Twin Drive ability. If an attack in Legion hits, then, unless an effect states otherwise, it does one damage, just like a normal Vanguard. When a unit in Legion is attacked, however, only the Leader’s power is used to calculate who wins. For the purposes of defence, therefore, the above pair would only be at 11000 power, and so Legion can be seen as a more offensively focussed skill.

Legion may be performed in the Main Phase of any turn, provided the card has not already performed Legion. If the player using Legion went first, when they rode to Grade 3, they would not be able to perform Legion on that turn (as their opponent would be on Grade 2) – on their next turn, however, it would be possible for Legion to occur! Legion may only be performed once with the same Vanguard, so, if a player wishes to perform Legion again, then they must first Ride another Vanguard. When a Vanguard in Legion is ridden over in this way, both the Mate and the Leader enter the soul.

How to Stride

Striding is perhaps an easier mechanic to understand than Legion. Players may have a separate deck of eight face down Grade 4 units, which is placed in the G-Zone. When both players have a Vanguard of Grade 3 or higher, a player can discard cards from their hand with a total grade of 3 or higher to choose one face-down unit and place it on top of their Vanguard. This occurs in the Stride Phase, which follows the Ride Phase, allowing the player who goes second to Stride first. This is an example G-Unit:


There are two things to note about the card: it has Sk tripledrive (Triple Drive), which allows it to check three cards from the top of the deck when it attacks; secondly, its power is 15000+. Stride units are unique in the fact that they take on the characteristics of the card they Strode on top of. The previous Vanguard (or Vanguards, if in Legion) become the Heart, and you choose one of the Heart Units, and the Stride unit gains that card’s name, power and state (as in being at Rest or Stand).


In this example, ‘Miracle Element, Atmos’ is also called ‘Fantasy Petal Storm, Shirayuki’, and has 26000 power when it attacks. This only uses the printed power of the card. The Normal Unit Shirayuki is not considered to be in the Soul, as the Heart is different.

Strides only last until the end of the turn they were used. At the End Phase, the G-Unit returns to the G-Zone face-up, and that face-up card cannot be used again. The Vanguard remains in the state the Stride was in at the end of the turn (so, it would be at rest if the G-Unit attacked), and the Heart Cards become the Vanguard again. Any cards in Legion remain in Legion state though are not counted as Legion when you have a G-Unit on the Vanguard Circle, so effects that only work if your Vanguard is in Legion wont take effect.


In this instalment, we have covered effect types, symbols, timings, Legion and Striding. In the next instalment, we will cover G-Assist and the rules for deck construction!

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Cardfight Vanguard singles are available to purchase at Big Orbit Cards: Cardfight Vanguard.


How to Play Cardfight!! Vanguard: The Absolute Basics

Welcome to the first part of our discussion and introduction to the world of Vanguard! In these articles, we’ll be trying to explain the rules of the game in a logical and easy to follow fashion, explaining potential points of confusion along the way.

What is Vanguard?

Vanguard is a trading card game with several interesting features. Players use various cards named units to fight on their behalf, the most important of which is the Vanguard. This is a unit which becomes stronger over the course of the game and can never be destroyed, but which slowly takes damage from the enemy’s attacks. When it takes six damage, represented by losing the top card of the deck, the player who owns it loses. The primary form of defence in the game is to use cards from the hand to protect units, so this means that, in order to attack more strongly, that player sacrifices defence. There are no ‘spells’ or ‘sorceries’ in the game, so all special effects come from the units themselves. Finally, some cards in the deck have special effects when they are revealed, named Trigger Units, which can range from doing more damage to drawing a card to healing the damage inflicted over the course of the game.


Units come in a variety of different forms, but the most important distinction between them is their Grade. There are currently five different Grades: 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4, although, for the time being, we will only concentrate on 0-3.G-BT03-053EN-C

This is an example Trigger Unit, Witch of Black Doves, Goewin. The top-left corner states its grade and ability (Boost, Sk boost), while the top-right corner states its Trigger effect (Critical and +5000 Power). Only Grade 0 units can be Triggers, and all decks have to run exactly sixteen of them. The middle-left box (with the sideways text) states the card’s Shield value, which in this case is 10000. Grade 3 and 4 units have no shield value. The white-tinted box is the card’s effect, which many (but not all) units have. The bottom-left corner contains the card’s Power (4000), the bottom-middle the card’s Critical (damage on attack), and the bottom-right the card’s Clan (Shadow Paladin) and Race (Elf).


By contrast, this is an example Normal Unit – the Grade 3, Chronojet Dragon. This card has no Shield value or Trigger effect, and also a different ability (Twin Drive, Sk twindrive). Its power is significantly higher (11000). This card is a more offensive unit, but doesn’t have any Shield.

The ability symbols are common to all units of that grade. Grade 0 and 1 units have Boost (Sk boost), which allows them to increase the Power of other units when they attack; Grade 2 units have Intercept (Sk intercept), which allows them to guard even when on the field; Grade 3 units have Twin Drive (Sk twindrive), which allows them to check two triggers when they attack as a vanguard.

The Field

The field for Vanguard is somewhat unusual compared to other TCGs. It features one ‘Vanguard Circle’ (which is the blue upper-middle circle) and five ‘Rearguard Circles’. Each circle may only contain one unit (with the exception of Legion), and units may only declare attacks when on the front row (unless an effect says otherwise). Intercepting (the Grade 2 ability) is also only able to occur on a front row Rearguard circle. The back row can be occupied by any unit, but is most usefully occupied by Grade 0 or 1 units, who can Boost an attacking unit in the same column. The Drop Zone is equivalent to the Graveyard in other games, and is the location retired units enter. The Trigger Zone is a special ‘holding zone’ used when attacking or taking damage. The Damage Zone is where cards taken as damage are held.

How to Set Up

The game begins by both players choosing a Grade 0 unit from their deck as their first Vanguard, then shuffling and drawing five cards. Players look at their hand, and once before the game begins, may return any number of cards from it into the deck, shuffle, and draw back as many cards as they put back. This allows players to improve their opening hand, and is used to find units from each grade, as they are needed to strengthen the player’s Vanguard. When both players have performed this step, then the game begins with the first turn.

Turn Structure

The order of a turn is as follows:

  1. Stand Phase
  2. Draw Phase
  3. Ride Phase
  4. Stride Phase (to be covered in the next article)
  5. Main Phase
  6. Battle Phase
  7. End Phase

Stand and Draw Phases

The first two steps of the turn are to ‘Stand’ (turn any sideways units upright) and then to draw a card from the deck. This is equivalent to the ‘untap’ step of games such as Magic the Gathering.

Ride Phase

The Ride Phase is the point in your turn where you can improve your vanguard, increasing its grade. Units of higher grades tend to have higher powers, so it is really important for both offence and defence to get to grade 3 as soon as possible.

A ‘Ride’ is where a player places a unit of the same or one grade higher as their Vanguard onto the Vanguard Circle. The previous Vanguard stays in place below the new one, creating a stack of cards known as the ‘Soul’. Riding can only be performed once a turn.

Main Phase

During the Main Phase, units can be placed on Rearguard circles from the hand in an action known as ‘Calling’. They can only be called if they are the same Grade or lower than the Vanguard (another reason why increasing the Grade of the Vanguard is vital), but other than that, as many can be called in a single turn as the user wishes. If a unit is placed on an already occupied circle, then the unit beneath it enters the Drop Zone. During this phase, units are able to move back and forth in the same column, trading places between the front and back rows), but cannot be moved between columns. Active (ACT) effects can only be activated during the Main Phase.

The Battle Phase

The Battle Phase is when attacks may be declared. Units attack one by one if and when the controller wishes.

Declaring an attack

Attacks may be directed against any unit in the front row, allowing players a choice between dealing damage and attempting to remove the opponent’s Rearguards (who enter the drop zone when hit). There is no ‘summoning sickness’ in the game, so all units may attack and boost on the turn they are called. Fighting in Vanguard works by comparing the power of the attacking unit with that of the defender, and then, if the attacker’s power is equal to or higher than the defending unit, the defender is hit. For example, if a 11000 power unit attacks another 11000 unit, then that unit is hit. However, units can boost others, which means that they can add their power to the unit in front, greatly increasing their power.

Attacking1In this example, the opponent’s Vanguard would be hit, even though the Rearguard’s own power is only 8000. As the unit behind the attacking Rearguard is a Grade 1 and is on the back row, it can boost the unit above it, adding its 8000 power onto the attack. Thus, they attack for 16000 when combined, which is easily enough to hit the Vanguard! When units attack or boost, they are turned sideways into ‘Rest position’, which shows that they cannot do that action again. Units can attack again on the same turn if an effect causes them to re-Stand, but, outside of Stand Triggers, these effects are rare. Most decks, therefore, will perform between one and three attacks a turn.

Attacking units suffer no consequences for a failed attack, so, even if the opponent’s unit overpowers them, they will not be retired or take damage.


Guarding occurs after the initial declaration of the attack, and before Triggers are checked. Guarding units are called from the hand to the Guardian Circle, which is between both players, or are moved there from the front row if they are Grade 2s using their Intercept ability.

attacking2Here, the Gear Chronicle player has guarded the attack from hand using a 10000 Shield. The Shield Value of the card is added to the Vanguard’s power, effectively making the opponent’s Vanguard 21000 power. Thus, the attack of the Rearguard is blocked, as its power is too low to hit. No Drive Checks occur, as the attacking unit is a rear-guard, and the unit used to guard is retired and placed in the drop zone. In this way, units can only be used to guard against attacks once, so efficient defending is very important!

Triggers and Damage

When your Vanguard attacks, after the opponent has declared guard, you reveal the top card or two cards (if using Twin Drive) of your deck. If a Trigger is revealed, it activates – this is called a Drive Check. Triggers combine two effects when revealed, and these can be assigned separately. All Triggers have an effect to give a 5000 power boost until the end of the turn they are revealed, but also have a second effect. Critical Triggers make a unit do extra damage to the Vanguard should they hit, with each Critical increasing damage by one; Stand Triggers allow a Rearguard which is at Rest to stand (and attack) again; Draw Triggers allow the owner to draw a card; Heal Triggers allow the owner to remove one damage by taking it from the Damage Zone and putting it in the Drop Zone, provided that the owner has more or equal damage to their opponent. Cards revealed during a Drive Check are added to the hand, which effectively means that players draw two to three cards a turn if they attack. Even if your Vanguard’s power is too low to hit anything, it is still worth attacking to get these free cards!

attacking3In this example, the Vanguard is attacking. This attack can be blocked with 10000 shield, but if the Vanguard were to check a Trigger, the added power would allow the attack to go through.

If the attack hit, the opponent would take one damage. Damage is tracked by revealing the top card of the deck and placing it into the Damage Zone face-up, and any Trigger Effects take place at this time. For example, if you took a damage and revealed a Draw Trigger, you would still get to draw a card and give a unit an extra 5000 power until the end of the turn. It is worth noting that Triggers revealed in this way technically go to the Trigger Zone when being resolved,  so Heal Triggers cannot heal themselves, as they are not actually in the Damage Zone at the time. Heal Triggers allow the player to survive taking their sixth damage, as they heal before entering the Damage Zone.


So, in this instalment, we have covered Grades and their abilities, the Vanguard and Rear-Guards, set-up, turn structure, Trigger types, attacking, guarding and taking damage. Next time, we’ll explore card effects.

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In-Depth Look at League of Legends: Ekko – The Boy Who Shattered Time

Ekko – The Boy Who Shattered Time

A prodigy from the rough streets of Zaun, Ekko manipulates time to spin any situation to his advantage. Using his own invention, the Zero-Drive, he explores the branching possibilities of reality.

Ekko is a high mobility, Ability Power champion who can be played as either a bruiser or an assassin. His high mobility, burst and sustained damage make him a great champion for both inexperienced and experienced players alike.


z-drive-resonance Z-Drive Resonance. [Passive]
passive-inactionEkko’s Zero-Drive charges his spells and attacks with temporal energy. The third hit deals bonus damage and saps the target’s movement speed. If the target is a champion, Ekko gains accelerated movement speed.

This ability is great for chasing down your enemies, as you’ll unleash devastating burst damage on your enemy and then be able to follow up for the kill. This ability will allow you to stick to anyone as long as you can attack-move.

This ability isn’t the best in the game, and it’s very weak if you’re behind in the game; this ability was created for when you’re winning, and, when you are, you’re going to keep winning.

timewinder Timewinder. [Q]
Ekko throws a device that deals 60/75/90/105/120 (+0.2*Ability Power) magic damage to enemies it passes through. It expands into a slowing field on the first champion hit, slowing everything inside by 32/39/46/53/60%. It then returns to him after a delay, dealing 60/85/110/135/160 (+0.6*Ability Power) magic damage to all targets hit upon return.

Cost: 60/70/80/90/100 Mana. Range: 1075. Cooldown: 11/10/9/8/7 seconds (based on progression).

q-inactionThis is going to be your poke during the laning phase, and will serve as your zoning ability to allow you to keep your enemies away from valuable members of your team.

Timewinder allows you to farm safely, and quickly conquer your enemies. Make sure you’re at full health for when the enemy finally tries to engage on you; you should make sure that you poke down your enemy’s life points before you fully commit to a fight as you are an assassin champion; you want to burst them down, then back out. Max this first.

parallel-convergence Parallel Covergence. [W]
Passive: Ekko’s basic attacks deal bonus magic damage to enemies under 30% health equal to 4% (+0.02*Ability Power) of their missing health (max 400 damage vs. minions and monsters).

Active: After a 3 second delay, Ekko creates a short-lived chronosphere at the target location that slows enemies who enter by 40%. If Ekko enters the sphere, he will detonate it, gaining a shield that absorbs up to 150/195/240/285/330 (+0.8*AP) damage for 2 seconds. Enemies caught inside are stunned for 2.3 seconds.
Cost: 30/40/50/60/70 Mana. Range: 1600. Cooldown: 22/20/18/16/14 seconds (based on progression).

w-inactionThe passive ability means that you will easily deplete your foes’ health pool before you realise how much damage you’ve dealt. However, don’t focus solely on dealing auto attacks – because you’re not a defensive champion, you will die relatively fast if you try to become an ADC.

The active on the other hand, is exactly why you’d want to level up this ability second, after Timewinder. Parallel Convergence will easily allow you to win many team fights with ease; having a 2.3 second stun on all enemies caught within the field is a game winning ability.

If you remember the Tempered Fate ability from our Bard review, imagine an ability that doesn’t affect your allies and still allows you to attack – this is what Parallel Convergence does.

phase-dive Phase Dive. [E]
Ekko dashes a short distance in the targeted direction. His next attack will deal 50/80/110/140/170 (+0.2*Ability Power) bonus magic damage and teleport him to his target.
Cost: 40/50/60/70/80 Mana. Range: 325. Cooldown: 15/13/11/9/7 seconds (based on progression).e-inaction

This ability further allows you to stick to your targets, but can also serve as a good escape when you see a gank incoming.

It’s damage is minimal, but it is extremely useful in team fights for focusing on a specific target. Max last, as it is simply utility.

chronobreak Chronobreak. [R]
Makes Ekko invulnerable and untargetable, and teleports him back to wherever he was 4 seconds ago. Ekko heals himself for 100/150/200 + 20/25/30% (+0.03*Ability Power) of the damage taken over the last 4 seconds, and deals 200/350/500 (+1.3*Ability Power) magic damage to all nearby enemies on arrival.
Cost: 0 Mana. Range: 850. Cooldown: 90/80/70 seconds (based on progression).r-inaction

Chronobreak is the ability that Riot has focused on to make this champion stand out. This ability is great for turning the battle when your enemy is chasing you.

This ability heals you, deals damage, gets you out of danger, and costs no mana; it is great for any situation, and can be used in combination with your Parallel Convergence to instantly stun the enemy team, but you need to make sure that your clone (teleport point) is where you’re placing it.



masteriesThese are my masteries that are focused towards gaining damage, but granting Ekko some defence. For Ekko, I aim for Havoc for the +3% damage globally, along with Juggernaut from the defensive tree for the 3% increase to your maximum health.

I also pick up Arcane Blade from the offensive tree, for the bonus magic damage equal to 5% of your ability power to work in combination with your passive effect from Parallel Convergence.


Greater Quintessence of Ability Power
quint-ability-power +4.95 Ability Power
Greater Mark of Magic Penetration
mark-of-ability-power +0.87 Magic Penetration
Greater Seal of Armour
seal-bard +1 Armour
Greater Glyph of Ability Power
glyph-of-magic-resist +1.19 Ability Power

The runes I use for this build are focused around gaining, and keeping the advantage against your opponents throughout the entire game, but you should aim to help your allies snowball to win.

Ability Power and Hybrid Penetration marks are optional here, but I choose to stick with a mix between the two. If you go full ability power, you always have the option of buying a Void Staff earlier to compliment them.

Summoner Spells:


With Ekko’s unique mobility kit, the standard choice is to have Ignite and Flash.

You can of course pick Flash, along with Teleport, if that’s what feels right for you; it will help against champions that are going to focus on staying in top lane who pose a threat to your turrets, such as Nasus, Tryndamere, and Singed.

Early Game:
During the early game, you need to focus on getting the best CS in your lane. You’ll want to make sure you’re using your Timewinder to keep the pressure up, and to keep up with the farm, otherwise you’ll need to be in melee range to last hit.

Enemies will try to dive on you while you are low level, because that’s when you’re at your most vulnerable. You can’t counter this without relying on dealing damage before hand from your poke.

The items you’re going to want are a Doran’s Ring, 2 Health potions and a Warding Totem.


Mid Game:
You should aim to attack your teammates lanes, because you’ll easily be able to escape if it doesn’t go too well, or you can use your Chronobreak if you see an enemy approaching you from behind to lower their health pool dramatically, and potentially kill them.

The key thing to bear in mind when using Phase Dive on your enemies is knowing when your allies are going in for a kill. Don’t go in alone, only to realise that your burst isn’t sufficient to kill more than one person, and that you then have nothing left at your disposal.

The items you should have by mid game are Sorcerer’s Shoes, Lich Bane, and a Needlessly Large Rod for Luden’s Echo.


Late Game:
During this stage of the game, you’ll need to try to use Parallel Convergence decisively to achieve swift victory.

Try to use Timewinder on as many enemies as possible while focussing either their ADC or APC to potentially kill them or force them out of the fight. Your abilities will easily win you the game if you use them correctly: you can Phase Dive into your Parallel Convergence to activate its stun, instead of Chronobreak or Flash if you’ve previously used them to escape or to deal damage.

Teamfights are where you will contribute the most, with your huge AoE damage and CC abilities. You are a threat to the enemy team, and they’ll ignore your team to try and take you out; this is where you can heal up any damage with your ultimate, regroup with your team and quickly turn the tides of the battle.

End game items should be Sorcerer’s Shoes, Zhonya’s Hourglass, Rabadon’s Deathcap, Void Staff, and Lich Bane. Of course your elixir will be either the Elixir of Sorcery, or an Elixir of Iron against the more CC orientated teams.

void-staffrabadon's-deathcaplich-banesorcerer's-shoesluden's-echo  elixir-of-sorcery

For your last item, you’ll have the choice of either a Rod of Ages (if you buy it early), a Zhonya’s Hourglass, or a Guardian Angel, most of the time, I prefer to choose Zhonya’s Hourglass over the other two, simply because it gives me damage, and while in stasis, I can maybe get off another ability when I get out, or it can be used to set up Chronobreak for a huge burst of damage. Guardian’s Angel will be an option if the enemy’s team is comprised of 5 assassins.



Counter Picks:

Great at dealing with enemies from afar, and will leave you terrified as you attempt to keep even with the enemy’s CS.

The CC at Lissandra’s disposal will zone you out of your lane if you get remotely close to the creeps, and she will dominate your lane until you’re completely useless.

To counteract this, request a few ganks from your jungler. If he isn’t willing, or can’t do this, then try not to die, and gather as much experience as you can. Don’t think that you’re useless in this lane, because you can win it if you poke Lissandra down before she pokes you.

Simply, this is a range issue: Caitlyn’s Auto Attack range is double that of Ekko’s Phase Dive, so you won’t be getting anywhere close to Caitlyn, but even if you did, she’ll simply use her 90 Caliber Net to get knocked back, and will continue her onslaught.

Just keep trying to get onto Caitlyn with the jump you get from using Phase Dive on your next auto attack. Sooner or later, she’ll slip up, and you’ll likely kill her from full health.

Gnar has the ability to attack you from range, and then gain a massive buff that changes his abilities dramatically and turn himself into a melee champion. You will need to know when to attack, because Gnar’s damage output can leave you speechless.

Yes, your Timewinder does a lot of damage, but so does his entire kit. Stay away from walls, and poke him down enough to the point where a kill is possible.


  • Parallel Convergence [W] is an exceptional ability, considering it is a basic ability.
  • Insane CC possibilities – allows you to choose your fight.
  • High poke damage throughout all phases of the game.
  • Can work well with the summoner spells Flash/Teleport, instead of the usual Flash/Ignite.


  • Overall short ranged – hard to survive against certain match-ups.
  • Parallel Convergence can easily be avoided.
  • As an assassin, you need to stay away from the centre of a fight, and pick off your targets one by one.


Ekko is a very versatile champion, and should be feared throughout the game. He shines in the Middle and Top lanes, and has the possibility of helping your team snowball. Your auto attacks deal a lot of damage, along with the rest of your kit, and you shouldn’t under-estimate your ability to deal damage, but you shouldn’t get over-confident either, because you’re a very squishy champion. More often than not, you’re going to struggle to obtain creep score (CS), but don’t let this put you off this champion, because you’ll easily be able to win your lane versus your opponents, with your highly damaging poke, and the ability to escape from fights with ease.

Thank you for reading!

Luke – Big Orbit Games.

Big Orbit are a hobby games retailer that specialises in the sale of individual trading cards and game components – Big Orbit also runs a Gaming venue in Evesham, Worcs, UK.

All images, and quotes used belong to Riot Games, inc. And their respective partners.


Yu-Gi-Oh! – Advanced Ban List – April

We’ve seen the ban list take multiple hits in the past, and the latest ban list took a huge hit recently with cards banned that some of the older decks relied upon; cards that have been added back into the game.

These are a few of the cards that I feel the need to discuss, as they’re likely going to influence the game the most.

Ban List Terms

Forbidden = Card cannot be used within a duel.
Limited = Only one of this card may be used per deck.
Semi-Limited = Only two of this card may be used per deck.

skill-drainSkill Drain has become limited, this has impacted many decks across all of Yu-Gi-Oh, and will leave plenty of room for a greater variety of decks to see competitive play.

Skill Drain was widely known as the most feared card in Yu-Gi-Oh for a long time. It made most of the decks used today completely useless until they were able to draw a Mystical Space Typhoon, or another ‘destroy trap card’ ability.

vanity's-emptinessVanity’s Emptiness is another card that has been made limited, and this will impact some of the older decks as they rely on this card to counter the more mainstream decks that are used today.

Yosenju are a new archetype that has been particularly impacted by this. Yosenju revolve around normal summoning from the hand, and then returning the cards back to your hand during your end phase; none of these count as a special summon, nor do they send this card to the graveyard from the 2nd ability of this card.

ring-of-destructionRing of Destruction has changed from forbidden to limited this month. Ring of Destruction needs to be played well to maximise the damage inflicted on an opponent; you wouldn’t want to activate this card when your opponent attacks you with a 500 attack monster, and then be unable to use it if they special summon a 3500 attack monster later.

This card can be very versatile in the right circumstances, but at the very least, it can draw you the game, and at other times, it’s a card that won’t do anything for you.

tour-guide-from-the-underwordlTour Guide from the Underworld is a newly limited card and for good reason. This card is capable of XYZ summoning Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss from her effect.

This card is also extremely powerful in many decks, which in my opinion, means it was definitely a smart decision of Konami’s to limit it.

snatch-stealSnatch Steal is simply one of the most powerful cards for many decks. Capable of taking control of one of your enemy’s best monsters; it was a staple for many decks, like Raigeki is now.

You can get past paying the cost for this card by using a Book of Moon, or anything that flips a card from face-up, to face-down; it will remove the equip feature of this card, and it’ll be sent to the graveyard, but you’ll still keep the chosen card on your side of the field.

This card was made forbidden in April’s ban list, and is no longer usable in duels.

Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms, along with other tempest,-dragon-ruler-of-stormsDragon Rulers were recently either added to the ban list as forbidden, or were removed from the list completely.

Dragon Rulers in their time were considered extremely powerful, and were one of the most feared monsters; it will be interesting to see how they’re going to manage in today’s competition.
crush-card-virusCrush Card Virus is arguably the most frowned upon card, but many don’t think it’s too powerful because of decks like Frog Monarch, where the base attack is relatively low for their monsters.

This card is now limited to one-per-deck, however, I can’t help to wonder how much of an impact this will have on many decks, not only about creating decks based around Crush Card Virus, but decks to defend against it.

Qliphort users have EN_GLD3_2010_04_30_13_06_20been hit hard with Qliphort Scout, and Saqlifice coming onto the ban list.

Qliphort Scout has become a semi-limited card, which won’t destroy the deck alone, but it means that the deck will no longer be tier 0.

With Saqlifice being limited to one, will have the biggest impact and will definitely lower these decks to a high tier 2.

Overall the ban list for April will have a huge impact on Yu-Gi-Oh!, from very basic decks, to the more recent decks. There are a lot of cards that haven’t been mentioned in this article, but we’ve discussed the main changes to the game so far, and we hope that the bans haven’t hurt your deck too badly, if at all.

For a full list of the banned cards for April, please check this link out:

Also, don’t forget to check out our website.

Thank you for reading!

Luke – Big Orbit Games.

Big Orbit are a hobby games retailer that specialises in the sale of individual trading cards and game components – Big Orbit also runs a Gaming venue in Evesham, Worcs, UK.