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Understanding the Damage Step

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Understanding the Damage Step


The Damage Step is considered one of the most annoying and difficult parts of Yu-Gi-Oh! to grasp. However, it is simple once you've learned it. Today, I will be teaching you how the Damage Step works.

Firstly, you must know that during the Damage Step, there are rules as to what cards you can activate. Generally, only the following cards and effects can be activated during the Damage Step:


  • Counter Trap Cards (these are Spell Speed 3, and can be activated at any time. Ex: Solemn Warning, Dark Bribe)
  • Spell Speed 2 effects that respond to the activation of a card, and negate it (The phrase respond to the activation is important. A card must specifically say something like "When a card/effect is activated:" to fall in this category. Cards like Fiendish Chain, which do not have this text, cannot be used in the Damage Step. Ex: Evolzar Laggia, Bujingi Turtle)
  • Spell Speed 2 effects that alter the ATK or DEF of a monster (2 notes for this one. Firstly, the effect must directly alter the ATK or DEF of a card. Forbidden Lance works because it states on the card that the ATK will change, but Scapegoat won't work even if you control a card like United We Stand. Secondly, unless cards or rulings specify otherwise, these effects can only be activated up to Substep 3, which will be covered later. Ex: Forbidden Chalice, Fire Formation - Tensen)
  • Cards that specifically state "During the Damage Step" (The text of a card always overrides the rules of the game. If a card states it can be used during the Damage Step, follow the card's text. Ex: Nutrient Z)
  • Cards that have been ruled that they can be used during the Damage Step. (The rarest category. For some reason, Konami has decided these cards can be used during the Damage Step. It is a very small list though. Ex: Michizure, Attack and Receive)

Keeping those rules in mind, it is now time to move on to the actual meat of the Damage Step: Substeps. There are 7 substeps, and each has certain actions associated with it. Every time monsters attack, they enter the Damage Step. After that, they return to the Battle Step, and this continues until the turn player decides to end the Battle Phase. The Damage Step consists of the following substeps:

Substep 1 "Start of the Damage Step"

First, apply continuous effects that start applying at this step, such as Jain, Lightsworn Paladin or Steamroid. Look for "during the Damage Step only". Secondly, certain Trigger effects, such as Ally of Justice Catastor or Neo-Spacian Grand Mole, activate during this window. Note that we have not flipped a face-down monster yet, so if Ally of Justice Catastor attacks a face-down monster, it cannot activate. Spell Speed 2 effects that modify ATK and DEF can be activated during this substep.

Substep 2 "Face-down monsters are flipped face-up"

Firstly, if you are attacking a face-down monster, flip it up here. Flip Effects and Trigger Effects that respond to the monster being flipped DO NOT activate here. Those will come quite a bit later, in Substep 6. If the flipped monster has a Continuous effect, start applying it now (ex: Jinzo, Harpie Lady #1). One exception, if that monster's Continuous Effect is to destroy itself (Giant Kozaky), do not apply it yet. Spell Speed 2 effects that modify ATK and DEF can be activated during this substep.

Substep 3 "Before Damage Calculation"

Cards that state they activate "Before Damage Calculation" or "without applying Damage Calculation" will activate now. If they resolve, the Damage Step ends here. For example, cards like Drillroid or Ehren, Lightsworn Monk. Cards that activate when flipped up by an attack, like Blast Sphere, also activate at this time (and they usually skip damage calculation too). Spell Speed 2 effects that modify ATK and DEF can be activated during this substep.

Substep 4 "During Damage Calculation"

At this point on, Spell Speed 2 effects that modify ATK and DEF can no longer be activated unless they specify "During Damage Calculation". A card that fits this profile is Injection Fairy Lily Additionally, there is a special rule for this substep: Only 1 chain is allowed during Damage Calculation. This means that once you finish resolving a chain during Damage Calculation, no other cards can be activated until you move to the next substep. If, during this time, an effect activates that destroys one of the battling monsters (Herald of Orange Light, for example) then that monster is considered destroyed by that effect. However, damage is still calculated. Remember this!

Substep 5 "After Damage Calculation"

Firstly, if a player controls Flashbang, they activate it now before any other actions are taken. If Flashbang resolves successfully, the Damage Step ends here. From this point on, monsters are considered "destroyed by battle". However, we haven't physically moved them to the Graveyard. If you did not apply the Continuous Effect of a monster that destroys itself, apply it now only if that monster survived the battle. Battle damage is inflicted at this time, and effects that trigger when that happens (Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer) activate here. Additionally, cards that activate when they destroy a monster by battle, BUT DO NOT SPECIFY SENDING TO THE GRAVEYARD, activate here. Jurrac Guaiba is an example of this. Finally, cards that specify "after Damage Calculation" like Red Dragon Archfiend will activate at this time.

Substep 6 "Flip Effects"

Flip Effects and Trigger Effects that activate when a monster is flipped face-up activate here. Do note that monsters are considered "destroyed by battle" at this point, so any monster destroyed by battle cannot be selected as a target for these effects. As an example, if Penguin Soldier is attacked by Thunder King Rai-Oh, Penguin Soldier cannot return itself to the hand because it is already destroyed by battle.

Substep 7 "Monsters are sent to the Graveyard"

At this point, you physically move monsters to the Graveyard. Effects that activate when that happens (Crimson Blader) will activate at this time. Do note that if monsters can't be sent to the Graveyard, such as tokens or when Macro Cosmos is face-up, then these effects do not activate. As another note, if a monster that was itself destroyed by battle has one of these effects, it will not be on the field to activate.

Sounds complicated, right? Well, it can be. But I have given you the tools you need to understand this complex topic. While it looks very daunting at first, some hard work and patience will see you master this topic. Good luck!

Credits belong to clairedestroyer! of Medieval Chaos Academy.



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