The Active Player
Bits and Bolts - Exploring TF:TCG Synergy
Welcome to Bits and Bolts, a series intended to help Transformers the Trading Card Game newcomers discover some of the valuable interactions between different cards.
This article is published in tandem with Ansel Cox and Brian Blair's Quake article for Computron's Lab. Please also read that article for some in depth thinking on what should go into a Quake deck.
A concept you will eventually come across in TF:TCG is that, when a bunch of somethings happen at the same time, the attacking player does their parts of the somethings, and then the defending player does their parts of the somethings. Or more formally, borrowing from a recent roundup, "when both players trigger an ability at the same time, the active player's abilities will complete before the defending player's". As this has been a big topic in Wave 5, let's take a deeper look at this.
Wave 5's problem maker, Decepticon Quake, is the best example of having to think about the active player. Decepticon Quake has a brilliantly chaotic feature; when someone is KO'd he does 1 damage to everyone but him. That doesn't sound like a lot at first, doing 1 damage to everyone wouldn't be a game-changing battle card, but if someone else is KO'd by that damage it can connect into a whole complex cascade of KO's and damaged bots. Wave 5's introduction of Head and Body Modes contributes even more to that complexity.
Let's walk through some plays with Quake in Body mode. First, let's introduce the two teams we'll be using throughout this article. On the Decepticon's side, we have Decepticon Quake, his head Kreb, the ever lovely wolf-bat-thing Fangry, his head Vorath, and our filler for 10 stars, Windsweeper. Facing off against Quake & team are Sergeant Kup, his head Autobot Stylor, the clinical-flipper Perceptor, his head Parsec, and Dinobot Snarl, irascible filler for 7 stars. First let's look at what happens when a Body mode character is KO'd and their Head deployed:
- Windsweeper attacks into Sergeant Kup, KO'ing him. "Deploy Autobot Stylor" is triggered for the Autobot team. Quake's Body mode effect is triggered for the Decepticon team.
- The Decepticon team is the active player, so they resolve their triggered effects first. Per Quake, they do 1 damage to everyone except Quake.
- The Autobot team is the other player. The Autobots have one effect to resolve, namely deploying Stylor.
Let's turn the table on the Decepticons by looking at what happens when the Autobots attack:
- Perceptor attacks into Fangry, KO'ing him. "Deploy Vorath" is triggered. Quake's Body mode effect is also triggered.
- The Autobot team is the active player, so they resolve their triggered effects first; however they have no effects here.
- The Decepticon team is the other player, they resolve their triggered effects. They have two effects to resolve and can choose to deploy the head first to kick off another round of damage, or to do the damage first.
- If they do the damage first, everyone will take 1 damage and then Vorath will deploy. The battlefield will look like this:
- If, however, they choose to deploy Vorath first and then take the damage, Vorath will be KO'd by the Quake damage and kick off a subsequent Quake effect. Again the active player has no triggered abilities, so the Decepticons will do 1 damage to everyone but Quake again. The battlefield ends up looking like this, with 2 damage on the remaining characters other than Quake:
As we've seen, the trick with Quake is making sure you follow active/inactive player order. Let's make it a bit more complicated by putting some damage on Perceptor:
- Let's go back to Decepticons attacking. Windsweeper attacks into Sergeant Kup, KO'ing him. "Deploy Autobot Stylor" is triggered. Quake's Body mode effect is also triggered.
- The Decepticon team is the active player, they resolve their triggered effects first. There's only one, so they do 1 damage to each character. This KO's Perceptor, which triggers another Quake effect, and a "Deploy Parsec" trigger.
- As we have kicked off more triggered abilities, we put all of the abilities lined up for resolution on hold, in this case deploying Autobot Stylor, and we resolve the new triggered abilities. To resolve this new trigger, we start with the Active player again, and the Decepticon player does 1 damage to everyone but Quake.
- Now we go to the Autobot team and they resolve their Deploy Parsec trigger.
- Finally we go back to the triggered abilties we put on hold. The player who was resolving things was the Decepticon player, but they have no remaining triggers to resolve. It's on to the Autobot team.
- The Autobots deploy Stylor. Here's how we end up:
Note that putting a triggered effect on hold comes from this part of the Expanded Rules: "If multiple abilities trigger at the same time, and during the resolution of those abilities one or more new triggered abilities trigger, the remaining original triggered abilities wait until the newer abilities are all handled".
Let's look at one more Quake example, this time we'll start a small Quake cascade:
- Sticking with Decepticons attacking. Windsweeper attacks into Sergeant Kup, KO'ing him. "Deploy Autobot Stylor" is triggered. Quake's Body mode effect is also triggered.
- The Decepticon team is the active player, they resolve their triggered effects first. There's only one, so they do 1 damage to each character. This KO's Fangry, which triggers another Quake effect, and a "Deploy Vorath" trigger.
- As we have kicked off another triggered ability, we again put the Deploy Stylor trigger on hold and resolve the new triggered abilitities. To resolve this new trigger, we start with the Active player again. The Decepticon player has two triggers to resolve, and they decide to deploy Vorath first before they do 1 damage to everyone. This kicks off another Quake effect as Vorath has been KO'd.
- There are no triggers remaining to be put on hold (though remember that we still have an earlier Deploy Stylor trigger on hold for later). It's back to the active player, for the Vorath KO Quake effect, doing 1 damage to everyone again. Perceptor has now taken 3 damage, from Kup, Fangry and Vorath's KOs, and has been KO'd himself. This triggers a "Deploy Parsec" trigger and another Quake effect trigger.
- Again we don't have any active triggers other than Deploy Stylor, so the active player does 1 damage to everyone.
- Next the inactive player deploys Parsec.
- Lastly we go back to the triggered abilties we put on hold. The player who was resolving things was the Decepticon player, but they have no remaining triggers to resolve. It's on to the Autobot team and Stylor is deployed.
- Whew - 4 KO's later, we're done.
Hopefully as you follow through that example you can see that if we would have put a second triggered ability on hold, it would have been the first one to have been resolved. If you've read our previous Showing off with Stacks article, you'll see that the same concept is at play here.
As if this isn't getting complex enough, there are other cards that will trigger an ability from a character being KO'd, such as a Revenge effect, Elita-1 playing cards off the top of the deck, Insecticon Venin and Bug Bomb causing problem's for their opponent, or an Erratic Energy Grenade sending out 2 damage to all opponent characters. Sprinkle a little of these in, and that last Quake cascade could have been epic. The same concepts we've covered above should help in all of these situations, namely to follow these rules:
- Active Player First: Resolve triggers for the active player, then the inactive player.
- Player's Choice: A player chooses the order when they have are resolving multiple triggered abilities at the same time.
- Hold the Old: If a new KO happens, put the triggered effects you've not resolved yet on hold until you've dealt with all the triggers from the new KO event.
I hope this helps. Decepticon Quake represents the latest step in the steady-complexity growth of Transformers the Trading Card Game. It'll take us all a little while, but soon enough we'll all be comfortably causing chaos cascades and laughing maniacally.
If you'd like some deeper reading, you can check out the Decepticon Quake Rules Roundup and the "Triggered Abilities" and "Handling Multiple Triggered Abilities" section of the Expanded Rules 2.0; and of course you should read Ansel Cox and Brian Blair's Quake article for Computron's Lab.
Thank you for reading!