(Metagame Archive) Cerebro #1

By Paul Ross

Welcome to the first edition of CEREBRO (which may or may not stand for Column Explaining Rules Enquiries by Readers of Metagame.com)!

I’m Paul Ross, a Level 2 judge from Sydney, Australia, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m the kind of guy who enjoys wading through the Comprehensive Rules document. (“Who wouldn’t?” as Peter Parker asks in the first movie.) I’m reliably informed, however, that this might not be everybody’s idea of zany fun.

At the same time, I’m guessing that many of you would like to improve your Vs. skills, and enhancing your rules knowledge is a great way to do just that. So, the idea of this column is to assist those of you who are perhaps not as dangerously rules-obsessed as myself, but still want to become more competitive (or even professional) at this fine game.

Please send your questions on any aspects of the Vs. System rules to vsrules@gmail.com. My only “rule” is that you let me know which part of the world you’re writing from. Simple, hey?

Since my mailbag’s a little on the light side at the moment (this being the first edition and all), the plan for the initial week is to explore a handful of areas that seem to cause the most confusion in tournaments and rules forums. So, without further ado . . .

1. Priority and the Chain

What’s priority? Who’s the primary player?

When you have priority, it’s “your turn” to do something if you choose to, such as play an effect, flip a location, or propose an attack. If you choose to do something, you retain priority to do something else. If you choose to do something else, you retain priority to do something else again. If you choose to do something else again . . . you get the idea.

Choosing to do nothing is called “passing” priority. After all players pass in succession (which takes way too long to type, so from now on I’ll just say “successive passes”) on an empty chain, the game progresses to the next phase/step/substep.

Inside one of the game’s four steps (resource, recruit, formation, and attack), the primary player is whoever owns the step. Outside these steps, the primary player is whoever has the initiative. At the beginning of each phase/step/substep, the primary player is the first to get priority.

When do effects resolve? Can I do something “in response?”

When you play an effect (including the recruit effect of a character or equipment), the effect is added to the chain. Only after successive passes does the most recently added effect resolve. Then the primary player gets priority.

If a player says he or she is doing something “in response,” that player is doing something before the most recent effect resolves. Remember that you retain priority whenever you do something, so your opponent won’t receive priority to do something “in response” until you pass. Generally, you can’t stop a player with priority from paying the cost of an effect (like exhausting a character to use an activated power), and once an effect is on the chain, doing anything to the source of that effect won’t disrupt the effect in any way.

Playing an effect is like shooting a basketball. Once it’s in the air, fouling the shooter won’t change the trajectory, and it certainly won’t have stopped the shot from being taken in the first place.

Example: Hugh Jackman is playing Anna Paquin in a Teen Titans mirror match and has priority in his attack step. Hugh opts to activate Terra targeting Anna’s Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal. Hugh retains priority, and then passes. In response, Anna exhausts Hawk to play Roy’s pump effect (retaining priority), then exhausts Dove to play Roy’s pump effect a second time, then passes. Hugh also passes, so the most recent pump effect resolves. Roy becomes 6 ATK/3 DEF, and priority shifts to the primary player (Hugh). After successive passes, the second pump effect resolves, making Roy 8 ATK/3 DEF. After Hugh passes, Anna activates Roy (KO’ing a resource) targeting Terra, and then passes. Hugh also passes, so Roy’s effect resolves and stuns Terra. After successive passes, Terra’s effect resolves (even though she has been stunned), replacing one of Hugh’s locations and stunning Roy.

Does flipping a location use the chain?

No. Flipping a location is an action that doesn’t use the chain, but rather “interrupts” successive passes.


Example: Patrick Stewart is attacking Ian McKellen’s Dr. Doom, Diabolic Genius with Poison Ivy and has priority on an empty chain. After Patrick passes, Ian flips Doomstadt and passes. The attack doesn’t conclude at this point, because flipping the location interrupted successive passes. Instead, Patrick gets priority. If he passes without taking any action, then the attack will conclude, because there were successive passes on an empty chain.


Some locations have a power that triggers when they’re flipped. Even though flipping a location doesn’t use the chain, any triggered effect from such a power is put on the chain.


Later in the same match, Ian no longer controls Dr. Doom. Patrick has a Fear and Confusion face-up in his resource row when Ian flips Latverian Embassy. The Embassy’s triggered effect is put on the chain, but its continuous power starts generating a modifier immediately. Therefore, if Ian were to pass priority, Patrick wouldn’t be able to play Fear and Confusion in response to the triggered effect. After successive passes, the triggered effect would resolve and Ian would discard a card.


Metropolis adds an interesting twist to this last example. Like Latverian Embassy, its triggered effect is put on the chain, but its continuous power starts generating a modifier immediately. However, because the triggered effect is the choosing of affiliations required to “fuel” the modifier, the modifier won’t actually do anything useful until the triggered effect resolves.


2. The Attack Step (and Attack Substep)

Will exhausting an attacker make an attack illegal? How will a team attack conclude if one of the attackers is stunned?

The key factor in these (and nearly all attack-related) questions is usually whether or not the attacker has exhausted.

An attack substep begins after successive passes on an empty chain following an attack proposal. An attack substep starts by rechecking the legality of the proposed attack (let’s call this the legality check). If it’s still legal, then proposed attackers exhaust and become attackers, proposed defenders become defenders, and the attacking player gets priority.

Before the legality check, there are no attackers or defenders—only proposed attackers and proposed defenders. If a proposed attacker becomes exhausted or stunned by the time of the legality check, then the proposed attack is illegal, even if there are other proposed team attackers who are still legal.

After the legality check, a legal attack will always remain legal until it concludes. Exhausting an attacker will not affect attack legality in any way. Stunning any number of team attackers (or the defender) will not make an attack illegal, but it may influence the conclusion of the attack.

An attack only concludes after successive passes on an empty chain. If there are no attackers remaining, then do nothing. If there is no defender remaining, then ready attackers. If at least one attacker and one defender remain, then compare ATK & DEF.

Example: Famke Janssen (Brotherhood) is playing Halle Berry (Doom) and has priority in her attack step. Famke proposes to team-attack Halle’s newly recruited Dr. Doom, Victor Von Doom with Sabretooth, Feral Rage and Rogue, Anna Raven. Famke retains priority, and then passes. Halle exhausts Dr. Doom to target Sabretooth with Mystical Paralysis. After successive passes, Mystical Paralysis resolves and exhausts Sabretooth. After successive passes on the now-empty chain, the attack substep begins, but the proposed attack fails the legality check because Sabretooth is no longer a legal proposed attacker. After successive passes, the attack concludes, but nothing happens because there are no attackers. Note that even though the proposed attack failed the legality check, an attack substep began and concluded. This may or may not have some relevance to a new mechanic in Marvel Knights (he says mysteriously . . . )


Never one to give up, Famke next proposes to team-attack Dr. Doom with Rogue and Quicksilver, Speed Demon, and then passes. Halle says “Legal,” indicating that she also passes, so the proposed attack will consequently pass the legality check. The two attackers exhaust, Rogue’s triggered power puts an effect on the chain, and the primary player (Famke) gets priority and passes. Halle knows that exhausting Rogue now will not impact the attack in any way, so she plays Reign of Terror from her hand to bounce her, instead. After successive passes, Rogue returns to Famke’s hand. Then, after successive passes, Rogue’s triggered effect resolves, trying to exhaust the already-exhausted Dr. Doom. Finally, after successive passes on the now-empty chain, the attack concludes with Dr. Doom stunning Quicksilver.

3. The Recovery Phase

The recovery phase can cause at least as much confusion as the combat phase, but fortunately, it has far fewer moving parts. So, understanding the phase is simply a matter of learning the order in which things happen. A typical question might be:

I have Gone But Not Forgotten face-up in my resource row. At the end of the combat phase, I’m at -1 endurance and my opponent is at 0 endurance, but I have a stunned character in play. Can I choose not to recover the stunned character, gain 2 endurance, and win the game?


You can choose not to recover a character, but you will lose the game before you get to make that choice. Here’s how it works:


As the recovery phase starts, effects that trigger at the start of the recovery phase are added to the chain, and then the primary player gets priority. After successive passes on an empty chain, the recovery phase “wrap-up” begins, and no players get priority until the next turn.

The first part of the wrap-up is a comparison of endurance totals. In the scenario above, this is when you would lose the game. So that we can continue, let’s pretend that both endurance totals are still in positive territory. Next, each player has the option of choosing a stunned character to recover. The primary player chooses first, and chosen characters recover simultaneously. Then, all stunned characters are KO’d. This is when Gone But Not Forgotten would trigger, but the triggered effect isn’t added to the chain until a player is about to receive priority. Finally, all objects ready, modifiers with the duration “this turn” finish, and initiative passes clockwise.

As the draw phase of the next turn starts, the game-based effect instructing each player to draw 2 cards is added to the chain first. Then the triggered effect from Gone But Not Forgotten is added (along with any other effects that have triggered since the start of last turn’s wrap-up). Then the primary player gets priority.

I control a Silver Banshee with a cosmic counter, and my opponent has two stunned characters. Can I wait until my opponent chooses which character to recover, then activate Silver Banshee to KO the chosen character?

Hopefully, you can figure out the answer to this question from the sequence described above. The answer is no, because you don’t have priority to play Silver Banshee’s activated power during the wrap-up (when your opponent chooses which character to recover). You can, of course, play it before the wrap-up.

4. The Uniqueness Rule

Is it possible to control more than one character of the same name?

Absolutely. The uniqueness rule applies only to recruiting a non-army character (or unique equipment) or flipping a unique location. If you do, then any objects of the same name you control are put into the KO’d pile as part of resolving the recruit effect or flipping the location.

As an aside, putting an object into the KO’d pile this way is not the same as KO’ing that object. One reason for this distinction is so that modifiers instructing that objects cannot be KO’d (such as Lazarus Pit’s) do not disrupt the uniqueness rule.

If duplicate unique characters/equipment/locations come under your control by any other means, then the uniqueness rule has no impact.


For example: A boosted Dr. Light, Arthur Light will return any number of Dr. Light character cards from your KO’d pile to your front row. In addition, any other Dr. Lights you control when the boosted Dr. Light resolves will also end up in your front row. This is because they are put into the KO’d pile (by the uniqueness rule) as part of resolving the boosted Dr. Light, and then returned to play when his triggered effect resolves.


Other examples abound: A Mad Hatter may “steal” an opponent’s Mad Hatter. A boosted Vic Stone ◊ Cyborg may  retrieve a Time Platform, even if a character you control is already equipped with one. Alternately, you could play Misappropriation to “steal” an opponent’s Time Platform. You could also play Relocation to “steal” a Doomstadt from your opponent, yet still keep the one you already have face up in your resource row.

5. Self-Reference

If the text of a card refers to its own name, is it also referring to any other cards of the same name?

Although fifth on my list, I’ve seen this question cause as much confusion as any of the others. The short answer is “no, with one exception,” and the long answer is best illustrated by two characters from two opposing affiliations.

Superman, Red’s cosmic power reads, “While Superman is attacking from the front row, he gets +4 ATK.” This literally means, “While this piece of cardboard is attacking from the front row, this piece of cardboard gets +4 ATK.” No other characters named Superman are affected.


Example: You control three characters named Superman, Red (all are face up in the front row and all have a cosmic counter). If they team-attack a defender, each one only gets +4 ATK, because each one is only affected by its own power.


Intergang’s power reads, “Exhaust a location you control >>> Characters named Intergang get +1 ATK and +1 DEF this attack.” The key word is “named.” This is the exception I mentioned above. If a card’s text refers to characters “named” CardName, then it refers to all characters named CardName.

Example: You control three characters named Intergang (all are face up). If you exhaust a location to use one of their payment powers, all three get +1 ATK and +1 DEF this attack.

I hope that you’ve learned at least one or two new things here today. If not, I’ll just have to try harder next time! Who knows, maybe I’ll even have a chance to delve into my mailbag. That address one more time: vsrules@gmail.com.


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