Mechanics Explained – Ambush

Recently I wrote a fun interactions quiz and the community reactions to the quiz made it clear to me that not everyone has been playing long enough to understand all of the nuances of various game mechanics. As such, I’m starting this article series to help explain various game mechanics to players. Today, I’m going to start with the Battle Skill Ambush.

Desert Marshal Scorpion Wasp

Ambush: Can be played to block an enemy attack or at the end of their turn.

Above is the official in-game tooltip for Ambush. Those players coming from a magic background may be familar with a mechanic called Flash, which similarly allows you to play units when you ordinarily could not. However, it’s important to note that Ambush and Flash are not the same mechanic. Ambush comes with a number of timing and usage restrictions, while Flash does not. Let’s take more in depth look at Ambush:

When you CAN play Ambush Units

Whenever you could ordinarily play a unit.

Ambush units are still regular units, there’s nothing to say that you must make use of the Ambush ability. You can play Ambush units during your turn if you want to, which often comes up when you want to silence something right away with Desert Marshal.

During your opponent’s combat

When your opponent attacks you, you can cast ambush units BEFORE declaring blockers. The normal use of this timing is to Ambush in a unit and block your opponent’s units, but you do not need to block any of your opponents units when you Ambush in a unit during a normal attack. This option can be useful if you want to use Desert Marshal to silence something, but don’t want to throw the unit away to do so. With Scorpion Wasp, you’ll most frequently use this method, Ambushing and blocking a unit.

Aside about Priority: In the Eternal Card Game, your opponent is NOT given the opportunity to respond to units that you play. This includes the Ambush units that you play, therefore you can play a Scorpion Wasp and block before your opponent has a chance to react. They do get priority after the block, however, and could Torch your Scorpion Wasp if they wish. As an additional complication, your opponent DOES get priority when they or their units become the target of an opponent’s spell or ability. If you were to play Desert Marshal and silence something, your opponent could respond to the silence by Torching your Marshal, denying you the opportunity to block. If, however, you skipped the opportunity to silence a unit, your opponent would not get priority and you could block immediately. Yes, the priority system is complex and worthy of its own in depth article, but it is worth mentioning here for exactly this scenario.

When your opponent uses Killer

Killer is a battle skill that allows a unit to be exhausted once in order to attack any enemy unit. While Killer functions outside of regular combat, it creates a psuedo combat phase in between the Killer unit and the attacked unit, activating all combat related abilities, spells, and Ambush units. You can Ambush in a unit during Killer combat much like you can during regular combat, with one important difference: the Ambush unit will ALWAYS become the new target of the Killer attack. Ambush is the only mechanic by which a Killer attack can be diverted from its intended target.

When your opponent attacks with a Relic Weapon

Similarly to Killer, Relic Weapons create a psuedo combat phase in between the attacking player and the target. In the same way as Killer, you can Ambush in a unit to divert the Relic Weapon attack, and the Ambush unit will ALWAYS become the new target of the Relic Weapon attack. Usually Ambush is used in this way to protect your units on board from removal via Relic Weapons, or to protect yourself from damage.

At the end of your opponent’s turn

In addition to all the combat related times you can play Ambush units, you can also toss them out at the end of your opponent’s turn. Unlike how priority works during blocking, your opponent will always get an opportunity to respond to your Ambush units with fast spells before passing the turn to you – even if you play an Ambush unit with no summon effect, or skip the summon effect.

When you CAN NOT play Ambush units

During your combat, Killer attack, or Relic weapon attack

Often players will try to Ambush in a unit during their own combat phase, usually a Desert Marshal for the surprise silence. Unfortunately, Ambush timing restrictions mean that you can’t actually do this. This is one of the most common situations that trips up Magic players, as this is something that you could do in Magic with Flash.

In response to your opponent’s Ambush unit

Players also occasionally try to respond to their opponent’s ambush unit with one of their own. This doesn’t work for two reasons: first, the aforementioned priority system doesn’t allow you to respond to units, and Ambush units are still units. Secondly, your opponent playing an ambush unit is a pretty good indicator of when you can NOT play an ambush unit – during your combat phases, or at the end of your turn. Therefore, even if you could respond to units, you wouldn’t be able to due to Ambush timing restrictions.

In response to your opponent’s spell or ability

This is another scenario that trips up a lot of Magic players. In Magic, you can respond to (almost) anything with Flash units, so players assume that you must be able to respond to spells with Ambush Units. Not so. Usually Ambush’s timing restrictions would prevent it – you can’t play an Ambush unit during your opponent’s main phase Feeding Time. Even during the combat phase, you cannot play an Ambush unit while a spell is waiting to resolve. However, you will get an opportunity to play the Ambush unit after the spell resolves if blockers have not yet been locked in (which is rare, but could come up if you used a removal spell prior to blocking and your opponent responded with a spell). Abilities work in much the same way as spells, and Ambush units don’t interact with them either.

Hopefully this article has helped to clear up some of the confusion surrounding when you can and when you can not play Ambush units. They’re relatively straightforward to use, but players who are familiar with other “fast unit” mechanics in other games can be easily tripped up by the rigid timing rules surrounding Ambush units. Have a game mechanic you’d like explained next? Let me know in the comments!

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