We're a few days away from the official release of the newest booster set Dimension of Chaos, so we can't talk about the cards contained within just yet. But, we did get a few updates here and there in the last few weeks. The most notable include the addition of a new official rules resource and a new Tournament prize pack with a few new text updates worth addressing.

This week on Black and White: Clarifications on the Damage Step, the newly released Astral Pack 8 and booster pack contents starting for the set after Dimension of Chaos.

The Damage Step
A few years back, I wrote a piece on the Damage Step with the caveat that the official resources dealing with this necessary and complicated part of the game were few and far between. I compiled everything I knew and put it out there as a single source of info. Now, while the newest Damage Step chart doesn't have any major differences, it does put the basics of the Damage Step out there in an official resource, so that's some more questions answered. There was one small change regarding the activation of ATK and DEF modifiers though.

As per the new Damage Step chart, players may only activate cards and effects that modify ATK and DEF before damage calculation. However, because of previous rulings, cards like Honest and Blackwing – Kalut the Moon Shadow could be activated during damage calculation. The newest chart now makes those rulings outdated. If you wish to activate Honest, Kalut, or lesser-used options like Stronghold Guardian and Gem-Merchant, you'll have to use them before damage calculation. Once you proceed into damage calculation, the only cards and effects that activate or apply are ones that specifically use the words "during damage calculation" or "in damage calculations" or anything else to that effect.

The new chart doesn't go into the specifics of what effects can activate during the Damage Step; it appears to be a basic resource for players, especially those just starting out, which is still a step up from what was previously available – a rulebook section with very general information. So, for the moment, we're assuming that monster effects that negate activations – Stardust Dragon, Gladiator Beast Heraklinos, Prime Material Dragon and others – can still be used in the Damage Step.

Something I do appreciate the chart clarifying is when certain effects activate. The phrases "when this card battles," or "when this card attacks or is attacked" weren't very clear before. Now, the chart specifies these effects activate after damage calculation has occurred. So for the entire none of you that were wondering when Rai Rider's effect activates, the official answer is "after damage calculation." This particular card was slightly bothering me for the last four years specifically because of how vague its timing activation was.

And while this hasn't changed with the new update, the Damage Step chart specifies that flip effects activate after damage calculation. I remember having to explain to a newer player some years ago that the flip effect from Worm Dimikles didn't kick in until after the attack went through, so Worm Dimikles would be destroyed by battle even though the flip effect would've given it enough DEF to survive the attack.

Astral Pack 8
There were a few reprints in Astral Pack 8, two of which have an impact on the TCG's competitive landscape.

First, Black Horn of Heaven, last printed in Legendary Collection 4: Joey's World now specifies that it can only negate the Summon of exactly one monster. What this means: if your opponent Pendulum Summons more than one monster, you can't use Black Horn of Heaven to stop it.

Lose 1 Turn also gets a rewording, making it super-clear when Lose 1 Turn negates an effect and when it doesn't: if the monster Special Summoned this turn isn't face-up on the field when its effect resolves, the effect resolves successfully and Lose 1 Turn doesn't negate it. In high-level events since the WCQ's, this should have been ruled consistently as if it had this wording, but going forward, the text should match that interpretation.

Other reprints were made for accessibility purposes. Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Evening Twilight's appearance here makes it accessible to areas outside of the United States, places that didn't get it as a JUMP promo, just in time for the Black Luster Solder-themed support in Dimension of Chaos. Toon Masked Sorcerer wasn't included in recent Toon-related releases like Dragons of Legend 2 but it gets its reprint here.

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Kinka-Byo's reprint seems out of place at first, but there's a good reason not to discount it as trash; first, this is the card's first reprint ever, so it gets Problem-Solving Card Text for the first time, but it also fits with the new Red-Eyes support. Use Kinka-Byo to Special Summon Black Metal Dragon, then Tribute both to Special Summon Beast-Eyes Pendulum Dragon from the Extra Deck! You'll miss out on Black Metal Dragon's search effect since it gets banished from Kinka-Byo's effect, but you'll get a 3000 ATK monster instead.

U.A. Stadium gets updated text to show that the affected monsters keep their increased ATK even after U.A. Stadium leaves the field. This is keeping with the theme of including the text "even if this card leaves the field" on the cards that require it. There were a whole bunch of them in Clash of Rebellions, which I wrote about a few months ago. Safe Zone is a good card to reprint as it come ups periodically in a wide range of strategies. What I don't have an explanation for is the appearance of Unpossessed. It fits a very niche strategy and didn't get a text update that I'm aware of. Maybe I'm missing something? Hopefully that's the case.

Finally, Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier gets its second reprint in the last few months – the last one was in High-Speed Riders – but this reprint comes in super-shiny Ultimate Rare. Keep in mind that as per Konami's announcement, Ultimate Rares will not show up in regular booster packs after Dimension of Chaos, making tournament prize packs like Astral Packs the only place you'll regularly find them. So if you want to pick up Ultimate Rares going forward, you'll need to play in Official Tournament Stores as Astral Packs are only given out there.

Which leads us into…

Booster Pack Changes
This was announced in September, but I don't think I went over it. The changes will kick in for Breakers of Shadow, the next big release after Dimension of Chaos.

Basically, the contents of booster packs and the way sets work will be changing. All packs will contain a rare and a foil – a Super Rare or better. If your pack has an Ultra Rare or Secret Rare, it replaces the Super Rare. Ultra Rares will appear in 1-in-6 packs, down from 1-in-12, and Secret Rares will be 1-in-12 (down from 1-in-23). And of course, if you don't get an Ultra or a Secret, you're guaranteed a Super Rare. The trade off is that regular booster packs won't have Ultimate Rares or Ghost Rares anymore.

I can see opinions on the changes are mixed. On the one side, some Ultimate Rares and all Ghost Rares are just really pretty cards, and collecting them is worthwhile. On the other hand, from a playing and judging standpoint, I've almost never been a fan of Ultimate Rares being used in tournaments; the foil used is different enough to make the cards flimsier than their usual rarity, and back in the day, some sleeves would imprint the contours of the foil pattern on the back of the sleeve, causing a marked card to appear out of nowhere in the middle of tournament play.

Ghost Rares, on the other hand, use more foil and a heavier, thicker material, leaving another possible method for delineating one card from others in the deck. Again, the cards are pretty, but in terms of judging, alternate rarities caused their fair share of problems. Granted, you won't see them as much since they'll be discontinued in core boosters, but any tournament issues will be lessened with fewer Ultimate and Ghost Rares being made.

What isn't changing is the price. Whatever price you usually pay for booster packs will be the same as you'll pay after the change takes place.

If you have any questions regarding the Damage Step, Astral Pack 8, foils in your booster packs, tournament policy, card interactions or game mechanics, send me an e-mail (one question per e-mail please!) to askjudgejoe@gmail.com and your question could be answered in a future Court of Appeals!

-Joe Frankino

Joe is a Yu-Gi-Oh! judge and player from Long Island, New York. He'll be in attendance at this Sunday's Brooklyn NY regional, trying to get his invite with a deck that's going to be adversely affected by the Forbidden and Limited list changes that take effect the next day. Or Joe may play a deck that no one expects and scrub out instead.