Author: Mark Alfano
To Fizzle or not to Fizzle, that is the Question
First, before we begin, let’s get the technical terminology defined.
Hazard Limit – The hazard limit is a value that attaches to a company. A company’s hazard limit is set when they begin their movement/hazard phase, and it is equal to two or the number of characters in the company, whichever is greater. Hobbits and Orc-scouts count for half of a character (round up) when it comes to determining hazard limit. Allies do not count towards the hazard limit.
Declare – A hazard is declared against a company when the hazard player either plays a hazard card or otherwise uses a card in play during his opponent’s movement/hazard phase (such as tapping a nazgul permanent event, discarding Daelomin at Home, or moving an agent). Until it resolves, a hazard has no effects beyond counting as a declared hazard in the current chain. The number of hazards that can be declared against a company (assuming all of them count for 1 against the hazard limit, unlike Power Built by Waiting and Veils Flung Away, e.g.) is equal to the hazard limit. No more may be declared than that, as the hazard limit is checked at declaration, and if there is not enough remaining (each declared-but-unresolved hazard takes up a spot for this calculation, as well as each declared-and-resolved hazard and each declared-and-resolved hazard limit-reduction), the hazard may not be played. Hazards are not the only things that resolve; resources and resource effects also resolve, but we are most interested in hazards for the purposes of this discussion.
Resolve – A hazard resolves when it is reached in an unwinding chain of effects. At this point, its text becomes active and does whatever it does. There is the further wrinkle that many hazards (permanent and long events, though not all of them) take yet more time to have a noticeable effect because they are triggered by passive conditions, but more of that in another document. Hazard limit is also checked upon resolution (a calculation separate from but similar to the one made at the declaration of a hazard; this one checks to see how much hazard limit remains against a company, which is a function of the number of hazards and hazard limit reducers that have been played and resolved hitherto), which means that sometimes a hazard will not have enough limit left to resolve, and thus «fizzle». Again, hazards are not the only things to resolve, but they’re the important thing for us now.
Chain of effects – A chain of effects is a specifically MECCG concept. The idea is basically this: both players have the right to play as many cards (and use as many effects) they like in a row. These cards/effects pile up on top of each other — all declared but unresolved for the moment — until finally both players decide they’ve had enough suspense, and they allow the chain to resolve. It then does so, each card resolving and taking effect in the reverse order of its play in the chain. So, if I play hazard1 against my opponent, and he responds with resource1, then I respond with hazard2, then he responds with resource2 and resource3 (supposing I have no response to resource2), the chain would unfold thus:
resource3 resolves and has whatever effects it has;
resource2 resolves and has whatever effects it has;
hazard2 resolves and has whatever effects it has;
resource1 resolves and has whatever effects it has;
hazard1 resolves and has whatever effects it has.
However, in some cases, hazards «fizzle» because there is no hazard limit left for them in which to resolve.
Fizzle – «Fizzling» is a term of art in MECCG for the case when a hazard that was legal at declaration becomes illegal when it tries to resolve. Fizzling can take many forms, only one of which is the result of hazard limit reduction. Another way to effectively fizzle a hazard is to remove its active conditions from play between its declaration and resolution (e.g., my opponent taps Adunaphel to force me to tap Thrain II; I respond by tapping him to play Marvels Told on some long event. The Marvels resolves first, effectively fizzling Adunaphel, since she can’t tap an already-tapped character. Or, my opponent plays Withered Lands against me to change my site path; I repond with a Twilight to nuke Doors of Night, and then when Withered Lands tries to resolve as the chain unwinds, it realizes that DoN is no longer in play and disappears in a poof of logic). We are here interested in fizzling as a function of hazard limit reduction. This occurs, as already stated, when a hazard tries to resolve, checks the remaining hazard limit, and realizes there is none left.
OK, so much for all that mumbo-jumbo. The point is, there are rules governing when a hazard is fizzled due to hazard limit reduction and when it isn’t.
The most important thing to notice is this: the hazard limit checks for declaration and resolution are separate, even though they are similar. According to the CRF: «You check the hazard limit at declaration and resolution. At declaration there must be less hazards already declared than the hazard limit. At resolution there must be no more hazards declared than the hazard limit.» Let’s look at a couple examples to make this a bit clearer:
Example 1: Declaration Matters
My opponent is moving Strider and Beorn through a couple of , so I decide to play a Cave-Drake on them. It resolves without further complications, and they kill it. I then play a Lure of Expedience on Strider, to which my opponent responds with Many Turns and Doublings (for its second, hazard limit-reducing effect). I realize that this will cause my corruption card to fizzle when it tries to resolve (the unused portion of the hazard limit is 1; it will be eliminated when MTaD resolves, and so the Lure will have no remaining hazard limit left when it tries to resolve). I decide that that’s no good, so I try to sneak in An Unexpected Outpost in response before the MTaD resolves. Bzzzz. No dice. My Outpost cannot even be declared, because when I try to declare it, it checks the remaining hazard limit. One hazard has already resolved (the Cave-Drake), so there is one hazard limit remaining. I used that one for the purposes of declaration when I played the Lure of Expedience, and so my Outpost has no remaining hazard limit left in which to be declared. The Lure fizzles out, and Beorn gets Wormsbane that site phase, much to my dismay.
Example 2: Resolution Matters
I’m playing a roving Akhorahil deck, in which the mad sage goes about in Fell Rider mode maladizing the kidneys and whatever other internal organs they may have out of my opponent’s characters. Unfortunately for me, my opponent has a counter: the almighty RIVER. Akhorahil has a hazard limit of 2 when he sets out on his mission of gleeful homocide, and the first thing my opponent plays is — what else — a River. Ah, but I have a couple tricks up my sleeve as well. I respond with a Deeper Shadow to reduce my hazard limit by one; my opponent elects not to respond to that, so I play a second Deeper Shadow in response to my first to reduce the hazard limit by yet another one. If no more cards are played at this point, my Deeper Shadows will resolve first, reducing the hazard limit to 0, and then when the River tries to resolve, it will have no hazard limit left and fizzle. However, my opponent is wilier than I suspected: he has yet another River, which he plays in response to my second Deeper Shadow (he can do this because neither of my Deeper Shadows have resolved yet). If I have no more trickses, then things will fall out like this:
River2 checks to see whether there is at least as much remaining hl (2) as declared hazards (2). Check. Resolves. I’m stuck.
Deeper Shadow2 resolves, reducing hl to 1.
Deeper Shadow1 resolves, reducing hl to 0.
River1 checks to see whether there is at least as much remaining hl (0) as declared hazards (1). Bzzz. Fizzles. I’m stuck anyway.
If I had a third Deeper Shadow, however, things would be different. I could play it in response to the second River, and things would fall out much differently:
Deeper Shadow3 resolves, reducing hl to 1.
River 2 checks to see whether there is at least as much remaining hl (1) as declared hazards (2). Bzzz. Fizzles.
Deeper Shadow2 resolves, reducing hl to 0.
Deeper Shadow3 resolves for no effect.
River1 checks to see whether there is at least as much remaining hl (0) as declared hazards (1). Bzzz. Fizzles.
Note that this is different from how hl-reduction has been interpreted by many (including myself) in the past. The key difference is the CRF entry mentioned at the beginning of this article:
The CRF wrote: “You check the hazard limit at declaration and resolution. At declaration there must be less hazards already declared than the hazard limit. At resolution there must be no more hazards declared than the hazard limit.”
In particular, the difference lies in the interpretation of the last sentence, which (perhaps unexpectedly) says that at resolution you do not check how many hazards have resolved, but rather how many are declared. What we are now interpreting this sentence to mean is, essentially, this:
«At resolution of a standard hazard there must be no more standard hazards declared-but-unresolved than the remaining hazard limit.»
We say standard hazard just to account for cards like Power Built by Waiting (which requires 2 hl), Veils Flung Away (which requires 0), and Twilight (which also requires 0). We say declared-but-unresolved just to clear up what declared means. That is, a hazard that was declared and then resolved against a company this mh phase is no longer considered declared. Only hazards that are still waiting to resolve in the current chain are considered declared. The final difference from the old way of interpreting lies in the wording «hazard limit». We read that term in the CRF entry to mean «remaining hazard limit», which is used up as hazards are played, rather than strict «hazard limit», which remains the same unless hl-manipulating cards are played (e.g. Deeper Shadow, Lost in , etc.). The rules for the game are somewhat loose in their application of these two differing terms, and so it is important that we be careful to determine which one is meant in each instance. But that, sad to say, is a job for another article.