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Spirit Reaper: Reaps What it Sows

February 15th, 2012

If you’ve been keeping up with recent tournaments, you’ve probably seen Spirit Reaper in all sorts of different Decks.  Reaper’s return to popularity is largely due to the rise of Rescue Rabbit: aggressive Dino Rabbit Duelists strike hard and fast, but since Reaper can’t be destroyed by battle, it gives you time to put together a counter-attack.  Since Reaper is immune to battle it’s a game-shaping defensive powerhouse, but its discard effect makes it a threatening attacker, too.  That combination of abilities has makes it really useful, but a lot of Duelists still don’t understand Reaper’s other effect: the one that destroys it when it’s targeted.

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Reaper’s self-destruction is a Continuous Effect, so it doesn’t activate, and it won’t start a Chain.  It destroys itself immediately after the effect that’s targeting it resolves, even if that resolution happens in the middle of a Chain.  Cards like this will destroy Spirit Reaper:

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Cards that target, target a monster when they are activated. While many cards ask you to choose which monster they’ll apply to, not all of them actually target.  A good rule to remember is that if you pick the card to affect at activation, you’re targeting something.  If you pick the card at resolution, you aren’t.  Targeting only happens at activation.

While cards like Forbidden Lance and Enemy Controller are pretty popular ways to destroy Spirit Reaper, there are plenty of other effects that might be less obvious.  Any Equip Spell, or almost anything that attaches to Reaper, will destroy it.  That means that if you revive Spirit Reaper with Call of the Haunted, it’s going right back to the Graveyard the moment it hits the field because Call of the Haunted keeps targeting Reaper.  You can also attach Armory Arm to Reaper and blow it away.  Monsters that have targeting effects, like Psychic Commander, can also destroy Reaper.

Picking a target is part of activating a targeting effect.  That means that if you activate an effect; choose your target; and then your opponent Chains an effect that negates your activation, the targeting ceases to have happened.  If your opponent activates Forbidden Lance and targets Reaper, but you chain Solemn Judgment to negate Forbidden Lance’s activation altogether, your Reaper won’t be destroyed.  Because the activation was negated, a target was never chosen and Reaper lives.

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Since Spirit Reaper needs to be face-up on the field with its effect active for it to be destroyed, cards like Effect Veiler, Book of Moon, and Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier won’t destroy it.

Book of Moon targets Spirit Reaper, but by after Book resolves Reaper is face-down and its effect is no longer applied.

Effect Veiler targets as well, but it negates Reaper’s effect, so Reaper has no reason to self-destruct anymore.  Fiendish Chain is similar, though you can use Chain to negate Reaper’s abilities and then destroy it with an attack.

Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier has an effect that returns cards from the field to their owner’s hand.  It targets too, but if you bounce away Spirit Reaper, it winds up in the hand where its effect no longer applies.  Brionac and Compulsory Evacuation Device won’t destroy Reaper.

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When you make a direct attack with Spirit Reaper, your opponent may want to activate certain cards from their hand.  For instance, Gorz the Emissary of Darkness and Tragoedia both have effects that Special Summon them when their owner takes Battle Damage. It can get a bit confusing when Reaper’s discard ability is thrown into the mix.  Luckily these situations are actually really easy to resolve:

Spirit Reaper’s effect triggers off the same thing as Gorz and Tragoedia’s abilities.

-Since it’s the attacker’s turn, Spirit Reaper’s effect activates first.

-The Tragoedia or Gorz effect is then chained to Spirit Reaper’s ability.

-The Chain resolves backwards: Gorz or Tragoedia is Special Summoned, and if the defending player has anything left in their hand, Reaper discards one of their remaining cards.

This is really important, because it means Reaper can’t steal away your big Special Summon unless you choose not to activate its Summon effect.  It also means that if Gorz or Tragoedia is your last card, Reaper won’t discard anything at all.

Spirit Reaper is both an amazing attacker, and an incredible defender!  With so many Duelists playing fast, aggressive Decks, Reaper is a good addition to almost any Side Deck.  But remember, there are alternatives.  Marshmallon doesn’t have Reaper’s discard ability, but it is impervious to battle, and it dishes out 1000 damage with its effect.  Be careful though, that effect can leave it open to negation and destruction by Evolzar Dolkka.  For an absolute defender, you can Set Arcana Force 0 – The Fool.  It doesn’t have an effect for Dolkka to negate, and it doesn’t self-destruct like Spirit Reaper.

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