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This page requires improvements in: A comprehensive set of rules that has yet to be written, its multiple beginner guides and alternate forms of play found at other websites, and a FAQ transcription as is hosted at numerous resources. There is also the lack of a list of cards that must be remedied. It may be prudent to include some of this in separate articles. All information for these possible expansions can be found in the external links.
The Avatar: The Last Airbender Trading Card Game is a collectible card game developed and produced by Upper Deck Company and released in February 2006. In the game, the player takes on the role of one of the main or secondary characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender and duels another player in a match testing strength and abilities determined by the game's cards. The overall objective is to earn three points before the opposing player does; they can be gained when opponents have no further actions available to them. The game is part of the QuickStrike system of trading card games, which means it is compatible with various other card games from different areas of media and fiction.
The original launch is titled Master of Elements, and has a deck of 235 cards, including 85 common cards, 75 uncommon cards, 65 rare cards, and 10 special cards. These cards are further categorized as strike, ally, advantage, or chamber, all of which differ in usage and effect. Since the initial release, multiple promotional cards and booster packs have also been released, some of which come with the series' DVD collection. Burger King also released eight promo cards, which were sold with Kids Meals between August 28 and September 30 of 2006.
How to play
- Note: Much of this how to play's outline of examples is based on the Avatar Trading Card Game Demo, which can be found in the external links, while information excluding examples is elaboration on other factors spotlighted in the demo. Therefore, the following information is written and ordered as though two people are playing a game of the Avatar TCG and is meant to be read and understood as such.
Any game of this TCG begins with each player placing his or her chosen Chamber Card in the area marked "Chamber" on the respective player's side of the playing mat. The playing mat is divided into two symmetrical sides, meaning that each player has the same amount of areas as the other and that a player only lays cards on his or her side. The Chamber Card, with the image of an Avatar character adorning the front, represents the character who the player will act as during the game. More information about Chamber Cards will be elaborated upon later. After each player has chosen a Chamber Card and placed it in the proper spot, both of them shuffle their decks of cards and put the decks onto the designated "Deck" areas of the mat.
Inexact overview and brief explanation of strike system
- Note: This subsection has only an imprecise synopsis of the game. Although it may appear as though this information is enough to play the game with, it is not detailed enough to be complete, hence the following in-depth subsections. All descriptions here skip or gloss over other vital steps of the game, only revealing the most basic points of knowledge necessary for the game.
Unlike the vast majority of trading card games, the QuickStrike system of gameplay, which as mentioned earlier is the system used for the Avatar TCG, does not have the players hold a hand of cards at which they deliberate over what to put into play. Instead, the players flip cards from the tops of their decks. Since the deck of cards is presented in a face-down position, the player does not know what cards he or she will flip over onto the playing mat. The areas onto which the player flips the cards are marked "Flip Here". Both players should be able to see any flipped card – there is no concealment from the opposite player in concern to cards that have been flipped. Once a card has been flipped onto the green "Flip Here" area of the mat, the player should take care to examine which card he or she has flipped. It may be a strike card.
A strike card consists of two vital-to-understand values: an Intercept number and a Force number. The Intercept number is a measure of the defensive strength of the card. A high Intercept number means strong defense against an enemy attack, and a low number means a weak and possibly vulnerable defense stat. Oftentimes a lower Intercept number is balanced by a higher Force number, which is a measure of the offensive strength of the card. A Force number works in the same way that an Intercept number does: high means strong offense, low means weak offense.
As mentioned above and visible in the first image of this subsection, the play mat has three colored zones. Each zone represents a chance for the player to put a stop to an opponent's strike card, otherwise known as an opponent's strike, and the zone's color represents the level of danger: an opponent's attack into the green zone is not extremely troublesome or unsafe for the player being attacked; an opponent's attack into the yellow zone is a bit more risky, and an attack into the red zone is very unsafe and dangerous for the player being attacked. All of this is because the green zone is each player's first line of defense, the yellow zone is the second, and the red zone is the last. If any player runs out of zones (has each zone attacked) without being able to stop any of the strikes, the opposite player scores one point.
In order to stop an opponent's strike, the player being attacked must flip one card with a higher Intercept number than the attacking card's Force number. If the card that has been flipped does not have a higher Intercept value than the attacking Force value, the attacking player strikes down the card, which was in the green zone, bringing him or her one step closer to earning a point. If this happens in the yellow and red zones as well, the opponent has broken the player's defenses and scored a point. If either player earns three points, the game is won by he or she who earned the three points.
Further setup information and the opening attack
Any game of the Avatar TCG begins with each player placing starting energy on his or her side of the mat. A starting energy is represented by whatever amount of face-down cards are on the right-hand side of a respective player's zones. At the beginning of the game, before either player flips cards into the "Flip Here" areas and begins to use strike attacks, one should take nine cards from the top of one's deck without looking at what they are and place them in the designated starting energy areas (see illustration to the right). Each card is considered to be one starting energy. Energies in the green zone are called "green energies", energies in the yellow zone "yellow energies", and energies in the red zone "red energies".
After the starting energies have been placed, it is time to determine who will make the first move in the game. Both players draw four cards from the tops of their decks and put them onto the discard area of the playing mat, henceforth known as the discard pile. This time, the cards are to be placed face-up. The players add up the Force values from those four cards, and whichever player has the higher Force value total goes first. Ally and advantage cards, which will be detailed later, are worth zero and add nothing to the player's Force total.
The player who goes first shall be known from now on as Player 1, who shall be male. Player 1 makes the opening attack, forcing his opponent (Player 2, female) to defend. The opening attack has a Force number of 4 and executes its offense just as a normal strike would, except the opening attack is not represented on a card like all other strikes will be. Before Player 1 can execute an opening attack, however, Player 2 should add another energy to the green zone, or add a green energy. Aside from the energies that are added at the beginning of the game, all further energies come from the discard pile. Therefore, a player who is to defend against an opening attack will take whatever card it is that can be seen face-up in the discard pile and bring it to the green zone, where he or she will place the card face-down. Doing so adds one more energy to the green zone, which can aid the player in his or her defense.
With the above accomplished, Player 2 flips one card from his or her deck into the green zone's "Flip Here" area. Whatever is on the front of this card must have a higher Intercept number than the opening attack's Force number (which is 4), lest it be struck down and defeated. For example, if Player 2 draws a card with a value 7 Intercept, it is strong enough to hold off the opening strike of value 4 Force. There is a catch to this, however: in order to use the flipped card, one must pay for it with the energies in one's zones.
The cost of using a flipped card can be seen on the side of the card (see illustration to the right). Using the above example, if the card with a value 7 Intercept has a "2" in the Red color and a "1" in the Yellow color, the player must take the appropriate number of cards from the respective energy zones and place them in the discard pile face-up. By "paying" for the card with the energies, it becomes officially in-play. After being paid for, a flipped card gets turned sideways (placed horizontally with the top side of the card pointing to the left side of the mat and the bottom side pointing to the right) to illustrate how it is going to face the opponent's card, meaning that it is now the opponent who must defend against the value 7 Intercept card. We will say that Player 2 flips the value 7 Intercept card and pays for it, thereby performing a counterattack on Player 1 and forcing Player 1 to go on the defensive.
Replenishing energy, focusing, and defending from counterattacks
- Note: If the Intercept of Player 2's card had been too low or if Player 2 had been unable to pay for the use of the card, she would have had to focus her card and turn it into energy (details below).
- The following information details what happens if Player 2's card has enough Intercept to stand against the opening attack, the result being that Player 1 is the one who must take the defensive stance this turn.
Having flipped a card with more Intercept than her opponent's opening attack Force, Player 2 gets to perform a counterattack. A counterattack is the result of an attacking player's card being too weak to strike down the defending player's card. When this occurs, the player who was on the defensive switches his or her card to an offensive stance, as explained at the end of the above subsection, and the opposite player must now defend his or her green zone.
Before flipping a card into the green zone, Player 1, who is now defending his green zone just as Player 2 had done for hers, must replenish his energy. To replenish means to collect energies from the discard pile and place them into the colored zones. In which zones the energies are placed depends on the zone that the now attacking player (in this case, Player 2) defended in the last turn. To use the previous example, since Player 2 flipped the value 7 Intercept card into the green zone, she was defending her green zone. Therefore, the now defending player (in this case, Player 1) replenishes his energy by taking one card from the discard pile and placing it into the green zone face-down as an energy. If the originally defending player had made the counterattack from the yellow zone, the player now being attacked would add one energy to the green zone and one to the yellow zone. If he or she had been defending his or her red zone, the player now being attacked would add one energy to the green zone, one to the yellow, and one to the red.
Once Player 1 has replenished his energy, it is time to flip a card into the green zone. If Player 1's flipped card has a higher Intercept than the opposing card's Force, Player 1's card takes on the stance of a counterattack and Player 2 must replenish energy, flip a card, and so on. However, if Player 1's flipped card has less Intercept than the opposing card's Force, Player 1 must focus his or her flipped card. Focusing is the act of converting a flipped card into an energy. If the flipped card has less Intercept than the opposing card's Force, that card should be moved into the energy area of whichever zone into which it was originally flipped. For this example, since the flipped card was defending the green zone and was unable to stand against the strike, it is moved to the green energy zone face-down. Now that the card has been struck down, Player 1 has lost his or her green zone and must defend the yellow zone from this point forward. The player now flips a card into the yellow zone. If it has too little Intercept to defend against the already-in-play opposing card, it also turns into an energy, this time in the yellow zone. This process will repeat until the player flips a card with sufficient Intercept to counterattack against the opponent; if a card with sufficient Intercept were not to be flipped in the red zone, Player 2 would earn a point (further details of points will come later). For this outline, we will presume that the first card Player 1 flips into the yellow zone has sufficient Intercept and that he or she performs an counterattack, thereby forcing Player 2 to defend once again.
Cleanup, advantage cards, and charges
Before Player 2 flips a new card into the green zone, she must clean up her side of the board. The process of cleanup takes place before starting a turn and executes like so: the defending player should take all of the cards that he or she employed for the last turn's defense and place them face-up into his or her discard pile. There are exceptions to this rule: energy cards do not get cleaned up, and neither do ally or advantage cards (the functions of these cards will be detailed later). For this outline, Player 2 would now remove the card that previously attacked Player 1 from the green zone and put it into her discard pile.
As shown in the previous subsection, Player 2 now replenishes energy from the discard pile into the green and yellow zones, one energy each, as Player 1 defended from the yellow zone in the last turn. After this, Player 2 flips a card from her deck into the green zone. If it is a strike card, the game continues as has already been outlined above. There are other cards besides strike cards, however. One possible draw from the deck is an advantage card. An advantage card is not an offense- or defense-based card, instead being used to aid or assist the player who draws it in a number of different ways. Some advantage cards allow the player to scan through his or her deck, while others strengthen a strike's Force or alters the amount of a player's energy.
Just like strikes, the cost for playing an advantage is determined by the sidebar, which shows how many energies must be paid and from what zones they must come. If the player does not choose to pay for the advantage card, he or she draws another card from the deck and the advantage goes into the discard pile.
On the other hand, paying for the advantage makes use of the card until the player performs the next cleanup. For example, the card in the image is Open-Hand Form. If paid for, it will remain in play for the remainder of the turn, giving its user's strike cards one more force number per card. Assuming the player pays for the advantage card, the card is placed in the advantage area of the play mat. This procedure goes for all advantage cards, not just Open-Hand Form. The advantage area is located just above the green zone. When placed in the advantage area, the card is officially in play. To continue the outline, Player 2 will pay for Open-Hand Form and put it in the advantage area, thereby activating the card and its ability.
Having played the advantage, Player 2 has charged her green zone. A charge occurs in the zone a player is currently defending after playing an advantage, among other charge methods (if this player was in the yellow zone, the charge would occur there, not in the green zone). The three zones of both participants are uncharged at the beginning of every game. However, by employing advantage cards or using specific abilities, some or all of the zones have the chance of becoming charged.
To illustrate the change of the green zone's status from uncharged to charged, a player turns the Chamber Card in the green zone from vertically inclined to horizontally inclined, with the top of the card pointing to the left side of the mat and the bottom pointing to the right, similar to putting a strike card into the offensive position. For the yellow and red zones, one simply turns the deck stack and discard pile respectively into this position as well. Managing to charge all three zones results in the possibility for a player to perform a signature move (details below).
Chamber Card details and signature moves
The Chamber Card is the card that the players chose at the beginning of the game to represent them as their characters. As seen throughout this tutorial, Player 2 chose the Aang Chamber Card.
Within every Chamber Card is a hidden surprise meant to be employed later in the game. This surprise is a hidden, double-sided strike card, each side of which has a different signature move of a character (since the Chamber Card represents a character, the two strikes on the card within the Chamber Card are that character's signature moves) that acts just like any other card within the deck, except for one difference: neither signature move can be used unless certain conditions are met. First, all three of a player's zones must be charged, and second, even when the zones are charged, the player is only able to use a signature move before beginning to defend a zone, or more specifically, is only able to use a signature move before flipping a card into a zone. Despite the unusual strength of signature moves, they act just like any other strike cards in that if their Force number is too low to overtake an opponent card's Intercept number, the strike would fail against that card and should not be played.
After playing the advantage card and charging the green zone, it is time for Player 2 to flip another card into her green zone. If this card is a strike with a higher Intercept than the opponent strike's Force, it can perform a counterattack, but assuming it does not have a high enough Intercept, the card has to be focused into a green energy. This leads Player 2 into her yellow zone, where he or she flips another card. A strike card would continue the previously established format of the game, but let us say that the player draws another advantage card, this time marked "Immediate". An immediate advantage is recognizable by boldface notice on the card and means that unlike normal advantage cards, it goes to the discard pile not when the turn is completed, but when its ability has been used. Like normal advantages, however, it must be paid for with energy.
Assuming the advantage card drawn is Sustenance, Player 2 adds a red energy immediately upon paying for it, moves Sustenance to the discard pile. Thus, having used an advantage, Player 2 gets to charge her yellow zone, as that is the zone she played it from. If the next card flipped is a sufficient strike to counterattack against the opponent's card, things proceed to the other side of the playing mat, but for this outline's purposes, Player 2 will once again flip an insufficient strike card, focus it this time into the yellow zone, and move down to defend the red zone.
Ally cards and overpayment
By drawing an insufficient strike card at this point, or more appropriately by drawing an insufficient strike card in her red zone, Player 1 will have lost all of her zones. This would result in a point being earned by Player 1 (more details in the following subsection), which is the least desirable route for Player 2 at this point. Therefore, if not a substantial strike, Player 2 should hope to receive assistance from a different type of card, possibly by drawing an ally.
An ally card represents a friend or counterpart to the player's Chamber Card who can assist in defeating an opponent. Before considering its use, a player should know that it must be paid for with energy just like any other card. Usually these cards have similar effects to those of advantage cards: aiding in the strength of strikes, having special effects occur on the playing field, etc. There is an added bonus to paying for allies, though: when placed in the appropriate space on the play mat, the zone in which it is placed may now be known by two names. One of the names would simply be "X zone" based on the color of the zone, or it could be referred to by the name of the ally who resides in the zone, e.g. "Katara's zone".
Assuming that after flipping a card from her deck the card turns out to be the Katara ally, player 2 places the ally in the appropriate area on the play mat. An ally card has a designated area in each zone because the zone into which the ally is flipped decides in which ally area it will be placed. An ally card flipped into the green zone would be placed in the green ally area, an ally flipped into the yellow zone in the yellow ally area, etc. Once activated, an ally remains in play for the rest of the game (not for the rest of the turn) and affects only the cards that are flipped into that ally's zone.
Let us say that Player 1's attacking card has a value 6 Force and Player 2, after having placed her ally card in the appropriate area, flips a strike with only value 4 Intercept. However, lucky for Player 2, the card she just flipped is Pummel, which has a notice: "Green → +1 Intercept. Use only once." This means that if the player pays for the card (which costs two green energies) and pays for the +1 Intercept (which costs one green energy), the Intercept will have been raised to value 5 instead of value 4. Yes, this is still too low to defend against value 6 Force, but earlier this turn, the player drew Open-Hand Form, whose effect is that all strike cards are raised +1 Intercept. Therefore, Pummel has a sufficient defense against the value 6 Force card.
The Katara ally card now has a very important purpose. Katara's ability is "Yellow → When you counterattack from Katara's zone, charge this zone. Use only once per turn." So, if Player 2 uses Pummel to counterattack against the value 6 Force card and pays a yellow energy to bring Katara into effect, the green, yellow, and red zones will be charged and ready to support a signature move.
Another problem has arisen for Player 2, however: having paid for Pummel's special ability with a green energy, she is left with only one green energy in the green zone, and Pummel costs two green energies at its base cost. The method of working around this issue is to overpay for the card. Overpayment is the action of using differently colored energies to compensate for the absence of other, normally necessary energies. In the case of an absence of necessary green energy, yellow or red energies can be used to compensate. For example, if a player pays four green energies to play a card that requires five green energies to be played, a yellow energy or a red energy can be used in place of another green energy to compensate. A yellow energy cost can be compensated by red energy (but not by green energy), and a red energy cost cannot be overpaid at all. Overpayment is only allowed to take place when there is an insufficient number of other energies, not for other purposes such as to preserve one energy more than another, etc.
Chamber Card/signature move mechanics, earning a point, and celebration
With the help of overpayment, Player 2 may now play Pummel by paying the one green energy she has left and also paying one of her yellow energies. Therefore, Pummel can now counterattack and be placed in the offensive position. Finally, since the player paid for Katara's ally card ability, the red zone can now be charged by turning the discard pile into the charged position. At this point, Player 1 cleans up and replenishes his or her play mat, and flips a new card into his green zone.
Let us say that the flipped card has a number 4 Force and a number 8 Intercept. Having flipped a new card onto the field, it is now Player 2's turn to clean up and replenish. The only cards for her to clean up this turn are Open-Hand Form and Pummel, so they both go into the discard pile, and her opponent having attacked from the green zone, she replenishes a green energy.
With the formalities handled, Player 2 may once again notice that her zones are all charged, meaning that on this turn, she may use her Chamber Card. The first strike on the card within the Aang Chamber is Penguin Sledding, which costs one green energy. Before paying for it, however, Player 2 must uncharge all of her zones by placing them in their upward-pointing positions, as they appeared at the beginning of the game.
By paying for Penguin Sledding, the card is taken from the Chamber and placed on the forefront of the playing mat's space. As with all signature moves, Penguin Sledding is used before Player 2 begins to defend her zone, so Player 1 does not have the right to replenish any energy. However, the card is in play, so Player 1 still has to defend against it by flipping cards into his zones. One downside to Penguin Sledding is that each time an opponent focuses an energy, it goes down one Force value, starting with a relatively high value 7 Force.
Let us assume that Player 2 now flips a value 6 Intercept card into the green zone. This is not enough, and Player 1 moves down to defend the yellow zone while Penguin Sledding goes down one Force value to 6. Next Player 1 flips a value 5 Intercept, and even that is not enough to defeat Penguin Sledding. Finally, Player 1 flips a card into the red zone of value 3 Intercept, which cannot stand against Penguin Sledding and earns Player 2 one point.
Before the second chapter of the game begins, Player 2 (or to be more general, the point-earning player) gets to celebrate. To celebrate means to add one energy to each zone containing an ally card. To benefit Player 1 (or generally, the player who did not earn a point), that player gets to choose who receives the opening attack for the next match. Whoever gets to three points first wins the overall game.
- One of the illustrators for the cards, VUDUBERI, attests that there are 280 cards, while other sources state 235.
- ↑ "Upper Deck Entertainment Teams Up With Nickelodeon to Produce New Trading Card Game Based on the Wildly Popular Animated Series 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'". PR Newswire. UBM (2006-01-24). Retrieved on March 16, 2013.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Images of the rule book from Musogato.com.
- ↑ Gallery of Burger King promotional cards on Fastfoodtoys.net.
- ↑ "Upper Deck's 'Avatar' Promotion". ICV2 (August 28, 2006). Retrieved on August 29, 2013.
- ↑ ~~ GAMES: Avatar-The Last Air Bender [TRADING CARD ~~]. VUDUBERI. Retrieved on August 27, 2013.
- ↑ Various. Card Scans & Info. Avatar TCG Guide. Distant Horizon. Retrieved on August 27, 2013. Archived from the original on January 10, 2012.
- ↑ Spoiler list of cards (.PDF). Upper Deck Company. Retrieved on August 27, 2013. Archived from the original on December 9, 2008.
- Wayback Machine archives of the original Avatar TCG Website, its downloadable files, and other URLs include:
- Website launcher
- Website interface (otherwise found by using the above launcher)
- Comprehensive rulebook that contains guidelines and basic strategies for the game (PDF)
- Beginner's mistakes and how to avoid them (PDF)
- Alternate formats for two players (PDF)
- FAQ (PDF)
- Official list of cards, stating that there are 235 cards (PDF)
- Interactive demo that teaches the game step-by-step with a convenient plot
- TCG comprehensive database at Distant Horizon