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When activating a card or effect that targets, you must declare the target(s) before the effect is added to the chain. The target's location(s) are always specified, which can be the field, Graveyard, or banished cards. There are no cards that can target a card(s) in the hand, Main Deck, or Extra Deck.
- Example: Player A activates "Raigeki Break" while Player B controls a "Number 39: Utopia". Player A selects "Utopia" as the target of "Raigeki Break". "Raigeki Break" is then added to the Chain. If there were no cards on the field other than "Raigeki Break", then no targets would be available to it and it could not be activated.
With the introduction of Problem-Solving Card Text, if the card's text says "target" or if the card is an Equip Spell Card, then the card or effect always targets. On older cards, if the card or effect says "select", or "designate" then the effect usually targets, although there are some exceptions - when in doubt, check the card's rulings or most recent printing to see whether or not it targets.
- Example: Player A controls "Darkness Neosphere" and "Dark Highlander", and attacks Player B directly with "Darkness Neosphere". Player B activates "Magic Cylinder". At this time, "Magic Cylinder" automatically targets "Darkness Neosphere" and the Player B doesn't have to say what card he/she targets.
If a card is targeted by a card another effect is chained to the original effect so that the target is not a legal target when resolving the original effect, then the original effect resolves without effect (i.e., it does nothing). You do not get to re-select the target.
- Example: Player A activates "Offerings to the Doomed" while there is a face-up "Dark Magician" and "Breaker the Magical Warrior" on the field. Player A selects "Dark Magician" as the target for his "Offerings to the Doomed". Player B chains "Book of Moon", targeting the same "Dark Magician". "Book of Moon" resolves first, and changes "Dark Magician" to face-down Defense Position. Then, when "Offerings to the Doomed" resolves, "Dark Magician" is not destroyed, as "Offerings to the Doomed" can only target face-up monsters and "Dark Magician" is now face down. "Offerings to the Doomed" resolves without effect; Player A does not get to re-select the target, even though another valid target exists.
- Example: Player A activates "Monster Reborn" and targets "Blue Eyes White Dragon" in his Graveyard. Player B chains the effect of "D.D. Crow" from his hand, targeting "Blue Eyes White Dragon". Since "Blue Eyes White Dragon" is removed from the Graveyard, "Monster Reborn" resolves without effect since the target changed locations and is thus no longer a valid target.
Cards that affect "all" cards (such as "Dark Hole", "Mirror Force", "Lightning Vortex" and "Heavy Storm") never target, because they affect as many cards as possible rather than the player choosing which cards will be affected and which cards will not, even if there is only one card that they will end up affecting. Likewise, "Fissure" and "Magical Dimension" do not target, because they select the monster to be affected when the effect is resolved, rather than when it is activated.
Most Counter Trap Cards do not target for the same reason - they respond to the card/effect that was activated before it, meaning there is no selection, thus no targeting.