Created By: Nyktos on November 20, 2011 Last Edited By: Stratadrake on July 29, 2013
Troped

Counterspell

A spell that prevents another spell from being cast.

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Trope

"The pyromancer summoned up her mightiest onslaught of fire and rage. Jace feigned interest."

A counterspell is a spell that is used in response to an opponent casting their spell, which prevents that spell from doing its thing. Typically, a counterspell has to be specified in the same way that the spell is, so the one casting it has to know the caster and spell that they're trying to counter. In video games with a "casting speed" mechanic, counterspells are typically cast very fast so that they can finish casting while the other guy is still casting theirs. In card games with a last-in, first-out "stack" for responding to opponents, that isn't needed.

Subtrope of Anti-Magic. The key distinction between this and Anti-Magic is that this is stopping a spell while it's being cast, rather than removing its effects after it already has been. And keep in mind that simply having the opposite effect of a given spell (e.g. positive vs. negative Status Buff; inflict/heal poison) is not enough to qualify as a counterspell.


Examples

Literature
  • The Fellowship of the Ring. While the Fellowship is in Moria being pursued by orcs (and worse), Gandalf stays behind to hold a door closed. The opposition breaks through anyway. A few moments later Gandalf tells the rest of the Fellowship what happened.
I could think of nothing to do but to try and put a shutting-spell on the door. [snip] Then something came into the chamber [snip] and then it perceived me and my spell.
What it was I cannot guess, but I have never felt such a challenge. The counter-spell was terrible. It nearly broke me. For an instant the door left my control and began to open! I had to speak a word of Command. That proved too great a strain. The door burst in pieces.
  • An explicit spell and counterspell appear in Kelson's coronation duel against Charissa in Deryni Rising. Charissa begins:
    "Drathon tall,
    Power come.
    Conquer all,
    Senses numb."
The shape of a dragon begins to coalesce from mist, and Kelson interrupts with the counter:
"Drathon kill,
Power fade.
Senses still,
Conquer shade!"
  • Harry Potter has these on at least a theoretical basis, most directly seen in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone when a teacher tries to curse Harry off his broom while another tries to counter it. The countercurse was not entirely effective, even though the latter teacher was more skilled than the former, suggesting that counterspells are imperfect as a defense. More common practice is to use shield charms, which block or deflect weak spells, or just use similar spell of equal power so that the two cancel out.

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • 2nd Edition, Forgotten Realms setting. The spellstrike spell can negate an opponent's spell as it is being cast.
    • 3rd Edition has a Counterspell mechanic. A prepared spell may be cast to nullify another caster's attempt to use the same spell. For example, a fireball can counter another fireball (but not delayed blast fireball, which is a different spell). Some spells are specifically opposed to and counter other spells (haste and slow may counter each other as well as themselves). Finally, dispel magic can be used as a universal counterspell but requires a unique "dispel check" to make the attempt.
  • Loads and loads of examples in Magic: The Gathering, including the Trope Namer. Each card in a player's deck is considered a spell, and cards with the types "Interrupt" or "Instant" may be played in response to other spells -- such as those your opponent tries to play. The modern standard for counterspells in Magic is Cancel -- as in, "I cancel your spell."
  • Warhammer's dispel dice are an example of this, being used solely to counter enemy spells. There are also various abilities and pieces of wargear that allow instant dispels (the ubiquitous Dispel Scroll), or increase the power of your dispel attempts, either through modifying the result or granting extra dispel dice.

Video Games
  • In Guild Wars, the Mesmer profession has a number of "interrupt" spells that only work on spells and chants, which are given this kind of flavour (as opposed to the interrupt skills available to physical attacker professions, which can usually interrupt actions of all sorts and are given a flavour of hitting you so hard you stop what you're doing).
  • The Final Boss of Ōkamiden has its own version of the Celestial Brush and often nullifies your brushstrokes by crossing them out with his own. (Fortunately, this rule works both ways.)

Do We Have This One? I assume not, as there are a number of examples of this sort of thing under Anti-Magic, despite the description specifying something different.
Community Feedback Replies: 81
  • November 20, 2011
    troacctid
    Currently, I believe the closest thing we have is Anti Magic. This might be a subtrope.
  • November 20, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    Aren't there also counterspells that also undo the original spell rather than prevent or stop it?
  • November 20, 2011
    bulmabriefs144
    Also, expand this to include mundane means of counterspelling. In games like D&D, you can break the caster's concentration.
  • November 20, 2011
    aurora369
    I believe the trope namer was Lord Of The Rings. Gandalf mentioned something about counterspelling Balrog's magic.
  • November 21, 2011
    Koveras
    • In Final Fantasy XIII, support spells negate debuffs with opposite charges, e.g. elemental resistance cancels elemental weakness and vice versa (except Imperil, which can only be removed with generic dispels).
    • IIRC Neverwinter Nights implemented the third edition Dungeons And Dragons rules for spell-countering.
  • November 21, 2011
    Arivne
    ^^ The Lord Of The Rings example:

    Literature
    • The Fellowship of the Ring. While the Fellowship is in Moria being pursued by orcs (and worse), Gandalf stays behind to hold a door closed. The opposition breaks through anyway. A few moments later Gandalf tells the rest of the Fellowship what happened.
    I could think of nothing to do but to try and put a shutting-spell on the door. [snip] Then something came into the chamber [snip] and then it perceived me and my spell.
    What it was I cannot guess, but I have never felt such a challenge. The counter-spell was terrible. It nearly broke me. For an instant the door left my control and began to open! I had to speak a word of Command. That proved too great a strain. The door burst in pieces.

    Tabletop Games
    • 3rd Edition Dungeons And Dragons had a Counterspell mechanic. If you had a spell prepared, you could cast it to "counterspell" any attempt to use that specific spell against you. For example if you had a Fireball spell memorized, you could cast it to Counterspell a Fireball spell cast by someone else against you.
  • November 21, 2011
    Chabal2
    • Warcraft 3 has the Silence spell, which prevents any magic from being cast in an area. Does that count?
      • Also, any spell with a stun effect (along with Hex and Polymorph) can be used to interrupt a channelling spell.
      • Various "Dispel Magic" type spells, but those are used to remove buffs on targets rather than stopping a spell from casting.
  • November 21, 2011
    troacctid
    ^ The Silence spell would be Anti Magic but not this. A counterspell is reactive, not proactive.
  • November 21, 2011
    Generality
    Typically, a counterspell has to be specified in the same way that the spell does, so the one casting it has to know the caster and spell that they're trying to counter.
    • Harry Potter has these on at least a theoretical basis, most directly seen in Philosopher's Stone when a teacher tries to curse Harry off his broom while another tries to counter it. The countercurse was not entirely effective, even though the latter teacher was more skilled than the former, suggesting that counterspells are imperfect as a defense. More common practice is to use shield charms, which block or deflect weak spells, or just use similar spell of equal power so that the two cancel out.
  • November 21, 2011
    Nyktos
    The key distinction between this and Anti Magic is that this is stopping a spell while it's being cast, rather than removing its effects after it already has been.
  • November 22, 2011
    Chabal2
    Ah. In that case, just the stuns and polymorphs count.
  • November 22, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    An explicit spell and counterspell appear in Kelson's coronation duel against Charissa in Deryni Rising. Charissa begins:
    "Drathon tall,
    Power come.
    Conquer all,
    Senses numb."
    The shape of a dragon begins to coalesce from mist, and Kelson interrupts with the counter:
    "Drathon kill,
    Power fade.
    Senses still,
    Conquer shade!"
  • December 16, 2011
    moocow1452
    We don't have an Undo Magic trope? Really?
  • December 16, 2011
    crazysamaritan
    To add to the Magic The Gathering example:

    • The modern standard for this spell is Cancel. As in, "I cancel your spell."
  • December 17, 2011
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
  • December 17, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    @ moocow1452 It seems not.
  • December 17, 2011
    Loquacia
    Super Smash Bros has a variety of these for some characters. Everybody has a basic sheild, but there are also specials that deflect, absorb, or stock up projectiles for your own private use.
  • December 17, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    Yeah, I see Counterspell in works meaning both this definition as well as meaning the 'undo the spell' variety. Actually I think the latter is more prevalent.
  • December 17, 2011
    crazysamaritan
    So do I, but I also see works using "disenchant", meaning "to remove a spell". So, split?
  • December 17, 2011
    Stratadrake
    I agree, the term "counterspell" is used more broadly than simply one that disrupts the casting or incantation of a spell.
  • January 11, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Bump.
  • January 12, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    Anti Magic can include static effects in the environment, but this would refer to a direct action taken to stop a spell from working. I think Shield Charms from Harry Potter would qualify as a sort of counter spell.
  • January 13, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    I'm inclined to see this as a subset of Anti Magic, but a broad subset as NoirGrimoir and Stratadrake suggest. I'm not sure there's enough examples to warrant a split between the counters that interrupt spells (preventing their completion) and the counters that undo the effects of completed spells. If we still did numbered types, they could be two categories...Thoughts?
  • January 13, 2012
    ScanVisor
    Final Fantasy series in general: Silence prevents spells from being cast, period. Reflect causes the effects to not happen.
  • January 13, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Hats?
  • January 13, 2012
    crazysamaritan
    ^^^ The second type is also called disenchanting. So it could be split that way.
  • January 15, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Shall we start another YKTTW for disenchanting and revise this one to only have interruption counters?
  • January 15, 2012
    crazysamaritan
    I think so.
  • January 17, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Do you want to do it, or shall I?
  • January 17, 2012
    Stratadrake
    BTW, the current page quote isn't indicative of the trope definition.
  • January 18, 2012
    crazysamaritan
    ^^ I don't want to, but I'll help you build it.
  • January 18, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    OK Let me get some sleep and I'll work on it tonight.
  • January 18, 2012
    crazysamaritan
    Try this quote for this trope: http://magiccards.info/mm/en/69.html

    Then for disenchant, try this: http://magiccards.info/isd/en/197.html
  • January 18, 2012
    OranjeLament
    A good number of Blue spells in the Magic: The Gathering TCG are counterspells that do not allow the other player to cast their current spell.
  • January 20, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    @ crazysamaritan I'm thinking of calling the other YKTTW Undo Magic rather than Disenchant. What do you think?
  • January 20, 2012
    crazysamaritan
    Works fine.
  • January 20, 2012
    69BookWorM69
  • February 4, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Hats anyone?
  • February 4, 2012
    deuxhero
    In addition to the same spell, the Dungeons And Dragons example also allows some limited number of opposite spells (Such as Haste/Slow, Enlarge Person/Reduce Person and Heat Metal/Chill Metal) to function in place of the same spell for counterspelling.
  • February 5, 2012
    crazysamaritan
    Each pair used to be the same spell. But after separating them, they only count for Undo Magic
  • August 3, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say "The key distinction between this and (Anti Magic) is that this is stopping a spell while it's being cast, rather than removing its effects after it already has been" you should replace Anti Magic with Undo Magic in this case (but not the sentence before it). Anti Magic usually refers to a constant force field dispelling magic before it happens. Depending on the type, this may or may not exclude indirect magical effects (like summoning an earthquake).

    Counterspelling is basically blocking a spell with an active spell such as dispel magic or a spell of reverse alignment for negation. There is also an Epic Fail Counterspell form which involves either incompatible counterspells (water vs a thunder spell, instant-kills the water caster and knockbacks the thunder one) or the same spell (amplification explosion, knockbacks both). You can also counterspell with time or void powers (by making a portal that sucks the spell in).
  • August 4, 2012
    morenohijazo
    I think there could be potential for three different tropes: one that prevents the spell for being casted in first place, one that stops it while it's being casted, and one that removes the effects after it's already being casted. But I don't know if there would enough examples for all three.
  • August 4, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Thanks for bringing this back. Now, if we could just get some hats.
  • August 4, 2012
    KZN02
  • August 4, 2012
    Stratadrake
    There's a general consensus against using game cards as page images.
  • August 5, 2012
    morenohijazo
    ^ Why?
  • August 5, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Yes, that's news to me as well (not that I play the card games, so I'm not likely to think to use one). What's the reasoning behind it?

    Also, what sort of page image would you suggest instead?
  • August 5, 2012
    VindicareGlint
    What about an image cropped from this comic? Not sure about the legality, though...
  • August 5, 2012
    Stratadrake
    I'm actually not sure whether it's a formal policy or not, but we've definitely pages using whole Magic The Gathering cards as page images, and a few too many discussions to change them out for something else.
  • August 5, 2012
    JimmyTMalice
    I think this falls under Anti Magic.
  • August 5, 2012
    captainsandwich
  • August 5, 2012
    RJSavoy
    World Of Warcraft has a class of abilites called "interrupts" (including one called Counterspell) that stop a spell if used while the enemy is casting it (and prevent similar spells being cast for a few seconds). They have no other effect and reward quick reactions.

    Do other multiplayer games have anything comparable?
  • August 5, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    @ Jimmy T Malice The text says it's a subtrope of Anti Magic. That trope may need revision or cleaning up once this goes up (assuming it does). Someone else suggested renaming or creating a trope for Undo Magic as well. I drafted one, but haven't seen it in a while. Is TRS still booked solid?
  • August 9, 2012
    VindicareGlint
    Added an image cropped from captainsandwich's suggestion.
  • August 9, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    It's not a subtrope of Anti Magic. For reasons explained above, unless we revamp Anti Magic too (which probably doesn't need it), it's instead:

    "Contrast Anti Magic, which is an inborn immunity to all magic."
  • August 11, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Just to be clear, the definition we're using here is specifically a spell that interrupts/blocks another spell before it can take effect?
  • August 12, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Right. Undo Magic is for a spell that reverses the effects of a completed spell. It seems that YKTTW was discarded, as I cannot find it now.
  • August 12, 2012
    TBeholder
    thus The Fellowship Of The Ring is not an example.
  • June 30, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    ^^^^ that's not what Anti Magic is. Look at the page again. Anti Magic can be inborn, from an artifact, or from a spell. It prevents magic from being used. This trope is where one spell prevents another spell from being used.

    ^^^ No, not specifically from taking effect. Specifically a spell that prevents a caster from completing their spell. If, as in the example of LOTR, the spell has an effect while it is cast, then the interruption will take place after the spell has had an effect, but before the caster is finished. Compare to the page image, where Chain Lightning has purple wavy lines, and is counter spelled by the elf.

    There are two general types of spells, "fire and forget" versus "concentration". The first spell usually has a set casting time, while the other requires the caster to keep casting the spell, or it ends. Gandalf was using the second type of spell, or he could have stayed with the Fellowship.
  • June 30, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Warcraft III: To cancel a channelled spell, you can use a spell that disrupts (stun, sleep, silence, etc.) if simply killing the unit is impractical.
      • There is an item that cancels a negative spell every once in a while.
  • June 30, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ Stuns and sleeps don't qualify because, well, they are meant to stun and put the enemy to sleep. Counterspell is a spell that's meant solely for canceling other spells.
  • June 30, 2013
    Astaroth
    • In Heroes Of Might And Magic V, the counterspell subskill can be taken by certain heroes who have the sorcery skill. If a hero has counterspell activated and an enemy casts a spell, the hero spends twice the spell's mana cost in order to cancel it out.
  • June 30, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Expanded the D&D 3e example.
  • June 30, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Since Web Links Are Not Examples, the Magic The Gathering example needs a clarification on how the countering mechanic actually works in the game.
  • June 30, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    ^ Addressed that, as well as fixing namespacing/italicizing for some works. Trying not to bog down with too many details, but if it still doesn't make sense for someone unfamiliar with the game, shout it out.
  • June 30, 2013
    DAN004
    • In Okami, in Amaterasu's fight against Ninetails; the latter has a magic brush like Ammy does, but the only thing he does with it is trying to dispel Ammy's brush magic (working by stopping time and manually drawing a symbol) by drawing a red cross over it. You have to draw faster than him to cast your magic successfully.
  • July 1, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^ That doesn't count -- Ninetails doesn't specifically cancel out your brush powers, he draws his own. (The same symbols you can draw - Cherry Bomb, Galestorm, and a secret Blizzard technique.) However, in the sequel Okamiden, its final boss does interrupt your attempts at brush strokes by crossing them out. (You can do the same.)
  • July 1, 2013
    StarSword
    Potholed the page image.
  • July 2, 2013
    Arutema
    • Emerald/Sapphire/Adamant Countermagic from Exalted can shatter any spell of an equal or lower circle as it is being cast.
  • July 2, 2013
    DAN004
    @ Stratadrake: Good, you can add it then.
  • July 2, 2013
    Stratadrake
    If we're going strictly by one spell that interrupts/disrupts the casting of another, then the in-draft examples may need some cleaning. In particular, I'm removing the FF citation because most FF games do not have this, they just have cures to remove the effects and silencing to block magic entirely. A.k.a. spells that just have opposite effects (e.g. buff vs debuff) are not actual counter-spells.
  • July 2, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    You are correct, but the D&D example would remain as an exception. The buff/debuff spells can be cast to disrupt the casting of their opposite number.
  • July 2, 2013
    Generality
    • In Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code", Shakespeare, with the Doctor's help, devises a counterspell to prevent the Carrionites' incursion into the world.
  • July 12, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    Is this Ready To Launch?
  • July 12, 2013
    DAN004
    IDK, The Anti Magic page has a whole category for "Spells" there. :/
  • July 13, 2013
    Stratadrake
    That's not the same. Anti Magic is about the ability to suppress magical energy in general, while counter-spells (proper) tend to be tailored to individual spells.
  • July 13, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    ^^ and are present, in part, because of the lack of this trope. Square Peg Round Trope.
  • July 15, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    @ DAN004 I think the point of this trope is to clarify the situation to which crazysamaritan referred.
  • July 28, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ So is this thing being launched? Will the Anti Magic page get revised?
  • July 28, 2013
    DAN004
    Then we can move the "spells" part of that page and put them here, amirite?
  • July 29, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    No. Only the duplicates. Not all of the examples in that category are Counter spell examples. Most are Disenchant examples, and some are actual Anti Magic examples.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=qg89srou7lvy07v291ix6vyf&trope=Counterspell