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Counterspell

"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. Compare Curse Escape Clause.


Examples

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     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.
  • This is one of the defensive tricks a practitioner can do in The Dresden Files.
    • In Death Masks, when one of the Knights of the Blackened Denarius casts a spell conjuring up a bunch of snakes to attack his love interest, Harry Dresden performs a quick counterspell to get rid of them.
    • In one of the short stories, a Grendelkin displays and boasts of his knowledge of countering magic, making it so Harry's hardest hits just flow off it like water.
    • In Turn Coat, Listens-to-Wind does a rain dance as a counterspell—this time, instead of negating the blasts coming at him, he just causes them to miss their marks.
    • The swords of the Wardens of the White Council are also noted as being able to cut through and undo any enchantment. We see it in action a couple times, once negating one of Harry's defensive shields, and another time destroying some magical armor.
    • The RPG goes into a little more detail on how it's done—first, the mage has to do a Lore check to assess the strength of the spell he wants to counter, then he casts the counterspell equal to that amount of power. It's noted this usually takes too long to do as a defensive move, but it can be houseruled in as one.

    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.
      • Taken up to 11 in 3.5 where the mechanic was given a short feat chain and a prestige class focused entirely on standing around and just countering every spell as it's cast.
  • Loads and loads of examples in Magic: The Gathering, including the Trope Namer. Each card in a player's deck is considered a spell, cards such as Counterspell may be cast in response to "counter" the spell, sending it to the graveyard without having any effect.
  • 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.
  • In Ironclaw Holy and Unholy spells counter each other, "Create Element" spells can counter spells of the opposite Element while "Move Element" spells counter the same Element, and the Misfortune, Repudiation, and Silence spells counter magic in general.

    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.)
  • Can be done in Heroes of Might and Magic V if a hero learns the counterspell ability. When used, the hero forgoes their current action, and if an enemy uses a spell between now and their next action, the counterspelling hero spends twice the spell's cost in mana to stop the spell taking effect.
  • World of Warcraft: Every class has an ability that does this in one form or another, usually also preventing other spells from the same school from being cast for a few seconds. They only work on spells with a cast or channel time however, and some spells (mostly those used by monsters) are immune to them.

    Web Comics 
  • The page image shows Vaarsuvius from The Order of the Stick making good use of D&D's counterspell rules when battling Samantha the bandit sorceress. V notes that counter-spelling is a perfectly legitimate, if rarely-used, means of disabling a spellcaster.


Cast From MoneyMagic and PowersCurse Escape Clause
Connect the DeathsImageSource/WebcomicsGary Gygax

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