In a nutshell
- Damage is processed in a three-part sequence:
- First, the damage is dealt. Replacement and prevention effects apply in this step. Abilities that trigger on damage being dealt trigger here (but are not put onto the stack until the next time a player would get priority).
- Second, the damage is processed into its results. These results may be modified by replacement effects, especially if the damage has extra effects such as causing life gain or putting counters on a creature.
- Finally, the damage event occurs.
- Normally damage that’s dealt to creatures causes that much damage to be marked on the creature, damage dealt to planeswalkers causes that many loyalty counters to be removed from them, and damage dealt to players causes them to lose that much life.
- Some abilities can cause different results:
- Wither causes -1/-1 counters to be put on creatures rather than marking damage on them.
- Infect causes -1/-1 counters to be put on creatures rather than marking damage on them and causes players to get poison counters instead of losing life.
- Lifelink causes players to gain life in addition to other effects of the damage.
- In all of these circumstances, the damage still counts as being dealt, so abilities that trigger on damage being dealt will still trigger.
- If a source that’s no longer on the battlefield is supposed to deal damage, it still can. The game uses the source’s last known information (it looks at the source as it last existed on the battlefield) to determine any qualities about the source, such as whether it has lifelink or what color it is.
- If noncombat damage would be dealt to a player by a source controlled by an opponent, that opponent may have that source deal that damage to a planeswalker the first player controls instead.
- If a source would deal 0 damage, it does not deal damage at all. That means abilities that trigger on damage being dealt won’t trigger. It also means that replacement effects that would increase the damage dealt by that source, or would have that source deal that damage to a different object or player, have no event to replace, so they have no effect.
- Similarly, if a source would deal damage, but all of that damage is prevented, the source is not considered to have dealt damage.
A: The damage event starts off as [5 damage to Melira’s Keepers, 4 damage to Amy’s creature]. This damage is dealt to the respective creatures; at this point, Charisma triggers. Then the damage is processed into its results, so the damage event becomes [5 -1/-1 counters are placed on Melira’s Keepers, 4 damage is marked on Amy’s creature]. Then, the damage happens. It isn’t legal to put the counters on Melira’s Keepers, so this part is skipped. After this, the Charisma’s ability is put onto the stack.
A: Nicole casts Lightning Bolt targeting Amy. After both players pass priority, Lightning Bolt will resolve, and the game sees that it would deal 3 damage to Amy. However, Nicole may choose to redirect any noncombat damage dealt by a source she controls from Amy to any planeswalker that Amy controls instead. She makes this choice as Lightning Bolt is resolving; neither player may respond to it. The 3 damage that is dealt to Jace causes 3 loyalty counters to be removed from it. After Lightning Bolt resolves, the game checks for state-based actions. Jace will now have 0 loyalty, so it’s put in Amy’s graveyard.
Note: In this scenario, Nicole will probably just say “bolt Jace” and both players will know what’s going on. This is a commonly used shortcut for the sequence of actions described above. Additional tournament shortcuts are detailed in MTR 4.2.
Note: Because neither player can respond after Nicole makes the choice to redirect the damage, Amy must decide if she wants to counter Lightning Bolt not knowing whether she or Jace will take the damage (although if Nicole says “bolt Jace”, and Amy does not cast or activate anything in response, Nicole cannot change her mind).
Q: Amy is attacking Nicole with two 3/3’s. Nicole is at 3 life, and she blocks one of Amy’s creatures with a 3/3 creature with lifelink. Both players then pass priority in the Declare Blockers step What happens next?
A: After both players pass with the stack empty in the Declare Blockers step, the game moves on to the Combat Damage step. At this point, Amy will assign 3 damage from her first creature to Nicole’s creature and 3 damage from her other creature to Nicole. Then Nicole will assign 3 damage from her creature to the creature that it’s blocking. After this damage is assigned, it’s all dealt simultaneously. The damage that’s dealt to Nicole causes her to lose that much life. The damage that’s dealt to the creatures causes that much damage to be marked on them. Additionally, the damage from Nicole’s lifelink creature causes her to gain 3 life. Because the damage is all dealt simultaneously, all these things, which are the effects of the damage, happen at the same time. Nicole both gains and loses 3 life, so her life total stays the same. After the damage event, the game will check for state-based actions and see two creatures with lethal damage on them; they will both be destroyed.
Note: In previous versions of the rules, lifelink was a triggered ability (reference, for example, the Tenth Edition version of Loxodon Warhammer). Be aware of this if you’re explaining this ruling to a player who’s been playing for a long time.
Q: Amy controls a Furnace of Rath and attacks with a 4/4 creature with trample. Nicole blocks with a 2/2 creature. What happens?
A: In the combat damage step, Amy chooses how she will assign damage from her trample creature. The most logical damage assignment is 2 damage to Nicole’s creature and 2 damage to Nicole. As the damage is dealt, Furnace of Rath will double each of these to 4 damage. It will also double the damage that Nicole’s creature will deal to Amy’s. The net result is that both creatures will die and Nicole will take 4.
Note: The game does not take replacement effects into account when determining what lethal damage is. In this case, that meant that Amy had to waste some of her creature’s damage output by dealing 4 to the blocking creature. On the other hand, if there are any prevention effects acting on a blocking creature, this rule means that those are also ignored for the purposes of determining how much damage is lethal, increasing the amount of damage that can trample over to the defending player.
A: Harm’s Way is white, so there’s no problem with casting it targeting Vulshok Refugee. This is true even though the source of the damage is red, and even though it’s affecting something the source couldn’t have targeted. Combust resolves, which creates a damage event in the game [Combust deals 5 damage to Boros Reckoner]. Harm’s way modifies this to [Combust deals 2 damage to Vulshok Refugee and 3 damage to Boros Reckoner]. At this point, Vulshok Refugee’s protection from red wants to modify this event by preventing the damage from a red source that would be dealt to it, but that doesn’t happen because Combust states that the damage cannot be prevented. At this point, Boros Reckoner’s ability triggers, but it’s not put on the stack yet. Next, damage event is processed into its results, marking the appropriate amount of damage on each of those creatures. Finally, those results happen. After that, because a spell finished resolving, the active player will get priority, but before that happens, the game checks for state-based actions. Both creatures die. The game now checks for triggered abilities that have triggered, and Amy puts her reckoner trigger onto the stack. Because the final event dealt 3 damage to Boros Reckoner, this is how much damage will be dealt to whatever Amy targets.
A: Shock deals 2 damage to Prodigal Pyromancer, which causes 2 damage to be marked on it. The next time state-based actions are performed, Prodigal Pyromancer will be destroyed. However, once activated, the Pyromancer’s ability exists independently of its source. The ability will resolve and use Prodigal Pyromancer’s last known information to determine the characteristics of the source of damage. As it last existed on the battlefield, Pyromancer had Lifelink and Deathtouch, so its damage will cause 1 damage will be marked on Grizzly Bears and Amy will gain 1 life. The 1 damage from a source with deathtouch is lethal damage for Grizzly Bears, so it will be destroyed the next time state-based actions are performed.
Q: Amy has a Prodigal Pyromancer with a -1/-1 counter on it. The pyromancer is equipped with a Basilisk Collar and a Leonin Scimitar. Amy activates its ability targeting Nicole’s Grizzly Bears, and Nicole responds by casting Disarm on the Pyromancer. What happens?
A: The Disarm unattaches both equipment from Prodigal Pyromancer. The next time state-based actions are performed, it will be put in Amy’s graveyard for having 0 toughness. The ability on the stack still exists independently of its source and will still resolve. The Prodigal Pyromancer did not have lifelink or deathtouch as it last existed on the battlefield, though, so the only thing that happens is 1 damage is marked on the Grizzly Bears.
A: The Shock deals 2 damage on the bear. Since it has lethal damage marked on it, Grizzly Bears is destroyed the next time state-based actions are performed. Fall of the Hammer will still try to resolve, but Grizzly Bears is not in the zone it was in when it was targeted, which means that it is no longer a legal target. Fall of the Hammer will still resolve because not all of its targets are illegal, but it will be unable to make the illegal target do anything, so nothing will happen.
A: Fling resolves and deals 2 damage to Hill Giant. This causes 2 damage to be marked on it. Grizzly Bears had lifelink and deathtouch the last time it was on the battlefield, but this is irrelevant because Fling specifies that it deals the damage itself, not the sacrificed creature.
Q: Amy controls Boon Reflection and attacks with a 3/3 creature with wither and lifelink. Nicole blocks with a 2/2 creature, and casts a spell that prevents the next 2 damage that would be dealt to the blocking creature. What happens?
A: The damage event starts out as [3 damage is dealt to the 2/2 creature, 2 damage is dealt to the 3/3 creature]. The prevention effect is applied, so the damage event becomes [1 damage is dealt to the 2/2 creature, 2 damage is dealt to the 3/3 creature]. That’s processed into its results, so the damage event is now [one -1/-1 counter is put on the 2/2 creature, Amy gains 1 life, 2 damage is marked on the 3/3 creature]. Boon Reflection’s effect is applied, so the damage event becomes [one -1/-1 counter is put on the 2/2 creature, Amy gains 2 life, 2 damage is marked on the 3/3 creature]. Then the damage event occurs.
A: The damage event starts out as [10 damage is dealt to Nicole]. Awe Strike’s effect is applied, so the damage event becomes [5 damage is dealt to Nicole, Nicole gains 5 life]. That’s processed into its results, so the damage event is now [Nicole loses 5 life, Nicole gains 5 life]. Worship’s effect sees that the damage event would not reduce Nicole’s life total to less than 1, so Worship’s effect is not applied. Then the damage event occurs.