Flippi rules: the combat phase

Written by derflippi on September 18, 2010




We recently made an important change in our judge test. In order to

give more users the chance to contribute to the community in the form

of tournaments they run, the passing was reduced from eight to seven

correctly answered questions.

However, there's another project I find interesting for the players

who are interested in how rules work. For that project, I collect the

questions from #judges4you, our judges' channel and sort them by

topic. In the upcoming months, I will release these questions and

explain at my best, the reasons behind their answers. Most of the

questions cover basic rules knowledge, I find every player should

have. The remaining few can be challenging. They probably can't be

answered intuitively by most players. Therefore, I am sure everyone

can learn something new in my articles.


In today's article, I put emphasis on the combat phase.


But first, I'll pass you the most frequently asked question from

August, and one question that makes it clear "Read the fff..riendly

card" should be done more often.


The correct answers to all questions will be posted at the very

bottom of the article. You can make your own thoughts and then

compare with the answers. By writing something down, it's more likely

to remember faults, and this way improve your rules knowledge (and

that way, your play).




FAQ of the month

Florian has a Pyromancer Ascension with two quest counters on it. He

casts Into the Roil with Kicker on another permanent.

Pyromancer Ascension creates a copy of Into the Roil, but will he

also draw a card for the copy ?


Pyromancer Ascension {1R} | Enchantment | Whenever you cast an instant

or sorcery spell that has the same name as a card in your graveyard,

you may put a quest counter on Pyromancer Ascension. / Whenever you

cast an instant or sorcery spell while Pyromancer Ascension has two

or more quest counters on it, you may copy that spell. You may choose

new targets for the copy.


Into the Roil {1U} | Instant | Kicker 1U / Return target nonland

permanent to its owner's hand. If Into the Roil was kicked, draw a

card.




RTFC of the month

Flippi casts Blightning targetting itself. He discards two Obstinate

Baloths. How much life will he have once the stack is empty again?


Blightning {1BR} | Sorcery | Blightning deals 3 damage to target

player. That player discards two cards.


Obstinate Baloth {2GG} | Creature – Beast | 4/4. When Obstinate Baloth

enters the battlefield, you gain 4 life. / If a spell or ability an

opponent controls causes you to discard Obstinate Baloth, put it onto

the battlefield instead of putting it into your graveyard.






Stuff in the combat phase.



It's Anakin's combat phase. He will attack Nick, who is at 8 life.

Anakin attacks Nick with a Ball Lightning. Nick blocks with a Death's

Shadow. Anakin assigns one damage to Nick.

Will the Death's Shadow die ?


Death's Shadow {B} | Creature – Avatar | 13/13. Death's Shadow gets -

X/-X, where X is your life total.


Ball Lightning {RRR} | Creature – Elemental | 6/1. Trample / Haste /

At the beginning of the end step, sacrifice Ball Lightning.





It's Adrian's combat phase. He attacks Norman with two Fiery

Hellhounds. Norman blocks one Hellhound with his Wall of Omens. Now

Adrian wants to activate the activated ability of the unblocked Fiery

Hellhound.

Can he do that? What will it do ?


Fiery Hellhound {1RR} | Creature -- Elemental Hound | 2/2. R: Fiery

Hellhound gets +1/+0 until end of turn.


Wall of Omens {1W} | Creature – Wall | 0/4. Defender / When Wall of

Omens enters the battlefield, draw a card





Anakin attacks Neil's Planeswalker Ajani Goldmane with a Giant

Scorpion. It is not blocked and both players agree to move to the

combat damage step.

What happens to the Ajani Goldmane?


Ajani Goldmane {2WW} | Planeswalker – Ajani | 4 loyalty. +1: You gain

2 life. / -1: Put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control. Those

creatures gain vigilance until end of turn. / -6: Put a white Avatar

creature token onto the battlefield. It has "This creature's power

and toughness are each equal to your life total."


Giant Scorpion {2B} | Creature – Scorpion | 1/3. Deathtouch





It's Barbie's turn. She has a full graveyard, 2 life and a Grim

Lavamancer. Her opponent John attacks with 2 Scathe Zombies.

Is it possible for Barbie to block and kill a Zombie, and that way

survive ?


Grim Lavamancer {R} | Creature -- Human Wizard | 1/1. R, T, Exile two

cards from your graveyard: Grim Lavamancer deals 2 damage to target

creature or player.


Scathe Zombies {2B} | Creature – Zombie | 2/2.





Charly attacks George with a Cyclops Gladiator who has just a Goblin

Piker. Charly choses to target the Goblin Piker with Gladiators

ability. With the trigger on the stack, George casts a Thunder Strike

targetting his Goblin Piker.

How does the Thunder Strike affect what's going on ?


Cyclops Gladiator {1RRR} |Creature -- Cyclops Warrior| 4/4. Whenever

Cyclops Gladiator attacks, you may have it deal damage equal to its

power to target creature defending player controls. If you do, that

creature deals damage equal to its power to Cyclops Gladiator.


Goblin Piker {1R} | Creature -- Goblin Warrior | 2/1.


Thunder Strike {1R} | Instant | Target creature gets +2/+0 and gains

first strike until end of turn.





Victor is attacking with a Vampire Hexmage. Aaron blocks with an

Ajani's Pridemage who has 4 +1/+1 counters on it. Victor wants to

sacrifice the Vampire Hexmage in order to kill Ajani's Pridemage.

Can he do that ?


Vampire Hexmage {BB} |Creature -- Vampire Shaman| 2/1. First strike / Sacrifice Vampire Hexmage: Remove all counters from target permanent.


Ajani's Pridemate {1W} |Creature -- Cat Soldier| 2/2. Whenever you gain life, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Ajani's Pridemate. (For example, if an effect causes you to gain 3 life, you may put one +1/+1 counter on this creature.) ·




Andrew casts Vampiric Link on Niknight's Nessian Courser. Niknight then

attacks and Nessian Courser deals 3 damage to Andres. Who gains

the life ?


Nessian Courser {2G} | Creature - Centaur Warrior | 3/3.


Vampiric Link {B} | Enchantment – Aura | Enchant creature Whenever

enchanted creature deals damage, you gain that much life.








You've made all your answers ? Here's the correct answers:


Pyromancer Ascension and Into the Roil

Pyromancer Ascension copies the Into the Roil. The question is what parts of Into the Roil will be copied. So let's have a look at the comprehensive rules. A quick look at "copyable values" in the glossary leads me to rule 706.2:


"706.2. When copying an object, the copy acquires the copiable values of the original object's characteristics and, for an object on the stack, choices made when casting or activating it (mode, targets, the value of X, whether it was kicked, how it will affect multiple targets, and so on). The "copiable values" are the values derived from the text printed on the object (that text being name mana cost, card type, subtype, supertype, expansion symbol, rules text, power, toughness, and/or loyalty), as modified by other copy effects, by "as . . . enters the battlefield" and "as . . . is turned face up" abilities that set characteristics, and by abilities that caused the object to be face down. Other effects (including type-changing and text-changing effects), status, and counters are

not copied."


The rule specifically mentions that "whether it was kicked" is a choice when casting the spell and thus is copied. Assuming the original spell and the copy both resolve (and are not countered upon resolution due to lack of target), he will draw two cards!



Blightning and Obstinate Baloth


Flippi discarded two Obstinate Baloth. However, Obstinate Baloth reads:

"..If a spell or ability an opponent controls causes you to discard Obstinate Baloth, put it onto the battlefield instead of putting it into your graveyard..."

Flippi controls the Blightning, Flippi discards the Obstinate Baloth. Flippi is not his own opponent therefore he will not get the Obstinate Baloths be put onto the battlefield.


Death's Shadow and Ball Lightning


Anakin attacked. His Ball Lightning is blocked by a 5/5 Death's Shadow.


506.1. The combat phase has five steps, which proceed in order: beginning of combat, declare attackers, declare blockers, combat damage, and end of combat...


Once both players decide to use no tricks (Giant Growht, Diminish or similar..), the game proceeds to the combat damage step. Let's have a look at what happens in this fourth part of the combat phase.


510.1. First, the active player announces how each attacking creature assigns its combat damage, then the defending player announces how each blocking creature assigns its combat damage. This turn-based action doesn't use the stack. A player assigns a creature's combat damage according to the following rules:...


702.17b. The controller of an attacking creature with trample first assigns damage to the creature(s) blocking it. Once all those blocking creatures are assigned lethal damage, any remaining damage is assigned as its controller chooses among those blocking creatures and the player or planeswalker the creature is attacking.


Since Ball Lightning has trample, Anaking assigns 5 damage to the 5/5 blocker (has to) and the remaining (1) damage to Nick. (alternatively could've assigned a sixth damage to the Death's Shadow).


Once the damage is assigned, the game proceeds.


510.2. Second, all combat damage that's been assigned is dealt simultaneously. This turn-based action doesn't use the stack. No player has the chance to cast spells or activate abilities between the time combat damage is assigned and the time it's dealt. This is a change from previous rules.


This means that the Ball Lightning is dealt 5 damage. The Death's Shadow is dealt 5 damage. Nick is dealt 1 damage. Note that at this moment, all creatures are still alive. This is because of the so called state-based actions. Those that make Maro survive a Wheel of Fortune! The will go on for a short time before these state-based actions are checked to see whether a creature is destroyed or a player has won the game:


510.3. Third, any abilities that triggered on damage being assigned or dealt go on the stack.

510.4. Fourth, the active player gets priority. Players may cast spells and activate abilities.


There are no triggered abilties to trigger here. 510.4 is the vital part to understand the answer for this situation. Anakin gets priority. What to do with it ?


704.3. Whenever a player would get priority (see rule 116, "Timing and Priority"), the game checks for any of the listed conditions for state-based actions, then performs all applicable state-based actions simultaneously as a single event. ..

..

704.5g. If a creature has toughness greater than 0, and the total damage marked on it is greater than or equal to its toughness, that creature has been dealt lethal damage and is destroyed.


Ball Lightning has a toughness of 1 and 5 damage. That is certainly lethal damage.

Death's Shadow has 5 damage, however now has a toughness of 6. This means it does not have lethal damage on it so will survive the combat phase!



Two Fiery Hellhounds and a Wall


506.1. The combat phase has five steps, which proceed in order: beginning of combat, declare attackers, declare blockers, combat damage, and end of combat...


The players went through the beginning of combat step and the declare attackers step already. They're currently in the declare blockers step and Norman, the non-active player already declared a block. What are the players' options now ?

The rules for the declare blockers step cover situations where one creature is blocked by two or more creatures, where one creature blocks more than one creature and that attacking creatures that were blocked will stay "blocked" for the duration of the combat phase. After blocking, not much happens one might think:


509.5. Fifth, the active player gets priority. Players may cast spells and activate abilities.


Only after that part is also done, the game will go on. Adrian can activate abilities while still in the declare blockers step. This is clearly still before the combat damage step (where damage is dealt), so he can pump the unblocked Fiery Hellhound!


Ajani Goldmane and Giant Scorpion


In the situation, Giant Scorpion deals damage to a planeswalker. The question is whether Deathtouch applies to Planeswalkers too.

By the Magic: the Gathering glossary, Deathtouch is..

Deathtouch: A keyword ability that causes damage dealt by an object to be especially effective. See rule 702.2


702.2b. Any nonzero amount of combat damage assigned to a creature by a source with deathtouch is considered to be lethal damage, regardless of that creature's toughness.


Reading that makes the question easy. Deathtouch is especially effective to creatures only. It is redundant when damage to players or planeswalkers is done.



Grim Lavamancer and Scathe Zombies


This situation is similar to the Fiery Hellhound situation, yet there is another aspect to think of. It should be clear by rue 509.5 that the defending player can use Grim Lavamancer before combat damage is dealt and this way kill the unblocked Scathe Zombie. However, since Grim Lavamancer is now tapped, what happens to the other attacking Scathe Zombie, which was initially blocked by Grim Lavamancer?


Still in the section for the declare blockers step, we find the following:

509.1h. An attacking creature with one or more creatures declared as blockers for it becomes a blocked creature; one with no creatures declared as blockers for it becomes an unblocked creature. This remains unchanged until the creature is removed from combat, an effect says that it becomes blocked or unblocked, or the combat phase ends, whichever comes first. A creature remains blocked even if all the creatures blocking it are removed from combat.


Now we know the Scathe Zombie which was blocked by Grim Lavamancer is blocked and stays blocked until the combat phase ends or the Grim Lavamancer is removed from combat. Does getting tapped means a creature is removed from combat ?


506.4. A permanent is removed from combat if it leaves the battlefield, if its controller changes, if it phases out, if an effect specifically removes it from combat, if it's a planeswalker that's being attacked and stops being a planeswalker, or if it's an attacking or blocking creature that regenerates (see rule 701.11) or stops being a creature. A creature that's removed from combat stops being an attacking, blocking, blocked, and/or unblocked creature. A planeswalker that's removed from combat stops being attacked.


Nowhere do the rules mention "a creature that becomes tapped is removed from combat". So it stays in its previous state: the Grim Lavamancer is still a blocking creature.


Now the last step to answer the initial question is to check Scathe Zombie for special abilities such as Trample. Scathe Zombie's has no such abilities, so will deal its combat damage to the (still) blocking Grim Lavamancer. In the end, Grim Lavamancer dies, the unblocked Scathe Zombie dies, but the defending player survives !


Cyclops Gladiator and a First Strike creature


Cylops Gladiator is attacking. The question to ask here is: when will its abilitiy go on the stack/resolve ?


508. Declare Attackers Step

508.1. First, the active player declares attackers.....

508.2. Second, any abilities that triggered on attackers being declared go on the stack. (See rule 603, "Handling Triggered Abilities.")


So the ability of Cyclops Gladiator happens in the declare attackers step. This is long before the combat damage step, so First Strike doesn't matter. Let's assume the player wants to use the ability (is a may ability). Then the ability has Cyclops Gladiator deal 4 damage to the Goblin Piker, then Goblin Piker deals 4 damage to the Cyclops and then the ability finishes resolving. Now active player would get priority again which makes state-based actions be applied:

Goblin Piker and Cyclops Gladiator die.



Ajani's Pridemage and Vampire Hexmage


The game is in Victor's combat phase. Aaron blocked already and the players proceeded a point where damage (First Strike) happens. For Victor to be able to use the Vampire's activated ability, it's necessary for him to have priority and the Vampire still being alive at that point. To achieve his goal at also destroying the Ajani's Pridemage this way, the Vampire needs to have dealt damage to it already as its activated ability is activated.


So let's have a detailed look at the combat damage step and the rules for First Strike:


702.7b. If at least one attacking or blocking creature has first strike or double strike (see rule 702.4) as the combat damage step begins, the only creatures that assign combat damage in that step are those with first strike or double strike. After that step, instead of proceeding to the end of combat step, the phase gets a second combat damage step. The only creatures that assign combat damage in that step are the remaining attackers and blockers that had neither first strike nor double strike as the first combat damage step began, as well as the remaining attackers and blockers that currently have double strike. After that step, the phase proceeds to the end of combat step.


510.1. First, the active player announces how each attacking creature assigns its combat damage, then the defending player announces how each blocking creature assigns its combat damage. This turn-based action doesn't use the stack. A player assigns a creature's combat damage according to the following rules:...(multiple blockers etc..)


510.2. Second, all combat damage that's been assigned is dealt simultaneously. This turn-based action doesn't use the stack. No player has the chance to cast spells or activate abilities between the time combat damage is assigned and the time it's dealt. This is a change from previous rules


This means the combat damage step is split into two combat damage step. In the first step, only First Strikers deal damage. In the second step, all who didn't deal damage yet deal damage. All other rules for combat steps still apply to both of the combat steps.


This also means that in each combat damage step, the following happens:

510.4. Fourth, the active player gets priority. Players may cast spells and activate abilities.


At this point, Victor uses the activated ability of Vampire Hexmage. At this point, its First Strike damage is dealt already so Ajani's Pridemage has 2 damage. Once Vampire Hexmage's ability resolves, Ajani's Pridemage is just a 2/2 with 2 damage and will be destroyed for having lethal damage.


Nessian Courser and Vampiric Link


This is a question one might answer by just reading the card.


Whenever enchanted creature deals damage, you gain that much life.


We have a creature which is enchanted by Vampiric Link. Now who is the one who is referred to in the cards' text ?


109.5. The words "you" and "your" on an object refer to the object's controller, its would-be controller (if a player is attempting to play, cast, or activate it), or its owner (if it has no controller). For a static ability, this is the current controller of the object it's on. For an activated ability, this is the player who activated the ability. For a triggered ability, this is the controller of the object when the ability triggered, unless it's a delayed triggered ability. To determine the controller of a delayed triggered ability, see rules 603.7d-f.


Vampiric Link is attached to Niknight's Nessian Courser, however the Aura itself has never changed control. Therefore, Andrew still controls it and that is why the triggered ability refers to Andrew as "you". Whenever the enchanted creature deals damage, Andrew will gain that much life.




I hope I could bring you the rules that might be important especially in the combat phase closer. A better understanding of the rules will prevent players from making bad decisions as they know the outcome of the interactions.


The rules mentioned in this article also help to get a better grasp of situations outside the combat phase.


There's still alot of rules topics not covered by this article yet. My next article will come in roughly a month. You're always welcome to send me a mail with a rules topic you find interesting or would like to know more about to cmaflippi@magic-league.com .




Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

Comments:
by bilo on 2010-09-18 22:29 CET

Thank you for your teachings oh mighty flippi. :)


by Djinn on 2010-09-18 22:48 CET

Nice editing


by Shyft- on 2010-09-18 22:49 CET

RTFC of the month

Flippi casts Blightning targetting{sic} itself{sic}. He discards two Obstinate Baloths. How much life will he have once the stack is empty again?

There is absolutely no way for us to answer this question, because it does not specify his life total prior to the play =(


by Lynolf on 2010-09-18 22:54 CET

I think that, of all these rules' questions, only the Death's Shadow one was complicated. But I hope that, with this kind of initiatives, n00bs can finally see they're not always right, and stop being assholes.


by magicrichi on 2010-09-18 23:02 CET

If i have 1 life and i pop a fecht , i lose the game?


by Conkisstador on 2010-09-18 23:06 CET


good job flippi. players should definitely get a grasp on the combat mechanics and basics. i would have included a bit about priorities after first strike damage.

if you liked this or are interested in how to deal with situations when they go wrong
http://www.draftmagic.com/2010/09/10/a-judges-guide-to-avoiding-accidental-penalties/

nobody wants to wescoe-check anymore. take care of yourself and learn the basics.


by Conkisstador on 2010-09-19 00:13 CET

yes richi you would. if u have platinum angel in play you won't but it's the last fetch you can pop.

the new mythic where you can't change lifetotals doesn't let you fetch.


by Weedmonkey on 2010-09-19 00:44 CET

Brilliant article. Accessible, interactive, and provides thorough explanations.


by Boogaloo on 2010-09-19 09:04 CET

RTFC of the month

3 life less than when blightning was on the stack

Thanks Flippi!


by Trivial on 2010-09-20 20:59 CET

Thanks for the article. I love reading these (and I wish I could just listen in on judges4you for similar reasons). Hearing these things allow me to be a better player.

Jeff Stewart
AKA Trivial


by TacoMaster on 2010-09-21 02:51 CET

"Reading that makes the question easy. Deathtouch is especially effective to creatures only. It is redundant when damage to players or planeswalkers is done."

You meant irrelevant. Not redundant.


by redcell on 2010-09-21 11:58 CET

Awesome article! fun read and very educational ;D
looking foward to the next one!

greetz
-red


by MotC on 2010-09-21 15:08 CET

So wait I can play spells and abilites after first strike damage? I got every question right but that one. Confused.


by zebo_88 on 2010-09-22 08:24 CET

Yes, because after first strike damage active player must get priority and so state-based actions will apply, as lethal damage dealt to normal strikers kill them. if no player got priority, normal combat damage would be assigned and ther would be no difference between first strike and normal strike. i say all this clever stuff but i got confused by ball lightning and death's shadow, doesn't this meansdamage dealt to players is resolved before damage between creatures? so there is my confusion, i would have looked each resolution of damage separately, without considering other sources. Thanks a lot for the brillant article flippi! :)


by derflippi on 2010-09-22 20:39 CET

zebO_88 the damage is dealt simultaneously.
THe point is:
At the time the game checks whether deaths shadow has lethal damage on it, deaths shadow grew bigger already!


by Strid3r on 2010-09-23 22:28 CET

just one question, does the blocked fiery hellhound die?


by derflippi on 2010-09-24 15:05 CET

it got blocked by 0/4 wall. a wall with zero power :(


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