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Damage represents impairment or destruction that a creature, planeswalker, or player may suffer from a certain source. It is measured by a number on the same scale as Power/Toughness, life, and loyalty, since those are the values damage typically interacts with. Sufficient damage usually causes creatures and planeswalkers to die, and players to lose the game; this is called lethal damage in the case of creatures.

Description[]

While most damage is caused by the combat between creatures, or creatures attacking players, there are also many cards which can deal direct damage to creatures, planeswalker and/or players. These cards are usually red, e.g. Lightning Bolt.

When damage is dealt, one of several results normally occurs depending on what is being damaged. Various effects can also change or add to these default consequences of damage.

  • Damage dealt to creatures is considered "marked" on them until the end of each turn - simply meaning that someone must remember how much damage has been dealt to each creature over a turn. An amount of damage greater than or equal to the toughness of a creature is considered lethal damage and causes the creature to be put into the graveyard. On the other hand if a creature does not leave the battlefield before end of turn, all marked damage is removed from it. This makes creature damage temporary by default.
  • Damage dealt to a Planeswalker causes that many loyalty counters to be removed from it. A planeswalker with no loyalty counters dies immediately, much like creatures with lethal damage. Unlike creatures, planeswalker damage is effectively "permanent", since counters are not restored automatically, although damage doesn't prevent them from regaining the counters later.
  • Damage dealt to a player causes them to lose that much life.[1] A player with 0 or less life loses the game.

The consequences of damage - typically being destroyed or losing the game - are not considered a direct result of damage. They are separate events that occur right afterward. However, as state-based actions these consequences are still very fast, not allowing players to take actions between the damage being dealt and the consequences occurring.

Damage does not have attributes like color or type or any abilities. However, sources of damage may have these attributes, which may be important in determining the consequences of damage.

Process and related mechanics[]

The amount of damage dealt or taken can be changed by abilities and effects. Prevention effects reduce the amount of damage dealt before it is translated into results, and other effects may increase it. Redirection effects can also change what will take the damage, including those that apply excess damage to a different recipient.

Once the recipient and amount of damage is determined, the results of the damage are applied. Each type of recipient of damage has a baseline result, but Wither, Infect, and Lifelink abilities on a damage source directly change the game rules about what the damage will do. Many kinds of replacement effects can further modify the results of damage.

After the damage is applied, further consequences often include destruction or game loss. Deathtouch on a damage source redefines lethal damage to cause destruction much more easily. However, these consequences can be prevented by effects such as Indestructible, Regenerate, or "you can't lose the game", possibly making the damage "irrelevant" without actually preventing it.

Many triggered abilities trigger from damage after the immediate results are dealt with, including Poisonous. Many other abilities trigger from the effects of damage, such as life gain or loss. And many further abilities trigger from the follow-up consequences of the effects of damage, particularly creature death.

Rules[]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (April 29, 2022—Streets of New Capenna)

Damage
Objects can deal “damage” to creatures, planeswalkers, and players. This is generally detrimental to the object or player that receives that damage. See rule 120, “Damage.”

From the Comprehensive Rules (April 29, 2022—Streets of New Capenna)

  • 120. Damage
    • 120.1. Objects can deal damage to creatures, planeswalkers, and players. This is generally detrimental to the object or player that receives that damage. An object that deals damage is the source of that damage.
      • 120.1a Damage can’t be dealt to an object that’s neither a creature nor a planeswalker.
    • 120.2. Any object can deal damage.
      • 120.2a Damage may be dealt as a result of combat. Each attacking and blocking creature deals combat damage equal to its power during the combat damage step.
      • 120.2b Damage may be dealt as an effect of a spell or ability. The spell or ability will specify which object deals that damage.
    • 120.3. Damage may have one or more of the following results, depending on whether the recipient of the damage is a player or permanent, the characteristics of the damage’s source, and the characteristics of the damage’s recipient (if it’s a permanent).
      • 120.3a Damage dealt to a player by a source without infect causes that player to lose that much life.
      • 120.3b Damage dealt to a player by a source with infect causes that source’s controller to give the player that many poison counters.
      • 120.3c Damage dealt to a planeswalker causes that many loyalty counters to be removed from that planeswalker.
      • 120.3d Damage dealt to a creature by a source with wither and/or infect causes that source’s controller to put that many -1/-1 counters on that creature.
      • 120.3e Damage dealt to a creature by a source with neither wither nor infect causes that much damage to be marked on that creature.
      • 120.3f Damage dealt by a source with lifelink causes that source’s controller to gain that much life, in addition to the damage’s other results.
    • 120.4. Damage is processed in a four-part sequence.
      • 120.4a First, if an effect that’s causing damage to be dealt states that excess damage that would be dealt to a permanent is dealt to another permanent or player instead, the damage event is modified accordingly. If the first permanent is a creature, the excess damage is the amount of damage in excess of what would be lethal damage, taking into account damage already marked on the creature and damage from other sources that would be dealt at the same time. (See rule 120.6.) Any amount of damage greater than 1 is excess damage if the source dealing that damage to a creature has deathtouch. (See rule 702.2.) If the first permanent is a planeswalker, the excess damage is the amount of damage in excess of that planeswalker’s loyalty, taking into account damage from other sources that would be dealt at the same time. If the first permanent is both a creature and a planeswalker, the excess damage is the greater of those two amounts.
      • 120.4b Second, damage is dealt, as modified by replacement and prevention effects that interact with damage. (See rule 614, “Replacement Effects,” and rule 615, “Prevention Effects.”) Abilities that trigger when damage is dealt trigger now and wait to be put on the stack.
      • 120.4c Third, damage that’s been dealt is processed into its results, as modified by replacement effects that interact with those results (such as life loss or counters).
      • 120.4d Finally, the damage event occurs.

        Example: A player who controls Boon Reflection, an enchantment that says “If you would gain life, you gain twice that much life instead,” attacks with a 3/3 creature with wither and lifelink. It’s blocked by a 2/2 creature, and the defending player casts a spell that prevents the next 2 damage that would be dealt to the blocking creature. 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, the active player 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, the active player gains 2 life, 2 damage is marked on the 3/3 creature]. Then the damage event occurs.

        Example: The defending player controls a creature and Worship, an enchantment that says “If you control a creature, damage that would reduce your life total to less than 1 reduces it to 1 instead.” That player is at 2 life, and is being attacked by two unblocked 5/5 creatures. The player casts Awe Strike, which says “The next time target creature would deal damage this turn, prevent that damage. You gain life equal to the damage prevented this way,” targeting one of the attackers. The damage event starts out as [10 damage is dealt to the defending player]. Awe Strike’s effect is applied, so the damage event becomes [5 damage is dealt to the defending player, the defending player gains 5 life]. That’s processed into its results, so the damage event is now [the defending player loses 5 life, the defending player gains 5 life]. Worship’s effect sees that the damage event would not reduce the player’s life total to less than 1, so Worship’s effect is not applied. Then the damage event occurs.

    • 120.5. Damage dealt to a creature or planeswalker doesn’t destroy it. Likewise, the source of that damage doesn’t destroy it. Rather, state-based actions may destroy a creature or planeswalker, or otherwise put it into its owner’s graveyard, due to the results of the damage dealt to that permanent. See rule 704.

      Example: A player casts Lightning Bolt, an instant that says “Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage to any target,” targeting a 2/2 creature. After Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage to that creature, the creature is destroyed as a state-based action. Neither Lightning Bolt nor the damage dealt by Lightning Bolt destroyed that creature.

    • 120.6. Damage marked on a creature remains until the cleanup step, even if that permanent stops being a creature. If the total damage marked on a creature is greater than or equal to its toughness, that creature has been dealt lethal damage and is destroyed as a state-based action (see rule 704). All damage marked on a permanent is removed when it regenerates (see rule 701.15, “Regenerate”) and during the cleanup step (see rule 514.2).
    • 120.7. The source of damage is the object that dealt it. If an effect requires a player to choose a source of damage, they may choose a permanent; a spell on the stack (including a permanent spell); any object referred to by an object on the stack, by a prevention or replacement effect that’s waiting to apply, or by a delayed triggered ability that’s waiting to trigger (even if that object is no longer in the zone it used to be in); or a face-up object in the command zone. A source doesn’t need to be capable of dealing damage to be a legal choice. See rule 609.7, “Sources of Damage.”
    • 120.8. 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.
    • 120.9. If an ability triggers on damage being dealt by a specific source or sources, and the effect refers to the “damage dealt,” it refers only to the damage dealt by the specified sources and not to any damage dealt at the same time by other sources.
    • 120.10. Some triggered abilities check whether a permanent has been dealt excess damage. These abilities check after the permanent has been dealt damage by one or more sources. If those sources together dealt an amount of damage to a creature greater than lethal damage, excess damage equal to the difference was dealt to that creature. If those sources together dealt an amount of damage to a planeswalker greater than that planeswalker’s loyalty before the damage was dealt, excess damage equal to the difference was dealt to that planeswalker. If a permanent is both a creature and a planeswalker, the excess damage dealt to that permanent is the greater of those two amounts.

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (April 29, 2022—Streets of New Capenna)

Excess Damage
Damage dealt to a creature greater than what would be lethal damage or damage dealt to a planeswalker greater than its loyalty. See rule 120.4a.

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (April 29, 2022—Streets of New Capenna)

Lethal Damage
An amount of damage greater than or equal to a creature’s toughness. See rules 120.4a, 120.6, 510.1, and 704.5g.

See also[]

References[]

  1. Magic Arcana (January 22, 2007). "Loss and Damage". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
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