À la guerre comme à la guerre.
Greetings all! Welcome to another class of the Judge school! This is an addendum to the Turn structure class we had earlier. Concerning its level of precision, I need to point out that this article is rather targeted at players, for it doesn’t abound with precise wordings and eloquent quotes from Comprehensive rules. Nevertheless, this article containts heaps of useful information for L1 candidates, so heed carefully.
Alright so, today I want to talk to you about the most difficult phase of the turn, the combat phase. It normally consists of five steps, although the number may either increase or decrease depending on specific game state.
Beginning of Combat step
This is where we move from precombat main phase after ceremonial dances around shortcut “Declaring attackers” or “Ready to attack”.
If the players agreed, that the main phase is over, abilities "in the beginning of the battle" trigger. Then SBA are checked, triggers go on the stack and active player gets priority. Now he can animate lands, crews a vehicle etc.
After the active player would pass, the nonactive player gets priority and can act:
“A Clash of Kings” by George Martin
This step begins straight from declaring attackers. This is a turn-based action. Such actions do not use the stack, neither player gets priority when they are performed, so they cannot cast spells, activate abilities, or perform special actions. All those require having priority which is given to the active player only after turn-based actions have been performed and all triggers that went off so far have been put onto the stack. If there are multiple, they are placed on the stack in APNAP order, with each player in that order placing his or her triggers in the order he or she chooses.
Aight, so, it is time to declare attackers. Only creatures may attack. They may attack only opponents and Planeswalkers under their control. Remember this, or even take a note:
A creature may not attack a creature! (unless it is a Planeswalker as well)
Note that in a Two-Headed Giant game attackers are declared as a team and are attacking a specific player or planeswalker. If a player does not specify who a creature is attacking, the default is that their creatures are attacking the opponent directly in front of them.
The active player may only declare untapped creatures as attackers, and only those that were under his or her control continuously since the beginning of his or her turn (“summoning sickness”). The last rule has no effect on creatures with Haste. For “animated” permanents it doesn’t matter for how long they have been creatures. What matters is how long and how continuously you have controlled that permanent.
Smuggler’s Copter must be an untapped creature and must be under your control (even in the pumpkin form) continuously since the turn began.
A creature with Vigilance doesn’t tap when it is declared attacker. However, a tapped creatue, with or without vigilance, may normally not be declared attacking.
For each attacking creature, the active player indicates which player or planeswalker that creature is attacking. After the object of attack is chosen for each attacking creature, all of them are checked for the legality of attack:
When you determine whether an attack is legal you must ensure that the maximum possible number of requirements is met without breaking any rules or restrictions. If that is not the case, the set of attackers is considered illegal and the player has to return to the turn-based action of declaring attackers and choose them so that the set is legal.
After the set of attackers passes the legality check, all attacking creatures are tapped save for those that don’t require tapping when attacking, Note the cause-effect relation in this case: the creature is tapped because it attacks, not attacks because it is tapped! Tapping an attacking creature is not paying a cost.
If you need to pay a cost for an attacking creature, it is determined and set. The cost does not necessarily consist of mana alone. If the cost does include mana, it’s time to activate mana abilities in order to pay the cost for attacking, if such a cost exists.
Now we can pay the cost:
Only after this the creature declared as attacker is considered attacking, as long as it is still controlled by the active player. It remains attacking until it leaves combat or the combat phase ends.
This is the triggering event for all triggers saying “whenever… attacks”. If you return an enchantment with such a triggered ability as a cost to attack with Floodtide serptent, the trigger will not go off, because at the moment the creature became attacking, the enchantment permanent was not on the battlefield any more.
Finally, the triggered abilities that went off so far are placed onto the stack and the active player gains priority. Only now does he get the opportunity to cast a spell, activate an ability or perform a special action… well, or pass priority to the opponent.
Creatures that are put onto the battlefield attacking have never been declared attackers. The game treats them as attacking, but they never attacked. Somewhat bizarre, I know.
This step is very important for the defending player. This is where he or she has the opportunity to add potential blockers to the crew.
Don’t forget that the cunning opponent can also deal with all these surprises before blockers are declared. He will get priority too, after you play any tricks from your sleeve.
If no creatures are declared attackers, and no attacking creatures appear on the battlefied, the next two steps of the combat phase are skipped.
Just as with the previous step, this one begins with a turn-based action. Triggers and priority are handled in the same way as in the previous step, too, i.e. (1) first, the defending player declares blockers, (2) the active player sets the order of combat damage assignment to the blockers, then (3) the defending player does that for the attacking creatures, (4) the triggers reacting to creatures blocking go onto the stack and (5) only after this the active player gets priority and may take an action.
All these abilities are taken to account only while blockers are declared. If such abilities and effects appear after the creature has blocked, they have no effect (Protection still affects the way damage is dealt though).
When defining the legality of a block, same as with declaring attackers, you need to arrange everything so that the number of requirements met is the biggest possible without breaking any rules or restrictions. If that is not true, the set of blockers is considered illegal, and you will need to reassign blockers from start.
After the legality of the block has been checked, the cost for blocking is defined and paid, if any. Then all creatures announced as blockers are considered to have blocked. The attacking creatures that have been assigned blockers are considered blocked. Attacking creatures that have not been assigned any blockers are not blocked. All these statuses are saved till the end of combat phase, or till the creature leaves combat, or till an effect explicitly changes this status ( Curtain of Light).
After this, removing a blocker does not change the state of an attacking creature. It will remain blocked.
Now, for each attacking creature, the active player announces the damage assignment order. The defending player does the same for any blocking creatures that block multiple attacking creatures.
Finally, we get to the triggers going off when creatures attack or block. I recommend to read about those in detail. After SBA are checked and performed, and the triggers are placed onto the stack, the active player gets priority, and there come all possible combat tricks: pumping your creatures with Giant Growth, shrinking enemy creatures with Turn to Frog, granting abilities modifying the way damage is dealt ( Swift Justice, Chorus of Might), and destroying enemy creatures or saving your own. It’s worth noting that if an attacking creature is removed from combat, the relative order of dealing damage remains unchanged for the remaining creatures.
First, the active player announces how much damage the attacking creatures assign in the order chosen in the previous step. Then the defending player does the same for the blocking creatures. Then all damage is dealt simultaneously. This and only this damage is combat damage.
Assigning and dealing combat damage does not use the stack. Players do not get priority between assigning and dealing combat damage, and cannot do anything until it is dealt.
After this, SBA are checked, and creatures with lethal damage are put into their owner’s graveyards, triggered abilities that went off by this time go onto the stack, and the active player finally receives priority and may take an action.
If creatures with First or Double strike participate in combat, the combat phase is extended to have another combat damage step. The rules of dealing combat damage become modified.
Assigning combat damage obeys certain rules:
Each attacking and each blocking creature assigns damage equal to its power. If a creature’s power is less or equal to zero, it does not assign damage at all.
Unblocked creatures assign combat damage to the player or planeswalker they attacked. If the object of attack is not there, damage is not assigned (a planeswalker may have been destroyed, a player may have lost the game in a multiplayer game).
A blocked creature assigns damage to creatures blocking it;
if the creatures aren’t there, the attacker assigns no damage.
If the attacking creature is blocked with exactly one creature, it assigns all of its damage to that creature, regardless of its toughness.
If a 1/1 creature faces a 10/10 in combat, the former deals 1 damage to the latter, and the latter deals 10 damage to the former. If the 10/10 beastie has Lifelink, its controller gains 10 life.
If an attacking creature is blocked by two or more creatures, it divides combat damage in the damage assignment order announced previously. The creature may divide its damage between several creatures, but under certain conditions. It must assign lethal damage (i.e. enough to destroy it) to the current creature in order to be able to assign any to the next one in that order.
This resembles things that happen when assigning damage with Trample: you need to “strike through” every blocker in the order you announced earlier. You cannot assign less damage than is needed to destroy the creature, but you may assign more if you need to ( Coalhauler Swine, Stuffy Doll).
Creatures with Trample are an exception to this. The ability modifies the rules of assigning damage.
When figuring whether the damage is lethal, we take to account damage already marked on the creature, and damage to be dealt by other creatures in the same combat. Effects like Protection that could modify the number of damage that would actually be dealt are not taken to account.
One damage from a creature with Deathtouch is considered lethal.
The afore-mentioned also applies to assigning damage by blocking creatures, save for Trample.
First of all, all abilities saying “at the end of combat” trigger and are put on the stack, then the active player gets priority. Players may cast spells and activate abilities.
The Angel token generated by Geist of Saint Traft’s ability is exiled precisely in the end of combat step.
The defending player’s last chance to target an attacking creature is in the end of combat step.
At the end of End of combat step (clumsy, I know) all creatues and Planeswalkers are removed from combat, they cease to be attacking or blocking.
Below is a very good video about the Combat phase. Everything is explained in tiniest details there, so any player who is familiar with Magic at even the lowest level can comprehend it.
How many steps can a combat phase have?
— Declaring attackers!
— Bounce this one, tap that one.
— No attacks.
A germ token equipped with Batterskull attacks. It is blocked by Bear. How much life does the active player gain?
You activate Ninjutsu. In response, the cunning opponent casts Flash Foliage and blocks the creature. What happens?
Now, I got a real surprise for you. All of the questions below were asked by players. You need not only to answer a question correctly, but also figure out what exactly you are being asked. Let me remind you that casual answers in the forums may be significantly different, in form and sometimes in content, from answers given by a judge in a tournament.
Please explain when do I need to specify who I am attacking with my creatures? Do I point out the objects of attack in the declare attackers phase, or do I announce whom I deal damage to, a player or a Planeswalker, in the damage assignment phase?
Please explain what should happen if I attack with a creature and then the defending player gains control of it. If the attacking creature has vigilance, can that opponent block another attacking creature of mine with it?
I have set a creature to attack, then my opponent has set a creature to defend, and in the declare blockers step I cast an instant spell that gives my creature “Flying” ability. The opponent’s creature does not have flying nor any abilities to block creatures with flying. What happens?
Say, a creature with flanking is blocked by two simple creatures. Will -1/-1 be put on both?
Suppose a situation:
I attack with a 3/3 creature without abilities. It is blocked by two creatures: 2/3 and 2/4, also without abilities. No one casts anything in the declare attackers and blockers steps. Here’s the question:
Can I assign damage in the following way: one damage to the 2/3 dude and 2 damage to the 2/4? (I wanna cast Pyroclasm later to finish them off).
I just heard somewhere that damage is dealt in a certain manner, that in order to get to the next creature, you have to deal lethal damage to the previous one. And my friend states that damage can be assigned at will.
Both I and my opponent are at 1 life. The opponent attacks with his creatures, I have nothing to defend with, so I am about to die. After attackers are declared I respond with an instant spell that deals damage to my opponent. Since the stack is taken apart beginning with the last card to have gotten there, first, my instant spell goes off and the opponent is dealt damage. According to this, he dies and when the stack checks the attacking creatures, they no longer exist since their owner has died. I win. Did I get this thing right?
Please explain how should I declare attackers correctly if an opponent has an Ensnaring Bridge on the field and 1 card in hand. I have a 1/1 creature and a 0/1 creature with exalted. I attack with the 1/1 creature, he drops an instant card from hand, he has 0 cards. Can I add my 0/1 creature to attackers? Or the fact that he cast a card from hand does not impact my attacking creature, and Ensnaring Bridge will not prevent my attack?
Here’s the deal: I charge at my opponent with a 2/2 creature, he blocks with a Sakura-Tribe Elder. Block is successful, then he uses the ability. He says he blocked the attack of my 2/2 and got a land too. He accounts this to the fact that lethal damage is kinda marked on the Elder, but sacrifice doesn’t use the stack. Is that ok?
During the combat phase I declare Metallurgeon as a blocker, which can regenerate for tap (my opponent states that I cannot tap while blocking). My question is, can I use this ability straight after declaring it a blocker? I believe I can, since an activated ability may be used any time I have priority, including the moment when blockers are declared. Please settle our dispute, with citing rules if possible.
Beastmaster Ascension lets us place counters on it when our creatures attack. But here is a question: what happens if we attack with not one but multiple creatures in the same turn, will counters be put for each attacking creature or just for one?!
Did I get this right, if Laccolith Grunt is blocked, he can deal damage equivalent to its power to the creature, but then it doesn’t deal combat damage?
Royal assassin. The ability of this character is to kill target tapped creature. Question is, can the ability be used when I am attacked, i.e. a player tapped a card (attacked), can I skip block and just kill by using the ability?
Infiltration Lens if multiple creatures block a creature with lens, do I draw 2 cards per blocking creature?
The creature Blastoderm attacks a player. The player blocks Blastoderm with the creature Elvish Eulogist. Damage is dealt, Blastoderm takes 1 damage, Elvish Eulogist takes 5 damage. Can the player in control of Elvish Eulogist sacrifice it after damage and gain life?
The ability: “Whenever Cyclops Gladiator attacks, you may have it deal damage equal to its power to target creature defending player controls…” This text doesn’t have the “instead” word (like, “instead, you may have it deal…”). Since it isn’t there, I believe that when the Cyclops attacks he can deal damage to an opponent’s creature and continue attacking the same player. Please confirm, am I right?
If I assign Vampire Hexmage a blocker in the declare blockers step blocking a Craw Wurm, and then at the end of declare blockers step I sacrifice Vampire Hexmage, will Craw Wurm not be able to damage the player?
If a 7/7 creature has trample and it blocks another 5/5 creature, will the owner of the attacking creature take damage worth 2 life?
If a creature has deathtouch and when damage is dealt it has 0 power, will deathtouch trigger? The creature dealt 0 damage by it, will it die?
I noticed that players often don’t tap creatures when using regeneration. A bad example is catching — I started doing the same. Is it careless play, or has there been a time in Magic when regeneration did not require tapping?
Here’s a situation (I’ll take simple creatures without names): My opponent has a simple 3/3 elephant. I have a 1/4 wall, he attacks and I block => nobody kills anyone, the opponent plays the card Seize the Day, untaps his elephant and attacks me again. Question is, can I block the elephant with the wall again or not?
Suppose I want to damage my opponent with my creature, like, really badly. I attack with it, the opponent has no creatures. I pass priority, he casts a creature with Flash, passes priority to me, I don’t counter. It enters the battlefield. But I have, say, Lightning Bolt. Here is the question. In terms of game mechanics, do I have a chance to bolt it down before the opponent blocks with it?
Angelic Arbiter was on the battlefield… And then the opponent destroys (kills etc.) the Angelic Arbiter with his treacherous spell… And conceives an attack… Here is the question: can the opponent attack in that turn (the turn where he destroys it (kills etc.))
Vampire Hexmage attacks, blockers are assigned in this order:
1. Wall of Omens
2. Trinket Mage
In combat damage step, the active player assigns damage at his will: 2 to the mage and 0 to the wall or 2 to the wall and 0 to the mage, or strictly according to the assignment order of the blockers, so 2 to the wall and 0 to the mage?
What happens if I have a Prized Unicorn and I attach a Gorgon Flail to it, and my opponent has several untapped creatures, do they have to block my creature? Then another question: will they all die, or do I apply this effect (deathtouch) to just one creature?
Did I get this right: first is the declare attackers step, then the declare blockers, then the damage calculation step, and an end phase after that?
If I declare my creature attacking and in declare blockers step they declare a blocker, then I destroy the blocker during the declare blockers step, will the attacking creature deal damage?
If an opponent attacks me with multiple creatures including a Prized Unicorn, can I escape the Unicorn’s trigger by using Goblin Tunneler’s effect on it? And is it correct that the Goblin’s ability cannot be used on the Unicorn if it has +1/0?
Say, Kor Hookmaster is declared attacking. It is blocked by the Frogmite creature, after blockers are declared the active player casts the instant Mighty Leap giving +2/+2 and Flying to the Hookmaster. Will they deal damage to each other, or will the damage be carried over to the “void”?
Translated by Witas Spasovski