Combat Basics

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Overview

On each player's turns, their creatures attack, and some number of them may become blocked by opposing creatures. A blocked creature trades damage with its blocker, potentially killing one or both of them. An unblocked creature deals damage to the opposing Planeswalker.

Creature slots

Each player has three creature slots. Their order is from bottom to top (the "first" slot is on the bottom). Both attacking and blocking relies on this creature slot order. Creatures generally fill the creature slots in the order they are cast. There are a few exceptions to this:

  • A creature with DefenderDefender reorders to the first slot that does not have a creature with DefenderDefender in it.
  • A creature with ReachReach reorders to the first slot that does not have a creature with DefenderDefender or ReachReach in it.
  • A creature with VigilanceVigilance reorders to the first slot that does not have a creature with DefenderDefender, ReachReach, or VigilanceVigilance in it.
  • A creature with BraveryBravery moves to the first slot during combat on its controller's turn.
  • Temporary effects that grant or remove DefenderDefender, ReachReach, or VigilanceVigilance reorder a creature until that effect wears off, at which point, the order reverts using the rules above.

Temporary effects which gain control of opposing creatures can sometimes use creature slots beyond 3.

Attacking

A player's creatures attack each turn in the order of the slot they are in. Generally, all creatures attack, however a creature doesn't attack if any of the following is true:

  • It was brought into play this turn and doesn't have HasteHaste.
  • It is Disabled.
  • It has the Can't Attack ability.
  • It has a power of 0.

Generally, an attacking creature always attacks the opposing Planeswalker, unless a blocker gets in its way. The exception is an attacking creature with BerserkerBerserker, which attacks an opposing creature instead, forcing that creature to block it.

Blocking

In general, an attacking creature gets blocked by the first non-Disabled opposing creature with one of the DefenderDefender, ReachReach or VigilanceVigilance abilities. However:

  • If the attacking creature has UnblockableUnblockable, then it bypasses all blockers.
  • If the attacking creature has MenaceMenace, then it bypasses blocking if there is only one opposing creature which could block it. (If more than one creature could block it, it's blocked as normal by the first blocker.)
  • If the attacking creature has FlyingFlying, it can only be blocked by a defending creature having either ReachReach, or FlyingFlying combined with DefenderDefender or VigilanceVigilance.

When a creature is blocked

In general, when a creature is blocked, it trades damage with its blocker. That is, the attacking creature deals damage equal to its power to its blocker, and the blocking creature deals damage equal to its power to the attacker. This can change depending on various Abilities of the attacker or the blocker.

Trample

An attacking creature with TrampleTrample can split its damage between a blocking creature and the opposing Planeswalker. Instead of applying all of its power as damage to the blocking creature, only enough damage is assigned to match the toughness of the defending creature. Any remaining damage is assigned to the opposing Planeswalker.

Example: A creature with a toughness of 5 blocks a creature with Trample and a power of 8. 5 damage will be applied to the defending creature, and the remaining 3 damage will be applied to the defending Planeswalker.

The Planeswalker receives the excess damage even if the blocking creature has Prevent DamagePrevent Damage or other effects that keep it from dying when taking damage.

First Strike

If either the attacker or blocker (or both) has First StrikeFirst Strike, then the first strike damage occurs first, then there is a check for whether one of the two creatures in combat would die prior to the second creature applying any damage. If a creature without First StrikeFirst Strike dies during the first strike attack phase, it doesn't retaliate: it does not damage the other creature, and if it has DeathtouchDeathtouch, the effect does not trigger.

Double Strike

Double StrikeDouble Strike applies damage in both the First Strike and normal combat damage phases. In MtGPQ, trample damage applies to both the first and second strike of a double strike creature, even if the defending creature would die from the initial First Strike damage. An attacking creature with Double Strike is not considered to attack twice per combat round; it attacks once, but deals damage twice.