## Does Magic Use or allow negative life totals?

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Magemaster48
Joined Oct 2007
529 Posts

Somemone in my playgroup is sending a e-mail ramble around about  Consequences of Negative Life Totals.

>>> Does Magic Use or allow negative life totals?

The e-mail ramble follows:

Consequences of Negative Life Totals:

This is a case where we make a calculation whose result modifies power or toughness of a creature; in such a case, negative numbers are used.

If you are at 5, Death's Shadow gets -5/-5; if you are at -5, Death's Shadow gets -(-5)/-(-5) =
+5/+5!

An effect doubles your life points (for example Beacon of Immortality).

This is a case where we make a calculation whose result sets life totals; in such a case, negative numbers are used.

If you are at 5, you will end at 10; if you are at -5, you will end at -10. Please note that here you are gaining life (5 gained life points in the first example) or losing life (5 lost life in the second example); any triggered ability that triggers whenever you gain/lose life will trigger.

If you are at -5, you won’t be able to cast Deep Analysis using its flashback ability, (“pay 3 life”), and you won’t be able to exile cards with Necropotence.

Finally, let’s take a look at a tournament situation.

Player A is at 6 life points and controls Abyssal Persecutor; Player B is at -10. B attacks with two 6/6 creatures, A blocks with the Abyssal Persecutor (which will be destroyed). It looks like A goes to zero life points (and dies) and the Abyssal Persecutor dies (so making B die too) at the same time, but it works differently.

When combat damage resolves, the Persecutor is a 6/6 with 6 damage on it, and player A goes to zero life points; then, when state based actions are checked, two things happen:

The Abyssal Persecutor is destroyed
A loses the game
Note that B would lose the game (because he has -10 life points) when state based actions would be checked *again*; it’s not simultaneous. The final result is that B wins the game.

Formerly Magemaster44 who joined in 2002
IronMagus
Joined Aug 2005
5667 Posts
All that is correct.  Was there a question in there?

Oh, I see it now...

Q: Does Magic allow for negative life totals?
A: Yes, it does.
IronMagus
Joined Aug 2005
5667 Posts
3. INCORRECT. State-Based Actions are checked and see that BOTH players are at or below 0 life. BOTH players would lose the game, and thus the game is a draw. One does not "lose" before the other, and there would be no re-checking of State-Based Actions. All the state-based actions occur at the exact same moment.

No, he had it right the first time.  Abyssal Persecutor prevents player B from losing the game while it is on the battlefield.
Magemaster48
Joined Oct 2007
529 Posts
The yes answer surprises me because until now I thought Negative Life totals were always defaulted back to 0 (zero).

So as an added question: Would you agree hat such situations are rare and usaully supported by the use of a Platinum Angel or Abyssal Persecutor ie there needs to be a "keep alive" mechanism going on to support negative life totals , correct?
Formerly Magemaster44 who joined in 2002
Joined Jun 2006
1776 Posts
3. INCORRECT. State-Based Actions are checked and see that BOTH players are at or below 0 life. BOTH players would lose the game, and thus the game is a draw. One does not "lose" before the other, and there would be no re-checking of State-Based Actions. All the state-based actions occur at the exact same moment.

It's you who is INCORRECT. In the situation described in the original post, the player who controls Abyssal Persecutor loses the game at the same time as its Persecutor is destroyed, but his opponent cannot lose the game at that time. He would immediatly after if state-based actions could be checked again, except that the game is over.

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cyphern
Joined Jan 2003
19353 Posts
So as an added question: Would you agreet hat such situations are rare and usaully supported by the use of a Platinum Angel or Abyssal Persecutor ie there needs to be a "keep alive" mechanism going on to support negative life totals , correct?

Actually, i would say that the majority of games involve a negative life total, but the negative life total only exists for an exceedingly brief period of time before that player loses the game. Eg, you have 1 life, i cast Lightning bolt, it begins to resolve, your life drops to -2, lightning bolt finishes resolving and is moved to the graveyard, and then you lose the game.

Only with a "keep alive" mechanism will the negative life total be around long enough to matter.
robvalue
Joined Oct 2003
3621 Posts
The yes answer surprises me because until now I thought Negative Life totals were always defaulted back to 0 (zero).

So as an added question: Would you agreet hat such situations are rare and usaully supported by the use of a Platinum Angel or Abyssal Persecutor ie there needs to be a "keep alive" mechanism going on to support negative life totals , correct?

Yes you're right, you only see it when something stops you losing from having a negative life total. It is rare, depending on how often people use cards like Platinum Angel and such! But there's not a whole lot of cards that stop you losing this way.

I play Duels of the Planeswalkers, and since one of the decks has Platinum Angel in it, this situation occurs quite a lot

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Joined Jun 2006
1776 Posts
The yes answer surprises me because until now I thought Negative Life totals were always defaulted back to 0 (zero).

So as an added question: Would you agreet hat such situations are rare and usaully supported by the use of a Platinum Angel or Abyssal Persecutor ie there needs to be a "keep alive" mechanism going on to support negative life totals , correct?

Well, it is not rare that players get below 0 life; most games end that way! It's just that since state-based actions have players lose the game before anyone can cast or activate anything, it rarely matters.

Magic The Gathering DCI Lvl 1 Judge Don't hesitate to post rules question in the Rules Q&A forum for me and other competent advisors to answer : http://community.wizards.com/go/forum/view/75842/134778/Rules_Q38A
Chaikov
Joined Jun 2006
8632 Posts
...until now I thought Negative Life totals were always defaulted back to 0 (zero)...

Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

«107.1b Most of the time, the Magic game uses only positive numbers and zero. You can’t choose a negative number, deal negative damage, gain negative life, and so on. However, it’s possible for a game value, such as a creature’s power, to be less than zero. If a calculation or comparison needs to use a negative value, it does so. If a calculation that would determine the result of an effect yields a negative number, zero is used instead, unless that effect sets a player’s life total to a specific value, doubles a player’s life total, sets a creature’s power or toughness to a specific value, or otherwise modifies a creature’s power or toughness. Example 1: If a 3/4 creature gets -5/-0, it’s a -2/4 creature. It assigns 0 damage in combat. Its total power and toughness is 2. You’d have to give it +3/+0 to raise its power to 1. Example 2: Viridian Joiner is a 1/2 creature that says “{T}: Add an amount of {G} to your mana pool equal to Viridian Joiner’s power.” An effect gives it -2/-0, then its ability is activated. The ability adds no mana to your mana pool.»

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Kedar
Joined Sep 2007
6823 Posts
@Chaikov: Why do you link Roiling Horror as part of saying 'sometimes it does default to zero'? That card is not one of the ones in which it 'defaults to zero.' The creature can have a negative power and toughness, and Roiling Horror fits the example of 'modifies a creature's power or toughness.' Also, the function used to calculate its p/t can use the negative life totals that are around, if one of the two lifetotals it checks (yours and that of the opp. with the highest life) is negative.

tl;dr: Roiling Horror has no ability that requires a negative value to default to 0; it will use negative numbers both in calculation and in result.

Chaikov
Joined Jun 2006
8632 Posts

From Planar Chaos' FAQ:

Roiling Horror

If a player's life total is less than 0, it's treated as 0 by this ability.

Edit: obsolete ruling

Tax evasion is nothing but legitimate self-defense against the theft that is tax collection.

Kedar
Joined Sep 2007
6823 Posts

From Planar Chaos' FAQ:

Roiling Horror

If a player's life total is less than 0, it's treated as 0 by this ability.

Then either the FAQ was correct at the time and the rules have changed, or the FAQ was wrong from the getgo.

Roiling Horror performs a calculation. As such, it can use negative numbers. This is the same reason Death's Shadow can get bigger if you're at less than 0 life.

Kedar
Joined Sep 2007
6823 Posts
The oldest copy of the rules I have on my computer is from October 1, 2007.

104.1b Most of the time, the Magic game uses only positive numbers. You can't choose a negative number, deal negative damage, gain negative life, and so on. However, it's possible for a game value, such as a creature's power, to be less than zero. If a calculation or comparison that would determine the result of an effect needs to use a negative value, it does so. If such a calculation yields a negative number, zero is used instead, unless that effect sets a creature's power or toughness, changes a creature's power or toughness, or sets a player's life total.

That'd be the Lorwyn rules, and by those rules the FAQ is wrong, so either the change was done just before this copy of the rules, or the FAQ was wrong from the get-go.

Just_another_Wizard
Joined Jul 2008
968 Posts
The oldest copy of the rules I have on my computer is from October 1, 2007.

104.1b Most of the time, the Magic game uses only positive numbers. You can't choose a negative number, deal negative damage, gain negative life, and so on. However, it's possible for a game value, such as a creature's power, to be less than zero. If a calculation or comparison that would determine the result of an effect needs to use a negative value, it does so. If such a calculation yields a negative number, zero is used instead, unless that effect sets a creature's power or toughness, changes a creature's power or toughness, or sets a player's life total.

That'd be the Lorwyn rules, and by those rules the FAQ is wrong, so either the change was done just before this copy of the rules, or the FAQ was wrong from the get-go.

It was probably changed at the same time the rules for abilities that set p/t so that they functioned in all zones (I remember cards like Lord of Extinction though he's to recent, used to be 0/0's in the GY, then that changed).
Kedar
Joined Sep 2007
6823 Posts
I think that was Future Sight, with Tarmogoyf. Had to be around that time, anyway. At any rate, the FAQ is currently incorrect (and this is why you do not use old sets' FAQs as a basis for current answers).

Merestil_Haye
Joined Aug 2003
4156 Posts
The oldest copy of the rules I have on my computer is from October 1, 2007.

104.1b Most of the time, the Magic game uses only positive numbers. You can't choose a negative number, deal negative damage, gain negative life, and so on. However, it's possible for a game value, such as a creature's power, to be less than zero. If a calculation or comparison that would determine the result of an effect needs to use a negative value, it does so. If such a calculation yields a negative number, zero is used instead, unless that effect sets a creature's power or toughness, changes a creature's power or toughness, or sets a player's life total.

That'd be the Lorwyn rules, and by those rules the FAQ is wrong, so either the change was done just before this copy of the rules, or the FAQ was wrong from the get-go.

It was probably changed at the same time the rules for abilities that set p/t so that they functioned in all zones (I remember cards like Lord of Extinction though he's to recent, used to be 0/0's in the GY, then that changed).

Good guess. Both changes were introduced in the Future Sight rules release.

Rule 104.1, Planar Chaos version :
104.1. The Magic game uses only natural numbers. You can’t choose a fractional number, deal fractional damage, and so on. When a spell or ability could generate a fractional number, the spell or ability will tell you whether to round up or down.

It got changed in the Future Sight release, which was also when CSAs became CDAs.

Set FAQs are not authoritative rules documents; their purpose is to allow sanctioned tounraments to be run with rules not found in the CR. Neither are they updated after the set is released. They are, at best, a historical snapshot of how the cards worked when the set was released; they have their uses, but proving how cards work now is not one of them.
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Chaikov
Joined Jun 2006
8632 Posts

We do use FAQs to decipher difficult cards interactions: some cases simply are not covered by CR.

No one would argue if I used M2011 FAQ to prove a point, rulewise.
Most people would also accept rulings from M2010 FAQ.

So, the question is, how old is too old?

(Furthermore, I just can't recall when the negative number rule was changed; in fact, I did not even realize it had!)

Tax evasion is nothing but legitimate self-defense against the theft that is tax collection.

Merestil_Haye
Joined Aug 2003
4156 Posts

We do use FAQs to decipher difficult cards interactions:

No one would argue if I used M2011 FAQ to prove a point, rulewise.
Most people would also accept rulings from M2010 FAQ.

So, the question is, how old is too old?

I understand that FAQ rulings are imported into Gatherer when the set is released. Thereafter, the Gatherer rulings are maintained; the FAQ rulings are not.

Thus, the answer is that the FAQ is obsolete virtually the moment it is released, and you should not use it except to determine how it wa believed a card would work at the time it was released. Use the Gatherer rulings instead (if you can read them, which I can't.)
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Chaikov
Joined Jun 2006
8632 Posts
(if you can read them, which I can't.)

????

Tax evasion is nothing but legitimate self-defense against the theft that is tax collection.

Merestil_Haye
Joined Aug 2003
4156 Posts
(if you can read them, which I can't.)

????

My PC doesn't like Gatherer much. The rulings section is collapsed, and will not expand.

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You are Red/Blue!
Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
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Kedar
Joined Sep 2007
6823 Posts

We do use FAQs to decipher difficult cards interactions: some cases simply are not covered by CR.

No one would argue if I used M2011 FAQ to prove a point, rulewise.
Most people would also accept rulings from M2010 FAQ.

So, the question is, how old is too old?

(Furthermore, I just can't recall when the negative number rule was changed; in fact, I did not even realize it had!)

So, you just blindly follow old rulings, even when they obviously disagree with the current rules. Good to know. (And yes, that ruling from the FAQ is blatantly wrong if you'd bothered to actually read the rule you quoted.)

Chaikov
Joined Jun 2006
8632 Posts

So, you just blindly follow old rulings, even when they obviously disagree with the current rules. Good to know. (And yes, that ruling from the FAQ is blatantly wrong if you'd bothered to actually read the rule you quoted.)

Ah... still flaming, dear Kedar! Haven't digested the last time I proved you wrong?

-Comprehensive Rules
-Gatherer Official Rulings
-FAQ rulings
-Random rulings announced inside this very Forum

Many sources offer us ways to decipher complex cards interactions. It would be foolish to expect any one player to be totally up to date as to which source should be followed, today, since it may have been changed yesterday!

Or would you pretend you know all Rules and all applicable (as of today!) Rulings?

Tax evasion is nothing but legitimate self-defense against the theft that is tax collection.

cyphern
Joined Jan 2003
19353 Posts
Many sources offer us ways to decipher complex cards interactions.

True, but only one of the things you listed is authoritative: the comprehensive rules. The others are just attempts to condense or index what the comprehensive rules say.
It would be foolish to expect any one player to be totally up to date as to which source should be followed, today, since it may have been changed yesterday!

It's pretty easy to know which one should be followed, since it never changes. The comprehensive rulebook is the ultimate authority for Magic the Gathering's rules, period.
Merestil_Haye
Joined Aug 2003
4156 Posts
Comprehensive Rules
-Gatherer Official Rulings
-FAQ rulings
-Random rulings announced inside this very Forum

One of those is not like the others.

The rules are definitive. They set the framework for what the cards do.

Rulings are applications of those rules to specific cards or combinations of cards. They are not and can not be definitive, because they are derived from the rules. That is, the rules underpin any and all correct rulings.

Rulings can become outdated because of revisions of rules, never the other way about.
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Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
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Chaikov
Joined Jun 2006
8632 Posts

Ah! but the Comprehensive Rules is not comprehensive!

Other sources are required for some complex situations. So, not period.

Furthrmore, the CR do change, about twice a year. I try and keep up, but I also have a life to live!

I'm not trying to be stubborn: I have removed Roiling Horror from my previous post.
But I feel I'm alone saying that, sometimes, out-of-comprehensive-rules rulings do contradict CR, and THEY are the ones we obey!

So how can one choose, for sure?

Tax evasion is nothing but legitimate self-defense against the theft that is tax collection.

rudolf
Joined Sep 2005
16886 Posts
Comprehensive Rules
-Gatherer Official Rulings
-FAQ rulings
-Random rulings announced inside this very Forum

One of those is not like the others.

The rules are definitive. They set the framework for what the cards do.

Rulings are applications of those rules to specific cards or combinations of cards. They are not and can not be definitive, because they are derived from the rules. That is, the rules underpin any and all correct rulings.

Rulings can become outdated because of revisions of rules, never the other way about.

Your last sentence is not true.  There have been many times where an [O] ruling has come out that doesn't match the rules, and at that point it is the rules that are incorrect until they are changed to come in line with the ruling.  (or until the ruling is reversed)

For a recent example, see the Rules Theory thread about the shapeshifter coming into play.

cyphern
Joined Jan 2003
19353 Posts
Other sources are required for some complex situations.

Can you provide an example where that is true?
Merestil_Haye
Joined Aug 2003
4156 Posts
Your last sentence is not true.  There have been many times where an [O] ruling has come out that doesn't match the rules, and at that point it is the rules that are incorrect until they are changed to come in line with the ruling.  (or until the ruling is reversed)

For a recent example, see the Rules Theory thread about the shapeshifter coming into play.

Either that ruling (or more correctly the logic presented to support the ruling) is wrong., or other rulings dating back to 2008 are wrong.

Given that the rules had to be rewritten to allow those other rulings to stand, I have no hesitation iin saying the logic behind the Shapeshifter ruling is an error.
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Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
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JustTerrorIt
Joined Dec 2008
9161 Posts
Your last sentence is not true.  There have been many times where an [O] ruling has come out that doesn't match the rules, and at that point it is the rules that are incorrect until they are changed to come in line with the ruling.  (or until the ruling is reversed)

For a recent example, see the Rules Theory thread about the shapeshifter coming into play.

Either that ruling (or more correctly the logic presented to support the ruling) is wrong., or other rulings dating back to 2008 are wrong.

Given that the rules had to be rewritten to allow those other rulings to stand, I have no hesitation iin saying the logic behind the Shapeshifter ruling is an error.

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jeff-heikkinen
Joined Aug 2001
9624 Posts

Ah! but the Comprehensive Rules is not comprehensive!

Other sources are required for some complex situations.

And this was not one of them, since it had a clear-cut answer in the CR. What's your point?

Jeff Heikkinen

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Kedar
Joined Sep 2007
6823 Posts

Firstly, I don't recall you ever proving me wrong. I think I'd remember it, since that's hard to do when it comes to Magic.

Secondly:

Ah! but the Comprehensive Rules is not comprehensive!

Other sources are required for some complex situations.

This is incorrect. For people who cannot completely understand the comprehensive rules (something that is understandable at times), other things are needed to explain it to them, but the rules cover every situation. Being unable to comprehend the rules does not mean they are not comprehensive. It means you were not able to comprehend them.

Also, if you think that old FAQs are still correct, then you are in need of a wake-up call. The only FAQ that could be considered 'correct' without question would be the most recent one released with the release of a set, and even then sometimes things change between FAQ releases so that even the most recent FAQ is wrong.

So no, to blindly follow a ruling from an FAQ that is four years old is not sensible, especially when you quoted the rule that shows why it's no longer correct.

And no, I would not pretend to understand the rules as well as anyone can. I do know the rules as well as anyone can. I'm not actually an [o] source, but I'm one of the people on these forums (there are quite a few others, but they know who they are and I'm only here to toot my own horn) that can answer almost as consistently-correct as an [o] source. Of course, there will be a few mistakes from time to time, but those are very rare. (Yes, I'm arrogant about, but I've also shown that what I'm saying is true in the past couple of years on these forums.)