how long does instant "last"?

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Could my opponent play an instant card at the start of my turn, before I activate any creatures, to preemptively prevent damage from a source? 

I'm pretty sure the source has to actually already be 'on the stack', meaning until the attack is done you can't play the prevent damage card.
Until the damage is declared, there is no source on wich to play the interrupt.  That's the strategy in damage prevention orders.

I played my friend back when the game first came out.  he was Cormyr, and I was the drow.  He got his dragon knight adjacent to my umber hulk, and then he played an order card that would have killed it right out.  In response, I played a card that allowed me to negate all damage from one source.

Had I played that "preemptively," he never would have used that big attack, knowing that I'd negate the damage, and so he'd save it for his next turn, which would make it useless.
I'm pretty sure the source has to actually already be 'on the stack', meaning until the attack is done you can't play the prevent damage card.



That was my thinking on it as well.

 


Here is what happened in a nut shell. My opponent knew I was coming for his drider when I played feint with my assassin to tap it. Knowing this was his last chance to respond with the stack he played a damage prevention card against my umberhulk, which had yet to activate. By preventing the 30 damage I needed to kill his piece, he kept it alive for another turn. 


We considered the creature the source. The fact that it had not activated did not seem to disqualify it as a source.  


 




I don't think that would make sense, as the interrupts (not instants) target a damage source. If the source doesn't exist yet, the spell would just fizzle.

However, there are several interrupts that can be played on other creatures. In that case, as long as the creature casting was in range (and wasn't tapped... and generally was following the other rules), it could play that interrupt.  
From the rulebook we have an entry under Effects, sources, and Targets and it says:

"Each source is a single effect from a creature, an order card... An effects source counts only for that single instance; for example, if you use the same creatures power on one turn and again on your next turn, those are two seperate effects with two seperate sources."

Here it says that a source is a signle effect from a creature, in this case the Umberhulks Confusing Gaze or Melle attack, and it implies that sources or effects last until the end of your turn because attacks on two different turns are considered two different sources if made from the same creature.  

In other words the source is the ability of the creature not the damage, therefor I have concluded that the damage prevention lasts until the end of your turn. 
Right, but it only targets a single damage source. So, sure it lasts until the end of the turn, but only against the thing you played it against.
Here it says that a source is a signle effect from a creature, in this case the Umberhulks Confusing Gaze or Melle attack, and it implies that sources or effects last until the end of your turn because attacks on two different turns are considered two different sources if made from the same creature.


The "source" is a single instance of damage.  I'm not sure what you mean here.  I'm not following your logic.  The number of turns has nothing to do with determining a source.

If a creature uses its melee attack (and, as such, is tapped), that is a single damage source.  If that creature is somehow untapped via an effect, than another melee attack would be a completely different damage source.

An "Instant" ability lasts only as long as it takes to be resolved.  It literally has no duration, hence the use of "Instant."  Your opponent attacks you, and you defend with an Instant ability.  That's it.  If he then later attacks you again, that ability is no longer in effect.
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