## Negative Numbers

19 posts / 0 new
Joined Dec 2011
2565 Posts
There is currently a rule that deals with negative numbers, which I will quote below.

Rule 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.

This rule is somewhat vague on its definition of when negative numbers are and are not applicable. One specific example is that it states that if a calculation to determine the result of an effect yields a negative number to use zero instead. However, if a calculation to determine a payment yields a negative number (say if you are at a negative life total and control Murderous Betrayal), the phrasing of this rule implies that the cost can be a negative amount. I think this rule needs clarification on where negative numbers are acceptable and where they are not.
lolabonne
Joined Aug 2011
966 Posts
I'm not sure that specific example works; If you are at negative life, you have no life to pay and cannot activate Murderous Betrayal.
Joined Dec 2011
2565 Posts
It depends on how the calculation is done. If you're at 0 life, half your life is 0, so you can pay that amount (you can always pay 0 life). If you're at a negative life total, then Murderous Betrayal either asks you to pay 0 (which you could do) or a negative number (inconclusive). To help back up that specific example, I'll also provide this:

Rule 118.4.
If a cost or effect allows a player to pay an amount of life greater than 0, the player may do so
only if his or her life total is greater than or equal to the amount of the payment. If a player pays
life, the payment is subtracted from his or her life total; in other words, the player loses that much
life. (Players can always pay 0 life.)

The rule explicitly covers only life payments of amounts greater than zero. The rules don't seem to explicitly allow or prohibit you from paying a negative amount of life, regardless of your life total.
zammm
Joined Jul 2003
28057 Posts
The rule explicitly covers only life payments of amounts greater than zero. The rules don't seem to explicitly allow or prohibit you from paying a negative amount of life, regardless of your life total.
118.4 only applies to positive life payments because you still need to be able to pay 0 life if your life total is negative and it's impossible to pay negative life at all.

Soular
Joined Jul 2007
540 Posts
The answer from Cranial insertion  (link) shows that "pay half your life" when your life total is negative would result in paying zero life. So Murderous Betrayal's cost would be payable as ", pay 0 life".
Q: With Platinum Angel out, I've worked my way down to -10 life. Now I have Murderous Betrayal out - can I pay to kill creatures? If so, what happens to my life? Do I go to -5?

A: You can go on a killing spree, but it won't change your life. Your negative life total is treated as zero, so "half your life" rounded either way is going to be zero. This isn't "paying life that you don't have" because it's just paying zero - you couldn't do this with Souldrinker, for example, because you *can't* pay life you don't have.

So it seems a fix would be to make 107.1b refer to costs as well, changing the phrase to "If a calculation that would determine the result of an effect or a cost"... . Or maybe even refer to them generally as actions or as events.

Also, with how the rules currently work, paying negative life should never happen, so the rules don't need to cover it and tell you that you can't.
MRHblue
Joined Jun 2011
1026 Posts

For posterity here is the [O] ruling that you can pay zero if your life is zero OR negative.
Shard_Fenix
Joined Jan 2011
4199 Posts

For posterity here is the [O] ruling that you can pay zero if your life is zero OR negative.

More importantly (and as was the point of that thread), paying 0 life / 0 mana doesn't count as a payment (even though the rules say it is one), so Angel of Jubilation won't stop it.

A separate section on costs and payments could cover that similar abilities to Angel of Jubilation don't stop payments of 0.

I would like to add that the official rulings on this matter bother me. The fact that 0 life is a "payable" cost but not a payment isn't something that makes sense (especially when Syncopate is the same thing, but for mana), and there's no reason it should be that way, mechanics-wise. Paying 0 life should be a payment that the angel stops, just like how is a payment (that future cards might interact with).

My dissent is on the nature of what a payment is and that the angel only stops SOME life payments instead of all of them. I'm totally fine with "Half of (negative life)" being 0.

Please autocard: [c]Shard Phoenix[/c] = Shard Phoenix.

Joined Aug 2003
1364 Posts
If you control Drogskol Reaver, then play Sphinx's Revelation for 0, one of the instructions that gets executed is "gain 0 life", which an overly broad interpretation could possibly confuse with "gaining life". Even so, Drogskol Reaver will not trigger from this, and you will not draw any cards.

Likewise, if you pay 0 life, that's not paying any life, and Angel of Jubilation doesn't (and shouldn't) have a problem with that. "" or "Pay 0 life" is certainly a payment, as laid out by rules, but not a payment of any actual resources, and that's the difference.
mjwhitfield1
Joined Aug 2009
321 Posts
I would like to add that the official rulings on this matter bother me. The fact that 0 life is a "payable" cost but not a payment isn't something that makes sense (especially when Syncopate is the same thing, but for mana), and there's no reason it should be that way, mechanics-wise. Paying 0 life should be a payment that the angel stops, just like how is a payment (that future cards might interact with).

I think that the distinction is that paying 0 life is a payable cost but its not a cost which involves paying life.  This is similar to how is a cost that doesn't require spending mana (as evidenced by Nix's second ruling).  Due to the way that optional costs work you can choose not to pay Syncopate's cost even if paying the cost wouldn't require taking any actions.  Similarly, if Killing Wave was cast with x=0 then you may still choose to not pay and sacrifice your creature instead.  However as paying the cost doesn't involve paying any life you wouldn't be forced not to pay by a Angel of Jubilation.
117.5. Some costs are represented by {0}, or are reduced to {0}. The action necessary for a player to pay such a cost is the player's acknowledgment that he or she is paying it. Even though such a cost requires no resources, it's not automatically paid.

Joined Dec 2011
2565 Posts
In light of the ruling (which I have no issue with), I would like to request that the rules be amended to support it. The rules only state that a negative result is treated as zero if a calculation is made to determine the magnitude of an effect. As far as I'm aware, the activation cost of an ability isn't an effect.
FirstTurnKill
Joined Jul 2011
2800 Posts
If you control Drogskol Reaver, then play Sphinx's Revelation for 0, one of the instructions that gets executed is "gain 0 life", which an overly broad interpretation could possibly confuse with "gaining life". Even so, Drogskol Reaver will not trigger from this, and you will not draw any cards.

Likewise, if you pay 0 life, that's not paying any life, and Angel of Jubilation doesn't (and shouldn't) have a problem with that. "" or "Pay 0 life" is certainly a payment, as laid out by rules, but not a payment of any actual resources, and that's the difference.

I don't think "pay" should be the appropriate opposing analogue to "gain."  "Lose" should be.  If you "Lose 0 life" the game should not consider you to have actually lost life.  But if you "Pay 0 life," the game should still consider you to have made a payment.

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Shard_Fenix
Joined Jan 2011
4199 Posts
If you control Drogskol Reaver, then play Sphinx's Revelation for 0, one of the instructions that gets executed is "gain 0 life", which an overly broad interpretation could possibly confuse with "gaining life". Even so, Drogskol Reaver will not trigger from this, and you will not draw any cards.

The difference is that the rulebook states that gaining 0 life doesn't count as a life gain event. It says the same thing about damage and life loss, but not about paying resources. It's true that you don't need to spend resources to pay 0 life or 0 mana, but it's still a payment. What we essentially have is the following two phrases when Jubilation is in play:

Rulebook: Players can pay 0 life.
Angel: Players can't pay (0) life.

And somehow the rulebook wins. For elegance, I will now quote Magic 101:
Whenever a card's text directly contradicts these rules, the card takes precedence. The card overrides only the rule that applies to that specific situation.
When a rule or effect allows or directs something to happen, and another effect states that it can't happen, the "can't" effect takes precedence.

Please autocard: [c]Shard Phoenix[/c] = Shard Phoenix.

Soular
Joined Jul 2007
540 Posts
I'm begining to see your point, Shard_Fenix. A more relevant rule to quote is 117.3b:
117.3b Paying life is done by subtracting the indicated amount of life from a player's life total. (Players can always pay 0 life.)

Paying 0 life still has the name of "life paying" to it. It doesn't matter that it doesn't get interpreted as actual life loss.

Question:
In a multiplayer game with five players, A to E, player A casts Plague of Vermin and pays some life. Then players B to E choose not to pay any life. When we get back to player A, he doesn't want to pay any life, but one of the previous players, lets say C, regrets not paying life and convinces A to pay life so that the process will continue back to C, but A would rather not to lose any more life.

Can A choose to pay 0 life and have it count as life paying for the process to continue?
Bowshewicz
Joined Apr 2012
2078 Posts
0 life is certainly a payment. It's even a "life payment." You just don't have to pay any life to fulfill it.

So Angel of Jubilation is happy.
alextfish
Joined Mar 2004
1832 Posts
Likewise, if you pay 0 life, that's not paying any life, and Angel of Jubilation doesn't (and shouldn't) have a problem with that. "" or "Pay 0 life" is certainly a payment, as laid out by rules, but not a payment of any actual resources, and that's the difference.

I don't think "pay" should be the appropriate opposing analogue to "gain."  "Lose" should be.  If you "Lose 0 life" the game should not consider you to have actually lost life.  But if you "Pay 0 life," the game should still consider you to have made a payment.

You've made "a payment" for things that care about that (not that there are any). But the payment did not consist of any life, so Angel of Jubilation doesn't mind.

Perhaps Angel of Jubilation ought to be worded slightly differently to clarify here, but I don't think any other changes are needed on this part of the discussion.
KyCygni
Joined Dec 2010
895 Posts
I'm begining to see your point, Shard_Fenix. A more relevant rule to quote is 117.3b:
117.3b Paying life is done by subtracting the indicated amount of life from a player's life total. (Players can always pay 0 life.)

Paying 0 life still has the name of "life paying" to it. It doesn't matter that it doesn't get interpreted as actual life loss.

Question:
In a multiplayer game with five players, A to E, player A casts Plague of Vermin and pays some life. Then players B to E choose not to pay any life. When we get back to player A, he doesn't want to pay any life, but one of the previous players, lets say C, regrets not paying life and convinces A to pay life so that the process will continue back to C, but A would rather not to lose any more life.

Can A choose to pay 0 life and have it count as life paying for the process to continue?

Hahaha - and then the game keeps going and going, with each player baiting the others to be the first to pay a nonzero amount of life, by saying "I pay 0 life.", "I pay 0 life.", "I pay 0 life.", and Plague of Vermin's resolution takes an inordinate amount of time...

In a tournament I cast Plague of Vermin to draw the game - I choose to continuously "Pay 0 life" until we go to time, which is what the effect allows me to do; the process will continue despite my opponent saying "I'll choose to not pay life" since one of the players is still paying life each round. (...I'm pretty sure a judge would be called and said judge would get angry at me for X number of IPG-related reasons and I'd get a stern talking to and Plague of Vermin would be done resolving yesterday)
Soular
Joined Jul 2007
540 Posts
No, infinite loops won't be a problem under the hypothetical conclusion that PoV continues the process because someone paid 0 life (considering how Angel of Jubilation works, PoV won't continue the process for someone who paid 0 life).

Players would still have the option of "not paying" so eventually they'll have to choose not to pay and stop this ridiculousness.

Additionally, at the very least for the sake of the question, assume the players have no desire to slow or freeze the game, just that player C  honestly wanted another round of the process to pay life, and player A honestly wanted to make it happen but would prefer not to pay life if possible.
Bowshewicz
Joined Apr 2012
2078 Posts
If any player chooses to "pay 0 life," Plague of Vermin will not continue, since it wants to know whether life was actually paid, as opposed to whether a "cost that is categorized as a life payment was paid."

I can't think of many instances where it matters that an instruction to "pay 0 of [resource]" counts as a "[resource] payment," but the ones I do know work to make the game sensible.

1) Cards like Memnite cost , but you are still allowed to cast them.
2) When casting a spell that costs , you are allowed to activate mana abilities.
EyeballFrog
Joined Mar 2012
1288 Posts
As another example of cards that care when a cost of is paid, Shah of Naar Isle cares whether you pay his Echo cost of .