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I'm a MTG newbie and I have a question about some instant spells that add negative counters to a creature (for example, when this creature enters the battlefield, target creature gets -3/-3 until end of turn). If the target creature is only a 2/2, is that target destroyed (goes to graveyard) from the -3 counters placed onto it? If not how does a creature have a negative toughness?

Thanks everyone

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FYI: getting -3/-3 until end of turn is not a counter on the creature. – Pablo May 20 '14 at 17:12
"If not how does a creature have a negative toughness?" By being named Spinal Parasite, obviously. :) – Brian S May 20 '14 at 18:56
To clarify what Pablo said, only cards that actually say "counter", as in "put a +1/+1 counter on target creature", use counters. A card that says "target creature gets -3/-3 until end of turn" doesn't involve counters; it just changes the power/toughness of the creature. – Jefromi May 20 '14 at 20:21
up vote 9 down vote accepted

A creature with 0 or less toughness will be sent to the graveyard immediately, so yes, getting -3/-3 can kill a creature.

Note that this is not technically being "destroyed", it is a different way of sending the creature to the graveyard. This matters for things like regeneration.

From the basic MTG rules:

Your creatures go to your graveyard if the damage they’re dealt in a single turn is equal to or greater than their toughness, or if their toughness is reduced to 0 or less.

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Thanks, that's just what I was looking for. – Greg May 20 '14 at 14:45
Just in case anyone is looking for the comprehensive rules, rule 704.5f describes the action that moves a creature to the graveyard, and rule 121.1a explains how counters affect toughness. I didn't post this as an answer because the basic rules are definitely more suitable here. – Rainbolt May 20 '14 at 14:55

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