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Suppose Player 1 has a Dragon on the table and Unsummon in hand, while Player 2 has two Spiders on the table.

Player 1 chooses to attack with the Dragon and Player 2 chooses to block with one of the Spiders. Before damage has been put on the stack (Note: as of the 2010 MtG rules update, combat damage is a turn-based action that doesn't use the stack.) Player 1 uses Unsummon on the blocking Spider.

Does Player 2 take any life damage from the attacking Dragon?

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up vote 31 down vote accepted

No

The player takes no damage as the Dragon remains blocked. See the Compendium

509.1h An attacking creature with one or more creatures declared as blockers for it becomes a blocked creature; one with no creatures declared as blockers for it becomes an unblocked creature. This remains unchanged until the creature is removed from combat, an effect says that it becomes blocked or unblocked, or the combat phase ends, whichever comes first. A creature remains blocked even if all the creatures blocking it are removed from combat.

An Exception is, when the attacking creature has trample. See the Compendium

702.18c If an attacking creature with trample is blocked, but there are no creatures blocking it when damage is assigned, all its damage is assigned to the player or planeswalker it's attacking.

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In short. Whenever a creature is declared blocked (by declaring a blocking creature), damage will be done to the creature, and not to the player. If something happens (eg bouce, sacrifice), the damage is still directed to the creature (which is gone, therefore the damage goes nowhere (creature blocked)).

If the attacking creature has trample, it's a little different. Trample says that all damage more than toughness of the defending creature, continues to the player. Note that with trample, you have to do minimal lethal damage to blocking crature (more is allowed).

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4  
If the creature is gone, the damage is not directed at anything. If there is no blocking creature in play, the attacker remains blocked and does no damage. – Colin D Sep 24 '13 at 12:59
    
@ColinD I think the idea here was to give the intuitive explanation, the attacking creature tries to deal damage to the blocking creature, but it's not there, so it doesn't do damage. I agree it wasn't precisely stated, though. – Jefromi Sep 26 '13 at 17:03
    
@Jefromi: The problem is that this explanation can easily lead you astray with lifelink and other abilities that care about damage—which are quite common. – Tikhon Jelvis Mar 12 '15 at 22:00
    
@TikhonJelvis Not if you think of it the right way: it wants to deal damage to that creature, it's not there, it doesn't deal any damage, so no lifelink. – Jefromi Mar 12 '15 at 22:05

You wouldn't do damage to the player unless the creature has trample. Abilities like lifelink and double strike still apply. Lifelink requires damage to be done. Doublestrike mearly doubles the damage done. If no damage occurs, neither ability activates. However, if the blocking creature is removed after the damage phase, damage is still done to the blocking creature, although this will remove the damage done and the creature can survive lethal damage. If it's removed before damage can take place, due to a fast effect or instant, no damage is done to the blocker and the attacker is still blocked.

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Most of this answer is entirely incorrect. Double Strike does not just double damage, it causes damage to be dealt twice, in two different combat damage steps. And if a creature takes lethal damage in the combat damage step, it absolutely cannot be saved. Lethal damage is checked whenever any player gains priority, before anyone would even have a chance to cast a spell to save a creature. – murgatroid99 Mar 15 at 7:16
    
admittedly this was a poorly worded answer and my understanding of double strike wasn't up to par at the time. However, I always believed damage could be avoided with spells and abilities that remove creatures from battle or the battlefield even after combat damage is dealt. But after a quick review of the rules, this is not allowed. – OmegaWarMech Mar 21 at 11:00

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