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I've seen a variety of combinations that will allow a player to "go infinite"* in life, power, toughness or simply create an endless loop**.

In the case of the endless loop, I understand why it necessarily forces a draw. The game states can only proceed to states that feed the loop.

104.4b If the game somehow enters a “loop” of mandatory actions, repeating a sequence of events with no way to stop, the game is a draw. Loops that contain an optional action don’t result in a draw.

If a creature goes infinite in power or toughness, or a player goes infinite in life, does it necessarily signal a win/loss condition?

A particularly stubborn a player could require the now infinite player to only gain as much life/toughness/power as they are willing to physically perform the combo, but it would be poor sportsmanship, right?

* perform a combination where, at the end of the sequence, the combo may be performed again

** a particularly specific setup involving 3 oblivion rings

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if you have infinite life and I activate my Door to nothingness you still lose the game. –  Colin D Dec 19 '12 at 14:03
@ColinD Only if the priority changed to you so that you could legally tap it. –  Stephen Jan 14 '13 at 18:03
your combo likely uses the stack, so I will get priority before your combo can resolve. –  Colin D Jan 14 '13 at 18:12
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4 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The comprehensive rules on taking shortcuts in Magic, as per your request. (Sorry, long...)

If you refuse to take a shortcut out of an infinite loop when you have the opportunity, you are committing deliberate timewasting as Andrey's answer suggests; a definite no-no in a tournament, and hopefully in a friendly group as well!

  1. Taking Shortcuts

715.1. When playing a game, players typically make use of mutually understood shortcuts rather than explicitly identifying each game choice (either taking an action or passing priority) a player makes.

715.1a The rules for taking shortcuts are largely unformalized. As long as each player in the game understands the intent of each other player, any shortcut system they use is acceptable.

715.1b Occasionally the game gets into a state in which a set of actions could be repeated indefinitely (thus creating a "loop"). In that case, the shortcut rules can be used to determine how many times those actions are repeated without having to actually perform them, and how the loop is broken.

715.2. Taking a shortcut follows the following procedure.

715.2a At any point in the game, the player with priority may suggest a shortcut by describing a sequence of game choices, for all players, that may be legally taken based on the current game state and the predictable results of the sequence of choices. This sequence may be a non-repetitive series of choices, a loop that repeats a specified number of times, multiple loops, or nested loops, and may even cross multiple turns. It can't include conditional actions, where the outcome of a game event determines the next action a player takes. The ending point of this sequence must be a place where a player has priority, though it need not be the player proposing the shortcut. Example: A player controls a creature enchanted by Presence of Gond, which grants the creature the ability "{T}: Put a 1/1 green Elf Warrior creature token onto the battlefield," and another player controls Intruder Alarm, which reads, in part, "Whenever a creature enters the battlefield, untap all creatures." When the player has priority, he may suggest "I'll create a million tokens," indicating the sequence of activating the creature's ability, all players passing priority, letting the creature's ability resolve and put a token onto the battlefield (which causes Intruder Alarm's ability to trigger), Intruder Alarm's controller putting that triggered ability on the stack, all players passing priority, Intruder Alarm's triggered ability resolving, all players passing priority until the player proposing the shortcut has priority, and repeating that sequence 999,999 more times, ending just after the last token-creating ability resolves.

715.2b Each other player, in turn order starting after the player who suggested the shortcut, may either accept the proposed sequence, or shorten it by naming a place where he or she will make a game choice that's different than what's been proposed. (The player doesn't need to specify at this time what the new choice will be.) This place becomes the new ending point of the proposed sequence. Example: The active player draws a card during her draw step, then says, "Go." The nonactive player is holding Into the Fray (an instant that says "Target creature attacks this turn if able") and says, "I'd like to cast a spell during your beginning of combat step." The current proposed shortcut is that all players pass priority at all opportunities during the turn until the nonactive player has priority during the beginning of combat step.

715.2c Once the last player has either accepted or shortened the shortcut proposal, the shortcut is taken. The game advances to the last proposed ending point, with all game choices contained in the shortcut proposal having been taken. If the shortcut was shortened from the original proposal, the player who now has priority must make a different game choice than what was originally proposed for that player.

715.3. Sometimes a loop can be fragmented, meaning that each player involved in the loop performs an independent action that results in the same game state being reached multiple times. If that happens, the active player (or, if the active player is not involved in the loop, the first player in turn order who is involved) must then make a different game choice so the loop does not continue. Example: In a two-player game, the active player controls a creature with the ability "{0}: [This creature] gains flying," the nonactive player controls a permanent with the ability "{0}: Target creature loses flying," and nothing in the game cares how many times an ability has been activated. Say the active player activates his creature's ability, it resolves, then the nonactive player activates her permanent's ability targeting that creature, and it resolves. This returns the game to a game state it was at before. The active player must make a different game choice (in other words, anything other than activating that creature's ability again). The creature doesn't have flying. Note that the nonactive player could have prevented the fragmented loop simply by not activating her permanent's ability, in which case the creature would have had flying. The nonactive player always has the final choice and is therefore able to determine whether the creature has flying.

715.4. If a loop contains only mandatory actions, the game is a draw. (See rules 104.4b and 104.4f.)

715.5. No player can be forced to perform an action that would end a loop other than actions called for by objects involved in the loop. Example: A player controls Seal of Cleansing, an enchantment that reads, "Sacrifice Seal of Cleansing: Destroy target artifact or enchantment." A mandatory loop that involves an artifact begins. The player is not forced to sacrifice Seal of Cleansing to destroy the artifact and end the loop.

715.6. If a loop contains an effect that says "[A] unless [B]," where [A] and [B] are each actions, no player can be forced to perform [B] to break the loop. If no player chooses to perform [B], the loop will continue as though [A] were mandatory.

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I see the relevant part in 715.1a 'a loop that repeats a specified number of times' –  Stephen Sep 15 '11 at 13:19
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The game does not end. You cannot do something infinitely.

While you do not have to do every step of a combo you do have to announce how many times you do it. This number must be finite but can be as large as you want. After that the game continues normally.

A player cannot try to achieve a tie by saying "i am still doing my infinite combo" until the time runs out.

That is delay of game as much as just not ending your turn for not reason.

What this also means that if someone gained infinite life via combo, they can be killed by an infinite damage combo. The second person can always name a bigger number.

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So, from your answer, there is in fact there is no "going infinite" at all. Can you point to any of the official rules that would support this, since there are a couple of guys in our play circle who will argue about this. –  Stephen Sep 15 '11 at 13:09
As you have said in your question the only way to go infinite, is if you have an infinite required trigger. If no one beats me to it, i will find the reference tonight –  Andrey Sep 15 '11 at 13:18
715.4 says something along those lines, Andrey: "If a loop contains only mandatory actions, the game is a draw." –  thesunneversets Sep 15 '11 at 13:47
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You could "get stuck" in a loop which you can not break. This will, if there is no way you can end the loop, result in a draw. I remember that from the old Worldgorger dragon/Animate dead days.

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Why the down vote? –  AndSoYouCode Oct 25 '11 at 13:43
probably because at the time this answer was added, it did not add anything that was not already contained in another answer. –  Colin D Dec 19 '12 at 19:57
@ColinD No other answer mentions the possibility of a draw? Hmm, ok, I searched now and found it in the rules in the top answer: "715.4. If a loop contains only mandatory actions, the game is a draw. (See rules 104.4b and 104.4f.)". But it wasn't all that obvious. –  AndSoYouCode Dec 20 '12 at 8:30
personally I don't find anything wrong with your answer. I gave it an upvote because it was clear and to the point. –  Colin D Dec 20 '12 at 13:28
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One condition where going infinite in life would not signal a game ending is EDH, since there are other winning conditions.

For example, even though you now have infinite life, if you take more than 20 damage from my general you still lose.

Another condition that I believe be applied in a general game is to poison counters, since they form an alternate victory condition.

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You can have infinite life and still lose from trying to draw a card from your empty library. That's probably the main one. –  thesunneversets Sep 15 '11 at 13:08
If you put that into an answer with the appropriate rule reference I'd upvote it. –  Stephen Sep 15 '11 at 13:12
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