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Way back when, the first combo I built a deck around was Force of Nature with a Spirit Link on it. If, at the beginning of my upkeep, I have less than 8 life and I don't pay the upkeep, will I lose the game before the life gain kicks in?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

104.3b If a player’s life total is 0 or less, he or she loses the game the next time a player would receive priority. (This is a state-based action. See rule 704.)

When the Force of Nature damages you, Spirit Link's trigger goes on the stack. If, between sustaining the damage and getting 8 life back from Link, your life total hits 0, you'll die.

This is confirmed by the Oracle text for Spirit Link:

You only gain the life when the triggered ability resolves. If you are reduced to zero life before the ability resolves, you will lose before gaining the life.

Luckily, you can avoid this problem by replacing Spirit Link with Lifelink.

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Note that in earlier versions of the rules, life totals weren't checked until the end of a phase or combat, so you had plenty of time for the trigger to resolve and bring you above 0 life. I'm not sure when this changed to the modern ruling, but it was well after Force of Nature and Spirit Link were printed. –  Stuart Cook Nov 28 '11 at 7:29
    
@StuartCook Actually, the change was made for Sixth Edition, so Spirit Link was reprinted five times after this change, even though it was made significantly weaker. The Lifelink keyword was introduced in Future Sight on two spells from the future when evidently new magic spell technology "fixed" Spirit Link. :) Thus, Spirit Link was replaced by Lifelink in the next M10 base set. –  ghoppe Nov 28 '11 at 15:04
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@ghoppe The funny thing is that Future Sight lifelink it didn't even "fix" Spirit Link right away! The first iteration of lifelink was also a triggered ability (see the reminder text on Daybreak Coronet), and all the old lifelink-like spells were changed to use it in Oracle. Then, even later, the rules team decided to make it a damage-changing static ability, and all the old cards had their Oracle text reverted -- except Loxodon Warhammer, which had already been reprinted with "lifelink" in the text box (oops!). –  Alex P Nov 28 '11 at 15:26
    
Perfect example of how some cards make old cards completely obsolete. :D –  Gordon Gustafson Nov 29 '11 at 2:58
    
@CrazyJugglerDrummer - I wouldn't call it obsolete. Multiple Spirit Links stack whereas multiple Lifelinks do not. –  Origami Robot Jan 6 '12 at 14:14
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