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Say I have a 4/4 creature with trample. I attack, and my opponent blocks with a...

When does the damage carry over to my opponent? I made all of these hypothetical creatures 0/1 for simplicity's sake. I know the creatures actually linked to are slightly different, but I believe this will simplify the answers.

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this seems to be the millionth time this question has been asked. Maybe we just need a single question for "how does Trample work", and then link all these other questions as duplicates of it. –  user1873 May 7 '12 at 1:06
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@user1873 I agree that trample corner-cases are a constant bugbear around here. In fairness, though, this particular one is about an aspect of damage-assignment rules that even the designers don't seem to remember correctly. –  Alex P May 7 '12 at 3:20

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Damage assignment ignores damage prevention and damage-modifying effects. Just look at toughness, previous damage marked, and deathtouch to figure out how to allocate trample damage (or damage in a group block).

Here's the most relevant bit of comp rules:

510.1c ... When checking for assigned lethal damage, take into account damage already marked on the creature and damage from other creatures that’s being assigned during the same combat damage step, but not any abilities or effects that might change the amount of damage that’s actually dealt.

In other words, you only have to assign damage that would be lethal -- based on the creature's toughness adjusted for any damage already marked on it, or 1 point of deathtouch damage -- without adjusting for other game rules like damage prevention, damage multipliers, or indestructibility. So my 4/4 can trample right over your Fog Bank as if it were any other 0/2; the Wall just won't die in the process.

As a side note, since there seems to be a bit of confusion about this in the question: protection is a damage prevention effect. So don't go blocking any Excruciators with your Kor Firewalker if you want him to live.

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I'm +1'ing this for commendable brevity. I'd rather see a concise, to-the-point answer most of the time that long essays with multiple citations of the Comp Rules (correct though those may be)... –  thesunneversets May 7 '12 at 9:56
    
@thesunneversets Then again, this site is supposed to give qualified answers. Always going the extra length to cite rules references is what sets us apart from a regular forum and should be encouraged. Nothing keeps you from summarizing an answer and additionally providing a solid reference. –  Hackworth May 7 '12 at 12:15
    
@thesunneversets, I like to give brief answers too, but if people don't understand what Trample actually does and what Lethal Damage actually is how will they have any hope of understanding the answer. See David's answer, and your comment to my answer. –  user1873 May 7 '12 at 13:18
    
Yeah, your answer was good too, I was just being a bit grumpy. I think there's definitely room for fully completist answers and also brief, to-the-point ones... I just find the full weight of the MtGO rules exhausting sometimes! But I'm sure others find the full background valuable. –  thesunneversets May 7 '12 at 16:29

After you assign it to the defending player, after assigning lethal damage to the creatures blocking the attacking creature with trample. Lethal damage only considers toughness, it ignores any abilities that would modify the actual damage dealt to the blocking creatures. (i.e. Double damage effects like Furnace of Rath, Damage prevention effects like protection from [quality], etc.)

First, it might be important to understand what trample does. Trample modifies the rules for how combat damage is assigned. Specifically, it allows trampling creatures to ignore the rule that they can only assign combat damage to the creatures blocking it.

Trample

702.18a Trample is a static ability that modifies the rules for assigning an attacking creature’s combat damage. ... (See rule 510, “Combat Damage Step.”) Combat Damage Step

510.1c A blocked creature assigns its combat damage to the creatures blocking it. If no creatures are currently blocking it (if, for example, they were destroyed or removed from combat), it assigns no combat damage. ...

Trample and the Combat Damage Step, both describe how to calculate lethal damage.

[510.1c | 702.18b] ... When checking for assigned lethal damage, take into account damage already marked on the creature and damage from other creatures that’s being assigned during the same combat damage step, but not any abilities or effects that might change the amount of damage that’s actually dealt.

Lethal Damage - An amount of damage greater than or equal to a creature’s toughness. See rules 119.6, 510.1, and 704.5g.

Deathtouch is the only ability that modifies what lethal damage is.

702.2b Any nonzero amount of combat damage assigned to a creature by a source with deathtouch is considered to be lethal damage, regardless of that creature’s toughness. See rules 510.1c–d.

Finally, to answer your question, Under what circumstances does an attacking creature with trample assign damage to the defending player?

  • Your attacking creature is attacking a player, not a planeswalker.

  • Your attacking creature has additional combat damage that it can assign to the defending player after assigning lethal damage to all creatures blocking it.

  • You choose to actually assign the additional damage to the defending player. (Trample allows this, but it is not mandator to assign additional damage to the defending player instead of the creatures blocking it)

  • The defending player is still in the game. (important for multiplayer, where it might be advantageous to leave the game than allow an opponent's Lifelink creatures to damage you)

800.4e If combat damage would be assigned to a player who has left the game, that damage isn’t assigned.

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And so to answer the three cases as presented (mostly out of curiosity that I read this correctly): no because in none of these cases can the creature assign lethal damage. Right? –  Circeus May 7 '12 at 2:51
    
@Circeus It's the opposite. "You can ignore all abilities that might modify the damage after it is assigned when determining if a blocking creature has been dealt lethal damage, because the rules specifically tell you to ignore abilities and effects that might change the amount of damage after it is assigned." A simplified way to think of it is that the game rules say that prevention effects alter damage as its actually dealt, not when it is assigned. –  Alex P May 7 '12 at 3:16
    
@AlexP thanks... I misunderstood the "Once all those blocking creatures are assigned lethal damage" part and completely missed the "ignore abilities" bit. So I got confused by the nuance of damage assigned vs. dealt. Were it not for that I would have gotten it right. Actually isn't "ignore all abilities that might modify the damage after it is assigned when determining if a blocking creature has been dealt lethal damage" using "dealt" incorrectly? (if I'm reading 510.1c right) –  Circeus May 7 '12 at 3:26

As a complement to the other answers:

  • 0/1 creature that is indestructible: Does my 4/4 trampler's extra 3 damage carry over even though the blocking creature wasn't dealt lethal damage? Does the situation change if my 4/4 trampler also has infect?

The blocking creature has toughness 1 and has accumulated 0 damage so far in the current turn, so lethal damage for this creature is 1. Period. That number is not changed by indestructibility, protection, or any sort of prevention effect; it is also not changed by the presence or absence of infect or any other ability (except perhaps deathtouch). So in this case, yes, the remaining 3 damage tramples over to the player.

It may seem paradoxical that "lethal damage" is not actually lethal to the creature (i.e. doesn't kill the creature) in this case, but that's not the damage's fault. You have to think about the phrase "lethal damage" as a technical term that has a meaning slightly different from what you'd get just by putting the meanings of its words together.

There isn't really such a thing as "cannot be dealt damage." If you look at the Oracle text, it's worded as "Prevent all damage that would be dealt to [creature]." So the same logic from the previous case applies. The creature's toughness is 1, and it has already accumulated 0 damage this turn, so lethal damage is 1. The fact that the damage will be prevented doesn't change that. So again, in this case, the 3 damage would trample over.

  • 0/1 Creature with protection from my creature's color: Can I deal damage to it at all?

This is exactly the same as the previous case, because one of the effects of protection is "Prevent all damage that would be dealt to [creature] from sources with the given characteristic." None of the other effects of protection matter here. So again, the 3 damage would trample over.

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I think this is why people keep asking these Trample questions, and why my answer was so long. I wanted to clearly define what Trample does, what Lethat Damage is, so that people stop giving bad information. " in this case, yes, the remaining 3 damage tramples over to the player." No it doesn't unless you specifically assign it to the player. –  user1873 May 7 '12 at 13:14
    
The fact that remaining non-lethal trample damage can be explicitly assigned to the creature is important for certain cards like Swans of Bryn Argoll (if you're trying to deck the opponent) or if an effect like Purity is in play; the most common thing is to assign extra damage to the creature if some of it is prevented to save the creature. Of course you still have the option to let that creature live and roll that prevented trample damage over… –  ghoppe May 7 '12 at 17:52
    
@user1873 Yes it does in the normal situation where you assign the maximum possible amount of damage to the player. The fact that the OP proposed this scenario indicates that that is what was intended. In any case, you have to make an explicit damage assignment, it's not like assigning all the damage to the creature is a default, so saying "no it doesn't" is misleading. "No it doesn't have to" would be more accurate. –  David Z May 8 '12 at 3:18

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