Some cards in magic has something happen for each {something}. For instance: Alive // Well makes you gain 2 life for each creature you control. Tapping Selvala adds one green mana to your mana pool, and you gain 1 life for each non-land card revealed.

How is this life gained: all at once or "one bit" at a time? Say I tap Selvala and 1 land, and 2 non-lands are revealed: do I gain 2 life, or do I gain 1 life two times? Would Ajani's Pridemate have one or two +1/+1 counters placed on it if I had it in play at that point?

  • 2
    nice question. My instinct says it is only one event. but can't find any rules that back that up
    – Ivo
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 11:21
  • That's what I'm inclined to think as well, but from a conversation with someone it seemed like they thought otherwise.
    – zo0x
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 12:32
  • Don't spells/abilities only add one effect to the stack unless they explicitly say otherwise? So in this case, the effect is "gain 2 life for each", so it's one effect and you're gaining 2*n life at one time.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 13:16
  • 1
    @Ellesedil It's not just the stack that matters. When you resolve a spell or ability on the stack, you don't group all of its effects up into one and then determine triggers. If a card specifies two things separately (e.g. for some strange reason "gain 2 life, then gain 4 life") they happen separately, in that order. So the question is whether "for each" means, "gain a quantity of life equal to 2 per creature" or "for each creature, one at a time, gain 2 life".
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 15:03

4 Answers 4


How is this life gained: all at once or "one bit" at a time?

Count the verbs. There is only one instruction to gain life, so all the life is gained simultaneously.

608.2e Some spells and abilities have multiple steps or actions, denoted by separate sentences or clauses, that involve multiple players. In these cases, the choices for the first action are made in APNAP order, and then the first action is processed simultaneously. Then the choices for the second action are made in APNAP order, and then that action is processed simultaneously, and so on. See rule 101.4.

Life Burst has two instructions to gain life (two verbs), so there would be two life gain events.

Would Ajani's Pridemate have one or two +1/+1 counters placed on it if I had it in play at that point?

Since all life is gained simultaneously and it all came from the same source, there is only one life gain event, so it would only trigger once.

Note that if you simultaneously gained life from multiple sources, that would count as multiple life gains events, and the ability would trigger multiple times.

118.9. Some triggered abilities are written, "Whenever [a player] gains life, . . . ." Such abilities are treated as though they are written, "Whenever a source causes [a player] to gain life, . . . ." If a player gains 0 life, no life gain event has occurred, and these abilities won’t trigger.

That applies very narrowly to life gain. It doesn't apply to taking damage. For example, if Boros Reckoner is simultaneously dealt damage from two sources, its ability will only trigger once. It would need the wording of Nested Ghoul's ability to be triggered twice.

  • 3
    I don't think this answer helps clear up the ambiguity. You don't provide a rule for "count the verbs". The very question is in whether or not "for each" counts as having multiple verbs.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 19:49
  • Note that a valid English and mathematical reading of "for each creature, gain a life" when there are 2 creatures is: "gain a life. Gain a life." This is how a computer would read and execute a program written that way. While I don't think that's the intent of the card or the rules, there is still not a rule defining "for each".
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 19:51
  • 2
    @GendoIkari I think the rule referenced is sufficient because it doesn't reference "verbs" but "separate sentences or clauses". "Gain 2 life for each creature you control" is a single verb clause, so by that rule all of the life gain "is processed simultaneously". And since it's a single source adding a certain amount of life simultaneously, it's a single event. And your point about a computer is irrelevant: I could just as easily write a program that specifies add 2*(number of creatures) as for creature in creatures: add 2.
    – murgatroid99
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 21:00
  • @GendoIkari, Yes, I did. I just gave a tip that you can count actions by counting verbs.
    – ikegami
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 21:11
  • @ikegami No, that's not what I meant. You said "that would be the case". I'm not sure if by "that" you mean "multiple life gain events" (as in the first section) or "only one life gain event" (as in the second section). Especially because the note is with the second section, but the correct answer is the first one (which I provided a rules reference for).
    – murgatroid99
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 21:13

I contacted Wizard's MtG APAC Support last night. The response confirmed what we suspect: only one life gain occurs, but they didn't know any specific ruling about this either.

I think Ikegami's answer very soundly conveys the rules basis for it working this way, though.

For posterity, and for some level of official confirmation, here's the response from support:

When Riot Control activates the life gain triggers as a single event meaning that Archangle of Thune will only activate once. So in the situation that you provided, when you cast Riot Control the following will happen: You will gain 3 life and each of your creatures will receive a single (1) +1/+1 counter. Now if the card was Ageless Entity that states: "Whenever you gain life, put that many +1/+1 counters on Ageless Entity." you would be putting three (3) +1/+1 counters on Ageless Entity since you would have gained that much life through Riot Control.

I'm afraid that there isn't a specific ruling that would fit here, but the wording of the card itself describes what will happen.

(Ed: courtesies and administrative stuff omitted)

— Eric M.
Online Response Crew
Wizards of the Coast


As I said in the comments, I can't find any rules that specify it but according to this similar example here http://community.wizards.com/content/forum-topic/3767486 it would only be one event. In the example it was actually two because of the wording of Life Burst, but the second instance on that card has also a "for each" wording that would only trigger one event.

  • 1
    Based on what though? Those people are just saying it happens once regardless of the "for each" calculation, but not citing anything, which is about the same as if you or I answered this saying "You only gain life once" and left it at that. Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 13:48
  • I find several questions on the web stating the same. I think it actual isn't covered by the rules, since I actually did a Ctrl+F on the comp rules for "gain" and also "for each" and found nothing. I guess it could only be settled by an actual judge then. I tried googling a similar question that is answered by a judge but unfortunately couldn't find one.
    – Ivo
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 14:15
  • I'm surprised I can't find anything either, but I'm pretty sure you're right: the wording does sound much more like "gain a quantity of life equal to..." than "count your creatures and every time you count one gain 2 life".
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 15:05
  • It might be like the word "deals" for damage events. Each instant of the word "deals" is one event. So I think Jefromi's comment is probably pretty close: Congregate means "Target player gains 2x life, where x is ..."
    – Hao Ye
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 16:54
  • @Jonathan Hobbs, See my answer. I provided the rule that does apply. You could argue the rule doesn't apply, but that would be wrong.
    – ikegami
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 19:09

Just to clarify a little, even though I am not going to quote any rules, in this case simple logic will help.

If you have for example Ajani's Pridemate in play and you cast Well part of the Alive // Well card this is what happens.

Well on the stack resolves, the spell counts your creatures during its resolving process and gain you lives during one single event, there are not keyworded two or more instances to be resolved seerately. Ajani's Pridemate's abbility triggers and it gets 1 +1/+1 counter.

  • 6
    When other, much older answers have rules quotes and official confirmation from Wizards of the Coast, you might want to think twice before posting "It's common sense." This feels like noise.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 20:30

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