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I am wondering if -1/-1 counters are considered damage? On creatures with the wither ability is says that the creature deals damage in the form of -1/-1 counters. As such I would like to know if a creatures wither-ability would trigger ex: Rite of Passage?

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In general, -1/-1 counters do not count as damage. However, in the case where an ability (such as Wither or Infect) says that damage is dealt in the form of -1/-1 counters, it does count as damage. When a creature with one of those abilities deals damage to another creature, it still counts as dealing damage to the other creature, but instead of marking damage, you put that many -1/-1 counters on the other creature.

This means that damage dealt by a creature with Wither or Infect would trigger Rite of Passage.

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Dealing damage causes many different results. The following are the most common results of the damage (but it's not exhaustive):

  • The loss of life (by the defending player).
  • The addition of poison counters counters (on the defending player).
  • The addition of marked damage (on the defending creature).
  • The addition of -1/-1 counters (on the defending creature).
  • The loss of loyalty counters (by the "defending" Planeswalker).
  • The gain of life (by the attacking creature's controller).

No matter the result of damage, it's still damage being dealt, so Rite of Passage's ability will trigger for a creature with Wither dealing damage to another creature.

Note that while dealing damage can place -1/-1 counters on a creature, putting -1/-1 counters on a creature isn't damage in of itself. Choking Fumes's effect does not trigger Rite of Passage's ability.

  • @Brian S, "In the form of" simply means "causes". Edited to used more formal language. – ikegami Oct 23 '14 at 6:02
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No, -1/-1 counters do not themselves count as damage. You can think of them as an effect of damage, when the source dealing the damage has wither (or infect).

In general, damage dealt to something in the game has an effect that depends on what it is being dealt to. These are the normal effects:

  • Damage dealt to a creature normally causes the amount of damage to be added to an invisible "damage counter" which is reset at the end of each turn (during the cleanup step).
  • Damage dealt to a player normally causes the player to lose that much life.
  • Damage dealt to a planeswalker normally causes that many loyalty counters to be removed from the planeswalker.

Some abilities modify or replace the normal effect with another effect:

  • For creatures: If a source dealing damage to a creature has wither or infect, the damage causes that many -1/-1 counters to be placed on the creature instead of adding to the damage counter.
  • For creatures: If a source dealing damage to a creature has deathtouch, the damage marks the creature as having received damage from a source with deathtouch.
  • For players: If a source dealing damage to a player has infect, the damage causes the player to gain that many poison counters instead of them losing life.

and so on.

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