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Is drawing multiple cards an atomic action, or do effects triggered by drawing a card trigger for each card drawn instead?

Consider Spiteful Visions, which reads:

Whenever a player draws a card, Spiteful Visions deals 1 damage to that player.

If a player were to be compelled to draw more than one card, would that player be dealt the damage all at once, or one at a time? For example, how many times would Circle of Protection: Black need to be activated to prevent all damage?

Furthermore, if there exist additional effects that are triggered by damage dealt in this way, are such effects resolved together atomically or is each resultant effect resolved individually?


How about tutors, or other cards not using the word 'draw', eg: Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar

If you would draw a card, look at the top three cards of your library instead. Put one of those cards into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.

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  • Abilities resolve one at a time, so multiple instances of an ability that "deals 1 damage to that player" cannot possibly deal N damage simultaneously.
    – ikegami
    Dec 10 '14 at 16:16
  • Are you asking whether Tomorrow's ability would cause Spiteful Visions to trigger or whether the cards put in your hand by Tomorrow are put there one at a time?
    – murgatroid99
    Dec 10 '14 at 17:31
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Spiteful Visions would trigger once for each card drawn, so if you cast Divination to draw 2 cards it would trigger twice and you would be dealt 1 damage for each trigger, and CoP:Black would need to be activated twice to prevent all the damage. Anything that triggers off of this damage would then trigger once for each time the artifact triggered.

For Tomorrow it would not trigger because it does not contain the word "Draw", if it doesn't specifically say "Draw" it does not count as drawing cards they are just put into your hand.

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  • 1
    This answer is supported by a ruling on Courser of Kruphix: While playing with the top card of your library revealed, if you draw multiple cards, reveal each one before you draw it.
    – Rainbolt
    Dec 10 '14 at 14:59
  • Also of note is that each draw can be individually responded to. If you watch professional players, they will never, for example, draw three cards in one swipe. The will draw one, carefully and visibly look at it, and then move it to their hand, and then repeat this action for each of their cards. Of course, they still do all this faster than I could draw them in one go, because they do it so much.
    – corsiKa
    Dec 10 '14 at 19:29
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    @corsiKa, No, you cannot respond in the middle of "draw 2 cards".
    – ikegami
    Dec 10 '14 at 20:09
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    If you want to not depend on 120.2 (though it does make it really clear, I wouldn't call it irrelevant), I think the right rule is 603.2c: "An ability triggers only once each time its trigger event occurs. However, it can trigger repeatedly if one event contains multiple occurrences." Beyond that, the main thing to point to is cards that use the "one or more" phrasing like Sidisi - if they really want only one trigger for multiple occurrences, they make it clear.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 10 '14 at 23:55
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    @Rainbolt, depending on deck and format, being careful to look closely at the first card drawn each turn is also important for Miracles.
    – Brian S
    Dec 11 '14 at 18:06
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Drawing multiple cards is not atomic from the perspective of abilities that trigger. The relevant rule is:

121.2. Cards may only be drawn one at a time. If a player is instructed to draw multiple cards, that player performs that many individual card draws.

So, if a player draws multiple cards (ex. with Concentrate), Spiteful Visions would trigger once per card drawn, and the player would need to activate Circle of Protection: Black once per card drawn to stop all of the damage.

A notable example of this is if you are playing with the top card of your library revealed. See this ruling on Courser of Kruphix:

While playing with the top card of your library revealed, if you draw multiple cards, reveal each one before you draw it. If you put multiple cards on top of your library at once, reveal only the one new top card.

However, drawing multiple cards is atomic from the perspective of priority (players can't activate spells or abilities in the middle of the cards being drawn):

117.2e Resolving spells and abilities may instruct players to make choices or take actions, or may allow players to activate mana abilities. Even if a player is doing so, no player has priority while a spell or ability is resolving. See rule 608, “Resolving Spells and Abilities.”

Tutors like Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar are not subject to the rule on card draw because they don't involve drawing cards. Looking at the top three cards of your library is an atomic action from all perspectives.

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The other answers are correct, but I want to bring up the counter-example. There isn't a perfect one, but there are cards that look at replacing multiple card draws on an atomic level, those all specify they are looking at the whole event, saying "would draw X or more cards." The best example I can find for this is Alms Collector, which replaces an opponent drawing two or more cards with you and them each drawing one.

The same wording difference happens for other effects. There are cards that say "whenever a creature attacks" which trigger once for each creature, and others that say "whenever one or more creatures attack" which trigger only once for the entire combat - most of these also count the creatures or apply to all the attacking creatures - but as a single effect on the stack (needing only a single stifle to stop). The effects on Righteous Cause and Ancestor Dragon are a perfect example of the same end result being done both ways.

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  • The general principle you are describing is that events can contain other events. I don't remember if that's directly stated anywhere in the rules, but it's mentioned in rule 616.1f. So, the event of drawing some number of cards contains that many single card draw events. In that sense, the draw multiple cards event is not atomic, because it is composed of other events. Similarly, the event of all of the declared attacking creatures attacking contains events for each individual creature attacking.
    – murgatroid99
    Aug 27 at 7:02

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