Many older cards refer to players or opponents, e.g. "deal 3 damage to target player". Can any of these be used on planeswalkers, beyond the fact that you can simply attack them with creatures?

For example:

  • Would my opponent discard a card if Hypnotic Specter damaged a planeswalker they control?

  • Would my opponent, the planeswalker, neither, or both amass poison counters from an unblocked Nafs Asp?

  • Can Lightning Bolt target a planeswalker?

  • Does Syphon Soul affect planeswalkers?

  • Can Oasis prevent damage to a Planeswalker?

  • Would Veteran Bodyguard be obligated to take damage being dealt to a planeswalker?

  • Can a planeswalker gain loyalty from Healing Salve?

  • Can Healing Salve prevent damage to a planeswalker?

  • @Jefromi I suppose I am seeking to understand the ways that pre- Planeswalker era cards can be effective in damaging/protecting Planeswalkers outside of an attack/defense context. Eg, is there any global Oracle text/definition that effectively updates older cards printed with "target creature or player" to instead be interpreted as "target creature, player, or Planeswalker", for example? Dec 15, 2014 at 12:07
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    If there were, you'd see it on the cards you linked to. There's no secret Oracle text; what you see in Gatherer is it.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 15, 2014 at 15:09
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    I think I pretty much understand what you're asking, so I've edited your question further, and for what it's worth, I would vote to reopen if it gets closed. Although it does perhaps show some lack of research effort, people do really commonly confuse "player" and "planeswalker", so I think it's very much a question worth having.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 16, 2014 at 6:09

3 Answers 3


Planeswalkers are not players (or opponents), and they're never treated as players (or opponents). Don't think of them as players, and you'll be a lot less likely to get confused.

There's pretty much just a single rule that make them seem a little similar to players: you can choose to attack your opponent and/or planeswalkers they control.

Along with that, many cards will let you target a player or a planeswalker, e.g. Lava Axe says "target player or planeswalker", and Lightning Strike says "any target", which includes planeswalkers. (Note that thanks to some updates to the game, some older printings of cards may not make this clear, e.g. Lava Axe used to just say "target player", and Lightning Strike used to just say "target creature or player"; always check Gatherer for the current oracle text of a card if you need to be sure.)

But that's it. None of that actually treats planeswalkers as players; it just lets something happen to them that's similar to what can happen to your opponents.

There are no similar rules for any of the things you mentioned, so the direct answer to every one of your questions is no. There is definitely not a blanket revision from "target player" to "target player or planeswalker". (A ton of things that say "player" wouldn't even make sense for planeswalkers - sure, they can take damage, but they don't have hands, libraries, graveyards, or even life!)

To address your questions in a little more detail (some things do still work, just not directly):

  • Hypnotic Specter - no, attacking the planeswalker won't make your opponent discard. If you want your opponent to discard, attack them, not the planeswalker.

  • Nafs Asp (poison counters) - no, planeswalkers can't have poison counters; if it deals damage to one it'll remove loyalty as usual. If you want to give poison counters to your opponent, attack them, not the planeswalker.

  • Lightning Bolt - yes, it can target a planeswalker - it now says "any target". Again, note that older printings don't mention planeswalkers, but the current oracle text is updated.

  • Syphon Soul - no, it doesn't deal damage to planeswalkers, just players.

  • Veteran Bodyguard - no, it won't protect planeswalkers, since combat damage is dealt directly to the planeswalker and Veteran Bodyguard's effect never applies.

  • Healing Salve (gaining loyalty) - no. It can't target planeswalkers, and planeswalkers can't gain life (only players have life).

  • Healing Salve (preventing damage) - no, you can't target planeswalkers with it.

Beyond oracle updates ("target player" to "target player or planeswalker" and similar), the only other way that older cards are likely to literally target a planeswalker is if they say something like "target permanent" or "target nonland permanent"; planeswalkers are permanents too, so for example Desert Twister can target and destroy planeswalkers, despite being printed in 1993!

Note: I've entirely removed sections about the planeswalker redirection rule, which existed in the past but is no more. See the revision history if you're curious.

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    One final thing I would add is that planeswalkers, like everything else on the battlefield, are permanents and spells that target permanents (such as Vindicate) can also target planeswalkers.
    – pixels
    Dec 15, 2014 at 14:32
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    This is a beautiful answer, and I appreciate it very much. @pixels, your addendum is much-appreciated as well. I do believe I understand now. Thank you! Dec 16, 2014 at 15:43
  • @pixels Edited in, thanks. It didn't occur to me because I was so focused on the idea of player != planeswalker!
    – Cascabel
    Dec 16, 2014 at 21:00
  • This rule will be changing in MTG. The damage redirection rule will be removed and spells that target players will be amended to target players and plainswalkers. Dec 21, 2017 at 0:00
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    Now incorrect as of March, 2018 (rules change). In short, planeswalkers can how directly be targeted by anything that hits "any target", or "any opponent" and there's a lot of errata out on existing cards. See: magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/news/…
    – Tyler
    Jun 22, 2018 at 2:11

A Planeswalker is never a player. Spells that target a player can't target a planeswalker.

However, noncombat damage can be redirected to a planeswalker (damage only, not lifeloss), but it doesn't affect the player anymore when you do that.

So cards like Hypnotic Specter won't cause the opponent to discard a card if damage is redirected, since the damage is redirected to the planeswalker, and the player takes no damage.

  • It's only noncombat damage that can be redirected to a planeswalker. I think you meant that Hypnotic Specter won't do its thing if you attack the planeswalker - the combat damage isn't redirected, it's just dealt directly to the planeswalker. (And Hypnotic Specter makes them discard, not draw.)
    – Cascabel
    Dec 15, 2014 at 7:38
  • This is no longer accurate as redirection has been removed in a recent rules update. All old cards that made use of this redirection have had their oracle text updated IE lightning bolt is now "Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage to any target." instead of "Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage to target creature or player."
    – Andrew
    Sep 21, 2018 at 14:52

Planeswalkers are never treated as opponents.

As to your specific questions: no, no, no, no, no, no, and no.

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    this is wanting of explanation. (some of these responses are factually incorrect or at least desire explanation, e.g. lightning bolt can't target a planeswalker but it can damage one.) Dec 15, 2014 at 12:21

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