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Rite of Passage gives creatures I control a +1/+1 counter whenever they are dealt damage.

If a 1/1 creature was dealt one damage, would it be sent to the graveyard first or would the creature be saved by getting a +1/+1 counter? Is the same true for being dealt one damage by combat?

My opponent and I had 1/1 spirit tokens and I also had rite of passage under my control and whenever I blocked his spirits with mine, he insisted that they have been dealt damage, therefore their toughness is brought to zero and they die before receiving a counter, but I argued that rite of passage's ability triggers instantaneously and they become 2/2 with a given counter, then he said "if that were true, that would be op". Which version is correct?

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    "That would be OP" is never a reason for things to work or not work in MTG - there are some very powerful cards and combos. It is, however, a good reason to check the rules and consider whether you'd rather not use that card or combo to avoid making your deck overpowered compared to your friend's. – doppelgreener Apr 18 '16 at 1:19
  • I agree, I'm gonna look into the mtg rules a little more so that there are no more problems. – Christian Stalczynski Apr 18 '16 at 1:58
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    It's a separate issue, but when 1 damage is dealt to a 1/1 creature, it doesn't reduce the creature's toughness to zero. It just becomes a 1/1 creature with 1 damage on it. There are a few cases where the difference matters. – David Z Apr 18 '16 at 6:25
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    The card has reminder text saying exactly this: (The damage is dealt before the counter is put on.) – Dennis_E Apr 18 '16 at 7:27
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    I meant the toughness to zero part that Xbox does wrong – Christian Stalczynski Apr 18 '16 at 14:33
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You opponent was correct and the creature will die.

In Magic the Gathering there is virtually nothing that "triggers instantaneously". With the exception of abilities that only create mana all abilities go on the stack. There are a few special actions that a player can perform that do not use the stack as well, but these are not considered "abilities" by the games rules. Also if there is an effect that says to do something "instead of" something else then the new action will occur when the original would and not go on the stack.

None of these exceptions are relevant here so when combat damage happens the the trigger will go on the stack, then state based actions will be checked and the creature will die before the ability resolves or any player gains priority. Even if you had a special action you could perform that would save the creature it will be dead before you have a chance to do it.

  • Thanks for your input, I was confused about stack rules at first but I looked into it. I've been playing magic for a few years but only casually. I'll make sure I'll watch out for that next time – Christian Stalczynski Apr 18 '16 at 2:06
  • I wouldn't say that there "is no such thing as a ability that "triggers instantaneously"". Replacement effects are exactly that. Of course by terminology they don't 'trigger' but they do get applied immediately when something happens – Ivo Beckers Apr 18 '16 at 12:21
  • While it's irrelevant to the question at hand, triggered mana abilities are instant triggered abilities. – Studoku Apr 18 '16 at 12:25
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All triggers* use the stack. While the +1/+1 counters will be triggered, before you get a chance to put the triggers on the stack State Based Effects will be checked and your 1/1 tokens will be put in the graveyard. Once that is done you'll put your triggers on the stack but they aren't going to have much effect, it's too late to save your tokens.

* There is a minor exception that Fr33dan's answer mentions, triggered mana abilities skip the stack and just resolve. This isn't relevant to the question at hand.

  • Oh, because combat damage doesn't use the stack, and the right of passage trigger doesn't go on the stack until after the damage is dealt. I see the issue now, thanks. – Christian Stalczynski Apr 18 '16 at 2:03
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    Comprehensive Rules: ​ "605.4a A triggered mana ability doesn’t go on the stack, ..." ​ ​ ​ ​ – user13741 Apr 18 '16 at 6:50
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    Mana abilities don't resolve as soon as they are added to the stack. They don't use the stack at all. Instead of saying "All triggers (except for an irrelevant exception) [...]", I would say "Most triggers [...]" and just not mention mana abilities at all. – Rainbolt Apr 18 '16 at 13:49
  • Even back when damage when on the stack Christian it worked the same way. The only way for it to work differently would be for State Based Effects to go on the stack, but that would be really crazy. – LovesTha Apr 19 '16 at 0:39
  • Yeah, that distiction of not going on the stack always eludes me because I've never found a reason for the distinction to matter. – LovesTha Apr 19 '16 at 0:39

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