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Player A has Mercurial Pretender on the board (copied a 4/4 creature)

Player B attacks with Typhoid Rats

Player A blocks Typhoid Rats with Mercurial Pretender

Player A then pays 4 mana to "Return this creature to his owner's hand"

Player A returns Mercurial Pretender to his hand, then says Typhoid Rats dies and goes to graveyard.

Player B thinks that player A cannot both successfully block and return Mercurial Pretender to his hand, considering Typhoid Rats Deathtouch ability.

Who is right?

  • The specifics of player B's claim don't match up between the question and 2 of the below answers (though they are very informative otherwise). I'm not sure how to resolve this since editing would change the intent of either the question or answer. – singletee Jul 29 '16 at 15:18
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As noted by Hackworth, Player B is correct under the current rules that the Pretender can't kill the Rats if it is returned to hand. However, it did still block them successfully and the rats won't deal combat damage to Player A or anything else this combat.

One possible source of confusion in the situation is that it used to work the way Player A thinks. You could "put damage on the stack" then play abilities in the combat damage step in response, before the damage resolved.

This was removed with the 2010 major rules update (the one that also changed Lifelink and Deathtouch). Now, player B is correct, because there is no place to respond between assigning and resolving damage.

  • Damage didn't origonally use the stack, it was added IIRC in 6th edition, then taken out later. – esoterik May 19 '16 at 2:14
  • While it didn't "use the stack" in the same sense as it did in 6th edition, you still assigned damage, then had an opportunity to play spells; it may have only been damage prevention, regeneration, and interrupts, but there was definitely an opportunity to do something between damage assigned and damaged applied. – JKreft Jul 28 '18 at 13:18
10

Player B is right.

In each combat damage step (First strike/double strike, then other creatures), all creatures deal their combat damage at the same time, and you don't get the chance to cast spells or activate abilities:

510.2. Second, all combat damage that’s been assigned is dealt simultaneously. This turn-based action doesn’t use the stack. No player has the chance to cast spells or activate abilities between the time combat damage is assigned and the time it’s dealt.

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    Importantly though, players can activate abilities between declare blockers and combat damage, so Mercurial Pretender can "successfully block" and then get returned to hand before any combat damage is dealt. In this case, Typhoid Rats does not die (because the blocker vanished before damage was dealt) but does not deal any damage to player A because even though the blocker is gone, Rats has still become a blocked creature. – Benjamin Cosman May 16 '16 at 2:50
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Neither is correct.

Player A is wrong because he returned his blocker before combat damage was assigned and dealt therefore the attacker would not die.

Player B is wrong because player A can successfully block AND return his creature. The attacker's deathtouch ability is irrelevant.

  • This answer is correct. JKreft and Hackworth are technically wrong as they misinterpret what B said. They seem to have guessed at what the asker meant to say and then answered that. – singletee Jul 29 '16 at 15:11
  • If you ignore context and only look at Player B statement, sure. If you read it in-context, it is offered as a "Player A's statement is wrong" rebuttal. The rebuttal part "It doesn't work the way that Player A says it does" is correct, as our answers discuss. – JKreft May 6 '18 at 15:33

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