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Is it possible to assign damage to a single blocking creature that is less than the attacking creature's power? If so, it is possible to assign less than lethal damage?

Suppose I attack with a big 20/20 creature, and my opponent blocks with Saber Ants (Whenever Saber Ants is dealt damage, you may put that many 1/1 green Insect creature tokens onto the battlefield). I don't want to give him 20 tokens, so can I just assign 3 damage and not the rest? Maybe I want to keep his Ants alive for some reason - can I assign less than lethal damage?

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The attacker has to assign all combat damage to creatures blocking each of his or her creatures.

510.1c A blocked creature assigns its combat damage to the creatures blocking it. If no creatures are currently blocking it (if, for example, they were destroyed or removed from combat), it assigns no combat damage. If exactly one creature is blocking it, it assigns all its combat damage to that creature. [..]

One notable exception to that rule is if the attacking creature has the trample ability. In that case, you only have to assign lethal damage (3 in your example) to the creature(s) blocking it, and the rest may be assigned to the defending player or the blocking creatures as you want.

702.19b The controller of an attacking creature with trample first assigns damage to the creature(s) blocking it. Once all those blocking creatures are assigned lethal damage, any remaining damage is assigned as its controller chooses among those blocking creatures and the player or planeswalker the creature is attacking. [..]

  • This is not really an exception. Just as you distribute the damage between the blocking creatures, in this case you distribute the damage between the blockers and their controller. In all this cases you have to assign all the damage. – tsuma534 Jun 21 '16 at 11:18
  • Note which part I bolded in the 510.1c excerpt. That part of the rule gets modified by trample. That's what I called an exception. I didn't say that trample lets you distribute less than the attack of the attacking creature, it lets you distribute less than its attack to creatures blocking it. Which was the core of OP's question, how do I deal less than full damage to a single blocker. – Hackworth Jun 21 '16 at 11:24
  • I understand your intent now. I was looking at the case from the perspective of a question "Can I assign less damage than I have power?" not from the perspective of a question "Can I assign less damage than I have power to a blocking creature?" – tsuma534 Jun 21 '16 at 11:29
  • If a 2/2 creature is blocked by 2 1/1's could that creature choose to assign all damage to one of them? – Dennis van Opstal Jun 21 '16 at 14:25
  • @Dennis van Opstal Yes, that came up a lot in Shadows Over Innistrad limited with the Devil tokens (1/1, when this creature dies deal 1 damage to target creature or player). If you attack with a creature and it's blocked by multiple Devil tokens, you can assign all combat damage to one to avoid getting the death triggers from the rest. – bpeav Jun 21 '16 at 14:27

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