In Magic: The Gathering, if when the stack has been fully resolved both players will have dropped to 0 life, is the game considered a draw? Or alternatively, does the player who reaches 0 life first lose and the other player wins?

Here's the situation that caused me to ask this question:

  • I was playing a match where both my opponent and I were using Poison-Tip Archer. I had two of them on the field, my opponent had one.
  • I was on 4 life, my opponent was on 7.
  • I attacked with three 3/3 saproling tokens (I had a Tendershoot Dryad in play).
  • All three were blocked, killing them all and one blocker.
  • As the active player I ordered the stack so that the triggered abilities of my Archers resolved first. My opponent took 8 damage, but then if the stack was fully resolved I would take 4 damage, reducing us both to 0 life.

As you might imagine, I think I won but my opponent thinks it was a draw. Which one of us is correct?

  • 1
    Welcome to the site, good first question! You may want to consider rewording the title to drop the "In Magic: The Gathering," (we use tags for that) and maybe clarify that it is multiple triggers that are causing the life loss. Initially I thought you were asking about what happens if something like if [mtg:Blood Toll Harpy] enters the battlefield when both players are at 1. – Malco Oct 12 at 13:57
  • 2
    Thanks @Malco, I've edited the title of my question as you suggested, I hope it's clearer now. – liamvharris Oct 12 at 14:07
  • Perfect Looks great! – Malco Oct 12 at 14:25
up vote 24 down vote accepted

In the situation you describe, both you and your opponent were incorrect. You would have died first because your opponent's triggered abilities would have resolved first. You do not get to arrange all triggered abilities, only the ones you control. Nobody has control over which player's abilities as a whole go on the stack first, because that is defined by the rules.

You misunderstood the rules for multiple ability triggers at the same time:

603.3b If multiple abilities have triggered since the last time a player received priority, each player, in APNAP order, puts triggered abilities they control on the stack in any order they choose. (See rule 101.4.) Then the game once again checks for and resolves state-based actions until none are performed, then abilities that triggered during this process go on the stack. This process repeats until no new state-based actions are performed and no abilities trigger. Then the appropriate player gets priority.

In other words, triggered abilities that trigger at the same time go on the stack in blocks, where each block consists of all triggered abilities a certain player controls. These blocks go on the stack in APNAP order, and only the order of abilities within each block can be determined by its respective controller.

It was your turn, so you were the active player. Your and your opponent's Poison Tip Archer triggered at the same time. According to 603.3b, you are the first to put your 8 triggers on the stack in any order you choose, followed by the opponent's 4 in the order the opponent chooses. Therefore, your opponent's triggers resolve first. You lose 1 life for each trigger, and when you are at zero life, before the next ability can resolve, you would lose the game.

  • 5
    "Your and your opponent's Poison Tip Archer triggered at the same time." It's not even that important that it happened at the same time. It only matters that all triggers happened since the last time anyone had priority. It's not relevant here, but consider if I have an ability that lets me draw a card, then discard a card. Clearly the discard happens after the draw, and I'm allowed to discard the card I drew. But if there is an ability on the battlefield which triggers when I draw a card and one which triggers when I discard a card, they won't care about which happened first. – Arthur Oct 12 at 11:07
  • Ah I see! Thanks for answering my question and highlighting my misunderstanding - really useful! – liamvharris Oct 12 at 13:01
  • Does priority pass at any time during the block of triggered abilities? If not, does that mean you can arrange things to hit 0 or less and then get back above before dying? – Imperial Justinian Oct 12 at 13:29
  • @ImperialJustinian Whenever a spell or ability resolves, each player in APNAP order gets priority and can play any number of spells and abilities that go on top of the stack. – Hackworth Oct 12 at 13:33
  • 3
    @Hackworth Now you're drawing out the pedantic edge case detector in me, but there are times where order in which events within a single resolution matters. For instance if I have something which triggers when you have no cards in hand, and I only had a single card when I activated the draw-and-discard. It would clearly care about the timing of draw versus discard. But the timing between the putting-on-the-stack (including picking targets) and subsequent resolution of two separate triggered abilities is not dependent on the order in which they triggered, no. – Arthur Oct 12 at 13:44

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.