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These two cards were played against my poison deck.

His reckoning is that I cannot put -1/-1 counters on the creature as it prevents all combat damage and infect uses damage.

He also says that as the white card prevents damage this would stop him from getting poison counters.

Is he right ? can anyone cite me some official rules to clarify this ?

  • possible duplicate of In Magic: The Gathering, do poison counters count as damage? Sep 20, 2011 at 12:39
  • 2
    @DaveDuPlantis - While similar, I think the angle of the question is different. In both cases, the question is about assigning damage from an infect creature, but this specifically asks about preventing the poison counters from being placed, while the other is asking about creatures being bounced. The cause is the same in both (and so is the answer), but the questions are still different enough to be useful to others on their own.
    – cdeszaq
    Sep 20, 2011 at 13:13

2 Answers 2


Your friend is correct, he can prevent Wither and/or Infect damage just like regular damage.

The reason for that is that damage and damage effects are separate things. That difference is usually not important because in most situations, the steps to get from one to the other are walked over and the correct outcome is intuitively clear.

So, here's how it works in detail in case difficulties arise:

Most importantly, damage is just a number with a source. It knows nothing of life points, loyalty or -1/-1 counters.

At first, prevention and replacement effects happen. The damage number is increased, decreased, or the whole damage effect is replaced entirely.

Only after that step does damage have an actual effect.

When a source without wither or infect deals damage to a creature, the effect of that damage is that the affected creature gets that much damage marked on it; if the damage was dealt to a player, that player loses that much life.

When a creature with Infect and/or Wither deals damage, the effect of the damage is that that many -1/-1 counters are placed on the creature or; in case of Infect only, the player gets that many poison counters, loses life otherwise.

Damage dealt to a planeswalker will always result in that many loyalty counters being removed from it.

In any case, damage prevention effects like you cited above simply reduce the damage before the effect happens, so the effect is reduced accordingly.

119 Damage


119.3a Damage dealt to a player by a source without infect causes that player to lose that much life.

119.3b Damage dealt to a player by a source with infect causes that player to get that many poison counters.

119.3c Damage dealt to a planeswalker causes that many loyalty counters to be removed from that planeswalker.

119.3d Damage dealt to a creature by a source with wither and/or infect causes that many -1/-1 counters to be put on that creature.

119.3e Damage dealt to a creature by a source with neither wither nor infect causes that much damage to be marked on that creature.


119.4. Damage is processed in a three-part sequence.

119.4a First, damage is dealt, as modified by replacement and prevention effects that interact with damage. (See rule 614, "Replacement Effects," and rule 615, "Prevention Effects.") Abilities that trigger when damage is dealt trigger now and wait to be put on the stack.

119.4b Next, damage that's been dealt is transformed into its results, as modified by replacement effects that interact with those results (such as life loss or counters).

119.4c Finally, the damage event occurs.

  • 1
    This is correct, however, it's worth pointing out that cards like Swamp Mosquito exist and your opponent would get a poison counter even if your opponent prevented all combat damage. Nov 30, 2011 at 19:03
  • @Hackworth, Wow if this is true, Intervention Pact is quite an insane card.
    – Pacerier
    Jul 5, 2015 at 6:23
  • That also confirms my suspiction that planeswalkers can't get poison counters. Weird design choice, given that planeswalkers are supposed to be as similar to players as a card can be, but there's probably a reasoning behind that.
    – Egor Hans
    Jul 25, 2022 at 15:17

Damage prevention effects do indeed prevent all five forms the damage can take: damage marked on a creature, -1/-1 counters on a creature (from sources with wither or infect), life loss of a player, poison counters on a player (from sources with infect), or removal of loyalty counters from a planeswalker. This is all governed by rule 119 of the comprehensive rules.

However, damage prevention does not prevent all forms of -1/-1 or poison counters. For example, Caress of Phyrexia and Crypt Cobra give a player poison counters directly, without using damage. Likewise, many spells and abilities can give a creature -1/-1 counters directly, instead of through damage. Virulent Wound can do both.

On the other hand, Marsh Viper, though it doesn't have infect, nevertheless only deals poison counters when it deals damage, so damage prevention will prevent poison from it. The same thing applies to creatures with poisonous. The key here, however, is that the amount of prevention does not relate to the number of poison counters prevented; instead, all damage from the source must be prevented to avoid the trigger condition for poison counters.

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