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Situation

An opponent has the commander Edgar Markov:

Eminence — Whenever you cast another Vampire spell, if Edgar Markov is in the command zone or on the battlefield, create a 1/1 black Vampire creature token.

I play Ethereal Absolution:

Creatures you control get +1/+1.

Creatures your opponents control get -1/-1.

So whenever he plays a vampire, he creates a 1/1 token that immediately dies to my enchantment.

Next turn, he plays Captivating Vampire:

Other Vampire creatures you control get +1/+1.

Interpretations

According to my opponent, whenever he plays a vampire the 1/1 vampire tokens now do survive as they enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 on them (from the Captivating Vampire).

According to me, his vampire tokens still die after entering the battlefield. As soon as they hit the battlefield they become 0/0 creatures due Ethereal Absolution: creatures with 0 toughness go to the graveyard. I say this happens before the tokens get their +1/+1 bonus, since the Captivating Vampire doesn't state that other vampires enter the battlefield with that bonus.

Clearly we were both biased to a ruling that's beneficial to ourselves. We went for his ruling, because he's the more experienced player. But what do the rules actually say about this situation? Is anyone correct?

In other words: when exactly does the "get +1/+1" from Captivating Vampire and "get -1/-1" from Ethereal Absolution happen once a 1/1 vampire gets summoned? And in which order to they happen?

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The vampire tokens will enter as 1/1 creatures and remain on the battlefield.

Both the -1/-1 effect from Ethereal Absolution and the +1/+1 effect from Captivating Vampire are continuous effects, generated by their respective static ability. These effects do not grant counters, and the abilities are not triggered. They are simply true, and immediately affect any object they do affect; there is no delay. Objects that are affected enter the battlefield with the modifications already active.

Continuous effects are handled in layers. Power/Toughness-changing effects happen in layer 7:

  1. Interaction of Continuous Effects

613.1g Layer 7: Power- and/or toughness-changing effects are applied.

Within layer 7, there are sublayers for the different kinds of P/T-changing effects:

613.3. Within layer 7, apply effects in a series of sublayers in the order described below. Within each sublayer, apply effects in timestamp order. (See rule 613.6.) Note that dependency may alter the order in which effects are applied within a sublayer. (See rule 613.7.)

613.3c Layer 7c: Effects that modify power and/or toughness (but don’t set power and/or toughness to a specific number or value) are applied.

Both the +1/+1 and the -1/-1 are in that layer.

Within a layer or sublayer, the effects are applied in timestamp order, i.e. generally the order in which the abilities that generated the effects started working. However, in this case it doesn't matter, the +1/+1 and -1/-1 just cancel each other out, no matter which is applied first.

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    Might be worth adding: we don't care if the creature hits 0 toughness sometime during layer calculations, we care about the total result of applying all those factors and then act on that result. – doppelgreener Aug 19 at 8:33
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    For a practical example, consider Force of Savagery. If state based actions were checked before all static buffs, they couldn't keep Force of Savagery alive. Yet the Gatherer rulings specifically calls out Glorious Anthem as having the ability to keep FoS on the battlefield. (gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/…) – Aetherfox Aug 19 at 14:57
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    Care to add what happens to the token generated by playing Captivating Vampire? Unless I'm misreading something, that one still dies because it is played before the Captivating Vampire is on the field, as the ability triggers upon casting the vampire spell. – Mephy Aug 20 at 0:11
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    @Mephy The token does die. The token is triggered on the casting of the vampire spell. The token will trigger, go on the stack, and be in play before the spell resolves and actually put the Captivating Vampire in play. Captivating Vampire's effect will only start when it is in play. – Nelson Aug 20 at 2:35

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