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I have a Shield Dancer, 1/3, whose activated ability states:

The next time target attacking creature would deal combat damage to Shield Dancer this turn, that creature deals that damage to itself instead.

He blocks a 6/1 creature with Trample, such as Ball Lightning. Trample states that leftover damage carries over to the 'defending' player. With the Shield Dancer's ability activated and the damage reversed, what happens with the left over trample damage?

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The attacking Ball Lightning would deal 3-6 damage to itself and the rest to the defending player.

Assigning combat damage and actually dealing combat damage are two different actions during the combat damage step:

510.1. First, the active player announces how each attacking creature assigns its combat damage [..]

510.2. Second, all combat damage that’s been assigned is dealt simultaneously [..]

Shield dancer's ability modifies how damage is dealt, but the rules for assigning combat damage from an attacking creature with trample remain the same:

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. [..]

When determining what constitutes lethal damage, the Shield Dancer's ability is not taken into account. 702.19b continues:

702.19b [..] When checking for assigned lethal damage, take into account damage already marked on the creature and damage from other creatures that’s being assigned during the same combat damage step, but not any abilities or effects that might change the amount of damage that’s actually dealt. The attacking creature’s controller need not assign lethal damage to all those blocking creatures but in that case can’t assign any damage to the player or planeswalker it’s attacking.

Therefore, the attacking player has to assign at least 3 and at most all 6 points of damage to the Shield Dancer, so it would receive lethal damage. The rest is assigned to the defending player. Then when the damage is actually dealt, the Shield Dancer's replacement effect happens, the damage assigned to the Shield Dancer is dealt to the Ball Lightning instead, and the damage assigned to the defending player is dealt to that player.

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  • 2
    @Erik that's what makes intuitive sense, perhaps, but it's not the way redirection works in magic - redirection like this only affects the damage when it's being dealt, but not when it's being assigned, so a 6/6 with trample would survive, but a 6/6 without trample would not.
    – Andrew
    Apr 24 '20 at 7:58
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    I have added a bit about what constitutes lethal damage and that Shield Dancer's ability does not force the attacker to assign 6 damage to the Shield Dancer if it only has 3 toughness.
    – Hackworth
    Apr 24 '20 at 7:59
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    @Erik This gets even more interesting when ball lightning has trample and death touch because death touch means you only have to assign one damage for lethal damage so he would trample over for 5 against your creature no matter how much toughness it had and you would redirect 1 damage to it.
    – Max Young
    Apr 24 '20 at 12:54
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    @MaxYoung I doubted this when you first mentioned it, but it turns out this is true, per rule 702.2c: "Any nonzero amount of combat damage assigned to a creature by a source with deathtouch is considered to be lethal damage for the purposes of determining if a proposed combat damage assignment is valid, regardless of that creature’s toughness."
    – BradC
    Apr 24 '20 at 13:19
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    @MaxYoung i did not, a 6/6 without trample would assign 6 damage to shield dancer and have all 6 redirected, which is enough to kill itself. A 6/1 would die with or without trample.
    – Andrew
    Apr 24 '20 at 20:45

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