I was playing MTG Arena and I had a funny situation where my opponent had Revenge of Ravens (ROR). I attacked with a bunch of monsters and soon after died.

Something similar happens in this video at 0:24


and I was puzzled at the order in which damage was assigned. Here's what the text says:

Whenever a creature attacks you or a planeswalker you control, that creature's controller loses 1 life and you gain 1 life.

So I would have thought that the damage due to the attacks would be assigned before the effects of ROR.

But instead the opposite happened and as a result I died before my opponent like in the video. It felt very counter-intuitive to me given the text... because I died before any of my attacks ever even "happened".

My question is are all enchantments related to combat triggered like this (ie the effects of the trigger are assigned before the combat damage is assigned). Or are there some enchantments whose effects are assigned after combat damage? Thanks.


Revenge of Ravens works correctly. It deals damage as soon as creatures attack, before they deal combat damage.

The combat phase is a multi-step process, it doesn't simply happen all at once. In the most simple terms, first the attacker declares the creatures which attack, then the defender declares the blocking creatures, then creatures deal combat damage.

Between each of these steps, players can cast spells, and abilities like ROR can trigger and resolve. ROR triggers on that first step, when creatures attack, so it can absolutely kill the attacking player before any of their creatures can deal combat damage.

506.1. The combat phase has five steps, which proceed in order: beginning of combat, declare attackers, declare blockers, combat damage, and end of combat.

The priority system determines which player, if any, can cast spells and activate abilities. The priority system also determines when spells and abilities on the stack resolve.

117.3a The active player receives priority at the beginning of most steps and phases,

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    Probably worth noting that you can turn on the display of combat phases from the Gear / Gameplay menu in Arena, when some of this becomes more obvious. – Philip Kendall Aug 31 '20 at 11:10

The terminology here is a bit misleading. When the phrase "when X attacks" appears in MtG, it means "When X is declared as an attacker". It doesn't refer to the event of a creature doing damage in combat. Declaring attackers happens in a phase that is separate from, and earlier than, the phase in which combat damage is assigned. "when X attacks" can trigger even if the creature is removed from combat before combat concludes, and it's possible for a creature to assign damage as an attacker without "when X attacks" triggering (there are cards that say to put a creature onto the battlefield attacking, and doing so isn't considering declaring them an attacker).

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    Thanks. Yes, I see what you mean. I can see why they'd write 'attacks' instead of 'is declared as an attacker' as the latter is a mouthful. It is a bit misleading, but it's fine as long as they are consistent. It's one of those things where once you know how to interpret the terminology, it's no longer a problem. I expect there will be other things like this as I keep learning about mtg. – Ameet Sharma Sep 1 '20 at 2:05
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    @AmeetSharma Consistency of rules terminology is something you can very much depend on in MtG, complete with official explicit definitions in the Comprehensive Rules document (which gets updated every time a new set is released, btw). For example, hexproof prevents targeting, and with the single exception of Aura enchantments (which have the word in the Aura subtype's rules text), determining whether it prevents something is as simple as looking for the actual exact word "target" on the card. – Douglas Sep 1 '20 at 3:47
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    @AmeetSharma You are correct, there will be many such things as you learn more about MtG :) the system is completely consistent, but far from trivial. And (rules) words mean things in this game - but what exactly they mean isn't always obvious just from parsing the English sentences on the cards. – xLeitix Sep 1 '20 at 5:57

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