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Let's say I'm at -10 life but Phyrexian Unlife is keeping me alive. I have a random creature in play as well as Worship when opponent hits me for 5 damage. Does my life total go back up to 1? -10 life is less than 1, so presumably Worship's effect would occur, but if I go from -10 to 1 life, my life total wouldn't be "reduced".

What about Phyrexian Unlife's effect - do I gain 5 poison counters? What if instead of Phyrexian Unlife it is some other effect like Platinum Angel keeping me alive?

Text of relevant cards:

Worship: If you control a creature, damage that would reduce your life total to less than 1 reduces it to 1 instead.

Phyrexian Unlife: You don't lose the game for having 0 or less life. As long as you have 0 or less life, all damage is dealt to you as though its source had infect. (Damage is dealt to you in the form of poison counters.)

Platinum Angel: You can't lose the game and your opponents can't win the game.

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You will get the 5 poison counters if you have Phyrexian Unlife, and lose 5 life if you have Platinum Angel.

The card Serra the Benevolent has an ultimate ability that creates an emblem with Worship's ability. It has a ruling that says this:

If you have less than 1 life and somehow haven’t lost the game, damage dealt to you reduces your life total further below 0 (as normal).

So, Worship has no effect if you have less than 1 life, so damage will be dealt to you as normal and Phyrexian Unlife will modify it as normal.

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    Odd they have this ruling on Serra the Benevolent, but not on Worship (I checked for it before asking the question!). In fact, now that I look for it, Angel's Grace has this ruling as well. – Allure Nov 20 '20 at 4:39
  • No, it doesn't. Angel's Grace has a similar ruling, but that one doesn't really directly address this question. – murgatroid99 Nov 20 '20 at 4:40
  • I think it might be worth explaining the process that makes Phyrexian Unlife not work - in part for future readers as much as the current asker (so specifically that it prevents the damage, so Worship doesn't effect it because damage isn't dealt) – CollinB Nov 20 '20 at 15:27
  • I don't understand what you're asking for. I said that Phyrexian Unlife does work, and there is no damage prevention involved in this question. – murgatroid99 Nov 20 '20 at 17:18
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Normally, "deal X damage to a player" means "reduce life total by X". However, if a source has infect, then "deal X damage to a player" means "give X poison totals". So with Phyrexian Unlife, there is no "damage that would reduce your life total to less than 1": damage does not reduce your life total. This isn't a prevention or replacement effect, it simply changes the form of damage. So even if Worship said "If you control a creature, damage that would reduce your life total to less than 1 sets it to 1 instead." your life total would not change with Phyrexian Unlife.

With Platinum Angel, your life total would decrease. With both, your life total would remain the same, and you would get poison tokens, but you would not lose the game, no matter poison tokens you get, as long as you have Platinum Angel.

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  • I think it's not clear that your alternate Worship wording would actually ever function differently. In most of the relevant commentary I was able to find about the card, the common thinking (that matches the ruling) is that the real Worship's wording should be interpreted as "...damage that would reduce your life total from 1 or greater to less than 1 reduces it to 1 instead," i.e. that it does not function at less than 1 life because the condition is unmet, not because the modified action doesn't make sense. – murgatroid99 Nov 22 '20 at 2:47

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