Because the game "performs all applicable state-based actions simultaneously as a single event" (rule 704.3), it's easy to imagine a player losing in 4 ways at once. They have an empty library, 0 or less life, 10 or more poison counters, and 21 commander damage marked, but they control a Platinum Angel that keeps them alive. Then their opponent casts Call to Heel targeting the Angel and forcing them to draw a card from an empty library.

This covers 4 of the 6 possible in-game ways to end the game, the others being an effect saying "you lose the game" and an opponent's effect saying "you win the game". Surely there is no way to improve upon this, for any effect directing win or loss would have to resolve before state-based actions were checked.

  • 2
    The way this question is worded is kind of off in light of the fact that you answered at the same time. You say "Surely there is no way to improve upon [losing in 4 ways at once]" but you clearly knew that was false at the time you published this question, because you simultaneously published an answer with 5 and 6 ways.
    – murgatroid99
    Sep 11 at 7:06
  • @murgatroid99 In fact I was unsure that it was false, because I was unsure whether my analysis is correct. Sep 11 at 7:11
  • What are you unsure about in your 5 losses analysis?
    – murgatroid99
    Sep 11 at 7:20
  • Also, your title talks about the ways a player can lose the game, but your last paragraph talks about "possible in-game ways to end the game", which isn't really the same thing, because that includes drawing the game and restarting the game. Also, if you do want to focus on losing, technically winning the game doesn't cause other players to lose the game except in a multiplayer game with the limited range of influence option (see rule 104.3h).
    – murgatroid99
    Sep 11 at 7:41
  • @murgatroid99 I was unsure whether replacement effects are applied to state-based actions before those actions are carried out. If they were applied afterwards, then all Alice's losses would be carried out at once, before Bob's replacement effects could cause him to win. Thankfully you seem to believe me correct. Yes, technically Bob winning doesn't cause Alice to "lose" within the game but the real-world result is still that she loses. Sep 11 at 15:37

It is possible to lose in all 6 ways simultaneously.

Alice has 0 life and an empty library. She has two cards in her graveyard, 10 poison counters, and has 21 commander damage marked. She controls a Platinum Angel, a Nefarious Lich, and an Alms Collector.

Bob has 0 life and an empty library. He controls a Platinum Angel, a Nefarious Lich, an Exquisite Archangel, a Laboratory Maniac, a Thought Reflection and a Words of War. Earlier in the turn, he activates Words of War twice targeting Alice.

Bob casts Inscription of Insight paying the kicker cost and chooses modes 1 and 2. He targets his and Alice's Platinum Angels with mode 1.

  • Mode 1 returns the Platinum Angels to their owners' hands.
  • Mode 2 causes Bob to scry 2 (irrelevant), then draw 2 cards. However, Alms Collector replaces the "draw 2 cards" with "Alice and Bob each draw a card". Words of War replaces Bob's card draw with "Words of War deals 2 damage to Alice", which is then replaced by Nefarious Lich to "Alice exiles two cards from her graveyard". Alice attempts to draw a card from an empty library and exiles the two cards in her graveyard.

State-based actions are checked. Alice's need not be reiterated. A single state-based action comes up for Bob, because he now has 0 life and Platinum Angel no longer prevents his loss, creating the effect

Bob loses the game

Exquisite Archangel's replacement effect is applied, turning this into

Bob exiles Exquisite Archangel and his life total becomes equal to his starting life total [40, since this must be a Commander game for Alice to have 21 Commander damage marked]

Rule 119.5 states "If an effect sets a player’s life total to a specific number, the player gains or loses the necessary amount of life to end up with the new total." Thus Nefarious Lich's second replacement effect is applied, turning this effect into

Bob exiles Exquisite Archangel and Bob draws 40 cards

After Alms Collector:

Bob exiles Exquisite Archangel and Bob draws a card and Alice draws a card

After Thought Reflection:

Bob exiles Exquisite Archangel and Bob draws two cards and Alice draws a card

After the second Words of War activation that targets Alice:

Bob exiles Exquisite Archangel and Words of War deals 2 damage to Alice and Bob draws a card and Alice draws a card

After Laboratory Maniac:

Bob exiles Exquisite Archangel and Words of War deals 2 damage to Alice and Bob wins the game and Alice draws a card

Finally, Alice's Nefarious Lich replaces the damage event:

Bob exiles Exquisite Archangel and Alice loses the game and Bob wins the game and Alice draws a card

Thus Alice loses simultaneously to the four state-based actions described in the question, to her "you lose the game" effect from Nefarious Lich, and to Bob's "you win the game" effect from Laboratory Maniac.

  • Enduring Angel probably does not work if you start at 0 or less life, based on rulings on Angel's Grace, which has a similar wording. But why wouldn't the scenario work if Alice just starts with 1 life? And what is the relevance of Bob owning the original Enduring Angel?
    – murgatroid99
    Sep 11 at 7:24
  • @murgatroid99 You are right about Alice's life total. Bob must own Platinum Angel and Enduring Angel because Inscription of Insight returns creatures to their owner's hands. If Alice owned the creatures, they would go to her hand, causing Blood Scrivener to see cards in her hand and not replace her card draw with loss of life, which wouldn't activate the Enduring Angel's replacement effect (if it worked). Note that the token Enduring Angel doesn't see Alice's life loss caused by the replaced "Scry 2, then draw two cards" effect of Inscription of Insight, because it isn't created until mode 3. Sep 11 at 15:49
  • There might be a better way to format the paragraph with the resolution of Inscription of Insight. There's a lot going on there, and it's hard to keep track. And the life loss there actually causes a problem with this combo. I assume that is needed to get the life loss as one of the ways of losing. But I don't think you can both reduce Alice's life total to 0 or less without an Enduring Angel on the battlefield, and then reduce it again and apply Enduring Angel's replacement effect.
    – murgatroid99
    Sep 11 at 15:54
  • @murgatroid99 That is exactly the problem I solved—so in fact Alice's life total does need to be 1. Mode 1 of Inscription of Insight removes the initial Enduring Angel from the battlefield. Mode 2 causes Alice to lose 1 life and drop to 0, while the Enduring Angel is not on the battlefield but before the token is created. Mode 3 creates the token copy of Enduring Angel, but it doesn't see Alice's life total "reduced" until state-based actions are checked, it only sees that it is 0. Sep 11 at 15:57
  • But then you run into the problem I was referring to in my first comment: the copy of Enduring Angel won't ever see Alice's life total reduced to 0 or less, because it is already 0 or less. Angel's Grace has a very similar replacement effect, and this ruling: "If you have less than 1 life, damage dealt to you reduces your life total further below 0 (as normal)."
    – murgatroid99
    Sep 11 at 16:00

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