Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer says:

Whenever Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer deals combat damage to a player, create a Treasure token and exile the top card of that player's library. Until end of turn, you may cast that card.

If I were to attack with Ragavan in a two-headed giant game, I would have to declare who I am attacking. But since it's the life total of the team that decreases, I guess one could argue that both players have been dealt damage. So can I choose the player targeted by the triggered ability, or does it trigger once for each head?


2 Answers 2


Ragavan's ability does not use the word "target", so it doesn't actually target any player.

But I think what you meant to ask is whose library you get to exile a card from. When Ragavan (is unblocked and) deals damage, he deals it to one player: the player who he was attacking. This is locked in when you declare Ragavan as an attacker.

810.9. Damage, loss of life, and gaining life happen to each player individually. The result is applied to the team’s shared life total.

The effect of the damage is that the team's shared life total decreases, but that doesn't mean the damage was dealt to the team, or to both players. The damage was still dealt to only the player who was attacked.

120.3. Damage may have one or more of the following results, depending on whether the recipient of the damage is a player or permanent, the characteristics of the damage’s source, and the characteristics of the damage’s recipient (if it’s a permanent).

120.3a Damage dealt to a player by a source without infect causes that player to lose that much life.


In a two-player game, technically something similar happens: an unblocked attacking creature deals damage to a player, and the effect of that damage is that the player's life total decreases. (With some exceptions as listed in the rest of rule 120.3, e.g. if the creature has infect, the effect of the damage is that the player gets that many poison counters instead of their life total decreasing.) You just don't typically think about the difference between the damage and the effect of the damage.

  • Ok, I get it. Ragavan's dealing damage to the defending player, it doesn't matter whose life total change. So am I correct to assume that Ragavan's ability would strill trigger if the defending player controlled a Platinum Emperion or anything that would keep the life total from changing without preventing damage?
    – Trajan
    Nov 20, 2021 at 10:06
  • 6
    @Trajan Exactly. As the second Gatherer ruling below the card says: "Abilities that trigger whenever damage is dealt to you will still trigger because that damage is still dealt, even though your life total doesn’t change as a result."
    – Arthur
    Nov 20, 2021 at 12:07

The relevant rule is 810.9:

810.9. Damage, loss of life, and gaining life happen to each player individually. The result is applied to the team’s shared life total.

So your guess "one could argue that both players have been dealt damage" is not correct; you're only dealing combat damage to one of the players, and it's only that player whose top library card you may exile.

  • If, as the rule says, "Damage [...] happen to each player individually", it doesn't say that only one player is dealt damage. They both individually have been dealt damage.
    – Trajan
    Nov 20, 2021 at 10:00
  • 2
    @Trajan, I'm pretty sure the combat rules say that unblocked attacking creatures only deal damage to the player attacked.
    – ilkkachu
    Nov 20, 2021 at 23:37
  • 1
    @Trajan incorrect, both players (shared) life total has changed, but only one of them has been dealt the damage that caused the loss of life. Damage causes loss of life, but the terms are not interchangeable in Magic.
    – Andrew
    Sep 19, 2022 at 13:28

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