If I have two Parallel Lives, and I have a Doomed Traveler that just died, how many Spirit tokens would I put into play?

2 Answers 2



For each instance of Parallel Lives (or Doubling Season) in play, double each instance of a token that would enter play.

Parallel Lives' effect is a replacement effect. It replaces "Put X creature tokens into play under your control" with "Put 2X creature tokens into play under your control."

Thus, two Parallel Lives' would quadruple tokens, three would be eight times, and four would be sixteen. Effectively, for each token placement, replace every token with two tokens for each instance of Parallel Lives.

Appropriate comp rules:

614.5. A replacement effect doesn't invoke itself repeatedly; it gets only one opportunity to affect an event or any modified events that may replace it.

Example: A player controls two permanents, each with an ability that reads "If a creature you control would deal damage to a creature or player, it deals double that damage to that creature or player instead." A creature that normally deals 2 damage will deal 8 damage -- not just 4, and not an infinite amount.

EDIT: Relevant Oracle text mentioned by @AlexP:

9/22/2011 - If you control two Parallel Lives, then the number of tokens created is four times the original number. If you control three, then the number of tokens created is eight times the original number, and so on.

  • so we're really looking at ((2^y)*x), x being tokens and y being the number of parallel lives.
    – DForck42
    Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 20:14
  • In case the comp rules seem confusing, this is supported by the Oracle rulings for Parallel Lives as well.
    – Alex P
    Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 20:20
  • MTGO also behaves this way, which is usually a pretty definitive indication of the intended behavior. I once played Timely Reinforcements with two Parallel Lives in play, setting down TWELVE tokens with one card. That was fun. Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 1:12

"If an [EFFECT] would put one or more tokens onto the battlefield [INSTEAD]"

This wording seems confusing. The act of doubling is an effect of the enchantment, therefore to the wording, two Parallel Lives on the field would seem to loop as one would trigger the other into infinite creatures:

The initial spell/effect has you put a creature onto the field.

Parallel Lives (A) has you put an additional token onto the field.

Parallel Lives (B) triggers the same time as (A) resulting in four.

  • Going by the text, it seems that it shouldn't end there.

Assuming Parallel Lives (A) would react to (B) having placed tokens

Assuming Parallel Lives (B) would react to (A) having placed a token

"Whenever" vs "If" would have made this card infinite with just the two, as that word is what typically is used to denote potential for an infinite cycle to occur.

If you need proof of the concept go buy two mirrors and put them edge to edge at a 90 degree angle and place an object at the center or place them exactly facing each other with an item in the center. This denotes "Whenever an item appears, create a duplicate of that item," but two mirrors would also catch the appearance of the mirrored appearance.

This is to say the wording didn't covey the comprehensive ruling in simple enough vocabulary/structure, so that is what most player would potentially default to in lack of comprehensive rules to refer to -going on the card text alone. It is understandable to mistake it as a continuous engine.

  • the way it works is that all of the parallel lives trigger at the same time and go on the stack. since they are replacement effects, each instance resolves and only one number is changed.
    – DForck42
    Commented Jun 15, 2013 at 4:40
  • 2
    @DForck42, trigger isn't the right word here. It gives the impression that this is a triggered ability, it isn't (it is a replacement effect). [CR 614.5] tells you that each replacement effect gets one chance to replace an event. So, what happens here is "put X tokens on the battlefield" gets replaced with "put (X * 2) tokens on the battlefield" from the first Parallel Lives, then the 2nd replaces it with, "put ((X * 2) * 2) tokens on the battlefield", which indeed quadruples it.
    – user1873
    Commented Jun 15, 2013 at 5:43
  • How does this answer the question? This answer only talks about a tangential topic. Replacement effects don't trigger. Replacement effects are never the source of an effect, they just modify what the original event would do. So technically, the second Parallel Lives replacement effect is still applied to the original source (Doomed traveler's ability), not to the first Parallel Lives. This is not really a good place to have a discussion, but we can discuss this in the chat if you want.
    – Pablo
    Commented Jun 15, 2013 at 11:51
  • 2
    @Pablo I disagree: I think it's user5415's legitimate attempt at answering the question, (s)he simply misunderstands the exact mechanics involved. So it's an incorrect answer, not an invalid answer, if you follow my line of thought and (probably poorly chosen) terminology. That is to say, it's downvote material, but not delete material.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 17:03
  • @corsiKa Perhaps I misunderstood, but he tried to explain why the wording of the cards (or perhaps the wording of the ruling) was confusing. That's why I said that this was not actually an answer, because I think that "why the wording is confusig" is a tangential topic, not the real topic of the question.
    – Pablo
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 0:23

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