For example Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. Can I use the -8 ability even though she only has 4 loyalty? I understand it would kill her. Or would I have to get 8 loyalty first with the +1 ability?

4 Answers 4


Wizard's wording on the matter is thus:

606.5. A loyalty ability with a negative loyalty cost can't be activated unless the permanent has at least that many loyalty counters on it

It doesn't specify how those counters get there. It could be through +X abilities, proliferate, or even cool things like Doubling Season. But they must exist on the planeswalker in order to pay the cost.

  • 4
    606.5 is a specific case of 117.3: "A player can’t pay a cost unless he or she has the necessary resources to pay it fully. [...]"
    – ikegami
    Oct 25, 2012 at 21:30
  • So, does this mean that it's ok to kill off your planeswalker by using, for example, a -7 loyalty cost ability when it has 7 loyalty counters on it?
    – cdeszaq
    Jul 2, 2013 at 17:46
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    @cdeszaq Yes, but keep in mind that he will consider that to be the "last straw" and leave you since he has no more loyalty to you. (And apparently, he goes and hangs out with your dead creatures and old memories. I'm not sure why he'd do that...)
    – corsiKa
    Jul 15, 2013 at 22:39

First things first - planeswalkers don't have "life", they have "loyalty counters".

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the side of the table you're sitting on), you can't play an ability with a negative loyalty cost unless the planeswalker has at least that many loyalty counters on it.

See here for this and other official rules for planeswalkers in Magic.

  • I was wondering, can you use the ability twice? or do you need a spell to make that happen?
    – James
    Oct 25, 2012 at 20:49
  • @james As the official rules state "You can play one of these abilities only at the time you could play a sorcery, and only if none of that planeswalker's abilities have been played yet that turn."
    – ghoppe
    Oct 25, 2012 at 20:52
  • You can play only one of the planeswalker's abilities on each of your turns, and as far as I know it's currently impossible to get around that restriction... but if you have enough loyalty counters, you can definitely play the -8 ability twice on two consecutive turns! (That's a lot of loyalty counters though.) Oct 25, 2012 at 20:52
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    @thesunneversets Two Doubling Seasons in play. 16 loyalty counters when it enters the battlefield. Done. ;)
    – ghoppe
    Oct 25, 2012 at 22:37

This works in the same way as casting a spell/ Activating an ability. In order to do so you must pay its cost. If you don't have the manna for the cost, you cannot cast the spell.

The abilities of a Planeswalker require the costs next to them to use them. Even the +1 abilities are a cost. (However, it would be very rare/ impossible to be unable to pay that cost.) -1, -2, -10, etc... costs act the same way but you would require that specific amount of loyalty counters or higher to use them:

606.5. A loyalty ability with a negative loyalty cost can't be activated unless the permanent has at least that many loyalty counters on it.

  • Could you cite any Planeswalker rules to back this up? Oct 11, 2017 at 11:59
  • @doppelgreener Ive added the closest rules I can see but in the comprehensive rules i cant see anything other than if the Planeswalkers loyalty drops to 0 the permanent is destroyed. but there may be more on the activated ability rulings to suggest that the loyalty counters should by available before activating a loyalty ability. Oct 11, 2017 at 13:20
  • Actually scratch that found the exact rule its already quoted above... haha Oct 11, 2017 at 13:22
  • Cool beans. I've given it a small revision and an updoot. :) Oct 11, 2017 at 13:37

Think of it this way: No store that's selling a 5 dollar sandwich is going to accept 2.50. or a 1.00 sandwich for .50 cents. When a Planeswalker ability says "-2' do this action" you need to pay 2 loyalty, no ifs, ands, or buts. If you have 1 loyalty on the walker and you want to use the -2, no dice, you need at least 2 loyalty since the minus two is the cost of activation. So if you want to activate a minus ability but lack the funds, you need to find some way to get that loyalty up, whether it be activating a +(#) ability or blinking/flickering the walker itself to reset to base loyalty.

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    Game rules could easily override real-life spending logic if they wanted to, so I don't think the analogy is all that helpful.
    – GendoIkari
    Oct 10, 2017 at 23:45
  • I know its an extremely old thread, but I figured I'd help those that didn't understand. ;)
    – Anti Hero
    Oct 10, 2017 at 23:45
  • But that's not how the game works ATM, GendoIkari. That's just not how resource games work. In magic you need the proper rescources to use a walker ability unless something else, like a card says otherwise, and that's not part of the question, so I don't think your comment helps.
    – Anti Hero
    Oct 10, 2017 at 23:48
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    I'm not saying that your answer is wrong or anything. Only that an appeals to the rules themselves means a lot more than an appeal to how buying things works in real life.
    – GendoIkari
    Oct 10, 2017 at 23:55
  • That's fair, but again, magic is a resource game, MTG R&D already know how game breaking loyalty abilities can be, if the rules committee said that you can ultimate a Planeswalker without a doubling season or something else by only paying 2 instead of the needed 10, I would quit magic entirely. I understand what you are saying: "The rules of Magic: the Gathering is different than economics." But at its core it isn't, if I can't pay 2 loyalty to pay for a -10 ultimate then no store would let me only pay 2.50 for a 5 dollar sandwich.
    – Anti Hero
    Oct 11, 2017 at 0:16

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