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Judge tips – Combat

Today we are going to look at the part of the turn where the majority of damage happens in a game of Magic – combat.

Combat Phase CR 506.1 The combat phase has five steps, which proceed in order: beginning of combat, declare attackers, declare blockers, combat damage, and end of combat. The declare blockers and combat damage are skipped if no creatures are declared as attackers or put onto the battlefield attacking (see rule 508.4). There are two combat damage steps if any attacking creature has first strike or double strike.

So that’s the CR regarding the combat phase. But, as every Magic player knows, combat isn’t that simple. So let’s touch on some of the things you may deal with on the L2 test.Cryptic Comman

Let’s say the active player says to their opponent, “move to combat.” The opponent, in response, casts a Cryptic Command choosing to tap all creatures. What part of the combat phase are we in?

Well, if you know the steps of combat you know that there is the Beginning of Combat step first. This is where things trigger “At the beginning of combat…” (think Desecration Demon). At this point no creatures have been declared as attackers. Therefore, in the above situation, we know we are at the beginning of combat step.

Seems simple, right? I agree.

Editor’s Note: Declaring attackers is a turn-based action that can’t be responded to. If you want to tap your opponents’ creatures before they declare them as attackers, do it at the beginning of combat or during their pre-combat main phase.

So let’s say we have declared our attackers and our opponent has subsequently declared their blockers. When do we assign how and the order damage will be dealt?

According to CR 509.2 (under Declare Blockers) “for each attacking creature that’s become blocked, the active player announces that creature’s damage assignment order, which consists of the creatures blocking in an order of that player’s choice.”

Then, according to 509.3, the defending player does the same for each of their creatures that are blocking.

What happens if someone flashes in a blocker after the damage assignment order has been established?

If we look down to 509.7 we see “If a creature is put onto the battlefield blocking, its controller chooses which attacking creature it’s blocking as it enters the battlefield (unless the effect that put it on the battlefield specific what it is blocking), then the active player announced the new creature’s placement in the blocked creature’s damage assignment order. The relative order among the remaining blocking creatures is unchanged. A creature put onto the battlefield this way is “blocking” but, for the purpose of trigger events and effects, it never “blocked.”

So, basically, I attack with creature A. You block with creature B and C then flash in creature D and add it to the list of blocking creatures. I can then assign its damage how I want as long as I don’t change the order of the other two.

Other things you might deal with on the L2 test – how about double strike.

As stated earlier, if a creature has first strike or double strike, there is a first and second combat damage step.

So what happens if we have attacked with a creature that doesn’t have either first strike or double strike and then give it double strike after we have progressed to the combat damage step?

Well, that’s a shame because they aren’t going to do their double strike damage.

However, if we give double strike to a creature with first strike after they have already dealt damage in the first combat damage step, they will get to do damage again.

Pretty intuitive, I think.

Combat can be tricky and the CR section regarding it is pretty lengthy. So lengthy that I don’t feel it can be covered in a small article. Some things to remember

  1. A creature entering the battlefield “tapped and attacking” or “blocking” that wasn’t otherwise declared as such, does not trigger things that trigger upon creatures being declared as attackers or blockers.
  2. If you attack a planeswalker and it is removed from combat, you get to deal no damage.
  3. Creatures that are regenerated are removed from combat.
  4. Combat damage is dealt all at once at the end of the appropriate combat damage step.
  5. If a creature has lethal damage marked on it, it will die because of state Based actions.


That’s it for this week. I hope this has been helpful! If you want to read the CR on combat, click here. 

Patrick Cossel is the publisher of the Forge Herald. Patrick is a writer, gamer, Magic judge, father, and husband. Professionally he is the operations manager of a newspaper company. He can be reached at pcossel@gmail.com


© 2016, Patrick Cossel. All rights reserved.

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About Patrick Cossel,

I am a journalist and gaming enthusiast.

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