Do different loss conditions have priority over each other?

Asked by Delphen7 1 month ago

In Magic many things come down to layers and how things are ordered. Does the same apply to losing - Can a person who would lose one way lose before someone who is losing another way?

The reason behind this question is Rankle, Master of Pranks . Say one player is at 1 life after being hit by Rankle, and the other has no cards left. Would one of them lose before the other if mode 2 is chosen? Or would it be a draw? Thanks!

Polaris says... Accepted answer #1

Losing (or winning) the game is a state-based action. Your question seems to be based on whether some kinds of losing take priority over others, and the answer is no. As long as something causes all players to lose in a single effect, the game will end in a draw.

To illustrate an example where players are caused to lose by separate actions in one resolution, consider Expansion / Explosion dealing lethal damage to one player and causing another to draw more cards than they have left. All of those players will lose simultaneously when the effect finishes resolving, even though the first player took lethal damage before the second player drew from an empty library—the game ends in a draw.

If the effects happen separately, however, players will lose in the order the effects happen, which almost certainly means one of them will win. Say someone casts Earthquake for lethal to their opponent but not themselves while the opponent has Boros Reckoner in play. Boros Reckoner will trigger to deal the damage it took back to the caster for lethal as well, but Boros Reckoner's controller loses before the trigger goes on the stack.

February 22, 2021 10:47 p.m.

Polaris says... #2

To give a more complete explanation of state-based actions:

State-based actions are checked after anything resolves, among other things (combat damage, drawing your card for turn, a card or permanent changing zones, etc.), but not while something is resolving. Once a resolution is over, state-based actions move creatures with lethal damage to the graveyard, cause players with 0 life or who have drawn from an empty library (or other win/loss conditions) to lose or win, cause tokens that aren't on the battlefield to stop existing, put Auras that aren't attached to anything into the graveyard, etc. All of this happens at the same time as the game "cleans up" the results of the most recent action. Once everything is cleaned up, players get priority to cast spells and activate abilities, and any triggers caused by the last action are put onto the stack.

February 22, 2021 10:55 p.m.

Neotrup says... #3

To be more clear, state based actions handle the most common methods of losing the game: having 0 or less life, or drawing from an empty library. They also handle losing to poison counters. Winning or losing to an effect happens immediately, this could actually result in a situation similar to the one you're imagining:

If you have 0 cards in your library and 15 artifact cards in your graveyard when your Mirrodin Besieged (having chosen Phyrexian) triggers, you'll draw from an empty library before the targeted player loses, but you'll actually lose after them, possibly winning the game if they were your last opponent.

February 22, 2021 11:11 p.m.

Delphen7 says... #4

Polaris Neotrup Cool, thanks!

February 23, 2021 10:41 a.m.

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