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Life

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In Magic: The Gathering, Life total is a sort of score. Each player starts the game with 20 life points. Any increase in a player’s life total is considered to be gaining life. Any decrease in a player’s life total is considered to be losing life. A player whose life total drops to 0 or less loses. He or she is "dead".[1] Life is a resource which typically needs to be tracked on a piece of paper or a life counter.

Loss of life[edit | edit source]

Loss of life can occur from unblocked creatures and direct damage from spells. Black will sometimes just make players lose life straight up without a drain effect.[2] There are spells which can prevent damage, but so far only Platinum Emperion can prevent the loss of life (although it also prevents paying life). To pay life is the same as losing life, and damage causes loss of life.

Life as a resource[edit | edit source]

Intentional life loss occurs when life is used as a resource.[3] Famous examples of this include the Necropotence deck and Phyrexian mana.

Life gain[edit | edit source]

Life gain directly opposes the game’s primary win condition.[4][5] The earliest "life gain" spells include Healing Salve, Lifetap, and Stream of Life. Stream of Life is notable for being the first gain X life spell. There were also 5 artifacts printed (dubbed the "Lucky charms") which would give you 1 life each time a spell of the appropriate color was cast if you paid 1 (e.g., Ivory Cup).

Life gain occurs most prominently, and in all card types, in white. Green is number two in life gain. Green’s life gain is mostly either through sorceries (with the occasional instant) and creatures. Life gain in black is restricted to Drain Life-types of spells.[6][2] Blue gets life temporarily (Illusions of Grandeur) and red can have life gain if there's a random element involved (Game of Chaos).

The biggest single-colored life gain spell (not {X}) is the card Heroes Remembered (gain 20 life) from Planar Chaos. The biggest multicolored life gain spell (not {X}) is the card Heroes' Reunion (gain 7 life) from Invasion.

Rules[edit | edit source]

From the Comprehensive Rules (Ixalan (September 29, 2017))

  • 118. Life
    • 118.1. Each player begins the game with a starting life total of 20. Some variant games have different starting life totals.
      • 118.1a In a Two-Headed Giant game, each team’s starting life total is 30. See rule 810, “Two-Headed Giant Variant.”
      • 118.1b In a Vanguard game, each player’s starting life total is 20 plus or minus the life modifier of his or her vanguard card. See rule 902, “Vanguard.”
      • 118.1c In a Commander game, each player’s starting life total is 40. See rule 903, “Commander.”
      • 118.1d In an Archenemy game, the archenemy’s starting life total is 40. See rule 904, “Archenemy.”
    • 118.2. Damage dealt to a player normally causes that player to lose that much life. See rule 119.3.
    • 118.3. If an effect causes a player to gain life or lose life, that player’s life total is adjusted accordingly.
    • 118.4. If a cost or effect allows a player to pay an amount of life greater than 0, the player may do so only if his or her life total is greater than or equal to the amount of the payment. If a player pays life, the payment is subtracted from his or her life total; in other words, the player loses that much life. (Players can always pay 0 life.)
      • 118.4a If a cost or effect allows a player to pay an amount of life greater than 0 in a Two-Headed Giant game, the player may do so only if his or her team’s life total is greater than or equal to the total amount of life both team members are paying for that cost or effect. If a player pays life, the payment is subtracted from his or her team’s life total. (Players can always pay 0 life.)
    • 118.5. If an effect sets a player’s life total to a specific number, the player gains or loses the necessary amount of life to end up with the new total.
    • 118.6. If a player has 0 or less life, that player loses the game as a state-based action. See rule 704.
    • 118.7. If an effect says that a player can’t gain life, that player can’t make an exchange such that the player’s life total would become higher; in that case, the exchange won’t happen. Similarly, if an effect redistributes life totals, a player can’t receive a new life total such that the player’s life total would become higher. In addition, a cost that involves having that player gain life can’t be paid, and a replacement effect that would replace a life gain event affecting that player won’t do anything.
    • 118.8. If an effect says that a player can’t lose life, that player can’t make an exchange such that the player’s life total would become lower; in that case, the exchange won’t happen. Similarly, if an effect redistributes life totals, a player can’t receive a new life total such that the player’s life total would become lower. In addition, a cost that involves having that player pay life can’t be paid.
    • 118.9. Some triggered abilities are written, “Whenever [a player] gains life, . . . .” Such abilities are treated as though they are written, “Whenever a source causes [a player] to gain life, . . . .” If a player gains 0 life, no life gain event has occurred, and these abilities won’t trigger.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Doug Beyer. (August 26, 2009.) “Your Mailbox is Over Vorthosity”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  2. a b Mark Rosewater. (June 5, 2017.) “Mechanical Color Pie 2017”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mike Flores. (May 19, 2014.) “Life as a Resource (Generally)”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater. (June 24, 2002.) “The Game of Life”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Randy Buehler. (June 28, 2002.) “Life Is Not For Everyone”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Mark Rosewater. (August 06, 2017.) "What's lifegain, conditional or otherwise, primary/secondary/tertiary in?", Blogatog, Tumblr.

External link[edit | edit source]