Power and Toughness

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Power symbol
Toughness symbol

Power and Toughness are characteristics unique to creatures in all zones.[1][2]

The values for power and toughness are denoted by a pair of numbers in the lower right corner of the card.

  • Power is the first number printed before the slash on the lower right hand corner of creature cards. This is the amount of damage it deals in combat to the opposing card's toughness (or the opposing player's life, or the opposing planeswalker's loyalty).
  • Toughness is the number printed after the slash at the bottom right corner of a creature. It is the amount of damage needed to destroy it. If the number falls to 0 at any time, then it is put into its owner's graveyard.

A creature with higher power than toughness is considered offensive or aggressive. A creature with the same power and toughness is considered balanced, or "square." A creature with a lower power than its toughness is considered defensive.

Base values and modifiers[edit | edit source]

Various abilities in Magic affect the power and toughness (the statistcis or "stats") of creatures.

Base Power and Toughness[edit | edit source]

Magic 2015 introduced a templating change to cards that set a creature's power and toughness to a specific value. The term base power and toughness makes it clearer that other continuous effects that modify power and toughness, such as the ones created by Titanic Growth or a +1/+1 counter, apply after the creature's power and toughness are changed.[3]

*/*[edit | edit source]

Some cards have a variable Power and Toughhness, denoted by */*. For example, Multani, Maro-Sorcerer's Power and Toughness are each equal to the total number of cards in all players' hands.

Starting with Dominaria, this template is replaced by a base Power and Toughness of 0/0 with bonuses.[4] For example Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar gets +1/+1 for each land you control and each land card in your graveyard. A big difference is that the card will be a 0/0 in the graveyard, which is relevant when tutoring for creatures.

Enhancement[edit | edit source]

There are a number of enhancements that can be applied to the base power and toughness, including "Giant Growth" (+n/+n), Firebreathing (+n/+0), toughness enhancement (+0/+n), and the more permanent effect of a +1/+1 counter.

Reduction[edit | edit source]

The two most common mechanics that lower stats are referred to as weakness (-n/-n), and shrinking (-n/-0). Because they reduce the effectiveness of creatures during combat, they can be used as a combat trick or as a form of removal. Also, there is the more permanent effect of a -1/-1 counter.

Weakness effects lower both power and toughness, or give -n/-n. The mechanic derives its nickname from the Alpha card Weakness. Abilities that grant -n/-n almost exclusively belong to black in the color pie, as it is typically more potent than damage in terms of killing creatures.[5] -X/-X isn't affected by damage prevention nor replacement. Because reducing toughness to zero isn't a "destroy" effect, it can even remove regenerating and indestructible targets. Long term degradation of a creature may be represented by the use of counters

Shrinking is the nickname for effects that reduce creatures' power, or give -n/-0.[5] It is named after the card Shrink, from Homelands. Shrink effects were formerly black, as an extension of its -n/-n ability. They were color-shifted to blue around the time of Ravnica block, in order to give the latter a combat-relevant mechanic.[6]

Alteration[edit | edit source]

There are other shifts that can happen, most often the "flowstone" or "Bloodlust" ability (+n/-n) and switching of the statistics.

Set-specific variations[edit | edit source]

The starter-level Portal set featured different terminology from that established in previous sets. These terms included "offense" for power, and "defense" for toughness. Although these new terms were intended to simplify learning Magic, they were a source of distress for players if and when they started to use advanced-level and/or expert-level cards, which did not use this terminology. Cards featuring these terms received errata.

The silver-bordered Unhinged introduced Power and Toughness with fractions (Little Girl, Fraction Jackson). Fractions proved a little more taxing than R&D originally expected, so the chance of fraction return is low.[7]

Rules[edit | edit source]

From the Comprehensive Rules (Dominaria (April 27, 2018))

  • 208. Power/Toughness
    • 208.1. A creature card has two numbers separated by a slash printed in its lower right corner. The first number is its power (the amount of damage it deals in combat); the second is its toughness (the amount of damage needed to destroy it). For example, 2/3 means the object has power 2 and toughness 3. Power and toughness can be modified or set to particular values by effects.
    • 208.2. Rather than a fixed number, some creature cards have power and/or toughness that includes a star (*).
      • 208.2a The card may have a characteristic-defining ability that sets its power and/or toughness according to some stated condition. (See rule 604.3.) Such an ability is worded “[This creature’s] [power or toughness] is equal to . . .” or “[This creature’s] power and toughness are each equal to . . .” This ability functions everywhere, even outside the game. If the ability needs to use a number that can’t be determined, including inside a calculation, use 0 instead of that number.

        Example: Lost Order of Jarkeld has power and toughness each equal to 1+*. It has the abilities “As Lost Order of Jarkeld enters the battlefield, choose an opponent” and “Lost Order of Jarkeld’s power and toughness are each equal to 1 plus the number of creatures the chosen player controls.” While Lost Order of Jarkeld isn’t on the battlefield, there won’t be a chosen player. Its power and toughness will each be equal to 1 plus 0, so it’s 1/1.

      • 208.2b The card may have a static ability that creates a replacement effect that sets the creature’s power and toughness to one of a number of specific values as it enters the battlefield or is turned face up. (See rule 614, “Replacement Effects.”) Such an ability is worded “As [this creature] enters the battlefield . . . ,” “As [this creature] is turned face up . . . ,” or “[This creature] enters the battlefield as . . .” and lists two or more specific power and toughness values (and may also list additional characteristics). The characteristics chosen or determined with these effects affect the creature’s copiable values. (See rule 706.2.) While the card isn’t on the battlefield, its power and toughness are each considered to be 0.
    • 208.3. A noncreature permanent has no power or toughness, even if it’s a card with a power and toughness printed on it (such as a Vehicle). A noncreature object not on the battlefield has power or toughness only if it has a power and toughness printed on it.
      • 208.3a If an effect would be created that affects the power and/or toughness of a noncreature permanent, that effect is created even though it doesn’t do anything unless that permanent becomes a creature.

        Example: Veteran Motorist has the ability “Whenever Veteran Motorist crews a Vehicle, that Vehicle gets +1/+1 until end of turn,” and it’s tapped to pay the crew cost of a Vehicle. This triggered ability resolves while the Vehicle it crewed isn’t yet a creature. The continuous effect is created and will apply to the Vehicle once it becomes a creature.

    • 208.4. Effects that set a creature’s power and/or toughness to specific values may refer to that creature’s “base power,” “base toughness,” or “base power and toughness.” Other continuous effects may further modify the creature’s power and toughness. See rule 613, “Interaction of Continuous Effects.”
    • 208.5. If a creature somehow has no value for its power, its power is 0. The same is true for toughness.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Doug Beyer. (February 13, 2008.) “Power, Toughness, and the Flavor Thereof”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Doug Beyer. (August 17, 2011.) “The Feedbackening 2011”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Matt Tabak. (July 7, 2014.) “Magic 2015 Core Set release notes”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater. (April 09, 2018.) "Is */* a thing of the past?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  5. a b Mark Rosewater. (June 5, 2017.) “Mechanical Color Pie 2017”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Aaron Forsythe. (2005 May 27.) “Honey, I Shrunk the Blue Cards”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Mark Rosewater. (July 31, 2017.) "Is 1/2 in Unstable?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
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