Magic: The Gathering: Fog Bank v. Trample

This is our first fan-submitted case!  Thanks go out to Jon, for submitting it on our Facebook wall.  There must be something in the air, because it’s another case about the invulnerability of fog.

This one comes from Magic: The Gathering, which, for those of you who’ve been living under a rock since the early nineties, is a collectible card game in which the players must accumulate enough land cards to power spells and summon monsters and destroy their opponent.  This particular case involves the interaction between a card and a property of other cards:  Fog Bank and Trample.

Before I explain what these specifically do, you’ll need to know a bit more about how combat works in M:tG.  Each creature has two values, an offensive one (called power) and a defensive one (called toughness).  The two numbers are separated by a slash with the power coming first.  So, a 6/4 creature has six power (offensive strength) and 4 toughness (defensive strength).  When you have one of your creatures attack, your opponent may choose to block with one of his own.  If this happens, the attacking creature and the blocking creature deal damage to each other equal to their power.  If either creature receives damage equal to or greater than its toughness, it is destroyed.

Normally, one blocking creature is enough to completely stop an attacking creature, even if the blocker is destroyed and the attacker has power to spare.  Some creatures, however, have the trample ability.  Trample allows the attacking creature to keep going as long as it has enough power.  So a 6/6 creature with trample could be blocked by a 3/3 and a 2/2, destroying them both and still having enough power left over to deal one point of damage to the opponent’s life.

Fog Bank is a special kind of creature called a wall.  Walls generally have 0 power and none can attack, but are generally quite good at blocking.  Fog Bank specifically is a 0/2 with a special ability that reads as follows: “Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt to and dealt by Fog Bank.”  Seems simple enough.  Fog Bank just can’t take or dish out any damage.

But what happens when Fog Bank blocks a creature with trample?  Since it doesn’t take any damage, the trampling creature can never destroy it.  Based on this reasoning, I was ready to give the case to Fog Bank, but a little research changed my mind.

The answer came in the interaction between trample and another special ability, protection.  Certain cards will have the ability “Protection from X” where X is some quality that other cards might possess.  Any card that has the stated quality can’t have any effect on the creature with protection.  Specifically, “Any damage that would be dealt by sources that have the stated quality to a permanent or player with protection is prevented.”  The key here is the identical phrasing between Fog Bank and protection, they both say “damage is prevented.”

Furthermore, in the trample section of the rules, we find the following example: “A 6/6 green creature with trample is blocked by a 2/2 creature with protection from green. The attacking creature’s controller must assign at least 2 damage to the blocker, even though that damage will be prevented by the blocker’s protection ability. The attacking creature’s controller can divide the rest of the damage as he or she chooses between the blocking creature and the defending player.”

As far as I can tell, Fog Bank’s special ability essentially functions like “Protection from Combat.” When Fog Bank blocks a creature with trample, it soaks up two damage and, assuming the attacker has enough power, it can continue trampling onto the defender’s other blockers, or his life points if none are available.  The essential difference between this and the Wiz-War case is that Mist Body doesn’t allow the player to be attacked, whereas Fog Bank simply doesn’t take damage from attacks.

So the score is fog: 1, other: 1.  Keep those cases coming people.  Until next time, happy gaming, and I hope to see you in court!

Edit: minor correction to rules content