Alright, it’s time for everyone’s favorite topic: layers!
Wait, please, stop, don’t go. We’re only going to be looking at the power and toughness layer, and after reading this, you won’t look so confused after you tried to Turn and Burn your opponent’s creature that’s enchanted by an Unflinching Courage and find out that the creature didn’t die.
Alright, so a quick refresher, let’s look at the three relevant sublayers in the power and toughness layer to this question (note there are two other sublayers, but they don’t really influence this question, so we’re just going to ignore them for now).
Second, we have effects that increase or decrease a creature’s power and/or toughness without setting it to a specific number. This includes things like Giant Growth, Fatal Fumes, and Unflinching Courage.
Finally, we have bonuses from counters. This includes bonuses from +1/+1, -1/-1, and other types of counters.
Ok, still with me so far? Ok, because it’s all downhill from here. If you noticed, back up in the first step, I mention that’s the layer that the effect from Turn applies in. But there’s still two other layers of effects that get to apply. So if I have a random Bear Cub with an Unflinching Courage attached to it, and you cast Turn on the Cub, we apply the effect from the Turn first, making it a 0/1. Then we move to the next layer, and that’s the layer that the Courage gives its bonus in, so the net result is that the Bear Cub goes from a 4/4 to a 2/3.
It’s a similar situation with counters. If I have another Bear Cub with three +1/+1 counters on it and you cast Turn on it, we apply the effect from Turn first, then in a later layer, we apply the bonus from the counters, so my Cub ends up as a 3/4 in this case.
One final note: you may be wondering “The Courage was attached to the creature first, then I cast Turn. Since Turn was cast later, why doesn’t it completely override the bonus from the Courage?” The answer is that the order things resolved in only matters if the effects both apply in the same layer. Turn applies in a different layer than the Courage, so it doesn’t really matter in which order you resolve the two effects in; the answer is the same.
One last point of confusion to clarify. Since Turn//Burn removes all abilities in Layer 6, and that effect was created after the enchantment became attached and added Trample and Lifelink to the creature, the end result is a creature without Lifelink and Trample (or any other abilities) that still gets +2/+2 in the Power/Toughness sublayer (Layer 7c, if you care).
Thanks for sticking with me. Layers can be complicated, but hopefully you’ve caught enough information from this article to understand this situation.
Today’s Rules Tip written by Nathan Long