For today’s Rules Tips, we’ll be covering Tree of Perdition, the anti-backwards sibling of Tree of Redemption. Like Tree of Redemption, Perdition is a 0/13 Defender for 4 mana with a nifty ability that trades life totals for toughness. Where Redemption swapped its toughness with YOUR life total, Perdition (being black and spooky and all) swaps with an OPPONENT’S life total! So what does that mean? Well, the majority of the time it’s simple; as that ability resolves, we simply note what your opponent’s life total is, and what Tree’s toughness are. Your opponent then gains or loses however much life it takes to make the swap, and Tree’s toughness is set to their old total. So say your opponent was at 20; they’d lose 7 life to go to 13, and your Tree would be set to a 0/20 instead of a 0/13. But let’s delve a little deeper!
Setting your opponent’s life total to 13 is all well and good, but the ability specifically looks at what the Tree’s toughness is as it resolves, not the BASE toughness. You could get your Tree down to a lower toughness and put your opponent in a real pickle- giving it -5/-5 would put your opponent at 8, for example! Note that damage doesn’t reduce toughness- a 0/13 Tree that’s taken 10 damage is still a 0/13, not a 0/3. So, can you kill your opponent by setting the Tree’s toughness to 0 somehow? You can’t! The Tree would just die before the swap could even happen. Same for if the tree is bounced or exiled or destroyed or in any way removed from the field before the ability resolves; the word “exchange” in Magic specifically requires two things to exchange. If the Tree isn’t on the field, then you can’t exchange its toughness with anything because it doesn’t exist anymore!
So if you can’t kill your Tree or set it to 0, getting it down to 1 is your best bet, right? A card some people might brush off for that is Turn to Frog. Sure it sets the Tree to a 1/1, but it removes all abilities! The fun thing is, that doesn’t matter here. Once the ability is on the stack, it’s 100% independent of the source. It’ll still resolve, even if the Tree is now a Treefrog with no abilities. The ability will swap your Treefrog’s 1 toughness with your opponent’s life total and make them very sad.
Finally, how Tree interacts with constant changes to P/T, like -1/-1 counters, or -X/-X effects such as Languish or Weight of the Underworld. Let’s say you have a normal Tree, your opponent is at 20, and you throw that Weight onto the Tree. Now it’s a -3/11. If you activate it, you’ll set the base toughness to 20, and your opponent’s life total to 11. Then, the Weight kicks in after the base is reset, and your Tree becomes a -3/18. If you were to activate it again next turn, your opponent would gain 7 life (going up to 18), and Tree would become a 0/11 base, which ends up being a -3/9 after Weight. So by enchanting your Tree with something that reduces the toughness, you can actually slowly kill your opponent with just the Tree!
Today’s Rules Tips were written by Trevor Nunez