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Critical Existence Failure / Card Games

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  • Magic: The Gathering has this. Channel / Fireball (or Blaze, Kaervek's Torch, Disintegrate...) Necropotence, which only gets better with Yawgmoth's Bargain. Channel / Bog Initiate / Drain Life. Remember that it's relatively easy for green to get ahead in mana or for red to get ahead in life. Another combo of this variety is Avatar of Hope / Blessed Wind. Once you're down to three life, play the Avatar, and then play the Blessed Wind.
    • A fairly common adage among Magic: The Gathering players is that, while you start with 20 life points, only the last point really matters. Cards like Channel (allows the player to exchange one life point for one point of mana to cast spells) and Necropotence / Yawgmoth's Bargain (pay one life point to draw one card) turned out to be brutally overpowered as designers did not immediately anticipate that players would gladly pay all their life but that last crucial point. Turns out it's pretty hard to lose a game where you've just drawn 19 extra cards.
      • A corollary to this is that cards that do nothing but give you life are considered worthless, except in very exceptional situations or matchups.
      • Interestingly, this was averted in earlier editions of the game; a player didn't lose, even with no life points, unless a phase ended. Prosp-Bloom, the first combo deck, exploited this by playing cards like Vampiric Tutor and Infernal Contract, often dropping to a negative life total in the process of assembling the combo, before finally casting a mammoth Drain Life that would both kill the opponent and gain enough life to get back to a positive number. In fact, the entire point of the Mirror Universe combo deck was this.
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    • Also applies to most creatures, who can take damage equal to their toughness and retain their power (attack damage), abilities, etc. and are back to full health by the next turn. Averted with certain creatures such as Protean Hydra and Phyrexian Hydra, which lose power when they take damage (albeit in Protean Hydra's case, only temporarily).
    • Due to how the stack works, this trope can be combined with No Ontological Inertia. When a player loses, any effects they controlled that were yet to resolve are immediately canceled. This means it's possible to avoid death by an unstoppable combo by killing its caster before it resolves, which becomes very easy to do if they've been generous with life expenditure.
  • Since the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game was directly inspired by Magic: The Gathering, this trope applies just as much to it. You're still in the game as long as you have Life Points left, and it can sometimes be to your advantage to simply take a hit and sacrifice some LP rather than waste a vital card on a stopgap solution. A number of powerful effects, including the all-negating Solemn Judgment and the summon-negating Solemn Warning, demand a high cost in terms of LP, but if that 2000-4000 LP thwarts the opponent's game-winning move and gives you a chance to retaliate, it's an investment well spent.
    • And now there's Endless Decay, a horrifying monster which has its ATK equal to half your opponent's Life Points. It becomes even easier to summon the few turns between you and Critical Existence Failure.
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    • Unlike Magic, in Yu-Gi-Oh! this applies to the monsters you battle with themselves. So long as the monster you're battling with has more Defense or Attack (depending on the position of the monster) than the than the Attack of your battling monster, that monster will stay on the field regardless of the amount of times it battles.
  • In the Naruto and Dragon Ball Trading Card Game, injured status has its own separate point values. They are often weaker, sometimes stronger, and sometimes they stay the same.


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