New Player Questions About Stack Nuances

13 posts / 0 new
Last post

Hello everyone!


I've been playing magic for about 6 weeks and have some questions about how the Stack works in specific instances. Specifically, I want to make sure I understand exactly how the Stack works under the following scenarios.



I picked the first scenario mostly because I've played against it and know that both cards are extremely popular right now, and I just want to understand exactly what is happening. The second and third scenarios are just something I'm curious about


This may be a bit tedious, but I've written out each discrete step in the following scenarios, and would appreciate someone letting me know if I'm correct, and if I'm wrong, pointing out the rule from the rulebook that explains why. Also, if I left something important out (e.g., if the order abilities go on the stack is actually important in my scenario), let me know as well.


Casting Restoration Angel to save a Thragtusk from combat damage


For the sake of this example, assume I am attacking my opponent with a Centaur Healer, my opponent has blocked with Thragtusk, and we're at the end of the Declare Blocker's step.



  1. The Stack is empty and I have priority

  2. I pass priority

  3. My opponent receives priority

  4. My opponent casts Restoration Angel. Restoration Angel goes on top of the stack

  5. My opponent passes priority

  6. I receive priority

  7. I pass priority

  8. My opponent receives priority

  9. My opponent passes priority

  10. Restoration Angel resolves. Restoration Angel's ETB ability triggers targeting Thragtusk, but it not yet put on the stack (rule 603.3)

  11. I receive priority

  12. I pass priority

  13. My opponent receives priority

  14. Restoration Angel's ETB ability goes on top of the stack (rule 603.3)

  15. My opponent passes priority

  16. Restoration Angel's ETB ability resolves. Thragtusk is exiled. Thragtusk's LTB ability triggers, but it not yet put on the Stack. Thragtusk returns to the battlefield, and is no longer attacking. Thragtusk's ETB ability triggers, but is not yet put on the stack

  17. I recieve priority

  18. I pass priority

  19. My opponent receives priority

  20. Thragtusk's LTB ability and ETB ability are put on the stack, in the order my opponent chooses, but let's say its LTB then ETB

  21. My opponent passes priority

  22. Thragtusk's ETB ability resolves. My opponent gains 5 life

  23. I receive priority

  24. I pass priority

  25. My opponent receives priority

  26. My opponent passes priority

  27. Thragtusk's LTB ability resolves. My opponent puts a 3/3 token on the battlefield

  28. I receive priority

  29. I pass priority

  30. My opponent receives priority

  31. My opponent passes priority

  32. The Declare Blockers step ends and goes to Combat Damage

  33. My Centaur Healer deals no damage and is dealt no damage

In the end, my opponent ends up saving his Thragtusk, gained 5 life, and now has a Restoration Angel and 3/3 token in play.

Casting Restoration Angel to save a Thragtusk from spell damage

For the sake of this example, assume I am the active player and it's currently my first main phase. My opponent has a Thragtusk on the field and I try to kill it with a Searing Spear.

  1. The Stack is empty and I have priority

  2. I cast Searing Spear targeting the Thragtusk. Searing Spear goes on top of the stack

  3. I pass priority

  4. My opponent receives priority

  5. My opponent casts Restoration Angel. It goes on top of the stack

  6. My opponent passes priority

  7. I receive priority

  8. I pass priority

  9. My opponent receives priority

  10. My opponent passes priority

  11. Restoration Angel resolves. (see rule 116.4) Restoration  Angel's ETB triggers, targeting the Thragtusk, but it not yet put on the stack (rule 603.3)

  12. I receive priority (see rule 116.3b)

  13. I pass priority

  14. My opponent receives priority

  15. Restoration Angel's ETB ability goes on top of the stack (see rule 603.3)

  16. My opponent passes priority

  17. Restoration Angel's ETB ability resolves. Thragtusk is exiled. Thragtusk's LTB ability triggers, but is not put on the Stack yet. Thragtusk is returned to the battlefield. Thragtusk's ETB ability triggers, but is not put on the Stack yet

  18. I receive priority

  19. I pass priority

  20. My opponent receives priority

  21. Thragtusk's LTB and ETB abilities are put on the stack, in the order my opponent chooses, but let's say its LTB then ETB (see rule 603.3.b)

  22. My opponent passes priority

  23. Thragtusk's ETB ability resolves. My opponent gains 5 life

  24. I receive priority

  25. I pass priority

  26. My opponent receives priority

  27. My opponent passes priority

  28. Thragtusk's LTB ability resolves. My opponent places a 3/3 green beast token on the battlefield

  29. I receive priority

  30. I pass priority

  31. My opponent receives priority

  32. My opponent passes priority

  33. Searing Spear resolves. Thragtusk is dealt 3 damage and is now at 0 toughness.

  34. I receive priority

  35. Thragtusk is moved to the graveyard as a state-based action (see rule 704.3 and 704.5f). Thragtusk's LTB ability triggers, but is not put on the stack yet

  36. I pass priority

  37. My opponent receives priority. Thragtusk's LTB ability is put on the stack

  38. My opponent passes priority

  39. Thragtusk's LTB ability resolves. My opponent places a 3/3 green beast token on the battlefield

  40. I receive priority

  41. I pass priority

  42. My opponent receives priority

  43. My opponent passes priority

  44. Both players have passed priority and the Stack is empty, the current phase ends


In the end, Thragtusk dies, but my opponent gained 5 life, and now has a Restoration Angel and 2 3/3 tokens on the battlefield.

Exiling a spell on the stack for Nivmagus Elemental

For the sake of the example, assume I am the active player and am currently in the first main phase of my turn with a Nivmagus Elemental on the battlefield. I cast a Searing Spear, which my opponent responds to with a Dispel, but I exile my Searing Spear to pump Nivmagus Elemental.

  1. The Stack is empty and I have priority.

  2. I cast Searing Spear targeting my opponent. Searing Spear goes on the Stack.

  3. I pass priority.

  4. My opponent receives priority.

  5. My opponent casts Dispel targeting Searing Spear. Dispel goes on the Stack.

  6. My opponent passes priority.

  7. I receive priority.

  8. I activate Nivmagus Elemental's ability and exile Searing Spear. This ability goes on the stack.

  9. I pass priority.

  10. My opponent receives priority.

  11. My opponent passes priority.

  12. Nivmagus Elemental's ability resolves. Two +1/+1 counters are put on Nivmagus Elemental

  13. I receive priority.

  14. I pass priority.

  15. My opponent receives priority.

  16. My opponent passes priority.

  17. Dispel resolves. Searing Spear is an invalid target and Dispel is countered.

  18. I receive priority.

  19. I pass priority.

  20. My opponent receives priority.

  21. My opponent passes priority.

  22. Both players have passed priority and the Stack is empty, the current phase ends.


In the end, my Searing Spear doesn't do the damage I wanted it to, but my Nivmagus Elemental is now 3/4.

Sorry for the super long post, I appreciate the help. As one final question, I am curious exactly when Regenerate happens. Rule 614.8 says "The next time [permanent] would be destroyed this turn, instead remove all damage marked on it and tap it", but rule 704.5f says "If a creature has toughness 0 or less, it's put into its owner's graveyard. Regeneration can't replace this event."

Thanks! 


There's no priority passing between the Angel entering and its ability being put onto the stack (only SBEs are done at that time). The same for between the Angel's ability having been resolved and the Thragtusk's abilities being put onto the stack.

Dispel doesn't resolve. Instead, it's countered because it has no legal targets. (I'm just saying it first checks its targets and either resolves or is countered; it doesn't start to resolve and is then countered.) 
Ok I'm not going over every little step, but I do see some inaccuracies that I will discuss.  First the top spell or ability on the stack resoves when all players pass in succession.  In other words if your opponent casts restoration angel when they have priority, then they pass that priority and then you pass priority, it's at that time the restoration angel resolves.  Your opponent would not receive priority again, and after the restoration angel resolves you would receive priority (as the active player).

Also the triggered abilities go on the stack if a player would receive priority.  So when the angel enters the battlefield and it's ability triggers, that ability would be put on the stack before the active player (which in this case is you) would receive priority.  Same deal when thragtusk leaves the battlefield and returns with the angel's ability, although you do have it right tha both ability would trigger before a player would receive priority and the player who controls those abilities chooses the order they are put on the stack. 

As to your last question, regeneration replaces destruction, a creature with 0 toughness is not destroyed it's simply put into it's owners graveyard.  Do note that spells like searing spear do not actually reduce the toughness of creatures, it just marks damage on the creature and if that damage is equal to or greater than the creatures toughness the creature would be destroyed. 

DCI Level 2 Judge

Rockford, Illinois

When you target Thragtusk with Searing spear and he flickers it in response, when Thragtusk re enters the battlefield it is a new creature. With your searing spear with no target it would fizz out without a legal target. Just to clear that up.
Only 6 weeks, and you're diving into this level of detail? I'm impressed!

-----

The biggest misunderstanding i see in your steps is when triggered abilities get put on the stack. It's true that there is a delay between an ability triggering and that ability being put on the stack, but it is a very short delay. No players will get priority before the ability is put on the stack. 

Also, there are some cases where you have too many people getting priority, or too few. It's hard to tell whether this is a misunderstanding on your part, or simply an error in typing out a complicated post. But in short: both players pass priority in succession before a spell or ability resolves.

For example, here's what scenario 1 should look like (i've combined some steps, so don't expect them to line up perfectly with your steps):

  1. The stack is empty and you have priority. 

  2. You pass priority

  3. Your opponent gets priority and casts Restoration angel, putting it on the stack

  4. Since your opponent just played something, your opponent gets priority. He passes

  5. You get priority and pass

  6. Both players have passed in succession, so the topmost spell or ability (restoration angel) resolves. It enters the battlefield and it's ability triggers, but doesn't yet get put on the stack.

  7. Restoration angel's ability gets put on the stack, targetting thragtusk.

  8. Since it is your turn, you get priority. You pass.

  9. Your opponent gets priority and passes.

  10. Both players have passed in succession, so the topmost spell or ability (restoration angel's ability) resolves. 

  11. During the resolution of the ability: thragtusk leaves the battlefield, triggering it's leaves-the-battlefield ability. This ability does not yet go on the stack. Next, thragtusk enters the battlefield, triggering its enters-the-battlefield ability. This ability does not yet go on the stack. 

  12. Both abilities go on the stack in the order your opponent chooses.

  13. You get priority and pass

  14. Your opponent gets priority and passes.

  15. Both players have passed in succession, so the topmost spell or ability (thragtusk's life gain) resolves. Your opponent gains 5 life.

  16. You get priority and pass

  17. Your opponent gets priority and passes

  18. Both players have passed in succession, so the topmost spell or ability (thragtusk's token creator) resolves. Your opponent creates a 3/3 token

  19. You get priority and pass

  20. Your opponent gets priority and passes

  21. The Declare Blockers step ends and goes to Combat Damage

  22. Your Centaur Healer deals no damage and is dealt no damage


In the end, my opponent ends up saving his Thragtusk , gained 5 life, and now has a Restoration Angel  and 3/3 token in play.

Correct.

Now, on to scenario 2. In addition to the comments about scenario 1:
33) Searing Spear  resolves. Thragtusk  is dealt 3 damage and is now at 0 toughness.


This is incorrect. Any time a card changes zones, it becomes a new object with no relationship to its previous existence. Searing spear is targetting the "old" thragtusk, which no longer exists. There's a similar looking "new" thragtusk, but searing spear doesn't care about that. Searing spear will attempt to resolve, but will be countered because its only target (old thragtusk) no longer exists. 

Also, damage dealt to a creature doesn't technically reduce its toughness. Instead, that amount of damage is "marked" on the creature, and is compared against whatever its toughness is.
34) I receive priority
35) Thragtusk is moved to the graveyard as a state-based action (see rule 704.3 and 704.5f).  [...]

These two steps would be in the wrong order. State-based actions are evaluated immediately before a player receives priority.
In the end, Thragtusk  dies, but my opponent gained 5 life, and now has a Restoration Angel  and 2 3/3 tokens on the battlefield.

Thragust lives, your opponent gains 5 life and has one 3/3 token.

Next up, scenario 3: 
In the end, my Searing Spear  doesn't do the damage I wanted it to, but my Nivmagus Elemental  is now 3/4.

Looks correct to me. 
As one final question, I am curious exactly when Regenerate happens. Rule 614.8 says "The next time [permanent] would be destroyed this turn, instead remove all damage marked on it and tap it", but rule 704.5f says "If a creature has toughness 0 or less, it's put into its owner's graveyard. Regeneration can't replace this event."

This is where it becomes important that damage doesn't reduce toughness (as I mention above).

If i use Searing Spear on Manor Skeleton, it will mark 3 damage on the skeleton. That 3 damage is compared against 1 toughness, and the creature is "destroyed". If the skeleton regenerates, rather than being destroyed, the 3 damage is removed from the creature (and it taps and gets removed from combat). There is now a 1/1 creature with no damage marked on it, so it survives.

On the other hand, if i use Last Gasp on manor skeleton, i now have a -2/-2 creature. Since no damage is involved, a different rule kicks in to kill it (704.5f, as you pointed out). This rule doesn't "destroy" the creature, so regeneration has nothing to replace.
The important things to remember:



  • Triggered abilities are put on the stack before anyone receives priority. You don't have to pass to make something trigger.

  • Object that leave the battlefield become a new object. Abilities can track them in the zone they moved to, but aside from that, they're a completely different object with no relation to their previous existence. In your searing spear example, Thragtusk lives because Searing Spear never targeted it.


And even though you didn't get this wrong, I thought I would mention that Nivmagus' ability exiles the spell when you activate it, not when it resolves (because it's the cost to activate it, just like paying mana is the cost to activate most other abilities. Costs are paid up front.)

Rules Advisor

Please autocard: [c]Shard Phoenix[/c] = Shard Phoenix.

Also note, you can cast Searing Spear and Exile it to the elemental before your opponent could even cast Dispel if you were so inclined and if you were so inclined, he couldn't even cast Dispel because he'd have no target for it.

Essentially

1) you annouce Searing Spear putting it on the stack and put priority aside
2) you annouce its target
3) you activate mana (if necessary) and pay its cost
4) you get priority back
5) you activate Niv-Magus Elemental's ability, putting it on the stack and put aside priority
6) you pay its cost exiling Searing Spear
7) you get priority back and pass it to your opponent

DCI Certified Judge & Goth/Industrial/EBM/Indie/Alternative/80's-Wave DJ
DJ Vortex

DCI Certified Judge since July 13, 2013
DCI #5209514320


My Wife's Makeup Artist Page <-- cool stuff - check it out

Hello again! Thank you everyone for your replies. Sorry for my delayed response; I've been distracted by the holidays. I appreciate all the answers everyone gave. I'm going to combine my responses to some of the replies, though, since a lot of the answers address the same questions.


Only 6 weeks, and you're diving into this level of detail? I'm impressed!


I guess I'm a little OCD


There's no priority passing between the Angel entering and its ability being put onto the stack (only SBEs are done at that time). The same for between the Angel's ability having been resolved and the Thragtusk's abilities being put onto the stack.


Ok I'm not going over every little step, but I do see some inaccuracies that I will discuss. First the top spell or ability on the stack resoves when all players pass in succession. In other words if your opponent casts restoration angel when they have priority, then they pass that priority and then you pass priority, it's at that time the restoration angel resolves. Your opponent would not receive priority again, and after the restoration angel resolves you would receive priority (as the active player).

Also the triggered abilities go on the stack if a player would receive priority. So when the angel enters the battlefield and it's ability triggers, that ability would be put on the stack before the active player (which in this case is you) would receive priority. Same deal when thragtusk leaves the battlefield and returns with the angel's ability, although you do have it right tha both ability would trigger before a player would receive priority and the player who controls those abilities chooses the order they are put on the stack.


The biggest misunderstanding i see in your steps is when triggered abilities get put on the stack. It's true that there is a delay between an ability triggering and that ability being put on the stack, but it is a very short delay. No players will get priority before the ability is put on the stack.

Also, there are some cases where you have too many people getting priority, or too few. It's hard to tell whether this is a misunderstanding on your part, or simply an error in typing out a complicated post. But in short: both players pass priority in succession before a spell or ability resolves.


I think my confusion on all these points comes from (misunderstanding) two rules.


Re-reading rule 603.3, the part that is confusing me is "Once an ability has triggered, its controller puts it on the stack as an object that's not a card the next time a player would receive priority." I took this to mean that if I have priority now, and an ability of trigger, I wouldn't put that ability on the stack until the next time I receive priority.


However, I either missed or misunderstood rule 116.3c that says "If a player has priority when he or she casts a spell, activates an ability, or takes a special action, that player receives priority afterward." My previous understanding was that if I have priority and cast a spell, I STILL have priority afterwards. But you're saying - and I think the rule actually says - that if I have priority and cast a spell, I receive priority AGAIN as a separate instant of having priority after I cast the spell. Is that correct?


The second rule I think I misunderstood was rule 116.4, which says "If all players pass in succession (that is, if all players pass without taking any actions in between passing), the spell or ability on top of the stack resolves or, if the stack is empty, the phase or step ends." So I was taking that to mean that when the player casts Restoration Angel, that instance of having priority doesn't count because they took action while they had priority. But if my current understanding about rule 116.3c is correct, then I think I understand how I misinterpreted rule 116.4.


As to your last question, regeneration replaces destruction, a creature with 0 toughness is not destroyed it's simply put into it's owners graveyard. Do note that spells like searing spear do not actually reduce the toughness of creatures, it just marks damage on the creature and if that damage is equal to or greater than the creatures toughness the creature would be destroyed.


If i use Searing Spear on Manor Skeleton, it will mark 3 damage on the skeleton. That 3 damage is compared against 1 toughness, and the creature is "destroyed". If the skeleton regenerates, rather than being destroyed, the 3 damage is removed from the creature (and it taps and gets removed from combat). There is now a 1/1 creature with no damage marked on it, so it survives. On the other hand, if i use Last Gasp on manor skeleton, i now have a -2/-2 creature. Since no damage is involved, a different rule kicks in to kill it (704.5f, as you pointed out). This rule doesn't "destroy" the creature, so regeneration has nothing to replace.


Thanks a lot for these responses. It helps a lot to understand the difference between toughness being reduced and damage being marked.


When you target Thragtusk with Searing spear and he flickers it in response, when Thragtusk re enters the battlefield it is a new creature. With your searing spear with no target it would fizz out without a legal target. Just to clear that up.


Thanks a lot for that clarification. I didn't realize the "old" Thragtusk ceased to exist.


Dispel doesn't resolve. Instead, it's countered because it has no legal targets. (I'm just saying it first checks its targets and either resolves or is countered; it doesn't start to resolve and is then countered.)


Thanks for clarifying that. Even if I had the right idea, I'm happy to have the precise ordering of events.

The biggest misunderstanding i see in your steps is when triggered abilities get put on the stack. It's true that there is a delay between an ability triggering and that ability being put on the stack, but it is a very short delay. No players will get priority before the ability is put on the stack.


Also, there are some cases where you have too many people getting priority, or too few. It's hard to tell whether this is a misunderstanding on your part, or simply an error in typing out a complicated post. But in short: both players pass priority in succession before a spell or ability resolves.



I think my confusion on all these points comes from (misunderstanding) two rules.


Re-reading rule 603.3, the part that is confusing me is "Once an ability has triggered, its controller puts it on the stack as an object that's not a card the next time a player would receive priority." I took this to mean that if I have priority now, and an ability of trigger, I wouldn't put that ability on the stack until the next time I receive priority.



Note that this rule says that the ability will be put on the stack  the next time a player gets priority, that player will not necessarily be the player who controls that triggered ability. 

However, I either missed or misunderstood rule 116.3c that says "If a player has priority when he or she casts a spell, activates an ability, or takes a special action, that player receives priority afterward." My previous understanding was that if I have priority and cast a spell, I STILL have priority afterwards. But you're saying - and I think the rule actually says - that if I have priority and cast a spell, I receive priority AGAIN as a separate instant of having priority after I cast the spell. Is that correct?


Yes this is correct. 

The second rule I think I misunderstood was rule 116.4, which says "If all players pass in succession (that is, if all players pass without taking any actions in between passing), the spell or ability on top of the stack resolves or, if the stack is empty, the phase or step ends." So I was taking that to mean that when the player casts Restoration Angel, that instance of having priority doesn't count because they took action while they had priority. But if my current understanding about rule 116.3c is correct, then I think I understand how I misinterpreted rule 116.4.


A spell or ability will only resolve if all players pass priority without any actions being taken in between priority passes.  However if you cast Restoration Angel then pass then your opponent passes you have both passed without taking actions in between those passes so restoration angel will resolve.
Re-reading rule 603.3, the part that is confusing me is "Once an ability has triggered, its controller puts it on the stack as an object that's not a card the next time a player would receive priority." I took this to mean that if I have priority now, and an ability of trigger, I wouldn't put that ability on the stack until the next time I receive priority.

However, I either missed or misunderstood rule 116.3c that says "If a player has priority when he or she casts a spell, activates an ability, or takes a special action, that player receives priority afterward." My previous understanding was that if I have priority and cast a spell, I STILL have priority afterwards. But you're saying - and I think the rule actually says - that if I have priority and cast a spell, I receive priority AGAIN as a separate instant of having priority after I cast the spell. Is that correct?


Correct, you will receive Priority once more, after SBA & triggers have been dealt with, as stated by 116.5.

Wizards of the Coast: outsourced to Elbonia

Thanks guys! That's very helpful.

I didn't see anything in the forum rules, but do I need to (or should I) marked this thread as "SOLVED"? If not, then thanks again everyone.
Thanks guys! That's very helpful.

I didn't see anything in the forum rules, but do I need to (or should I) marked this thread as "SOLVED"? If not, then thanks again everyone.

There's nothing special to do. Just make sure you come back soon with more questions!

Wizards of the Coast: outsourced to Elbonia

depending on how much time has passed (I think the "cut off time" is 4 weeks) you should open a new thread instead of bumping your old one for new and/or related questions

old bumped threads are less visible than new ones, so you get more answers faster with a new thread
proud member of the 2011 community team
Sign In to post comments